Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

ANYTHING can happen in an open system—or a closed universe


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Under the influence of four fundamental, unintelligent, forces of physics alone, atoms spontaneously rearrange themselves into science texts, spaceships, high speed computers and the internet on a planet. Try to imagine something which would more obviously violate the second law of thermodynamics. You can’t? No problem, according to Isaac Asimov, Richard Darkins, Daniel Styer and many others, there is no conflict with the second law because our planet is an open system, it receives energy from the sun, and anything can happen in an open system, no matter how improbable, without violating this law, as long as something is happening outside our open system which, if reversed, would be even more improbable. (If you don’t believe the argument is this silly, read this .) If we were to watch a tornado running backward, as in this embedded video, turning rubble into houses and cars, exactly the same argument could be made to say that this would not violate the second law: tornados receive their energy from the sun, so any decrease in entropy a backward-running tornado could cause is easily compensated by increases outside our open system. So they really are arguing, as I wrote 10 years ago, that anything can happen in an open system, without violating the second law, even though the very equations of entropy change upon which this counter-intuitive “compensation” argument is based do not support this, they actually support the common sense interpretation, as shown here.)

OK, well suppose the laws of physics in our universe were themselves fined tuned for life, to an incredible degree of precision. Our universe is closed, if there is anything outside, it could never, by definition of “universe”, affect what happens here; at least now you cannot appeal to something happening “out there” to explain the appearance of design here, can you? You can?? Well, is there anything that could happen, on our Earth, or in our universe, that would falsify the conclusions of opponents of design like Asimov and Dawkins? If so, please tell me what it would take.

And I thought the reason intelligent design was not science is that it was “unfalsifiable.”

F/N 3: Before I deal with other matters for the day (including a budget debate) let me put on the table Denton's classic description of what is to be explained (cf vid clip here):
To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a thousand million times until it is twenty kilometers in diameter [[so each atom in it would be “the size of a tennis ball”] and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like London or New York. What we would then see would be an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design. On the surface of the cell we would see millions of openings, like the port holes of a vast space ship, opening and closing to allow a continual stream of materials to flow in and out. If we were to enter one of these openings we would find ourselves in a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity. We would see endless highly organized corridors and conduits branching in every direction away from the perimeter of the cell, some leading to the central memory bank in the nucleus and others to assembly plants and processing units. The nucleus itself would be a vast spherical chamber more than a kilometer in diameter, resembling a geodesic dome inside of which we would see, all neatly stacked together in ordered arrays, the miles of coiled chains of the DNA molecules. A huge range of products and raw materials would shuttle along all the manifold conduits in a highly ordered fashion to and from all the various assembly plants in the outer regions of the cell. We would wonder at the level of control implicit in the movement of so many objects down so many seemingly endless conduits, all in perfect unison. We would see all around us, in every direction we looked, all sorts of robot-like machines . . . . We would see that nearly every feature of our own advanced machines had its analogue in the cell: artificial languages and their decoding systems, memory banks for information storage and retrieval, elegant control systems regulating the automated assembly of components, error fail-safe and proof-reading devices used for quality control, assembly processes involving the principle of prefabrication and modular construction . . . . However, it would be a factory which would have one capacity not equaled in any of our own most advanced machines, for it would be capable of replicating its entire structure within a matter of a few hours . . . . Unlike our own pseudo-automated assembly plants, where external controls are being continually applied, the cell's manufacturing capability is entirely self-regulated . . . . [[Denton, Michael, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Adler, 1986, pp. 327 – 331. This work is a classic that is still well worth reading. Emphases added. (NB: The 2009 work by Stephen Meyer of Discovery Institute, Signature in the Cell, brings this classic argument up to date. The main thesis of the book is that: "The universe is comprised of matter, energy, and the information that gives order [[better: functional organisation] to matter and energy, thereby bringing life into being. In the cell, information is carried by DNA, which functions like a software program. The signature in the cell is that of the master programmer of life." Given the sharp response that has provoked, the onward e-book responses to attempted rebuttals, Signature of Controversy, would also be excellent, but sobering and sometimes saddening, reading.) ]
We must not allow ourselves to be distracted by red herrings, strawmen and ad hominems. Unless and until the evolutionary materialists, on repeatable empirical observation, can present a cogent scientific -- as opposed to question-begging a priori materialist ideology dressed up in the holy lab coat (and I don't know of any expensive lab coats) -- explanation of the credible origin of such on forces of blind chance and equally blind mechanical necessity acting in plausible pre-life environments, the only empirically warranted explanation for such functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information [FSCO/I] is, and will remain, design. KF kairosfocus
F/N 2: Onlookers, you will see from the App D clip, that Dr Sewell raises in outline the key issues regarding entropy and the second law that I have taken more time to discuss. The notion that Dr Sewell does not understand the dynamics of entropy and linked issues (such as the source of complex, functionally specific organisation and associated information) does not stand scrutiny in light of the wider frame of material facts. Playing at derfinitionitis games in that context stands exposed as a strawman tactic. kairosfocus
F/N: You have also had a relevant discussion of what entropy is and why it is significant on the table for days now, but have studiously ignored, Kindly, cf above. kairosfocus
CH: Pardon directness, but you are continuing to show us how you are playing rhetorical games. You have in front of you, above, exactly the sort of analysis you claim not to find (including on the link between entropy and information that you seem to not know about, never mind the work of Brillouin, Jaynes, Lewis and others), but want to take excuses to attack someone who only occasionally posts at UD, and who is obviously busy elsewhere; remember, even I had to wait till the weekend before I could find time to take the matter up in more specific details, once you studiously ignored my always linked note. In addition, you do not seem to have taken the effort to think through Sewell's key point, made quite some years ago now. Let me clip his appendix D in his peer reviewed text on differential equations (as can be seen at point 7 in App 1, my always linked):
. . . The second law is all about probability, it uses probability at the microscopic level to predict macroscopic change [--> Onlookers, notice the bridge to the underlying micro view, as I discuss]: the reason carbon distributes itself more and more uniformly in an insulated solid is, that is what the laws of probability predict when diffusion alone is operative. [ --> diffusion is why an ink drop in a beaker will easily spread out, but will not in our observation re-assemble the drop. Cf my thought exercise at App i, point 6 the always linked, here, and note above from my more complete discussion] The reason natural forces may turn a spaceship, or a TV set, or a computer into a pile of rubble but not vice-versa is also probability: of all the possible arrangements atoms could take, only a very small percentage could fly to the moon and back, or receive pictures and sound from the other side of the Earth, or add, subtract, multiply and divide real numbers with high accuracy. The second law of thermodynamics is the reason that computers will degenerate into scrap metal over time, and, in the absence of intelligence, the reverse process will not occur; and it is also the reason that animals, when they die, decay into simple organic and inorganic compounds, and, in the absence of intelligence, the reverse process will not occur. The discovery that life on Earth developed through evolutionary "steps," coupled with the observation that mutations and natural selection -- like other natural forces -- can cause (minor) change, is widely accepted in the scientific world as proof that natural selection -- alone among all natural forces -- can create order out of disorder, and even design human brains, with human consciousness. Only the layman seems to see the problem with this logic. In a recent Mathematical Intelligencer article ["A Mathematician's View of Evolution," The Mathematical Intelligencer 22, number 4, 5-7, 2000] I asserted that the idea that the four fundamental forces of physics alone could rearrange the fundamental particles of Nature into spaceships, nuclear power plants, and computers, connected to laser printers, CRTs, keyboards and the Internet, appears to violate the second law of thermodynamics in a spectacular way.1 . . . . What happens in a[n isolated] system depends on the initial conditions; what happens in an open system depends on the boundary conditions as well. As I wrote in "Can ANYTHING Happen in an Open System?", "order can increase in an open system, not because the laws of probability are suspended when the door is open, but simply because order may walk in through the door [--> Of course, order here includes more particularly and in light of context functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information] .... If we found evidence that DNA, auto parts, computer chips, and books entered through the Earth's atmosphere at some time in the past, then perhaps the appearance of humans, cars, computers, and encyclopedias on a previously barren planet could be explained without postulating a violation of the second law here . . . But if all we see entering is radiation and meteorite fragments, it seems clear that what is entering through the boundary cannot explain the increase in order observed here." Evolution is a movie running backward, that is what makes it special. THE EVOLUTIONIST, therefore, cannot avoid the question of probability by saying that anything can happen in an open system, he is finally forced to argue that it only seems extremely improbable, but really isn't, that atoms would rearrange themselves into spaceships and computers and TV sets . . .
