By Nasif Nahle
Scientific Research Director-Biology Cabinet

(Additional editing of this English text by TS)

Living beings are neither isolated nor closed systems; because they interchange energy and matter with their surroundings. Sometimes, however, we have to imagine that a living system is isolated to be able to understand the biotic processes, although we should remain aware that the isolation is only imaginary.

To explain some biological processes -such as the Proton Motive Force implemented by a molecule of ATP Synthase- we have to resort to the formalization of those concepts and consider them as adiabatic processes. We also have to consider them as closed and isolated systems. This means that we suppose that the processes being studied do not allow interactions of their internal energy (Potential, Kinetic, Chemical, etc.) and matter with other systems or with the environment.

Living organisms do not violate the second law of thermodynamics; because their thermal state of non-equilibrium is lower than the thermal state of non-equilibrium of the environment. Were it not so, then living organisms would not be able to obtain energy from the Cosmos. To be maintained in a state of non-equilibrium, any organism has to increase the state of equilibrium of its own environment. To be maintained in a stable state of non-equilibrium (or minimal entropy), living organisms have to acquire thermal non-equilibrium from a system in a state of greater non-equilibrium; in this case, the system with a thermal state of non-equilibrium greater than the thermal state of non-equilibrium of living beings, is the universe. At present, the universe shows a thermal state of non-equilibrium greater than the total thermal state of non-equilibrium of all the systems and processes within it.

Remember that the second law of thermodynamics establishes that energy is always transferred from a state of higher energy to another state of lower energy. For example, heat is always transferred from a warm system to another less warm system. The same thing happens to the equilibrium levels in macroscopic systems. The equilibrium of these systems is always transferred from a system in a higher state of equilibrium to another system in a lower state of equilibrium. The equilibrium is always transferred from a system in a higher state of non-equilibrium to another system in a lower state of non-equilibrium. In this case, the universe is more non-equilibrated than a living organism; therefore, non-equilibrium moves from the environment towards all living organisms.

When individual living organisms lose their capacity to transfer their equilibrium toward the universe, they will be in equilibrium. This is our understanding of death as it fully obeys the laws of thermodynamics; which establish that all systems in the universe tend imperatively to increase their equilibrium (absolute stability).

If, for example, living organisms could somehow become isolated systems, thus becoming capable of violating the second law of thermodynamics, then they would never die, but in the real world, of course, this does not happen. For example, if I were to isolate a mouse inside a box, completely insulated from any external influence, the mouse would simply die; or we could say that the mouse had reached a state of equilibrium.

Even if the universe were an isolated system, it would still tend toward absolute equilibrium, a terminal state often cited as "the thermal death of the universe".

The previous explanation will help us to understand the irreversibility of the processes that occur either spontaneously or non-spontaneously in the known Universe.

In Biology, irreversibility refers to the impossibility of inverting a provisional inhibition of a metabolic process. Conversely, reversibility, then, is the capability of a bio-system to reverse an inhibition and or blockage of any metabolic trajectory.

The above descriptions are realistic descriptions based on scientific observations of nature that we can also take as valid for classical physics.

We are unable to trace all of the trajectories of all of the natural processes, because we do not have an overall understanding of the trajectories and microstates. However, we do know that all biotic phenomena contain pieces of irreversible information. Some processes which are inhibited by pathogens cannot be restored to their previous functional states; so any cell that has been affected in this way perishes.

Bio-states have extreme stress points from which nature cannot recover, irreversibility therefore exists in all processes in nature; however, when we talk about reversibility, we are referring to an isolated system or process which depends on mechanisms of compensation or recovery.

Indeed, it is thermal autonomy that distinguishes living beings from inert beings. This autonomy arises from the specific state of the energies; where in the density of the internal energy of the bio-system is higher than the density of its surrounding free energy. Because of this the bio-system applies an "extra-effort" to assist with directing energy towards other micro-systems where energy is required for the performance of a specific metabolic process. The Proton Motive Force, allows us to distinguish clearly between chemical equilibrium and thermal equilibrium, as it depends entirely on the free energy of the Cosmos and activation energy pre-loaded by promoters (one of these promoters being the Growth Factor).

