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  1. Epigenetics: Ambiguities and Implications.Karola Stotz & Paul Griffiths - 2016 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 38 (4).
    Everyone has heard of ‘epigenetics’, but the term means different things to different researchers. Four important contemporary meanings are outlined in this paper. Epigenetics in its various senses has implications for development, heredity, and evolution, and also for medicine. Concerning development, it cements the vision of a reactive genome strongly coupled to its environment. Concerning heredity, both narrowly epigenetic and broader ‘exogenetic’ systems of inheritance play important roles in the construction of phenotypes. A thoroughly epigenetic model of development and evolution (...)
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  • Replication and Reproduction.John Wilkins & Pierrick Bourrat - 2018 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  • Biological Information.Peter Godfrey-Smith & Kim Sterelny - 2007 - In Thaddeus Metz (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University.
  • On the 'Transmission Sense of Information'.Ulrich E. Stegmann - 2013 - Biology and Philosophy 28 (1):141-144.
    Abstract In order to illuminate the role of information in biology, Bergstrom and Rosvall (Biol Philos 26:159–176, 2011a ; Biol Philos 26:195–200, 2011b ) propose a ‘transmission sense of information’ which builds on Shannon’s theory. At the core of the transmission sense is an appeal to the reduction in uncertainty in receivers and to etiological function. I explore several ways of cashing out uncertainty reduction as well as the consequences of appealing to function. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-4 DOI (...)
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  • Constraint-evading surrogacy: the missing piece in Radical Embodied Cognition’s non-representationalist account of intentionality?Andrew Robinson & Christopher Southgate - forthcoming - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences:1-22.
    Radical Embodied Cognition is an anti-representationalist approach to the nature of basic cognition proposed by Daniel Hutto and Erik Myin. While endorsing REC’s arguments against a role for contentful representations in basic cognition we suggest that REC’s ‘teleosemiotic’ approach to intentional targeting results in a ‘grey area’ in which it is not clear what kind of causal-explanatory concept is involved. We propose the concept of constraint-evading surrogacy as a conceptual basis for REC’s account of intentional targeting. The argument is developed (...)
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  • A Theory of Life as Information-Based Interpretation of Selecting Environments.David Rohr - 2014 - Biosemiotics 7 (3):429-446.
    This essay employs Charles Peirce’s triadic semiotics in order to develop a biosemiotic theory of life that is capable of illuminating the function of information in living systems. Specifically, I argue that the relationship between biological information structures , selecting environments, and the adapted bodily processes of living organisms is aptly modelled by the irreducibly triadic relationship between Peirce’s sign, object, and interpretant, respectively. In each instance of information-based semiosis, the information structure is a complex informational sign that represents the (...)
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  • Fighting the Good Cause: Meaning, Purpose, Difference, and Choice.David Haig - 2014 - Biology and Philosophy 29 (5):675-697.
    Concepts of cause, choice, and information are closely related. A cause is a choice that can be held responsible. It is a difference that makes a difference. Information about past causes and their effects is a valuable commodity because it can be used to guide future choices. Information about criteria of choice is generated by choosing a subset from an ensemble for ‘reasons’ and has meaning for an interpreter when it is used to achieve an end. Natural selection evolves interpreters (...)
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  • The Strategic Gene.David Haig - 2012 - Biology and Philosophy 27 (4):461-479.
    Abstract Gene-selectionists define fundamental terms in non-standard ways. Genes are determinants of difference. Phenotypes are defined as a gene’s effects relative to some alternative whereas the environment is defined as all parts of the world that are shared by the alternatives being compared. Environments choose among phenotypes and thereby choose among genes. By this process, successful gene sequences become stores of information about what works in the environment. The strategic gene is defined as a set of gene tokens that combines (...)
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  • Toolbox Murders: Putting Genes in Their Epigenetic and Ecological Contexts: P. Griffiths and K. Stotz: Genetics and Philosophy: An Introduction.T. Pradeu - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (1):125-142.
