Sunday, February 24, 2008

Evolution and Entropy

This is an exerpt from an old debate I had with a creationist (Mordecai) who claimed that the 2nd law of thermodynamics is proof against evolution. this is the link to the thread : click here (you need to register to view)

Here's what he said:
Originally Posted by Mordecai
Entropy utterly disproves evolution...but the issue really boils down to the following questions once asked by one Tim Wallace:

1) Evolution calls for the development of life itself and subsequent life forms from a purely natural process. Life does not function without the strictly controlled conversion of raw solar energy into useable energy. What are the specific, empirically evident original mechanism/process and pathway of specific, empirically evident mechanisms/processes that led from zero such conversion capability in raw matter to the multiple and varied mechanisms and processes that are inherent in every living organism as we know them?

2) Evolution calls for the development of ever more volume and ever greater variety and complexity of data in the genetic code of living organisms as they allegedly first emerged, then progressed from, simplest forms to the present broad spectrum of variety. What specific, empirically evident original mechanism/process and pathway of specific, empirically evident mechanisms/processes have led from zero genetic data in raw matter to the vast array of voluminous genetic data inherent in living organisms as we know them?

(For both questions, it is acknowledged that the 2nd law of Thermodynamics certainly “allows” for the needed entropy changes, but those specific, empirically evident mechanisms/processes don’t just “happen” by themselves, and without them, there’s no entropy change for the 2nd law to “allow”.)

So any answers from the evolutionists here other than either pure conjecture and/or a denial that something more than raw solar energy was needed for life to spontaneously emerge from non-life for the 1st question, or an attempt to confuse the difference between heat entropy and general or informational entropy for the second question?
This was my reply
The second law makes no such claim that all things naturally disorganize themselves overtime. Anyone who observes the world around him would know this to not be true. Some examples:
-Beneficial genetic mutations (yes there are such things)
-The cellular structure of a fetus doesn’t get more disorganized overtime in fact the opposite is true even if no intelligence guides its development or if you want nonorganic examples:
-take the natural, complex, symmetrical patterns of a snowflake;
-how oil would naturally separate from water if you put them in the same container;
-how marbles when put in a bowl would organize themselves into ordered patterns; -
-How storms develop in the atmosphere or even how the atmosphere itself remains on the surface of the earth despite the fact that thermodynamics predicts that gases should spread out evenly with uniform pressure all throughout.
-inorganic chemistry, galactic superclusters, natural terrestrial formations etc.
Thermodynamics allows these processes to occur without the aid of any intelligent being.

Thermodynamics merely describes
the relationships and directions of flow of energy, work and entropy in a system. Entropy in thermodynamics basically is the measure of the quality of energy and the second law in summary describes the degradation of the amount of usable energy in a closed system without hidden stabilities. The fate of most systems is to achieve thermodynamic equilibrium. If you put hot water on a table at room temperature, it would heat the room negligibly and the water itself would cool significantly and gradually until it achieves thermodynamic equilibrium with its environment, unless of course the hot water is in an electric thermo-pot. In which case you would have an external energy source and the water and the air in the room are no longer an isolated system that is subject to the second law.
If you as a little fetus were not able to acquire energy from an external source then you will not develop into whatever you are today. Without external energy from food and oxygen you would continuously degrade, without external energy from the sun all plant life and eventually all animal life on earth would probably disappear. Nowhere in any accepted thermodynamics textbook does it say that the second law of thermodynamics prevents a decrease in thermodynamic or statistical entropy in all systems because few systems are ever completely isolated and therefore those systems can always harness ever greater energy from external sources. The second law allows for specific non isolated areas in a system to lose entropy since open systems can export their entropy to their environment. It’s the entropy of the entire system (the universe) that must always increase. Note though that recent discoveries suggest that the 2nd law may not apply universally afterall

“Disorder” is not a primary principle in thermodynamics. Search any thermodynamics textbook and I bet you’ll find the word disorder, as you define it, mentioned only a few times in the introduction. I had a couple of units of thermodynamics myself and we never discussed anything about all things naturally deconstructing, disordering themselves overtime.

“Disorder” in thermodynamics is a concept derived from a different field called statistical mechanics which defines it quite differently from what it is commonly defined to be.
Unless I’m terribly mistaken, disorder in statistical mechanics is directly proportional to the number of possible microstates of a system at a given energy and volume. Using Boltzmann’s entropy equation: in an isolated system, S=k ln W, where S is the entropy, k is the boltzmann constant and W is the “disorder”

the larger W is, the larger also is the uncertainty of observing a particular microstate at a certain point in time. Only in that sense is it comparable to our notions of disorder.
Note that entropy as formulated by Boltzmann or by Shannon doesn’t make any distinction between the DNA of any organism and a random DNA string of the same length. Boltzmann’s entropy is simply a measure of the number of possible microstates of a system at thermodynamic equilibrium and Shannon’s entropy is merely a probabilistic theory concerned mostly with information management. DNA is a string of 4 different base pairs. If you would look at a sequence of those bases, you wouldn’t find any consistent, ordered patterns there. So Shannon would not differentiate it from a random string of the same length. Same with Boltzmann, there is virtually no difference in the possible microstates of the two DNA strings if they are the same length. Furthermore as I’ve mentioned already in another thread, Humans don’t have the longest/most complex DNA of all the organisms on earth and organisms don’t always get more complex as they evolve. Some lose certain functionalities like eyesight, flight etc. Evolution is more a case of constant modification rather than constant increase in complexity. It’s just that Modification sometimes results in an increase and sometimes a decrease in complexity
Again complexity and specificity haven’t been objectively defined yet by Mordecai. Concepts like meaning and syntax don’t have objective basis without an interpreter. Yes if you see a piece of Japanese text, you can safely assume that it contains specific, complex information but you can only assume -basing perhaps on the fact that maybe you’ve already seen Japanese characters before or the fact that Japanese characters bear characteristics of human design and the assumption that if somebody wrote it he must be trying to say something but you can never really know for sure. There is absolutely no objective method of determining if it has complex, specified information or not unless you can read Japanese. It could just be a random sheet of Japanese characters for all you know

And would you please stop calling us evolutionists. Evolution is an accepted scientific fact. Science itself is evolutionist the same way that it is gravitist and “round earthist”.

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