Evolution & the 2nd law?

Armin Sepp Armin.Sepp at bbsrc.ac.uk
Tue Nov 28 07:08:30 EST 1995


Dear John,Ken and others,
ladasky at leland.Stanford.EDU (John Ladasky) wrote:
>Ken Howe <howe at DARWIN.UCSC.EDU> wrote:

>>John,
>>I agree with your line of thinking, but isn't this a bit biocentric or 
>>anthropocentric? or at the very least, deterministic?
>>Ken

>] 	 Locally, life may be observed as a tendency towards order.  But
>] universally, life is a catalyst for the process of disorder.  Life merely
>] harnesses energy to externalize the disorder that life itself generates.
>] Have you been to a garbage dump lately?
>] 

The physicist's answer to the problem why there is life on Earth is perhaps offered by  a  Belgian 
physicist (and Nobel man) Ilya Prigogine who devoted his life to the thermodynamics of 
non-equilibrium systems. As I understood, if there is flux of energy through an open system this 
can lead to _local_decrease in entropy, i.e. to the rise of ordered systems, that persist as long 
as there is input of energy. Classical examples are chemical oscillations, vortexes in heated 
liquids. Like elswhere in thermodynamics these processes can be formally described . To the best 
of my knowledge he also made an attempt to apply the  same principles to living organisms 
(colonies of ants).I recall also an article in Nature where people demonstrated the rise of 
ordered patterns of bacterial colonies on Petri dishes sewn with certain bugs but I don't remember 
the details

In summary, even if we don't know  the chemistry of the origin of life , the physics  seems to  be 
largely in place.

-- 
* Armin Sepp, PhD           \                                    *
* Department of Immunology   \     "Every little helps." (Tesco) *
* Babraham Institute          \                                  *
* Cambridge CB2 4AT,U.K.       \      Armin.Sepp at bbsrc.ac.uk     *





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