From Brendon Brewer at Quillette:
I first encountered the second law as a teenager, while reading an issue of the fundamentalist Christian magazine Creation, given to me by my grandmother. Since the article’s author wanted to argue against biological evolution, it claimed that the second law of thermodynamics implies evolution is impossible. Its definition of the second law was that disorder always increases with time. At first glance, this does seem incompatible with evolution by natural selection, which can lead to more complex, “better designed” organisms over time.3 At the time, I thought it was unlikely that mainstream biology would flagrantly contradict mainstream physics, so I remained sceptical of this argument, even though I couldn’t understand the counterarguments I found on the Internet at the time.
As soon as one hears that, be suspicious. The author is saying thathe needs Dawin to be right. Many of these people would trash falsifiability to make Darwin right. Even as top thinkers in biology are quietly departing from him.
The illusion that organisms are well-designed doesn’t have anything to do with heat being transferred.
That idea really bothers you, doesn’t it, Brewer?
If you really want to understand the issues read Michael Denton’s Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis (2016). But you probably don’t really want to understand the issues; you need to convince yourself that Grandma was wrong and Darwin was right.
So is there a version of the second law that relates to concepts more general than heat and temperature? It turns out the answer is yes, but I had to wait many years before I learned it. Surprisingly, it turns out this more general second law isn’t really a principle of physics, but rather a principle of reasoning. This more general version of the second law not only explains why the Clausius version is true, but gives us a tool for much more general questions, like the evolution question or Muse’s economic musings. It also appears in everyday life, and not just in situations involving heat and temperature. For example, why is darts difficult? Why can’t most men sing operatic high Cs? And why are political polls (somewhat) accurate?
Well, some people are incurably religious, and you have turned the 2nd law thermo into a religion. By the way, there is really no such thing as “somewhat accurate.”
Sure enough, Brewer discovers a “heterodox physicist E. T. Jaynes” (1922–1998) who changes his life and saves Darwin:
It’s worth thinking about whether the second law really does forbid evolution by natural selection. We don’t need to get particularly technical with the concept of entropy in order to have a go at that. All we need to ask is whether it’s plausible that a population of self-replicating organisms will tend to improve their survival and reproductive fitness over time.
The answer is yes, provided the mutation rate is sufficiently low. And if the organisms reproduce sexually, the population’s average fitness will increase even faster.8 This isn’t the Clausius version of the second law, but an example of the Jaynes one: of all the possible deaths, reproduction events, and mutations that could plausibly occur, most would lead to an increase in the average fitness of the population. The probability that a populations’ fitness would decrease is low because, for that to happen, the organisms with worse genomes would have to be reproducing more than the ones with better genomes. More.
Look, if all we are concerned with is “”plausible, all kinds of contradictory theories of the origin of life or of human beings or the human mind are merely plausible. Space aliens are at least plausible. It’s not a high bar, and it certainly isn’t science.
Put charitably, it’s not a high bar, and it certainly isn’t science.
At this point, it is just too true to be science. Science isn’t about fixing Grandma.
See also: Conclusions: What the fossils told us in their own words
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