life


I posted this on my Advanced Family Theory discussion board a couple weeks ago. There were no replies:

According to Metaframeworks (p. 30) (which I’m loving, by the way), one of the ways which Bertalanffy distinguished organic from mechanical systems is that organic systems violate Newton’s 2nd law of thermodynamics. That is, we and the larger systems we are part of grow increasingly complex, even though Newton predicted only increasing disorder according to the rules of thermodynamics.

This “evidence of negentropy” is one of the major planks of the “intelligent design” argument for a creator being logically deducible by the presence of organic systems. Unfortunately for ID-ers and Bertalanffy, life does not violate Newton’s 2nd law because even though organisms and other phenotypes are highly and increasingly complex, our living and doing create disorder much more efficiently than nonliving systems. That is, it’s more accurate to say that Newton’s 2nd law drives the complexity of life than to say that life violates that law.

If you are as excited as I am by this idea, check out Dorion Sagan’s Into the Cool: Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life.

I warned you this note was nerdy.

My favorite answer to the question, “What is the meaning of life?” came from my friend, Taber Shadburne seven or eight years ago. He said that it’s a misleading question because we think of meaning as existing in language, so we imagine that the meaning of life will have a narrative, a set of values, a statement about the nature of reality. We expect mental games to do something that they just can’t do. The meaning of life, he said, is more like the meaning of skiing. If you ask yourself, “What is the meaning of skiing?” you see that you can’t answer that question with language. Instead, the meaning of skiing is something like this: He jumped up on a nearby bench, crouched into a skier stance with a delighted, slightly terrified look on his face, and shouted “Woohoo!”

The meaning of life is kind of like that.

Here’s Taber playing one of his songs: