If entropy is always increasing where does order come from?

If entropy is always increasing, how can life evolve from single celled organisms into the complex life forms we are today? I’ve got to admit this isn’t my area of expertise so this is as much a knowledge question as anything but I think there’s sufficient room for discussion nonetheless. Explanation of entropy in the video below:


  • Order is the state that things start in. So order can mean anything. Entropy is the different between the current state and the starting state. which is more and more likely to be further apart the further you go forward in time.

  • Because Overall the entropy increases. To make something ordered you require a lot of energy. For example, overtime your bedroom becomes naturally a mess, following the laws of thermodynamics by increasing entropy and thus looking messy. Now to get it back into a tidy state, you need to use a lot of energy to rearrange all the stuff. But, think about all the heat energy coming from your active body, how the glucose in your body will be burnt, moving from an ordered molecular state, to heat and other higher entropy forms.

    Don’t make the mistake of believing that the natural world is ordered and of low entropy. This is only a simplistic romantic view of the world. If you look closely, what you will actually find is disorder, everywhere.


    Also don’t forget those single cells that formed, will also increase the entropy of their environments. The end of the universe will be when everything is in an infinitely high entropy state.

  • Then does this mean that ultimately life will cease to exist? As I see it there are one of three conclusions. Either:
    1. Everything is finite, and ultimately therefore there will be no low entropy things left in existence, or
    2. Everything is infinite and increasing entropy doesn’t stop some things gaining a lower entropy so long as overall entropy is increasing, or
    3. The expanding universe will begin to contract before life dissapears, and thus the arrow of time will reverse itself.
    Is this correct? And if so which option do you think most likely? And why obviously.

  • Almost. Life will not exist anywhere in our universe eventually. But we’re talking timescales that make the last 13 billion years look like nano seconds.
    So the universe began in an extremely low entropy state, (infinite density in a single point, completely uniform in all directions). Ever since the universe has been on a mission (process) to higher and higher entropy. Its not that life forms are freaks against the entropy norm, we are also entropy increasing machines 😛

  • Interesting way of putting it. I can just imagine a father daughter explanation now:
    “What’s the meaning of life Daddy?”
    “We’re entropy increasing machines. We were born to destroy.”

    In all seriousness though thanks. I understand it a lot better now.

  • Rex
    It looks like if everything is doomed to enter into higher entropy. Maybe it is that that sets metazoa into aging to death and final disaggregation and decomposition into the protozoa expansion.
    Anyway to keep a cell integrity 2/3 of its spent energy are wasted/used into keeping the Na-K pumps to keep osmolarity in the Donnan equilibrium effect or also the transmembrane potential microvoltage. without that there is no structure for a living cell. It blows up in a hypertonic solution or it shrinks in a hypertonic one.
    But the tendency to a higher entropy doe not mean that has to happen all the time. That depends on the system involved.
    If you set a salt solution in the open air, the solvent might evaporate and eiectrolytes may stick to each other in a complex ordered salt lattice, with decreased entropy, at the expense of the increase of entropy of the molecules of the solvent if the temperature is warm enough; on the contrary you might revert the process by cooling the atmosphere enough. Solvent molecules lose energy begin to condense, adhere to the salt crystal lattice and revert the process into a salty solution again. So we get 2 subsystems salt and solvent, that according to the temperature, interchange and reverse states and degrees of entropy. Isn´t that beautiful?

  • Metazoa represents the aggregation of cells into cell-mats or biofilms that evolved by DNA exchange and selection of the fittest mutation survival systems into metazoa. It is a very much more complex and sophisticated process than the salt solvent entropy binary mechanism and cannot be compared on the same grounds or stage or it would look like a paradox as you put it when it is not. They are not in the same level. See the general theory of systems.

  • Hi Reis,
    Thanks for your comment! It’s very thought provoking. And again my apologies for taking so long in getting back to you. I’d love to hear more about all of this. It’s a fascinating topic. Brian Cox recently described it (the second law of thermodynamics) as “probably the one law that will never be broken”. But as you can tell from the comments above, this isn’t exactly my area. And a lot of other readers have even less knowledge than I. So could I please ask you to break your answer down a little?

    In your above examples, which are indeed beautiful by the way, it would be my guess that the sum total of entropy is still increasing. Would that be correct?

    As for the General Theory of Systems I have included a little info on this for other readers below. But what I don’t understand is how actions at different ‘levels’ of complexity affect the second law of thermodynamics. Could I please ask you to explain this to me and other readers more simply? Thanks!

    The General Theory of Systems was developed by biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy in 1936 (published in the late 60s), in order to guide research in several different disciplines, where there were various parrallels between them. It explains that there are 9 different levels of complexity ranging from a structural framework with the complexity of the organisational chart, to the transcendental level, which would be a system that is completely adaptable and changing to circumstances, because it rises above the boundaries of individual and social systems (not human – that’s level 7). And there are various different principles to be learned from the theory/framework. Indeed it’s not exactly a theory; more like a framework for analysis across multiple different disciplines. He used the word ‘system’ to describe the principles he believed to be common to systems in general. You can google it for more info.

  • As observed, it appears that entropy always wins over order because it is overwhelmingly likely that it will. That is just part of the second law of thermodynamics that we accept. Therefore, when we observe something that appears to be very high in order, we automatically assume it was created by some intelligent being because that seems to be the overwhelmingly logical answer. Why then do we hesitate to assume that the high order of cellular life and the presence of intelligent beings made of the same particles found throughout the universe are not created by some intelligent being and thus demand undeniable proof that such an intelligent being exists?

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