SPONTANEOUS ORDER, EVOLUTION, AND NATURAL LAW
it requires the dissipation of potential energy (or the production of entropy) in order to occur. Denial of perpetual motion of the first and second kind is taken by many to be the most unassailable fact of physics (e.g., Eddington, 1958). Irreversible processes, both locally, and on a cosmic scale, in principle, and empirically as far as anyone knows, always come to an end at some point. To make the claim for the potential immortality of replicators, one would have to come up with a cosmic perpetual motion machine to justify the theory. Without it, the theory is premised on ongoing miracles.
Life At Its Terrestrial Foundations Is A Planetary Prokaryotic Process
Another problem with the idea that living things die while replicators persist, the case of the salmon swimming upstream to spawn being an exemplar for Dennett, is that it is premised on the erroneous anachronistic view that life at its core is eukaryotic. Darwinian theory is largely a discussion about the kind of life that became visible after the Cambrian, particularly life that is somewhat like us, namely, sexually reproducing eukaryotes, and especially animals, with discrete life span and body size. But such creatures, which have appeared only during the last fifteen percent of evolution on Earth are not at all typical in these respects of life on Earth writ large. The dominant form of life in the sense of making up not only the greatest amount of biomass over evolutionary time, but establishing, and maintaining, life as a continuous autocatakinetic planetary process on which the eukaryotic forms at the heart of the Darwinian discourse depend, is prokaryotic (bacterial) (Margulis, 1981).
If humans and other eukaryotes were taken off the Earth prokaryotic life would still carry on and evolve, but if prokaryotes were taken off the Earth all the rest of life would die. Prokaryotic life, reproducing by fission of one individual into two, has been continuous, as far as anyone knows from its beginnings on early Earth, and to this extent has never "died". Life on Earth from its beginning has been a single continuous process of autocatakinesis which developed to a coherent planetary scale at least by two billion years ago when the redox state of the Earth became primarily oxidative rather than reducing. As noted earlier, all the higher-ordered forms of life that are the typical objects of Darwinian study, as well as human cultural ordering which themselves are differentiationsn out of this larger planetary system, are absolutely dependent on the prior and continued persistence of the planetary system as a whole for their existence. The idea that living things die while replicators persist is based on a reductionistic conception of life which denies the empirically undeniable and fundamental planetary nature of life. Although countless numbers of genes have come and gone, life, at the planetary level has been functionioning without interruption for some four billion years, and in principle will remain so as long as the solar system, and the Earth system in particular, remain within tolerance ("potentially immortal within tolerance").
The problem with the claim concerning a universal utility function is a particular instance of the problem for Darwinism in general with universal statements, or statements about what evolution as a whole is about, or the directed nature of evolution. Evolution for Darwinian theory is about fitness, but fitness is relativized to members of breeding populations. The fitness of a member of one breeding population (e.g., a zebra) cannot be compared to the fitness of a member of another breeding population (e.g., an ameoba), and this makes fitness an incommensurable observable with respect to evolution writ large (e.g., see Fisher, 1930/1958; Sober, 1984; Swenson & Turvey, 1991; Swenson in press-a). Darwinian theory has no observables from which it can draw conclusions or make statements about evolution as a whole.
THE ACTIVE NATURE OF LIVING THINGS DOES NOT DEFY
Living Things as Things That "Defy the Laws of Physics"
The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics
"[E]ntropy," says Dennett (1995b, p. 68) in Darwin's
Dangerous Idea, "is simply disorder, the opposite of
order," and according to the second law, "things run
down..." or become more disordered. What he fails to mention,
however, is that this meaning of entropy is a meaning that comes
out of Boltzmann's statistical interpretation of the second law,
a hypothesis that Boltzmann put forward in an attempt
to save the mechanical or Cartesian world view. It is not the
meaning of entropy or the second law as classically defined.
The second law as classically stated by Clausius (1865) and Thomson
(1852a), who formulated it following the work of Carnot (1824/1960),
says nothing about order or disorder at all. It is about minimizing
the "availability", as Carnot called it, or potential
of energy for doing work.