Editorial: Morphological Generation

Edwina Taborsky


The three papers in this issue of SEED explore a common question – morphological generation. What is the nature of the ‘form’, the ‘reasonably distinct’ unit in space and time with which we, and other forms, interact? How does it exist as itself and as a member of a collective? How does it interact with other morphologies? How do forms emerge, develop and evolve? These are basic semiosic questions.

‘The Methodology of Semiotic Morphology: An Introduction’ is a continuation of my analysis of reality, both material and conceptual, as ‘a complex network of continuous adaptive morphological formation’. By this I mean that reality exists as forms; these forms are material and/or conceptual realities. Forms are ‘information’. This means that their content exists as ‘ordered’ within normative patterns that operate within logical relations with other morphologies. In this paper, I repeat the basic axioms developed in my original paper, ‘The Sign as a WFF’, in SEED 2004, and move into the specific methodology of analyzing semiotic morphology. I consider that the sign is a logical argument made up of two premises and a conclusion; the measurements or evaluative actions in this argument use the parameters of space, time and mode. The first paper outlined the Six Relations that function within these parameters of space, time and mode. These Six Relations acknowledged that information operates within both external (actual) and internal (potential) parameters, and within both local and non-local parameters. In this paper I attempt to develop an algebraic formula for the use of these relations within the triadic morphology of the Sign.

I have defined the morphological form, the Sign, as a function made up of a triadic set of roles within an Argument: input, mediation and output. These can also be understood as minor premise, major premise and conclusion. The sign will select three of the six relations within this triadic argument. There are different types of signs, and different algebraic equations explain these differences. The most robust symbolic statement for a Sign is a quadratic equation. The quadratic equation includes a 2nd degree variable, . This term symbolizes distributed or generalized rather than particular information. A distributed value is embedded as a ‘ground axiom of morphological formation’, within a generic population of individual instances. Such a value acts as a normative habit, a ‘symmetry-inducing pattern of formation’. Morphological realities function within both distributed and non-distributed values and I attempt to show how an algebraic analysis of the sign enables predictive understanding of reality as a complex adaptive network.

The next paper by Eugenio Andrade, ‘The Interrelations between Genotype / Phenotype / Environment’, examines the architecture of relations between the genotype (collective), the phenotype (individual) and the environment, as a complex adaptive network of informational semiosic interactions. Andrade uses the Cartesian quadrant and the six semiosic relations developed by Taborsky (2004, and in this issue) and outlines a model that entails seemingly opposite informational domains. The ontic and epistemic domains are shown to network intimately together to enable bridges between ontogeny and phylogeny. Analyzing reality as using information molded within internal as well as external parameters, and within both local and non-local parameters, Andrade sets up an analysis of evolution and development that is ‘informed’ rather than random. That is, he defines individual morphological entities as ‘information processing agents’ rather than the passive results of random mutation and natural selection. This focus on the individual as agential, i.e., as informed about its self and its environment, and, as such, making intentional choices (defined as semiotic choices) makes evolution and development an active and informed rather than haphazard and accidental process. By the way, this is not promoting ‘intelligent design’, which is to say, the insertion of an ‘intelligent Designer’ within evolution and development. Instead, this promotes the concept, which Andrade ascribes to Darwin, that evolution and development operates within informed agential interactions. Andrade identifies this intentional agential action as the ‘informational interface’, which is termed both IGUS and EDA. This means: Information Gathering and Using System and Evolving Developing Agent. This interface within the individual organism is an information processing system that enables the organism – in its nature as an actual individual agent – to interpret all informational resources, both local and non-local, internal and external, and to push itself into robust development paths – and – update its information content from these contacts. The organism, in both its individual and its collective morphology, becomes an active, informed agent in development and evolution, rather than a passive result of the randomness of a system. This is a clear rejection of the dualism of the Cartesian mechanical model but – again – this is not a movement into the a priori intentions of an Intelligent Designer. That would insert evolution and development within a universal system (the Intelligent Designer is a Universal Determinist), and Andrade instead inserts evolution and development within the activities of the individual as an informational semiosic, i.e., decision-making, agent. To quote Andrade, “this paper sketches a morphogenetic analysis beyond the dichotomy that conceives determinism on either genetic (internal) or environmental (external) factors, and randomness as originating either from within (mutation) or from without (environmental fluctuations)”. Andrade rejects the basic Cartesian dualities, which are systemic rather than agential – whether expressed within the Lamarkian frame (internal/external) or within neodarwinism (individual/population). His outline of a comprehensive coherent integration of these measurements within the informational activities of actual individual organisms shows that individual morphologies are active agents in interpreting all informative resources and as such, they self-organize evolution and development. Again, this removes an a priori designer as the source of change, and also, removes randomness within the system as the source of change. Instead, this theory insists that “the objective existence of semiotics\ agents becomes a necessary condition” for evolution and development. Another important aspect of Andrade’s model is its specific attention to the need for a model of evolution and development to include hierarchical or successional stages; this permits different modes of informational relations, and accepts that development and evolution are processes of an increasing capture and organization of energy.

Finally, Jack Maze and Roy Turkington’s paper, ‘A Study on the effect of time in plants’ examines the morphologies in clover over time. What is interesting in this paper is the effect that the innate or genetically determined compressed value [which I symbolize as , a second degree variable, in my paper] imposes on a plant when the plant is faced with dealing with an increase in information within a high-energy environment. The result was not a change in normative species morphology, i.e., an increase in the size of the leaves. Instead, the energy was dissipated into more diverse growth vectors. The plants, rather than increasing in size, which would be one tactic to dissipate energy into matter, increased the number of pathways through which energy might be dissipated – while retaining the basic morphology of the compressed variable – size. Therefore, the increase in energy produced local and individual rather than generic developmental novelty in grape leaves. But, the basic morphology is retained; the compressed value remains dominant over variations. So, within-group variation increases as the plant has to deal with an increased energy or informational content. It retains long term stability by retaining its long term basic morphology – and thus maintains the long term stability of its ecological environment. Rather than fluctuating in morphology with each increase/decrease in local informational input – an act which would require equal fluctuations in other-species morphologies – which acts might lead to a new morphology inhospitable to the prevailing ecological environmental norms, the species sets up short-term variations, ‘new vectors’ which are local and short-term adaptations to local environmental fluctuations.

These three papers, with the focus on morphology, present a novel approach to basic issues of evolution and development.