What’s transmitted? Inherited information.
- 262 Downloads
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 idea that DNA is transmitting information down the generations only makes sense if it is carrying a message, that is to say if it has semantic content
KeywordsGenetic information Genetic representation Inheritance systems Information transmission Natural selection Evolution Entropy
Many thanks to Carl Bergstrom for patient discussion of his view, and to Peter Godfrey-Smith for an extended dialogue on these issues over several years, including comments on this commentary. The research reported here was supported by the OUP John Fell Research Fund, the James Martin 21st Century School, the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics and Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford.
- Bergstrom CT, Rosvall M (2010) The transmission sense of information. Biol Philos. doi: 10.1007/s10539-009-9180-z
- de Ruyter van Steveninck RR, Lewen GD, Strong SP, Koberle R, Bialek W (1997) Reproducibility and variability in neural spike trains. Science 275(5307):1805–1808Google Scholar
- Godfrey-Smith P (2007) Innateness and genetic information. In: Carruthers P, Laurence S, Stich S (eds) The innate mind: foundations and the future. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 55–68Google Scholar
- Stewart EJ, Madden R, Gregory P, Taddei F (2005) Aging and death in an organism that reproduces by morphologically symmetric division. PLoS Biol 3:295–300Google Scholar