Thermodynamics of evolution

Prigogine, I., G. Nicolis & A. Babloyantz (1972). Thermodynamics of evolution. Physics Today 25(11), 23-28.

The functional order maintained within living systems seems to defy the Second Law; nonequilibrium thermodynamics describes how such systems come to terms with entropy.”

Prigogine, I., G. Nicolis & A. Babloyantz (1972). Thermodynamics of evolution. Physics Today 25(12), 38-44.

The ideas of nonequilibrium order and of the search for stability extend Darwin’s concept back to the prebiotic stage by redefining the “fittest”.”

By evolution Prigogine means a theory of the origin of life. Hence his papers have nothing to do directly with biological evolution.

The next quotes shows that as one should have expected, Prigogine is a good thermodynamicist:

In an isolated system, which cannot exchange energy and matter with the surroundings, this tendency is expressed in terms of a function of the macroscopic state of the system: the entropy.”

We have seen that the formation and maintenance of self-organizing systems are compatible with the laws of physical chemistry.”

Biologists often forget the constraint of an isolated system.

I would not agree with this statement:

The thermodynamic theory of open systems, systems exchanging both energy and matter with the environment, has long been developed by Theophile DeDonder and the Brussels school (for a historical account, see reference 1).”

The thermodynamic theory of open systems is already available in Gibbs’ “On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances” (1875–1878). Nonetheless, it may depend on definitions. Prigogine likes the entropy production principle and cannot imagine the thermodynamics without it.

Some other problem that I also see is that Prigogine ties the entropy and the order with each other:

In contrast to this is the familiar idea that the evolution of a physicochemical system leads to an equilibrium state of maximum disorder.”

This celebrated second law of thermodynamics implies that in an isolated system the formation of ordered structures is ruled out.”

What about miscibility? Do two phases in the case of a miscibility gap have less or more order as compared with a possible homogeneous solution?