Friday, May 20, 2016

The Old Thermodynamics Canard


How frustrating is it to confront someone whose understanding of scientific principles is conditioned on his religious belief?  Just as religious faith is immune to being disputed by any evidence or logic, so too are the false understandings of the workings of nature that the theist employs in his web of self-delusion to rationalize his belief in things that have no basis in reality.  It is one of the mainstays of creationist pseudo-science that the second law of thermodynamics rules out any possibility of life emerging from a chemical primordial soup, or of living things evolving to more complex forms.  The creationist will insist that science is in his favor.  But he is profoundly wrong.

First, let me give a simple explanation of the second law.  It says that every time energy is transferred, some of it is lost to the surroundings, and typically becomes waste heat that is no longer useful for doing work.  That waste heat increases the random motion of the surroundings, and so increases the number of possible states that can be achieved.  That's what we call entropy.  The conversion of energy to wast heat is irreversible.  In a closed system, where no energy is transferred in or out of its boundaries, the total entropy only increases over time.  Note that structure within the system implies a constraint on the motion of particles, and so on the number of states that can be assumed by that collection of particles, and this means that the entropy within the structure is less than the maximum possible.  Maximum entropy entails a state of maximum randomness.  A closed system reaches its maximum entropy when it is in a state of thermal equilibrium, when the energy of all the particles it contains is evenly distributed, and all structure has broken down into random motion of constituent particles.

When energy enters a system, that energy can be freely dissipated as heat, or it can be constrained to take some other form such as mechanical motion that can perform work.  For example, an animal eats some food, which provides energy from outside.  That energy is channeled into useful forms - to grow the body, to repair damage, or provide mobility, for example.  And some of it becomes heat.  Building the non-random structure of the body actually entails a state of locally reduced entropy.  How does this comport with the second law of thermodynamics?  If the animal is regarded as a thermodynamic system, it is an open system, which means that energy is transferred into (or out of) the system.  But the second law only implies monotonically increasing entropy for a closed system.  Every decrease in entropy is accompanied by an increase elsewhere.  If the entire world is regarded as a closed thermodynamic system, there is waste heat produced by the animal's consumption of fuel, and it exceeds any locally decreased entropy within the animal, so the overall entropy of the world increases.  There is no violation of the second law.

Creationists claim that the formation of life itself is incompatible with the second law.  The argument says that because thermodynamics causes material objects to deteriorate over time, there is no natural explanation for the initiation of life, which would require more complex organic molecules forming from simpler molecules, and the formation of cellular structures.  But this is simply false.  We understand that living things have more ways to make use of energy to do things like building structure, but even if we consider only non-living things, there are still plenty of examples of natural structure-building that we see all the time.  For example, simple chemical reactions build molecules that are more complex than their constituent parts.  Combustion produces water molecules from oxygen and hydrogen, with locally reduced entropy, while releasing waste heat to the surroundings that increases overall entropy. 

Structures can be formed as a natural mechanism to facilitate the dissipation of heat.  For example, the hexagonal column structure of basaltic rock observed at the Giant's Causeway in Ireland is formed naturally in the process of lava cooling.  Similarly, the formation of organic cellular structures can also be explained in thermodynamic terms.  Here is an article discussing a theory that explains  how thermodynamics can entail the formation of proto-life cellular structures.  The creationist who claims that these phenomena are violations of thermodynamic law simply doesn't know what he is talking about.

The creationist may be especially concerned with the increasing complexity of DNA molecules through the process of evolution.  But once again, there is no violation of thermodynamics involved in this.  The random mutation of a DNA molecule is still a degradation of the orderliness of the original structure.  If the same DNA molecule continued to suffer random mutations, it would eventually become degraded to the point that it could no longer be recognized as DNA, as the entropy increases.  This is all in keeping with thermodynamics.  But since DNA has the ability to replicate, a single random mutation may be preserved, and becomes part of a new structure that can be more complex than the one it came from.  The replication of a more complex DNA molecule still requires increased energy input from an outside source.  There's no magic involved.  It's all perfectly natural.  And it's all perfectly consistent with the laws of thermodynamics.


