What Are The Small Numbers In A Chemical Formula Called Entropy, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

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Entropy, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

Peer-reviewed journals have published two articles entitled “Entropy and Evolution”. One (Daniel Styer, American Journal of Physics, Vol. 76., No. 11, Nov. 2008) says that evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics, and another claims that it does (Granville Sewell, BIO Complexity2013(2):1–5, 22 June 2013).

The three main branches of physics are nuclear physics, dynamics and thermodynamics. Nuclear physics studies the evolution of stars and the formation of elements. Dynamics studies the laws of nature and the formation of chemical compounds.

Thermodynamics is the study of liquids, solids and gases. The zeroth law of thermodynamics is that temperature is measured with a thermometer in units called degrees. The 1st law defines heat and internal energy. The 2nd law is that heat flows from hot to cold substances. The 3rd law is that 454 degrees below zero is as cold as it gets. Thermodynamics has nothing to do with the workings of machines, biology, or the evolution of stars. A pendulum is not a thermodynamic system. A pendulum exists only in the minds of physicists and has no temperature or entropy. A pendulum and a Boeing 747 in flight follow the laws of dynamics, not thermodynamics.

Evangelicals have the unintelligent but understandable idea that evolution and the origin of life violate the second law. The 2nd law can be expressed as entropy, measured in units of energy per degree, always increases. Evangelists equate the fact that a sugar cube placed in a coffee cup dissolves (2nd law) with the presence of proteins (evolution).

Entropy is related to knowing the location of sugar molecules in Cartesian coordinates (x, y, z). The entropy of the undissolved sugar cube is less than the entropy of the dissolved sugar cube. Entropy is also related to probability calculations because there is a chance that sugar molecules in a cup of coffee will drift towards one point and make the coffee sweet.

In an effort to understand where proteins come from, biologists calculate the probability of obtaining a protein with a random selection of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids and the average protein contains 300 amino acids. The probability is very low because each amino acid must be in exactly the right position relative to the other amino acids.

Evangelists confuse informational knowledge about the location of amino acids in a protein with knowledge of the cross-coordinates of sugar molecules in a sugar cube. They also confuse the probability calculations of biologists with the probability calculations of physicists. There is nothing improbable about proteins, because proteins exist. It is quite unlikely that a sugar cube in a cup of coffee will re-form itself.

Early in his paper, Styer shows some understanding of this by stating, “Disorder is a metaphor for entropy, not a definition of entropy.” Sewell ignores this truism, as does Styer. But Sewell silences Styer with this statement:

According to Styer, Boltzmann’s formula, which relates the thermal entropy of an ideal gas state to the number of possible microstates and thus to the probability of the state, can be used to calculate the change in thermal entropy associated with the change in probability. : not just the probability of an ideal gas state, but the probability of something. (page 2)

Sewell formulates Styer’s claims into a theory he calls the “compensation argument.” He then argues against the “compensation argument” instead of ridiculing it as a misunderstanding. Sewell confuses the 1st law with the 2nd law.

Suppose you have two pieces of metal, one hot and one cold, and you thermally join them together. According to the 1st law, the internal energy of a hot piece decreases and the internal energy of a cold piece increases. Energy does not disappear or increase. The increase in energy of the cold piece is “compensated”, just as a merchant is compensated when he buys something.

However, it is completely different when it comes to entropy. There are two ways to look at what is happening. The first possibility is that the entropy of the cold piece increases and the entropy of the hot piece decreases. Another possibility is that the entropy of both pieces, considered as a single system, increases. The idea that an increase in one entropy is “compensated” by a decrease in another entropy is nonsense.

This conflict between Sewell and Styer over the 2nd law is related to the cultural conflict over the theory of intelligent design, which is related to the cosmological argument for the existence of God. Many people mistakenly think that the cosmological argument involves a “first cause” and is invalid because causes can regress infinitely. In the context of this discussion, the Big Bang, the origin of life, and evolution are considered evidence of an intelligent designer. The cosmological argument according to Thomas Aquinas, as explained by Etienne Gilson, is based on the existence of finite beings and the idea that there is an infinite being, not a “first cause”. The Big Bang, the origin of life and evolution is proof that God does not exist, because it is proof that the universe is incomprehensible.

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