The second law of thermodynamics is unequivocal. It asserts that a natural process runs only in one direction and is not reversible. Every process increases entropy, and eventually entropy will be total.
Less well known is a proposed fourth law of dynamics, based on work done a century ago by Alfred Lotka, that states “evolution proceeds in such a direction as to make the total energy flux through a system a maximum compatible with the constraints”, or as I see it, “to hell with entropy, life is not going down without a fight”
That takes me to definitions of life. There is an increasing recognition that anything that interacts with something else represents a level of intelligence, and intelligence is life. It is most fluently, and beautifully expressed in James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis.
Personally, I end up with a simple observation that feels right to me. Entropy is a hungry beast, and it will accept everything we offer it. Evolution favours that which sustains life in all its forms, from animal to vegetable to mineral. As humans, we have the power to punch way above our weight when it comes to promoting or resisting entropy. We are not in charge, but we can choose who to bat for, nature, or entropy. And we might want to remember that nature bats last.
When it comes down to the day to day, I think it asks a simple question of us. In doing what we do, using up the resources we are, are we promoting life, or entropy.? When we turn forests into money that sits in a billionaire’s bank account, the answer is clear. When we consume energy to make journeys that are not necessary, the answer is equally clear. When we turn resources into money that does not then promote life in all its forms we are batting for entropy.
Many, of course would argue differently, but for me the challenge of a reductionist methodology of science is that we get to know, in astonishing detail, part of the picture, but not the whole. I prefer to appreciate the science for what it gives us, but to give nature the benefit of the doubt and work to a simple rule.
Promote and support life in all its forms. Entropy will be fine on its own.