Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Thermodynamics, Coin Illustrations and Design


The second law says when a cold object is in contact with a hot object, the two objects will eventually arrive at the same temperature, and once in equilibrium, one object will not become spontaneously colder again without an external agent. This illustrates that undirected natural forces will favor certain configurations of matter and energy and that the configurations cannot be undone without an external agent.

Here is another simpler illustration. Start out with tray of fair coins in the all-heads configuration. Shake the tray or do something so as to get the coins flipping. You’ll notice it never reverts back to all heads. In fact for a large set of fair coins, the law of large numbers says the coins will tend to be 50% heads from that point on. The mix of 50% heads and 50% tails is the expectation or equilibrium condition for a large set of coins under the influence of unspecified, undirected forces. Worse, if you took another tray of fair coins that were all heads and mixed it in, it will disorganize those coins as well. Like the 2nd law operating on cold and hot objects, coins on a tray have a tendency to move away from certain configurations in an irreversible manner.

Similarly, build a house of cards on a table. Apply random physical disturbances like shaking the table. No amount of shaking the table or any unspecified application of force and motion will rebuild the house of cards. Have a tray of 100 scrabble letters on a tray that have meaningful sentences. Then shake the tray. The result is the scrabble letters will never converge on a meaningful sentence. Again we see tendency to move away from organization in an irreversible manner.

There is a general principle in nature that tends to resist organization when we use components that allow for a large number of possible configurations. The reason for this is rooted in statistics. Organized complex configurations occupy such a small fraction of the space of all possible configurations that mindless undirected influences will in general tend to destroy organization if it already exists or preclude organization from evolving if it does not already exist.

It may not be obvious, but the law of large numbers mandates that complex organization simply will not happen without direction just as a large set of fair coins will tend to be 50% heads and not all heads. There is a certain inevitability of disorganization in the absence of an organizing agent. (See a sketch of the proof below).

In similar fashion, the tendency for molecules of life to remain disorganized prevents life from spontaneously assembling from pre-biotic soups. It also prevents Darwinian evolution from having access to sets of mutations which evolution can accumulate over time to build complex organisms.

The challenge for the ID community is finding ever more accessible and teachable ways of showing the undirected forces of nature tend to preclude complex life, not build it, much like the undirected forces of nature will tend to destroy a house of cards rather than build it.

So how is it, given the obvious facts of statistics and physics, that the ideology of mindless evolutionism now dominates the culture? One reason is evolutionists have successfully used rhetorical gimmicks to make logical fallacies look like immutable truths. Real natural selection in the wild prevents designs from evolving and destroys existing designs, but Darwinists have so distorted the truth they redefined natural selection to mean some sort of substitute intelligent designer despite physical evidence to the contrary.

One of my goals at UD has been to identify and deconstruct the rhetorical gimmicks that are the foundation of evolutionism. And part of that is always going back to the basics like coin illustrations.

1. Here are some essays that try to expose the rhetorical gimmicks used by evolutionists:

The phrase “Natural Selection” (NS) is double speak for Darwin’s Falsified Fantasy Mechanism (DFFM)

How Darwinists confuse the Extravagant with the Essential

Selection after something exists is not the same as selection before something exists

TSZ Allan Miller says Natural Selection has to fail for evolution to work

The Blind Watchmaker would dispose of lunches even if they were free, mootness of anti-NFL arguments

Selection is falsely called a mechanism when it should be labeled an outcome

The price of cherry picking for addicted gamblers and believers in Darwinism

Darwin’s delusion vs. Death of the Fittest

Dawkins Weasel vs. Blind Search — Simplified Illustration of No Free Lunch

2. Keep It Simple Soldier (KISS) is a well known principle. The principles that are foundational to understanding Design, Information and Thermodynamics are statistics and probability. To be even moderately versant in thermodynamics one needs statistics, probability, classical mechanics, some quantum mechanics, and good amounts of statistical mechanics. And even then, it may not really help articulating the design case. If you can argue design from thermodynamics, more power to you, but I don’t, and I prefer going back to basics of statistics and probability. Thermodynamics is based on statistics and probability, not the other way around. So, imho, it makes it more complicated to argue design from thermodynamics since both design and thermodynamics have as their basis statistics and probability. So I’ve always recommended arguing design from statistics and probability, not thermodynamics. KISS. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use thermodynamics as a metaphorical illustration as I’ve done in this essay.

