Argument from the second law of thermodynamics

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{{talk-origins|http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CF/CF001.html|Second law of thermodynamics}}
{{Wikipedia|Second law of thermodynamics}}
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Creationists often claim that the [[Second Law of Thermodynamics]]
 
Creationists often claim that the [[Second Law of Thermodynamics]]
(sometimes abbreviated 2LoT) precludes [[evolution]] (and/or the
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(sometimes abbreviated 2LoT) precludes [[evolution]] (and/or the [[Big Bang]]). Often this is explained by saying that the second law says that everything tends toward disorder; since living beings (or the universe) is highly ordered, they could not have formed spontaneously. Along with this idea, they may argue that it seems if organisms were to form by chance within the universe, the ever increasing entropy would wipe out these organisms before they ever had a chance to become as intricate and detailed as they are today.
[[Big Bang]]). Often this is explained by saying that the second law
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says that everything tends toward disorder; since living beings (or
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the universe) is highly ordered, they could not have formed
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spontaneously. Along wit this idea, it seems that if organisms were to form by chance within the universe, the ever increasing entropy would wipe out these organisms before they ever had a chance to become as intricate and detailed as they are today.
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== Examples ==
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{{quote|Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove Evolution?<ref>Matt Stopera, [https://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/messages-from-creationists-to-people-who-believe-in-evolutio?utm_term=.hb9V1M6a1M#2391827 22 Messages From Creationists To People Who Believe In Evolution], Buzzfeed, February 5, 2014</ref>}}
From ''[http://www.trueorigin.org/steiger.asp Thermodynamics vs. Evolutionism]'' at trueorigin.org:
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{{Quote|The second law presents an insurmountable problem to the concept of a natural, mechanistic process: (1) by which the physical universe could have formed spontaneously from nothing, and (2) by which biological life could have arisen and diversified (also spontaneously) from a non-living, inanimate world.  (Both postulates form essential planks in the platform of evolutionary theory in general.)}}
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A.C. McIntosh, ''[http://journals.witpress.com/pages/paperinfo.asp?PaperID=420&jID=19&vn=4&in=4 Information And Entropy – Top-down Or Bottom-up Development In Living Systems?]'', ''International Journal of Design &amp; Nature and Ecodynamics'', Vol. 4, Issue 4:
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There is a separate argument from the [[Second law of thermodynamics implies the universe is of finite age|2nd law that the universe is of finite age]].
{{Quote|Consequently, the fundamental laws of thermodynamics show that entropy reduction which can occur naturally in non-isolated systems is not a sufficient argument to explain the origin of either biological machinery or genetic information that is inextricably intertwined with it.}}
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== Other examples ==
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{{Quote|The second law presents an insurmountable problem to the concept of a natural, mechanistic process: (1) by which the physical universe could have formed spontaneously from nothing, and (2) by which biological life could have arisen and diversified (also spontaneously) from a non-living, inanimate world.  (Both postulates form essential planks in the platform of evolutionary theory in general.)<ref>''[http://www.trueorigin.org/steiger.asp Thermodynamics vs. Evolutionism]'' at trueorigin.org</ref>}}
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{{Quote|Consequently, the fundamental laws of thermodynamics show that entropy reduction which can occur naturally in non-isolated systems is not a sufficient argument to explain the origin of either biological machinery or genetic information that is inextricably intertwined with it.<ref>A.C. McIntosh, ''[http://journals.witpress.com/pages/paperinfo.asp?PaperID=420&jID=19&vn=4&in=4 Information And Entropy – Top-down Or Bottom-up Development In Living Systems?]'', ''International Journal of Design &amp; Nature and Ecodynamics'', Vol. 4, Issue 4
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</ref>}}
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{{quote|Why? Because nature disorders, it doesn’t organize things (the fact that nature brings things toward disorder is another aspect of the Second Law of Thermodynamics). More time will make things worse for the Darwinist, not better.<ref name="enough-faith">[[I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist]]</ref>}}
  
