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Creation and Evolution, Science, Darwin, Scientific Method, Natural Selection
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Henry Morris on Trial: Morris' Scientific Distortions

By Tommy Huxley
Posted on: 4/20/2002

Part II of a detailed, four-part examination of some of the ideas of Henry Morris.

Henry Morris on Trial: How Creation Science Abuses the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Misrepresenting Both Science and Scripture

Let’s start with Morris’ scientific fallacies. But first, let me state that I’ll explain the Second Law of Thermodynamics in a wholly non-technical style. I’m doing this because most Biblical literalists can’t grasp technical concepts. If you want a more thorough treatment, search Yahoo! or Alta Vista.

Now many of you reading the above will think that I’m being condescending, and I realize that many young-Earth creationists do have PhDs in scientific and engineering disciplines. But most Christians who eagerly trot out this “proof” have no idea about what they’re talking about. They usually pick up this “proof” second-hand from a radio evangelist or visiting church speaker. And because the details of this proof are so intricate and complex, it sounds persuasive. Scientific illiteracy always dupes the unwary.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that energy always flows from order to disorder unless there is “work” being performed to decrease the entropy, or disorder. That is, water cannot flow upstream without assistance. And if you’re boiling water in a pot and then turn off your stove, the boiling water will cool to room temperature until you apply more heat energy to boil the water again. Otherwise, matter and energy seek a state of inert uniformity.

Creationists claim that evolution can’t work because evolution is an uphill process. The fossil record shows that life on earth began as one-celled microorganisms that, over time, developed into the multicellular animals we see today. But creationists claim that such long-range transformations are impossible because nature seeks uniformity. So the enormous variety of plants and animals we see today could not have risen from lower forms. Instead, God created all the Earth’s living inhabitants in one ad hoc miracle with little change since the beginning. Any biological changes that have taken place since then are minor mutations to the “created kinds” that are now running downhill.

Despite their credentials, creationists often overlook the obvious. For example, look at an acorn. This unremarkable kernel has little apparent built-in complexity. Even if you examine it under a microscope, you’ll only observe a tiny, simple structure. But if you plant this acorn and water it, you’ll eventually have a massive oak tree towering over your house that weighs several tons.

Doesn’t that violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics? If nature really followed the pattern that most creationists claim it should, wouldn’t the surrounding entropy do away with this acorn before it ever sprouted? Do oak trees take root and bud in what’s obviously an uphill process with accelerating complexity that defies their encircling disorder?

Entropy is not a one-way destructive force, as most creationists maintain. The Second Law only says that the entropy or disorder of a system increases at the expense of work being accomplished by another. As the oak tree grows, it takes in moisture, nourishment, carbon dioxide, and other essential elements to reach maturity. But this tree is gaining complexity at the expense of its environment, so it’s increasing the disorder around it.

But where does this consumed energy source originate? From our Sun, which is an extraordinarily effective heat engine. It powers the natural forces of our planet’s atmosphere and water cycle to keep the planet running efficiently. And the Sun is losing energy and increasing entropy at a far, far greater rate than Earth’s plants and animals are gaining from its useful work. Fortunately, though, our Sun is a rather durable heat engine that should last another five billion years.

Likewise, a fertilized human egg (or zygote) is a dull rudimentary structure when studied under a microscope. Yet it increases in complexity to develop into an adult. As we consume the elements of our surrounding environment for nourishment, we’re increasing the disorder around us. But since we are efficient work engines, we can modify that same environment to sustain us.

But like most heat engines, our bodies exhaust fuel faster than we can harness the available energy to sustain our longevity, so we eventually die. That’s one of the Second Law’s drawbacks — no machine works at 100 percent efficiency. We waste more heat energy than we put to work.

What has all this to do with evolution? Because evolution goes through the same cycle as reproduction. Biological transformations occur incrementally as we pass adaptations onto our descendants. As our environment changes, most organisms accommodate those changes or go extinct.

Creationists claim that because of God’s curse inherent in the Second Law, nature has been perpetually “running down” in totality since The Fall. But if that’s true, then how did the human race move from a primitive pre-industrial society to a high-tech society? How do we keep multiplying our scientific and industrial capabilities, exponentially?

If the universe has been winding down faster and faster since its inception, why do we keep increasing our level of acquired knowledge at an even faster rate? Shouldn’t human society descend in the opposite direction? Shouldn’t our descendants lapse into the Stone Age?

Whenever I bring up this point to most fundamentalists, they’ll claim that our technological advances are the work of the supernatural. “You must understand,” they whisper. “The Prophet Daniel predicted that just before the end of time, knowledge will greatly increase in the world before God’s judgement.” And then they’ll quote Daniel 12:4:
But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.
I’m amazed at the lengths people can twist scripture to their advantage. You can take any cryptic oracle from an Old Testament prophet and use it to vindicate a completely unrelated topic. We’ll examine more examples of that later.

One final point. Many creationists claim that evolution is impossible because the Big Bang theory violates both the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics because the Big Bang created matter and energy from nothing. As is typical of most creationist tactics, they spread confusion by appealing to irrelevant subjects. The Big Bang theory says absolutely nothing about biological evolution, and linking the two is a confusing subterfuge.

Having said that, I will have to point out that our universe is, even now, harnessing available energy to create entirely new stars and solar systems. The Hubble Space Telescope captured this working process in gorgeous photography.

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