Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 1, No 2 (2005)

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The Cosmic Bellows: The Big Bang and the Second Law

Stanley Salthe, Gary Fuhrman

Abstract


We present here a cosmological myth, alternative (but complementary) to "the Universe Story" and "the Epic of Evolution", highlighting the roles of entropy and dissipative structures in the universe inaugurated by the Big Bang. Our myth offers answers these questions: Where are we? What are we? Why are we here? What are we to do? It also offers answers to a set of "why" questions: Why is there anything at all? and Why are there so many kinds of systems? - the answers coming from cosmology and physics (thermodynamics); Why do systems not last once they exist? - the answer coming from a materialist interpretation of information theory; and, Why are systems just the way they are and not otherwise? - the answer coming from evolutionary biology. We take into account the four kinds of causation designated by Aristotle as efficient, final, and material formal, with the Second Law of thermodynamics in the role of final cause. Conceptual problems concerning reductionism, "teleology", and the choice/chance distinction are dealt with in the framework of specification hierarchy, and the moral implications of our story explored in the conclusion.

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