Skeptic Friends Network

Username:
Password:
Save Password
Forgot your Password?
Home | Forums | Active Topics | Active Polls | Register | FAQ | Contact Us  
  Connect: Chat | SFN Messenger | Buddy List | Members
Personalize: Profile | My Page | Forum Bookmarks  
Home Fan Mail 2nd Law of Thermodynamics Argument Weak on Both Sides
Menu
Skeptic Forums
Skeptic Summary
The Kil Report
Skeptillaneous
Creation/Evolution
About Skepticism
Fan Mail
Skepticality
Rationally Speaking
Claims List
Skeptic Links
Book Reviews
Gift Shop
Staff


Server Time: 05:15:26
Your Local Time:



Fan Mail
skeptic,fan mail,letters to editor,correspondence
Printer Friendly Printer Friendly Version of this Article... Bookmark Bookmark This Article...

2nd Law of Thermodynamics Argument Weak on Both Sides

By Chad
Posted on: 4/24/2002

All correspondence received by Skeptic Friends Network or its staff becomes the property of Skeptic Friends Network, and may be printed without the consent of the author.

Thermodynamic misunderstandings, followed by Denton, and topped with evolution as Nietzsche's killer of God.


Re: SFN Articles “Henry Morris on Trial” and “The Bible’s Bad Fruits

To:   SFN
From: Chad
Date: Unknown

Hi, hope you still have this address. My name is Chad. I was just
passing through some web sites devoted to the Creationist debate when
I ran across yours. Anyway, I had a few thoughts you may (or may not)
be interested in, mostly scattershot, but oh well.

1) Your treatment of the Second Law of Thermodynamics debate attacks a
very weak version of the argument, mostly made by popular creationist
debaters who don't understand their own arguments. Evidently the more-
respectable creationists have since tagged this argument with a new
name to try to prevent confusion: The Creative Trinity.

In brief, the creationists do not deny that the Second Law makes the
biological process of evolution impossible; rather they say that
before increasing complexity can come about, there must be a mechanism
for harnessing energy and a code for directing it already in place.
Usually an influx of energy into a system does not increase order, but
destroys some of the order already there.

There's a very good short essay by Stanley Freske titled "Creationist
Misunderstanding, Misrepresentation, and Misuse of the Second Law of
Thermodynamics" that goes through this far better than I could. If you
are really interested in this debate (which I feel I am safe in
assuming) I would recommend you take a look at it. It is found in a
book called "Evolution versus Creationism: the Public Education
Controversy," published by Oryx Press in 1983. That's another reason
it's hard for me to believe you wouldn't address this much stronger
argument: it's been around for quite a while).

Understand, I'm not saying you should ignore the weaker argument,
which is far more common and thus obviously warrants some attention.
But in the search for truth you should always consider your opponent's
best arguments rather than straw men (whether you've set them up
yourself or they've set them up for you). Creationist debaters could
do the same thing -- go around destroying poorly constructed
evolutionist arguments, or debating less-than-knowledgeable
evolutionist opponents, and no one would get anywhere.

2) Why not analyze and expose a good creationist position? There is a
book by Michael Denton called Evolution: a Theory in Crisis that was
published in 1985. I don't think I understand enough about molecular
biology and paleontology to evaluate or even understand most of his
arguments, but they seem very good. That's one reason I'm surfing
through these sites - I'm trying to find someone who has read,
understood, and addressed this book. I don't even think Denton is a
creationist (at least not a young-Earth creationist); he's saying
more that typology is a better hypothesis than evolution.

If you enjoy these kinds of arguments (which, again, you evidently do)
why not go pick up the book and do some research and uncover its
errors? Or maybe that has already been done -- in that case you could
do me a huge favor by pointing me to the right place.

