Talk by Mª José Ferreira Ruiz: “Information, inheritance systems and developmental resources”

Date and Time: September 14th, Monday, 11.30 am.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14

Speaker: Mª José Ferreira Ruiz (CONICET – Universidad de Buenos Aires)

Title: Information, inheritance systems and developmental resources


The relation between biological inheritance and biological information
is close but tricky and unclear, and has not been directly explored.
Since the rise of molecular biology, genes have been thought of not
only as heritable units, but also as informational units. The
traditional focus put almost exclusively on genetic inheritance, and
the early introduction of the term ‘information’ to refer to genes,
may have given the impression that both properties come in a package,
as if every heritable unit were an informational one, and vice versa.
At present, we recognize other, non-genetical, inheritance systems,
but this only redoubles the confusion. A second issue concerning the
concept of information is posed by the notion of “developmental
resource” discussed by Developmental Systems theorists, among which we
count many different biological agents. Some authors have claimed that
if we admit genes -developmental resources- to be information
carriers, then the same must be said of the rest of the developmental
resources. Thus, they suggest an “informational parity” among genes
and non-genetic factors. My aim in this presentation is to addresss
the problematic aspects of these two relationships, that is, the one
between information and inheritance and the one between information
and causation. In both cases, I will argue that there are conceptual
confusions implied.