This discussion was put on the table long since, and quite properly points the interlocutor to the pivotal issue that has to be addressed. It has little to do with whether energy and/or mass flows can make different things happen and everything to do with the implications of relative statistical weights of clusters of microstates accessible to systems of interest. As the linked thought exercise on diffusion vs programmed action shows, the scattered at random states so overwhelm the clumped ones that a set of components under the spontaneous action of diffusion will not in our credible observability on the gamut of the observable cosmos, give rise to a clumped state from a diffused one, much less a functionally organised complex one. But, inject some programmed nanobots to do co-ordinated, informationally driven, purposeful work, and we are at once in a completely different situation. Work, of course here denoting ordered, forced motion. When physical work is intelligently organised according to a plan or program, the origin of complex, functionally specific organisation is no more a mystery. Save, of course that what intelligence is and how it works -- despite our intimate familiarity from our experience -- is indeed a mystery. So, Sewell's remarks are apt, and are well informed. As has been the case since 2000, 12 years ago now. But, those in ideological captivity to a system of thought that evidently cannot stand up to what happens with an ink drop in a beaker of water, have spent over a decade trying to dismiss what should have been obvious from the beginning, once it was seen that cell based life works on a complex organised system of nanomachines that use codes, algorithms and all sorts of ingenious artifices. All that has changed recently is that prof Sewell has now shown what such a movie running backwards would look like. So, on the pattern of your behaviour in response to the opportunity to actually address matters on the merits -- ducked, repeatedly -- on fair comment, you are obviously more interested in debate tactics and strawman- ad hominem point scoring than dealing with the issue on its merits. Please, do better than that. G'day. KF kairosfocus
Too busy? Dr Sewell isnt too busy. He's bluffing Dr Sewell DID respond to me, when I asked him to define entropy. In fact, he responded twice. His first response wasa an ad-hominem. The second was an anecdote about his skills in satire. But no defintion of entropy. This is his pattern. Note that Dr Sewell did not define entropy, or state the second law, in his paper about entropy and the second law. He's not too busy. He's got the time. What he hasnt got is the cards. chris haynes
Too busy? Dr Sewell isnt too busy. He's bluffing Dr Sewell DID respond to me, when I asked him to define entropy. In fact, he responded twice. His first response wasa an ad-hominem. The second was an anecdote about his skills in satire. But no defintion of entropy. This is his pattern. Note that Dr Sewell did not define entropy, or state the second law, in his paper about entropy and the second law. He's not too busy. He's got the time. What he hasnt got is the cards. chris haynes
Onlookers: If one has something serious to say, s/he generally says it. Absent that, it is all too common to see rhetorical games being played to distract attention from that little problem. It seems that here endeth the story. KF kairosfocus
CH: You are playing an all too familiar rhetorical game. You plainly cannot address the evidence before you so you have picked on someone too busy to take you on step by step to pretend that there is no se5rious answer to what you ar5e saying. Thanks for letting us know what you are. Good day. KF kairosfocus
I called Dr Sewell’s bluff, and unhappily, it looks like he’s bluffing. He claims that entropy applies to information and that evolution violates the second law. So I’ve asked repeatedly for a clear definition of entropy and a statement of the second law. He has responded twice, first with invective and then with anecdote, but not with the requested definition. That suggests to me that he’s a charlatan. Dr Sewell uses arcane formulas that purport to describe entropy in information. Entropy is a property that has units of Btu’s and degrees of temperature. I’d like to understand how these units relate to information. So I was most interested in hearing just what Sewell’s definition of entropy was. Unhappily, he won’t give it. Perhaps then, Dr Sewell is putting us on, and his formulas are just hocus pocus. I thank the other person for his 7 pages of general knowledge. Perhaps some found it informative. As a Creationist, I already know about the nonsense of origin of life theories, and of the informational roadblock that faces the evolutionist account. If it was intended to be a smokescreen for his inability to offer the requested definition of entropy, I’m sorry to say it didn’t fly. What I am objecting to here are those, like Dr Sewell, who claim to have a well founded theory of information, order and how it relates to biology. They don’t. It seems that our understanding of these concepts are where physics itself was in Carnot’s time. We lack even the language needed to describe our concepts. We should be doing the work that the science establishment won’t. chris haynes
BA: The more polished form of the lecture, I see. Thanks. KF kairosfocus
CH: I have looked back, and noticed your remarks in no 1 above (in part repeated at 35 above) that show that you think entropy is a "simple" concept and that you deplore the link some have made to information (and by extension, organisation as opposed to order). Unfortunately, both responses on your part are diagnostic signs. First, pardon directness but entropy is not merely reducible to "whatever d'Q/T means so shut up and calculate" or the near equivalent. That would be rather like thinking:
F = ma or E = mc^2 or V = I Z or E-Photoelectron LT/= h*f - w or 1 + e^i*pi = 0
. . . are "simple" so shut up and calculate. These are all fairly simple mathematical expressions, but they are deeply insightful and conceptually rich. Lo math, hi concept, if you will. The real work lurks in the significance of the symbols and how they are arranged, and how we got there, with what warrant. The concept that while energy is conserved, quality of energy is being degraded towards cosmological heat death is just the first sign that something significant lurks. Similarly, we see the related idea that entropy gives us time's arrow; which is a big part of prof Sewell's point on movies running backwards. Such things also have profound implications for the nature, origin and contingency of our observed cosmos. (I need not elaborate on the onward worldview issues that raises.) There is, obviously, an empirically warranted and analytically explicable strongly trending direction of spontaneous change [up to room for fluctuations), and that is deeply connected to the microscopic roots of entropy. You will doubtless have seen my remark at 34 above, unless you are indulging MF's deliberate ignoring tactic:
the number of ways mass and energy can be arranged in the sun at microscopic level consistent with its bulk level state
This is the heart of what entropy measures, and what 2LOT is about. In my always linked, App 1 (where you and others have been directed), I noted:
2 a] Clausius is the founder of the 2nd law, and the first standard example of an isolated system -- one that allows neither energy nor matter to flow in or out -- is instructive, given the "closed" subsystems [i.e. allowing energy to pass in or out] in it. Pardon the substitute for a real diagram, for now: Isol System: | | (A, at Thot) --> d'Q, heat --> (B, at T cold) | | b] Now, we introduce entropy change dS >/= d'Q/T . . . "Eqn" A.1 c] So, dSa >/= -d'Q/Th, and dSb >/= +d'Q/Tc, where Th > Tc d] That is, for system, dStot >/= dSa + dSb >/= 0, as Th > Tc . . . "Eqn" A.2 e] But, observe: the subsystems A and B are open to energy inflows and outflows, and the entropy of B RISES DUE TO THE IMPORTATION OF RAW ENERGY. f] The key point is that when raw energy enters a body, it tends to make its entropy rise . . . [following is a discussion on just what "raw energy" means using a marbles in a box model of the microscopic picture of matter, including the roots of diffusion]
Going on, I added:
3] So far we have worked out of a more or less classical view of the subject. But, to explore such a question further, we need to look more deeply at the microscopic level. Happily, there is a link from macroscopic thermodynamic concepts to the microscopic, molecular view of matter, as worked out by Boltzmann and others, leading to the key equation: s = k ln W . . . Eqn.A.3 That is, entropy of a specified macrostate [in effect, macroscopic description or specification] is a constant times a log measure of the number of ways matter and energy can be distributed at the micro-level consistent with that state [i.e. the number of associated microstates; aka "the statistical weight of the macrostate," aka "thermodynamic probability"]. The point is, that there are as a rule a great many ways for energy and matter to be arranged at micro level relative to a given observable macro-state. That is, there is a "loss of information" issue here on going from specific microstate to a macro-level description, with which many microstates may be equally compatible. Thence, we can see that if we do not know the microstates specifically enough, we have to more or less treat the micro-distributions of matter and energy as random, leading to acting as though they are disordered . . .
