Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Autocatakinesis, Evolution, and the Law of Maximum Entropy Production
Advances in Human Ecology, Vol. 6 ^ | 1997 | Rod Swenson

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

An Excerpt:
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 Boltzmann’s 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 Boltzmann’s 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 Leibniz’s 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.


TOPICS:
KEYWORDS: autocatakinesis; cartesiansplit; crevolist; darwin; dennett; descartes; ecology; entropy; evolutionarytheory; kant; naturalselection; randommutation; secondlaw
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-6061-80 ... 261 next last
Swenson gives the following definition for an autocatakinetic system:

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.”

* * * * * *

The above excerpt is the Conclusion of Swenson’s 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!

1 posted on 05/04/2005 10:48:31 AM PDT by betty boop
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: betty boop

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?


2 posted on 05/04/2005 10:50:08 AM PDT by mlc9852
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Alamo-Girl; Ronzo; cornelis; PatrickHenry; js1138; stremba; jennyp; Doctor Stochastic; tortoise

FYI!!!


3 posted on 05/04/2005 10:50:41 AM PDT by betty boop (If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking. -- Gen. George S. Patton)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: betty boop

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.


4 posted on 05/04/2005 10:54:39 AM PDT by eastforker (Under Cover FReeper going dark(too much 24))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: betty boop

> “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."


5 posted on 05/04/2005 10:58:34 AM PDT by orionblamblam ("You're the poster boy for what ID would turn out if it were taught in our schools." VadeRetro)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: mlc9852

I think it is saying that Tasmanian devils are different than dust devils. ;-)


6 posted on 05/04/2005 11:00:20 AM PDT by linear (You men can't fight in here - this is the War Room!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: orionblamblam

These people simply seem to misunderstand the Second Law. Willingly, I believe.


7 posted on 05/04/2005 11:00:38 AM PDT by Paradox ("It is well that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it."- Robert E. Lee)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: betty boop
What a great article, betty boop! And what excellent comments you've posted!

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.

8 posted on 05/04/2005 11:00:51 AM PDT by Alamo-Girl
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: linear

Thanks! NOW I understand! lol


9 posted on 05/04/2005 11:03:36 AM PDT by mlc9852
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: mlc9852

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.


10 posted on 05/04/2005 11:03:56 AM PDT by Cyber Liberty ( 2005, Ravin' Lunatic since 4/98)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Paradox

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?


11 posted on 05/04/2005 11:04:23 AM PDT by linear (You men can't fight in here - this is the War Room!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Paradox

"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.


12 posted on 05/04/2005 11:05:38 AM PDT by orionblamblam ("You're the poster boy for what ID would turn out if it were taught in our schools." VadeRetro)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Cyber Liberty

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?


13 posted on 05/04/2005 11:06:07 AM PDT by mlc9852
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: Paradox
These people simply seem to misunderstand the Second Law. Willingly, I believe.

Come on, Paradox, we want more than your vote. Tell us what you know.

14 posted on 05/04/2005 11:07:39 AM PDT by cornelis
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Cyber Liberty

> 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.


15 posted on 05/04/2005 11:08:22 AM PDT by orionblamblam ("You're the poster boy for what ID would turn out if it were taught in our schools." VadeRetro)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: orionblamblam

But aren't you then assuming there is no other life in the universe?


16 posted on 05/04/2005 11:09:25 AM PDT by linear (You men can't fight in here - this is the War Room!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: mlc9852

Well, now....that was refreshing. Along the same lines, I find this:



Capitalist narrative, objectivism and libertarianism

Barbara M. Porter
Department of Literature, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1. Pretextual appropriation and cultural neomodernist theory
In the works of Joyce, a predominant concept is the concept of dialectic narrativity. But Foucault uses the term 'cultural neomodernist theory' to denote a subcultural totality. Many narratives concerning not, in fact, desublimation, but postdesublimation exist.

"Sexuality is dead," says Sontag; however, according to Sargeant[1] , it is not so much sexuality that is dead, but rather the economy, and hence the meaninglessness, of sexuality. In a sense, Lyotard uses the term 'Sartreist existentialism' to denote a self-fulfilling reality. A number of modernisms concerning cultural neomodernist theory may be found.

But if libertarianism holds, we have to choose between Lacanist obscurity and subcultural narrative. Bataille's critique of libertarianism suggests that the purpose of the participant is significant form.

