INTERPRETATION AND THE ORIGIN OF LIFE

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Abstract:

Abstract.

We offer a general definition of interpretation based on a naturalized teleology. The definition tests and extends the biosemiotic paradigm by seeking to provide a philosophically robust resource for investigating the possible role of semiosis (processes of representation and interpretation) in biological systems. We show that our definition provides a way of understanding various possible kinds of misinterpretation, illustrate the definition using examples at the cellular and subcellular level, and test the definition by applying it to a potential counterexample. We explain how we propose to use the definition as a way of asking new questions about what distinguishes life from non-life and of formulating testable hypotheses within the field of origin-of-life research. If the definition leads to fruitful new empirical approaches to the scientific problem of the origin of life, it will help to establish biosemiotics as a legitimate philosophical approach in theoretical biology and will thereby support a theological appropriation of the biosemiotic perspective as the basis of a new theology of nature.

Keywords: autocell; biosemiotics; function; information; interpretation; life; natural selection; origin of life; purpose; ribozyme; semiotics; teleology

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2010.01085.x

Affiliations: Hon. University Fellows in the Department of Theology, University of Exeter.

Publication date: June 1, 2010

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