    Griffiths and Stotz’s Genetics and Philosophy: An Introduction offers a very good overview of scientific and philosophical issues raised by present-day genetics. Examining, in particular, the questions of how a “gene” should be defined and what a gene does from a causal point of view, the authors explore the different domains of the life sciences in which genetics has come to play a decisive role, from Mendelian genetics to molecular genetics, behavioural genetics, and evolution. In this review, I highlight what (...)
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  • What is a Gene For?Lindell Bromham - 2016 - Biology and Philosophy 31 (1):103-123.
    The word “gene” means different things to different people, and can even be used in multiple ways by the same individual. In this review, I follow a particular thread running through Griffith and Stotz’s “Genetics and Philosophy: an introduction”, which is the way that methods of investigation influence the way we define the concept of “gene”, from nineteen century breeding experiments to twenty-first century big data bioinformatics. These different views lead to a set of gene concepts, which only partially overlap (...)
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  • Spór o Ciągłość Życia I Umysłu. Argumenty Na Rzecz Kognitywizmu.Michał Piekarski - 2021 - Argument: Biannual Philosophical Journal 11 (1).
    The dispute over the continuity of life and mind. Arguments for cognitivism: The purpose of this paper is to discuss the position of non-cognitivism on the issue of the so-called dispute over the continuity / discontinuity of life and mind. In discussing the views of Michael Kirchhoff and Tom Froese, I will point out some difficulties related to their position. Next, I will formulate three arguments in favor of the cognitive alternative, emphasizing the need to resort to semantic information in (...)
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  • Content in Simple Signalling Systems.Nicholas Shea, Peter Godfrey-Smith & Rosa Cao - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (4):1009-1035.
    Our understanding of communication and its evolution has advanced significantly through the study of simple models involving interacting senders and receivers of signals. Many theorists have thought that the resources of mathematical information theory are all that are needed to capture the meaning or content that is being communicated in these systems. However, the way theorists routinely talk about the models implicitly draws on a conception of content that is richer than bare informational content, especially in contexts where false content (...)
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  • Consequences of a Functional Account of Information.Stephen Francis Mann - 2018 - Review of Philosophy and Psychology 11 (3):1-19.
    This paper aims to establish several interconnected points. First, a particular interpretation of the mathematical definition of information, known as the causal interpretation, is supported largely by misunderstandings of the engineering context from which it was taken. A better interpretation, which makes the definition and quantification of information relative to the function of its user, is outlined. The first half of the paper is given over to introducing communication theory and its competing interpretations. The second half explores three consequences of (...)
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  • Getting the Most Out of Shannon Information.Oliver M. Lean - 2014 - Biology and Philosophy 29 (3):395-413.
    Shannon information is commonly assumed to be the wrong way in which to conceive of information in most biological contexts. Since the theory deals only in correlations between systems, the argument goes, it can apply to any and all causal interactions that affect a biological outcome. Since informational language is generally confined to only certain kinds of biological process, such as gene expression and hormone signalling, Shannon information is thought to be unable to account for this restriction. It is often (...)
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  • Varieties of Parity.Ulrich E. Stegmann - 2012 - Biology and Philosophy 27 (6):903-918.
    A central idea of developmental systems theory is ‘parity’ or ‘symmetry’ between genes and non-genetic factors of development. The precise content of this idea remains controversial, with different authors stressing different aspects and little explicit comparisons among the various interpretations. Here I characterise and assess several influential versions of parity.
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  • Ecological Inheritance and Cultural Inheritance: What Are They and How Do They Differ?John Odling-Smee & Kevin N. Laland - 2011 - Biological Theory 6 (3):220-230.
    Niche construction theory is distinctive for being explicit in recognizing environmental modification by organisms—niche construction—and its legacy—ecological inheritance—to be evolutionary processes in their own right. Humans are widely regarded as champion niche constructors, largely as a direct result of our capacity for the cultural transmission of knowledge and its expression in human behavior, engineering, and technology. This raises the question of how human ecological inheritance relates to human cultural inheritance. If NCT is to provide a conceptual framework for the human (...)