42 comments:

  1. Just as religious faith is immune to being disputed by any evidence or logic, so too are the false understandings of the workings of nature that the theist employs in his web of self-delusion to rationalize his belief in things that have no basis in reality.

    I can say the same thing about your understanding of the hard problem. "The atheist need to use science as propaganda is immune to being disputed by any evidence or logic" and I can also add to scientific fact.

    The way atheists deal with the studies un my book I could say the same of that,

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  2. Besides it's unfair to use that argument of thermodynamics because I never see anyone using it. When it was first made in the 1930's it was not a bad argument. Informjation gained since then made it obsolete. See the Numbers book God and Nasture.?

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    1. Now I know you're not telling the truth. Our friend Stan at Atheism Analyzed is a hard-core believer in this denial of the second law of thermodynamics, along with millions of creationists. They get their misinformation from pseudo-science sites like Pogge's Creationist Propaganda, and a whole host of others.

      Not only hard-nosed science deniers like that, but your fellow bloggers at CADRE, Don McIntosh and JBsptfn buy into this nonsense. Here is a quote from McIntosh:

      "If deterioration is such a powerful principle of nature (and I agree that it is), then right there is good prima facie evidence against life, let alone a human brain, evolving from inorganic chemicals by undirected natural causes in the first place."

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    2. just because they get their immediate information from one site doesn't mean that sites hasn't tapped into s tradition that goes back before the inter net.

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    3. Sure. The tradition is as old as Christianity. And I did say "hey get their misinformation from pseudo-science sites like Pogge's Creationist Propaganda, and a whole host of others." It's certainly not just one site. But the point is that this is not science. I don't care how old their tradition is. It's pseudo-science. They try to make it sound as if they know physics better than physicists do. Their argument has been refuted over and over again. They are full of shit.

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    4. Oh, like you haven't posted links to dumb places like RationalWiki and CSICOP. Stan's site and Pogge's site are much better than those junk sites.

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    5. They're only dumb because they don't support the pseudo-science that you believe in.

      As I said: Just as religious faith is immune to being disputed by any evidence or logic, so too are the false understandings of the workings of nature that the theist employs in his web of self-delusion to rationalize his belief in things that have no basis in reality.

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    6. No, they are dumb because one is done by a 15-year old (I think), and the other is part of an atheist propaganda machine.

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    7. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry was established by Paul Kurtz, a professor, humanist, and philosopher in 1976. It is part of the Center for Inquiry, and its stated goal is to "encourage the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view and disseminate factual information about the results of such inquiries to the scientific community and the public."

      RationalWiki was founded by Peter Lipson, who is a medical doctor, and a group of supporters, after he was refused the right to edit some false junk science information he found in Conservapedia, a purveyor of right-wing nonsense.

      Propaganda is what you get from Pogge, Conservapedia, and many others of their ilk. This is the antidote to their propaganda.

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    8. Skeptical, you do realize that when I suggest entropy is "prima facie" evidence against chemical evolution I am not saying that chemical evolution is impossible, right? I am not presenting entropy is the empirical basis of some decisive falsification of abiogenesis. Yes, there are situations in which entropy temporarily decreases in one part of the system (while increasing elsewhere within it).

      Nonetheless, entropy remains one good reason among many to think that abiogenesis is probably false, unless of course good evidence is found to think that it's probably true instead. But all the other evidence we can gather (independent of thermodynamics), like the careful experimental falsifications of spontaneous generation by Pasteur and others, suggests that life does not in fact arise from nonliving matter. So the argument from prima facie evidence of entropy against chemical evolution holds.

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    9. The fact the structure arises naturally in our world is prima facie evidence that you're just plain wrong.

      Science doesn't start with a belief and then go in search of evidence to support that belief. That's what theists and pseudo-scientists do. Science looks at the evidence first, and then postulates a theory that provides the best explanation for what has been observed, taking all the evidence into account - not just the cherry-picked parts that support a particular belief.

