Biosemiotics, Bioinformatics, and Responsibility: Ambivalent Consequences of the Deciphering of the Human Genome for Society and Science

  • Klaus Fuchs-Kittowski Studiengang Betriebliche Umweltinformatik, Fachhochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin
  • Hans-Alfred Rosenthal Institut für Virologie, Humboldt-Universität Berlin
Keywords: Human genome, genetic code, genetic determinism, information generation, Biosemiotics, Bioinformatics, human dignity, eugenics, racism


Deciphering the Human Genome is one of the greatest achievements of modern science. The genetic code shows the importance of semiotics in our understanding of evolution. Biosemiotics as the study of signs, communication and information in living organisms has very much in common with Bioinformatics. Biology, Bioinformatics, and Bio-semiotics meet, but with ambivalent effects on science and society. In the paper we discuss the scientific and social implications, as well as a number of ethical problems. For instance, does the fertilized egg have the right to human dignity? Should pre-implantation diagnostics remain absolutely prohibited in the German society, while abortion of a twelve-week old fetus after counseling is allowed? What are the genetically engineered interventions that make sense from the few point of medicine, and what are those that should be fundamentally rejected? Furthermore, the possibility is being discussed that the human genome project and the considerations accompanying it may eventually initiate new varieties of eugenics and racism (Fuchs-Kittowski, Rosenthal, Rosenthal 2005).