Argument from the second law of thermodynamics

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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.

Contents

Examples

From Thermodynamics vs. Evolutionism at trueorigin.org:

"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.)"

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:

"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."

Counter-arguments

Entropy is not the same as disorder

The second law of thermodynamics does not say that everything tends toward disorder, but rather that entropy increases. While there are similarities between the scientific notion of entropy and the intuitive notion of disorder, there are differences as well. Thus, this argument represents a form of equivocation on the meaning of the word "disorder".

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 systems, 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.

Argument From the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics against God's existence

1. The Big Bang has entropy S.

2. A hypothetical god is either orderly or chaotic.

a. Hypothetical gods have a personhood.

b. Personhood implies orderliness.

c. A hypothetical god is orderly, and thus has low entropy. (See note1 for more detail.)

3. In order for god to directly cause the Big Bang, he must have a lower entropy (S-a, where a is positive, real number).

4. The probability of the Big Bang coming from a higher state of entropy (S+b, where b is a positive, real number) approaches P=1, normalizing over the condition of many opportunities for the Big Bang to happen.

5. The probability of the Big Bang coming from an even lower state of entropy (god) approaches Q=0 (since Q=1-P).

6. The difference in probability is thus the limit of 1 divided by the limit of 0, which of course approaches infinity.

7. There is an infinitely greater chance that the Big Bang is the result of randomness than the result of even more order.

8. Thus, god does not exist.

Possible objections:

But God is not within the block universe, so how can you account for his entropy?

Whether or not god exists within the block universe does not affect the necessity of his entropy. If god is in an ordered state, then he has low entropy. If god is not in an ordered state, and thus in a disordered stateβ€”he has high entropy.


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