Information and Living Systems

Philosophical and Scientific Perspectives

Information shapes biological organization in fundamental ways and at every organizational level. Because organisms use information—including DNA codes, gene expression, and chemical signaling—to construct, maintain, repair, and replicate themselves, it would seem only natural to use information-related ideas in our attempts to understand the general nature of living systems, the causality by which they operate, the difference between living and inanimate matter, and the emergence, in some biological species, of cognition, emotion, and language. And yet philosophers and scientists have been slow to do so. This volume fills that gap. Information and Living Systems offers a collection of original chapters in which scientists and philosophers discuss the informational nature of biological organization at levels ranging from the genetic to the cognitive and linguistic.

The chapters examine not only familiar information-related ideas intrinsic to the biological sciences but also broader information-theoretic perspectives used to interpret their significance. The contributors represent a range of disciplines, including anthropology, biology, chemistry, cognitive science, information theory, philosophy, psychology, and systems theory, thus demonstrating the deeply interdisciplinary nature of the volume’s bioinformational theme.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Introduction
  3. I. The Definition of Life
  4. 1. The Need for a Universal Definition of Life in Twenty-first-century Biology

    Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo and Alvaro Moreno

  5. 2. Energy Coupling

    Yasar Demirel

  6. II. Information and Biological Organization
  7. 3. Bioinformation as a Triadic Relation

    Alfredo Marcos

  8. 4. The Biosemiotic Approach in Biology : Theoretical Bases and Applied Models

    Joao Queiroz, Claus Emmeche, Kalevi Kull, and Charbel El-Hani

  9. 5. Problem Solving in the Life Cycles of Multicellular Organisms : Immunology and Cancer

    Niall Shanks and Rebecca A. Pyles

  10. 6. The Informational Nature of Biological Causality

    Alvaro Moreno and Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo

  11. 7. The Self-construction of a Living Organism

    Natalia Lopez-Moratalla and Maria Cerezo

  12. 8. Plasticity and Complexity in Biology : Topological Organization, Regulatory Protein Networks, and Mechanisms of Genetic Expression

    Luciano Boi

  13. III. Information and the Biology of Cognition, Value, and Language
  14. 9. Decision Making in the Economy of Nature : Value as Information

    Benoit Hardy-Vallee

  15. 10. Information Theory and Perception : The Role of Constraints, and What Do We Maximize Information About?

    Roland Baddeley, Benjamin Vincent, and David Attewell

  16. 11. Attention, Information, and Epistemic Perception

    Nicolas J. Bullot

  17. 12. Biolinguistics and Information

    Cedric Boeckx and Juan Uriagereka

  18. 13. The Biology of Personality

    Aurelio Jose Figueredo, W. Jake Jacobs, Sarah B. Burger, Paul R. Gladden, and Sally G. Olderbak

  19. Contributors
  20. Index