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Entropy, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

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

The three main branches of physics are nuclear physics, dynamics and thermodynamics. Nuclear physics is the study of the evolution of stars and the creation 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 states that temperature is measured in degrees with a thermometer. The 1st law describes heat and internal energy. The 2nd law is that heat flows from hot substances to cold ones. 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. The pendulum exists only in the minds of physicists, and has no heat or entropy. The pendulum and the Boeing 747 in flight obey the laws of dynamics, not thermodynamics.

Evangelicals have the irrational but sensible idea that evolution and the origin of life violate the 2nd law. The 2nd law can be expressed by saying that entropy, which is measured in units of energy per degree, always increases. Evangelists combine the fact that a sugar cube placed in a cup of coffee will dissolve (2nd law) with the fact that proteins are present (evolution).

Entropy is related to knowing the location of sugar molecules in Cartesian coordinates (x, y, z). The entropy of an undissolved sugar cube is lower than the entropy of undissolved sugar. Entropy is also relevant to probability calculations because there is a probability that the sugar molecules in a cup of coffee will flow to a point and not sweeten the coffee.

In trying to figure out where proteins come from, biologists calculate the probability of obtaining a protein by randomly selecting amino acids. There are 20 amino acids and an 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 amino acids.

Predictors combine informational knowledge of the location of amino acids in a protein with knowledge of the Cartesian coordinates of the sugar molecules in a sugar cube. They also confuse the probability calculations of biologists with the probability calculations of physicists. Because proteins exist, nothing about a protein is impossible. It is highly unlikely that a sugar cube will reform itself in a cup of coffee.

At the beginning of his article, Styer shows some understanding of this by saying, “Dishonor is a metaphor for entropy, not a definition of entropy.” Sewell ignores this fact, as does Styer. However, Sewell challenges Styer by saying the following:

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 any change in probability. be considered. : not just the probability of the ideal gas state, but the probability of anything. (page 2)

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

Imagine you have two pieces of metal, one hot and the other cold, and you bring them into thermal contact. According to the 1st law, the internal energy of a hot particle decreases and the internal energy of a cold particle increases. There will be no loss or gain of energy. The excess energy of the cold part is “compensated”, just like a merchant is compensated when you buy something.

However, the matter is completely different with regard to entropy. There are two ways to see what’s going on. The first way is that the entropy of the cold particle increases and the entropy of the hot particle decreases. The second way is that the entropy of the two particles considered as one system increases. The idea that the increase in entropy of one “compensates” for the decrease in entropy of the other is absurd.

This dispute between Sewell and Styer regarding the 2nd law is related to the cultural dispute 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 there could be an infinite regress of causes. In this view, 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 infinite 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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