relationship to code and erasure…
from What Aristotle Didn’t Know About Sex and Death by Ronald de Sousa:
(T)he one type of cell that does appear capable to reproduce itself forever, apart from sex cells and unicellular organisms, are cancer cells. Cancer cells, we might say, go on reproducing for their own sake, freed of any regard for the cooperative arrangements to which they were originally a party. So by equipping somatic cells with the capability of apoptosis, the genetic program, which is itself protected from contamination by Weismann’s barrier, ensures that the somatic cells do not undermine the integrity of their genetic message by degenerating into cancerous cells, reproducing indefinitely in defiance of the interests of the whole organism in which they were once full partners.
In sum, the logic that binds the four factors characteristic of metazoans is this: the chance discovery of conjugation allowed genetic exchange and genetic repair. This in turn allowed for the symbiosis of different cell lines, which made for cellular differentiation. The other characteristics all followed from the necessity for the genetic material to protect itself against the accumulation of copying errors in the reproduction of DNA: sexual reproduction, the segregation of the somatic cell lines, and the death of each individual body. The advantages of this arrangement would seem to be these:
1. The germ line can specialize in replication, free from the worries of provisioning its vehicle.
2. The soma, on the other hand, is kept busy doing just that, and so is unable to compete effectively with the sexual cell line.
3. Just to make sure, it isn’t allowed to try, as it is programmed for self-destruction.
What Aristotle Didn’t Know About Sex and Death by Ronald de Sousa
Aristotle and Contemporary Science , Vol. I
ed. Demetra Sfendoni-Mentzou, Intro. by Hilary Putnam.
New York, Berlin: Peter Lang, 2000