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    10. The fact the structure arises naturally in our world is prima facie evidence that you're just plain wrong.

      No, it's positive evidence that the general prima facie evidence against decreasing entropy can be overcome in particular cases. That's precisely what I meant when I said "Yes, there are situations in which entropy temporarily decreases in one part of the system (while increasing elsewhere within it)." Unless you are suggesting that temporary entropy reduction actually falsifies the laws of thermodynamics, there's no reason here for saying I am just plain wrong. Anyone claiming that living organisms evolve naturally from an inorganic chemical basis bears a burden of proof that must overcome not only a very strong and highly confirmed tendency in nature toward thermal equilibrium, but the vast improbabilities associated with specified complexity, and of course the fact (which you seem loathe to acknowledge) that spontaneous generation has been repeatedly falsified.

      Science doesn't start with a belief and then go in search of evidence to support that belief. That's what theists and pseudo-scientists do. Science looks at the evidence first, and then postulates a theory that provides the best explanation for what has been observed, taking all the evidence into account - not just the cherry-picked parts that support a particular belief.

      I can't decide whether this is more of an ad hominem fallacy or a red herring. For now I'll just call it a red hominem.

      In any event I honestly cannot think of a better example of cherry picking data than your own appeal to combustion – rather than to the far more relevant, carefully controlled experiments disconfirming spontaneous generation – as a witness to the belief that life, well, spontaneously generates.

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    11. How is my discussion of combustion cherry-picking? I gave it as an example of things we see routinely in nature. Hydrogen and oxygen combine through combustion to form more complex molecules. It happens all around us, all the time. Nature builds complex structures from the less complex. What you describe as "temporary" decreases in entropy can last for billions of years.

      Your example, on the other hand, doesn't even show what you think it does. Pasteur's experiments (and Redi's) show that evolved organisms don't appear spontaneously, but that has nothing to do with the question of whether the first proto-life forms could have been produced under the right chemical and thermal conditions.

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    12. It's cherry picking because you have selected what confirms emergence (and then only by a generous definition of "confirm"), and ignored what disconfirms it.

      Your example, on the other hand, doesn't even show what you think it does.

      The outright falsification of spontaneous generation shows just what I always thought it did, and is, again, far more relevant to the question of abiogenesis than is combustion.

      Pasteur's experiments (and Redi's) show that evolved organisms don't appear spontaneously, but that has nothing to do with the question of whether the first proto-life forms could have been produced under the right chemical and thermal conditions.

      Right. Pasteur and Redi falsified, to the extent that it can actually be tested, the notion that life generates spontaneously from dead matter. To the extent that such a notion cannot be tested, on the other hand, it's clearly not an empirically rigorous hypothesis. Take your pick, I guess.

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    13. IMS, the Center for Inquiry is a propaganda machine. Joe Hinman did some entries about them on his AtheistWatch site:

      Atheistwatch: Cracking the Jesus Myth Phony Scholarship Code

      Atheistwatch: Center For Inquiry, Jesus Project, Atheist Organization

      And, while Conservapedia isn't great, RationalWiki isn't, either, and David Pogge's site isn't propaganda. It just doesn't describe to your false world view, so you spit on it.

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    14. CFI is a very large and well respected organization. It's not just some lone nut job like Pogge. In my worldview, science beats pseudo-science - hands down.

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    15. Also, I forgot to show you this:

      Michael Prescott's five part series on CSICOP's investigation of Maria's NDE

      Michael did this series to subject CSICOP's skeptical account of the NDE to the same standard that they advocate, and to point out the double-standard that these skeptical organizations seem to hold to (that they can freely indulge in speculation, but proponents of parapsychology aren't allowed to, or they will be ridiculed).

      That isn't the sign of a group that should be respected, but it is the sign of a group who holds the same materialist ideology that you do.

