Why do we need signs in biological systems?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This paper addresses 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 the DNA without the loss of critical information. In this context, signs as boundary conditions mediate the biological construction in a way that prevents the loss of information and destabilization of the DNA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-511
Number of pages15
JournalTheoretical Biology Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2005


  • Gregory Bateson
  • Interdisciplinary research in biology
  • Physics of computation
  • Polanyi
  • Semiotics and biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)


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