Thus, we can see also:
4] Yavorski and Pinski, in the textbook Physics, Vol I [MIR, USSR, 1974, pp. 279 ff.], summarise the key implication of the macro-state and micro-state view well: as we consider a simple model of diffusion, let us think of ten white and ten black balls in two rows in a container. There is of course but one way in which there are ten whites in the top row; the balls of any one colour being for our purposes identical. But on shuffling, there are 63,504 ways to arrange five each of black and white balls in the two rows, and 6-4 distributions may occur in two ways, each with 44,100 alternatives. So, if we for the moment see the set of balls as circulating among the various different possible arrangements at random, and spending about the same time in each possible state on average, the time the system spends in any given state will be proportionate to the relative number of ways that state may be achieved. Immediately, we see that the system will gravitate towards the cluster of more evenly distributed states. In short, we have just seen that there is a natural trend of change at random, towards the more thermodynamically probable macrostates, i.e the ones with higher statistical weights. So "[b]y comparing the [thermodynamic] probabilities of two states of a thermodynamic system, we can establish at once the direction of the process that is [spontaneously] feasible in the given system. It will correspond to a transition from a less probable to a more probable state." [p. 284.] This is in effect the statistical form of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Thus, too, the behaviour of the Clausius isolated system above is readily understood: importing d'Q of random molecular energy so far increases the number of ways energy can be distributed at micro-scale in B, that the resulting rise in B's entropy swamps the fall in A's entropy. Moreover, given that FSCI-rich micro-arrangements are relatively rare in the set of possible arrangements, we can also see why it is hard to account for the origin of such states by spontaneous processes in the scope of the observable universe. (Of course, since it is as a rule very inconvenient to work in terms of statistical weights of macrostates [i.e W], we instead move to entropy, through s = k ln W. Part of how this is done can be seen by imagining a system in which there are W ways accessible, and imagining a partition into parts 1 and 2. W = W1*W2, as for each arrangement in 1 all accessible arrangements in 2 are possible and vice versa, but it is far more convenient to have an additive measure, i.e we need to go to logs. The constant of proportionality, k, is the famous Boltzmann constant and is in effect the universal gas constant, R, on a per molecule basis, i.e we divide R by the Avogadro Number, NA, to get: k = R/NA. The two approaches to entropy, by Clausius, and Boltzmann, of course, correspond. In real-world systems of any significant scale, the relative statistical weights are usually so disproportionate, that the classical observation that entropy naturally tends to increase, is readily apparent.) 5] The above sort of thinking has also led to the rise of a school of thought in Physics -- note, much spoken against in some quarters, but I think they clearly have a point -- that ties information and thermodynamics together . . .
The last point speaks to your dismissal of the link between entropy and information. On that I suggest you read Robertson's Statistical Thermophysics, which gives a useful introduction. But even before going there, I draw your attention to this, from Wiki (as I discuss in Section A the same note):
At an everyday practical level the links between information entropy and thermodynamic entropy are not close. Physicists and chemists are apt to be more interested in changes in entropy as a system spontaneously evolves away from its initial conditions, in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics, rather than an unchanging probability distribution. And, as the numerical smallness of Boltzmann's constant kB indicates, the changes in S / kB for even minute amounts of substances in chemical and physical processes represent amounts of entropy which are so large as to be right off the scale compared to anything seen in data compression or signal processing. But, at a multidisciplinary level, connections can be made between thermodynamic and informational entropy, although it took many years in the development of the theories of statistical mechanics and information theory to make the relationship fully apparent. In fact, in the view of Jaynes (1957), thermodynamics should be seen as an application of Shannon's information theory: the thermodynamic entropy is interpreted as being an estimate of the amount of further Shannon information needed to define the detailed microscopic state of the system, that remains uncommunicated by a description solely in terms of the macroscopic variables of classical thermodynamics. For example, adding heat to a system increases its thermodynamic entropy because it increases the number of possible microscopic states that it could be in, thus making any complete state description longer. (See article: maximum entropy thermodynamics.[Also,another article remarks: >>in the words of G. N. Lewis writing about chemical entropy in 1930, "Gain in entropy always means loss of information, and nothing more" . . . in the discrete case using base two logarithms, the reduced Gibbs entropy is equal to the minimum number of yes/no questions that need to be answered in order to fully specify the microstate, given that we know the macrostate. >>]) Maxwell's demon can (hypothetically) reduce the thermodynamic entropy of a system by using information about the states of individual molecules; but, as Landauer (from 1961) and co-workers have shown, to function the demon himself must increase thermodynamic entropy in the process, by at least the amount of Shannon information he proposes to first acquire and store; and so the total entropy does not decrease (which resolves the paradox) . . .
In short, it seems that your paradigm needs some updating. And of course, where this ties into the design issue is in the matter of the alleged spontaneous and cumulative, chance and blind necessity driven origin of life. It is commonly alleged that in effect there are no entropy based barriers to the spontaneous organisation of self replicating forms that can carry out metabolic processes, which can then by chance variation and natural selection, give rise to code based algorithmic self replicating cells thence the world of life. Once we can get the heat flows right so compensating entropy changes elsewhere make up for the self organisation. Pardon my direct response: outdated, and in urgent need of correction. I will further explain. You are not trying to explain low-information order like crystallisation, or the like. You are addressing highly informational functional organisation based on algorithms, stored digitally coded information and associated implementing machines, using informational polymers as nanomachines. Notice Orgel on the subject as long ago as 1973:
. . . In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity. [[The Origins of Life (John Wiley, 1973), p. 189.]
