Genetic information as instructional content

Philosophy of Science 72 (3):425-443 (2005)
The concept of genetic information is controversial because it attributes semantic properties to what seem to be ordinary biochemical entities. I argue that nucleic acids contain information in a semantic sense, but only about a limited range of effects. In contrast to other recent proposals, however, I analyze genetic information not in terms of a naturalized account of biological functions, but instead in terms of the way in which molecules determine their products during processes known as template-directed syntheses. I argue that determining an outcome in a certain way is constitutive for being an instruction. On this account, the content of genetic information is identified with the template's properties, which determine the product in the way constitutive for instructions.
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DOI 10.1086/498472
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