BOLTZMANN'S REDUCTIONThe statement of the second law appeared as a contradiction of the mechanical world view. In response, Boltzmann attempted to salvage the Newtonian (purposeless, mechanical) paradigm by reducing the second law to a stochastic collision function, to a law of probability. His move, by making the spontaneous production of order "infinitely improbable" and thus branding the second law as the "law of disorder," deflected attention from the profound insight of Thomson and Clausius.
Classical thermodynamics tells us that entropy is maximized at thermodynamic equilibrium but tells us nothing about the path of action selected to get there. An answer to the question can be framed in terms of a simple experiment, the consequences of which show a physics that is not only end directed but inherently opportunistic in attaining its ends. Figure 3 shows an adiabatically sealed (closed to the flow of heat) chamber divided by an adiabatic wall into two compartffients, each holding equal quantities of a monatomic gas such that there is a temperature difference T, > TI1 producing a field potential with force F. If a section (labeled 1) of the adiabatic seal is stripped from the dividing wall (Figure 3a), an incoherent flow of energy or heat (a drain) is spontaneously produced rrom I to II until the potential is minimized (the entropy is maximized) given the constraints. The rate of entropy production is given by:
where dQIdt and (IIV -1/7") are the flow and force respectively. Equation (1) shows that, ceteris paribus, the rate of entropy production is determined by the coefficient of conductivity of the wall. Figure 3b depicts the removal of a second portion
(iabeled 2) of the adiabatic seal. The wall underneath in this second case is composed of a different material with a different coefficient of conductivity. If the rate of 2 relative to the rate of I is sufficient to drain some quantity of the potential before I drains it all, then that quantity is automatically assigned to 2. If, with different relative coefficients, 2 can drain all the potential before I can drain any, then the entire quantity is assigned to 2 and I gets none. With the adding of more drains (Figure 3c), the behavior is precisely the same: Regardless of the particulars of the system, not only will it produce the dynamics appropriate to achieving the same final state, but it will select the assembly of pathways or drains among the available dynamics so as to get to the final state (minimize the field potential or maximize the entropy) at the fastest possible rate given the constraints. The foregoing expresses the law of maximum entropy production, a universal selection principle that provides the physical basis for the inexorability of spontaneous, evolutionary ordering (Swenson, 1988, 1989b, 1989c, in press-b) which we discuss more fully below.
A classic experiment in self-organization (first devised by Benard in 1900) is depicted in Figure 4. A viscous fluid is held between a uniform heat source below and the cooler temperature of the air above. That is, there is a potential difference with a field fbrce F of a magnitude determined by the difference between the two temperatures. When F is below a critical threshold heat flows from the source to the sink (entropy is produced) as a result of the disordered collisions between the constituent molecules (see Figure 4a); when F is increased beyond the critical threshold Bdnard "cells" emerge spontaneously, each cell consisting of hundreds of millions of molecules moving collectively together.
T'he physical account of evolution espoused here assumes that the Earth will evolve as a global entity so as to maximize the extension of its dissipative surfaces and to degrade, thereby, the geo-cosmic potential at the fastest possible rate given the constraints (Swenson, 1988, 1989a, 1989c). As intimated, this account has consequences for understanding the origins of the perceptual guidance of movements and the movement enhancement of opportunities to perceive. In this section and the next, the previous intimations are made explicit and the thermodynamic reasons for perception-action cycles are identified.
2. It is not our intention here to endorse every detail of Wachtershauser's scheme. A deeper discussion is beyond the scope of this article, but his central argument, which is well demonstrated does not depend on those details. |
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