Thermodynamics and the Evolution of Life

Andy Forceno
Temple University
This paper explores the connection between the 2nd thermodynamics and the emergence and evolution of life on Earth. 60 years ago, Erwin Schrodinger understood that the thermodynamically-open nature of living systems exempted them from the constraints imposed by the second law, but it was not clear why such systems should exist at all. Now we’re coming to realize that, not only are open systems ubiquitous, but they are likely, and perhaps even necessary. Some open systems are characterized as dissipative, and they emerge as the system they are embedded in attempts to return closer to thermodynamic equilibrium. The emergence of life itself is a response of the surrounding system to the thermodynamic imperative of the second law. The stability and efficiency of metabolic processes over evolutionary time, as well as properties of entire ecosystems emerged to counter the effects of energy gradients applied to them.
Keywords Complexity  Evolution  Philosophy of Science  Philosophy of Biology  Thermodynamics  Emergence
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