Entropy and Evolution of Biological Systems

I have received a comment from Prof Gladyshev to


I have browsed three his papers available at MDPI:

[1] Georgi P. Gladyshev, Thermodynamic Theory of Biological Evolution and Aging. Experimental Confirmation of Theory, Entropy 1999, 1(4), 55-68; doi:10.3390/e1040055

[2] Georgi P. Gladyshev, On Thermodynamics, Entropy and Evolution of Biological Systems: What Is Life from a Physical Chemist’s Viewpoint, Entropy 1999, 1(2), 9-20; doi:10.3390/e1020009

[3] Georgi P. Gladyshev, The Principle of Substance Stability Is Applicable to All Levels of Organization of Living Matter, Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2006, 7(3), 98-110; doi:10.3390/i7030098

I doubt that thermodynamics can be helpful to understand what life is and what evolution is. Say nobody knows how to determine the entropy of a cell, either alive or dead. In papers above, such a question has not been even considered. Hence I have decided to look at the papers from another side, that is, along Feyerabend’s Science is a Religion. The text below does not concern Gladyshev’s ideas, nor it is specific to his papers. I would advise you to read Gladyshev’s papers by yourself to understand his point.

Anyway, today I am in a kidding mood and Gladyshev’s papers just happened to be at hand. Sorry.

I should say that at present I am interested in works of scholastics (by the way, this is not an irony, I really am). Nowadays one often attributes to them pondering on questions like How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? I would suggest to look the same way at works above. Are the questions to be solved there are more meaningful?

Life in the universe originated and is evolving in accordance with the general laws of nature, specifically, the law of temporal hierarchies and the second law of thermodynamics.” [1]

Understanding the specifics of the biological evolution and aging of living organisms becomes much easier if these processes are considered in terms of phenomenological equilibrium thermodynamics of hierarchical systems.” [2]

The principle of substance stability – the feedback principle – is applicable to all biological systems.” [3]

Well, the difference seems to be there. Let us read farther.

The second law of thermodynamics is one of the general laws of nature, which establishes the direction and the degree of completeness of real thermodynamic processes.” [1]

It boils down to the following: during the formation (self-assembly) of the most thermodynamically stable structures at the highest hierarchical level (j), e.g., the supramolecular level, Nature, in accordance with the second law, spontaneously uses predominantly the (available for the given local part of the biological system) least thermodynamically stable structures belonging to a lower level, for example, the molecular level (j-1).” [2]

The second law of thermodynamics, as it was formulated by Gibbs [1, 6, 20-21], acts everywhere!”

These sentences already reveal us some god-like structure that “establishes the direction”, “spontaneously uses”, and “acts”. Angels by scholastics were somewhere in between God and a human being. Do we find similar intermediate structure nowadays?

Thus, for simple closed systems when temperature and pressure are constant, the criterion of the spontaneity of processes is a change of the simple-system Gibbs function (the Gibbs energy), G, which tends towards a minimum.” [1]

The thermodynamic criterion of completeness of any particular evolution (evolution of the structure of biological systems at the given hierarchical level) can be constituted by the variation of the specific value of the Gibbs function (Gibbs energy) of the formation of suprastructures of the selected j-th hierarchy, which for a quasi-closed system tends to the most negative value.” [2]

More strictly speaking, this variation is connected with the trend of mean specific values of the Gibbs function related to a unit of volume or mass at all hierarchical levels to a minimum.” [3]

Yes, the Gibbs energy is what conveys the order from the god-like Laws and what directly influences the biological evolution. Moreover, we see that the Gibbs energy tends towards a minimum. There is an important difference with angels though that we should not forget. The number of angels is described by a positive integer. The Gibbs energy can be as positive as well as negative. Hence we should not interpret “tends towards a minimum” as a desire to disappear. Anyway, quite important conclusions could be reached along this way.

The theory outlined offers an answer to questions about the origins of life in the Universe and the motive forces of evolution and aging. The answer is “the thermodynamic force”.” [1]

Thermodynamic factors promote stabilization of all complex biological structures, causing the emergence of higher social, ecological, and other hierarchies of the biological world.” [2]

Nevertheless, the thermodynamic theory of biological evolution and the aging of living organisms (built on the foundation of classical science) provides an opportunity to formulate general concepts pertaining to nutrition and helping prolong healthy human life.”

Now we clearly see the misfortune of schoolmen. The thermodynamics has not been developed yet and they could not pray to the Second Law and the Gibbs energy at their time. Yet, it is not too late:


In human thermodynamics, religious thermodynamics or theological thermodynamics can be considered as any variation on efforts to interpret a branch of religion, theological theory, the idea of god, or ancient scripture from a thermodynamic point-of-view or visa-versa.”

The entropy is a very strong attractor for the mind of people. Can psychology or neuroscience explain why?

Comments are closed.