A couple of days ago Dr. Granville Sewell posted a video (essentially a summary of his 2013 Biocomplexity paper). Unfortunately, he left comments off (as usual), which prevents any discussion, so I wanted to start a thread in case anyone wants to discuss this issue.
Let me say a couple of things and then throw it open for comments.
1. I typically do not argue for design (or against the blind, undirected materialist creation story) by referencing the Second Law. I think there is too much misunderstanding surrounding the Second Law, and most discussions about the Second Law tend to generate more heat (pun intended) than light. Dr. Sewell’s experience demonstrates, I think, that it is an uphill battle to argue from the Second Law.
2. However, I agree with Dr. Sewell that many advocates of materialistic evolution have tried to support their case by arguing that the Earth is an open system, so I think his efforts to debunk that nonsense are worthwhile, and I applaud him for the effort. Personally, I am astounded that he has had to spend so much time on the issue, as the idea of life arising and evolution proceeding due to Earth being an open system is so completely off the mark and preposterous as to not even be worthy of much discussion. Yet it raises its head from time to time. Indeed, just two days ago on a thread here at UD, AVS made essentially this same argument. Thus, despite having to wade into such preposterous territory, I appreciate Dr. Sewell valiantly pressing forward.
3. Further, whatever weaknesses the discussion of the Second Law may have, I believe Dr. Sewell makes a compelling case that the Second Law has been, and often is, understood in the field as relating to more than just thermal entropy. He cites a number of examples and textbook cases of the Second Law being applied to a broader category of phenomena than just thermal flow, categories that could be applicable to designed objects. This question about the range of applicability of the Second Law appears to be a large part of the battle.
Specifically, whenever someone suggests that evolution should be scrutinized in light of the Second Law, the discussion gets shut down because “Hey, the Second Law only applies to heat/energy, not information or construction of functional mechanical systems, etc.” Yet, ironically, some of those same objectors will then refer to the “Earth is an open system, receiving heat and energy from the Sun” as an answer to the conundrum – thereby essentially invoking the Second Law to refute something to which they said the Second Law did not apply.
I’m interested in others’ thoughts.
Can the Second Law be appropriately applied to broader categories, to more than just thermal entropy? Can it be applied to information, to functional mechanical structures?
Is there an incoherence in saying the Second Law does not apply to OOL or evolution, but in the same breath invoking the “Earth is an open system” refrain?
What did others think of Dr. Sewell’s paper, and are there some avenues here that could be used productively to think about these issues?