BIO-Complexity, Vol 2013

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Entropy and Evolution

Granville Sewell


It is widely argued that the spectacular local decreases in entropy that occurred on Earth as a result of the origin and evolution of life and the development of human intelligence are not inconsistent with the second law of thermodynamics, because the Earth is an open system and entropy can decrease in an open system, provided the decrease is compensated by entropy increases outside the system. I refer to this as the compensation argument, and I argue that it is without logical merit, amounting to little more than an attempt to avoid the extraordinary probabilistic difficulties posed by the assertion that life has originated and evolved by spontaneous processes. To claim that what has happened on Earth does not violate the fundamental natural principle behind the second law, one must instead make a more direct and difficult argument.

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