Negentropy, The Driving Force Behind the Rise and Evolution of Life

by Chris Crawford

I’m quite certain that Larry is wrong in his stated belief that thermodynamics is insufficient to explain complex life. (Please correct me if you think I have misunderstood his position.) The basic notion that negentropy is the driving force behind the rise and evolution of life has been around for perhaps a century; Schroedinger put all the pieces together for the public back in 1943.

I therefore propose the following short, simple piece that presents no arguments, instead offering links to resources that explain my points. My expectation is that these links will demonstrate to readers that my arguments represent the conventional views of most scientists.

I invite readers to examine any of the many sources explaining why negative entropy is the fundamental driving force behind the rise and evolution of life. An ideal starting point is the aforementioned short book by Erwin Schroedinger “What is Life?”. 

A PDF of the book can be found here:

a good general explanation of the thermodynamics of life:

a six-minute video:

an article, which presents a radical extension of conventional ideas about how negentropy drives life. It’s a detailed analysis showing exactly HOW negentropy can drive the development of organized systems.

In regard to the objection that the fundamental constants of physics must be precisely tuned for life to develop, I offer this humorous classic short story:

An hour-long video; I did not watch it all but skimmed it, and it seems fairly conventional:
 “Thermodynamics and the Origin of Life”


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3 thoughts on “Negentropy, The Driving Force Behind the Rise and Evolution of Life

  1. I researched negative entropy. There is quite a bit about it I had not heard before. Apparently, 1943 was pivotal. One thing I read stated that the second law of thermodynamics holds the negative entropy of the Universe can never change. I read that as level(s) of disorder (entropy)are ever increasing. So, if the second law fails when it comes to consideration of *negentropy*, how does that square with either cosmological natural selection OR biological natural selection? Another retired doctor friend of mine, a DO, always said “it is all connected” when talking about matters of human health. For a DO, bones are the key—they are the foundation of it all. I got that news, a bit late.

  2. Negative entropy….driving force…rise of evolution… hmmmm…
    I don’t find that compelling. Why? Because if entropy increases, according to the second law, ordinary thinking would ask: At what point in infinity have we reached a downside? Are we there yet? And, if so, where is there? If not, when do we get there .Some argue *end of days* is upon us. That has been argued for several centuries. I will wait a bit yet. Because I am waiting for the explanation of, justification for, entropy vs. negative entropy. Superficially, it sounds like matter v. anti-matter. And, you can’t get there from here either. Unless the experts are keeping something from us? The fictions are unconvincing, even if entertaining. Just fun, yes…

  3. Mr. Van Pelt, as I explained on another page, your information on the Second Law of Thermodynamics is a bit misleading. Here’s what it actually says:

    The entropy of a thermodynamically isolated system can never decrease.

    The big catch here lies in the “thermodynamically isolated” part. If you want to talk about gas in an insulated bottle, you can treat it as thermodynamically isolated, and there are plenty of interesting systems (especially thermal engines of various types) that are close enough to being thermodynamically isolated that engineers can utilize the laws of physics to optimize their designs.

    The earth is most definitely not thermodynamically isolated. It is illuminated by sunlight, which pours about 200 petawatts of energy into the earth. What is crucial is that the temperature of that sunlight is about 5600ºC, while the surface temperature of the earth is about 20ºC. That temperature difference constitutes a stupendous amount of negentropy, which in turn is what drives life on earth.

    You can usefully think of negentropy as “organizational power”. All that organizational power can generate a lot of organization on the surface of the earth. Of course, this can happen only because the earth has physical conditions conducive to chemical organization: water, carbon, oxygen, and other elements. Mercury and the moon have no water, so all that negentropy has little effect on them.

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