Biological free energy

In chnopsological thermodynamics, biological free energy is an obsolete scientific term, formerly employed in ecological thermodynamics, albeit now a defunct neoplasm (see: bio-), modeled on the state function formulation of “free energy” (Gibbs free energy or Helmholtz free energy), albeit viewed in the Raymond Lindemanenergy pyramid” model (1942) and the Charles Eltonfood chain” model (1927) context, refers to the loose conception that mass structure of "food"—be it an autotroph (e.g. grass) or a heterotroph (e.g. a chicken)—is the clumped matter representative of the free energy or energy available to do work, or something along these lines, in evolutionary or ecological processes. This is similar to the way in which the "heat" (dQ) from the sun, when discussed in evolution thermodynamics contexts, is often misconstrued as "free energy" (dH or dG).

In 1988, Canadian zoologist Daniel Brooks and American systems ecologist Edward Wiley, citing the cosmological free energy theories of Steven Frautschi (1988), gave the following definition of the term: [1]

Entropy is generated by the clumping of matter. Clumping in cosmological models produces heat as a result of gravitational work done; this heat is the free energy that allows other kinds of work to be done in the universe. We suggest that in an analogous manner ecosystems represent a ‘clumping’ of species that create ‘biological free energy’. This occurs because organisms can act as energy sources for other organisms, and those other organisms could not exist if it were not for the prior existence of the first organisms.”

In 2011, English physicist Adam Moroz, in his The Common Extremalities in Biology and Physics, outlines a similar trophic pyramid (energy pyramid) take on the term “biological free energy”, wherein he considers free energy to be synonymous with “biomass”. [2]

The 2006 to 2012 work of English biotechnologist Mark Janes employs the term “bio-gibbs free energy”. [3]

The above examples represent a great misunderstanding of the term “free energy” (Hermann Helmholtz’s 1882 term), or “available energy” (Willard Gibbs’ 1876 term) in its actual formal chemical thermodynamic definition, as this extrapolates up to the chnopsological animate systems level of plant-animal-human reactions occurring on the surface of the earth (surface thermodynamics); namely a confusion between the energies of surface-molecule (surface-species) interactions and energies of molecule-molecule (species-species) interactions. [4]

This is similar to the way in which Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen famously misinterpreted “free energy” and “bound energy”, in economic thermodynamics terms, to mean the available energy stored or used up, respectively, in fossil fuels (e.g. as discussed in energy crisis polemics)—which is hardly the way in which “free energy” is explained in the thermodynamics of the nature of the chemical reaction, wherein products will only go over to reactants if the system shows a decrease in free energy. In simplified terms, both of the above misuses incorrectly assign “free energy” to dietary and or consumer usage types of energy, rather than energies of interspecies relationships, e.g. sexual energy, energy of reproduction, energy of war, etc., i.e. those that involved changes in chemical bonds (see: human chemical reaction theory) and hence bond energies of species recombinations (similar to the ATP model of phosphate bond energy storage, release, and endergonic reaction drive), not those of say the energy associated with eating lettuce, eating a hamburger, or driving a car, in plain speak, the latter of which are activation energy lowering factor types of energy, not free energy types of energy. [4] In any event, these types of misunderstandings are common whenever chemical thermodynamics is applied outside of the laboratory standard: cell, test tube, or bomb calorimeter, chromatograph, etc., apparatuses, at which point an intimate knowledge of chemical thermodynamics is a prerequisite.

Defunct theory of life
A second salient inconsistency of the use of the term “biological free energy” is that the term is but Greek-disguised code for “living free energy”, which is but vitalism (or rather neo-vitalism) in disguise, meaning that the term assumes that (a) life exists, which it does not (see: defunct theory of life), and (b) that at some so-called "origin of life" point or mechanism step in the evolution timeline or on the molecular evolution table that the standard measureable “free energy” of chemical thermodynamics, that which accounts, e.g., for the reaction of oxygen and hydrogen to form water, became a type of “life energy”, or energy that is “alive”, among other absurdities; views that were all discarded in the 19th century.

1. Brooks, Daniel R. and Wilson, Edward O. (1988). Evolution as Entropy: Toward a Unified theory of Biology (pg. 31). University of Chicago Press.
2. Moroz, Adam. (2011). The Common Extremalities in Biology and Physics: Maximum Energy Dissipation Principle in Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Evolution (pg. 209). Elsevier.
3. Janes, Mark A. (2012). Mr Carbon Atom and the Theory of Carbon Entromorphology (abs). Emp3books.
4. (a) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume One). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
(b) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume Two). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.

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