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Call For Papers
 

Ashgate Companion to Contemporary Philosophy of Biology

Deadline: June 01, 2006

Call for Papers. Deadline extended until June 1, 2006. 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 June 1, 2006, and authors whose contributions are accepted will be informed by July 1, 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 them-selves, 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, we include them, together with more familiar issues, as in need of further philosophical assimilation. Indeed, their inclusion in a companion to contemporary philosophy of biology seems wholly appropriate.

Audience. The collection of papers represents a broad range of disciplines, including biology, chemistry, computer science, information theory, paleontology, philosophy, physics, and psychology. The papers were 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 recent developments regarding the role of information in the biological sciences.

Organization of the Text. Section 1 is preliminary, in that it introduces readers to the information-theoretic perspective. Sections 2-7 then discuss a variety of increasingly complex biological topics to which this perspective 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 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 informational approach to the biological topics presented in this text.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Section Titles:

Editors’ Introduction

1. Biology and Information
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. Biology and Information
1.1. Origin and Biological Relevance of Informational Perspectives
1.2. How Information-Theoretic Perspectives Shape Biological Understanding
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 Ambiguous 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. Mentoring and Human Development
7. Conclusion

Erratic Impact is not responsibile for the content or accuracy of any CFP information.

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