Star Larvae Hypothesis
Nature’s Plan for Humankind
Part 1. Metabolic Metaphysics
Entropy: Nature's Preferred Direction?
old science of thermodynamics assigns to nature a capacity to
deconstruct complex structures and processes spontaneously.
ideas swirling around complexity theory seem to amount to a skirting of
the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
The hallowed Second Law declares nature on the whole to be running down, falling apart, drifting toward
equilibrium—away from organized complexity. Mountains erode,
stars burn out, organisms die and decay, and the distinguishing features
of these physical forms get lost as their materials get recycled. Entropy, or disorganization, increases as the world
sinks into homogeneous featurelessness. Physical forms are transient.
"A subsystem of the universe modeled as if it were the only thing in the universe, neglecting everything outside it, is called an isolated system. But we should never forget that isolation from the world is never complete. As noted, in the real world there are always interactions between any subsystem we may define and things outside it. To one extent or another, subsystems of the universe are always what physicists call open systems. These are bounded systems that interact with things beyond those boundaries. So when we do physics in a box, we are approximating an open system by an isolated system."
— Lee Smolin
Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe
Science gives the name entropy to this tendency toward disorganization. The assertion that entropy increases on the whole is canonical to the the scientific understanding of nature. Given enough time every potential source of energy will have exhausted itself.
The Second Law sentences the universe to death.
But the Second
Law is a curious description of nature, because
it relies fundamentally on the concept of a closed system, an
imaginary box that is cut out of nature and is perfectly isolated from all outside
influences. In other words, in fairness to the Second Law, it applies,
strictly speaking, only to closed systems, (even though "openness" does
not guarantee that any particular physical system will be shielded from
the pull of entropy). Qualifiers aside, a closed system
is a construct of the human capacity to idealize. No closed systems occur
a result, the Second Law must be treated as contingent. The ideal of
the closed system to which it applies is a fiction. In nature energy
always leaks into or out of any defined volume of space. Nature is of a whole. And within that whole,
entropic—tearing down—and anti-entropic—building up—processes
operate side by side, being intertwined with one another.
Scientists labor in the shadow of the Second Law to account
for natural systems that grow
away from equilibrium, spontaneously gaining in complexity and shedding
entropy. Theorists have proposed terms such
or "negentropy" to name the attribute of a system that increases
as the system grows in complexity. In any case, the physical world can be seen as a process governed by the tension between entropy and complexity, just as the biological subset of nature can be seen as a process governed by the tension between catabolism and anabolism, the two composing the broader process of metabolism.
complex systems theory, science comes to grips with the paradox of
a natural world that both obeys the Second Law and flaunts its ability
to outrun the law. Science tells us that, despite apparent violations or
bendings of the Second Law, that the Law should remain on the books because
every anti-entropic process—every self-organizing
complex system—draws energy from a source outside of itself, so
that the total system that constitutes both the complex process
and its energy source does predictably increase in entropy. But the question
remains as to why nature would construct complex structures and retard
their degradation via metabolism, broadly conceived.
From what law of physics does this capacity issue? And what evidence exists to support the contention that the entropy of the universe as a whole is increasing?
In the light
of science’s new enthusiasm for vitalism, the scientific mind suffers from cognitive
dissonance. It observes that nature tends spontaneously to degrade
organized structures into their simpler components while simultaneously using
those components to build up new complex structures. So where do
nature’s loyalties lie,
in the building up or in the tearing down? Complexity or entropy? The dilemma suggests a theoretical impasse. But the
impasse can be resolved by retaining both tendencies in their full
expression and linking them in a feedback relationship of mutual
dependence. What is needed to break through this impasse is a meta-concept
that encompasses both tendencies and locates each operationally relative
to the other, in feedback loops. The biological sciences provide such an overarching concept. It is called metabolism.
NEXT > Metabolism
and the Complexity-Entropy Circuit
Star Larvae Hypothesis:
a genus of organism.
The stellar life cycle includes a larval phase.
Biological life constitutes the larval phase of the stellar life cycle.
hypothesis presents a teleological model of nature, in which
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