Chapter 4 A Point for Thought: Why are Organisms Irreducible?

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Abstract

In the previous chapters I discussed the limits of reductionism and illustrated the limits of genetic reductionism. In this chapter, I present a novel argument for why organisms are irreducible. To present this argument, I begin by addressing a fundamental question: Why are there sign-mediated interactions in biology? According to Polanyi, biological hierarchies are constituted through boundary conditions. I argue that signs, or more accurately the processes of signification, function as these boundary conditions. Moreover, based on general insights from the physics of computation, I argue that the organism cannot be computed directly from DNA without the loss of critical information. In this context, signs as boundary conditions mediate biological construction in a way that prevents the loss of information and the destabilization of DNA.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReviving the Living
Subtitle of host publicationMeaning Making in Living Systems
EditorsLaura McNamara, Mary Meyer, Ray Patondagger, Yair Neuman
Pages41-54
Number of pages14
DOIs
StatePublished - 25 Mar 2008

Publication series

NameStudies in Multidisciplinarity
Volume6
ISSN (Print)1571-0831

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