Terms loaded with informational connotations are often employed to refer to genes and their dynamics. Indeed, genes are usually perceived by biologists as basically ‘the carriers of hereditary information.’ Nevertheless, a number of researchers consider such talk as inadequate and ‘just metaphorical,’ thus expressing a skepticism about the use of the term ‘information’ and its derivatives in biology as a natural science. First, because the meaning of that term in biology is not as precise as it is, for instance, in the mathematical theory of communication. Second, because it seems to refer to a purported semantic property of genes without theoretically clarifying if any genuinely intrinsic semantics is involved. Biosemiotics, a field that attempts to analyze biological systems as semiotic systems, makes it possible to advance in the understanding of the concept of information in biology. From the perspective of Peircean biosemiotics, we develop here an account of genes as signs, including a detailed analysis of two fundamental processes in the genetic information system (transcription and protein synthesis) that have not been made so far in this field of research. Furthermore, we propose here an account of information based on Peircean semiotics and apply it to our analysis of transcription and protein synthesis.
About the authors
Charbel Niño El-Hani (b. 1968) is Associate Professor at the Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil. His research interests are philosophy of biology, biosemiotics, science education research, and animal behavior. His publications include ‘Causação descendente, emergência de propriedades e modos causais aristotélicos’ [Downward causation, property emergence, and Aristotelian causal modes] (with A. A. A. P. Videira, 2001); ‘A pragmatic realist view of emergence’ (with S. Pihlström, 2002); ‘On the reality of emergents’ (2002); and ‘Modos de irredutibilidade das propriedades emergentes’ [Modes of irreducibility of emergent properties] (with J. Queiroz, 2005).
João Queiroz (b. 1963) is a postdoc researcher at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) and an invited researcher at the Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBA), Brazil. His research interests are C. S. Peirce's pragmatism, biosemiotics, and cognitive science. His publications include Semiose segundo C. S. Peirce (2004); ‘10 cubes and 3N3: Using interactive diagrams to investigate Charles Peirce's classifications of signs’ (with Priscila Farias, 2004); ‘Abduction — between subjectivity and objectivity’ (with Floyd Merrell, 2005); and Artificial Cognition Systems (with A. Loula and R. Gudwin, 2006).
Claus Emmeche (b. 1956) is Associate Professor and Center Director at the Center for the Philosophy of Nature and Science Studies, University of Copenhagen. His research interests are biosemiotics, philosophy of biology, and theoretical biology. His publications include ‘On some theoretical grounds for an organism-centered biology: Property emergence, supervenience, and downward causation’ (with Charbel N. El-Hani, 2000); Reading Homeyer, Rethinking Biology (with Kalevi Kull et al., 2002); ‘The chicken and the Orphean egg: On the function of meaning and the meaning of function’ (2002); and ‘Causal processes, semiosis, and consciousness’ (2003).
© Walter de Gruyter