Pharyngula

I get email

I have to go catch a plane to Seattle, so I’ll leave you all with a little exercise. This random bit of creationist email just sailed in over the transom—it’s simple and to the point, and isn’t even afflicted with the usual random font stylings I get. It’s still just as kooky in its substance, though. Can you spot the logical error? Can you explain it plainly and simply?

Entropy tells us that each system in nature tries to find its state of least energy, or simply rest. Nature contains a lot of structures we could define as having order like a snowflake. But his are just states of optimization of energy state. This order is fundamentally different from the order of a cell. A cell uses the concept of entropy by disintegrating matter, to convert lower order into higher order for its own purpose. That is what distinguishes life from matter. Matter passively undergoes entropy and life actively uses entropy. This is a fundamental property of life, whose building block is the cell. The only configuration in nature that manages this is the cell or its offspring, human craft.

Like an apple never falls upward a cell will not be created by coincidence, but like humans can build planes to conquer gravity, the first cell must have been created to conquer entropy.

I doubt all those who has problem to see this simple logic. Either they are just stupid, or they fear something.

Well, gosh. I wonder whether this creationist is just stupid, or what he fears.

Or if you’d prefer your lunacy gibbering and incoherent rather than pompous and smug, here’s something fun: a comment that came in overnight at the Panda’s Thumb. Chris Torvik thinks DNA is 5th dimensional. It’s got ALL CAPS YELLING, it’s got misspellings everywhere, and it’s got the word of God (after years of this, I have come to the conclusion that God is dyslexic and isn’t too good at using a keyboard). Have fun!

Comments

  1. #1 forsen
    June 30, 2007

    The amount of caps used usually stands in direct correlation to how amusingly looney a particular creationist piece it. The Office of the Messiah remains my favourite, though.

  2. #2 El Cid
    June 30, 2007

    Entropy tells us that each system in nature tries to find its state of least energy, or simply rest.

    I was trying to decide between hot dogs and pizza for lunch today, but Entropy told me that we had had pizza only last Thursday so hot dogs would be a good afternoon choice.

    Thank you, Entropy! You tell us all the important things we want to hear!

  3. #3 Caledonian
    June 30, 2007

    Entropy tells us that each system in nature tries to find its state of least energy, or simply rest.

    Wrong! That’s not what entropy is. More to the point, the concept actually being described violates Newton’s First Law of Motion: an object in motion, or at rest, remains in motion or at rest (respectively) unless acted upon by an external force.

    Aristotle thought the world worked differently. He relied upon his intuition. And so is this creationist. Aristotle had a greater arete than the creationist, though.

  4. #4 Lago
    June 30, 2007

    Life is not different from “matter”. That is the old, “Organic” chem idea when people thought there was a fundamental differences between “Inorganic” and “Organic” chemistry. There simply is no difference. What the e-mail should actually say is, that the chemical processes of life have been selected for over time to develop chemical pathways where the end product is used to remove or add to the reactants and products moving them away from equilibrium, and hence, keeping entropy driving the system forwards by the system always trying to find its lowest energy level. If the system does reach equilibrium you have cell death, as in an end to life…

  5. #5 Brownian
    June 30, 2007

    You said it, Lago. For a moment I was worried the writer was going to argue that a creator must be responsible for phlogiston.

  6. #6 Jeff
    June 30, 2007

    The logic problem is that the creationist is mentally deficient yet is somehow able to operate a computer sufficiently to compose and send an email.

    Now what do I win? 😉

  7. #7 Mark Pratt
    June 30, 2007

    By this logic manufacturing plants also violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Taking into account the complete thermodynamic system, including entropy increases in energy production (solar, coal, hydro-electric, etc) there actually a net increase in entropy.

    I’m shocked that some who can operate a computer would put this forward as an argument against evolution, (and by extension manufacturing).

  8. #8 Graham Douglas
    June 30, 2007

    Logical error? Do you mean apart from “it’s a load of bollocks”?

  9. #9 Jeffrey Boser
    June 30, 2007

    A cell uses the concept of entropy by disintegrating matter, to convert lower order into higher order for its own purpose.

    What is he thinking of, nuclear powered algae?