And Wicken in 1979:
‘Organized’ systems are to be carefully distinguished from ‘ordered’ systems. Neither kind of system is ‘random,’ but whereas ordered systems are generated according to simple algorithms [[i.e. “simple” force laws acting on objects starting from arbitrary and common- place initial conditions] and therefore lack complexity, organized systems must be assembled element by element according to an [[originally . . . ] external ‘wiring diagram’ with a high information content . . . Organization, then, is functional complexity and carries information. It is non-random by design or by selection, rather than by the a priori necessity of crystallographic ‘order.’ [[“The Generation of Complexity in Evolution: A Thermodynamic and Information-Theoretical Discussion,” Journal of Theoretical Biology, 77 (April 1979): p. 353, of pp. 349-65. (Emphases and notes added. Nb: “originally” is added to highlight that for self-replicating systems, the blue print can be built-in.)]
(Yes, these "heretical notions" are NOT the product of the fevered imaginations of "those IDiots" of design thought; as we are so often dismissed by those who are ever so eager to imagine they have cornered the market on scientific truth, knowledge and even intelligence and sanity; we have not forgotten "ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked." And yes, that sort of emotively loaded language should tell us that a lot more than mere science is at stake here. But, back on topic: concepts and observations that such things as complex specified information and functional specification of complex information-rich organisation are characteristics of life that mark the living cell as distinct from either the crystals or random mixes, are NOT novelties recently introduced by those dubious "IDiots," but instead they are the natural outcome of the challenge posed by the living cell for OOL studies; and that was seen by leading researchers 30 - 40 years ago. CSI and FSCI are real, and need to be reasonably explained in a world where a statistical view of thermodynamics tells us something serious about the nature of entropy and about the reason why it tends to increase, a tendency that -- once we look at the molecular level -- is actually not determined by whether or not a system is open to energy or mass inflows, but is driven by the fundamental issue of the extent of freedom of arrangement of mass and energy at micro level consistent with a macro-observable state.) At no point has there been observed any case that would lead us to imagine that the sort of FSCO/I we routinely see in the living cell could credibly arise by in effect lucky noise in some warm little electrified pond or the like. (This is a "show me" case similar to how you would react if someone presented you with a claimed perpetual motion machine of the second kind. You are arguing for spontaneous generation of metabolising and self replicating systems using algorithmic coded information and associated execution machines at molecular level in the teeth of the overwhelming trend of the dynamics at work, so kindly SHOW US, per observation. The sort of a priori materialism that says, with Lewontin:
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute
. . . is simply not good enough, by a very long shot. [Cf here on in context to deal with the all too common and utterly telling tendentious false accusation that this clip is cited dishonestly out of context.]) The basic problem is that at molecular level, you are asking for the un-weaving of diffusion, which is of course the pivotal point in Sewell's case. The number of scattered- in- no- particular- order possibilities so overwhelms the vastly fewer in proportion number that are clumped that we have no reason to expect to ever observe the spontaneous assembly of the relevant informational polymers, much less their further functional organisation into a metabolic, self replicating automaton that implements a kinematic von Neumann self replicator based on stored coded information. Time's arrow strikes hard and sure, with all the force of the self same diffusion that makes an ink drop dissipate in a beaker, and will not in our observation cause it to re-form. Do not expect us to believe in the spontaneous un-weaving of diffusion on that magnitude, absent empirical demonstration. No wonder Shapiro observed (in his Sci Am article), of the genes first school of thought [in words that also inadvertently apply to his own metabolism first school]:
RNA's building blocks, nucleotides, are complex substances as organic molecules go. They each contain a sugar, a phosphate and one of four nitrogen-containing bases as sub-subunits. Thus, each RNA nucleotide contains 9 or 10 carbon atoms, numerous nitrogen and oxygen atoms and the phosphate group, all connected in a precise three-dimensional pattern. Many alternative ways exist for making those connections, yielding thousands of plausible nucleotides that could readily join in place of the standard ones but that are not represented in RNA. That number is itself dwarfed by the hundreds of thousands to millions of stable organic molecules of similar size that are not nucleotides . . . . The RNA nucleotides are familiar to chemists because of their abundance in life and their resulting commercial availability. In a form of molecular vitalism, some scientists have presumed that nature has an innate tendency to produce life's building blocks preferentially, rather than the hordes of other molecules that can also be derived from the rules of organic chemistry. This idea drew inspiration from . . . Stanley Miller. He applied a spark discharge to a mixture of simple gases that were then thought to represent the atmosphere of the early Earth. ["My" NB: Subsequent research has sharply undercut this idea, a point that is unfortunately not accurately reflected in Sci Am's caption on a picture of the Miller-Urey apparatus, which in part misleadingly reads, over six years after Jonathan Wells' Icons of Evolution was published: The famous Miller-Urey experiment showed how inanimate nature could have produced amino acids in Earth's primordial atmosphere . . .] Two amino acids of the set of 20 used to construct proteins were formed in significant quantities, with others from that set present in small amounts . . . more than 80 different amino acids . . . have been identified as components of the Murchison meteorite, which fell in Australia in 1969 . . . By extrapolation of these results, some writers have presumed that all of life's building could be formed with ease in Miller-type experiments and were present in meteorites and other extraterrestrial bodies. This is not the case. A careful examination of the results of the analysis of several meteorites led the scientists who conducted the work to a different conclusion: inanimate nature has a bias toward the formation of molecules made of fewer rather than greater numbers of carbon atoms, and thus shows no partiality in favor of creating the building blocks of our kind of life . . . I have observed a similar pattern in the results of many spark discharge experiments . . . . no nucleotides of any kind have been reported as products of spark discharge experiments or in studies of meteorites, nor have the smaller units (nucleosides) that contain a sugar and base but lack the phosphate. To rescue the RNA-first concept from this otherwise lethal defect, its advocates have created a discipline called prebiotic synthesis. They have attempted to show that RNA and its components can be prepared in their laboratories in a sequence of carefully controlled reactions, normally carried out in water at temperatures observed on Earth . . . . Unfortunately, neither chemists nor laboratories were present on the early Earth to produce RNA . . . . The analogy that comes to mind is that of a golfer, who having played a golf ball through an 18-hole course, then assumed that the ball could also play itself around the course in his absence. He had demonstrated the possibility of the event; it was only necessary to presume that some combination of natural forces (earthquakes, winds, tornadoes and floods, for example) could produce the same result, given enough time. No physical law need be broken for spontaneous RNA formation to happen, but the chances against it are so immense, that the suggestion implies that the non-living world had an innate desire to generate RNA. The majority of origin-of-life scientists who still support the RNA-first theory either accept this concept (implicitly, if not explicitly) or feel that the immensely unfavorable odds were simply overcome by good luck.
