Howard T. Odum

Howard Thomas Odum nsIn existographies, Howard Thomas Odum (1924-2002) (CR:12), not to be confused with his father Howard W. Odum (1884-1954), was an American ecologist and systems theorist noted, in ecological thermodynamics, for his 1950s to 1976 effort to build a thermodynamic-themed energy flow model of ecology and society.

Among difficulties on theory, aside from the elementary attempt at "energy laws" based on dictionary definitions of thermodynamics, Odum the younger uses the term "spirit" and also believes in free will, while at the same time attempting to argue for an "energy theory of every thing".

War | Boundaries
Odum devotes a few sections to "war and boundaries"; some statement of his views are as follows:

“War, if considered as an energy process, is a means of testing or changing boundaries of influence according to the realities of energy supplies.”
— Howard T. Odum (1976), Energy Basis for Man and Nature (pg. 144)

“Boundaries between competing energy systems may be stable if the size of each territory is in proportion to its relative productivity. When energy is rising, there is more tendency to grow and to expand influence on surrounding units. There may be a tendency toward more war when energy is large and rising—certainly there is a tendency toward more destructive war. When energy decreases, there may be less energy available for warfare and less tendency to try to spread influence. War is more a function of large-scale energy trends, than of individual reactions. No one is sure, however, about the relationship between energy, territory, and war.”
— Howard T. Odum (1976), Energy Basis for Man and Nature (pg. 215, 218)


Force | Energy | Law
In 1976, Odum, in his “Introduction”, suppositions 33 “must” that the various sectors of society must do (see: Alan Watts and “musts), according to Odum. The following is one example, which shows the errors bubbling in Odum’s blurring of physical principles with humanities models:

“Police forces must plan for small-scale law enforcement which uses less energy.”

This translates as “forces must plan a law that uses less energy”, which of course is patent nonsense. In other words, the basic “law” that relates “energy” and “force” is the Coriolis principle of transmission of work, which states that whenever a force moves an object though a distance work (or energy) is done:

W = Fd

This, of course, is precursor to aspects of the first law of thermodynamics.

Energy laws | Three
In 1976, Odum labeled (pg. 8) what he referred to as the “three energy laws”, in his scheme of things, as follows:

1. Conservation of energy.
2. Degradation of energy.
3. Maximization of effectiveness in the use of available energy.

Odum defined (p. 38) the law of degradation of energy, aka the “second law” in his mind (though, to note, he does not use this term), as follows:

“In all processes, some of the energy loses its ability to do work and is degraded in quality. The arrow going into the ground symbol indicates the necessary degradation and dispersal of energy as waste heat. We call this the ‘heat-sink symbol’. We keep the second law of energy in mind by putting the heat-sink symbol on the diagram for every processes.”

This definition, with its confusion of (a) the meaning of the second law and (b) the confusion of what by definition, in thermodynamics, is a “heat sink”, is backwards from the get-go. Odum defines (pg. 39) his third energy law, which he calls “maximum-power principle”, supposedly derived, in some way from Lotka, as follows:

“Systems that survive are those which get the most energy and use energy most effectively in completion with other systems.”

His definition (pg. 15) of “system”, however, as: “anything that functions as a whole by the interactions of its parts”, is nearly baseless in its meaning. A pair of plyers, e.g., could be a system, according to Odum, and thereby follow his maximum-power principle in competition with other plyers.

Free energy | Ignorance
In 1976, Odum stated (pg. 10) his conception of “free energy” as follows:

“The amount of free energy one economy has determines the amount of additional outside energy it may purchase and still be competitive with other economies.”


Odum | Symbols
The following are the Odum symbols and systems (1976), a mixture of electric circuit symbol metaphors and energy flow ideas:

Odum symbols (1976)

Odum defines (pg. 21) the heat sink symbol, i.e. the arrow pointing downward, seemingly into the ground, as “loss of degraded energy – energy which cannot do any more work – from the system, which he conceptualizes as “heat energy that is degraded as a byproduct of work and also the dispersal energy of deprecation; in humans, heat flows out from the skin and lungs.”

