Response by H. H. Pattee to Jon Umerez’s Paper: “Where Does Pattee’s “How Does a Molecule Become a Message?” Belong in the History of Biosemiotics?” [Book Review]

Biosemiotics 2 (3):291-302 (2009)
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Umerez’s analysis made me aware of the fundamental differences in the culture of physics and molecular biology and the culture of semiotics from which the new field of biosemiotics arose. These cultures also view histories differently. Considering the evolutionary span and the many hierarchical levels of organization that their models must cover, models at different levels will require different observables and different meanings for common words, like symbol, interpretation, and language. These models as well as their histories should be viewed as complementary rather than competitive. The relation of genetic language and human language is the central issue. They are separated by 4 billion years and require entirely different models. Nevertheless, these languages have in common a unique unlimited expressive power that allows open-ended evolution and creative thought. Understanding the nature of this expressive power and how it arises remains a basic unsolved problem of biosemiotics



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Howard H. Pattee
State University of New York at Binghamton

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