3. See: Specified Entropy to understand why I don’t use the 2nd law as defined by Clausius and Kelvin-Plank nor Boltzman and Clausius’s notions of entropy to directly defend ID.

4. Now suppose we assigned a number to each coin (1 through N) such that we could then describe specific bit patterns based on the coins in a tray. There will only be a few bit patterns recognizable as designs. When the tray is shaken and the coins randomized, only about 50% of the numbered coins will agree with specified patterns. Thus there is an inherent tendency for the coins never to converge on a design pattern. The law of large numbers then shows that as design complexity increases, there is an inherent tendency for nature to resist evolution of such complex designs.

5. For an illustration of how the law of large numbers is an embarrassment to Darwinists, see: Law of Large Numbers vs. Keiths

Of note: Maxwell's demon can use quantum information to generate work - Dec. 18, 2013 http://phys.org/news/2013-12-maxwell-demon-quantum.html bornagain77
Great post! Much of the case for evolution presupposes a mostly uniformitarian, naturalistic cause. Hopeful monsters of argument are marshalled to prop up the fantasy of the inevitability of evolving life while rationalizing unpredicted discoveries and the revelation of ever-increasing levels of mind-boggling complexity. In the quest for explanations that avoid intelligent design, Darwinists desperately look for smarter monkeys, self-correcting typewriters, a lot more time, and much brighter stars! -Q Querius
Sal, Well done. That says it better than anything I've read to date, including Sewell's argument, which is not bad in its own right. In addition, it addresses the argument that some Darwinists use to try to escape the adverse consequences of the laws of probability and statistics for Darwinism, namely, by claiming that the probability of getting, say, 100 heads by chance is the same as that of any other particular configuration. Thus, by analogy, the probability of matter arranging itself into a living cell is the same as those same elements and compounds arranging themselves into any other particular configuration.
So how is it, given the obvious facts of statistics and physics, that the ideology of mindless evolutionism now dominates the culture?
Clearly, it is because the majority of the population accepts the dominant opinion prevalant in the biological sciences, and that opinion is dominant in the biological sciences for one and only one reason: it is a necessary support of the materialistic worldview of many of those scientists. It is highly significant that supporters of Darwinism never "do the numbers", ie., they never calculate probabilities. They simply assume that nature can "climb mount Improbable" up the back side. Bruce David
And by the way, I tried not to use the word "entropy" to make my case. :-) scordova
scordova Excellent post. Prof Sewell, countless others and I have been singing this song for years. Now you finally joint our army because you have understood that “thermodynamics/statistical mechanics and evolution cannot be both true” (by the way this is exactly what Clausius said). It couldn’t be otherwise because you are a very smart guy. Compliments and welcome on board.
Thank you for the kind words. The argument laid out in my essay follows Dr. Sewell's insights, our only point of contention has been appropriate terminology. But really this has also been my argument all along as well, but expressed in different ways. Dr. Sewell's insights were accurate. This essay attempts to frame the essentials of his argument with terminology that be would subject to far less confrontation in the ID community. One important difference is I use the word "organization" not "order". As Gange said, cells are not ordered, the are complex (organized). scordova
SC: Interesting post. I'd more say 2nd law implies than says that, but the implication is direct. It is driven of course by relative statistical weights of clusters of accessible microstates. The first relevance to design and to cell based life -- as BIN will wish to follow up -- is of course OOL in Darwin's pond or the like, where it's just molecules and physical chemical forces to be appealed to. The origin of self-replication based on code using systems with informational biomolecules needs to be explained, and shown. And without that, the reproduction required for appeals to differential reproductive success of chance variations is not on the cards. But, OOL is the root of the tree of life, and no root, nothing else. Beyond that, novel body plans credibly require 10 - 100+ mn bits of new info, which again has to be accounted for in the face of the overwhelming trends brought out through analysis of microstates. KF kairosfocus
scordova Excellent post. Prof Sewell, countless others and I have been singing this song for years. Now you finally joint our army because you have understood that "thermodynamics/statistical mechanics and evolution cannot be both true" (by the way this is exactly what Clausius said). It couldn't be otherwise because you are a very smart guy. Compliments and welcome on board. That said I agree with you that this anti-evolution argument could be improved. Any argument always could be. I am available to collaborate on this interesting topic. niwrad
Good post. What a shifting dodging exercise it is, applying the 2nd to life issues. butifnot

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