On the Meaning of Chance in Biology

  title={On the Meaning of Chance in Biology},
  author={James A. Coffman},
  • J. Coffman
  • Published 30 July 2014
  • Philosophy
  • Biosemiotics
Chance has somewhat different meanings in different contexts, and can be taken to be either ontological (as in quantum indeterminacy) or epistemological (as in stochastic uncertainty). Here I argue that, whether or not it stems from physical indeterminacy, chance is a fundamental biological reality that is meaningless outside the context of knowledge. To say that something happened by chance means that it did not happen by design. This of course is a cornerstone of Darwin’s theory of evolution… 

Why Functional Genomics Is the Central Concern of Biology and the Hard Problem of Abiogenesis

  • J. Coffman
  • Biology
    Evolution, Development and Complexity
  • 2019
The sequence of contingencies that produced the first functional genome is not well preserved in the fossil record, and therefore the problem of abiogenesis will probably remain unsolved and a matter of speculation until the authors learn how to create a true (i.e., genomically informed) organism from scratch.

Cultural Evolution of Genetic Heritability

This framework helps explain why it is easier to discover genes for deficiencies than genes for abilities, and predicts the ways in which heritability should differ between societies, between socioeconomic levels within some societies but not others, and over the life course.

Biological information systems: Evolution as cognition-based information management.

  • W. Miller
  • Biology
    Progress in biophysics and molecular biology
  • 2018

Using statistical methods to model the fine-tuning of molecular machines and systems.



Finite Universe of Discourse:The Systems Biology of Walter Elsasser (1904-1991)

Walter Elsasser (1904-1991), an eminent quantum physicist and geophysicist, was also active in theoretical biology over a 35-year period from the early 1950s to the late 1980s. Although increasingly

A model of biological indeterminacy.

On Causality in Nonlinear Complex Systems

The ‘Cybernetic Cut’: Progressing from Description to Prescription in Systems Theory

Howard Pattee championed the term “epistemic cut” to describe the symbol-matter, subject-object, genotypephenotype distinction. But the precise point of contact between logical deductive formalisms

Information as a Manifestation of Development

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Development and Evolution: Complexity and Change in Biology

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On the origin of the species by means of natural selection

One of the few revolutionary works of science that is engrossingly readable, "The Origin of Species" not only launched the science of modern biology but also has influenced virtually all subsequent literary, philosophical, and religious thinking.

The emerging conceptual framework of evolutionary developmental biology

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Ecology, the ascendent perspective

This book presents a coherent theoretical framework for ecology derived from current work in information theory, ecosystem energetics, and complexity theory, and suggests ways to bring ecology from the fringes to the center of science.