Cosmos and Culture by Steven J. Dick & Mark L. Lupisella

By Steven J. Dick & Mark L. Lupisella

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Anthropocentrism is neither intended nor implied by the arrow of time—which is why some researchers prefer to draw it opening up in variety and diversity as in Figure 2 (a), instead of pointing anywhere in particular, other than toward the future generally. Anthropic principles notwithstanding, there is no logic to support the idea that the universe was conceived to produce specifically us. We humans are surely not the culmination of the cosmic-evolutionary scenario, nor are we likely to be the only technologically competent beings that have emerged in the organically rich universe.

Accordingly, order is often created and sustained by routine consumption of substances rich in energy, accompanied by a discharge of substances low in energy. Figure 3. (a) A physicist’s visualization of rising complexity: Sketched here is an arbitrary equilibrium coordinate for an open system as a function of both time and energy, either of which quantity serves to illustrate the extent of departure of that system from equilibrium. The time axis makes clear that this is a historical, evolutionary process, whereas the parallel energy axis denotes the free energy flowing through the open system as a vital part of that process.

Of all the known principles of nature, thermodynamics perhaps most pertains to the concept of change—yet change as driven, again for emphasis, by a combination of randomness and determinism, of chance and necessity. ” To be sure, the cosmic-evolutionary narrative is much too complicated to be explained merely by equilibrium thermodynamics—the kind most often used to describe closed systems isolated from their environments and having maximum entropy states. All structures, whether galaxies, stars, planets, or life-forms, are demonstrably open, nonequilibrium systems with flows of energy in and out being a central feature.

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