On Biological Computing, Information and Molecular Networks

On Biological Computing, Information and Molecular Networks

Walter Riofrio (Complex Systems Institute (ISC-PIF), France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-014-2.ch004

Abstract

We will focus this chapter on studying the set of special characteristics molecular networks which constitute living systems might have. In order to do that, we will study them from the perspective which allows us to visualize the most basic element constituting that which is living. This approach should lead us to uncover the essential properties which form any dynamic entity that could be called a living system. It will furthermore permit us to understand the intrinsic relationship produced between the handling of biological information and the start-up of something completely new that is revealed in the set of aspects which bear natural computations within living systems.
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2. Origin Of Biological Information

The first issue which strongly calls our attention is the fact there is no clear acceptance of the term biological information. Moreover, many times that term is even considered equivalent to the term “genetic information”. This is perhaps owing to the very fact that the notion of information in biology is deeply connected to the birth of molecular biology. The first time we read about the notion of information forming part of a biological study’s explanation is in Watson and Crick’s second work in 1953:

“…It follows that in a long molecule many different permutations are possible, and it therefore seems likely that the precise sequence of the bases is the code which carries the genetical information…” (Watson & Crick, 1953, p. 965).

Later in (Crick, 1958; Crick, 1970), we can see what he called the “central dogma of molecular biology” characterized as follows:

“…Because these were all the possible transfers from protein, the central dogma could be stated in the form ‘once (sequential) information has passed into protein it cannot get out again’...” (Crick, 1970, p. 562).

Here, we must point out that the crux of this chapter is not an exploration of the different uses of the notion of information in the history of molecular biology (if the reader is so interested, please consult the following: Darden, 2006; Kay, 1993; Kay, 2000; Watson et al., 1988).

Nevertheless, what we are definitely interested in underscoring is that different researchers have begun to use the notion of information, codes, signs, and similar ideas to discuss other aspects that make up the biological dynamic and that are not necessarily related to genetic information (Jablonka, 2002; Jablonka & Lamb, 2005; Kauffman et al., 2008; Maynard, 2000).

On the other hand, we do want to stress that our approach to the notion of information, signs, and the like is set within the perspective of evolution.

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