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Granville Sewell responds to Sal Cordova

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[Granville Sewell also responds directly to Sal Cordova here.  Comments here are retained. We suggest you continue the discussion at Granville’s own post.]

5 Replies to “Granville Sewell responds to Sal Cordova

  1. 1
    johnnyb says:

    I would like to thank Sal, News, and Granville for making this blog excellent! If this is truly to be the place to serve the ID community, these are the kind of discussions that are great to have! I just wanted to thank everyone for shedding light rather than heat on this discussion. This is such a more civilized place to have these conversations than, well, I should say, other parts of the web 🙂

  2. 2
    Bilbo I says:

    Well they certainly have my attention, Johnny.

  3. 3
    Timaeus says:


    I’ve liked many of things you’ve written about ID in the past, but I don’t accept the premise implied in your question:

    “And if that does violate the second law, why does the rearrangement of atoms into brains, computers, nuclear power plants and libraries not violate it?”

    The problem lies with “the rearrangement of atoms into brains, computers, nuclear power plants.”

    We can divide the history of the universe into two parts:

    (a) The period of the alleged “molecules to man” transformation, from about 14 billion B.C. to about 1 million B.C. (depending on what definition of “man” you accept), when everything is produced by non-intelligent natural forces;

    (b) The period (in round figures from about 1 million B.C. onward) in which crude tools, fire, wheels, houses, farms, clocks, telescopes, vaccines, computers, nuclear power plants, etc. are produced by intelligent agents, i.e., man.

    The problem with your formulation is that it makes out that the Carl Sagans of the world are arguing that “molecules to nuclear power plants” is all one process. But that is not what they are arguing. They are arguing that “molecules to man” is all one process. After that, man, a being with intelligence and choice, who can deliberate before acting, and reason about the laws of nature, can then create things which molecules, cells, etc. could never create on their own.

    Your formulation conflates unintelligent evolution with design by intelligent agents, as if they are all one process.

    All you have to do to fix your argument is to drop the stuff about computers and nuclear power plants, and go back to basics, and show that your “second law of thermodynamics” — which as you use it is really not about thermodynamics, and therefore is better called something else to avoid confusion — makes molecules to man impossible, or wildly unlikely.

    As long as you insist on treating “molecules to nuclear power plants” as one long process of a naturalistic kind, you will get resistance, not only from people outside of ID, but even from people inside of ID, like Scordova and myself.

    The action of intelligent agents is clearly capable of marshalling forces and matter in a way that works (in the local context) against entropy. That is not contestable; it’s an observed fact. If you live in a house, you live in an intelligently designed product in which entropy was overcome at the local level. Nature would never have produced your house, but human beings can. So there is no “thermodynamic” problem explaining computers and nuclear power plants, given the existence of man. That’s why artificial products shouldn’t be dragged into the argument.

    The argument should focus on the first phase, getting from molecules to man. By trying to make your argument cover too much, you weaken it. By limiting it, you will strengthen it.

  4. 4
    scordova says:

    Obviously the origin and evolution of life do not violate the second law as stated in the early formulations you quote, but there are many formulations of this law, some more general than others.

    If one must pick and choose which version of the 2nd law to make certain points versus being able to use all widely accepted versions to arrive at the same conclusion, then this is all the more reason not to invoke the 2nd law!

    The versions I quoted are ones which will be found in many physics and mechanical engineering text books.

    I pointed out the notion of entropy has been generalized to go beyond thermal considerations, but this does not fit nicely in to the Clausius version of the 2nd law where microstates aren’t even modeled!

    So why argue from the 2nd law when there are question of even what versions should be in use? Better rigor could be achieved using statistical arguments, not thermodynamic arguments.

    I am puzzled as to why you did not link to any of my writings on this topic, so readers can see what I have written in my own words, and not have to depend on your summaries. For example:

    Why Tornados Running Backward Do Not Violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics

    which responds to many of your points.

    Incredibly, you didn’t even mention my Applied Mathematics Letters article, which has drawn praise from many good physicists.

    My sincere apologies for that oversight. I will make an update to my post to reflect your response.

    And in case I missed it, I didn’t find an explicit statement of which version of the 2nd law was being used to justify your argument. This would be helpful in determining which axioms are used to arrived at certain conclusions. I would expect to see something like:

    The second law says: “……”

    From the paper:

    Some other authors appear to feel a little silly suggesting that increases in entropy anywhere in the universe could
    compensate for decreases on Earth,

    The example of hot brick having their entropy reduced because of the increase in entropy in the cold brick with which it is in contact is an example of that very principle.

    A planet with mixed gases that cools and then become more ordered because its heat source dies out is an example in principle of entropy being reduced on a planet because it is increased elsewhere in the universe. Thus the Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen example are meant to convey this very real possibility of sponataneous entropy reduction at the local level.

    Now, am I saying tornadoes in a junk yard will make 747s? No, that is obvious from arguments that can be borrowed from statistical mechanics (the foundation of modern thermodynamics), but statistical mechanics is formally not the same as the 2nd law of thermodynamics. The 2nd law is theoretically justified by statistical mechanics, not the other way around.

    The issue is that classical thermodynamics deals with heat and temperature, the microstates of statistical mechanics go beyond thermodynamics and are more germane to ID like arguments.

    It would be a fair criticism that if the paper argues that then 2nd law results in certain claims, that the relevant version of the law (as quoted in a physics textbook) should be explicitly stated since the Clausius version seems hard pressed to make claims about microstates. This should be no surprise since early thermodynmics didn’t even invoke the notion of atoms and molecules, but was purely a phenomenological theory….

    If one wants to use a specialized version of the 2nd law, thats find, but lets not pretend every student of thermodynics will necessarilly know which version is actually being invoked.

    And ID proponents like myself would not feel comfortable if we can’t use every version of the 2nd law to arrive at the desired conclusion.

    Thank you for your response. I hope this discussion will be educational to all interested parties.

  5. 5
    cantor says:

    Well they certainly have my attention, Johnny.

    This sounds sarcastic. Is there some hidden meaning?

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