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Thermodynamics and Evolution

Authors
Journal
Journal of Theoretical Biology
0022-5193
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
206
Issue
1
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1006/jtbi.2000.2106
Disciplines
  • Mathematics
  • Physics

Abstract

Abstract The science of thermodynamics is concerned with understanding the properties of inanimate matter in so far as they are determined by changes in temperature. The Second Law asserts that in irreversible processes there is a uni-directional increase in thermodynamic entropy, a measure of the degree of uncertainty in the thermal energy state of a randomly chosen particle in the aggregate. The science of evolution is concerned with understanding the properties of populations of living matter in so far as they are regulated by changes in generation time. Directionality theory, a mathematical model of the evolutionary process, establishes that in populations subject to bounded growth constraints, there is a uni-directional increase in evolutionary entropy, a measure of the degree of uncertainty in the age of the immediate ancestor of a randomly chosen newborn. This article reviews the mathematical basis of directionality theory and analyses the relation between directionality theory and statistical thermodynamics. We exploit an analytic relation between temperature, and generation time, to show that the directionality principle for evolutionary entropy is a non-equilibrium extension of the principle of a uni-directional increase of thermodynamic entropy. The analytic relation between these directionality principles is consistent with the hypothesis of the equivalence of fundamental laws as one moves up the hierarchy, from a molecular ensemble where the thermodynamic laws apply, to a population of replicating entities (molecules, cells, higher organisms), where evolutionary principles prevail.

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