Odum human model (1976)
The "Odum model" (1976) of a human, wherein he conceptualizes the sum effect of the second law as but waste heat coming out of a human as disorganized energy, going into the ground, or something line these lines.
Human | Model
The adjacent diagram shows the Odum model (1976) of the human, which, via their electric ground symbol "Odum electric ground symbol f" directly highlights the inherent confusion in his scheme, say as compared to the Goethe model (1809):

Goethe model (1809)

or the Huxley model (1940), aka social retort model, below left, which is about the same as the Goethe model, albeit without focus on the "land" and "lakes" of the estate, or semi-modern Stephan model (1995), below right, which is a Goethe-upgrade model, so to say, that takes into account chemical potential of human as chemicals moving into or out of a socio-economic system, owing to chemical potential differences:

Social retort (new)Stephan model (1995)

all of which can be compared to the Beg model (1987), as shown adjacent.
Beg model (1987)
The Beg model (1987), by Mirza Beg, wherein people are chemical reacting on a substrate, can be compared to the Odum model (1976), wherein the people and the substrate are one ecosystem, or something along these lines.

This points to a general confusion on Odum's part, owing to ignorance about physical chemistry, as to what exactly the function of the substrate (ecosystem) is in respect to the various "energies" involved in human chemical reactions, namely that substrate effects only the activation energy of the reaction, raising or lowering it, whereas the second law effects reactions between the chemicals (humans), according to which chemical equilibrium will be evidenced by the condition of maximal entropy, as German physical chemist August Horstmann when in Oct 1873, Horstmann famously announced the condition for chemical equilibrium to be that of maximum entropy. [11]

This confusion is even further compounded when Odum attempts to compare "religious explosions" to "chemical explosions", as outlined below.

Humans | Chemicals
Odum, in his 2007 "Energetic Basis for Religion" chapter, gives the following diagram comparing a chemical chain reaction with a human chain reaction, supposedly modeled on the post 9/11 era Muslim extremism acts of violence, seen yearly:

Odum human chemical chain reaction diagram

Here, we might compare the Beg-Thims dialogue (2014), Rossini debate (2006), and the year in whichgod was disabused from science, in particular from chemistry (Johannes Wislicenus, 1885) and thermodynamics (Harold Blum, 1934).

In the 1950s, Odum expanding on the earlier theories of American physical chemist Alfred Lotka to explain behaviors in ecological systems using various modified thermodynamic metaphors in conjunction with circuit theory diagrams, and in particular for his provocative proposals for additional laws of thermodynamics.

In 1971, Odum, in his 418-page Environment, Power, and Society, attempted to argue that society is regulated by the laws of energetics, in same manner as is the physical and chemical world, albeit he does so using inventions of his own devise, such as “emergy flow”. Ironically, although the book has an entire chapter on the laws of energetics and the book discusses concepts such as Gibbs free energy, potential energy, and entropy, the term "thermodynamics" is only mentioned twice. This, however, is common from books of the “University of Florida” school of energetics, e.g. Corrado Giannantoni (2002), which seem to use their own obscure version of energetics, making claims to some sort of residual connection to thermodynamics.

In 1976, Odum penned his 297-page Energy Basis for Man and Nature, a simplified version of his 1971 book, wherein he attempted to outlined his view on the implications of the "basic laws of energy", as he calls them, for humans, embedded in ecosystems, driven by the photon mill like energy from the sun. [1]

Energetic Basis for Religion (Odum, 1971)

Religion | Energy
In 1971, Odum, in his Energy, Power, and Society, employs the term “god” 7+ times (Ѻ), and penned a chapter entitled “Energetic Basis for Religion”, seemingly being more neutrally reserved on his aggressiveness on god, jabbing at the terms “nature creative”, “evolution”, and “god” as being synonyms, per citation to what he calls as the Northrop thesis, i.e. an “adaptive god” model, according to which the future will see some type of “new religion”, based on the following logic, implicitly stated by Odum: [9]

God = Energy (Odum, 1971)

In 2007, Odum, in his second edition of Energy, Power, and Society, revised and expanded by some 100+ pages, he seems to be more progressive in his god as energy new religion idea; the following seems to be one example new edition section, wherein he talks about how he asked students to include their concept of god, using Odum systems and Odum symbols models:
God and the System (Odum, 2007)

Neither editions, to note, use the term "atheism" or "atheist". The presentation is thus either closet theism, which is evidenced by the use of ontic opening terms "self-[term] and "emergence" used throughout Odum's work, or closet atheism (or implicit atheism), in some water-testing sense, and or compatibilist atheism-theology, or something along these lines?

