Chapter 15 Recursive-Hierarchy: A Lesson from the Tardigrade

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The tardigrade is a small microscopic creature that under environmental stress conditions undergoes cryptobiosis, a temporary metabolic depression, which is a third state between life and death. Cryptobiosis is an unexplained phenomenon. It is argued that this state is biologically obscure from a biological reductionist point of view, however, cryptobiosis makes sense within a different theoretical framework. The ability of the tardigrade to bootstrap itself is interpreted according to Gregory Bateson's idea of a recursive-hierarchy and a topological perspective on thermodynamics. It is argued that the structure of the organism is a recursive-hierarchical structure that allows the organism to conduct processes of reversible computations of which cryptobiosis is just a specific instance. The general meaning of this conclusion is discussed in the context of a scientific non-reductionist approach to biological systems and is used to illustrate the notion of a recursive-hierarchical system.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReviving the Living
Subtitle of host publicationMeaning Making in Living Systems
EditorsLaura McNamara, Mary Meyer, Ray Patondagger, Yair Neuman
Number of pages14
StatePublished - 25 Mar 2008

Publication series

NameStudies in Multidisciplinarity
ISSN (Print)1571-0831

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering (all)
  • General


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