3) Why not admit that evolution IS the source of many ills? People
like you and I tend to enjoy philosophy, so I may be safe in guessing
that you've read some Nietzsche. Nietzsche saw the implications of
evolution, which was ultimately the death of God. What will happen to
us when we finally realize what we've done? That we've killed God
himself? Who can wipe the blood off our hands? But like his Madman,
Nietzsche was too early -- people hadn't yet heard the death knell.

Today I think we can clearly see that our unbelief in a higher power
has produced many terrible things. People need a civilizing influence,
a source of certainty, a religion. Without it, many of us feel cast
adrift in a meaningless existence. I think the death of God brought
many undesirable consequences, and evolution in large part brought the
death of God.

This is not to say, as you seem to think (or maybe they even imply),
that things like cruelty and promiscuity didn't exist before 1860.
Human nature is what it is, at all times and places, with or without
religion. BUT, that civilizing influence of belief in God is powerful
and crucial. Don't you believe that? As for evolution producing things
like slavery, I don't know if I've ever heard anything more ridiculous.
Still, maybe they have a point.

This letter is getting long so I'd better sign off. Thanks for taking
the time to read it. You can respond, if you'd like. Back to work...


To:   Chad
From: Tommy Huxley
Date: Unknown
Thank you for writing to the Skeptic Friends Network. I read your letter more than once, and I wasn’t quite sure what you were trying to articulate, but I believe some of your impressions about me were misleading. I’ll address your points individually.

First, ninety-nine percent of all the e-mail we get from creationists boasts that evolution is impossible because “evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics!” And I’m getting sick of hearing that claim.

It’s not only false, but the very people who make this argument blatantly reveal that they don’t know what they’re talking about! Since this argument “sounds” technically intimidating, they assume that we’re as ignorant as they are.

Also, I’ve never heard of the “Creative Trinity.” I did a Web search for that term, but found nothing. You’ll have to be more explicit about what these “more-respectable creationists” are talking about.

If I’m attacking the “weak version” of their arguments, it’s because they’ve never given me a “strong” one. I could try to explain that computing a change in entropy requires you to compute the system from its initial state to its final state through a reversible path. In a reversible process, the entropy of the universe is constant. In an irreversible process, the entropy of the universe increases. To compute the system’s change in energy, take it from its first to its second state, divide each infinitesimal amount of heat by the temperature that’s absorbed by the system, and add all the quantities.

Do you think that answer will suffice to letters I and the Skeptic Friends Network receive from blockheads who write the following?
Evolution defies physics. The laws of Thermodynamics do not agree with evolution. The second law (law of entropy) state the more time passes the greater disorder gets. Yet scientists say the more time passess the more orderly things become. Basically the reason you believe in evolution is because if you don’t than then you have to admit there is a God!
Evolution Site Needs More Common Sense
Next, you assert
In brief, the creationists do not deny that the Second Law makes the biological process of evolution impossible; rather they say that before increasing complexity can come about, there must be a mechanism for harnessing energy and a code for directing it already in place.
Actually, most creationists do believe that the second law makes evolution impossible. Right now, I’m writing a review of a creationist book published last year called The FACE that Demonstrates the Farce of Evolution, by Hank Hanegraaff. Here’s what Hank says about entropy:
While the law of energy conservation is a blow to the theory of evolution, the law of entropy is a bullet to its head. Not only is the universe dying of heat loss, but according to entropy — also known as the second law of thermodynamics — everything runs inexorably from order to disorder and from complexity to decay. The theory of biological evolution directly contradicts the law of entropy in that it describes a universe in which things run from chaos to complexity and order. In evolution, atoms allegedly self-produce amino acids, amino acids auto-organize amoebas, amoebas turn into apes, and apes evolve into astronauts.
Hank spouts so much horse hockey that I hardly know where to start. First, the second law of thermodynamics is not entropy; it is a statement about the entropy, or disorder, of a system. The second law states that in any thermodynamic process that proceeds from one state of equilibrium to another, the entropy of the system, plus its environment, remains unchanged or increases.

