In human thermodynamics, entropy consumption refers to the transition from disorder-to-order, loosely a decrease in entropy, typically associated with the ordering tendency in the reproduction or formation of life. [1] In another sense, life is said to correspond with entropy consumption. [2]

In 1959,
American physicist Robert Lindsay, in his “Entropy Consumption and Values in Physical Science”, building on Erwin Schrödinger’s 1944 argument that life “feeds on negative entropy” assertion, introduced the model of entropy consumption. [3] Linday states: [4]

“The principle natural entropy consumption in human experience is exhibited by the living organism, which in a fashion only imperfectly understood as yet transforms disorder into order by building out of a few chemical elements compounds of great complexity but well-defined order; these form the constituents of the living cell, out of which in turn the various parts of the organism are created … in other words, life is a natural consumer of entropy on a local scale.”

Moreover, according to Lindsay: [4]

“Local consumption of entropy is not to be considered as a violation of the second law, for it seems altogether likely that entropy consumption of living beings is compensated for by the corresponding entropy production elsewhere in the universe.”

On this premise, Lindsay argues that, in a general sense, people act or have an obligation to act deliberately as an “entropy consumer”. In more detail: [4]

“Man's whole struggle to introduce order into a chaotic environment may be seen as a kind of intuitive recognition of this obligation: he builds dwellings rather than live in the open; he develops means of transportation; he cultivates the soil rather than rely on what nature provides without his efforts; he develops language to put regularity into communication with his fellow man … practically every element in man’s developed civilization may be interpreted either as an instinctive or conscious and deliberate attempt to replace disorder with order, in other words to consume entropy.”

Conversely, in Lindsay’s view, giving examples of arsonists and murderers as entropy producers, he states “destructive tendencies are exhibited by many human beings, and to this extent they are entropy producers rather than consumers.” To cite another example, in Lindsay's disccussion of entropy consumption in his theory of the "thermodynamic imperative" or basis for an ethical code of human conduct: [4]

“All men should fight always as vigorously as possible to increase the degree of order in their environment, i.e. consume as much entropy as possible, in order to combat the natural tendency for entropy to increase and for order in the universe to be transformed into disorder, in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics.”

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The term "entropy consumption", however, is not a rigorous one, in a thermodynamic sense, i.e. as defined by German physicist Rudolf Clausius in 1865. In particular, Lindsay built his outline on a mixture of information theory ideas blended with the negative entropy views of Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger’s , which have been highly critized from the moment of inception. In this view, Lindsay's entropy consumption theory seems rather to be an entropology-like argument for a thermodynamic explanation of evolution.

1. (a) Name. (1961). The American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 117, Jul-Dec, (pgs. 9-10). American Psychiatric Association, HighWire Press.
(b) Robinstein, Moshe F. (1974). Patterns of Problem Solving, (pgs. 486, 514, 526). Prentice-Hall.
2. Niele, Frank. (2005). Energy: the Engine of Evolution, (pg. 153). Elsevier.
3. Lindsay, Robert B. (1959). “Entropy Consumption and Values in Physical Science”, American Scientist, Vol. 47, No. 3. Sept., pgs 376-85.
4. Lindsay, Robert B. (1963). The Role of Science in Civilization, (section: "Information Theory and Thermodynamics: Entropy", pgs. 153-65; section: "A Scientific Analogy: The Thermodynamic Imperative", pgs. 290-98). Westport: Greenwood Press. Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross.

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