Mechanistic information and causal continuity

Jim Bogen and Peter Machamer

in Causality in the Sciences

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199574131
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728921 | DOI:
Mechanistic information and causal continuity

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Contrary to Griffiths and others, the chapter claims that properly conceived, the notion of informationis important to the philosophical and scientific understanding of causal continuities that connect the steps of some important biological processes. Far from being ‘little more than a metaphor that masquerades as a theoretical concept’ (as Sarkar claims), the chapter believes the relevant notion of information can be well enough understood to qualify as a useful and perfectly acceptable scientific concept. As the title suggests, this chaper's treatment of information develops from Machamer, Darden, and Craver's mechanistic account of causally productive causal processes. This chapter supposes that what is being called mechanistic information can be understood in terms of goals served by mechanisms, and the influence on connections among the initial and final stages of their operation. The chapter uses the examples of Crick's early conception of gene expression and a sensory‐motor reflex in the leech to illustrate our account and to contrast ours to some familiar ideas of information including Shannon and Weaver's, Millikan's teleosemantic notion, and Crick's own conception of information transmission as pattern replication.

Keywords: mechanism; information; teleology; causal continuity

Chapter.  8832 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Logic

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