The second law does not require the entropy of a system apart from its environment to increase or remain the same. Entropy may decrease on Earth as long as its environment (which includes the rest of the universe) increases by an equal or greater amount. This happens all the time! When a seed sprouts, its entropy is reduced at the expense of the increasing entropy of its environment. None of this violates the second law of thermodynamics!

Hanegraaff’s statement about amoebas turning into astronauts is further evidence of his ignorance. First, biological evolution says nothing about abiogenesis. Evolution describes genetic variations that happen through random (not adaptively directed) mutation and recombination, changes in gene frequency through genetic drift, gene flow, and natural selection. Secondly, Hank’s caricature of theories involving abiogenesis proves that he obtains all his science from ICR cartoons written for first graders.

Although Hank’s not a scientist, he is a well-recognized Christian author and radio host, so he ought to carefully research the topics he knows nothing about. But Hank is typical of most creationists — argumentative demagogues that scorn facts inconvenient to their ideologies.
There’s a very good short essay by Stanley Freske titled “Creationist Misunderstanding, Misrepresentation, and Misuse of the Second Law of Thermodynamics” that goes through this far better than I could. If you are really interested in this debate (which I feel I am safe in assuming) I would recommend you take a look at it.
I never read that essay, and I’m sorry that I never heard of it before. I searched the Web for any information about it, but all I discovered was that the essay was footnoted in an amicus curiae brief filed by 72 Nobel Prize-winning scientists in support of the appellees in the court case Edwards vs. Aguillard (the 1986 Supreme Court decision that barred Louisiana from promoting “creation science” in its public schools). You can read the brief for yourself at the Talk.Origins Archive.
Understand, I’m not saying you should ignore the weaker argument, which is far more common and thus obviously warrants some attention; but in the search for truth you should always consider your opponent’s best arguments rather than straw men (whether you’ve set them up yourself or they’ve set them up for you). Creationist debaters could do the same thing — go around destroying poorly constructed evolutionist arguments, or debating less-than-knowledgeable evolutionist opponents, and no one would get anywhere.
It may be a matter of opinion, but I don’t think that we set up straw men. All our creationist citations speak for themselves. In my regular e-mail correspondence, I get nothing but bad arguments. How can I debate nonexistent “good” arguments?
2) Why not analyze and expose a good creationist position? There is a book by Michael Denton called Evolution: a Theory in Crisis that was published in 1985.
… why not go pick up the book and do some research and uncover its errors? Or maybe that has already been done — in that case you could do me a huge favor by pointing me to the right place.
On the Web, Mark I. Vuletic writes the best critique of Michael Denton’s book. You can find it at the Talk.Origins Archive.

Another, shorter review takes Denton to task for misunderstanding natural selection, poor citations, and reliance on ancient sources. Wesley R. Elsberry corrects Denton’s erroneous views on DNA sequence data and common descent. And finally, I found a previously unfamiliar review of Denton’s book by Gert Korthof this morning.
3) Why not admit that evolution IS the source of many ills?
Because I disagree. Evolution is not the source of any ills. But pseudoscientific abuses of evolutionary theory do run rampant. Look at the history of eugenics, for example.

Again, just because evil, ignorant people misuse a scientific theory doesn’t invalidate the theory itself. Evolution can work in the natural world no matter how many idiots misappropriate and abuse its principles.
Nietzsche saw the implications of evolution, which was ultimately the death of God.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher who died in 1900, and you attribute more influence to him than he deserves. In a recent Gallup poll, 95 percent of Americans claimed to believe in God, although their convictions about the nature of this Supreme Being differ greatly. And it’s likely that 95 percent of these same believers have never read a word written by Nietzsche.
I think the death of God brought many undesirable consequences, and evolution in large part brought the death of God.
What planet do you live on? God never died! Fundamentalists of all stripes, whether Christian, Muslim, or Hindu, thrive and prosper all over the world. I live in the East Tennessee Bible belt and, let me tell you, if God ever died, none of the locals here got wind of it. You should read all the letters to the editor of our local newspaper. It’s full of evangelical proselytizing. Just yesterday, some nitwit wrote that God was going to bring wrathful judgment down on all the U.S. politicians trying to influence events in Israel because that nation was under God’s sovereign command.

