Figure 4. A generalized autocatakinetic system. EI and EII indicate a source and a sink with the difference between them constituting a field potential with a thermodynamic force F1 (a force being the gradient of a potential) the magnitude of which is a measure of the difference between them. DEI is the energy flow at the input, DS the drain on the potential or entropy production at the output. EIII is the internal potential carried in the circular relations that define the system that acts back to amplify or maintain input during growth or non-growth phases respectively. From R. Swenson, 1989b, Systems Research, 6, p. 191. Copyright 1989 by Pergamon. Adapted by permission.

called such systems "dissipative structures".

Self-Organizing Systems are Autocatakinetic

The comparison of living things to flames has ancient roots in the work of Heraclitus (c. 536 B.C.) who saw the world's objects as flow structures whose identity is defined and maintained through the incessant flux of components. Fire, as Aristotle (1947, p. 182) wrote centuries later in De Anima, stressing the active agency and generalized metabolism of such systems, "alone of the primary elements [earth, water, air, and fire] is observed to feed and increase itself." These ideas are at the root of today's understanding of spontaneously ordered or self-organizing systems. In particular, such systems are autocatakinetic. An autocatakinetic system is defined as one that

maintains its "self" as an entity constituted by, and empirically traceable to, a set of nonlinear (circularly causal) relations through the dissipation or breakdown of field (environmental) potentials (or resources), in the continuous coordinated motion of its components (from auto- "self" + cata- "down" + kinetic, "of the motion of material bodies and the forces and energy associated therewith" from kinein, "to cause to move")(Swenson, 1991, 1995; Swenson & Turvey, 1991).

From this definition other examples of

autocatakinetic systems in addition to flames and the entities typically taken to be living can be seen to include tornadoes, dust devils, hurricanes, human cultural systems (e.g., tribes, chiefdoms, nation states and empires) and perhaps most interestingly the planetary system as a whole. Figure 4 shows a generalized drawing of an autocatakinetic
     Schrödinger's point was that as long as living things like flames (and all autocatakinetic systems) produce entropy (or minimize potentials) at a sufficient rate to compensate for their own internal ordering (their ordered persistence away from equilibrium) then the balance equation of the second law would not be violated. Living things, on this view are "permitted" to exist, as it became popular to say, as long as they "paid their entropy debt." This works for the classical statement of the second law per Clausius and Thomson, but on Boltzmann's view such "debt payers" are still infinitely improbable. Living things, and a fortiori evolution as a planetary process as a whole, are still infinitely improbable states struggling against the laws of physics. The urgency towards existence captured in the fecundity principle and in planetary evolution as a whole as suggested by Figure 1, where order arises as soon as it gets the chance are entirely anomalous with respect to universal law on this view.

Spontaneous Ordering in a Simple Physical System: Order Production with a Probability of One

In fact it is not just life that seems to go against the second law as a law of disorder, Boltzmann's hypothesis is easily and repeatedly falsified with simple physical experiments (without genes, brains, or any