[SydPhil] MQ Philosophy Seminar

Rachael Brown rachael.brown at mq.edu.au
Wed Jul 29 16:24:34 AEST 2015

Please note the following upcoming event as part of the Macquarie
University Philosophy Work in Progress Seminar Series.

What makes causal relationships in biology ‘informational’ relationships?
Karola Stotz (MQ)

1-2pm, Tuesday 4th August
 W3A, Rm 501 (Blackshield Room)

James Woodward has remarked that, “biologists tend to think of structures
as carrying information when they are involved in causally specific
relationships” (2010, 314). I attempt to document and explain this by
drawing a bridge to the much older concept of biological specificity that
played a crucial role in the history of biology, and by analyzing key
examples of biologists distinguishing information from non-information.
One example is Crick’s use of the idea of information to state the Central
Dogma and sequence hypothesis. Crick believed that three factors were
involved in protein synthesis, “the flow of energy, the flow of matter, and
the flow of information” (1958, 144). I will elucidate the epistemic payoff
of introducing information in this context. Another example is the
distinction sometimes drawn in developmental biology between ‘instructive’
and ‘permissive’ causes (Gilbert 2003). I will show how the distinction
between informational and other causal processes does real explanatory work
and how it flows naturally from the pre-existing concept of information.
The work presented constitutes an explication of the idea of information,
which maintains intellectual continuity with a vernacular concept but is
prepared to depart from the original concept when this serves the goal of
understanding the distinctive nature of living systems.

Feel free to bring your lunch.

Contact: Rachael Brown (rachael.brown at mq.edu.au), Adam Hochman (
adam.hochman at mq.edu.au), Mike Olson (michael.olson at mq.edu.au)

A google calendar with details of other events in this series is available
for viewing and subscription by following this link:


11 Aug Richard Heersmink (MQ)

18 Aug Neil Levy (MQ)

25 Aug Toshiro Osawa (MQ)

1 Sep Albert Atkin (MQ)
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