Biological Information, Causality and Specificity - an Intimate Relationship

In Sara Imari Walker, Paul Davies & George Ellis (eds.), From Matter to Life: Information and Causality. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 366-390 (2017)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

In this chapter we examine the relationship between biological information, the key biological concept of specificity, and recent philosophical work on causation. We begin by showing how talk of information in the molecular biosciences grew out of efforts to understand the sources of biological specificity. We then introduce the idea of ‘causal specificity’ from recent work on causation in philosophy, and our own, information theoretic measure of causal specificity. Biological specificity, we argue, is simple the causal specificity of certain biological processes. This, we suggest, means that causal relationships in biology are ‘informational’ relationships simply when they are highly specific relationships. Biological information can be identified with the storage, transmission and exercise of biological specificity. It has been argued that causal relationships should not be regarded as informational relationship unless they are ‘arbitrary’. We argue that, whilst arbitrariness is an important feature of many causal relationships in living systems, it should not be used in this way to delimit biological information. Finally, we argue that biological specificity, and hence biological information, is not confined to nucleic acids but distributed among a wide range of entities and processes.

Similar books and articles

Mind and Matter.Nicholas Rescher - 2010 - Idealistic Studies 40 (1-2):1-14.
The Essence of Life in Context of Biological Information.Anna Latawiec - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 44:45-51.
Learning causality in a complex world: understandings of consequence.Tina Grotzer - 2012 - Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education.
Causality.Y. H. Krikorian - 1934 - Philosophy 9 (35):319 - 327.
Life within the Akhanda Worldview.Asok Kumar Mukhopadhyay - 2014 - Dialogue and Universalism 24 (2):25-49.
Mechanistic Information and Causal Continuity.Jim Bogen & Peter Machamer - 2010 - In Phyllis McKay Illari, Federica Russo & Jon Williamson (eds.), Causality in the Sciences. Oxford University Press.

Analytics

Added to PP
2016-02-26

Downloads
693 (#25,053)

6 months
113 (#39,800)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

Karola Stotz
Last affiliation: Macquarie University
Paul Edmund Griffiths
University of Sydney

References found in this work

Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 64 (1):201-202.
Genetics and philosophy : an introduction.Paul Griffiths & Karola Stotz - 2013 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Top-down causation without top-down causes.Carl F. Craver & William Bechtel - 2007 - Biology and Philosophy 22 (4):547-563.

View all 11 references / Add more references