By Susan Oyama
Information, says Oyama, is assumed to dwell in molecules, cells, tissues, and the surroundings. while whatever wondrous happens on this planet, we have a tendency to query even if the data guiding the transformation was once pre-encoded within the organism or put in via event or guideline. Oyama seems to be past this either-or query to target the background of such advancements. She indicates that what developmental “information” does depends upon what's already in position and what choices can be found. She phrases this strategy “constructive interactionism,” wherein every one mix of genes and environmental impacts concurrently interacts to provide a different end result. Ontogeny, then, is the results of dynamic and complicated interactions in multileveled developmental systems.
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Extra resources for The Ontogeny of Information: Developmental Systems and Evolution
Though I am acutely aware of the weary impatience evoked by nature-nurture discussions, I will refrain from oﬀering the apologies that typically precede them. I am convinced there is another way to think, and that this other way, though it requires reworking not only our ideas about genes and environment but quite a bit besides, gives us both more and less than the old way. It gives more clarity, more coherence, more consistency, and a diﬀerent way to interpret data; in addition it oﬀers the means for synthesizing the concepts and methods of evolutionary biologists and Introduction developmentalists, groups that have been working at cross-purposes, or at least talking past each other, for many decades.
Bowers may have been scoring a rhetorical point against situationism, but if so, it was not a point in favor of a thoroughgoing interactionism. Just as Weisstein, in battling one kind of determinism, substituted another and thus burdened her argument with some of the very assumptions she might well have questioned, so Bowers adopts a notion of genetic causation that weakens his interactionist thesis. No one can do everything, and my comments in these cases, as in many others in this book, are labors of love, however critical I may seem.
But if initial conditions select one folded structure among an array of possible ones, thus contributing to the unique shape, they do specify it, in cooperation with the linear structure. The particular globular shape results only when particular chains fold under particular conditions. Monod is forced, in his terms, to admit that the structure therefore ‘‘contains’’ more information than it would if such conditions were not critical. But his commitment to the power of the gene entirely to deﬁne leads him to withhold ‘‘specifying’’ power from the cellular environment.