Thermodynamics and Entropy: Our Destiny for Disorganization

Posted: February 21, 2012 in Arguments, Astronomy/Cosmology Related, Biology Related, Physical/Chemical
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The late ex-atheist scholar Anthony Flew once wrote that he came to accept the notion of a God from following the argument where ever it lead. In my opinion, the subject of thermodynamics and entropy in one that supports the notion of intelligent design if you follow the argument where it leads.

Thermodynamics is the study of energy and its transformation.[1] When focusing on a particular object applied to thermodynamics, this object is referred to as a “system.” The rest of the universe other than this object (or system) is referred to as the “surroundings.” From this there are two types of systems: A closed system, in which no energy is exchanged with the surroundings. The other is an open system in which energy is exchanged with the surroundings.[2] Applied to these systems are the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

First Law of Thermodynamics:

The first law is that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, and therefore the total amount of energy remains unchanged as energy is converted from one form to another.[3] This law is also known as the law of energy conservation.[4] So the energy present when the universe began is the same amount of energy present today, but the forms that energy has taken over that time may have changed significantly. A system may exchange energy with its surroundings, but the total energy within the system and its surroundings never changes.

Second Law of Thermodynamics:

The second law states that as the energy is used and converted it becomes less and less useful over time. When energy is transformed some of the energy is lost as heat, which then is absorbed into its surroundings. For example, eating food, which is then digested is energy which is subsequently used by the body to walk or run. When the body converts the energy consumed to walk or run it releases this used energy as heat into our surroundings. From a thermodynamic point of view this energy is still present, but from a biological point of view this heat energy is no longer available to be used to do work. This process has been found to be irreversible.[5] Therefore, the amount of energy in the universe able to do work has been, and always will be decreasing over time.[6] In conjunction with the first law, it is concluded that the total amount of energy in the universe is constant, but amount of useable energy that can be utilized to do work is constantly decreasing.

Entropy:

This leads to the concept of entropy, which is the measurement of this disorder in energy, in which heat energy, being not usable, is considered disorganized.[7] Thus, a system with a large amount of usable energy has low entropy, a system with little usable energy has high entropy. Based on the second law of thermodynamics, entropy will continually increase in the universe as energy becomes more and more disorganized. This is commonly referred to as the Law of Increasing Entropy.

Now here is where the rubber meets the road: These laws do not change. Whether a system is opened or closed, the first and second laws apply to ALL things within the universe.[8] Nobel Prize winning physicist Percy Williams Bridgman confirms, “The two laws of thermodynamics are, I suppose, accepted by physicists as perhaps the most secure generalizations from experience that we have. A physicist does not hesitate to apply the laws to any concrete physical situation in the confident that nature will not let him down.”[9] In fact, no exception to these laws has ever been found![10]

So if these laws are as dependable as laws come in science then entropy is likewise just as solid. Since entropy concludes all energy is becoming less useful over time, then our universe is becoming more disorganized or random. Geochemist and Professor Emeritus for the Schoolof Earth Scienceat OhioState University Dr. Gunter Faure writes, “Another way to explain the meaning of entropy is to compare it to the property of ‘randomness.’ This conclusion leads to the generalization that every system that is left to itself will, on average, change toward a condition of maximum randomness. The implication of this statement that the entropy of a system increases spontaneously… when entropy is thought of as randomness, it can be recognized in many natural phenomena.”[11] Geologist Dr. Andrew Snelling writes of the randomness of entropy, “Randomness, of course, is synonymous with disorder, disorganization, disintegration, and degeneration. Furthermore, this is an absolutely universal rule of nature at the present time, as demonstrated and verified by countless scientific observations.”[12]

The Contradiction

So with the first and second laws of thermodynamics applying to all things in the universe, and all systems subject to entropy and therefore disorder, we are now left with a problem. Macroevolution purports that order came from disorder, life from non-life, and ever since life has evolved to become more and more complex. Evolution theory asserts that over time complexity and order increases. Yet, entropy demands that over time disorder and randomness increases. Thus we are left with a paradox.

Follow the Argument…

Now here is where we must follow the argument where it leads. Evolutionists for the most part are aware of this dilemma, and they have a wide variety of responses to the paradox.

Open vs. Close System:

One response is that the earth is an open system, receiving energy from the sun, and is therefore not a closed system. However, as said before, the first and second laws of thermodynamics apply to ALL systems whether opened or closed.