  10. #10 Hank Fox
    June 30, 2007

    Heh. Funny that he used an APPLE, a living thing, as the “matter” that can’t fall uphill. Considering his main point, it’s a mistaken example.

    What he says overall is so muddled it’s hard to pick out the chief point. However, without going into all that business about the creation of the cell … to ME it looks like his underlying point is something about entropy, but looking at it only as a closed system, with no outside input of energy. He seems to be saying (in metaphor-speak) that water always flows downstream or downhill, except where life is involved, and then it flows upstream/uphill.

    If so, the first part of his assertion is already wrong, because water can “fall” upstream/uphill, completely naturally, in several ways.

    First, it can flow upstream/uphill in a wave or vortex. The crest of a wave, either a temporary surface ripple or a standing wave in a stream, rises above the level of the surrounding body of water. Part of a vortex flows literally upstream. The volume of water both in a wave and vortex is small, and is powered by the much larger flow of water in the downstream direction.

    Second, it can splash. Anyplace where a flow of water drops a certain distance, you can find droplets flying upward from the landing point – some of them even higher than the lip of the original falls. Anyone who has stood near a good-sized waterfall has felt the misting of cool droplets rising out of the thing.

    In both cases, a bit of the water appears to defy entropy, until you realize that it’s not a closed system. There’s a constant flow of new water (energy) coming into the area you’re observing.

    Which bring up a third way water can flow uphill: It can be evaporated by the sun, a really noticeable source of outside energy, so that it rises as vapor even higher than the original body of water.

    If this guy is serious about the natural processes of matter only cause things to seek a state of rest, he’d have to explain how rain gets into the sky.

    In the case of life, there is noplace on earth where you can just focus on some small isolated part of the stream and demand that “entropy” work there according to some strict always-downhill rule. As long as the streams flow and the sun shines, there’s a supply of outside energy to drive this apparent uphill motion.

    It’s not a closed system.

    HOWEVER … the MAIN mistake this guy has made is a more basic one: He believes the outside world has to live up to the stuff in his head, rather than the other way around.

    It’s a classic delusional mistake. Rather than observe the outside world and attempt to DESCRIBE it in progressively more accurate detail (the main goal of scientific research, I’d say), he thinks he can come up with some appealing mental model and then PRESCRIBE it for – force it on – the outside world (the main goal of religion).

    I see him standing near a scenic waterfall and crying “No, no, the rocks above the waterfall CAN’T be wet! I refuse to believe water can flow uphill! It’s just not natural! IT’S SOME KIND OF TRICK YOU PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO PLAY ON ME!!”

  11. #11 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    June 30, 2007

    Can you spot the logical error?

    Which of them? 🙂

    The first error is what Caledonian objects to – entropy isn’t equivalent with minimizing energy.

    It is true that maximizing entropy in a closed system means that we will have reached equilibrium. But that equilibrium is a balance between minimizing energy and maximising entropy.

    To see that, we can extract any surplus energy G from the system by temporarily connecting it to another system. We have G = U – TS, where U is the internal energy and S is the entropy. Minimizing U and maximising S (keeping a constant temperature T) will get us to an equilibrium where we can’t extract more energy (G = 0). The new equilibrium could be any equilibria, so min energy and max entropy is a property of any equilibrium.

    The second error is that physical laws are redefined to be special in cells by excluding them from nature and other matter.

    The third error is to assume that a decrease in entropy is special for life. But it can happen spontaneously by statistically violation of the classical law (with low probability), or deterministically in parts of open systems that are set up to do so. It is what makes biology, geology, climate and technology interesting.

  12. #12 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    June 30, 2007

    Can you spot the logical error?

    Which of them? 🙂

    The first error is what Caledonian objects to – entropy isn’t equivalent with minimizing energy.

    It is true that maximizing entropy in a closed system means that we will have reached equilibrium. But that equilibrium is a balance between minimizing energy and maximising entropy.

    To see that, we can extract any surplus energy G from the system by temporarily connecting it to another system. We have G = U – TS, where U is the internal energy and S is the entropy. Minimizing U and maximising S (keeping a constant temperature T) will get us to an equilibrium where we can’t extract more energy (G = 0). The new equilibrium could be any equilibria, so min energy and max entropy is a property of any equilibrium.