 
== Counter-arguments ==
 
== Counter-arguments ==
  
=== Entropy is not the same as disorder ===
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=== Entropy is not the same as lack of suitability, adaptation or design ===
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There is a great deal of confusion over the word "ordered" or having "low entropy". In the context of thermodynamics, scientists use this term to mean "available energy to do useful work" <ref>[http://www.britannica.com/science/entropy-physics]</ref> (loosely speaking) or a measure of the energy properties of the system. Apologists use the term to mean "suitability for a purpose". These meanings are not equivalent, the apologist is misapplying thermodynamics and the argument is therefore an [[equivocation]].
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Examples: Disorderly dust clouds in space eventually gravitate towards a central/denser point, forming a star. A star is useful to life but that doesn't mean it is "ordered" in the sense of thermodynamics. What the second law says the star cannot uncollapse back to a sparse dust cloud.
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{{quote|Okay, suppose we observe and repeat an experiment where we allow natural laws to work on rock for the next ten years. Will we ever get the faces on Mount Rushmore? Never. You say, maybe natural laws would do it if we give them billions of years. No, they wouldn’t. Why? Because nature disorders, it doesn’t organize things (the fact that nature brings things toward disorder is another aspect of the Second Law of Thermodynamics).<ref name="enough-faith"/>}}
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If we presume that humanity is orderly, and that the apologists definition of entropy is valid, we should observe the continuous destruction of humanity - human populations should dwindle, human technology should decline.
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=== Local ordering can take place ===
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Objects can be ordered by natural processes, such as bands of types of pebbles at different levels of a beach, while the overall entropy of the entire system continues to increase. Other examples of naturally ordered phenomena include: <ref>[https://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/philosop/design.htm]</ref>
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* Water waves
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* Sand dunes
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* Crystal format, including snow flakes
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* Star and planet formation
  
The most common definition of the second law is: "The entropy of an isolated system not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium." The second law of thermodynamics uses the word entropy, which is what causes the confusion (Or allows the lies, depending on how you look at it.) The meaning of the word entropy that is used in the second law is: "For a closed thermodynamic system, a quantitative measure of the amount of thermal energy not available to do work." Using that correct definition the second law of thermodynamics obviously has nothing whatsoever to do with evolution. It never did, it's just about thermal energy. (As should be evident by its very name.)
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{{quote-source|[...] this betrays a misunderstanding of the full meaning of the Second Law: order can certainly increase in some part of the system (as happens every day when you make the bed or put away the dishes), but that will require an input of energy, and the total amount of disorder in the entire system cannot decrease. In the case of the origin of life, the closed system is essentially the whole universe, energy is available from the sun, and so the local increase in order that would be represented by the first random assembly of macro-molecules would in now way violate this law.|[[Francis Collins]], ''[[The Language of God]]''}}
But the definition that the apologists use is: "A measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system." And using that definition, the second law of thermodynamics would mean: The random disorderliness of an isolated system not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium. However, this is not only an incorrect use of the second law. It is also untrue, some closed systems will tend to fall into disorder, while some will become more orderly. Examples: Disorderly dust clouds in space eventualy gravitate towards a central/denser point, forming a star.
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If we presume that humanity is orderly, and that the apologists definition of entropy is valid, we should observe the continuous destruction of humanity - human populations should dwindle, human technology should decline. That this is not occurring is not evidence that the definition is incorrect - it would mean that the Earth is not a closed system. Evolution is compatible even with the apologists definition - the earth itself is not a closed system. In a universe consisting solely of the earth and the sun, biological evolution is still possible - the total "randomness" will increase consistently as the sun releases energy, but on earth, that energy is temporarily ordered.
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=== The Big Bang theory does not claim anything about prior events ===
 
=== The Big Bang theory does not claim anything about prior events ===
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The McIntosh quote above relates more to abiogenesis than to evolution (since evolution requires no processes that are physically different from normal reproduction plus mutation). McIntosh claims that the formation of the complex machinery necessary for life requires a positive free energy, and thus cannot happen spontaneously. This has been empirically disproven many times over, as many organic molecules have been produced through lifeless processes, and in fact are found in some comets and meteorites. McIntosh also makes claims about the unique nature of genetic information, claiming that it transcends the physical/chemical medium that it inhabits. However, he gives no clear way of deriving any of this from the second law itself, instead simply proposing it as something that would support his statements.
 
