Pierre Lecomte du Nouy

Pierre du Nouy nsIn existographies, Pierre Lecomte du Nouy (1883-1947) (CR:5) was a French-born American mathematician, biophysicist, and religious philosopher noted, in religious thermodynamics, for his 1942 Boltzmann-based argument that the second law does not apply to humans.

In 1939, Nouy, in his The Road to Reason, penned discussions on entropy, molecules, Maxwell’s demon, kinetic theory, thermodynamics, Arthur Eddington, etc., as a standard reference for the argument on the improbability of living things to have formed out of the random chance of the material of the universe, from a statistical-mechanical point of view. [3] Advocates of intelligent design tend to cite his book.

In 1942, du Nouy, in his Human Destiny, used a Boltzmann-themed statistical view of thermodynamics, he seems to argue that the second law of thermodynamics does not apply to humanity and that god is synonymous with anti-chance; the following his oft-repeated quote: [1]

“Obviously, Carnot-Clausius law, sometimes called the second law of thermodynamics, does not apply to living organisms.”

Nouy seems to use a crude version of statistical thermodynamics to argue that simple forms of life, such as a protein molecule, could not have formed by chance, because the universe is not old enough; and seems to interject on speculations of a god as a means of life explanation. [2]

Nouy, at some point, met Pierre Teilhard, whom with he shared similar interests in evolution and spirituality. Nouy later went on to develop a theory called “telefinalism”, crudely defined as “evolution directed by some kind of internal direction” (Ѻ), which accepted mutation and natural selection, but in some way that god was directing the overall operation, or something along these lines.

Nouy is cited by Rudolf Arnheim in his 1971 Entropy and Art. [4]

Quotes | On
The following are quotes on Nouy:

Descartes's grossly mechanistic interpretation of life, and the logical extreme to which his ideas were carried by Holbach and de la Mettrie, inevitably provoked a reaction leading to vitalistic theories which have been in vogue, off and on, to the present day. I have only to mention names like Driesch (entelechy), Bergson (elan vital), and Lecomte du Nouy [telefinalism] among the more prominent authors of the recent past. Though these authors may differ in particulars, they all agree in claiming that living beings and life processes cannot be causally explained in terms of physical and chemical phenomena. It is our task to ask whether this assertion is justified, and if we answer this question with ‘no’, to determine the source of the misunderstanding.”
Ernst Mayr (1961), “Cause and Effect in Biology” [5]

1. (a) Nouy, Pierre Lecomte du. (1947). Human Destiny. Longmans, Green and Co.
(b) Nouy, Pierre Lecomte du. (1948). L’homme et sa Destine. Paris: Colombe.
2. Peth, Howard. (2002). 7 Mysteries Solved: 7 Issues that Touch the Heart of Mankind: Investigating the Classic Question of Faith (section: The Statistical Impossibility of Evolution, pgs. 107-108). Review and Herald Pub. Assoc.
3. (a) Dembski, William A. and Ruse, Michael. (2004). Debating Design (pg. 214). Cambridge University Press.
(b) Lecomte du Nouy, P. (1948). The Road to Reason. New York: Longmans, Green. (Originally published as L’Homme Devant la Science. Paris: Flammarion, 1939).
4. (a) ibid, Nouy. (1974), pg. 10.
(b) Arnheim, Rudolf. (1974). Entropy and Art (pg. 21). University of California Press.
5. Mayr, Ernst. (1961). “Cause and Effect in Biology” (jst), Science, 134(3489):1501-06.

Further reading
● Nouy, Mary Lecomte du. (1955). Pierre Lecomte du Nouy (biography). La Colombe.

External links
Pierre Lecomte du Nouy – Wikipedia (French → English).

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