    The second error is that physical laws are redefined to be special in cells by excluding them from nature and other matter.

    The third error is to assume that a decrease in entropy is special for life. But it can happen spontaneously by statistically violation of the classical law (with low probability), or deterministically in parts of open systems that are set up to do so. It is what makes biology, geology, climate and technology interesting.

  13. #13 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    June 30, 2007

    Perhaps I should add that the statistical violation is because the modern statistical formulation describes an ensemble of systems, which means that singling any specific out guarantees that we will see ‘violations’ if we look long enough.

  14. #14 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    June 30, 2007

    Perhaps I should add that the statistical violation is because the modern statistical formulation describes an ensemble of systems, which means that singling any specific out guarantees that we will see ‘violations’ if we look long enough.

  15. #15 Jim RL
    June 30, 2007

    Matter passively undergoes entropy and life actively uses entropy. This is a fundamental property of life, whose building block is the cell. The only configuration in nature that manages this is the cell or its offspring, human craft.

    What about, stars, hurricanes, and fire? Each one uses “entropy” for it’s own “purposes”. They don’t self-replicate, but they each self-perpetuate by using internal or external energy sources.

    It’s hard to point out the logically error when he misdefines entropy from the start. If I say 1/0 = 0 it’s pretty easy to logically show that 0 = 1, but it doesn’t make it true.

  16. #16 H. Humbert
    June 30, 2007

    Hank Fox, in addition to the several examples you give of water traveling “uphill,” I can think of at least one example of apples doing the same. They travel “uphill” after they bounce. 🙂

  17. #17 llewelly
    June 30, 2007

    It reveals that certain Christians do not understand entropy, and are still at war with a long dead rival religion – sun worship.

  18. #18 JJR
    June 30, 2007

    My devout ex-Mother-in-law once showed me a project of hers—her pastor had advised her to write a letter to herself as if God were the author, and showed me the results. My first reaction after only the first paragraph was “Jesus, God can’t spell worth a damn.”

  19. #19 Thony C.
    June 30, 2007

    Caledonian wrote:

    Aristotle thought the world worked differently. He relied upon his intuition. And so is this creationist. Aristotle had a greater arete than the creationist, though.

    Wrong Aristotle did not rely on intuition , he relied on observation. His laws of motion are what you see in the real world as opposed to what you would see if you abstract all interfering forces, air resistence etc. Aristotles laws in mathematical form are now known as Stokes’ Laws, movement in a viscous medium.

  20. #20 Christian Burnham
    June 30, 2007

    BTW, a snowflake is not the lowest energy state for water. Snowflakes are formed through non-equilibrium processes.

  21. #21 Buffybot
    June 30, 2007

    Just one logical flaw? I’m not sure it’s that coherent. The cock-ups that stand out for me are 1.) equating order with energy levels as though there’s some kind of 1-to-1 correlation; and 2.) attributing life with conscious purpose on a cellular level.

  22. #22 brian t
    June 30, 2007

    “each system in nature”

    Define “system”, Herr Creationist. The Earth? Not a closed system – the Sun pumps energy in to it, and has done for as long as it has existed in any form.

    So, what about the energy in the Solar System? Our Galaxy? Follow this back to its logical origin, and you’re asking where all the energy in the Universe came from. Which we don’t have a comprehensive answer for today (2007 CE), but is that a reason to put one’s faith in a god? A god so petty and small that he watches you in your bedroom, on this planet, in this vanishingly small corner of the Universe? Humbug.

  23. #23 chakolate
    June 30, 2007

    (after years of this, I have come to the conclusion that God is dyslexic and isn’t too good at using a keyboard).

    Well of course if god is dyslexic he has trouble using a keyboard. A dyslexic god is a dog! Dogs are not only bad typists, their grammar is terrible.

  24. #24 Chinchillazilla
    June 30, 2007

    Reminds me of a great post on FSTDT where a fundie was all, “Evolution would only be possible if there were some massive outside source of energy, and surely science would have found it by now.”

    And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a troll, because when everyone went “WTF? THE SUN!” he was like, “Well, I mean BESIDES that.”

  25. #25 Chris Torvik
    June 30, 2007

    “So all of this just happened by chance? You are telling me that there is no intelligent design behind life?

