Letter | Published:

The Problem of the Autonomy of Life

Naturevolume 149page552 (1942) | Download Citation



MY expression “potency for producing order” means potential availability for the occurrence of greater order (that is, decrease of entropy) in another system. It is no part of my business to enlighten Prof. Kapp on the principles of physical science, but I may perhaps help him by quoting a passage from the writings of a world-famous physicist1. “In individual sections of the universe, or in definite material systems, the movement may well be towards a higher degree of order, which is made possible because an adequate compensation occurs in some other systems. Now, according to what the physicist calls 'order', the heat stored up in the sun represents a fabulous provision for order, in so far as this heat has not yet been distributed equally over the whole universe (though its definite tendency is towards that dispersion), but is for the time being concentrated within a relatively small portion of space. The radiation of heat from the sun, of which a small portion reaches us, is the compensating process making possible the manifold forms of life and movement on the earth, which frequently present the features of increasing order.”

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  1. 1

    "Science and the Human Temperament", by E. Schrödinger . Translated by James Murphy . (London, George Allen and Unwin., Ltd., 1935.) The passage quoted occurs on pp. 39 and 40.

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  1. The Athenaeum, London, S.W.1

    • F. G. DONNAN


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