Dead matter

dead matter
An excerpt of a description of biomass as “dead matter” in regards to the enthalpy of combustion of the each material, from Danish chemical engineer and ecologist Sven Jorgensen’s 2004 Toward’s a Thermodynamic Theory for Ecological Systems (citation Harold Morowitz), which is not the same type or in fact correct type of "enthalpy", namely enthalpy of formation (see: standard Gibbs free energy of formation), that went into the chemical synthesis, of an animated something such as an egg, fish (fish molecule), or animal, etc., which involves a double displacement reaction (reproduction) and is quite a different thermodynamic calculation all together, in regards to the methodology of making free energy tables (or affinity tables, historically). [5]
In religio-science, dead matter, as contrasted with living matter, is a defunct classification scheme, predominantly mythology-based, primarily rooted in the breath of life theory of creation (belief held by over ½ the world), which supposes that there exists types of matter that are “dead”, namely atoms (dead atoms vs living atoms), molecules (dead molecules vs living molecules), compounds, molecular structures, etc., as contrasted with types of matter that are “alive”.

In 1879, Irish natural philosopher Joseph Murphy, in his Habit and Intelligence, devoted his third chapter to the issue of the physical chemical nature of the question of the origin of life, framed with in the context of physics (thermodynamics), chemistry, and Darwin's new theory of evolution, opening with a query on how “dead matter” gives rise to “living matter”: [1]

“Question whether life can evolve from matter.—We have seen in the preceding chapter that life appears to consist in the peculiar relations of the organism, or living being, to matter and energy. This however does not solve the questions, whether the peculiar vital principle is a resultant from the powers of dead matter, and whether life can be produced from inorganic matter by any physico-chemical process.”

In 1926, Russian geochemical mineralogist Vladimir Vernadsky, in his famous The Biosphere, spent a good deal of time attempting to classify the biosphere (“sphere of life”) form the physical chemical point of view, in which he made recourse to the classifications (a) living matter and (b) kosnoe matter or inert matter. In the end, however, is theory drifted off into the nonsensical, arguing, e.g. that the two types of matter are separated by an “impassable gulf” and recursively that living matter can only be generated by life. The English translation commentary seems to have equated “kosnoe matter” with “dead matter”, although not exactly. To cite the example, on one page Vernadsky states: “the vitalistic and mechanistic representations of life are two reflections of related philosophical and religious ideas that are not deductions base upon scientific facts.” [2] This sentence is than footnoted to the annotated explanation, by idea of annotator Mark A.S. McMenamin, that this passage is synonymous with Alexander Oparin’s comment: [3]

“At the dawn of the European civilization, with the Greek philosophers, there were two clear tendencies in this problem. Those are the Platonic and Democritian trends, either the view that dead matter was made alive by some spiritual principle or the assumption of a spontaneous generation from that matter, from dead or inert matter.”

This sticky point living matter/dead matter issue quickly rises to the fore in the works of authors attempting to reconcile religion and science; a recent example being the work of American philosopher Christian de Quincey, who asks in his 2002 book Radical Nature: [4]

“How can a science of ‘dead’ matter ever account for the fact of consciousness?”

In a latter passage, in more detail, de Quincey gives the modern view:

Life and consciousness eventually appeared much later—only when conditions on a lump of rock and water circling one of the stars (and perhaps elsewhere) permitted the evolutionary process to shape dead matter into sufficiently complex forms, such as cells, nervous system, and brains. Any living biological forms, according to this view, are merely the chance results of ‘accidental collections of atoms’ that are themselves dead—without any trace of life or consciousness.”

Here we see examples of forced-language, namely the study of matter, at standard temperatures and pressures, is chemistry, and chemistry does not defined matter according to the classifications of "living matter" and "dead matter".

Equilibrium = Death | Heat death
When the notion of heat death and or the idea that equilibrium equals death, according to certain arguments (e.g. Erwin Schrodinger, What is Life?), the notion of dead matter often arises. One example is German chemist Friedrich Cramer’s 1993 cosmology and philosophy conference proceedings chapter “The Entropic Versus the Anthropic Principle: on the Self-Organization of Life”, wherein he outright says frankly that the notion of “self-organization” lets the metaphysical into physics and justifies the notion of creation by God, and on the specific subject of dead matter, in conclusion states:

“The incompatibility of the entropic and anthropic principles rests upon a too narrow a concept of matter, especially of living matter. The entropic principle is prevalent at or near equilibrium. All classical thermodynamics and the first and second laws of thermodynamics refer to situations at and near equilibrium and therefore deal with dead matter. Modern science now approaching such important problems as life, brain, evolution of the universe, etc., has to do with systems far away from equilibrium in which irreversible thermodynamics must be applied. In these systems phenomena of self-organization are observed. In my discussion on self-organization I have shown that with the term ‘self-organization’ one touches on the metaphysical element of a scientific evolution theory. There are no physics without metaphysical basis, but it is of the utmost importance to define precisely the connecting point between physics and metaphysics in order to avoid a confusion of categories. In the term of evolution the self-organization is this connecting point between theory and metatheory … With my new broader concept of matter which has been sketched briefly here, the biblical story of creation can neither be explained nor denied in an evolutionary field theory.”

Here, of course, in regards to self-organization he is referring to theories of Belgian chemist Ilya Prigogine, which in and of themselves are crouched in anti-determinism and ideas on Henri Bergson’s religious notion of “creative evolution”.

See also
‚óŹ Defunct theory of life

1. Murphy, Joseph J. (1879). Habit and Intelligence: a Series of Essays on the Laws of Life and Mind. MacMillan and Co.
2. Vernadsky, Vladimir I. (1926). The Biosphere (dead matter, pg. 52). Copernicus.
3. Fox, S.W. ed. (1965). The Origins of Prebiological Systems and of their Molecular Matrices. New York: Academic Press.
4. De Quincey, Christian. (2002). Radical Nature: Rediscovering the Soul of Matter (dead, 25+ pgs). Invisible Cities Press.
5. Jorgenseon, Sven. (2004). Toward’s a Thermodynamic Theory for Ecological Systems (dead matter, pg. 32). Gulf Professional Publication.
6. Cramer, Friedfrich. (1993).“The Entropic Versus the Anthropic Principle: on the Self-Organization of Life”, in: The Anthropic Principle: Proceedings of the Second Venice Conference on Cosmology and Philosophy (pgs. 117-27). Cambridge University Press.

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