The free energy principle states that biological organisms maintain their order by minimizing a function called variational free energy (VFE). While it is the case that the minimum to VFE also minimizes Helmholtz free energy under certain assumptions, VFE is distinct from Gibbs free energy or Helmholtz free energy and is borrowed from statistics (variational Bayesian inference). It measures the degree to which the approximate posterior deviates from the exact posterior.

It has been argued that the free energy principle explains many facts about brain function. However, I would like to learn about biologists' views on the broader claims as a principle that seeks to explain all aspects of the function of living organisms. I would be grateful for direct answers and for any references that discuss this issue.

  • $\begingroup$ I think the vast majority of biologists has never heard of this paper you linked (Karl, 2012; published in "entropy", a journal that I suppose few biologists ever read). So biologists's view are probably very inexistent for the moment. But maybe someone will be willing to read the paper for your post as the question can be interesting. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Feb 19 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ While this paper may not be the most popular (although it has been cited at least 300 times) this: nature.com/articles/nrn2787 is the "canonical" reference for the application of the free energy principle in neuroscience (since you used the tag). I am not (yet) an expert on the subject but I do feel that it is one of the most powerful theories in neuroscience at the moment. Some people feel uneasy as it explains too much. $\endgroup$ – vkehayas Feb 20 at 9:01
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I‘m trained as a neuroscientist myself and I‘m roughly familiar with the applications of FEP there. However, FEP is often used as if it were a fundamental and universal biological principle, and I wanted to know whether this has been discussed within the biological communities. In particular, the distinction between free energy and its variational counterpart seems interesting. $\endgroup$ – S.Surace Feb 26 at 16:28

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