Orgel's posthumous rejoinder was much in the same vein. In short, we have had mutual ruin of the metabolism and genes first schools of thought on OOL. The only empirically substantiated cause of functionally specific complex organisation and associated information, especially where codes and algorithms are in play, is intelligence. With billions of instances in play, including the posts in this thread and the PCs etc we are viewing them on. In addition, we have excellent reason to see that the underlying clusters of configurations analysis easily explains why that is so. So, we have every epistemic right to infer that such FSCO/I is an empirically reliable sign of intelligent cause. Appeals to materialistic probability miracles and hoped for but unsubstantiated processes of spontaneous organisation built into the laws and materials of nature, do not adequately answer to that. Indeed, have materialists ever seriously thought about -- given just how fine tuned the physics of the cosmos is relative to requisites of C-chemistry aqueous medium cell based life -- what it would mean if we were to discover that built into the laws and materials of our cosmos, is a program that creates life? That would be as strong an evidence of cosmological design to create life as we could ask for. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
kf, this lecture on Euler was at Harvard, and is of better quality as far as the slides go: A Tribute to Euler - William Dunham http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEWj93XjON0 bornagain77
Indeed. kairosfocus
Yes kf, It is really a very enjoyable lecture is it not? bornagain77
Nice, BA! kairosfocus
kf and Dr. Sewell, you may appreciate this video An Evening with Leonhard Euler - video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-DV26x6n_Q bornagain77
CH: Kindly see just above your comment. (and, for more cf here on/a>.) KF kairosfocus
Thanks to Dr Sewell for his response. Once again I challenge him to define entropy, a term he often uses. I suggested this: Entropy is a property of a system, whose value is equal to the lost work, divided by the temperature of the system used to define the lost work. Based on that as the sun burns, its entropy does not stay the same, as Dr Sewell claims, it decreases. I await his defintion. In regard to the second law, let me give the statement developed by Creationist scientists: "Stable states exist". And how do creationists define a "stable state"? "A system is in a stable state if it is hopelessly improbabale that it can attain a macroscopicaly different state wihtout a finite and permanent change in the environment." Based on these statements, evolution has NOT been shown to violate the second law. Those who claim it does, like Dr. Sewell, should first give a statement of the second law. I challenge him to do so. chris haynes
F/N: When the sun radiates away an increment of heat d'Q,that loss means a reduction in the number of ways mass and energy can be arranged in the sun at microscopic level consistent with its bulk level state. When that increment lands in a little pond here on earth, it ADDS to the number of ways that mass and energy can be arranged at micro level, consistent with the state of the pond. As a basic analysis, the net entropy change of the cosmos will face as a lower bound: dS_univ >/= -d'Q/T_sun + d'Q/T_pond (And yes I am simply restating Clausius, that Bible-thumping Fundy redneck from Hoot'n Holler U. NOT.) Since the pond will be cooler than the sun, dS will be positive. And that is the basic point of the second law. The real issue at stake lies in the implications, especially for warm little ponds alleged to hold prebiotic soups. Namely, is it a reasonable expectation for a cluster of highly specific macromolecules to SPONTANEOUSLY form, fold to shape and so arrange themselves across time as to carry out the metabolic and replicational functions of life? That is essentially what chemical evolution models are trying to make seem plausible. The first problem, is that the required clumping requires unweaving diffusion. And, it is compounded by a need for rather specific chaining of monomers in the macromolecules. all of this is highly endothermic and vulnerable to cross-reactions and disintegrative reactions. We need not harp on chirality, other than to say that thermal and concentration [Le Chetalier's principle on relieving constraints) forces will form racemic forms, and wrong handed molecules will not fold right. All of this boils down to saying that the overwhelming numbers of ways to arrange components are those not consistent with life function. That is the direction of spontaneous change is strongly away from the direction needed to spontaneously form life. So all the handwaving about how once there is an energy flow and/or a mass flow, so long as there is a compensating increase in entropy elsewhere, there is no thermodynamic challenge to spontaneous formation of life is a snow job. The thermodynamics, once we look at the micro picture, point strongly away from the spontaneous formation of life by undirected processes. There is only one observed and empirically confirmed source of complex specific organisation to achieve function. Intelligence acting in accord with a pattern or plan. Intelligence that uses energy converting devices that are controlled by information to create organisation to achieve function. Of course there is an exhausting of heat and waste that leads to the meeting of the constraints of the thermodynamics, but that is not where the plan that directs the energy conversion into constructive organising work comes from. Trying to distill complex organisation for bio function out of molecular noise is an appeal to materialist magic. KF kairosfocus
Awaiting Chris's reply to Granville (gets the popcorn out) PeterJ
Dr Sewell calculates, based on God-knows-what, “the decrese in entropy” caused by “13 straight royal flushes”. He says its “less than….2.65*10^{-21} joules/degree Kelvin!!! Okay, I’m a dumbbell Creationist. But really,” joules”? and “degees kelvin”? That’s a bit much. In a hand of cards, what is the energy that those joules realte to? And evidently the entropy of my royal straight flush wont be the same in Decemeber as it was in May. If it is, what are those degrees kelvin all about? If it isnt, how does the temperature affect a hand of cards
Chris, If you had read my link above: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/10/more_philosophical_than_scient052441.html you would have realized that my attempt to calculate the entropy of a poker hand was a parady of Daniel Styer's AJP article, in which he uses the same formula to calculate the entropy, in joules/degree Kelvin, associated with evolution. The parody was intended to show how silly that article was; I'm glad you got the point. Granville Sewell
Chris, I believe you mean the "order" of the sun is decreasing. or the entropy of the sun is "increasing." correct? For those who believe that the theory of evolution does not defy the 2nd law, please state if you believe that enough tornadoes over enough time would create something like a 747. And if not, why not? Collin
Dr. Sewell, The formula you're using for ΔS is fine for systems studied in a Thermo course, but it's certainly not the only one used in chemistry. If it were, then endothermic reactions would violate the 2nd Law. The sun is undergoing a massive exothermic reaction which releases far more energy than it would if the reactants combined chemically. If, as you say, the sun's temperature is constant, then all of that energy is escaping into space. I don't see how that could not entail an entropy decrease in the sun. I wasn't criticizing your quoting of Asimov -- I was responding to your first sentence in comment #3. Regardless, I regret bringing it up as now it seems like a tempest in a teapot now. I apologize for that. R0bb
Thanks to Dr. Sewell for showing, with such clarity, that he doesnt know what he is talking about. His discussion of the entropy of the sun says it all. Just look at this this: "But it (the sun) is not cooling, so like the Earth, the average temperature is approximately constant, so the integral of Q_t/U is approximately zero, and so it’s “thermal” entropy would seem to be pretty much constant, if we use the usual definition. Well, maybe Dr Sewell's "usual defintion" But in physics, the usual defintion of entropy is based on the concept of "lost work" Lost work is a property of a system equal to the energy, minus the "avialable work" That is, the maximum work the system could produce coming to equilibrium with an external reservoir. Thus Entropy is defined as: A property of a system, whose change is equal to the change in lost work, divided by the temperature of the reservior used to define the lost work. As it burns, the sun's energy is decreasing. The available work is decreasing too, but more slowly than the energy. So using the defintion of entropy from physics, the entropy of the sun is decreasing. And, Dr Sewell tells us, there "are a lot of other types of “entropy", although he doesnt say what they are, much less define them. Take cards. Evidently he thinks they have entropy. How is it defined? What is the "lost work" in a hand of cards? Dr Sewell calculates, based on God-knows-what, "the decrese in entropy" caused by "13 straight royal flushes". He says its "less than....2.65*10^{-21} joules/degree Kelvin!!! Okay, I'm a dumbbell Creationist. But really," joules"? and "degees kelvin"? That's a bit much. In a hand of cards, what is the energy that those joules realte to? And evidently the entropy of my royal straight flush wont be the same in Decemeber as it was in May. If it is, what are those degrees kelvin all about? If it isnt, how does the temperature affect a hand of cards? chris haynes