    And you poeple have the audacity to call ME stupid.

    Tell me then, how did DNA get programmed? Oh – it just happened by chance, right?

    When I was back in college studying Fortran, I sure wish that some of those damn programs had written themselves. After all, computers are only written in binary code, not the more complex couplings of DNA code.”

  26. #26 Caledonian
    June 30, 2007

    Wrong Aristotle did not rely on intuition , he relied on observation.

    It’s more complex than either of our statements. Aristotle made observations, and then came up with explanations that were intuitively satisfactory. The ancient Greeks were learning about clear thinking, but had yet to grasp that clear thinking and correct thinking aren’t necessarily the same thing. You can see this in their medicine as well – given certain assumptions, they logically deduced appropriate treatments, but their assumptions, although intuitively appealing, were wrong.

  27. #27 anon1234
    June 30, 2007

    Think of evolution as a long, slow, solar-powered annealing process, that acts by reducing the stress between a species and its environment, or by reducing the differences between a species and the hypothetical species best suited for the environment.

    From that perspective, it starts to look like the Second Law (for a sufficiently loose definition of the Second Law, but not nearly as loose as the creationists’) does not prevent evolution, but is the driving force causing evolution.

  28. #28 Penny
    June 30, 2007

    “Like an apple never falls upward a cell will not be created by coincidence, but like humans can build planes to conquer gravity, the first cell must have been created to conquer entropy”.

    Doesn’t know the difference between logic and analogy.

  29. #29 Caledonian
    June 30, 2007

    Planes neither conquer nor defy gravity. They simply bring about a particular kind of result by following the laws of nature.

    Cells are the same way – they neither conquer nor defy the second law. They produce greater internal order by increasing the external disorder, bringing about a particular kind of result by following the laws of nature.

  30. #30 Pierce R. Butler
    June 30, 2007

    Most of the mass of any given apple was raised to the height of its branch, from below ground level, by the solar-driven pumping mechanism of its parental tree.

  31. #31 natural cynic
    June 30, 2007

    Chris Torvik: Tell me then, how did DNA get programmed? Oh – it just happened by chance, right?

    Chance and selection. On the most basic level random chance puts together something and if it bareely works, it is selected and further chance adds to it, with further selecdtion and…3.6 billion years of chance and selection…us

  32. #32 natural cynic
    June 30, 2007

    Chris Torvik: For a simple example, look at the previous blog entry on artificial selection in circuits.

  33. #33 Drhoz!
    June 30, 2007

    *boggles at Torviks response*

    what programming? the DNA doesn’t care or plan what proteins it eventually codes for. the only thing that matters is how well they work. It could just as easily code for complete gibberish from one end to the other, but that wouldn’t have a good survival factor, would it?

  34. #34 woozy
    June 30, 2007

    also boggles at Torviks # 23 response

    >>”So all of this just happened by chance?

    Uh, yes. We got a whole effin big universe with billions of galaxies and billions of years to for these chances to occur. I haven’t run across *anything* complex enough it couldn’t “pop up” by chance under that many oppurtunities…

    > You are telling me that there is no intelligent design behind life?

    … except any designer capible of designing a big effin’ universe and the outcome of billions of years if the outcome is not left to chance. Gee, where’d this designer “pop up” from?

    >>And you poeple have the audacity to call ME stupid.

    Uh, yeah.

    >>Tell me then, how did DNA get programmed? Oh – it just happened by chance, right?

    No, the mutations happened by chance and the stable and “good” one happened by natural selection.

    >>When I was back in college studying Fortran, I sure wish that some of those damn programs had written themselves.

    Haven’t you heard about self-writing programs or evolution-designed circuits?

    >>>After all, computers are only written in binary code, not the more complex couplings of DNA code.”

    Uh, I’m not biologist (obviously) but aren’t all the couplings of DNA between four elements and therefore isn’t DNA just quartary code. In theory, wouldn’t one expect equivalent complexity between a strand of DNA and a computer program twice as long. (As a strand of N DNA couplings represents one of 4^N possible outcomes, and 4^N equals 2^2N possible outcomes which a computer program of 2N bits would represent?

  35. #35 Krystalline Apostate
    July 1, 2007

    Can you spot the logical error?

