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Gunther Witzany’s original area of expertise was the philosophy of language, which brought him into the world where philosophy and the sciences meet. After reading many biological papers and noticing that they used many of the same terms to describe the behavior of organisms, such as cell-cell communication, genetic code, translation, and encryption, he realized that biologists were trying to use communication and language in a mechanistic way. According to Witzany—and the general conclusion of a 60-year-long discussion in the philosophy of science—this is an error simply because language and communication cannot be explained by mechanistic terms. Why?

Witzany offers his answer to this question, and in doing so, gives his account of his concept of life as a communicative structure, meaning that organisms and their components communicate through processes and sign-mediated interactions, much like one might describe parts of human communication. He discusses the three levels that exist in every language, the role of epigenetic markings in the expression and transcription of DNA, how viruses edit code and why more of them are our friends than enemies, and whether viruses or cellular life emerged first.

Tune in and learn more by visiting biocommunication.at.

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