Skip to comments.Autocatakinesis, Evolution, and the Law of Maximum Entropy Production
Posted on 05/04/2005 10:48:30 AM PDT by betty boop
Autocatakinetics, Evolution, and the Law of Maximum Entropy Production
By Rod Swenson
Ecological science addresses the relations of living things to their environments, and the study of human ecology the particular case of humans. There is an opposing tradition built into the foundations of modern science of separating living things, and, in particular, humans from their environments. Beginning with Descartes dualistic world view, this tradition found its way into biology by way of Kant, and evolutionary theory through Darwin, and manifests itself in two main postulates of incommensurability, the incommensurability between psychology and physics (the first postulate of incommensurability), and between biology and physics (the second postulate of incommensurability).
The idea of the incommensurability between living things and their environments gained what seemed strong scientific backing with Boltzmanns view of the second law of thermodynamics as a law of disorder according to which the transformation of disorder to order was said to be infinitely improbable. If this were true, and until very recently it has been taken to be so, then the whole of life and its evolution becomes one improbable event after another. The laws of physics, on this view, predict a world that should be becoming more disordered, while terrestrial evolution is characterized by active order production. The world, on this view, seemed to consist of two incommensurable, or opposing rivers, the river of physics which flowed down to disorder, and the river of biology, psychology, and culture, which flowed up, working, it seemed, to produce as much order as possible.
As a consequence of Boltzmanns view of the second law, evolutionary theorists, right up to present times, have held onto the belief that organic evolution was a negation of physical evolution, and that biology and culture work somehow to defy the laws of physics (Dennett, 1995). With its definition of evolution as an exclusively biological process, Darwinism separates both biology and culture from their universal, or ecological, contexts, and advertises the Cartesian postulates of incommensurability at its core, postulates that are inimical to the idea of ecological science. An ecological science, by definition, assumes contextualization or embeddedness, and as its first line of business wants to know what the nature of it is. This requires a universal, or general theory of evolution which can uncover and explicate the relationship of the two otherwise incommensurable rivers, and put the active ordering of biological, and cultural systems, of terrestrial evolution as a time-asymmetric process, back into the world.
The law of maximum entropy production, when coupled with the balance equation of the second law, and the general facts of autocatakinetics [see below], provides the nomological basis for such a theory, and shows why, rather than living in a world where order production is infinitely improbable, we live in and are products of a world, in effect, that can be expected to produce as much order as it can. It shows how the two otherwise incommensurable rivers, physics on the one hand, and biology, psychology, and culture on the other, are part of the same universal process and how the fecundity principle, and the intentional dynamics it entails, are special cases of an active, end-directed world opportunistically filling dynamical dimensions of space-time as a consequence of universal law. The epistemic dimension, the urgency towards existence in Leibnizs terms, characterizing the intentional dynamics of living things and expressed in the fecundity principle, and the process of evolution writ large as a single planetary process, is thus not only commensurable with first, or universal, principles, but a direct manifestation of them.
The view presented here thus provides a principled basis for putting living things, including humans, back in the world, and recognizing living things and their environments as single irreducible systems. It provides the basis for contextualizing the deep and difficult questions concerning the place of humans as both productions and producers of an active and dynamic process of terrestrial evolution, which as a consequence of the present globalization of culture is changing the face of the planet at a rate which seems to be without precedent over geological time. Of course, answers to questions such as these always lead to more questions, but such is the nature of the epistemic process we call life.
An autocatakinetic system is defined as one that maintains its self as an entity constituted by, and empirically traceable to, a set of nonlinear (circularly causal) relations through the dissipation or breakdown of field (environmental) potentials (or resources) in the continuous coordinated motion of its components (from auto- self + cata- down + kinetic, of the motion of material bodies and the forces and energy associated therewith from kinein, to cause to move.
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The above excerpt is the Conclusion of Swensons article. From its beginning, he notes that living systems, unlike self-ordering or material systems, display intentional dynamics in their behavior, which Swenson defines as end-directed behavior prospectively controlled, or determined by meaning or information about paths to ends, in contrast with end-directed behavior which can be understood as determined by local potentials, and fundamental laws.