    Well, which 1?
    A. 2nd law of thermodynamics isn’t linear,
    B. A cell doesn’t use concepts, people do,
    C. Said writer claims that human life is the only thing that does this, when obviously it ‘works’ for ALL forms of life,
    D. Nature’s not a ‘he.
    What exactly is meant by ‘human craft’?
    That last little bit is just poisoning the well.

  36. #36 Cyrock
    July 1, 2007

    If what distinguishes “life from simple matter” is that life reduces its own entropy at expense of the rest…then I have a weird living system at home. It is called air conditioning…

  37. #37 trcarroll
    July 1, 2007

    When the entropy argument was thrown around 25 years ago, I would nearly respond … look up.

  38. #38 zebbidies spring
    July 1, 2007

    Dogs are not only bad typists, their grammar is terrible.

    Not to mention their breath.

  39. #39 John H. Morrison
    July 1, 2007

    Certain ideas are best described as so bad they’re not even wrong. They appear in the form of garbage like the email that motivated this blog entry, and it’s extremely difficult to say precisely what’s wrong with it — at least without spending a good long pageful.

    And here we reach a point where, “when you’re explaining, you’re losing.” You’re expending paragraphs to fight a sound bite.

    I remember some time ago reading an idiot’s claim that electric light bulbs work because their atmosphere inside is designed for the luminous transfer of ions.

  40. #40 reader
    July 1, 2007

    Err… the gibbs free energy is the enthalpy minus the entropic energy, not internal energy. U – TS is Helmholtz energy.

  41. #41 Tony Popple
    July 1, 2007

    I think the original e-mail message amounts to little more than verbal diarrhea, but I think there is a general rule that still applies.

    Every time a creationist uses an argument based on thermodynamics or information theory, the arguments is always qualitative or philosophical in nature. To have any power, these arguments must be quantitative.

    If there are no numbers in the argument, then they haven’t really made an argument. It is just wishfully thinking on their part.

  42. #42 zayzayem
    July 1, 2007

    I can get the 5th dimensional analogy. it’s crude and unrefined. But it sort of touches on how DNA/genomes have a non-linear aspect given transposable elements and other stuff.

  43. #43 David Marjanovi?
    July 1, 2007

    Yes, DNA is quartary the way computer code is binary.

  44. #44 David Marjanovi?
    July 1, 2007

    Yes, DNA is quartary the way computer code is binary.

  45. #45 Steevl
    July 1, 2007

    Not sure what the relevant logical fallacy is, but taking a phenomenon which is constantly happening all around us and then asserting that it can’t happen (and therefore God does it) is a pretty stupid form of argument. Unfortunately it appears to be the only one natural religion has.

  46. #46 Ex-drone
    July 1, 2007

    Chris Torvik writes:

    And you poeple have the audacity to call ME stupid.
    Tell me then, how did DNA get programmed? Oh – it just happened by chance, right?
    When I was back in college studying Fortran, I sure wish that some of those damn programs had written themselves. After all, computers are only written in binary code, not the more complex couplings of DNA code.”

    Apparently, there is evidence of entropy in the human gene pool.

  47. #47 philos
    July 1, 2007

    Professor Dawkins provides a nice summary of the entropy argument, this coming from a debate with Professor Andrew McIntosh who claimed evolution violated the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics:

    http://richarddawkins.net/article,453,The-Only-One-in-Step,Richard-Dawkins

  48. #48 diego
    July 1, 2007

    Second law of thermodynamics for Creationists.

    Take a glass of water in one hand and a bunch of cooking salt in the other. In this situation the system has a certain amount of entropy given by the water molecules (high entropy, because the molecules are moving endlessly and the salt molecules (low entropy, because they are “locked” in the crystal structure of the salt).

    Now, put the salt in the water and shake to make the salt dissolve.
    In this situation the entropy of the system has increased, because the water molecules are still moving endlessly but now even the salt molecules are dissolved and moving endlessly in the water.

    Now heat up the glass. The water evaporate and the salt ri-crystalize in the bottom of the glass.
    The total amout of entropy has increased even more (because the water molecules are now flying into the room), but the local entropy has decreased (since the salt molecules are now locked again in the crystal).

