Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

# Thermodynamics, Coin Illustrations and Design

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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.

NOTES:
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