He continues: Examples of the latter [are] a river flowing down a slope, or heat flowing down a gradient. We can elaborate this discussion by including examples of autocatakinetic systems such as the Benard experiment, tornadoes, and dust devils, systems that we call self-organizing, but we do not say are characterized by intentional dynamics. The autocatakinesis of such systems, which breaks symmetry with previously disordered regimes to access and dynamically fill higher-ordered dimensions of space time, is still determined with respect to local potentials with which they typically remain permanently connected. The autocatakinesis of living things, in contrast, is maintained with respect to non-local potentials discontinuously located in space-time to which they are not permanently connected.
Thus the patterns that we observe in biological nature do not principally arise from the properties of matter under the control of the physical laws. There is an informative process at work that appears to be mediated by a field or fields.
In this article, Swenson lists six main problems with the adequacy of Darwinism as a theory of evolution:
1. Natural selection requires the intentional dynamics of living things in order to work, and this puts the intentional dynamics of living things outside the explanatory framework of Darwinian theory.
2. Darwinism has no observables by which it can address or account for the directed nature of Evolution.
3. Because natural selection works on a competitive population of many, and the Earth as a planetary system evolves as a Population of One, Darwinian theory can neither recognize nor address this planetary evolution.
4. Darwinian theory has no account of the insensitivity to initial conditions (like consequents from unlike antecedents) required to account for the reliability of intentional dynamics or the evolutionary record writ large.
5. The incommensurability between biology and physics assumed by Darwinian theory provides no basis within the theory according to which epistemic or meaningful relations between living things and their environments can take place.
6. Evolution according to Darwinism is defined as a change in gene frequencies, and this puts cultural evolution outside the reach of Darwinian theory.
Swenson's article is a great read -- if you have the time and interest!
Okay - I'll be the first to admit that I don't have a clue what this is talking about. Anybody out there to summarize in layman's terms?
Hey girl, not responding to this thread but to days gone by, haven't talked to you in a while, we won't bring up the other thread, that was too emotional, good seeing you.
> Examples of the latter [are] a river flowing down a slope...
Curiously enough, rivers are *forever* flowing down slopes. And they can keep that up because there are numerous other mechanisms at work... such as evaporation and rain, a cycle driven by an external energy source (the sun).
With such a basic blunder (vast oversimplification), seems a waste to spend a whole lot of time worrying about his concerns regarding the improbability of evolution. Anyone who can't even see the sun in the sky overhead is not someone who is likely to have much useful to say about whether or not evolution is "directed."
I think it is saying that Tasmanian devils are different than dust devils. ;-)
These people simply seem to misunderstand the Second Law. Willingly, I believe.
I'm off to do more finishing work this afternoon, but I'm very much looking forward to what promises to be an engaging discussion.
Thanks! NOW I understand! lol
Very basic argument: If the universe tends to become disorderly on its own (entropy), then how can one explain evolution, which is supposedly a naturally occuring tendency towards order.
It raised a point I hadn't ever considered - I'd be interested to hear your thoughts: How does the instinct for self-preservation comport with the Second Law?
"Willingly" is almost certainly correct. When the same blatantly wrong arguements ("thermodynamics" and "Evolution of the human genome is statistiaclly impossible" and "there are no transitional fossil species;" blah, blah, blah) are repeated used, and repeatedly pointed out how they are wrong, and re-used anyway... it's clear that honesty isn't the goal.
I didn't realize evolution required or predicted order. And by "universe", do they mean universe as in "our vast universe" (like planets, stars, etc.) or something else? And how do they define order?
Come on, Paradox, we want more than your vote. Tell us what you know.
> If the universe tends to become disorderly on its own (entropy), then how can one explain evolution
Easily. The universe *as* *a* *whole*, or any CLOSED SYSTEM, tends towards disorder. However, the Earth IS NOT a closed system. HAd the Sun simply disappeared from the sky of Earth 4 billion years ago, then evolution would have ground to a halt. But the sun didn't disappear; it remains an external power source. So on the very small scale of the surface of the Earth, energy is available to produce ordered systems. But when compared to the Earth-Sun system *as* *a* *whole,* it's been running down for billions of years.
But aren't you then assuming there is no other life in the universe?
Well, now....that was refreshing. Along the same lines, I find this:
I've been making that point since day one here at FR, but no one would listen!
Your two questions are competing with the universe for "bigness".
Yes, important question. I think that the push here is toward an inclusive sense, whereby universe accounts for more than just a truncated or shrunken universe (e.g. Everything is physics! Everything is mathematics!).
The concept of universe both helps and disrupts the progress of science.
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