Monday, 29 June 2009

Information and Biology

Pierre-Henri Gouyon ***** (cannot give this enough stars this is fundamental)

Takes Richard Lewontin's view - Triple Helix - Genes, Epigentics and Environment.

Biodiversity - treasure but also a problem - devil is in the detail.
Biology is a young science - anthropomorphism and vitalism are difficult to escape, hard to make it Galilean like physics. Born really in 1859 with Darwin.
  • Mandrake is human seed grown from the ground.
  • Linaeus is the frist bioinformatician.
"eternal law of reproduction and multiplication within the limits of their proper types" Linnaeus

Diversity is the variety of species - is biodiversity just counting the species and what differences warrant new species - in insects differences are much smaller.
  • Cuviers - Extinctions destroy invariability there is no transformation.
  • Lamark species transform never become extinct.
Darwin considered individuals and not species. Product of his environment and seeing the struggles around him. All are as evolved as the others.

"no clear line of demarcation has as yet been drawn between species and sub-species" Darwin.

It is a continuum - this is very important. We have become bean counter and not integrative biologists.

Galton developed heritability and Weissman kills of acquired characteristics - amputees do not give birth to amputees. Do not produce what I have "learnt" pass on what was given to me. I am like a tube through which something passes so the only effect an individual can play is over the number of progeny.
  • Bateson pupil of Galton - did not like Maths
  • Pearson was the maths student.
Systematics and genetics converge with coalescence. Diversity needs to refect distances as well as number of leaves.

Epigenetics - what the reading system add to pass on from one generation to the next.

"Individuals are contingent artefacst invented by genes to be reproduced."
What information produces the individual?
No linear relationships DNA does not go to RNA like carbon + oxygen goes to carbon dioxide. So the flow is not linear or free from weight.

Genes are agents and not limited to the matter genes are not equal to DNA.

The same repsonse can be triggered from many different causes so how do you quantify information without context? You need to be able to read a book for the information to be transformed into action. Recipes do not make dishes. Need recipe, chef (reading system) and the environment - his oven/kitchen.

The Triple Helix

Nature is not moral or immoral it is indifferent. This was the shock of Darwin.

Eugenics Ada Juke case - sex perverts and illegitimacy were hertiable. It was common to all geneticists of the time - they all believed they could do the most for mankind, scientist sense of superiority. Ended at Nuremberg so now we look at the human rights.

  • Not determined by our genes but our environment.- left wing
  • Innate is more important - right wing.
Exchange horses and riders so each rider rides each horse over the same course. Contingent over the horses and the riders. Results cannot be extrapolated to new populations - only valid for the same sets.

Need a proper definition of biological information beyond Shannon.

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