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  • Sender-Receiver Systems Within and Between Organisms.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (5):866-878.
    Drawing on models of communication due to Lewis and Skyrms, I contrast sender-receiver systems as they appear within and between organisms, and as they function in the bridging of space and time. Within the organism, memory can be seen as the sending of messages over time, communication between stages as opposed to spatial parts. Psychological memory and genetic memory are compared with respect to their relations to a sender-receiver model. Some puzzles about “genetic information” can be resolved by seeing the (...)
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  • The Creation and Reuse of Information in Gene Regulatory Networks.Brett Calcott - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (5):879-890.
    Recent work on the evolution of signaling systems provides a novel way of thinking about genetic information, where information is passed between genes in a regulatory network. I use examples from evolutionary developmental biology to show how information can be created in these networks and how it can be reused to produce rapid phenotypic change.
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  • Conflations in the Causal Account of Information Undermine the Parity Thesis.Barton Moffatt - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (2):284-302.
    The received view in philosophy of biology is that there is a well-understood, philosophically rigorous account of information—causal information. I argue that this view is mistaken. Causal information is fatally undermined by misinterpretations and conflations between distinct independent accounts of information. As a result, philosophical arguments based on causal information are deeply flawed. I end by briefly considering what a correct application of the relevant accounts of information would look like in the biological context.
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  • Developmental Systems Theory Formulated as a Claim About Inherited Representations.Nicholas Shea - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (1):60-82.
    Developmental Systems Theory (DST) emphasises the importance of non-genetic factors in development and their relevance to evolution. A common, deflationary reaction is that it has long been appreciated that non-genetic factors are causally indispensable. This paper argues that DST can be reformulated to make a more substantive claim: that the special role played by genes is also played by some (but not all) non-genetic resources. That special role is to transmit inherited representations, in the sense of Shea (2007: Biology and (...)
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  • Genetic Representation Explains the Cluster of Innateness‐Related Properties.Nicholas Shea - 2012 - Mind and Language 27 (4):466-493.
    The concept of innateness is used to make inferences between various better-understood properties, like developmental canalization, evolutionary adaptation, heritability, species-typicality, and so on (‘innateness-related properties’). This article uses a recently-developed account of the representational content carried by inheritance systems like the genome to explain why innateness-related properties cluster together, especially in non-human organisms. Although inferences between innateness-related properties are deductively invalid, and lead to false conclusions in many actual cases, where some aspect of a phenotypic trait develops in reliance on (...)
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  • Philosophical Analyses of Scientific Concepts: A Critical Appraisal.Daniel Mark Kraemer - 2018 - Philosophy Compass 13 (9):e12513.
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  • Consumers Need Information: Supplementing Teleosemantics with an Input Condition.Nicholas Shea - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (2):404-435.
    The success of a piece of behaviour is often explained by its being caused by a true representation (similarly, failure falsity). In some simple organisms, success is just survival and reproduction. Scientists explain why a piece of behaviour helped the organism to survive and reproduce by adverting to the behaviour’s having been caused by a true representation. That usage should, if possible, be vindicated by an adequate naturalistic theory of content. Teleosemantics cannot do so, when it is applied to simple (...)
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  • Causation and Information: Where Is Biological Meaning to Be Found?Mark Pharoah - 2020 - Biosemiotics 13 (3):309-326.
    The term ‘information’ is used extensively in biology, cognitive science and the philosophy of consciousness in relation to the concepts of ‘meaning’ and ‘causation’. While ‘information’ is a term that serves a useful purpose in specific disciplines, there is much to the concept that is problematic. Part 1 is a critique of the stance that information is an independently existing entity. On this view, and in biological contexts, systems transmit, acquire, assimilate, decode and manipulate it, and in so doing, generate (...)
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  • The Limits of Measuring Information in Biology: An Ontological Approach.Agustín Mercado-Reyes & Alfonso Arroyo-Santos - 2018 - Biosemiotics 11 (3).
