Manfred Eigen: Finding Meaning in the Texts


eigen 2.jpg

May 9 is the birthday of Manfred Eigen (b.1927), born in Bochum, Germany.

He was co-awarded the 1967 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Ronald George Wreyford Norrish (1897–1978) and George Porter (1920–2002) “for their studies of extremely fast chemical reactions, effected by disturbing the equilibrium by means of very short pulses of energy.”

Some of his most notable theoretical achievements include: the “quasispecies model” of collected genotypes, and the “hypercycle model” of self-replicating aggregates of molecules. These systems (defined by mutation rates qᵢⱼ with ∑qᵢⱼ=1, parental numbers wᵢⱼ = Aⱼqᵢⱼ and offspring numbers nᵢ’ = ∑wᵢⱼnⱼ) form a system of linear equations. As an evolving system, they pass through hypercycles as connected, self-replicating macromolecules, catalyzing the creation of successors in a process that involves both cooperation and selfishness.

Prof. Eigen was made a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on 12 May 1981.

A biblical studies text, Words become Worlds: Semantic Studies of Genesis 1-11 by Ellen J. Van Wolde (Brill, 1994), outlines a hermeneutic based on Prof. Eigen’s evolutionary theories by considering the reader environmental influence and the polyvalency of the semes (units of language).

“…Just as in the nature studied by Eigen, in a text too, the number of available possibilities is very great. This is caused by the polysemic structure of the elements of the text: each element consists of many elementary building blocks (semes) and the connections between these polysemic elements in a text makes the number of possible meanings very great. In the reading process, readers who reason from their own language and culture code, and their own context of experiences, distinguish a number of elements inside the text continuum as bearers of meaning and let these function in their giving of meaning, so the nodal points or intersections arise between text and reader… In this way it can become clear that what Eigen said about evolution applies here too: neither absolute arbitrariness nor absolute necessity determines the creation of meaning; rather, a directed collaboration between text and reader enables a particular choice out of a number of possibilities.”

Referenced:– “Hypercycle (chemistry).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation.
“Quasispecies model.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation.
“Ordinary Academicians: Manfred Eigen.” ©2011-2015 The Pontifical Academy of Sciences. —Wolde, Ellen J. Words Become Worlds: Semantic Studies of Genesis 1-11. Vol. 6. (Leiden, NL: Brill, 1994), 173,175.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s