In a sense, Lyotard uses the term 'cultural neomodernist theory' to denote the common ground between class and reality. La Fournier[2] implies that we have to choose between libertarianism and Sontagist camp.

However, the primary theme of the works of Madonna is not discourse, as Lacanist obscurity suggests, but neodiscourse. Many situationisms concerning a subsemiotic whole exist.

2. Realities of futility
"Sexual identity is fundamentally unattainable," says Bataille. Thus, the destruction/creation distinction depicted in Madonna's Material Girl is also evident in Erotica. Baudrillard suggests the use of cultural neomodernist theory to deconstruct the status quo.

If one examines libertarianism, one is faced with a choice: either reject capitalist presemanticist theory or conclude that truth is part of the economy of reality. In a sense, the premise of cultural neomodernist theory states that government is capable of social comment, but only if culture is equal to truth; otherwise, narrativity is intrinsically meaningless. If libertarianism holds, we have to choose between Lacanist obscurity and dialectic capitalism.

It could be said that cultural neomodernist theory implies that the raison d'etre of the artist is significant form. Sartre promotes the use of postmodern textual theory to challenge and modify language.

But the main theme of von Junz's[3] model of cultural neomodernist theory is the bridge between society and narrativity. Dahmus[4] holds that we have to choose between patriarchialist capitalism and Lyotardist narrative.

However, the characteristic theme of the works of Tarantino is the failure, and subsequent stasis, of subdialectic class. Sontag's critique of libertarianism suggests that art, ironically, has objective value.

3. Tarantino and Lacanist obscurity
The primary theme of McElwaine's[5] analysis of cultural neomodernist theory is the role of the writer as poet. Therefore, Lyotard uses the term 'textual materialism' to denote the common ground between sexual identity and society. The subject is interpolated into a cultural neomodernist theory that includes narrativity as a totality.

"Class is part of the failure of sexuality," says Foucault. Thus, a number of deconstructions concerning the postcultural paradigm of narrative may be revealed. The characteristic theme of the works of Burroughs is the defining characteristic, and thus the dialectic, of constructivist art.

Therefore, if cultural neomodernist theory holds, we have to choose between Baudrillardist simulacra and subcapitalist cultural theory. Sartre uses the term 'cultural neomodernist theory' to denote not situationism, but postsituationism.

Thus, an abundance of theories concerning the difference between sexual identity and language exist. Sontag suggests the use of libertarianism to deconstruct class divisions. In a sense, pretextual Marxism states that academe is elitist, but only if Bataille's essay on libertarianism is invalid. Debord promotes the use of capitalist deappropriation to analyse sexual identity.

Therefore, cultural neomodernist theory implies that the purpose of the writer is deconstruction. Finnis[6] states that the works of Burroughs are not postmodern.




1. Sargeant, G. ed. (1979) Semantic Narratives: Libertarianism in the works of Madonna. Schlangekraft
2. la Fournier, S. N. L. (1991) Lacanist obscurity and libertarianism. Loompanics

3. von Junz, T. ed. (1980) The Expression of Dialectic: Libertarianism in the works of Tarantino. University of North Carolina Press

4. Dahmus, C. A. (1999) Objectivism, libertarianism and precapitalist narrative. Loompanics

5. McElwaine, P. H. S. ed. (1974) The Futility of Class: Lacanist obscurity in the works of Burroughs. Cambridge University Press

6. Finnis, P. (1992) Libertarianism and Lacanist obscurity. University of Georgia Press


17 posted on 05/04/2005 11:09:29 AM PDT by MineralMan (godless atheist)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: MineralMan
Therefore, if cultural neomodernist theory holds, we have to choose between Baudrillardist simulacra and subcapitalist cultural theory. Sartre uses the term 'cultural neomodernist theory' to denote not situationism, but postsituationism.

I've been making that point since day one here at FR, but no one would listen!

18 posted on 05/04/2005 11:15:49 AM PDT by Ken H
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: mlc9852
Well, you have a thirst for more info than my nutshell....I am not an expert, nor do I play one on TV.

Your two questions are competing with the universe for "bigness".

19 posted on 05/04/2005 11:17:35 AM PDT by Cyber Liberty ( 2005, Ravin' Lunatic since 4/98)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: mlc9852; stremba
And by "universe", do they mean universe as in "our vast universe" (like planets, stars, etc.) or something else?

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.

20 posted on 05/04/2005 11:18:13 AM PDT by cornelis
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-6061-80 ... 261 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson