An Essay on Fundamental Philosophy
The Biosphere 18
The Biosphere The Earth is a component of the solar system that in turn is a compo- nent of a multi-billion collection of stars, the Milky Way Galaxy. The sun and other stars of the Milky Way Galaxy exhibit no features that would distinguish them in their physical and chemical composition from other stars. Even the Earth’s atmosphere, so far as its physical and chemical properties are concerned, is not much different from any other celestial body: one encounters radiational, electromagnetic and thermodynamic forces in action on Earth as much as anywhere else in the universe. What makes Earth so strikingly different, accord- ing to our current scientific knowledge, is the biosphere that devel- oped on it: the complex molecular structures that evolved, eventually into elementary life forms and ultimately into living organisms capable of initiating and moving complex biochemical processes. Organisms are open thermodynamic system, that is, they ex- change matter and energy with the environment. The movement of the biochemical processes is governed primarily by the laws of thermodynamics, particularly the law of entropy. This law directs them toward their peaks and ultimately their cessation: Death in ordinary language. Hence, the overall patterns of living things on Earth are clear: the biochemical processes that initiate and terminate living things allow little leeway for intervention by agents and forces outside of the living thing’s biochemical program. The estimated creation of the solar system is approximately four and a half billion years ago. The increase of oxygen on Earth from...
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