Chaos and Order

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The Universe is a constant struggle of Order against Chaos.


In The Function of Reason A.N.Whitehead claims that “History discloses two main tendencies in the course of events. One tendency is exemplified in the slow decay of physical nature…The other tendency is exemplified by the yearly renewal of nature in the spring, and by the upward course of biological evolution.” The ‘downward’ tendency is towards increasingly stable states of equilibrium (as exemplified in the Second Law of Thermodynamics), while the ‘upward’ tendency is towards increasing orders of complexity (as exemplified in biological forms of life). These tendencies can be found at all levels of being, from the day-to-day cycles of an individual organism to the evolution of the cosmos. Viewed cosmologically, for example, the current cycle or phase of the universe suggests that the ‘downward’ tendency is most prominent, but we can expect the upward tendency to have been more prominent in the distant past and to become more prominent again in the future. The upward tendency is manifest in the active manner in which living things relate to their environments; organisms not only adapt to their environments, they also “have progressively undertaken the task of adapting the environment to themselves.” This active transformative aspect of things is the expression of a “three-fold urge: (i) to live, (ii) to live well, (iii) to live better.” This three-fold urge is a central feature of the art of life First to be alive, secondly to be alive in a satisfactory way, and thirdly to acquire an increase in satisfaction.” It is here that Reason enters the picture, for the principal “ The function of Reason is to promote the Art of Life. Reason accomplishes this by serving as “the self-discipline of the origin ative element in history. Apart from the operations of Reason, this element is anarchic.”[1]


The second law of Thermodynamics is quite pessimistic about the future of any closed system, like the universe. Every such system is in a constant state of running down, headed to complete disorder.


At a conference of physicysts and philosopher John Wheeler gave one of his excellent descriptions of the current model of quantum mechanics. [2] Karl Popper turned to Wheeler and quietly said: "What you say is contradicted by biology." What he could have equally said is that reality is always contradicting the models that humans make of nature. We need to be able to remember humbly the words of the statistician George Box,[3] "all models are wrong, but some are useful."


  1. A.N. Whitehead, The Function of Reason (1929; reissued, Boston: Beacon Press, 1958) ASIN: ‎ B01FIY9Y2C
  2. WILLIAM W. BARTLEY, Philosophy of Biology versus Philosophy of Physics Fundamenta Scientiae, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 55-78, (1982)
  3. George Box, a model statistician

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