Evolution and information: an overview

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Abstract

Many biological processes appear to involve the storing, transmission, and processing of information. Heredity is often conceptualized as the transfer of information from parents to offspring and development as the expression of that information. Natural information has received considerable philosophical attention since the 1970s. Natural information was introduced with the example of growth rings of trees. Growth rings are informative in the sense that they can reveal tree age. Dretske's (1981) work is a good starting point for surveying philosophical theories of natural information. The counterfactual theory gives up on Dretske's idea that natural information is a probabilistic relation. Dretske's (1981) theory was criticized for being too demanding in requiring that natural information renders a state certain. This chapter considers a set of theories of natural information, which analyze information in terms of causation. Causal accounts rule out such stock examples and, consequently, the possibility of animals extracting information from the myriads of non-causal correlations they encounter.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Evolution and Philosophy
EditorsRichard Joyce
PublisherRoutledge
Pages79-90
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781315764863
ISBN (Print)9781138789555
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017

Publication series

NameRoutledge Handbooks in Philosophy
PublisherRoutledge

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