Information in the Biological Sciences [chapter]

Alfredo Marcos, Robert Arp
2013 The Philosophy of Biology  
Information has been a central concept for contemporary work in the biological sciences (and other sciences) especially after the publication of Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver's, The Mathematical Theory of Communication, in 1949. In fact, the pervasiveness of Shannon's information theory-as well as of the very terms themselves-becomes evident when one takes a moment to reflect upon just a few of the concepts that are standard in the biomedical sciences, such as genetic code, messenger RNA,
more » ... channel, cell signaling, intracellular communication, signal transduction, pathogen transmission, positive feedback loop, expressive noise minimization, and many others. In this chapter we first give a historical introduction concerning the concept and nature of information, with a special emphasis upon the biological sciences. Then, we provide a few important examples of information at work in the biological sciences. Next, we consider the debate regarding the reality and nature of bioinformation, arguing that bioinformation is best understood as a relationship between and/or among entities; for instance, DNA is informational only in relation to a given cellular context, and it is misguiding to locate information in a particular molecule. We then go on to show how bioinformation relates to other concepts such as entropy, order, organization, complexity, and knowledge. Finally, we approach education itself as an informational process in order to draw some consequences for the teaching of biology. 2
doi:10.1007/978-94-007-6537-5_23 fatcat:idscgqvvenbihbvzcysaexlotm