Determinism, chaos, self-organization and entropy

JOSÉ PONTES About the author


We discuss two changes of paradigms that occurred in science along the XXth century: the end of the mechanist determinism, and the end of the apparent incompatibility between biology, where emergence of order is law, and physics, postulating a progressive loss of order in natural systems. We recognize today that three mechanisms play a major role in the building of order: the nonlinear nature of most evolution laws, along with distance to equilibrium, and with the new paradigm, that emerged in the last forty years, as we recognize that networks present collective order properties not found in the individual nodes. We also address the result presented by Blumenfeld (L.A. Blumenfeld, Problems of Biological Physics, Springer, Berlin, 1981) showing that entropy decreases resulting from building one of the most complex biological structures, the human being, are small and may be trivially compensated for compliance with thermodynamics. Life is made at the expense of very low thermodynamic cost, so thermodynamics does not pose major restrictions to the emergence of life. Besides, entropy does not capture our idea of order in biological systems. The above questions show that science is not free of confl icts and backlashes, often resulting from excessive extrapolations.

Key words:
chaos; dynamical systems; entropy; evolution of Science; pattern formation; theoretical biology

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