A semiotic analysis of the genetic information system

Semiotica 2006 (160):1-68 (2006)

Abstract
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
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DOI 10.1515/SEM.2006.039
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A Mathematical Theory of Communication.Claude E. Shannon - 1948 - Bell System Technical Journal 27:379–423.
The Century of the Gene.Evelyn Fox Keller - 2001 - Journal of the History of Biology 34 (3):613-615.
The Concept of Information in Biology.John Maynard Smith - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (2):177-194.
Genes Made Molecular.C. Kenneth Waters - 1994 - Philosophy of Science 61 (2):163-185.

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