To facilitate discussion, we are publishing the abstracts and conclusions/summaries of the 24 papers from the Cornell Conference on the Origin of Biological Information here at Uncommon Descent, with cumulative links to previous papers at the bottom of each page. You can get from anywhere to anywhere in the system.
Note: A blow-by-blow account of the difficulties that the authors experienced from Darwin lobby attempts to censor the book by denying it publication with Springer are detailed here. Fortunately, the uproar resulted in an opportunity for readers like yourself to read the book online. That said, the hard cover version is now shipping.
The Conclusion for “Information and Thermodynamics in Living Systems” by Andy C. McIntosh:
Three views of informational reality (ontology) are considered in this paper. The first is that matter and energy is all there is. This is the materialistic view of information (Dawkins (Oxford), Jones (University College, London), Atkins (Oxford) and others). Such authors argue that functional non-material information and design are an illusion. In their view matter and energy is all that there is in the Universe. Patterns only have meaning in a reductionist sense and do not carry any non-material ‘value’. The second scenario is a variation of the bottom up approach. In this view information is regarded as non-material but has arisen out of matter and energy. This is the view of Prigogine , Yockey , Wicken  and
Kenneth Miller [2,28,29] and many other authors.
Both these approaches are flawed on two counts. Firstly they ignore the fact that real information systems are not defined by the codes and languages they use and that the arrangement of the physical objects used in the system (for DNA, this would be the nucleotide triplets) has to be in a specified order. So even nonmaterialists such as Prigogine, Yockey, Wicken or Kenneth Miller have insuperable hurdles with such a system. By proposing an evolutionary model of the bottom up approach, they do not have the means to derive the specificity  in the ordering arrangement of the nucleotides in DNA. These issues are discussed in the work of Abel and Trevors [31, 32]. Secondly a more subtle point, but a very important one, is that there is an impossible thermodynamic barrier to such an approach. The information in living systems is mounted on molecules with a raised free energy such that the carriers of information would fall apart into equilibrium chemistry were it not for the information present. It is this barrier which shows that a top down approach is the only way to understand information in living systems.
The third view then that we have proposed in this paper is the top down approach. In this paradigm, the information is non-material and constrains the local thermodynamics to be in a non-equilibrium state of raised free energy. It is the information which is the active ingredient, and the matter and energy are passive to the laws of thermodynamics within the system. As a consequence of this approach, we have developed in this paper some suggested principles of information exchange which have some parallels with the laws of thermodynamics which undergird this approach. They also have some profound implications concerning the inevitable decay in genetic material and the uniqueness of information in the beginning.
See also: Origin of Biological Information conference: Its goals
Open Mike: Origin of Biological Information conference: Origin of life studies flatlined
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference— Can you answer these conundrums about information?
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Is a new definition of information needed for biology? (Chapter 2)
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—New definition of information proposed: Universal Information (Chapter 2)
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Chapter Three, Dembski, Ewert, and Marks on the true cost of a successful search
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Chapter Three on the true cost of a successful search—Conservation of information
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Chapter Four: Pragmatic Information
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Chapter Four, Pragmatic information: Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter Five Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter Five – Basener on limits of chaos – Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter Six – Ewert et all on the Tierra evolution program – Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter Six – Ewert et all on the Tierra evolution program – Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 7—Probability of Beneficial Mutation— Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 7—Probability of Beneficial Mutation— Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 8—Entropy, Evolution and Open Systems—Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 8—Entropy, Evolution and Open Systems—Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 9—Information and Thermodynamics in Living Systems—Abstract