Journal Article

DNA, Inference, and Information

Ulrich E. Stegmann

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 60, issue 1, pages 1-17
Published in print March 2009 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online January 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
DNA, Inference, and Information

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This paper assesses Sarkar's ([2003]) deflationary account of genetic information. On Sarkar's account, genes carry information about proteins because protein synthesis exemplifies what Sarkar calls a ‘formal information system’. Furthermore, genes are informationally privileged over non-genetic factors of development because only genes enter into arbitrary relations to their products (in virtue of the alleged arbitrariness of the genetic code). I argue that the deflationary theory does not capture four essential features of the ordinary concept of genetic information: intentionality, exclusiveness, asymmetry, and causal relevance. It is therefore further removed from what is customarily meant by genetic information than Sarkar admits. Moreover, I argue that it is questionable whether the account succeeds in demonstrating that information is theoretically useful in molecular genetics.


Sarkar's Information System

The Pre-theoretic Features of Genetic Information 3.1







Causal relevance

Theoretical Usefulness


Journal Article.  7076 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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