It is possible for living organisms to be in a state of chemical equilibrium, but not in a state of thermal equilibrium; they would die. When the free energy of the Cosmos equals the free energy of the bio-system and the interchanges of energy between the cosmos and the bio-system stop, then the bio-system loses its thermodynamic autonomy and therefore it will not be able to delay the change of its local entropy, which in turn will increase exponentially, explicitly on an uninterrupted positive trajectory.

Gibbs Law refers to entropy as the state of disorder of a thermodynamic system. Gibbs attributed the change of the entropy to the potential movement of the molecules thus: The entropy is not an X molecular disorder state, or a Y state of movement, but rather an increase of the number of potential microstates towards which the internal energy of a system can be diffused.

Gibbs said that in any process involving a change from one form of energy to another, that free energy (G) will always be dispersed towards a higher number of available microstates. Here a microstate is the description of the precise position and movement of energy (carried by photons or by charged particles, such as electrons and positrons), in a determined interval of time.

Gibbs considered that the Second Law of Thermodynamics referred to the movement of molecules in a second more ample “scope”. He considered whether the flow of entropy might be reversed and concluded that the entropy of a chemical system can diminish; however, the change of the local entropy of all the systems in a thermal state of non-equilibrium is always positive. It is possible for some thermodynamic systems to delay the dispersion of their energy toward more available microstates by limiting the number of available microstates towards which either the free or internal energy of the system can be dispersed. This delaying tactic, implemented by the bio-systems, is achieved through the Proton Motive Force, which allows the bio-systems to capture and store kinetic or radiant energy as chemical potential energy. This latter assertion actually constitutes the definition for biological life.

We can certainly be sure that there are no reversible processes in biology. All biological processes are absolutely irreversible. Either the existence or absence of laws governing the microscopic world, as well as "hidden" laws at the subjacent microscopic level would not affect our knowledge of macroscopic systems, but perhaps greater knowledge of microscopic states would be helpful in explaining macroscopic processes. We must recognize that in biological processes there are always hidden causes for chaotic probabilities. Knowing more of those "hidden" laws would also be useful in the understanding of life as an example of thermal processes.

At this point, we must recognize that there are hidden channels for chaotic probabilities for biological processes. Perhaps, those "hidden" laws would be useful for describing life as a thermal process.

Our knowledge of the reversibility in biological microsystems is highly limited. For example, we have not found a way to stop ageing, or how to cure cancer and other degenerative diseases. The impediment of biosystems to reverse the metabolic processes which lead them to death is, indeed, what we biologists know as irreversibility.

If we break a pot into fragments, we will never be able to reverse the breaking process and return the pot to its initial state. Even if we use the finest glue and even if we influence directly the fragments of the pot, we will never be able to regroup the fragments precisely enough to restore the pot to its initial physical state, simply because we do not know what the trajectories are at a microscopic level.

A living organism is an unpredictable system. Its non-equilibrium is obtained from the environment, which possesses a greater degree of no-equilibrium than the living organism. When a living organism loses its ability, as a singular system, to hack into environmental no-equilibrium, it turns into a more equilibrated system; that is to say, it dies. Once its molecules totally lose their competence to perform the work of energy transference, a living organism becomes increasingly equilibrated, that is to say, the living organism dies; however, even though dead, it remains unstable, because it continues interchanging energy with the Universe. Thus a corpse is in a state of equilibrium, but it is still unstable.

We perceive that life is bound to the non-equilibrium of the systems that include it. Death represents the maximum state of thermal equilibrium of a biosystem.

Currently, there is no synchronization of the fundamental forces of the Universe (weak, strong, gravity, and electromagnetic forces). We assume, however, that the four forces were unified in the moment prior to the inflationary state. At that precise moment, the homogeneity of the Universe was absolute or, to put it another way, there were no exchanges of energy or energy phase transitions. Absolute homogeneity of the Universe would be the only cause of its hypercooling, collapse and subsequent eternal inflation.

We do not know how the four fundamental forces of the Universe were divided. The rupture of the fundamental forces component is irreversible; however, the process of splitting the fundamental forces is entirely reversible.

We think that the four forces of the Universe work together on the biosystems, but none of those forces is life. Now, one could think that life is a fifth force separated from the original Forces that were previously unified before the inflationary process. However, that fifth force simply does not exist.

