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Biological Information, causality and specificity – an intimate relationship

Stotz, Karola and Griffiths, Paul E. (2017) Biological Information, causality and specificity – an intimate relationship. [Preprint]

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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 simply 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.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Stotz, Karolakarola.stotz@gmail.com
Griffiths, Paul E.paul.griffiths@sydney.edu.au0000-0002-8657-6873
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Depositing User: Professor Paul Edmund Griffiths
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2018 21:22
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2018 21:22
Item ID: 14482
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
Date: February 2017
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14482

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