Emergy | Morality
Odum, in his 2007 edition, to note outlines some type of "emergy morality" system (aka an "ecological imperative" conception) or ethics (or morality) based on his concept of "emergy"; the gist of which seems to be captured in the adjacent section; on this platform, the following are Odum’s “energy system ethics for all scales” (Table 11.1):
Emergy morality

1. Seek satisfaction in useful contribution
2. Help maximize real wealth (empower).
3. Reinforce environmental sources.
4. Treasure genetic and cultural diversity.
5. Adapt to natural hierarchy.
6. Minimize luxury.
7. Minimize waste.
8. Adapt to system rhythm.
9. Share information.
10. Optimize efficiency
11. Circulate materials.
12. Circulate money.
13. Fit the earth.
14. Reproduce only as needed.
15. Have faith in self-organization.

The last point (#15), of humorous note, translates as "have faith in perpetual motion".

This, however, seems to be nothing but a list of conjectures of personal opinions of what Odum sees as "wasted calories" in his "life support" system models. This model, in passing absorption, would seem to be one step below that of Lindsay's thermodynamic imperative ethics model, and several steps below that of Ostwald's energy based religion models.

Energy and ecology
In early 1950s, Howard and his brother, zoologist Eugene Odum, were the first to bring the concept of energy into ecology, although the effort did not seem to be very rigorous in a thermodynamic sense. [2] In 1953, the Odum brothers, particularly Eugene, wrote the world’s first textbook in ecology, Fundamentals of Ecology, in which they were the first to introduce the first two laws of thermodynamics in ecology. [3] Through their writings the Odum’s introduced a number of non-rigorous thermodynamic conjectures, such as emergy, embodied energy, the maximum power principle, energese or "energy systems language", among others. [4]

Maximum power principle
In 1955, Odum worked in coordination with American physicist and chemical engineer Richard C. Pinkerton at the University of Florida. [5] Motivated by American physical chemist Alfred Lotka's 1922 articles on the energetics of evolution, they subsequently proposed the theory that natural systems tend to operate at an efficiency that produces the maximum power output, not the maximum efficiency. This theory in turn motivated Odum to propose maximum power as a fundamental thermodynamic law, now known as the “maximum power principle”.

Other laws of thermodynamics
Odum also mooted two more additional thermodynamic laws. In 1968, to cite one of Odum’s views, he stated: [6]

“It seems appropriate to unite the biological and physical traditions by giving the Darwinian principle of natural selection the citation as the fourth law of thermodynamics, since it is the controlling principle in rate of heat generation and efficiency settings in irreversible biological processes.”

Likewise, in 1994, Odum stated further that: “It may be time to recognize the maximum power principle as the fourth thermodynamic law as suggested by Lotka.” [7]

A noted student of Odum is Charles Hall, the 2008 originator of the BioPhysical Economics conferences.

Odum completed his BS in zoology at the University of North Carolina in 1947. In 1950, he completed his PhD in zoology at Yale University, under English-born American limnologist George Hutchinson, with a dissertation on “The Biochemistry of Strontium: with Discussion on the Ecological Integration of Elements”. While at Yale, Howard began his life-long collaborations with his brother Eugene. In 1953, they published the first English-language textbook on systems ecology, Fundamentals of Ecology. Howard wrote the chapter on energetics which introduced his energy circuit language, that he had learned in his youth. They continued to collaborate, in research as well as writing, for the rest of their lives. For Howard, his energy systems language (which he called "energese") was itself a collaborative tool.
Environment, Power, and Society (Odum, 2013)
Odum's 2007 2nd edition Environment, Power, and Society, wherein he talks about how he asks students to draw in their conception of god on his energy diagrams; which brings to mind Thims' 2010 lectures to engineering students, and "god objections", made by some of them, and his 2015 Zerotheism for Kids lecture, wherein parents were objecting per grounds of the importance of teaching kids about "higher powers", differing from those of power defined by thermodynamics.