Life is not a force or a kind of energy, but a state of quantum energy, which evidently is a function of the properties of all living cells. The failure of Biologists to properly define life has always been propitiated by the irreversibility of the biotic energy state, and the reason for that is because we have always tended to regard life as an exceptional and unfathomable enigma, a mystical “entity”, a “thing” from a holy realm, etc. Life is not a thing that one can touch, but a state of quantum energy.



We have seen that irreversibility is the impossibility of a biosystem to reverse a temporary inhibition of a metabolic process; this is to say, that some processes cannot go backward without generating collateral irreversible processes.

The misleading interpretation of the term irreversibility has promoted erroneous beliefs about metamorphosis; for example, many people thinks that a caterpillar which metamorphoses to an adult butterfly dies during the process and then rises from the dead when emerging from the pupa.

We see that the caterpillar maggot is a very organized system which eats, breathes, moves, and grows. Maggots can perform those functions, but they cannot reproduce. Maggots transform into more advanced biosystems which have developed specialized organs for reproduction. The process of change is known as metamorphosis. Through anamorphosis, all the organs and tissues of the maggot dissolve into separated stem cells, which, thanks to substances called transducers, inhibitors and promoters, reorganize deterministically to develop diverse new tissues and systems.

Let us consider the main differences between maggots and adult butterflies:

Maggots do not fly, because they have no wings as butterflies have.
Maggots have undeveloped legs, while butterflies have six well-developed articulated legs.
Maggots have a cutter-masticator mouth apparatus, while butterflies have a proboscis used to drink nectar from flowers.
I do not like maggots, while I like butterflies very much indeed.
Among maggots, there are quite a few hazardous species, while among butterflies there is only beauty, gracefulness and elegance, and only a few poisonous species.

Have you ever taken into account that those unpleasant maggots will one day be transformed into far more beautiful creatures?

As for irreversibility, if the transformation of a maggot into a butterfly were reversible, we would have to explain how, in a period of time greater than the age of the universe, the subatomic particles would gather to re-create the Universe with all its molecules, which would then form cells, tissues, organs, systems, etc., which would rearrange themselves to form the butterfly, which would resuscitate and reverse the process of metamorphosis. The butterfly would again turn into a chrysalis, where it would dissolve into stem cells to be reorganized into a maggot. The maggot would then grow smaller until reduced to an egg, then the egg would separate into two gametes, ovule and spermatozoid, the gametes would then downgrade into gametocytes, and, finally, these gametocytes would disintegrate into organic compounds, which would reintegrate with the plants that had been eaten by the butterflies. Those compounds would then be disintegrated by a reversed photosynthesis; the chemical energy would be transformed into light and reintegrated with the sun, etc.

This imaginary explanation of the trajectories of metamorphosis of maggots into adult butterflies tells us absolutely nothing about the initial microscopic conditions which generated the biological phenomenon. If we want to generate chaos within the studied process, we would have to include an ordered system capable of prompting disorder within the order. This means that we still find order within chaos, and that the supposed "indeterminacy" of some processes is a fallacy because it is due to our faulty knowledge of the initial conditions, more than anything else, and not to any intrinsic indeterminacy of the system.

That is biological irreversibility. We cannot perceive reversible processes in real nature because no such processes exist. We do not yet know all that there is to know about the laws that govern microscopic systems. But what we observe in the macroscopic world appears to obey the laws that rule the microscopic world. There are no Special Forces moving our Universe, nor are there any isolated systems. There is no subjectivism in the law of irreversibility.

What would have happened if an alteration had occurred in those initial conditions? Simply, the maggot would not survive. However, this would not follow from a special law of chaos, but from an inadequate knowledge of the laws at the microscopic levels. Once we have a complete knowledge of those microscopic laws, we will be able to avoid such complications. Laws still apply even when we do not know what those laws are.

There are no reversible or undetermined processes in Biology. All biological processes are irreversible and unwavering progressions. The problem that we are confronted by is that our knowledge is limited; which is attributable to human ignorance and not to the absence of laws governing microscopic systems, which in all probability are the same laws governing macroscopic systems.

