hypertext dissertation - by Robyn Stuart


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QUOTE 53 from:

Rod Swenson, (1998) 'Autocatakinetics, the Minimal Ontology' The Japanese Journal of Contemporary Philosophy (1998) [online. Available from:
accessed on 14/2/05

The Cartesian tradition was carried into evolutionary theory with the ascendancy of Darwinism, which, making no use of physics in its theory, provided an explanatory framework where "organisms and environments," in Lewontin's (1992, p. 108) words, "were totally separated." Strong apparent scientific justification for these postulates of incommensurability came with Boltzmann's view of the second law of thermodynamics (the "entropy law") as a law of disorder. The world, in this view, was supposed to be running down according to the laws of physics, but biological and cultural systems seemed to be about "running up", about producing as much order as possible. It is "no surprise," under these circumstances, in the words of Levins and Lewontin (1985, p. 19), "that evolutionists [came to] believe organic evolution to be a negation of physical evolution."

maximum entropy production is intuitively easy to grasp and empirically demonstrate. Imagine any out of equilibrium system with multiple available pathways such as a heated cabin in the middle of snowy woods (Swenson & Turvey, 1991). In this case, the system will produce flows through the walls, the cracks under the windows and the door, and so on, so as to minimize the potential. What we all know intuitively (why we keep doors and windows closed in winter) is that whenever a constraint is removed so as to provide an opportunity for increased flow the system will reconfigure itself so as to allocate more flow to that pathway leaving what it cannot accommodate to the less efficient or slower pathways. In short, no matter how the system is arranged the pattern of flow produced will be the one that minimizes the potential at the fastest rate given the constraints. Once the idea is grasped, examples are easy to proliferate (e.g., see also Dyke, 1997; Goerner, 1994; Peck, in press).

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