    The concept of biological information, and information in general, usually presupposes a purely quantitative view of reality. Even though actualist quantification has an important place in the description of the world, a nominalistic stance that tries to simplify reality in purely actualist terms inevitably runs into inconsistencies; these inconsistencies have been pointed out by the critical assessments of the notion of biological information. Rather than calling for an abandonment of the informational terminology, we try to rethink information as a part (...)
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  • Pluralists About Pluralism? Versions of Explanatory Pluralism in Psychiatry.Jeroen Van Bouwel - 2014 - In M. C. Galavotti, D. Dieks, W. J. Gonzalez, S. Hartmann, Th Uebel & M. Weber (eds.), New Directions in Philosophy of Science (The Philosophy of Science in a European Perspective Series). Springer. pp. 105-119.
    In this contribution, I comment on Raffaella Campaner’s defense of explanatory pluralism in psychiatry (in this volume). In her paper, Campaner focuses primarily on explanatory pluralism in contrast to explanatory reductionism. Furthermore, she distinguishes between pluralists who consider pluralism to be a temporary state on the one hand and pluralists who consider it to be a persisting state on the other hand. I suggest that it would be helpful to distinguish more than those two versions of pluralism – different understandings (...)
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  • Genes, Structuring Powers and the Flow of Information in Living Systems.Frode Kjosavik - 2014 - Biology and Philosophy 29 (3):379-394.
    Minimal genetic pre-formationism is defended, in that primacy is ascribed to DNA in the structuring of molecules through molecular codes. This together with the importance of such codes for stability and variation in living systems makes DNA categorically different from other causal factors. It is argued that post-transcriptional and post-translational processing in protein synthesis does not rob DNA of this structuring role. Notions of structuring causal powers that may vary in degree, of arbitrary molecular codes that are more or less (...)
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  • Causal Informational Structural Realism.Majid D. Beni - 2020 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 33 (2):117-134.
    ABSTRACT The debate between proponents and opponents of causal foundationalism has recently surfaced as a disparity between causal structuralism and causal anti-foundationalism in the structural realist camp. The paper outlines and dissolves the problem of disparity for structural realism. I follow John Collier to specify causation in terms of the transmission of information. Unlike them, I built upon the reverse quantum data-processing inequality to show how this approach models causation as a symmetric process at the level of fundamental physics. I (...)
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  • Información biológica: ¿La teoría de la información ataca de nuevo?María Ferreira Ruiz - 2019 - Manuscrito 42 (1):169-209.
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  • A Scientific Metaphysical Naturalisation of Information.Bruce Long - 2018 - Dissertation, University of Sydney
    The objective of this thesis is to present a naturalised metaphysics of information, or to naturalise information, by way of deploying a scientific metaphysics according to which contingency is privileged and a-priori conceptual analysis is excluded (or at least greatly diminished) in favour of contingent and defeasible metaphysics. The ontology of information is established according to the premises and mandate of the scientific metaphysics by inference to the best explanation, and in accordance with the idea that the primacy of physics (...)
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  • The Information Value of Non-Genetic Inheritance in Plants and Animals.Sinead English, Ido Pen, Nicholas Shea & Tobias Uller - 2015 - PLoS ONE 10 (1):e0116996.
    Parents influence the development of their offspring in many ways beyond the transmission of DNA. This includes transfer of epigenetic states, nutrients, antibodies and hormones, and behavioural interactions after birth. While the evolutionary consequences of such nongenetic inheritance are increasingly well understood, less is known about how inheritance mechanisms evolve. Here, we present a simple but versatile model to explore the adaptive evolution of non-genetic inheritance. Our model is based on a switch mechanism that produces alternative phenotypes in response to (...)
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  • Inherited Representations Are Read in Development.Nicholas Shea - 2013 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (1):1-31.
    Recent theoretical work has identified a tightly-constrained sense in which genes carry representational content. Representational properties of the genome are founded in the transmission of DNA over phylogenetic time and its role in natural selection. However, genetic representation is not just relevant to questions of selection and evolution. This paper goes beyond existing treatments and argues for the heterodox view that information generated by a process of selection over phylogenetic time can be read in ontogenetic time, in the course of (...)
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  • Information and the Function of Neurons.Marc Burock - 2011
    Many of us consider it uncontroversial that information processing is a natural function of the brain. Since functions in biology are only won through empirical investigation, there should be a significant body of unambiguous evidence that supports this functional claim. Before we can interpret the evidence, however, we must ask what it means for a biological system to process information. Although a concept of information is generally accepted in the neurosciences without critique, in other biological sciences applications of information, despite (...)
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  • Objects and Processes: Two Notions for Understanding Biological Information.Agustín Mercado-Reyes, Pablo Padilla Longoria & Alfonso Arroyo-Santos - forthcoming - Journal of Theoretical Biology.
    In spite of being ubiquitous in life sciences, the concept of information is harshly criticized. Uses of the concept other than those derived from Shannon's theory are denounced as pernicious metaphors. We perform a computational experiment to explore whether Shannon's information is adequate to describe the uses of said concept in commonplace scientific practice. Our results show that semantic sequences do not have unique complexity values different from the value of meaningless sequences. This result suggests that quantitative theoretical frameworks do (...)
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  • Environmental Ethics.Roberta L. Millstein - 2013 - In K. Kampourakis (ed.), The Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators. Springer.
    A number of areas of biology raise questions about what is of value in the natural environment and how we ought to behave towards it: conservation biology, environmental science, and ecology, to name a few. Based on my experience teaching students from these and similar majors, I argue that the field of environmental ethics has much to teach these students. They come to me with pent-up questions and a feeling that more is needed to fully engage in their subjects, and (...)
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  • Recent Work in The Philosophy of Biology.Christopher J. Austin - 2017 - Analysis 77 (2):anx032.
    The biological sciences have always proven a fertile ground for philosophical analysis, one from which has grown a rich tradition stemming from Aristotle and flowering with Darwin. And although contemporary philosophy is increasingly becoming conceptually entwined with the study of the empirical sciences with the data of the latter now being regularly utilised in the establishment and defence of the frameworks of the former, a practice especially prominent in the philosophy of physics, the development of that tradition hasn’t received the (...)
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  • Neural Information and the Problem of Objectivity.Charles Rathkopf - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (3):321-336.
    A fascinating research program in neurophysiology attempts to quantify the amount of information transmitted by single neurons. The claims that emerge from this research raise new philosophical questions about the nature of information. What kind of information is being quantified? Do the resulting quantities describe empirical magnitudes like those found elsewhere in the natural sciences? In this article, it is argued that neural information quantities have a relativisitic character that makes them distinct from the kinds of information typically discussed in (...)
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  • Genetic, Epigenetic and Exogenetic Information.Karola Stotz & Paul Edmund Griffiths - 2017 - In Richard Joyce (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Evolution and Philosophy. London & New York: Routledge.
    We describe an approach to measuring biological information where ‘information’ is understood in the sense found in Francis Crick’s foundational contributions to molecular biology. Genes contain information in this sense, but so do epigenetic factors, as many biologists have recognized. The term ‘epigenetic’ is ambiguous, and we introduce a distinction between epigenetic and exogenetic inheritance to clarify one aspect of this ambiguity. These three heredity systems play complementary roles in supplying information for development. -/- We then consider the evolutionary significance (...)
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  • What Makes Neurophysiology Meaningful? Semantic Content Ascriptions in Insect Navigation Research.Kelle Dhein - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (5):1-22.
    In the course of investigating the living world, biologists regularly attribute semantic content to the phenomena they study. In this paper, I examine the case of a contemporary research program studying the navigation behaviors of ants and develop an account of the norms governing researchers’ ascriptions of semantic content in their research practices. The account holds that researchers assign semantic content to behaviors that reliably achieve a difficult goal-directed function, and it also suggests a productive role for attributions of semantic (...)