Order from the Sun:

Another response is that the energy received from the sun provides the energy which created the organisms which lives off the energy. The organisms themselves grow in complexity over time thriving off the sun’s energy. But this does not solve the problem. It does not explain how organisms developed the ability to harness the sun’s energy. It also overlooks the fact that an influx of heat into a system increases the rate of entropy.[13] In other words, the Sun’s energy increases the rate of destruction, a catch-22. Raw energy from the sun is harmful to organisms unless the organisms are already capable of harnessing the raw energy, just as a plant photosynthesizes. Any life trying “evolve” these capabilities would long be destroyed by the sun before they could develop them. Dr. Andy McIntosh, Professor of Thermodynamics and Combustion Theory at Leeds University, writes, “The principles of thermodynamics, even in open systems, do not allow a new functional biological structure to be achieved without new machinery already being in place…  New machines are not made by simply adding energy to existing machines. Intelligence is needed. And this thesis is falsifiable. If anyone was to take an existing chemical machine and produce a different chemical machine which was not there before (either as a sub-part or latently coded for in the DNA template), then this argument would have been falsified. No one has ever achieved this.”[14]

Local Order:

Another response is that though disorder may increase in a system, a local order can increase. Organisms are at a smaller scale and can therefore increase in complexity while the system around it decreases in order. An example brought up is crystallization. Water for example crystallizes when cold, forming complex shapes, and thus order from disorder. The flaw in this argument is comparing complex organisms to crystallization.Crystalsform because of their regular arrangement directed by the forces of their atoms. When made colder they bond together based on their molecular shapes which can make patterns if the molecular structures are angular, a very far cry from the information coding complexity found in organisms. If such things were similar, life would be spontaneously generating all around us, but such a thing has never been observed, hence the Law of Biogenesis.

University of Texas Mathematics Professor Granville Sewell writes, “Natural forces may turn a spaceship into a pile of rubble, but not vice-versa–not because the exact arrangement of atoms in a given spaceship is more improbable than the exact arrangement of atoms in a given pile of rubble, but because (whether the Earth receives energy from the Sun or not) [whether in a closed or open system] there are very few arrangements of atoms which would be able to fly to the moon and return safely, and very many which could not.  The reader familiar with William Dembski’s ‘specified complexity’ concept [Dembski 2006], will recognize similarities to the argument here: natural forces do not do things which are ‘specified’ (macroscopically describable) and ‘complex’ (extremely improbable). Both are just attempts to state in more ‘scientific’ terms what is already obvious to the layman, that unintelligent forces cannot do intelligent things.”[15]

Order Through Dissipation:

Another response is that as energy dissipates it can cause temporary order. Order which can replicate or reproduce before it itself disassembles. This theory lacks observable experimental evidence though. Its only evidence is mathematical on paper or computer screen.[16] Bottom line, it has never been observed or proven. What has been observed and proven though are the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

Likewise, all facets of macroevolution are also a slave to these laws as well. Mutations for example, though always referenced as a driver of evolution, is not an organizing mechanism, but a disorganizing mechanism, causing harmful or neutral changes in our genetic information.[17] Natural selection also does not create order because it does not create information, but instead “chooses” from existing genetic and biochemical information.[18] Even the first incredibly critical step of macroevolution in which non-living molecules self-assemble to create the first “life,” defies the law of increasing entropy.[19] These laws prove to be a thorn in the side for believing that order can arise from disorder, and therefore for the theory of evolution. As theoretical physicist Dr. Per Bak stated, “In short, chaos theory cannot explain complexity.”[20] Dr. Arthur Wilder-Smith, a physical organic chemist writes, “Today it is simply unscientific to claim that the fantastically reduced entropy of the human brain, of the dolphin’s sound lens, and of the eye of a fossilised [sic] trilobite simply ‘happened’, for experimental experience has shown that such miracles just do not ‘happen.’”[21]

Snelling concludes, “Indeed, rather than creative processes, what we observe in the world around us are the deteriorative processes of increasing entropy implicit in the second law of thermodynamics. Every living organism eventually dies, at which point the highly developed order of organisms is reduced to random disorderly collections of molecules. Yet despite this being the universal experience of every living creature including man, demonstrated by observation and experimentation of relentless overall deterioration, contemporary biologists insist that their model of biological evolution is fact, despite the complete absence of any experimental evidence supporting it. Indeed, they simply assume evolution as the universal overriding principal of change in nature, despite all the evidence from observation and experimentation demonstrating the very opposite, that is, disorganization and deterioration.”[22] McIntosh concludes, “My position is to side with experimental science and not with ‘just-so’ attempts to get around the clear evidence of design in nature. At the very least these matters should be critically considered in science teaching today.”[23]

The conclusion reached by contemporary scientists on this issue reveals their bias. They assume from the beginning that there is no God and that evolution is fact. When confronted with an unconformity to their beliefs like the laws of thermodynamics they are forced to resort to explanations that cannot be proven or explanations that assert the consequence, because in their mind evolution is fact. But if we were to truly follow the argument where it lead, we would understand that both the laws of thermodynamics and macroevolution cannot both be right since they contradict each other. And if only one can be right, which one would you choose? I don’t know about you, but I choose the observable, proven and time tested laws of thermodynamics.


[1] Raven, R.H. & Berg, L.R., (2004) Environment, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.:Hoboken,NJ, pp.68.

[2] Raven, R.H. & Berg, L.R., (2004) Environment, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.:Hoboken,NJ,  pp.68.

[3] “Conservation of Energy,”GlennResearchCenter, http://www.grc.nasa.gov

[4] Snelling, A., (2009) Earth’s Catastrophic Past, Institute for Creation Research:Dallas,TX, pp. 615.

