Dissipative structures are nonequilibrium thermodynamic systems that generate order spontaneously by exchanging energy with their external environments. Dissipative structures include physical processes (e.g., whirlpools), chemical reactions (e.g., Bénard cell convection), and biological systems (e.g., cells). Chemist and physicist Ilya Prigogine (b. 1917), whose research on dissipative structures has been seminal, found that these structures, when far from equilibrium, can transform small-scale irregularities into large-scale patterns. The most intriguing application of Prigogine's ideas is to the origin of life and biology generally. It is an open question whether the complexity and specificity inherent in biological systems can be reduced to the thermodynamics of dissipative structures.
See also Complexity; Entropy
william a. dembski
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