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  • Foreword / Richard Lewontin

    Preface to Second Edition

    Preface

    Introduction

    The Origin and Transmission of Form: The Gene as the Vehicle of Constancy


    The Problem of Change


    Variability and Ontogenetic Differentiation


    Variations on a Theme: Cognitive Metaphors and the Homunculoid Gene


    The Ghosts in the Ghost-in-the-Machine Machine


    The Ontogeny of Information

    Reprise


    Prospects


    Afterword to Second Edition


    Notes


    References


    Index of Names


    Index of Subject
  • Richard Lewontin

  • “In the tale of the emperor’s new clothes, the small boy’s genius lay in his naive recognition of the great man’s nudity. Oyama has a similar, if more sophisticated genius: she recognizes the subtle manner in which molecular biologists have allowed metaphors to replace explanations. It is no exaggeration to claim that she has resolved the nature-nurture dispute and provided an altogether new vision of the processes of development and evolution.”—Peter Klopfer, Duke University — N/A

    “The publication of this revised edition of The Ontogeny of Information is timely and welcome, especially given the current dominance of simplistic views about genetic causation, aided by constant misuse of the ideas of information, coding and programming. Oyama’s classic discussion of these concepts combines patient, subtle dissection with bold and novel moves. The Ontogeny of Information is a work of brilliant originality and enduring relevance.”—Peter Godfrey-Smith, Stanford University — N/A

    “This is among the most important books on developmental theory published in the last several decades. It continues to be cited regularly in work from several different disciplines, including developmental biology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and psychology.”—Robert Lickliter, Virginia Polytechnic Institute — N/A

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  • Description

    The Ontogeny of Information is a critical intervention into the ongoing and perpetually troubling nature-nurture debates surrounding human development. Originally published in 1985, this was a foundational text in what is now the substantial field of developmental systems theory. In this revised edition Susan Oyama argues compellingly that nature and nurture are not alternative influences on human development but, rather, developmental products and the developmental processes that produce them.
    Information, says Oyama, is thought to reside in molecules, cells, tissues, and the environment. When something wondrous occurs in the world, we tend to question whether the information guiding the transformation was pre-encoded in the organism or installed through experience or instruction. Oyama looks beyond this either-or question to focus on the history of such developments. She shows that what developmental “information” does depends on what is already in place and what alternatives are available. She terms this process “constructive interactionism,” whereby each combination of genes and environmental influences simultaneously interacts to produce a unique result. Ontogeny, then, is the result of dynamic and complex interactions in multileveled developmental systems.
    The Ontogeny of Information challenges specialists in the fields of developmental biology, philosophy of biology, psychology, and sociology, and even nonspecialists, to reexamine the existing nature-nurture dichotomy as it relates to the history and formation of organisms.

    About The Author(s)

    Susan Oyama is Professor of Psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, as well as in the Subprogram in Developmental Psychology at the CUNY Graduate School and University Center.

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