The Law of Maximum Entropy ProductionDissolving the
Postulates of Incommensurability
The final piece to the puzzle that provides the nomological basis
for spontaneous order production, and dissolves the postulates
of incommensurability between psychology, biology, and physics,
is the answer to a question that classical thermodynamics never
asked. The classical statement of the second law says that entropy
will be maximized, or potentials minimized, but it does not ask
or answer the question of which out of available paths a system
will take to accomplish this end. The answer to the question
is that the system will select the path or assembly of paths
out of otherwise available paths that minimizes the potential
or maximizes the entropy at the fastest rate given the constraints.
This is a statement of the law of maximum entropy production,
the physical principle that provides the nomological basis, as
will be seen below, for why the world is in the order production
business (Swenson, 1988, 1991a, 1991b, 1992, 1996, in pressa,
in pressc; Swenson & Turvey, 1991). Note that the law of
maximum entropy production is in addition to the second law.
The second law says only that entropy is maximized (or potentials
are minimized), while the law of maximum entropy production says
it is maximized at the fastest rate given the constraints. Like
the active nature of the second law, the law of maximum entropy
production is intuitively easy to grasp and empirically easy
to demonstrate.
Consider the case of the warm mountain cabin sitting in cold,
snowcovered woods (Swenson & Turvey, 1991). The difference
in temperature between the cabin and the woods constitutes a
potential and the cabinwoods system as a consequence will produce
flows of energy as heat from the cabin to the woods so as to
minimize the potential, e.g., by conduction through the walls,
through the crack under the door, and so on. What the second
law does not say is which paths out of available paths the system
will select to do this. The law of maximum entropy production
says the system will select the assembly of paths out of available
paths that minimizes the potential at the fastest rate given
the constraints.
Suppose all doors and windows are shut and heat is flowing to
the outside primarily by conduction through the walls. Imagine
now opening a window or a door which amounts to removing a constraint
on the rate of dissipation. What we know intuitively, and can
confirm by experiment, is that whenever a constraint is removed
and a new path or drain is provided that increases the rate at
which the potential is minimized the system will seize the opportunity.
In addition, since the opened window, for example, will not instantaneously
drain all the potential, some will still be allocated to conduction
through the walls. Each path will drain all that it can, the
fastest (in this case the open window) procuring the greatest
amount of potential with what is left going to the slower paths
(in this case conduction through the walls). The point is that
no matter what the specific conditions or the number of paths
or drains, the system will automatically select the assembly
of paths from among those otherwise available so as to get the
system to the final state, to minimize or drain the potential,
at the fastest rate given the constraints. This is the essence
of the law of maximum entropy production. What does the law of
maximum entropy production have to do with spontaneous ordering,
with the fecundity principle, intentional ordering, or the filling
of spacetime dimensions?
Given what has already been discussed above, the reader may
have already leaped to the correct conclusion. If the
world selects those dynamics that minimize potentials at the
fastest rate given the constraints, and if ordered flow
is more efficient at reducing potentials than disordered flow,
then the world will select or produce order whenever
it gets the chancethe world is in the order production business
because ordered flow produces entropy faster than disordered
flow, and this means the world can be expected to produce
as much order as it can, to expand spacetime dimensions whenever
it gets the chance. Autocatakinetic systems, in effect, are selfamplifying
sinks that, by pulling potentials or resources into their own
selfproduction, extend the spacetime dimensions of the fields
(system plus environment) from which they emerge and thereby
increase the dissipative rate, and replicative ordering is the
means for doing this, the dynamics that occurs, at the level
we call living.
