Biological Information: New Perspectives

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Biological Information: New Perspectives was a conference held by creationists and other cdesign proponentsists May 30 - June 2, 2011 in Ithaca, New York.[1] It wasn't heavily advertised, indeed, it seemed to be an invitation-only event, so it would have been lost in obscurity if the organizers hadn't nearly succeeded in getting the Springer VerlagWikipedia – a renowned publisher of scientific literature – to print the proceeding of the conference. An automatically generated announcement by Springer was spotted and irked many scientists who read it:

In the spring of 2011, a diverse group of scientists gathered at Cornell University to discuss their research into the nature and origin of biological information. This symposium brought together experts in information theory, computer science, numerical simulation, thermodynamics, evolutionary theory, whole organism biology, developmental biology, molecular biology, genetics, physics, biophysics, mathematics, and linguistics. This volume presents new research by those invited to speak at the conference.

The contributors to this volume use their wide-ranging expertise in the area of biological information to bring fresh insights into the explanatory difficulties that biological information raises. Going beyond the conventional scientific wisdom, which attempts to explain biological information reductionistically via chemical, genetic, and natural selective determinants, the work represented here develops novel non-reductionist approaches to biological information, looking notably to telic[note 1] and self-organizational processes.

Several clear themes emerged from these research papers: 1) Information is indispensable to our understanding of what life is. 2) Biological information is more than the material structures that embody it. 3) Conventional chemical and evolutionary mechanisms seem insufficient to fully explain the labyrinth of information that is life. By exploring new perspectives on biological information, this volume seeks to expand, encourage, and enrich research on the nature and origin of biological information.

Besides being filled with the typical phrases, this announcement — probably written by the editors of the proceedings Robert J. Marks IIWikipedia, Michael J. Behe , William A. Dembski, Bruce L. GordonWikipedia and John C. SanfordWikipedia — generates a (certainly not unintentionally) misleading impression of what happened: The diverse group of scientists had privately rented a room at the campus of the Cornell University (the Statler Auditorium in the School of Hotel Administration at the Ithaca campus). As far as it is known, only one member of the faculty of Cornell University — the young-earth-creationist John Sanford, who was then an honorary Adjunct Associate Professor of Botany — visited the symposium.

Published at Last[edit]

World Scientific PublishingWikipedia announced the publication of the proceedings for August 2013. Being the proceedings of a conference, the bulk of the editorial work is usually given to the conference organizers. That, and the obfuscatory, jargonized description and the choice of a lower-tier publisher, probably let this piece of bullshit slip through the cracks.


Session One — Information Theory and Biology:[edit]

  • Introductory Comments (R J Marks II)
  • Biological Information — What is it? (W Gitt, R Compton and J Fernandez)
  • A General Theory of Information Cost Incurred by Successful Search (W A Dembski, W Ewert, and R J Marks II)
  • Pragmatic Information (J W Oller Jr)
  • Limits of Chaos and Progress in Evolutionary Dynamics (W F Basener)
  • Tierra: The Character of adaptation (W Ewert, W A Dembski and R J Marks II)
  • Multiple Overlapping Genetic Codes Profoundly Reduce the Probability of Beneficial Mutation (G Montañez, R J Marks II, J Fernandez and J C Sanford)
  • Entropy, Evolution and Open Systems (G Sewell)
  • Information and Thermodynamics in Living Systems (A C McIntosh)

Session Two — Biological Information and Genetic Theory:[edit]

  • Introductory Comments (J C Sanford)
  • Not Junk After All: Non-Protein-Coding DNA Carries Extensive Biological Information (J Wells)
  • Can Purifying Natural Selection Preserve Biological Information? (P Gibson, J R Baumgardner, W H Brewer and J C Sanford)
  • Selection Threshold Severely Constrains Capture Of Beneficial Mutations (J C Sanford, J R Baumgardner and W H *Using Numerical Simulation to Test the “Mutation-Count” Hypothesis (W H Brewer, J R Baumgardner and J C Sanford)
  • Can Synergistic Epistasis Halt Mutation Accumulation? Results from Numerical Simulation (J R Baumgardner, W H Brewer and J C Sanford)
  • Computational Evolution Experiments Reveal a Net Loss of Genetic Information Despite Selection (C W Nelson, and J C Sanford)
  • Information Loss: Potential for Accelerating Natural Genetic Attenuation of RNA Viruses (W H Brewer, F D Smith and J C Sanford)
  • DNA.EXE: A Sequence Comparison Between the Human Genome and Computer Program Code (J Seaman)
  • Biocybernetics and Biosemiosis (D Johnson)

Session Three — Theoretical Molecular Biology:[edit]

  • Introductory Comments (M J Behe)
  • A New Model of Intracellular Communication Based on Coherent, High-Frequency Vibrations in Biomolecules (Dent L)
  • Getting There First: An Evolutionary Rate Advantage for Adaptive Loss-of-Function Mutations (M J Behe)
  • The Membrane Code: A Carrier of Essential Biological Information That is Not Specified by DNA and is Inherited Apart from It (J Wells)
  • Explaining Metabolic Innovation: Neo-Darwinism Versus Design (D Axe and A Gauger)

Session Four — Biological Information and Self-Organizational Complexity Theory:[edit]

  • Introductory Comments (B Gordon)
  • Evolution Beyond Entailing Law: The Roles of Embodied Information and Self Organization (S Kauffman)
  • Hierarchical Information Theory and the Modeling of Biological Systems (J D H Smith)
  • Towards a General Biology: Emergence of Life and Information from the Perspective of Complex Systems Dynamics (B H Weber)

External links[edit]


  1. I.e., meaning either 'terminal' or 'goal-directed', referencing teleology, and thus 'guided evolution)'.