If the definition of science requires quantification and mathematical
representation then most of biology won't qualify, including molecular and
cellular biology, physiology, psychology, and neuroscience. Physics envy
has long ago been abandoned by most working scientists in these fields.
This is not to say that just any sort of theorizing qualifies, nor can we
be sure that today's non-quantifiable science won't someday be susceptible
to precise empirically testable mathematical modeling—even semiotic
analyses may someday be made mathematically precise—but being empirically
testable, even if just in precise qualitative terms, is pretty close to
being a core defining attribute.

On Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 9:34 AM, Terrence W. DEACON <dea...@berkeley.edu>

> On communication:
> "Communication" needs to be more carefully distinguished from mere
> transfer of physical differences from location to location and time to
> time. Indeed, any physical transfer of physical differences in this
> respect can be utilized to communicate, and all communication requires
> this physical foundation. But there is an important hierarchic
> distinction that we need to consider. Simply collapsing our concept of
> 'communication' to its physical substrate (and ignoring the process of
> interpretation) has the consequence of treating nearly all physical
> processes as communication and failing to distinguish those that
> additionally convey something we might call representational content.
> Thus while internet communication and signals transferred between
> computers do indeed play an essential role in human communication, we
> only have to imagine a science fiction story in which all human
> interpreters suddenly disappear but our computers nevertheless
> continue to exchange signals, to realize that those signals are not
> "communicating" anything. At that point they would only be physically
> modifying one another, not communicating, except in a sort of
> metaphoric sense. This sort of process would not be fundamentally
> different from solar radiation modifying atoms in the upper atmosphere
> or any other similar causal process. It would be odd to say that the
> sun is thereby communicating anything to the atmosphere.
> So, while I recognize that there are many methodological contexts in
> which it makes little difference whether or not we ignore this
> semiotic aspect, as many others have also hinted, this is merely to
> bracket from consideration what really distinguishes physical transfer
> of causal influence from communication. Remember that this was a
> methodological strategy that even Shannon was quick to acknowledge in
> the first lines of his classic paper. We should endeavor to always be
> as careful.
> — Terry

Professor Terrence W. Deacon
University of California, Berkeley
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