Chapter 3 Genetics: From Grammar to Meaning Making

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In this part of the book, I tried to give the reader a sense of the complexity of the genetic system and the limits of classical reductionism in helping us to understand this complex system. We learned that a reductionist move is inevitable on the one hand but extremely limited on the other. After breaking the system into its components we must understand the way interactions in context result in the whole functioning we would like to understand. This naturally leads us to a semiotic perspective on living systems. Interactions in living systems are not direct mechanical encounters but events mediated by signs. This important idea establishes new grounds for studying living systems. If living systems are constituted through sign-mediated activity, then non-reductionist biologists should adopt a bio-semiotic perspective. Several scholars have proposed this idea, and I will use it as a general theoretical framework for my analysis. The next two chapters aim to illustrate the benefits of adopting this framework by considering concrete issues in biology. Chapter 4, "Why are Organisms Irreducible", explains the need for semiotic mediation in biological systems and presents a novel explanation for the irreducibility of biological systems. The following Chapter 5, "Does the Genetic System Include a Meta-Language?" illustrates a semiotic perspective on genetics by explaining the function of non-codable RNA, or what has been known as junk DNA, in terms of meta-language.

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 pages22
StatePublished - 25 Mar 2008

Publication series

NameStudies in Multidisciplinarity
ISSN (Print)1571-0831

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering (all)
  • General


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