The Science of Levolution


The behavior of energy is the subject of Thermodynamics. The natural laws of energy are worthy of deep consideration. The First Law says that energy is never created or destroyed in its transactions in this universe. There is the energy we got with the Singularity, and that is all there ever will be. It may be transformed, however. The Second Law says that energy is always degrading or dissipating in the universe. It spontaneously moves to forms that are "downhill" in terms of its potential. The Third Law says that the state called Absolute Zero cannot be achieved, or that all of the energy cannot be removed from any place in nature. In a way, these three laws then, concern energy's conservation, direction, and ubiquity. There is a more recently discovered Fourth Law of Thermodynamics, the Maximum Entropy Production Law. This law is about energy's behavior in moving in the entropic or downhill direction. It says that it will always do so at the maximum rate possible within constraints. This is like water flowing down a hill and "selecting" and "allocating itself" to alternative pathways based on which ones move it downward the fastest. It's a law that we have to accept.

Dissipative Structures

Energy, when it is flowing in a region and conditions are just right, and usually at some threshold of increasing energy flow to the region, is observed to take on a pattern spontaneously. In this special pattern or order, the energy flows faster that it would otherwise due to the pattern itself. This is called a Dissipative Structure . Swirls at drains, hurricanes, tornadoes, and Benard cells are common examples. One could say that the patterns of energy flow in the region represent a kind of order. It also makes the region into a discrete system. This flow-increasing order is characterized by the three universal functions of all such systems, which are the capture, use, and entropic dissipation of energy.

It has been noted, since the late 1970's, that this same pattern, and increased flows of energy that it causes, is the same as that which characterizes living things. Every living system also captures, uses, and dissipates or degrades energy and a generalized schematic of the energy flow would look the same. The pattern is ubiquitous, in fact, and is found in many systems of the universe. The new notion here is that this is "entropically functional" in moving energy downhill, and because this is the apparent project of the universe's energy, it is a common way for the universe to accomplish its mission.

The next point is that because such systems represent faster energy flow, they become the preferred building materials of the next higher level of organization. That higher level begins as the environment of some population of such systems. But due to the fact that the same natural laws apply at the higher level too, a dissipative structure might form by organizing the part level systems, rather than less discrete pathways of energy. This is what leads to Levolution and holosystems. Holosystems are nested dissipative structures that have formed by the process of Levolution. The rest is detail.


Holosystems are a class of dissipative structures that are nested inside of each other, and have formed by Levolution. These structures are arranged in sequential series of levels of organization. Each holosystem is a whole-part duality; a whole composed of parts, and at the same time, a part of a larger whole. The nested arrangement occurs along axes representing forms of energy. The axes, taken together, form the Holarchy of Nature. There is a pedigree for these 23 levels of order among dissipative structures. The Axes of Functional Order can be traced all the way from the smallest to the largest of dissipative structures. With some speculation, one can trace the Electromagnetic Axis of Functional Order from the photon to the planetary ecosystem. Similarly, one can trace the Gravitational Axis along the mass scale, from dust to galaxies.  

Maximum Entropy Production

In the late 1980's Rod Swenson published a paper describing the Maximum Entropy Production Principle. Dr. Swenson is not a physicist, but a neuroscientist who was thinking very deeply about the related subjects of how organisms get the properties of intent and intention, but he uncovered an important law, applicable to all of Nature. The principle is somewhat similar to an ecological principle put forward by H.T. Odum called the Maximum Power Principle. Due to the details, the principle of Swenson, however, seems preferable. The possibility of maximimizing efficiency, rather than power, to prolong the use of energy resources, also maximizes entropy production.

The MEP Principle is really a thermodynamic law, the Fourth Law. It says simply that energy in the universe always flows at the maximum rate that it can within operable constraints. The Second Law, the Entropy Law, gives energy the direction in which it flows, which is always downward in potential. The MEPL gives us the criterion of the maximum rate obtainable. This criterion provides us with a selection principle for alternative pathways of energy. It tells us that energy will always select and allocate itself to the fastest pathways available. It is just like our observations of water flowing down a hillside, and selecting the steepest channels in the topography.

Maximum Entropy Production, which is the same as maximizing overall energy throughput, is exactly what the universe seems to want to do. Energy, if we look at the laws of thermodynamics and ponder the known history, takes every opportunity it gets to proceed downward in potential at the fastest rate that it can. Now it is true that the energetic systems of the universe are finite systems. They can only handle so much energy throughput or they will burn out and go away. The Maximum Entropy Production Principle recognizes this, and adds a clause at the end "within contraints." It is clear that these constraints are important and require more interpretation, but I have come to the conclusion that it applies in two ways. It can refer to environmental constraints, like topography can impound water and keep it from flowing. It can also refer to internal constraints, however.

A discussion of internal constraints puts us immediately into the world of energetic systems, as opposed to simply energy flowing in pathways. Energetic systems that maximize their entropy production have a name; they are Dissipative Structures. Application of the Maximum Entropy Production Law among discrete systems relies upon the discreteness that the Dissipative Structure pattern ensures. Selection among the fastest pathways becomes selection of the fastest among the discrete energy-transferring Dissipative Structures in a population of them.

What we have just stated is the thermodynamic basis for all Natural Selection. Thermodynamic Natural Selection is a principle, derived from the Maximum Entropy Production Law that says that in populations of Dissipative Structures, energy will always allocate itself to the fastest among them in terms of entropy production, but this must be within the internal constraints of the systems' survival. The process of Thermodynamic Natural Selection operates within the constraints of entropically functional order. This shows us exactly how Thermodynamic Natural Selection sculpts out the patterns of a new, higher order, Dissipative Structure.

The revelations here are, first that Thermodynamic Natural Selection exists, and second that it has a target which is the Dissipative Structure. These are the fundamental causes of Levolution.  

Functional Order

Functional Order is short-hand for entropically functional order. There is an end-directed purpose to the universe. It is not very inspiring, but it is a fact that the Entropy Law points to a teleology, or goal-directedness, that pervades the universe. Every transaction in energy reduces its potential. The Maximum Entropy Production Law says that this also happens as fast as possible, within constraints. That means that whenenever nature can create a dissipative structure to make energy flow faster, which is the same as producing entropy faster, it will. The pattern of a dissipative structure is entropically functional.

This may be contrasted with the other type of order, Boltzmann's type, which is merely a definition of order based on proximity among atoms or molecules. This is what I have distinguished as Thermal-Kinetic Order, and is what most physicists think of when you say the word "order". Clearly, I think, the circular order of water flowing in a swirl at a drain is something different than a set of atoms in the corner of a box. That is why I have distinguished Functional Order from Thermal Kinetic Order. Functional Order is increasing in the universe, because it helps energy pursue its cosmic mission.




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