He is Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Artificial Life published by MIT Press , he co-organized the last five international conference on artificial life, he co-founded a start-up company, ProtoLife SRL, and he co-founded the European Center for Living Technology, a research institute in Venice, Italy, that investigates theoretical and practical issues associated with living systems. E uropean C entre for L iving T echnology. This website also uses third-party cookies. For more information or to deny consent to all or some of the cookies used by the website, please read the information sheet.
Robert Arp has authored numerous articles and book chapters in ontology in the information science sense , philosophy of mind, philosophy of biology, modern philosophy, and popular culture. George Terzis , Robert Arp.
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- Information and Living Systems: Philosophical and Scientific Perspectives?
II Information and Biological Organization. Perhaps this is a reason to reject the etiological view in favor of the organizational role view of function, but it depends on the cogency of the genes representing. It should be noted that, mutatis mutandis, similar problems can be raised for teleosemantics. Representation typically requires some sort of system of rules that does not depend on their underlying substratum. Physical information systems or Barbieri codes minus the meaning have these. What more is required? The usual answer would be interpretation.
Without interpretation, a representation is useless, non-functional. This suggests that we should look for some sort of interpretation in biological systems if we wish to find meaning. On standard accounts of meaning, the interpretation is given by the semantics, which is an abstract relation between symbols and their reference.
This will not do for biological representation, however, since the relation has to be embodied in concrete biological processes. His view at that time was that the pragmatics was given by selection, but we have seen the problems with that view. How do we get a satisfactory biological pragmatics if we can? The dominant approach today is the Copenhagen school e. Peirce as its starting point.
Again, since there are many controversies involved that would take much space to represent, let alone resolve, I will be brief. Peirce believed that pragmatic issues were the basis of meaning, in particular what expectations about the world are attached to a given idea in a way that might guide action.
Information and Living Systems: Philosophical and Scientific Perspectives
This whole is embedded in a system of interpretance that connects to expectations and actions. If these ideas are to be applied to biological systems, the interpretant has to be within the organism, or more accurately, within the relevant biological system. He considers the sunflower, whose flower tends to face the sun very reliably. The direction the flower faces, then, is a good sign of the direction of the sun.
However it is not a sign for the sunflower, since there is nothing in the sunflower that makes use of the information in the sign. The effect is a tropism caused by the size of the sunflower, its rapid growth, and the induction of growth inhibiting hormones by sunlight. The direction of the flower itself plays no functional role for the sunflower.
Peirce did not know the explanation, but inferred correctly that the direction the flower faces was not a sign for the sunflower. On the other hand, he did not rule out that there could be genuine biological signs. If we consider DNA as a sign of at least some aspects of traits, we need to find an appropriate interpretant within the organism to complete the trinity. As described early in this chapter, genetic information is expressed if differences in the genes make a difference to the traits expressed, no matter how small. This expression is functional on either the organizational role or the etiological accounts.
The best candidate for the interpretant in this case is the other coding and catalytic processes involved in epigenesis. If this idea can be made out coherently, then there is a good case that DNA contains information about the phenotype of the organism for the organism itself, rather than from merely external view of some anthropomorphizing observer. And this meaning would be about in the semantic sense, with epigenesis providing the pragmatics. In a living system the performance is the contribution to viability of the system, which is subject to selection.
Summary and conclusions The first section showed how information theory can be used descriptively in biology in the case of the genes. This descriptive use is also explanatory to some extent, and invokes substantive information, but in no way that is specifically biological. However, the talk of biologists, and the distinction created by Transition 3, suggests that biological information involves something more than this. It is relatively easy to introduce notions of transmission, control and guidance as substantive, somewhat less easy to convincingly introduce a need for the substantive use of information codes, and much less easy at this time to justify substantive notions of meaning and semantics, though biosemiotics is highly suggestive.
Much of what has been said in this chapter about genetic information applies, mutatis mutandis, to other forms of biological information, such as molecular communication, communication in the nervous system, immune system, hormones, pheromones, and behavioral transmission between organisms. There are special aspects of each case, but most of the arguments justifying the use of information concepts in a substantive way carry through to these cases.
