Abstract

It is generally acknowledged that molecular biology has been enamored with discourses of information theory and cybernetics from its earliest days. Equally common, in critical theory, is the belief that biological science has lost purchase on important dimensions of embodied life as a result. This essay suggests, however, that when we examine the work of 'cyberscience' pioneers such as Edwin Schrödinger, Norbert Wiener, and Claude Shannon, we find an ambiguous embrace of the complexity of embodied life and freedom at the level of the living organism or cybernetic system, counteracted by a underlying desire for order and informatic determinism at the level of code or message. Moreover, these competing tendencies towards organicism and informatics feed into two central and interrelated tensions that inhabit modern biological thought. The first tension concerns the efforts of biologists to dispel vitalism and the specter of God underlying the natural order, while the second involves the concept of (hetero)sexual difference and its substitution for God as guarantor of biological knowledge. This essay makes the argument that sex is often an unrecognized point of articulation in attempts to resolve these tensions and, as such, is central to the potential of bioinformatic bodies.

Additional Information

ISSN
1053-1920
Launched on MUSE
2009-08-06
Open Access
No
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