Second, it’s a matter of opinion as to whether religion is a “civilizing influence.” Look at Iran, Northern Ireland, and Yugoslavia. Religious dissent in these countries is fatal.

Take the Thirty Years War for example. In 1618, war broke out in Germany between Protestants and Catholics. When Germany responded by outlawing Protestantism, armies from Norway and Denmark came to the aid of German Protestants, and this conflict later ensnared Sweden, France, and Spain. When it finally ended in 1648, the population in Germany plunged from 18 million to 4 million. Just think — this conflict pitted Christian against Christian, creationist against creationist, killing fourteen million people, which undermines the dogma that only “atheist evolutionists” slaughter people wholesale.

And for what? Religious hostility between Catholics and Protestants is still as widespread as ever. Six years ago, I heard Jimmy Swaggart claim that Mother Teresa was going to hell because of her dissenting views on grace versus works.

Third, evolution is completely silent about the topic of God. If evolution destroys people’s religious faith, it’s because their convictions are wobbly to begin with. If evolution threatens your God, then you must seriously reexamine the tenets of your faith.

Finally, let me assure you that as an agnostic, my life is not meaningless. I love my family, I love my work, and my life is more satisfactory now than during my former life as a fundamentalist. You don’t have to embrace religious faith to be happy. But for some, belief in God is the positive, productive force that drives them. I’ll never deny that.
This is not to say, as you seem to think (or maybe they even imply), that things like cruelty and promiscuity didn’t exist before 1860. Human nature is what it is, at all times and places, with or without religion. BUT, that civilizing influence of belief in God is powerful and crucial. Don’t you believe that?
For some people, yes definitely! For others, not especially. Christians claim that unconditional faith in Christ always works unconditionally. But I had a hard time convincing myself that invisible, incorporeal angels and demons were locked in an eternal struggle over my soul while surreptitiously influencing my behavior. For me, that notion didn’t make sense. Yet for others, that worldview is wholly rational!
As for evolution producing things like slavery, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anything more ridiculous; still, maybe they have a point.
No, they don’t have a point. Charles Darwin was an abolitionist who published “On the Origin of Species…” shortly before the U.S. Civil War started. Using the creationist’s slippery-slope logic, I could suggest that the Darwinian Revolution hastened slavery’s end in America.

Most Christians also forget that the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America, was established in 1845 for the sole purpose of preserving the institution of slavery by appealing to scriptural authority.

And, contrary to creationist claims, God did authorize slavery in the Old Testament, stating specifically:
Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.
— Leviticus 25:44-46
In his book, Hank Hanegraaff alleges that evolution is responsible for slavery without documenting a single example in support of that accusation, and then denies that the Bible condones slavery by performing exegetical gymnastics. I heartily recommend that book to anybody looking for deceit in defense of Christ.

Thanks again for writing. I always enjoy hearing from my readers.


Back to Fan Mail



The mission of the Skeptic Friends Network is to promote skepticism, critical thinking, science and logic as the best methods for evaluating all claims of fact, and we invite active participation by our members to create a skeptical community with a wide variety of viewpoints and expertise.


Home | Skeptic Forums | Skeptic Summary | The Kil Report | Creation/Evolution | Rationally Speaking | Skeptillaneous | About Skepticism | Fan Mail | Claims List | Calendar & Events | Skeptic Links | Book Reviews | Gift Shop | SFN on Facebook | Staff | Contact Us

Skeptic Friends Network
© 2008 Skeptic Friends Network Go To Top Of Page
This page was generated in 0.2 seconds.
Powered by @tomic Studio
Snitz Forums 2000