“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Karl Steel on Genes

This is very good. It gets to the heart of the matter, which is that DNA is a physical and a semiotic entity, a strange loop moreover in which the boundary between physical and semiotic can't be drawn in advance.


Bill Benzon said...

I'll post the same comment here I did at Karl's joint.

It seems to me that there's a lot of information-talk that strikes me as pulling an ontological fast one, which I discuss in a post (Culture Information Memes WTF!) on two passages, one from biologist George Williams and the other from philosopher-memeticist Daniel Dennett:

It seems to me that we can talk of a signal as carrying information only with respect to something that can read that signal (and act on what it reads), write it, or both. Information is thus a relationship between signals and mechanisms that use those signals. Both Dennett and Williams, however, seem to talk about information as though it were itty bitty particles that one can, for example, transfer “from one physical medium to another.”

And once that talk has started we pretty much forget about the reading and writing systems, though "information" can't function without them. Information-talk just pushes them off the stage and floats information off into its own realm.

medievalkarl said...

thanks Tim!