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The Biology Blog’s post on shadow biospheres intrigued me in part because I’ve been reading Charles Sanders Peirce, for whom semiosis is writ large (and small) throughout all things. Musing philosophically about the search for life on other planets, the author, cyoungbull, writes, “Unless we know how to interpret the signs of such life, we may not be able to distinguish it from the natural background.” For Peirce, signs of life are everywhere. Indeed, signs are everywhere, as are meanings, at least for those equipped to bear them. Just as for Whitehead it’s experience all the way down, for Peirce it’s semiosis all the way down. (There are other parallels between Whitehead and Peirce; more on those in a future post.) Whether we can read them or not is the question — a question made all the more poignant when they destroy homes and topple buildings, as in Haiti recently or Chile this morning.

The Bioblog piece links to an Astrobiology article on the signatures of shadow biospheres and to an old Nature article by chaophilic scientists and SF writers Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart, which includes the following (entertaining) list of “canonical answers” to Enrico Fermi’s 1950 question “if intelligent aliens exist, why aren’t they here?”:

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