Entropy & Evolution


(Dylan Lemmons) #1

Evolutionists say that the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the law of entropy, is not really applicable to living organisms because it cannot be observed. Well, yes it can. The aging process in all living organisms demands a result. That result is death. It is very proven that,people and animals die. Even microorganisms die. So, how is this not an application of the law of entropy? To achieve thermal equilibrium, living organisms die and basically decompose, letting off heat energy in the process. Once they are totally gone, there is no more energy to be let off and, basically, they have achieved thermal equilibrium. So everything ages, and dies somehow, unless it is a rock, which has no energy to give. So explain that to me.


The Second Law (and Discovery Institute) Defeat Evolution Once Again
#2

Dylan, I don’t understand your description of what evolutionists say. Could you provide a reference or link?

All life is based on thermodynamics or perhaps it’s better to say constrained by thermodynamics. You are correct that the processes of life operate away from equilibrium. In fact, cells derive useful energy out of harnessing chemical and photosynthetic reactions that are going toward thermodynamic equilibrium. Entropy is necessary for life and consequently its evolution. What ‘powers’ life are energy sources like the sun (photosynthesis) and inorganic reactions (e.g. chemolithotrophy) involving the oxidation or reduction of chemical substrates in the environment. Life taps these energy differentials to sustain itself.

Biologos has an article about thermodynamics and life here. It’s short and I think one section doesn’t do a great job conveying information meaningfully in the short space allotted. Here it is:

To claim that evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics is also grounded in a misunderstanding of where the law applies. Nobody has ever figured out how to apply the second law to living creatures. There is no meaning to the entropy of a frog. The kinds of systems that can be analyzed with the second law are much simpler.

It’s true that the relative entropy of a living frog compared to say, a pureed frog would be very hard to determine. Likewise determining the difference between a living frog and a freshly dead one. From chemical thermodynamics, they’d probably be about the same. But that’s largely missing the point.

The point is: If you have enough excess free energy to read and correspond to this board, you have more than enough spare energy to drive the process of evolution. The total amount of energy required to mutate DNA is minuscule compared to the overall energy budget of an organism.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #3

Hello, Dylan …(Mr. Lemmons? Dr. Lemmons?); thanks for the questions/challenges.

Indeed we do age and die. But we are also born and grow, and are “knit together in our mothers’ wombs”. So obviously the 2nd law does not universally prevail in every localized situation in the sense of meaning that entropy cannot locally decrease. It only properly applies in its universal sense (or in an isolated system) in that net entropy is always increasing. So as long as there is energy available to drive organization, then organization becomes possible, whether it is a beautiful snow flake forming from disordered water molecules or an organism developing and growing as enabled by energy inputs and greater entropy increases elsewhere.

…and yes, you are right … eventually our molecules will be scattered again (actually we don’t even have to wait to die for that --it is continuously happening). From dust we came, and to dust we will return.


(Dylan Lemmons) #4

What do you mean by I have more than enough spare energy to drive the process of evolution?Anyway, yes, but where in history is there any results of cellular-based mutations that has led to an overall better organism? Its has never happened. Genetic mutations always are worse, not better, thus pointing back to entropy.


(Jon) #5

You can drink cow’s milk, thanks to a genetic mutation. That’s a significant advantage.


(Dylan Lemmons) #6

Water molecules are not disorderly, because they can only be formed by two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. And the molecules always form a pattern of a specific geometric shape.


(Dylan Lemmons) #7

How have scientists proven it? Show me the data.


(Jon) #8

Proven that you can drink cow’s milk, or proven that it was the result of a genetic mutation?


(Dylan Lemmons) #9

How do they say that it is not a natural process of life and a mutation? Scientist go back and look at old bones that they dont even agree on age-wise, and say that it came about mutatively. They dont even know the age of the earth. So how could they come to such “conclusive” answers.


(Jon) #10

Ok, looks like you didn’t read the article and you don’t understand how scientists know the age of the earth.