The McIntosh quote above relates more to abiogenesis than to evolution (since evolution requires no processes that are physically different from normal reproduction plus mutation). McIntosh claims that the formation of the complex machinery necessary for life requires a positive free energy, and thus cannot happen spontaneously. This has been empirically disproven many times over, as many organic molecules have been produced through lifeless processes, and in fact are found in some comets and meteorites. McIntosh also makes claims about the unique nature of genetic information, claiming that it transcends the physical/chemical medium that it inhabits. However, he gives no clear way of deriving any of this from the second law itself, instead simply proposing it as something that would support his statements.
  
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==References==
  
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<references/>
  
 
== External links ==
 
== External links ==
* [http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CF/CF001.html Response to this argument] at talkorigins.org
 
 
* ''[http://www.strongatheism.net/library/atheology/argument_from_2nd_law/ Argument From the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics]'' at strongatheism.net.
 
* ''[http://www.strongatheism.net/library/atheology/argument_from_2nd_law/ Argument From the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics]'' at strongatheism.net.
  
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{{DEFAULTSORT:second law of thermodynamics, Argument from the}}
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{{Arguments for god}}
 
[[Category:Science]]
 
[[Category:Science]]
 
[[Category:Evolution]]
 
[[Category:Evolution]]
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[[Category:Arguments]]
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[[Category:Arguments for the existence of God]]

Latest revision as of 07:11, 26 June 2017

Talkorigins-logo.jpg
For more information, see the TalkOrigins Archive article:

Creationists often claim that the Second Law of Thermodynamics (sometimes abbreviated 2LoT) precludes evolution (and/or the Big Bang). Often this is explained by saying that the second law says that everything tends toward disorder; since living beings (or the universe) is highly ordered, they could not have formed spontaneously. Along with this idea, they may argue that it seems if organisms were to form by chance within the universe, the ever increasing entropy would wipe out these organisms before they ever had a chance to become as intricate and detailed as they are today.

"Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove Evolution?[1]"

There is a separate argument from the 2nd law that the universe is of finite age.

Contents

Other examples

"The second law presents an insurmountable problem to the concept of a natural, mechanistic process: (1) by which the physical universe could have formed spontaneously from nothing, and (2) by which biological life could have arisen and diversified (also spontaneously) from a non-living, inanimate world. (Both postulates form essential planks in the platform of evolutionary theory in general.)[2]"
"Consequently, the fundamental laws of thermodynamics show that entropy reduction which can occur naturally in non-isolated systems is not a sufficient argument to explain the origin of either biological machinery or genetic information that is inextricably intertwined with it.[3]"
"Why? Because nature disorders, it doesn’t organize things (the fact that nature brings things toward disorder is another aspect of the Second Law of Thermodynamics). More time will make things worse for the Darwinist, not better.[4]"

Counter-arguments

Entropy is not the same as lack of suitability, adaptation or design

There is a great deal of confusion over the word "ordered" or having "low entropy". In the context of thermodynamics, scientists use this term to mean "available energy to do useful work" [5] (loosely speaking) or a measure of the energy properties of the system. Apologists use the term to mean "suitability for a purpose". These meanings are not equivalent, the apologist is misapplying thermodynamics and the argument is therefore an equivocation.

Examples: Disorderly dust clouds in space eventually gravitate towards a central/denser point, forming a star. A star is useful to life but that doesn't mean it is "ordered" in the sense of thermodynamics. What the second law says the star cannot uncollapse back to a sparse dust cloud.

