Eric Schneider nsIn existographies, Eric D. Schneider (c.1938-) (CR:45) is an American marine geologist and ecological thermodynamicist noted for the development of his gradient-based evolution thermodynamics theory, co-developed with Canadian ecological systems engineer James Kay, from 1992-2004, which a Prigoginean-like version of ecosystem change in which life is said to develop as a result of energy flow through the biosphere mediated by the postulated second law tendency of material systems to “degrade the gradient”. [1] Schneider argues, similar to Prigogine, that life systems are like Bénard cells, but formed due to the tendency of systems, with energy flow through them, to degrade or equilize the hot to cold energy gradient.

Gradient reduction theory
The gist of so-called “gradient reduction theory”, or Schneider-Kay theory, as summarized by Dorian Sagan and Jessica Whiteside, is the following statement:

“Nature abhors a gradient.”

Although Schneider claims that most of his work was inspired by Jeffrey Wicken, see below, the above statement seems to be a combination of the ancient “nature abhors a vacuum” dictum, plus the following 1988 argument by Canadian zoologist Daniel Brooks and American systems theorist Edward Wiley, who Schneider cites (2005): [8]

“The products of genealogical processes exist by exploiting ‘entropy gradients’ in the surroundings, which we view as the ecological hierarchy, and associated with the exchange term deS (see: Prigogine entropy). The nature of these gradients, and thus of ecological hierarchy, is determined partly by abiotic factors and partly by biotic factors.”


Schneider was greatly influenced in his thermodynamics theory development by the writings of American biochemist Jeffrey Wicken, particularly his 1987 book Evolution, Thermodynamics, and Information; possibly taking Wicken's 1978 article "The Entropy Gradient: A Heuristic Approach to Chemical Equilibrium". [2]

Religious thermodynamics
Their latest book is the 2010 The Purpose of Life, in which they attempt to tackle god and answer many of religion's more profound questions on the basis that life’s natural purpose is defined in the context of being a function in an energy-driven cosmos, having had a certain direction in the last 3.5-billion years. [6]

Thermodynamics and life
See main: what is life? (theories of existence)
Between 1993 and 2005, Schneider worked as a research scientist focused on the study of the intersection of thermodynamics and life, particularly its development and causality especially in ecosystems and evolution. [3] Beginning in 1992, Schneider co-wrote a number of articles, such as “Life as a Manifestation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics” (1994), with American systems design engineer James Kay, on the thermodynamical nature of ecosystems, biology, and life. [4]

Together, during the mid 1990s, Schneider and Kay worked to develop an ecological nonequilibrium thermodynamics theory. [5] With the passing of Kay, in 2004, Schneider teamed with American science writer Dorian Sagan to finish the publication of Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life, originally started with Kay.

Bénard cells
See main: Bénard cells
A central feature of Schneider’s theory, originally developed with Kay in the early 1990s, is an nonequilibrium extension of the second law, of the William Thomson / Ilya Prigogine energy dissipation variety, to graphical calculations of theirs done on heat flow through silicon oil in turbulent flow regime. In short, they argue that spontaneous organizations appear in the fluid, which act to degrade the heat flow gradient across a fluid layer. The define this in terms of entropy production and exergy consumption. They then extend this postulate to be a pervading regulatory behavior in the whole of the biosphere.

Thermodynamics and sex
See main: Sex
In their 2005 book Into the Cool, Schneider and Sagan argue, on their degrade the gradient second law hypothesis, that “sex is the way living dissipative systems propagate into the future” and that “sex maintains our form of thermodynamic disequilibrium by reproducing physiological systems much like us but newer and sometimes improved.” [5]

Schneider completed his BS in geology in 1962 at University of Delaware, a MS (1965) and PhD (1969) in marine geology at Columbia University. [3]

1. (a) Schneider, Eric D. and Sagan, Dorion. (2005). Into the Cool - Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
(b) Eric D. Schneider (About the Authors) –
2. (a) Schneider, Eric. (2005). "Email to Libb Thims".
(b) Wicken, Jeffrey. (1978). “Entropy Gradient: a Heuristic Approach to Chemical Equilibrium” (abs), Journal of Chemical Education, 55(11):701.
(c) Wicken, Jeffrey S. (1987). Evolution, Thermodynamics, and Information: Extending the Darwinian Program. Oxford University Press.
3. Eric Schneider – Curriculum Vitae (PDF).
4. (a) Kay, J.J., Schneider, E.D. (1992). "Thermodynamics and Measures of Ecosystem Integrity" in Ecological Indicators, Volume 1, D.H. McKenzie, D.E. Hyatt, V.J. Mc Donald (eds.), Proceedings of the International Symposium on Ecological Indicators, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Elsevier, pp.159-182.
(b) Schneider, E.D, Kay, J.J. (1993). "Exergy Degradation, Thermodynamics, and the Development of Ecosystems" in Tsatsaronis G., Szargut, J., Kolenda, Z., Ziebik, Z., (eds) Energy, Systems, and Ecology, Volume 1, Proceedings of ENSEC' 93, July 5-9 Cracow, Poland., pp. 33-42.
(c) Schneider, E.D, Kay, J.J. (1994). "Complexity and Thermodynamics: Towards a New Ecology", Futures 24 (6) pp.626-647, August.
(d) Schneider, E.D, Kay, J.J., 1994, "Life as a Manifestation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics", Mathematical and Computer Modelling, Vol 19, No. 6-8, pp.25-48.
(e) Schneider, E.D, Kay, J.J. (1995). "Order from Disorder: The Thermodynamics of Complexity in Biology", in Michael P. Murphy, Luke A.J. O'Neill (ed), "What is Life: The Next Fifty Years. Reflections on the Future of Biology", Cambridge University Press, pp. 161-172.
5. Into the Cool (section: Sex and Thermodynamics, pgs. 154-55).
6. Schneider, Eric D. and Sagan, Dorion. (2010). The Purpose of Life. Chelsea Green Publishing.
7. Sagan, Dorion and Whiteside, Jessica H. (2004). “Gradient Reduction Theory: Thermodynamics and the Purpose of Life”, in: Scientists Debate Gaia: the Next Century 15, pgs. 173-). MIT Press.
8. Brooks, Daniel R. and Wilson, E.O. (1988). Evolution as Entropy: Toward a Unified theory of Biology (pg. 85). University of Chicago Press.

Further reading
● Callendar, Craig. (2007). “Not So Cool” (abs), Metascience, 16: 147-51.

External links
Schneider, Eric D. – WorldCat Identities.

TDics icon ns