The evolution of living beings is not a process driven by chance nor is it a chaotic process since it is governed by specific pressures from the environment which are collectively known as Natural Selection. Perhaps mutations do randomly occur, but Natural Selection does not act by chance. This does not mean that evolution is not deterministic, but is rather unpredictable, which for science is not the same thing. And besides which, we are not able to conclude that mutations randomly occur because they could be the result of microscopic processes operating subjacent to macroscopic processes, which we are unable to observe with our current tools.

It is also clear that the evolution of life is an irreversible progression. It has taken many evident trajectories and none of these trajectories are chaotic, even though they are unpredictable because we do not entirely know the trajectories or the initial conditions, the causes of death, or the breeding potential of all the ancestors of living organisms. Evolutionary strategies are determined by four main forces of nature, Time, Genetic Flow, Genetic Variation and Natural Selection.

Maggots do not die during the bioprocess of metamorphosis. Any dead creature remains lifeless forever. When a biosystem dies, the structures which maintained the state of life will have disintegrated and will never reintegrate to create the same individual. What has died cannot generate nor recuperate the quantum state of life. A biosystem is any living organism or any biological process performed by living organisms. The absence of one or more biological process does not mean absence of life. Life is a quantum state of biomatter, when a biosystem loses that quantum state, it will never acquire it again. This is a biological law that applies to all living organisms in the Universe, from archaea to whales (as well as humans and until now all unknown extraterrestrial life forms). An eternal living organism cannot exist in the Universe.



The Second Law of Thermodynamics establishes that any process in a closed system can either preserve the entropy constant or increase the entropy of that system.

Entropy is the quantitative perception of the state of equilibrium of a system. The internal energy of any system depends only on its thermal state. Subsequently, entropy is not a physical property, but the number of possibilities that a system has to organize itself (Boltzmann).

The more microstates are accessible for a system, the higher the entropy of that system. Entropy, therefore, is directly proportional to the number of microstates that are available for a given system.

The process of molecular evolution which gave rise to the first protobionts, is irreversible. If it were reversible, it would be a simple task to trace the evolution of any living organism back to the initial state in the evolution of that living organism and know the whole process. It is evident, however, that if we attempt to perform such a regression, all the organisms -living at the starting moment of the regression- would be prompted into a reversal to the origin of the first protobiont, or perhaps to the origin of the first molecule, or even to the initial state of formation of the Universe. But we do not have a single formula for all the trajectories nor for the initial states.

In conclusion, life happened once in our Solar System, but we cannot trace the conditions and complete trajectories that gave rise to the first living organisms at precisely the moment when they emerged. All that we can do is to present and suggest hypotheses based on current concrete evidence. The Universe follows a trajectory of apparent accelerated expansion, which points to the impossibility of any reversible process happening, including Abiogenesis (which means "inorganic synthesis of the first living beings").



Ergodicity refers to the possibility that a stochastic system (when a system exhibits a condition that lacks any predictable order or trajectory) adopts a limiting form that is autonomous from the initial conditions. Ergodicity only applies to closed systems, WHICH DO NOT OCCUR SPONTANEOUSLY IN NATURE.

Artificial examples of ergodicity are mountain creep over very long periods of time and glass that liquefies at low temperatures (unexpectedly) in a hundred years. Both of these examples could be taken as ergodic systems if it were not for the absence of closed systems in the observable Universe.

Apparently, there appear to be many ergodic systems in the real world; however, we need to remember that all systems in nature are dynamic open systems, consequently, natural ergodic systems do not exist. All of the trajectories of a system could be altered at any state by one or more variables that we had not previously taken into consideration, or by one or more "hidden variables" that we had not previously determined.

Mountains, for example, could be creeping because of a different phenomenon to the geological phenomenon that originated them. The liquefying of glass could be a consequence of the action of atmospheric chemicals provoking a phase transition. THERE IS ALWAYS A SUBJACENT CAUSE. Nothing occurs by the action of supernatural forces beyond the observable fundamental forces.

Causal Determinism is evident in nature. It has nothing to do with any philosophical ideology or mathematical hypothesis. It is a matter of common sense.

The crisis which has been dragging on in the sciences since 1951 (the year I was born) was propagated with the introduction of philosophical concepts to the natural sciences.

Some theistic academics introduced their spurious teleology into science as if those notions were real observable facts taken from the scrupulous observation of Universal phenomena.

