EvoWiki is now a project of the RationalWiki Foundation, to learn how to participate please visit the EvoWiki project page.

Natural Selection is a natural example of Maxwell's Demon

From EvoWiki

Jump to: navigation, search

Full details can be read at Evolution and the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but the following is a summary of the analysis:

This seems to prove that evolution does contradict the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But all is not lost. In fact the proof is very analogous to the proof that Maxwell's Demon can break the Second Law.

Consider the particular case of the demon who is letting fast molecules go one way through a door in a wall and slow molecules go the other way:

The catch to this argument is that something has to be irreversible in order for the reductions in entropy to accumulate into a macroscopic reduction. When the demon shuts the door, the door has to stay shut, and not open again. And the only way this can happen is if the process of shutting the door results in an increase in entropy. In particular the kinetic energy of the door has to be dissipated in some form which is not likely to reassemble back into the original motion of the door.

In the case of evolution by natural selection, it is the natural selection which has to be irreversible if accumulation of entropy decreases is to occur. And, in particular, the processes of birth and death must be irreversible. This suggests the interesting thought experiment consisting of an imagined world where birth and death are thermodynamically reversible, and organisms get born and then unborn again, and they also die and then un-die. In such a world evolution would not occur, because fitter organisms that reproduced more successfully would also un-reproduce more successfully, and they would gain no long term advantage over the less fit organisms.

I believe that this is the most thorough analysis of the relationship between evolution by natural selection and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. In summary:

Personal tools
Namespaces
Variants
Actions
RWF
Navigation
Toolbox