Garden of thermodynamics

Garden of thermodynamics
American real estate theorist Gary Woltal’s depiction of a garden whose order is maintained according to the second law of thermodynamics. [3]
In animate thermodynamics, garden of thermodynamics is a term used to refer to the numerous metaphysical weeds, theological weeds, etc., that tend to grow fervently in the "garden" of the science of thermodynamics.

In American physical chemist Gilbert Lewis' 1925 Silliman Lecture turned book Anatomy of Science, he discusses the second law in relation to life and in his discussion of time and motion gave the following account of ether as one of the weeds of 19th century science and how relativity freed us from ether theory: [4]

“Often in our more carefully cultivate gardens of thought some rank weed grows with such vigor as to stunt the growth of the neighboring useful vegetables. So the scientific literature of the nineteenth century was overgrown with a discussion of ether, its stresses and strains, its density, its movement with the earth or through the earth. A mechanism that we designed to be servant had become master; until now that we are suddenly freed from this obsession we feel as if awakened from a hideous nightmare.”

In 1966, likely influenced by the above quote, having been a well-known Silliman Lecture, by American science historian Erwin Hiebert, in his “The Uses and Abuses of Thermodynamics in Religion”, penned the following oft-quoted pungent statement about the garden of thermodynamics: [1]

“The laws of thermodynamics demonstrate that no matter how good, how secure, or how elegant a scientific theory is, it is never immune to being used in ways that transgress the limits of credulity to the point of sheer ridiculousness—at least in the eyes of subsequent generations. All kinds of private metaphysics and theology have grown like weeds in the garden of thermodynamics.”

In other words, starting on the pretext of thermodynamics, it is common in theories applied outside of thermodynamics proper, to be filled with metaphysical fancies, far removed from anything within the framework of established science.

In 1998, in the preface to the English translation of Dictionnaire de thermodynamique, French thermodynamicist Pierre Perrot opened to the following: [4]

Thermodynamics in the form a dictionary may seem somewhat surprising. It does, however, allow readers to wander as in a garden, at their fancy or according to their need for explanation. In order that the walk be pleasant, the landscape must be attractive and varied; from that point of view, thermodynamics fears no competition, but there are obstacles in the way, stones in the path; isn’t thermodynamics a fine intellectual structure, bequeathed by past decades, whose every subtlety only experts in the art of handling hamiltonians would be able to appreciate?
Information theory weed
A 2012 depiction of information theory as one of the weeds in the garden of thermodynamics. [5]

Weed theories and theorists
A weed theorist is someone who promotes theories that act as "weeds" in the garden of thermodynamics, namely those whose theories "transgress the limits of credulity to the point of sheer ridiculousness" or rather those whose theories are so far off the broad highway of pure thermodynamics, as Lewis put it, that they are not even thermodynamical, i.e. within the bounds of reality, in any sense of the matter. In this sense, the various metaphysics and theologies found in the garden of thermodynamics continuously need to be weeded and removed so to not choke out the beauty of the thermodynamics, pure, proper, and applied.

The biggest weed in thermodynamics, currently, is information theory and its incorrigible attempts at thermodynamics association.

Noted weed theorists, include: Corrado Giannantoni, and his "quality thermodynamics" theory; Ivan Kennedy and his "action thermodynamics" theory; Jeremy Rifkin and his agenda; Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, and his material entropy theory; among numerous others.

See also
● Highway of thermodynamics
Pure thermodynamics

1. (a) Hiebert, Erwin N. (1966). “The Uses and Abuses of Thermodynamics in Religion” (quote: pg. 1075). , Daedalus, 95: 1046-80
(b) Hiebert, Erwin N. (1986). “Modern Physics and Christian Faith” (pgs. 424-47) in: God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science (pg. 427), by: Lindberg, David C. and Numbers, Ronald L. University of California Press.
(c) Peacocke, Arthur R. (1986). God and the New Biology (pg. 133). Harper & Row.
(d) Bowker, John. (1993). The Meanings of Death (pg. 217). Cambridge University Press.
2. Lewis, Gilbert N. (1925). The Anatomy of Science (pg. 75), Silliman Lectures; Yale University Press, 1926.
3. Woltal, Gary. (2008). “Thermodynamics, Real Estate, and Garden Theory”,, Feb. 10.
4. Perrot, Pierre. (1994). A to Z of Thermodynamic (Dictionnaire de thermodynamique) (§:Preface, pg. v). InterEditions; Oxford University Press, 1998.
5. Thims, Libb. (2012). “Thermodynamics ≠ Information Theory: Science’s Greatest Sokal Affair” (pg. 83) (url), Journal of Human Thermodynamics, 8(1):1-114, Dec.

TDics icon ns

More pages