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    16. Are you kidding? This article purports to "debunk" the investigation of a NDE by noting that two of the investigators were students, and then questioning their credentials and their attitude. I see nothing in this article that disproves or even argues against any of the investigations results. I see nothing that makes a case in support of the NDE experience. All I see is ad hominem fallacy.

      Good work, JBsptfn. You have made clear what kind of arguments appeal to your mentality. I'll just stick with science, thank you.

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    17. He questioned their attitude because it deserved to be questioned. They had a dismissive tone, stereotyping the people at the NDE meeting as "religious" people that weren't interested in science without even knowing them.

      Also, someone in the comments section (in Part 4) said that the students (after volunteering for that assignment) claimed to debunk the experience to kiss up to the professor.

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    18. While you're noting some of the speculations in the comments about the motivations of the investigators, did you read the comment immediately after that one?

      The author is someone who claims to have had an NDE herself, and she even thinks she had a two-way conversation with God. But you don't have any problem believing any of that, I suppose. You think the article debunking her fantastical stories is unbelievable because the student investigators were trying to impress their professor.

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    19. OK. Maybe that Sharp lady is messed up. However, in Part 4, when someone brought up what Beyerstein said below, someone else said that it pertained to both sides, not just Sharp and her NDE people.

      "They came away with the clear impression that these people were scientifically illiterate and far more interested in bolstering their religious beliefs than they were in getting to the truth of the matter."

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    20. They raised legitimate issues with the story. Are there plausible ways to explain the subject's reports about her NDE? Yes. That doesn't disprove what she claimed, but it does provide sufficient reason for a skeptic to disbelieve it.

      And by the way, the claim that the NDE occurred while the subject was climnically dead is nothing but pure speculation, since nobody could ever prove that. The doctor doesn't know what she is experiencing at any given time. The subject doesn't know that the machines are showing that she is dead at the time of her experience, either. So any time you hear something like that, you can be 100% sure it is a lie.

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    21. 100% sure it's a lie? I don't think you can say that since you yourself said that it's pure speculation.

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    22. That's right. When you speculate about something and then present it as factual, you are lying. The reality of these NDEs is that they happen when there is mental activity going on, although it may be that normal mental activity is failing. When the machines show no mental activity, there is no experience of anything.

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    23. Again, how do you know that there is no experience when the machine flatlines? When you said that they couldn't prove that they had something when the machine flatlined, you also can't just assume that they didn't, either. That's only true if you assume Materialism, which is what you do.

      And as far as that Skeptical Enquirer is concerned, they did raise a few issues. Now, before I continue, I don't know if it is true either way (Michael Prescott also made that point clear), but when I read through that again, it appears to me that it was a hit piece, not a real endeavor to find truth.

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    24. Of course I assume materialism. That's what we have evidence for - not gods, and not souls. It is irrational to assume otherwise without evidence to support it.

      There is also plenty of physical evidence of the brain activity associated with religious or near-death experiences. To think that one might have such an experience when there is no activity in the brain is absurd.

      Maybe Skeptical Enquirer article was a hit piece. Maybe the junk coming from Sharp deserves to be hit with a good dose of rationality.

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    25. You have to. It fits your ideology.

      The evidence that you claim is there really isn't. It's like Phoenix said on Stan's blog: You throw nonsense to the wall, and then you expect someone to waste their time researching it. Consciousness without a brain is far more believable than life coming from non-life.

      Before I end this reply, you should do yourself a favor: Take your nose out of High School Evolution books (you know, the propaganda that you probably wanted Phoenix to read) and buy a copy of Joe Hinman's book The Trace of God on Amazon (I think he has a Kindle version if that's better for you).

      Joe explains why religious experience is not reducible to brain chemistry.

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    26. With all due respect to Joe, I have read some of his articles on science, but it seems he doesn't understand the sources he quotes, and then uses them in the mistaken notion that they support his religious views. As for my own knowledge of science, I have spent many years studying it and working with it professionally. That's why I am able to recognize Joe's false interpretations, and Pogge's deliberate pseudo-scientific distortions. I don't care if Joe wrote a hundred books and papers - he doesn't know what he's talking about.