    In the end, are you violating the second law of thermodynamics every time you clean up your room?

    Regards, Diego

  49. #49 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    July 1, 2007

    Err… the gibbs free energy is the enthalpy minus the entropic energy, not internal energy. U – TS is Helmholtz energy.

    Thank you, seems I was confused.

    Helmholz free energy, right. I threw away the pV term (assuming constant volume and pressure, the later somewhat approximative/unrealistic, in order to simplify) without checking if there was a particular name for the more constrained thermodynamic measure.

    From the above confusion you can probably guess that I’m not a chemist. (At least, I think they use Gibbs a lot.) 🙂

  50. #50 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    July 1, 2007

    Err… the gibbs free energy is the enthalpy minus the entropic energy, not internal energy. U – TS is Helmholtz energy.

    Thank you, seems I was confused.

    Helmholz free energy, right. I threw away the pV term (assuming constant volume and pressure, the later somewhat approximative/unrealistic, in order to simplify) without checking if there was a particular name for the more constrained thermodynamic measure.

    From the above confusion you can probably guess that I’m not a chemist. (At least, I think they use Gibbs a lot.) 🙂

  51. #51 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    July 1, 2007

    “Helmholz” – Helmholtz.

  52. #52 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    July 1, 2007

    “Helmholz” – Helmholtz.

  53. #53 arensb
    July 1, 2007

    (after years of this, I have come to the conclusion that God is dyslexic and isn’t too good at using a keyboard)

    I too have noticed this. It may seem unfair and prejudiced to think that by and large, fundies can’t write, but they keep feeding me so much evidence.

  54. #54 John H. Morrison
    July 1, 2007

    The Second Law: One can create entropy, but one can’t destroy entropy. The total entropy in the universe increases. The total entropy of a system may increase or decrease, depending on how much is made in the system and how much enters or leaves the system.

    The earth’s surface and everything on it is a system. The system absorbs sunlight at 6000K, and radiates infrared light at 300K. The entropy lost from 6000 Joules of radiation is 6000 J/300 K or 20 J/K. The entropy of the light absorbed must be greater than 6000 J/K (because it was radiated from the sun at 6000 K), but is around 4/3 J/K.

    So it is quite possible for the system of the earth’s surface to decrease entropy. It loses 20 J/K for every 6000 Joules passing though, and gains as little as 3/4 J/K.

    That’s how the sun can drive life on the earth. That’s how humans and animals can commit such dramatic entropy-decreasing behavior as growing and reproducing.

  55. #55 John H. Morrison
    July 1, 2007

    Blast — I noticed my error just after I pressed Post.

    The entropy of light absorbed must be greater than 1 J/K — not 6000 J/K as I wrote. (It’s 6000 J/6000 K.)

  56. #56 windy
    July 1, 2007

    I can get the 5th dimensional analogy. it’s crude and unrefined. But it sort of touches on how DNA/genomes have a non-linear aspect given transposable elements and other stuff.

    What do you mean by ‘non-linear aspect’?

  57. #57 Gun Of Sod
    July 2, 2007

    When I was back in college studying Fortran, I sure wish that some of those damn programs had written themselves. After all, computers are only written in binary code, not the more complex couplings of DNA code.”

    Ok assuming that your syntax is the equivalent of Amino acids (which have already been showen to exist in interstellar space) and that your computer is part of a system that randomly combines this syntax in parallel many millions of times each second.

    Those combinations of syntax which are able to make copies of themselves are allocated more processing time, and so code that can make more copies utilising fewer resources and more exact copies of itself will tend to last longer and have more offspring. Code that retains the ability to introduce small changes into it’s offpring will evolve

    Turn this computer on and leave it running for 2 billion years or so and I’m sure your College Fortran will look like childs play.

    the trouble with Creationists and ID’ers is that they tend to think in a human timeframe, which does not compare to geologic timeframes by several orders of magnitude.

    Your scope is too limited.

  58. #58 Kseniya
    July 2, 2007

    Limited scope, indeed. Why is it that the “designed” attribute of any man-made system appears, to those conversant with the system, to be evidence that the same attribute is necessarily present in any naturally-occurring system of similar or greater complexity?