While I agree with Mr. Sewell, I would like to play devil's advocate a little bit. Bruce, in response to your comment about the airplane, I would state that in the creation of the airplane the designer and manufacturer create a certain amount of entropy. Theoretically it should be possible to measure the entropy created and the order created and compare it to see if there has been a net increase in order. Here's an example: a refrigerator creates order by separating hot air from cold air. But it creates greater disorder overall by transforming electrical energy to heat energy. Similarly, the designer of and airplane, when he uses his brain, transfers chemical energy into lower order energy (such as heat). The process of creating the airplane also transfers a lot of electrical, chemical and mechanical energy to heat, possibly leading to a net increase in entropy. So while we have a lot of order concentrated in an airplane, it has taken a lot of entropy to get to that point. How do we know that there wouldn't be less entropy had life never existed in the first place? Maybe there would be a lot more sunlight in the universe had earth never even existed. Sunlight is high order energy, afterall. And our bodies create the lowest order energy (heat) all the time by transfering chemical and electrical energy into heat energy to do our work. Collin
Is a nail without a head still a nail? Or would that (a nail without a head) violate the second law of carpentry? Joe
niwrad at #2 Nail. Head. This is exactly the case in the biological systems which are at the heart of this argument. It's not the radiation of heat at issue, it is the rise of recorded information. Upright BiPed
Robb, It's true that when energy is transferred from the hot sun to the cooler Earth (or the rest of the universe), that contributes to a decrease in thermal entropy on the sun, and an increase on Earth. But that is not the same as saying the thermal entropy on the sun is decreasing as a whole, or the thermal entropy on the Earth is increasing. In the case of the Earth, the average temperature is nearly constant (because it is also radiating heat out), so the integral of Q_t/U is approximately zero. In the case of the sun, if there were no internal, thermonuclear, generation of heat, then certainly the net thermal entropy on the sun would be decreasing as it cools. But it is not cooling, so like the Earth, the average temperature is approximately constant, so the integral of Q_t/U is approximately zero, and so it's "thermal" entropy would seem to be pretty much constant, if we use the usual definition. In any case, there are a lot of other types of "entropy", the question of whether or not "total entropy" (as if all types were interconvertible) on the sun is increasing is not really a meaningful question. In any case, it is not only Asimov who makes the argument that "increases" in entropy on the sun compensate decreases due to evolution, that is a pretty common argument, for example see http://physics.csustan.edu/ian/howthingswork/topics/temperature/thermolaws/Evolution.htm The only place in my AML article where there is any mention of entropy on the sun increasing is in the Asimov quote, which I was criticizing, so basically instead of chastising Asimov and other ID opponents for making what you believe to be incorrect statements, you suggest I look ignorant for quoting him without correcting his statement? Granville Sewell
Hi R0bb- You do realize that you can refute what Graville says by demonstrating blind and undirected chemical processes can produce a living organism from non-living matter. Good luck with that... Joe
Dr. Sewell, It's true that the question of whether the entropy of the sun is decreasing is irrelevant to your point. But when you challenge an established law of physics, which is what you're doing when you say "the second law only applies to unintelligent causes", your first hurdle is to be taken seriously. And getting something wrong that's so simple and uncontroversial certainly doesn't help you in that regard. R0bb
Eric, Thanks for your thoughtful and very polite reply. My opinion is, though, that our disagreement actually goes deeper than simply terminology. The airplane never violates the law of gravity because there is always a downward force acting on it equal to its mass times the gravitational constant. When it is in level flight, there are equal and opposite forces acting on it due to the flow of air over its surfaces, so it remains in the air. This is all within the scope of natural law. However, when the aeronautical engineer produces the astronomically improbable arrangement of materials into a craft that can and does fly through the air, there is no natural law that explains how the Second Law could have been superseded to bring that craft into being. Human creativity and intelligence did it, but there is no known explanation within natural law that can account for human creativity. Thus, I contend that the Second Law actually was violated, contrary to the situation when the plane is in the air, when gravity continues to act on it according to the theory. As I think about it, however, I can imagine a materialist saying something like, "Well, we just don't know enough about how the brain operates yet to be able to explain creativity. But eventually we will." So I guess your approach could also have merit. My response to the materialist would be that his position is based on the faith that materialism is true, so until there is some actual evidence that there is an explanation for human creativity that falls entirely within natural law, it is a conclusion of faith, not science, that the Second Law is not violated by the abundance of the artifacts of human intelligence. Bruce David
Thanks, Bruce David. I understand what you're saying. The open system idea is so absurd that it should be embarrassing to anyone who uses it. Definitely in agreement there. I'm simply pointing to a discussion/debating point, namely that saying intelligent activities "violate" the 2nd Law is not helpful to the discussion or to people's understanding in the normal discourse. There are lots of ways to state the 2nd Law in a way that doesn't make you then have to argue that you know of something that violates it. I don't think the 2nd Law is violated any more than the Law of Gravity. Does the created thing continue to be subject to the 2nd Law? Sure. Is the intelligent activity able to bring other resources and information to bear to temporarily counteract what would normally happen under the 2nd Law? Sure. Doesn't mean it is violated. Just that there are other principles at work as well. Just like the airplane and gravity. Anyway, it sounds like the substance is essentially the same, so I'm happy to agree to disagree on the terminology. Thanks for your thoughts, Eric Anderson
