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Autocatalysis: The Engine of Growth, the Mediator of Natural Selection

29 April 2010

Robert Ulanowicz has written a couple of really important books that take us beyond Newton, beyond Darwin, beyond the Enlightenment, beyond irreversible thermodynamics, beyond statistical mechanics, and even beyond quantum physics in our quest to understand the agencies by which order emerges from chaos.  (Christians, naturally, put the Holy Trinity in that slot.  Nothing in Ulanowicz would discourage that impulse, but his writing does lend credence to open theism as a way of understanding how that works.)  The structure of ecosystems gives a clue; one of the most important structural relationships that yields both growth and order is that of autocatalysis.  In ordinary talk, we refer to these as exclusively you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours relationships.

The simplest system that yields autocatalytic behavior is a two-component system, typified humorously in today’s B. C. comic strip.

Autocatalytic propensities yield unbounded growth.


One Comment leave one →
  1. 21 September 2012 10:27 pm

    QB, Your extrapolations are on the mark! Bob U.

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