According to our favorite physicist Rob Sheldon, the guy’s hair is way more formidable than his ideas. Okay, Sheldon didn’t put it quite that way but here is what he did say:
There are a number of fallacies in this video, which unfortunately, are like zombies and keep being resurrected. In addition, there’s a rhetorical “strawman” argument used to deflect rightful critique. Let’s address the strawman, and then the fallacies.
(1) life is really, really, really different from non-life. So some highly simplistic feature of life is extracted–in this case–“structure”. Then we show how non-life can sometimes have “structure” (snowflakes, etc.) Thus we “prove” that non-life can have the same feature as life, implying that the other 99.9999% of differences are just like “structure”.
(a) life is a whole lot more than structure, and indeed, “dynamics” is a much better definition of life than “structure”, simply because life’s structure is only analyzed when it is dead, pickled, dissected, photographed, etc.
(b) even when non-life shows “structure” it is only superficially similar to life. A snowflake, for example, can be described by 3 or 4 simple parameters, whereas a cell can’t be. Even in the best examples of this video, a simple graphics algorithm (based on fractal compression) can differentiate between life and non-life.
(2) non-equilibrium statistical mechanics is often invoked to explain how non-life can be structured. (Benard convection, for example.) This was the pipe-dream of 1977 Nobel prizewinner Ilya Prigogine. Needless to say, his effort to solve the origin of life (OOL) problem were found to be dead ends.
In the past 2 years, Jeremy England of MIT has been promoted as Prigogine’s successor–though no one ever mentions poor Ilya’s name, perhaps because of his total failure. Why was it a total failure?
Because the “structure” that non-equilibrium stat mech gives you, is
designed to maximize entropy production. Those cute patterns that spontaneously form in a boiling pot are designed to maximally conduct the flow of heat and energy, something a smooth and homogeneous system does poorly. This property is known as the Maximum Entropy Production Principle–that any system driven away from equilibrium does its best to
maximize entropy production. What is entropy? The opposite of information. So unlike life–which sustains and makes information, MEPP destroys information. This is not the way to make life, as all the followers of Prigogine discovered to their dismay.
(3) What about the hoary “open thermodynamic system” argument, that as long as the system is “open” and energy flows through it (such as from the sun), we can expect entropy to decrease and spontaneous order to form, where the excess “disorder” is carried away by the flow?
(a) To begin with, this was a physicist’s excuse as to why biology violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics. (“The laws of thermodynamics only apply to closed systems”, they explained.) This bug has now morphed into a “feature”, so instead of being unable to account for biology, suddenly we are told that biology is a product of this bug.
(b) This is false for 2 reasons:
I) Physicists can explain open systems. They do it all the time.
Non-equilibrium stat mech is the formal description of such an open system, and its roots go back to the 1950’s.
ii) The entropy flow of open systems can be measured, and sunlight has nowhere near the information needed to account for life on earth.
Mathematician Granville Sewell does an excellent job computing this “information flow” equation, and shows that despite numerous Darwinian scientists invoking sunlight to account for life, there is mathematically no possible way for sunlight (or particles, or magnetic fields, or anything else from the sun) to have that much information. We’re talking many, many orders of magnitude here, which Darwinian physicists refuse to calculate.
One of the few physicists willing to calculate it was Sir Fred Hoyle who calculated 10^40,000 as the information in a cell. That’s at least 10^39,960 times larger than the information in the entire history of sunlight.
So the entire video is a sales job: replace life with a snowflake, and then argue that physics can explain snowflakes with non-equilibrium stat mech. If you really want to irritate these Darwinians, read Sewell’s papers and start citing numbers.
See also: What we know and don’t know about the origin of life
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