If you scrutinize the story in depth, you will see that the problem does not depend on the observation of real world phenomena, but on particular ways of thinking or on mathematical formulations. This is the reason experimenters are successively (and successfully) demonstrating the falseness of many illogical claims made by such thinkers (like the death of Schrödinger’s cat, for example).

We find that the Universe evolves in a deterministic way. If we could know all the initial states of a process at once, we would see that the Irreversibility of microscopic processes is inherent to them, not to the observer. The irreversibility of processes does not correspond to human ignorance or lack of knowledge or with the misleading notion of the “mind projection fallacy”. Irreversibility exists in natural processes external to our knowledge, whether we imagine it or not, or whether we are able to project it in mathematical models or not.



The concept of Chaos refers to two analogous systems originating in two points that possess a very small margin of difference in their initial conditions, after a long enough period of time, the systems will evolve toward two completely different final states.

If we do not reason this theory carefully, we might think that the trajectories are not determined by the initial conditions, i.e. that the differences between the two trajectories do not have a subjacent cause. If we think that chaos depends on our ignorance about the initial conditions, we would fall into the metaphysical trap of denying the predictability of both processes. Thanks to Quantum Mechanics, however, we can know the intermediate states of both processes and recognize the concomitant fluctuations in both trajectories followed by each system. Thus, we are able to predict with high precision the final state of each system.

For example, two individuals of a population of camels are born into a favorable environment to survive (apparently, in the same initial conditions). Finally, after some years, we find that the studied camels presented some differences, one was larger than the other, one had offspring, while the other had none, one was healthy, while the other was in a poor condition, etc. This does not mean that the final state of both camels has occurred purely by chance, or that the evolution of both camels did not obey deterministic causes, but that the variables to which both camels were subjected in the course of their lives could have been slightly different. The fluctuations of the initial or of the intermediate conditions of a process can be very slight, almost imperceptible; but they could also be so powerful as to provoke huge alterations in the final states.

As we have seen, Scientific Causal Determinism is narrowly tied to Scientific Causality and to Reductionist Theory: All natural phenomena have a cause and every cause and natural phenomenon can be explained from the point of view of Science.

Another way of expressing this connection, although less simple, is as follows:

All natural processes take place on the route of Entropy, whose unidirectional trajectory is DETERMINED by the flow of Time. Entropy enlarges as time flows. For a smaller global age of the Universe, the entropy will be smaller. As the Universe gets older, its Entropy increases. All natural processes increase the entropy of the Universe.

The total Entropy of the Universe cannot be diminished or destroyed. However, some systems can diminish their primordial entropy, provoking an increase of the Universe’s total entropy.

Living organisms (biosystems) can diminish their primordial entropy, provoking an unavoidable increase in the entropy of the Cosmos.

All the systems in the known Universe, and the Universe itself, irreversibly tend to Thermal Equilibrium (Law of Thermal Equilibrium).

Biosystems are so subdued by the Law of Thermal Equilibrium (Second Law of Thermodynamics) that after a DETERMINED time they reach a state of maximum thermal equilibrium in relation to their environment. This State of Maximum Thermal Equilibrium (SMTE) means death for biosystems.

Contrary to what you have learned in your Physiology classes, death is not the “ceasing of every metabolic activity of an individual”, but the absolute closure of the capacity possessed by an individual to capture energy from the Universe and release entropy towards the Universe. This is the simplest definition of “death”. One more complex definition, but at the same time a most descriptive one, is as follows:

Death is the total collapse of the capacity of an individual to capture energy from the Cosmos, to transform the captured energy into useful energy for enlarging its state of structural complexity (diminishing its own entropy), to export its structural disorder (entropy) towards the Cosmos and to be maintained in a state of maximum thermal nonequilibrium.




Many times I have read that plants "violate" the Law of Entropy, or the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Let us start with the definition of entropy:

Entropy is the number of trajectories available for a given system to be self-ordered.

This definition includes the concept of microstates of a thermodynamic system; of such form that we would be able to say that entropy is the number of microstates of a system. The higher the number of available microstates for a given system, the higher will be its entropy.

We will now express the Second Law of Thermodynamics in reference to the state of entropy of any system:

The total exchange of entropy can never be negative. To be precise, the global entropy of the known Universe never diminishes.