"Okay, suppose we observe and repeat an experiment where we allow natural laws to work on rock for the next ten years. Will we ever get the faces on Mount Rushmore? Never. You say, maybe natural laws would do it if we give them billions of years. No, they wouldn’t. Why? Because nature disorders, it doesn’t organize things (the fact that nature brings things toward disorder is another aspect of the Second Law of Thermodynamics).[4]"

If we presume that humanity is orderly, and that the apologists definition of entropy is valid, we should observe the continuous destruction of humanity - human populations should dwindle, human technology should decline.

Local ordering can take place

Objects can be ordered by natural processes, such as bands of types of pebbles at different levels of a beach, while the overall entropy of the entire system continues to increase. Other examples of naturally ordered phenomena include: [6]

  • Water waves
  • Sand dunes
  • Crystal format, including snow flakes
  • Star and planet formation

"[...] this betrays a misunderstanding of the full meaning of the Second Law: order can certainly increase in some part of the system (as happens every day when you make the bed or put away the dishes), but that will require an input of energy, and the total amount of disorder in the entire system cannot decrease. In the case of the origin of life, the closed system is essentially the whole universe, energy is available from the sun, and so the local increase in order that would be represented by the first random assembly of macro-molecules would in now way violate this law."

Francis Collins, The Language of God

The Big Bang theory does not claim anything about prior events

That is, Big Bang theory does not currently tell us what happened before the Big Bang, or whether there even was a "before the Big Bang", in the sense of a point in space-time which unambiguously predates the Big Bang itself. Without knowing how much entropy, if any, was present in the pre-Bang universe, you cannot claim that the Big Bang contradicts the second law.

The Earth is not a closed system

The second law of thermodynamics describes what happens to closed systems, that is, systems in which mass and energy are confined to the system and cannot enter or leave. However, the Earth is not a closed system, since it receives radiation from the Sun and also radiates heat and light into space. The Earth's crust is an even more open system, because heat and material is often ejected from the Earth's interior (through volcanoes and other methods). This provides a wealth of energy that drives "machines" such as climate patterns and the flourishing of life. If the Earth was a closed system, these processes might have "run down" and ended, but as long as the Sun continues to heat the planet they are in no danger of stopping.

The argument would apply equally well to known, normal reproduction within a species

If the earth could only become more disordered or more "worn down", it would not be possible for populations of life forms to grow and flourish. In fact, every time a cell copies or repairs its own DNA, it creates more information, at least in the obvious sense of producing a longer string of nucleotides. The second law of thermodynamics must allow the creation of ordered systems, or else it would not be possible for new, young, healthy organisms to be descended from older organisms.

In order to argue that the second law prevents evolution, one must demonstrate that even though known harmful and harmless mutations and normal reproduction occur, beneficial mutations could never occur. This seems to be a hopeless task, because there is no fundamental difference, either in physics or in the theory of evolution, between "harmful" and "beneficial" mutations, and because beneficial mutations have indeed been observed to occur.

Raised free energies can be the result of natural processes

The McIntosh quote above relates more to abiogenesis than to evolution (since evolution requires no processes that are physically different from normal reproduction plus mutation). McIntosh claims that the formation of the complex machinery necessary for life requires a positive free energy, and thus cannot happen spontaneously. This has been empirically disproven many times over, as many organic molecules have been produced through lifeless processes, and in fact are found in some comets and meteorites. McIntosh also makes claims about the unique nature of genetic information, claiming that it transcends the physical/chemical medium that it inhabits. However, he gives no clear way of deriving any of this from the second law itself, instead simply proposing it as something that would support his statements.

References

  1. Matt Stopera, 22 Messages From Creationists To People Who Believe In Evolution, Buzzfeed, February 5, 2014
  2. Thermodynamics vs. Evolutionism at trueorigin.org
  3. A.C. McIntosh, Information And Entropy – Top-down Or Bottom-up Development In Living Systems?, International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics, Vol. 4, Issue 4
  4. 4.0 4.1 I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist
  5. [1]
  6. [2]

External links


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