Hi Eric, The Second Law of Thermodynamics, as I understand it, comes in two flavors. The first is the mathematical formulation that governs the diffusion of heat (or other things that diffuse) in substances, particularly fluids. The second is a non-mathematical generalization (because the mathematics is too hard) that "the disorder in a system always increases unless there is order being imported into the system from outside." It is this second version that people are using when they point out, for example, that machinery always spontaneously wears out, rusts, and/or breaks down, but never the opposite. Or, as in Dr. Sewell's example, a tornado can destroy a building but can never take a pile of building materials and construct a building out of them. But the technological, artistic, and literary achievements of civilization are a massive increase in the order on planet earth, compared to the earth as it was 4.5 billion years ago, as is the profusion of living things on the planet. So how could this be? This is a universally acknowledged problem, and the standard solution is that energy from the sun is the compensating order that has been imported across the boundary between the earth and the rest of the universe. However, as Dr. Sewell's analysis shows, this explanation is completely inadequate, since sunlight, while containing massive amounts of energy does not contain anything remotely like the order contained in skyscrapers, computers, and Beethoven symphonies. Put another way, that computers, skyscrapers, and Beethoven symphonies should arise spontaneously on earth is so improbable as to be virtually impossible under the operation of the normal laws of physics as applied to the early earth over the course of 4.5 billion years. The input of massive amounts of energy from the sun does nothing to mitigate those prohibitive probabilities. The clear implication is that human intelligence, which is the source of human technology, art, and literature, has in fact violated the Second Law. And as I said, above, this leads to one of two conclusions, either the Second Law actually isn't a universal law of nature after all in that human activity "violates" it, or there is some aspect of human beings that lies outside of nature (the material universe) and therefore is outside of the area of application of the Second Law. But yet, of course, that aspect (creative intelligence) is nonetheless capable of interacting with the material world to produce these highly improbable phenomena. So to answer your question, the aeronautical engineer can claim that the existence of his airplane does in fact violate the Second Law, even though the airplane itself will never violate the law of gravity. Bruce David
Bruce David (and Dr. Sewell): I'm a little confused. Maybe this is just a terminology issue, but I think it is important to understand the terms. Initially, I thought Dr. Sewell was saying that the idea of RM+NS creating macroscale functional machines would be a "violation" of the 2nd Law. But then it sounded like you (Bruce David) were saying that designers, in the act of designing, are able to "violate" the 2nd Law. The first one makes sense to me, at least definitionally. To be sure, our materialist friends will dispute the argument and we could have a long debate about whether material processes can ever move in the direction of building macroscale functional machines, but at least the basis of the discussion makes sense. The second one doesn't make a lot of sense to me. It would be like an aeronautic engineer claiming that his newly-designed airplane "violates" the law of gravity. That sort of terminology is (i) questionable in substance, and (ii) confusing. So we would end up spending all our time on this strange use of the word "violate," rather than the underlying substance. ---- Dr. Sewell, I presume you're using the "violation of the 2nd Law" in the first sense, not the latter? Eric Anderson
Granville, You are obfuscating between two different definitions of "law". Man made laws can be violated. Laws in Physics are descriptions of reality. They cannot be violated. That is, if we discovered they could be violated, they wouldn't be laws. lastyearon
Robb, Well, using the usual formula S_t = integral (Q_t/U) = integral (c*rho*U_t/U) (formula 3 in my AML paper) to define the rate of change of thermal entropy, you would say that the thermal entropy change on the sun is approximately 0, because the temperature (U) is pretty much contant everywhere. But this definition of entropy change is not really useful when there are (thermonuclear!) sources in the body, so I'm really not sure if the thermal entropy increases that "compensate" evolution are occuring on the sun, as Asimov said, or in the cosmic background, as Styer says. And of course it is completely irrelevant to the main point. Granville Sewell
Hi all, I'd like to expand a little on something I said in comment #8:
It implies that intelligence, including our own, is not a feature of the material universe (“in the world but not of it”).
The reason I say this is that it is commonly accepted that the physical universe, acting according to natural law (the four forces, etc.) obeys the Second Law of Thermodynamics, in its commonly understood generalization that entropy, or disorder, always increases in a closed system, and as Dr. Sewell points out, never increases faster in an open system than the order that is being imported across its boundary. Now it is a requirement of the materialist world view that the actions of intelligence can be completely explained by physical human brains acting according to natural law (again, the four forces). However, as Dr. Sewell's analysis demonstrates, human intelligence routinely violates the Second Law. This means that either 1) the Second Law is invalid in this particular situation, that somehow our brains, even though a part of the natural world, are an exception to the Second Law, or 2) our intelligence has a non-material component, that our creativity is in fact a "supernatural" phenomenon, which implies, yes, that we are in fact non-material beings in our essence. Since the Second Law has been universally and repeatedly verified for physical systems, this is strong evidence for the existence of the soul, along with NDEs, OBEs, past life regression, etc. I think that this is why materialists resist (or more commonly, simply ignore) Dr. Sewell's reasoning---they subconsciously realize that to accept it means that they have to accept either that the Second Law isn't a always true for the material world or that there are aspects of human beings which cannot be explained in material terms at all, both of which would be highly distasteful to a materialist, particularly the latter. Bruce David
So I take it Chris Haynes would not be one of those who watches a backward video of a tornado turning rubble into houses and cars and says, there’s no conflict with the second law because tornados get their energy from the sun, and the decrease in entropy seen on this video is easily compensated by increases on the sun.
Whatever else we disagree on, I hope we can agree that the entropy of the sun is not increasing, notwithstanding Asimov's erroneous statement. R0bb
Eric, Believe me, I understand what you are saying. "Evolution violates the second law" is always sure to incite a riot. Even many ID proponents, who like Dembski's specified complexity idea and don't realize it is essentially equivalent to what I am saying, give me the cold shoulder. I usually try to say, it violates the underlying principle behind the second law, that is slightly less provocative. Probably a better solution is to simply say, "the second law only applies to unintelligent causes." I have been saying essentially the same things for 10 years now, and it has been distressing to me how few ID proponents are willing to touch this topic, at least until recently---I seem to be making a little progress now. As the quote from "Basic Physics" in my video essentially says, if a tornado really did turn rubble into houses and cars, this would not violate any other law of science; and if four unintelligent forces of physics really did rearrange the basic particles of physics into humans, airplanes and books, I'm pretty sure that would not violate any other widely recognized law either. So I've never understood how you can argue for ID without ever even mentioning the second law. I guess this argument has been so associated with "creationists" like Gish, that ID folks are afraid of the association. But you can be wrong about some things, and right about others. Granville Sewell
Hi Eric,
I think we’re saying the same thing substantively. It’s just that in discussions and debates it sounds strange to the listener to hear someone say that they are violating the 2nd Law. Might as well state that we are violating the law of gravity.
I realize that to say that something, anything, violates the Second Law is an anathema to most people who have had a normal scientific education. And I have had the experience on these threads of explaining Dr. Sewell's point in what I thought was very clearly reasoned prose to people like Elizabeth Liddle, who is intelligent, a scientist, and generally does give her fellow commenters a respectful hearing, only to get the terse response, "Nothing violates the Second Law." However, Dr. Sewell's point, as I understand it, is that both life and human activity in fact do violate the Second Law, and in the case of humans it is clearly our creative intelligence that does this. And if ID is correct, then it is only intelligence that does this. Personally, I think it is a point worth making, even if it falls on deaf ears most of the time. And also, I think that precisely because it contradicts one of the most respected principles of science, and because of the implications for the nature of intelligence and thus the nature of human beings, that it has massive implications for science, philosophy, spirituality, and religion, and therefore, again, needs to be brought to light. Bruce David
I don’t know why such a simple idea is so hard to understand, for so many people.
