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Conference & Publication Calls for Papers

Call For Papers
 

Ashgate Companion to Contemporary Philosophy of Biology

Deadline: May 15, 2006

Conference Details
CALL FOR PAPERS
Ashgate Companion to Contemporary Philosophy of Biology

Editors:

George Terzis, Ph.D.
Department of Philosophy
Saint Louis University
3800 Lindell Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63108
(314) 977-3163
terzisgn@slu.edu

Robert Arp, Ph.D.
Department of Philosophy
Southwest Minnesota State University
1501 State Street
Marshall, MN 56258
(507) 532-7281
arpr@southwestmsu.edu

Call for Papers.  We have been asked by Ashgate Publishing to edit their Ashgate
Companion to Contemporary Philosophy of Biology.  Our approach to this project
will emphasize the importance of information-theoretic considerations as well as
more familiar philosophical and scientific ones.  Our rationale for this
approach is that, although central to the biological sciences, the idea of
information has received little attention from philosophers of biology.  To
address this omission, we seek papers on topics that employ this approach to
advance understanding of topic-related philosophical problems and controversies.
 Although we have included a broad list of possible topics (see below), we are
willing to consider others provided that they also reflect the collection’s
overall approach.  Interested authors should include an abstract of the paper
they propose for the collection (not to exceed 500 words), together with a copy
of their cv.  Abstracts should be submitted by May 15, 2006, and authors whose
contributions are accepted will be informed by June 15, 2006.  The deadline for
accepted papers is February 1, 2007.  Submit relevant materials to:
terzisgn@slu.edu; arpr@southwestmsu.edu.

Objectives of the Companion.  Information pervades biological processes at all
levels of organization.  Familiar examples of these processes include how
organisms utilize free energy, how DNA codes for protein synthesis, how genes
regulate morphological development, and even how ensembles of nerve cells
coordinate their activity in a way that enables some organisms to be aware of
their environment.  But although pervasive, the contribution that
information-related ideas make to our understanding of these processes is not
yet well understood.  Indeed, only recently have researchers begun to explore
their deeper theoretical significance.  Of course, an understanding of these
processes also depends on a variety of more traditional biological and
non-biological scientific considerations.  But the combining of these
considerations with information-related ones will almost certainly add greater
accuracy and depth to our grasp of such processes.

A similar point may be made about our understanding of the traditional
philosophical issues and controversies associated with the previously noted
biological processes.  For example, since organisms use information to
construct, maintain, and replicate themselves, it would also seem natural to
include information-related ideas in our attempt to understand the general
nature of living systems, the causality by means of which they operate, their
capacity to generate prolific bio-diversity, whether or not they could exist and
evolve in non-biological matter, and how in some species they give rise to
cognition and emotion.  But, again, philosophers of biology have only begun to
include information-related ideas in the repertoire of methodological
considerations they use to discuss these philosophical issues.

Our approach to this volume thus seeks to correct what we believe is a
long-standing neglect of those informational considerations relevant to an
understanding of both the scientific and philosophical significance of a variety
of basic biological processes.  To be sure, the inclusion of these
considerations can only add to the controversies that already existed in their
absence.  For example, how closely or remotely related to one another are the
informational ideas that are employed at different levels of biological
organization?  Second, although the presence of informational ideas at these
levels is undeniable, their philosophical significance is another matter.  Is
that significance a literal one, or is it more metaphorical and heuristic? 
Finally, in order to defend a specific philosophical interpretation of these
ideas, we require a more general information-theoretic perspective.  But is
there one such perspective, or are there different, competing ones?  Although
difficult questions, we feel that any aversion toward answering them is
overridden by the fact, now nearly undeniable, that information is integral to
our understanding of biological phenomena.  For this reason, these questions are
as much in need of further philosophical examination as are the more familiar
ones.

Audience. The collection of papers represents a broad range of disciplines,
including anthropology, biology, chemistry, computer science, information
theory, paleontology, philosophy, physics, psychology, and systems theory.  The
papers will be written to meet the needs of advanced undergraduate and graduate
students enrolled in philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, and
theoretical biology courses.  The papers are also intended to enable interested
researchers to learn about the contribution that information makes to both the
biological sciences and philosophy of biology.

Organization of the Text.  Section 1, which introduces readers to the nature and
methodology of philosophy of biology, incorporates not only traditional
scientific and philosophical considerations, but also information-theoretic
ones.  Sections 2-7 then discuss a variety of increasingly complex biological
topics to which this methodology can be applied.  For example, Section 2 begins
with the general idea of organisms as hierarchically organized systems that use
information to construct, maintain, and replicate themselves, while Sections 3
and 4 expand this idea to take into account the evolutionary character of
organisms in both natural and artificial environments.  Next, Sections 5 and 6
show that this idea can also be applied to psychological concepts in humans and
higher primates.  Finally, a conclusion summarizes the broader philosophical
significance of the information-enhanced approach to the biological topics
presented in this text.

Table of Contents

Section Titles:
Editors’ Introduction
1. Philosophy of Biology: Its Nature and Methodology
2. Organisms as Living Systems
3. Evolutionary Theory
4. Natural Versus Artificial Life
5. Cognition
6. Individual and Society
7. Conclusion

Editors’ Introduction
George Terzis and Robert Arp

1. Philosophy of Biology: Its Nature and Methodology
1.1. Traditional Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives
1.2. Origin and Biological Relevance of Information-Theoretic Perspectives

2. Organisms as Living Systems
2.1. Living Versus Non-Living Systems
2.2. Energy Coupling
2.3. Genetic Programming
2.4. Cell Signaling
2.5. Biological Causality as Information Transfer

3. Evolutionary Theory
3.1. Evolution of the Prokaryotic Cell
3.2. Speciation
3.3. Genetic Switches
3.4. Camouflage, Mimicry, and Aggressive Forms of Communication

4. Natural Versus Artificial Life
4.1. The Definition of Life
4.2. Self-Organizing Systems
4.3. Cellular Automata and Virtual Environments
4.4. Does Biology Matter?

5. Cognition
5.1. The Nature of Bottom-Up and Top-Down Mental Causation
5.2. Disambiguating Visual Information
5.3. Perceptual Versus Abstract Visual Information

6. Individual and Society
6.1. The Biological Basis of Personality
6.2. Imitative Learning
6.3. Linguistic Communication

7. Conclusion
7.1. Unity and Diversity of Information-Related Ideas
7.2. Information and Hierarchical Organization
7.3. Future Research


George Terzis and Robert Arp

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