(Dylan Lemmons) #11

How? Carbon-14 dated bones billions of years old and they were found on the same strata as a Coca-cola can. So how do they date the age of the earth?


(Jon) #12

No. Carbon 14 cannot result in dates anywhere near billions of years old. It can’t produce dates of more than around 60,000 years old. That’s why it’s not used to date anything millions or billions of years old. Whatever you’re citing, it’s wrong. Please do some reading on this subject from reliable sources.


(Dylan Lemmons) #13

Well, I asked. How do scientists date the age of the earth?


#14

What do you mean by I have more than enough spare energy to drive the process of evolution?

Thermodynamics tells us about how an organism extracts energy from its environment and manages to run the basic chemical reactions required to sustain itself. It says nothing about evolution or whether species can evolve. The amount of energy involved in a single base change or even insertion of deletion of DNA in the chromosome is almost infinitesimally small compared to the energy budget of a cell. In fact there is no thermodynamic difference between introducing a neutral, deleterious or beneficial mutation. Similarly, for recombination of existing traits. Hence, if you have enough energy to live, you’ve got enough energy to incorporate changes in your DNA that could lead to the differential survival of your offspring.

Genetic mutations always are worse, not better, thus pointing back to entropy.

Mutations making things better or worse has nothing to do with thermodynamic entropy. Mutations are thermodynamically ‘allowed’, chemical reactions. One can swap an ‘A’ for a ‘T’ at a particular position in an organism’s genome resulting in its survival or death. In terms of relative thermodynamic entropy, either mutation is largely indistinguishable.

Look at it this way – Compare two packs of identical cards: One sorted by rank and value, the other randomly shuffled. They have the same thermodynamic entropy. Burn them and they’ll release the same amount of heat. Measure how their temperatures change when you apply heat in a reversible manner and you’ll see they change at the same rate.

Evolvability has little to do with the 2nd law of thermodynamics.


(Christy Hemphill) #15

So as not to waste people’s time explaining pretty basic things that are nicely compiled elsewhere, you may want to start with an article like this one 10 Misconceptions About Evolution, which provides links to summaries of what people who accept evolution actually think.

How Are the Ages of the Earth and the Universe Calculated

How Old is the Earth

You will get better interaction if you show that you have made some attempt to understand the processes and are objecting to specific points, not just essentially saying, “Scientists are liars and their data is garbage.”


(Jon) #16

I feel like making that my signature here.


#17

Similarly, it helps to acknowledge answers provided by others that clarifies your questions. Don’t just move on to a completely different point and continue as if nothing happened. That is the classic problem of assuming quantity is a substitute for quality. Claims like “the 2nd law of thermodynamics implies evolution can’t happen” or “all mutations are bad” or “there’s not good evidence the earth is billions of years old” have been discussed many times in many venues and books for well over half a century or more. Educate yourself.


(Christy Hemphill) #18

We know. We are arguing they are wrong and did a poor job understanding the actual science involved. You are perfectly welcome to disagree, but don’t just assume everyone here is ignorant of Creationist arguments.


#19

Hi Christy.
My comment “Educate yourself” is not directed at you but at the many people who parrot the canards of many popular YEC and anti-evolutionary sources. For example, some years ago those who followed the talk.origins newsgroup noted the regular appearance of comments from students at a particular Bible College. Every spring the same old bad arguments were posted by fresh students. At some point, the denizens of the newsgroup systematically characterized many of the common claims and wrote explanations for most. That work resides in the index to creationist claims. Biologos is steadily building its own set of pages but they probably don’t have the same detail or depth yet.


(Dylan Lemmons) #20

See, I tried to understand, yet in past textbooks in the public schools, scientist give the age of the earth, and in the textbooks today, they give a number that is more astronomical than the one first given? Also potassium-40 to argon-40 is a very unreliable source for dating. And if you dont trust the rate of the moon moving away, but you do trust the rate of the galaxies moving apart to tell the age of the earth, how is that not a contradiction???