My own take on it is that people who have had any kind of scientific education have had it drummed into their heads for so long that "nothing violates the Second Law", so they assume that there must be something wrong with your argument. It's another example of what I see as a fairly (but not completely) universal failing of us humans that we will generally ignore or try to explain away any facts that don't fit our paradigms long after the point when it should have been clear that it is the paradigms themselves that are in need of revision. Bruce David
Bruce David: I agree that creativity is a very important aspect of who we are and it is indeed exciting. ----- Rather than talking about "violating" the 2nd Law, doesn't it make more sense to talk about the fact that we can do things that normally would not occur naturally, given what we understand about the 2nd Law? For example, if I design and build an airplane, I haven't "violated" the law of gravity. What I have done is use other principles, such as aerodynamics, lift, thrust, and so forth, working together with the normal force of gravity. The natural laws and related effects don't exist in a vaccuum; they are always interacting, affecting, sometimes with less effect than another force. If I create a car, the resulting creation is still subject to the 2nd Law, and indeed, the very process of creating doesn't violate the 2nd Law. Rather, I have applied information, energy, and work in just the right way to build the creation, all the while not violating any fundamental natural laws. I think we're saying the same thing substantively. It's just that in discussions and debates it sounds strange to the listener to hear someone say that they are violating the 2nd Law. Might as well state that we are violating the law of gravity. Eric Anderson
A couple of commenters have correctly noticed the similarities between the second law argument and "specified complexity." In my Discovery Institute Press book, I wrote "the underlying principle behind the second law is that natural forces do not do macroscopically describable things which are extremely improbable from the microscopic point of view." Then I noted that "The reader familiar with Wm. Dembski's 'specified complexity' concept will recognize the similarities to the argument here: natural forces do not do things which are 'specified' (macroscopically describable) and 'complex' (extremely improbable)." My only contribution to the debate was to point out that even if a system is open, natural forces still do not do macroscopically describable things which are extremely improbable from the microscopic point of view---if a system is open, you just have to take into account what is crossing the boundary when deciding what is extremely improbable and what is not. I don't know why such a simple idea is so hard to understand, for so many people. Granville Sewell
Correction: I meant to write, "and assuming that ID's claim that the design of living things is the result of intelligence is true" in the first sentence of the third paragraph, above. Bruce David
Granville, You're one of my heroes. I really love the way you have clarified the relationship between life and human creativity on the one hand, and the Second Law on the other. To everyone: I have made the following comment before on at least one other thread, but I don't know if it registered or not. So here it is again: Given Dr. Sewell's analysis, and assuming that ID's claim that the design of living things is the result of intelligence, the implication is that there is one and only one phenomenon that is capable of violating the Second Law, and that is intelligence. It implies that intelligence, including our own, is not a feature of the material universe ("in the world but not of it"). I believe that it is correct to say that every time we create complex specified information, we have violated the Second Law. And notice that we humans do this routinely, so routinely in fact that we typically don't even notice. We don't have to be Leonardo da Vinci or Beethoven or even Bill Gates to do this. All that is required is to speak or write a meaningful sentence of more than around 20 characters, or repair something, or straighten up around the house. I am violating the Second Law right now as I write this. To me this is a reflection of the fact (I regard it as fact, anyway) that we are made "in His image and likeness", one of the characteristics of which is creativity. It is creativity, or inventiveness, that has the capacity to violate this law, and you and I and all humans share this capability. Personally, I find this to be thrilling. Bruce David
EA: I am seeing a thing with news sites where they are now having a top panel that cycles through maybe 5 top stories with pics and a lead-in header or a few words, and usually have some buttons to say which of the top 5 is in view just now. Dunno if WP can do this? KF kairosfocus
Barry, I don't know why you felt it necessary to appeal to the multiverse to defend your 13 straight royal flushes, in "The Multiverse is a Poker Player's Best Friend" I linked above. According to the Styer article (see also my above link), the decrease (from a very probable hand) in entropy in the universe associated with 13 straight royal flushes would be less than k_b*log(4.5*10^83) = 2.65*10^{-21} joules/degree Kelvin, and if you dealt them in 60 seconds, that would be a decrease of only about 4.4*10^{-23} joules/degree Kelvin/second, which is practically nothing compared to the decrease due to evolution (302 joules/degree/second), which is already so easily compensated by increases on the sun. Eric, You wonder why I spend so much energy refuting an argument that is so obviously absurd? Because it is still widely taught. I submitted an article responding to the Styer and Bunn articles, published in 2008 and 2009 in the American Journal of Physics, similar to my above-linked ENV post, and submitted it to that journal. It was rejected in a couple of hours, with the comment (almost in these exact words) that it was so well established that evolution does not violate the second law that they will consider articles explaining why, but will not consider contrary opinions. Granville Sewell
We had a good discussion going on another thread from March 4 (scarcely 2 weeks old), but it has been buried numberous pages into the archive by now. The "open system" argument, as support for the idea of natural forces being able to create complex specified information, is one of the most ridiculous arguments one could possibly make; so much so, that I am surprised Dr. Sewell has needed to devote so much energy (pun intended) to refute it. Thus, I suspect thoughtful critics of his work may be pointing to another nuance. I still have on my to-do list to go through Gordon Davisson's critique of Dr. Sewell's approach on the prior thread. --- BTW, another appeal to the UD hosts if anyone is listening: Is there any way to put the numerous news stories and such that rarely get more than 2 or 3 comments (often none) into a separate sidebar or something? It is frustrating to wade through pages of posts just to find something that is only a week or two old. The difficulty of finding old posts also contributes to the fact that we often don't get a chance to properly flesh out useful discussions on key topics related to ID before the thread gets buried and dies an untimely death. Eric Anderson
Hello Granville- FYI-> Refuting Granville page 1 of the comments I tried to tell them they weren't understanding you but it didn't work- perhaps you could take a look... Joe
So I take it Chris Haynes would not be one of those who watches a backward video of a tornado turning rubble into houses and cars and says, there's no conflict with the second law because tornados get their energy from the sun, and the decrease in entropy seen on this video is easily compensated by increases on the sun. That argument seems to be more and more abandoned, as its absurdity becomes evident. He would take the new approach and say, what we are seeing on this video is too difficult to quantify, and too ill-defined, so it isn't clear if tornados turning rubble into houses and cars violates the second law. The only thing the two types of critics I keep hearing from agree on is that I am an idiot who doesn't know what he's talking about. Some things are obvious even if they are difficult to quantify. Granville Sewell
Organization=control needs information. Entropy is the inverse of organization, and then is lack of information. To increase the organization of a system we need to inject information inside it. This way we decrease its entropy. Without this injection the 2nd law tells us the system's entropy increases. Who claims that the sun provides information (then organization) to systems by mean of its energy confuses the two basic paradigms of systems theory, power and control. Solar energy provides power. It doesn't provide control. Hence it cannot increase organization. When Dr. Sewell says that the sun doesn't send us computers, cars, phones, he uses an intuitive illustration of such concept. niwrad
I do wish that Dr Sewell knew what he is talking about, but having read his paper on entropy, he has yet to convince. He doesnt clearly define what entropy is. Instead he puts forth a hocus pocus of integrals, and complicated differentials. His appraoch, deliberate or not, reminds one of the Skokal Affair. Entropy is a fairly simple concept. As it is understood today, it can be defined without mathematics: Entropy is a property of a system equal to the lost work adjusted for (divided by) the temperature of the reservoir used to determine the lost work". The term entropy in information is regretable. It only came from the similarity of the Bolzman equation and certain formulas in information. This si much like the similar eqautions for thermal conductivity and the flow of viscous fluids through porous soils, otherwise unrelated phenomona. Informational rpobabailty, conservation and entropy are today poorly understood concepts, much like the second law in Carnot's day. Yet it appears to be one of the most important fields in science. Given the hostility of the establishmnet, it is up to ID advocates and Creationists to develop it. Sewall's gibbersih doe not further this effort. chris haynes

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