Understanding life

April 13, 2007

With regard to last week's article on biosemiotics (Features, March 30), my impression is that there is a quite wide understanding among biologists that life is communicational. Immunologists, psychoneuroimmunologists and epidemiologists all also know that living systems are both endosemiotic (we are made of billions of bacteria that have learned to live together) and in constant communication with their environment.

The work of Sir Michael Marmot is precisely about the signs that make people ill and shorten their lives. He doesn't call it biosemiotics, but it is. If some biologistsJfind this uninteresting, perhaps it's because they haven't bothered to think through the implications of all life as a great evolving communicative system of systems. And perhaps one of the reasons that this is a thought some people find difficult (the idea that culture is natural is particularly fought against) is that it runs counter to the great weight of centuries of liberal ideology concerning the nature of subjectivity, freedom, choice and value.

A relational intersubjective realist account of living things has revolutionary implications for our understanding of what might constitute maximally flourishing life both for us and for the planet we live on.

No wonder there's resistance; some people can't see the wood for the trees.

Wendy Wheeler
London Metropolitan University

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