I hope that the portrait I have given of genetic information is helpful in extending the ideas to other cases. References Atlan, H. Herman, Paris. Barwise, Jon and Jerry Seligman, Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press. Barbieri, Marcello. Acona, Italy: peQuod. Reprinted Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bateson, G. Steps to an Ecology of Mind. London: Paladin. Bennett, C. Emerging Syntheses In Science. Redwood City, Calif. Brillouin, L. Science and Information Theory, 2nd edition.
New York: Academic Press. Brooks, D. The nature of the organism: life takes on a life of its own. Proceedings of the New York Academy of Science. Evolution in the Information Age: Rediscovering the nature of the organism. Semiotics, Energy, Evolution and Development. Taking evolutionary transitions seriously.
Collier, B. Maurer, J. Smith and Edward O. Entropy and information in biological systems. Biology and Philosophy 4: Biological signals as material phenomena. The nature of the organism and the emergence of selection processes and biological signals. Taborsky, ed.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Chaitin, Gregory J.
Continental philosophical perspectives on life sciences and emerging technologies
Algorithmic Information Theory. Chomsky, Noam. A Review of B. Skinner's Verbal Behavior. Language Collier, John D. Entropy in evolution. Biology and Philosophy 1: Intrinsic information. Oxford: Oxford University Press: Two faces of Maxwell's demon reveal the nature of irreversibility. Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science Collier, John. Information increase in biological systems: How does adaptation fit? In Gertrudis van der Vijver, Stanley N. Salthe and Manuela Delpos eds Evolutionary Systems. Dordrecht, Kluwer. Collier, J.
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Causation is the transfer of information. Dordrecht, Kluwer: Autonomy in anticipatory systems: significance for functionality, intentionality and meaning. Autonomy and Process Closure as the Basis for Functionality. What is Autonomy? Entropy, 5: Self-organisation, individuation and identity, Revue Internationale de Philosophie. Complexly Organised Dynamical Systems. Open Systems and Information Dynamics, 6: Crick, Francis.
On protein synthesis. Symposium of the Society of Experimental Biology Cummins, R. The Nature of Psychological Explanation. Darden, Lindley. Flow of Information in Molecular Biological Mechanisms. Biological Theory 1: Titus Brown, Carolina B. Rust, Zheng jun Pan, Maria J. Schilstra, Peter J. Clarke, Maria I. Arnone, Lee Rowen, R. Andrew Cameron, David R. A Genomic Regulatory Network for Development. Science Dawkins, R. The selfish gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
The Blind Watchmaker. New York: W. Earman, John and Norton, John D. Part I. From Maxwell to Szilard. Part II. From Szilard to Landauer and Beyond. Foss, J. Inquiry Gatlin, L. Godfrey-Smith, Peter. Philosophy of Science Griffiths Paul E. Griffiths, Paul E. Developmental Systems Theory and Evolutionary Explanation. Journal of Philosophy Hoffmeyer J. Signs of Meaning in the Universe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Ingarden, R.
Kossakowski and M. Information Dynamics and Open Systems. Dordrecht: Kluwer. New York: Oxford University Press. Keller, Evelyn Fox. The Century of the Gene. Kolmogorov, A. Three Approaches to the Quantitative Definition of Information. Problems of Information Transmission 1: Information and the Origin of Life. Cambridge: MIT Press. Odling-Smee, F. John, Laland, Kevin N. Niche Construction. Amercian Naturalist Landsberg, P. Physics Letters A: Layzer, David.
A macroscopic approach to population genetics. Journal of Theoretical Biology Cosmogenesis: the Growth of Order in the Universe. Lorenz, Konrad. Analogy as a Source of Knowledge. Nobel Lecture, December 12, MacKay, Donald M. Information, Mechanism and Meaning. MacLaurin, James.
Reinventing Molecular Weismannism: Information in Evolution. Biology and Philosophy Maturana, Humberto R. Autopoiesis and Cognition. Dordrecht: Reidel. Maynard Smith, J.
Neuropragmatism: A Neurophilosophical Manifesto
The Major Transitions in Evolution. Oxford: W. Freeman Spektrum. Maynard Smith, John. The Concept of Information in Biology. Reply to Commentaries. Millikan, R. In Defense of Proper Functions.
Philosophy of Science 56, Neander, K. Philosophy of Science, 58, Oyama, Susan. The Ontogeny of Information, 2nd Edition. Rissanen, Jorma.