Dear Kort

I shouldn't have read Port of Call before getting to work. It started me thinking, which in itself is normally not a dangerous process but in this case did produce a headache. Since you are the author, I hope you won't mind if I attempt to return the favor by unloading on you some of the thoughts your writing precipitated in the first place.

In my opinion, the relationship between entropy and complexity is not causal. Rather, life takes advantage of an inevitable and irresistible process to further itself.

During the air battle for Guadalcanal in the early months of WWII, US Marine pilots found that they could take advantage of gravity to overcome the superior design of Japanese fighter planes: i.e., because of their greater density, American planes could make better use of the energy potential of altitude to escape from their more maneuverable adversaries. In this example/analogy, altitude, or energy potential, did not cause the American planes to dive: relational circumstance, physics, and the will to live revealed that falling, or the inevitable reduction of energy potential, when recognized and taken advantage of in the tactical form of diving, allowed the continuance of life.

Entropy is our human symbolic representation of an irresistible and inevitable process. It is the degradation of energy potential expressed as reduction of energy differential. The key thought here is the example of water's energy degrading into structural complexity in the form of ice. When applied to life, (and other heat engines) it is possible to use the analogy of the inevitable reduction of energy differential as the intentional relaxation of energy potential's tension. This idea can be represented graphically as a decent, or dive, into complexity of process and structure.

The question or point I am trying to form involves causality and drive. In an equation, we could say that an action on one side of the equal sign drives the value or content on the other side of the equal sign, and we would be well within the bounds of normal logic. However, to say instead that the two sides of the equal sign are in procedural relationship to each other is the beginning of a concept that sidesteps causality and helps avoid the language seductions of animation and anthropomorphism, and I ask myself, "Is this my point?"

It is possible that overcoming the illusory (allusory?) propensity of human language is inescapable and requires more virtue than mortal man (meaning myself) can summon, and, although the above is a sincere and best effort on my part, I believe my writing intrinsically fails to model the concept I am struggling to realize. However, it was excited into being by, and is intended as a collegial and contributive response to your entropy article in Port of Call, and I look forward to your next article on the subject or, perhaps, a response.

Ken Cox

Return to Port Of Call Home Page
Return to April/May 95 Table of Contents