Objects and processes: two notions for understanding biological information

Journal of Theoretical Biology (forthcoming)
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In spite of being ubiquitous in life sciences, the concept of information is harshly criticized. Uses of the concept other than those derived from Shannon's theory are denounced as pernicious metaphors. We perform a computational experiment to explore whether Shannon's information is adequate to describe the uses of said concept in commonplace scientific practice. Our results show that semantic sequences do not have unique complexity values different from the value of meaningless sequences. This result suggests that quantitative theoretical frameworks do not account fully for the complex phenomenon that the term “information” refers to. We propose a restructuring of the concept into two related, but independent notions, and conclude that a complete theory of biological information must account completely not only for both notions, but also for the relationship between them.

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Alfonso Arroyo-Santos
National Autonomous University of Mexico


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