Joel de Rosnay

Joel de Rosnay nsIn hmolscience, Joel de Rosnay (1937-) is a French biochemist and surfer pioneer (in France) noted for his 1975 to 1995 advanced perspective writings on the humanities, utilizing energy and entropy arguments.

In 1975, Rosnay, in his The Macroscope: a New World Scientific System, a mixture of cybernetics, systems theory, biochemistry, and thermodynamics, presented a human particle view, utilizing energy, entropy, negentropy, and free energy to a significant extent. [1] The following quote exemplifies Rosnay’s view:

“Nothing can escape the implacable laws of thermodynamics; human society, like any machine or organism, is no exception.”

All-in-all, Rosnay’s work is a readable mishmash of different theories, with an interesting global-view perspective, albeit laced with a very elementary understanding of thermodynamics.

In 1995, Rosnay, in his The Symbiotic Man, utilized discussions on entropy and life, citing the likes of Ilya Prigogine, Pierre Teilhard, and chaos theory, etc., and commenting, for instance, on how there are “two great tendencies of matter, toward life and toward entropy.” [2]

Difficulties on theory
The central difficulties on Rosnay’s presentation are firstly that he mixes information theory concepts together with energy flow and thermodynamics, e.g. by citing French-born American physicist Leon Brillouin’s take on the situation, with no distinction. Secondly, in his application of entropy to society, similar in theme to Romanian mathematician Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, he chalks off entropy to the part of fossil fuel that goes to waste in the flow-through of an economy (as depicted adjacent); whereas correctly, fossil fuel acts only as a catalyst on the activation energy of human chemical reactions. [3]
Rosnay entropy fuel diagram
One of Rosnay's fossil fuel entropy diagrams

Third, Rosnay over-simplistically understands the concept of free energy in an economy. Although he defines free energy in a loose figurative sense (in a footnote) as “energy – entropy x absolute temperature”, he makes nonsensical statements such as “the increase in free energy at each stage in the transformation of a product during its manufacture is the physical equivalent of the economic concept of value added.”

As to evolution and entropy, Rosnay cites French soft-science philosopher’s Henri Bergson and Pierre Teilhard, concluding with them, it seems, that “life manifests itself as a current opposed to entropy.”

Prior to 1979, Rosnay spent three years doing research and teaching in molecular biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

1. (a) Rosnay, Joel. (1975). The Macroscope: a New World Scientific System (ch. 3: Energy and Survival, pgs. 97-129). Harper & Row Publishers (1979 Eng. Trans.).
(b) The Macroscope – Principia Cybernetica Web.
(c) Warshaw, Matt. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Surfing (pg. 151). Houghton Mifflin Harcout.
2. Rosnay, Joel. (1995). The Symbiotic Man: a New Understanding of the Organization of Life and (term: entropy, pgs. 30, 127, 202) (Phyllis Aronoff, 2000 Engl. Trans.). McGraw-Hill.
3. (a) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume One), (preview), (Google books). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
(b) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume Two), (preview), (Google books). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.

External links
Joël de Rosnay – Wikipedia.
Joel de Rosnay (Resume) –
The Macroscope – Wikipedia (French → English).

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