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  • Kim Sterelny the Evolved Apprentice: How Evolution Made Humans Unique.Tim Lewens - 2014 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (1):185-189.
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  • Chemical Arbitrariness and the Causal Role of Molecular Adapters.Oliver M. Lean - 2019 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 78:101180.
    Jacques Monod (1971) argued that certain molecular processes rely critically on the property of chemical arbitrariness, which he claimed allows those processes to “transcend the laws of chemistry”. It seems natural, as some philosophers have done, to interpret this in modal terms: a biological relationship is chemically arbitrary if it is possible, within the constraints of chemical “law”, for that relationship to have been otherwise than it is. But while modality is certainly important for understanding chemical arbitrariness, understanding its biological (...)
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  • A Teleosemantic Approach to Information in the Brain.Rosa Cao - 2012 - Biology and Philosophy 27 (1):49-71.
    The brain is often taken to be a paradigmatic example of a signaling system with semantic and representational properties, in which neurons are senders and receivers of information carried in action potentials. A closer look at this picture shows that it is not as appealing as it might initially seem in explaining the function of the brain. Working from several sender-receiver models within the teleosemantic framework, I will first argue that two requirements must be met for a system to support (...)
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  • What’s Transmitted? Inherited Information.Nicholas Shea - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (2):183-189.
    Commentary on Bergstrom and Rosvall, ‘The transmission sense of information’, Biology and Philosophy. In response to worries that uses of the concept of information in biology are metaphorical or insubstantial, Bergstrom and Rosvall have identified a sense in which DNA transmits information down the generations. Their ‘transmission view of information’ is founded on a claim about DNA’s teleofunction. Bergstrom and Rosvall see their transmission view of information as a rival to semantic accounts. This commentary argues that it is complementary. The (...)
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  • Response to Commentaries on “The Transmission Sense of Information”.Carl T. Bergstrom & Martin Rosvall - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (2):195-200.
    Response to commentaries on “The Transmission Sense of Information” Content Type Journal Article Pages 195-200 DOI 10.1007/s10539-011-9257-3 Authors Carl T. Bergstrom, Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-1800, USA Martin Rosvall, Integrated Science Lab, Department of Physics, Umeå University, 901 87 Umeå, Sweden Journal Biology and Philosophy Online ISSN 1572-8404 Print ISSN 0169-3867 Journal Volume Volume 26 Journal Issue Volume 26, Number 2.
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  • Agents and Acacias: Replies to Dennett, Sterelny, and Queller.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (4):501-515.
    The commentaries by Dennett, Sterelny, and Queller on Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection (DPNS) are so constructive that they make it possible to extend and improve the book’s framework in several ways. My replies will focus on points of disagreement, and I will pick a small number of themes and develop them in detail. The three replies below are mostly self-contained, except that all my comments about genes, discussed by all three critics, are in the reply to Queller. Agential views (...)
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  • What is Shannon Information?Olimpia Lombardi, Federico Holik & Leonardo Vanni - 2016 - Synthese 193 (7):1983-2012.
    Despite of its formal precision and its great many applications, Shannon’s theory still offers an active terrain of debate when the interpretation of its main concepts is the task at issue. In this article we try to analyze certain points that still remain obscure or matter of discussion, and whose elucidation contribute to the assessment of the different interpretative proposals about the concept of information. In particular, we argue for a pluralist position, according to which the different views about information (...)
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  • Synthetic Biology and Genetic Causation.Gry Oftedal & Veli-Pekka Parkkinen - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (2):208-216.
    Synthetic biology research is often described in terms of programming cells through the introduction of synthetic genes. Genetic material is seemingly attributed with a high level of causal responsibility. We discuss genetic causation in synthetic biology and distinguish three gene concepts differing in their assumptions of genetic control. We argue that synthetic biology generally employs a difference-making approach to establishing genetic causes, and that this approach does not commit to a specific notion of genetic program or genetic control. Still, we (...)
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