    (cf. hammer-nail metaphor)

  59. #59 John Bode
    July 2, 2007

    By this logic manufacturing plants also violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Taking into account the complete thermodynamic system, including entropy increases in energy production (solar, coal, hydro-electric, etc) there actually a net increase in entropy.

    I’m shocked that some who can operate a computer would put this forward as an argument against evolution, (and by extension manufacturing).

    Ah, but computers were designed and built by intelligent entities (us), so therefore the concept of entropy (and by extension, the 2LoT) doesn’t apply; apparently, being intelligent means you can “overcome” or circumvent the 2LoT.

    No, seriously, I’ve seen this argument put forth more than once by big-C Creationists. Somehow, being the product of an “intelligent designer” means life is not subject to entropy or the 2LoT.

  60. #60 Will Von Wizzlepig
    July 2, 2007

    It’s funny how ‘logic’ can be performed. “This seems logical.”, “I feel that I am a logical person.”

    Why do we so often find a situation where an investigator only allows themself to doubt the opposing team’s stance?

    You’ll find while scientists doubt your religion, writer of letter, they also doubt their own science. They doubt it eagerly and thoroughly. Competition to discover, prove/disprove, and publish is high.

    Mere belief in something will get you thoroughly laughed at, or at least pitied.

    Since we don’t know how the process by which life began, there’s no way to apply any concepts to it, and so, entropy cannot be used to conclude anything ‘logically’ with relation to the origin of life, because the origin of life is unknown.

  61. #61 Spaulding
    July 2, 2007

    #4 and #10 offer great summaries of where the creationist’s email goes wrong. But you know, the letter gets something right, too.

    Although there are numerous chemical processes (like fire, for example) which fight local entropy through consuming external matter and energy, life stands out as an exciting extreme of chemical complexity, something not quite unique, but certainly distinct. As our knowledge has built, our understanding of species, populations, organisms, and cells has come a long way since the supernatural vitalism of centuries past. Yet there is still much to be learned, and these are years of dramatic progress in many fields of biology. Our understanding of genetics and biochemistry is grows by leaps and bounds.

    The reason many of us study what we study is that we agree with one of the ideas suggested by that letter – life is an astounding and inspiring phenomenon! We seek to understand it further, and to use that understanding to improve the world and human life. This excitement and awe when regarding the phenomenon of life is a point of agreement between creationists and those who understand science.

  62. #62 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    July 2, 2007

    One can create entropy, but one can’t destroy entropy.

    While that is a technically correct description of how entropy behaves, I think it is confusing for the description of what entropy is. Entropy is a state function like pressure, volume, energy or temperature, not an object. (The statistical physics version makes this clear: entropy is a function of (a statistical ensemble of) microstates.)

    It is like saying ‘one can create volume, but one can’t destroy volume’. The usual formulation that “entropy will increase” is more to the point, IMHO.

  63. #63 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    July 2, 2007

    One can create entropy, but one can’t destroy entropy.

    While that is a technically correct description of how entropy behaves, I think it is confusing for the description of what entropy is. Entropy is a state function like pressure, volume, energy or temperature, not an object. (The statistical physics version makes this clear: entropy is a function of (a statistical ensemble of) microstates.)

    It is like saying ‘one can create volume, but one can’t destroy volume’. The usual formulation that “entropy will increase” is more to the point, IMHO.

  64. #64 ken
    July 3, 2007

    A 100 pound tree would probably have lower entropy than a 100 pound human. That’s because the atoms in cellulose are fairly constrained. But it’s probably fair to say that the human is more complex in terms of the coding required. Low entropy != high complexity.

    My understanding is that humans are net entropy generators. We heat stuff up and spew it out in simplified form, in addition to organizing some % of it. No?

  65. #65 Keith Douglas
    July 3, 2007

    Torbjörn: Better – entropy is hypothesized to be a property which we represent by a state function.

  66. #66 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    July 3, 2007

    Keith:

    Agreed. A state function is defined as a property of a system that depends only on the current state of the system. It has a measure of some form, which is derived from a model representation.

  67. #67 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    July 3, 2007

    Keith:

    Agreed. A state function is defined as a property of a system that depends only on the current state of the system. It has a measure of some form, which is derived from a model representation.

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