Letter | Published:

The Problem of the Autonomy of Life

Nature volume 149, page 551 (16 May 1942) | Download Citation



PROF. F. G. DONNAN'S review in NATURE of April 11 of my book “Science versus Materialism” embodies a few statements about order, organization and energy which ought not to pass without a challenge. He speaks, for example, of “the potency for producing order residing in the disequilibrium between the hot radiation of the sun's photosphere and the relatively cool surface of this planet”. Can a scientific man really believe that the difference in temperature between two surfaces (for this is all this statement amounts to) has a potency for producing order? The remark reads like a parody of present-day fashionable philosophies. Again, Prof. Donnan speaks of the “sun's enormous store of 'organized' energy”, and one is bound to ask what his criterion of organization is, and for what reason he considers the energy in the sun to be more organized than energy elsewhere? Later he speaks of “this disequilibrium (and consequent potency for producing order) ”. This remark is made with special reference to “the part played by the electro-magnetic field and electro-magnetic radiation”. So Prof. Donnan really does seem to believe that disequilibrium can by itself produce order, and that electro-magnetic phenomena have special virtues and accomplishments, such as powers of organization and orderliness.

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  1. University College, London.



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