To say that plants infringe the Second Law of Thermodynamics is to say that plants negate the exchange of entropy, or that plants diminish the entropy of the Universe.

Nothing is further from reality, because, although plants build molecular structures of more complexity, meticulous observation of the complete process shows us that the contextual entropy (disorder) of plants is transferred towards the surrounding environment. The Universe is found to be in a lower state of contextual entropy than plant systems, and each environment is in a lower state of contextual entropy than plants. From here, we infer, not assume, that the transference of contextual entropy from plants toward the Universe occurs in a series of steps:


Translating these steps is as follows: The state of SC (any contextual entropy) in plants is greater than the state of SC in the surrounding environment, where the state of SC is greater than the state of SC in our Solar System, which is greater than the state of SC in the Milky Way, which is greater than the state of SC in the Universe. As we have no way of knowing what happens beyond the limits of the observable Universe, we are unable to infer what the next step of SC is, but are limited to speculations.

The scheme shows clearly that plants, like all biosystems, are able to temporarily block the increase of their local entropy, but not the increase of the global entropy of the Universe. All the microstates that would be possible for plants by means of photosynthesis will flow towards the Universe, which possesses a lower number of microstates (lower entropy) than plants.

There is no such violation of the Law of Entropy, given that energy (light) acquired by plants from the Cosmos is used for increasing their structural complexity and to transfer their entropy towards the Universe. Thus, entropy, be it real entropy or contextual entropy, will always flow from a system with concentrated energy towards a system in a more diffused or dispersed energy state.



THERMODYNAMICS: Study about the transference of heat, or the dynamics of heat.

  • FIRST LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS: Energy is neither created nor destroyed, but is transformed (law of energy conservation). Energy is always constant.

  • SECOND LAW OF THE THERMODYNAMICS: Heat does not flow spontaneously from a cold system to another hotter system.

  • THIRD LAW OF THE THERMODYNAMICS: It is impossible to achieve the temperature of Absolute Zero.

BIOSYSTEM: Any living being or biological process carried out by living beings.

COSMOS: Everything surrounding a system.

ISOLATED SYSTEM: System that does not have any interaction with cosmos.

NOT-ISOLATED SYSTEM: System that has interaction with cosmos.

OPEN SYSTEM: It is a system that transfer mass toward inside and toward outside the system.

CLOSED SYSTEM: Is a system that cannot transfer mass beyond its limits (system with constant mass).

PROCESS: Change of the thermodynamic state of a system.

IRREVERSIBLE BIOPROCESS: A bioprocess which cannot restore its initial conditions or its initial thermodynamic states if it is inhibited temporarily.

REVERSIBLE PROCESS: A bioprocess which can restore its initial conditions or its initial thermodynamic states if it is inhibited temporarily.


  • Entropy is the measurement of the state of disorder of a system.
  • Entropy is the measurement of the state of equilibrium of a system.
  • Entropy is the measurement of the state of stability of any system.
  • Entropy is the measurement of the capacity of a system to perform useful job.
  • Statement: Any transformation from a kind of energy to another is never absolutely efficient.
  • Entropy is the quantitative perception of the state of equilibrium of a system. The internal energy of any system depends only of its thermal state. Subsequently, the entropy is not a physical property, but the number of possibilities that a system has to organize itself (Boltzmann).
  • Statements: The more microstates are accessible for a system, the higher entropy of that system. Entropy is directly proportional to the number of microstates that are available for a given system.

MICROSCOPIC: Imperceptible to the naked eye, but large enough for being examined with the proper tools; for example, under a microscope.

MACROSCOPIC: Perceptible to the unaided eye.

ABSOLUTE ZERO: 0 K (zero Kelvin = – 273.15 C).


  • At more disorder, a greater entropy of an isolated system.

  • The greater complexity of a system, the lower its entropy.

  • For all isolated systems, entropy never diminishes.

  • For all natural processes, entropy always increases.

  • All living beings are open, not isolated, not stable, non-equilibrated, relatively complex systems (we say that living beings are in a state of minimum entropy).

Author: Nasif Nahle.



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PUBLISHED: 11/10/03LAST UPDATED: 04/03/09