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    27. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry was established by Paul Kurtz, a professor, humanist, and philosopher in 1976. It is part of the Center for Inquiry, and its stated goal is to "encourage the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view and disseminate factual information about the results of such inquiries to the scientific community and the public."

      are you aware that they kicked Kurtz out and he denounced them as fanatical? do you not know they demonstrated their lack of credibility when the guy who started the Jesus project terminated it because he said it was being used as propaganda?

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    28. What's your point, Joe? There are disagreements among skeptics, so we shouldn't believe them? Well then, by your "logic" there is absolutely no reason to believe anything religious, is there?

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  3. what part of used be good in the 30s do you not understand? the hall mark creationism is out of date science, they are still Newtonian only,

    what did I say? I read a book that will tell about that argument ?God and nature by Numbers and 'Linberg,

    what did you say that disproves that nothing, you said creationists use it so what? it's out of date, creationists are out of date.

    another thing I read that article in the 90s so It was a long time ago but if I remember it correctly it said it was a good argument at one time has been outdated,

    ever notice what my Ph.D, work was in? it was in history of ideas and I studied history of science, so that means IO study old arguments and what happened to them.

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  4. IM Skep,
    I will be blunt: you are a liar. What you said about me is a lie. That makes you a liar. You are, however, right in line with your normal line of BS.

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    1. You deny the physics of the second law of thermodynamics. I know that you think you're right, but that's because you either don't understand it, or you choose to interpret in a way that is incorrect, but agrees with your creationist views.

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    2. And speaking of lying, you accused me of deleting your comments, which is a lie, and as far as I know you have never retracted the lie, even though it was immediately pointed out to you by one of your own followers that it wasn't true.

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  5. I absolutely did not EVER deny the physics of the second law of thermodynamics and in fact I derived the second law on my blog from the principle of conservation of energy.

    I admitted that the comments were there.

    You are an incorrigible liar.

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    1. I absolutely did not EVER deny the physics of the second law of thermodynamics and in fact I derived the second law on my blog from the principle of conservation of energy.
      - No, you just don't understand how it works. This is amply demonstrated in your idiotic diatribe against Carl Sagan (see Note 1) here. You almost make it sound as if you know what you're talking about. But you DON'T.

      I admitted that the comments were there.
      - And you still implied that I had deleted them and then somehow restored them when found out (as if that could be done in Blogger). You never retracted your accusation. Your post titled IM Skeptical: Bully AND Coward remains unaltered to this day.

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    2. Oh, he doesn't, huh? There were a few commenters at that link that agreed with him, and they seemed pretty knowledgeable.

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    3. You can get a million creationists to agree with that scientifically ignorant belief. They're wrong. I showed you a number of articles by real scientists that explain it. You ignored all of them, in favor of your creationist buddy Pogge.

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    4. What real scientists? On Wikipedia?

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    5. I was recalling an earlier discussion we had. I gave you several articles by respected scientists - not Wikipedia articles. I also compiled a list of different articles on the subject - both for and against the position that you and Stan hold. I then looked at who wrote them. EVERY article on your side of the issue was written by a creationist. Doesn't that tell you something? It tells me that your position is strictly religious - it is contrary to science.

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  6. you never did look in the Numbers and Limnberg book to see that they say the thermodynamic argument seemed good at one time before we knew enough, read the book last two chapters. Lindberg sand Numbers God and Nature.


    before you go lying about my research abilities look at the evidence I found, genjus,thiat's fundamental Einstein.

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    1. you never did look in the Numbers and Limnberg book to see that they say the thermodynamic argument seemed good at one time before we knew enough, read the book last two chapters. Lindberg sand Numbers God and Nature.

      I haven't read that book. But what does it matter if it seemed like a good argument in the past? I'm talking about what we know now, and what creationists believe today. There's no excuse for clinging to pseudo-science in the face of what is known in the scientific community.

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