[5] “Second Law of Thermodynamics,”GlennResearchCenter, http://www.grc.nasa.gov

[6] Raven, R.H. & Berg, L.R., (2004) Environment, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.:Hoboken,NJ, pp. 68.

[7] Raven, R.H. & Berg, L.R., (2004) Environment, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.:Hoboken,NJ, pp. 68

[8] Raven, R.H. & Berg, L.R., (2004) Environment, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.:Hoboken,NJ,  pp. 68

[9] Bridgman, P.W., (1953) “Reflections on Thermodynamics,” American Scientist, 41: 549.

[10] Lieb, E.H. & Yngvason, J., (2000) “A Fresh Look At Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics,” Physics Today, 53 (4):32.

[11] Faure, G., (1998) Principles and Applications of Geochemistry, Second Ed., Prentice Hall:Upper Saddle River,NJ, pp. 162.

[12] Snelling, A., (2009) Earth’s Catastrophic Past, Institute for Creation Research:Dallas,TX, pp 616.

[13] Snelling, A., (2009) Earth’s Catastrophic Past, Institute for Creation Research:Dallas,TX, pp. 617.

[14] McIntosh, A., (Feb 2007) “Just Add Energy…” http://www.answersingenesis.org

[15] Sewell, G., (2010) In The Beginning and Other Essays On Intelligent Design, Discovery Institute Press:Dallas,TX, pp. 72.

[16] Snelling, A., (2009) Earth’s Catastrophic Past, Institute for Creation Research:Dallas,TX,  pp. 618.

[17] Hodge, B., (2008) “Are Mutations Part of the ‘Engine’ of Evolution?” as written in Ken Ham’s The New Answers Book 2, Master Books:Green Forest,AR, pp. 82.

[18] Purdom, G., (2006) “Is Natural Selection the Same Thing as Evolution?” as written in Ken Ham’s The New Answers Book 1, Master Books:Green Forest,AR, pp. 282.

[19] Riddle, M., (2008) “Can Natural Processes Explain the Origin of Life?” as written in Ken Ham’s The New Answers Book 2, Master Books:Green Forest,AR, pp. 72.

[20] Bak, P., (1996) How Nature Works: The Science of Self-Organized Criticality, Springer-Verlag:New York,NY, pp. 31.

[21] Wilder-Smith, A.E., (1989) The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution, WFT Books, pp. 146.

[22] Snelling, A., (2009) Earth’s Catastrophic Past, Institute for Creation Research:Dallas,TX,  pp 620.

[23] McIntosh, A., (Feb 2007) “Just Add Energy…” http://www.answersingenesis.org

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Comments
  1. Eric N Lentz says:

    how can you argue against that

  2. matthew2262 says:

    Slusher, Harold S. (Professor of Physics, University of Texas, El Paso, speaking in Adelaide at the invitation of the Creation Science Association):

    ‘In this real world in which we live, things go from order to disorder, from chaos to cosmos. I maintain that the evolutionist talks about a topsy-turvy, Alice-in-Wonderland sort of world in which things are gradually becoming more complex.’

    http://creation.com/gould-and-heribert-nilsson

  3. matthew2262 says:

    “A final point to be made is that the second law of thermodynamics and principle increase in entropy have great philosophical implications. The question that arises is how did the universe get into the state of reduced entropy in the first place, since all natural processes known to us tend to increase entropy?… The author has found that the second law tends to increase his conviction that there is a Creator who has the answer for the future destiny of man and the universe.” -Gordon J. Van Wylen, late Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Dean of Engineering at the University of Michigan.

    Van Wylen, G.J., (1959) Thermodynamics, (New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons) pp. 169

  4. matthew2262 says:

    “The time asymmetry of the universe is expressed by the second law of thermodynamics, that entropy increases with time as order is transformed into disorder. The mystery is not that an ordered state should become disordered but that the early universe apparantly was in a highly ordered state.” Pp. 39

    and

    “There is no mechanism known as yet that would allow the universe to begin in an arbitrary state and then evolve to its present highly ordered state.” Pp. 40

    -Don N. Page, Theoretical Physicist and student of Stephen Hawking (as well as co-author of many articles published by Hawking).

    Page, D.N. (July 1983) “Inflation Does Not Explain Time Asymmetry,” Nature, Vol. 304, pp. 40

  5. matthew2262 says:

    “…input of energy, by itself, int he absence of an organizing factor does not reduce the entropy of a system, which is true. Photosynthesis and various chemosynthetic mechanisms currently provide the organizing principal, but again the question reverts to what organizing principle allowed these mechanisms to form in the first place. Any organizing principle, like the organized structures it produces, is inherently related to the information… natural selection can select the cards, but the question remains, where did the cards come from in the first place?”

    -Gerald Rau (Ph. D., Cornell) Founder and Chief Editor at Professional English International.

    Rau, G., (2012) Mapping the Origins Debate, (Downers Grove, IL: InvterVarsity Press) pp. 167

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