Quotes | By
The following are representative quotes by Odum:

“Every ‘thing’ is based on energy. Energy is the source of all things, all value, and all actions of human beings in nature. This simple truth, long known to scientists and engineers, has generally been omitted from most education in this century.”
— Howard T. Odum (1976), Energy Basis for Man and Nature (pg. 1)

“Only when sources of energy are newly available and rich do people feel free to do what they want as individuals. The freedom to make many choices exists during only a brief period.”
— Howard T. Odum (1976), Energy Basis for Man and Nature (pg. 1)

“Energy is not only for specialized courses in physics and chemistry; it should permeate education from kindergarten through graduate school.”
— Howard T. Odum (1976), Energy Basis for Man and Nature (pg. 2)

“Biologists who have used energy for budget-sheet accounting in biological processes must learn that the bomb calorimeter does not give the energy value of a high-quality substance. The ‘energy value’ of a person is much more than the heat content when he is burned.”
— Howard T. Odum (1976), Energy Basis for Man and Nature (pg. 3)

“The principles by which energy flows and generates order apply to all scales of magnitude in the universe, form the world of tiny molecules to the vast systems of the stars.”
— Howard T. Odum (1976), Energy Basis for Man and Nature (pg. 115)

“The education system has taught us more and more about bits and pieces, but less and less about overall meaning. Academic subjects have become fragmented and specialized. Ideas about the overall significance of energy are rare. The money system, with its depressions and inflations, seems capricious and mysterious. The individual has often been given much knowledge, but little understanding. Old ideas of religion and duty seem irrelevant to ideals of personal freedom and self-fulfillment. Attempts to be individual, leave the human being, basically a social creature, drifting and isolated.”
— Howard T. Odum (1976), Energy Basis for Man and Nature (pg. 213)

1. Odum, Howard, T. and Elisabeth, Odum, C. (1976). Energy Basis for Man and Nature. McGraw-Hill Book Company.
2. Jorgensen, Sven E. and Kay, James. (2001). Thermodynamics and Ecological Modeling. CRC Press.
3. Odum, Eugene P. (1953). Fundamentals of Ecology, (pgs. 43-45). Saunders.
4. Mansson, B.A. and McGlade, J.M. (1993). “Ecology, Thermodynamics, and Odum’s Conjectures” (Abs), Oecologia, 93, pgs. 582-96.
5. Odum, Howard T. and Pinkerton, R.C. (1955) 'Time's speed regulator: The optimum efficiency for maximum output in physical and biological systems ', Am. Sci., 43 pp. 331-343.
6. Odum, Howard T. (1963) 'Limits of remote ecosystems containing man', The American Biology Teacher, Volume 25, No. 6, pp. 429-443.
7. Odum, Howard T. (1994) Ecological and General Systems: An Introduction to Systems Ecology, Colorado University Press.
8. Odum, Howard T. (1971). Environment, Power, and Society: the Hierarch of Energy (thermodynamics, pgs. 26, 33; ch. 3: Energy Laws and Maximum Power, pgs. 32-62; ch. 11: Energetic Basis for Religion, pgs. 313-31; god, 7+ pgs). Columbia University Press.
9. (a) Northrop, F.S.C. (1962). Man, Nature and God. Simon & Schuster.
(b) Odum, Howard T. (1971). Environment, Power, and Society: the Hierarch of Energy (thermodynamics, pgs. 26, 33; §3: Energy Laws and Maximum Power, pgs. 32-62; §11: Energetic Basis for Religion, pgs. 313-31; god, 7+ pgs). Columbia University Press.
10. Odum, Howard T. (2007). Environment, Power and Society for the Twenty-First Century: the Hierarch of Energy (2nd edition). Columbia University Press, 2013.
11. (a) Horstmann, August F. (1872). “Article”, Ann. d. Chem. U. Pharm., 8. Suppl.-Bd., 112-13.
(b) Horstmann, August F. (1973). “Theory of Dissociation” (“Theorie der Dissociation”), Liebig’s Annalen der Chemie und Pharmacie, Bd. 170 (CLXX), 192-210.

Further reading
● Odum, Howard t. (1995) 'Self-Organization and Maximum Empower', in C.A.S.Hall (ed.) Maximum Power: The Ideas and Applications of H.T.Odum, Colorado University Press, Colorado.

External links
Howard T. Odem Collection – Encyclopedia of Earth.

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