Evidence that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is wrong?

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by Joe Felsenstein, http://evolution.gs.washington.edu/felsenstein.html

The Discovery Institute Press has published a book by Granville Sewell, a mathematician at the University of Texas at El Paso. Under the title of In The Beginning And Other Essays on Intelligent Design, it apparently consists of previous writings of Sewell, some in revised versions. I hasten to say that I do not have a copy of the book, and have not read it. However Sewell makes it clear that its basic arguments can also be found online in earlier versions of these essays. The one that interests me is his argument that evolution contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which will be found online here, here, here, and here.

Now the statement that evolution can’t have occurred because it contradicts the Second Law is one of the hoariest old creationist myths. When you hear it you know you are dealing either with someone who does not understand science, or else someone who does understand science but is actively, and dishonestly, trying to get you not to understand science. It is easily answered, and has been, many times: in a closed system entropy does increase, but the biosphere is not a closed system — it is utterly dependent on inflows of energy, mostly from the sun, and the entropy increase from the outflow of energy from the sun far exceeds the decrease of entropy by reproduction and by evolution.

Surely the Discovery Institute wants its scientific arguments to be ones that can be taken seriously. Sewell must have come up with some new argument that is more powerful than the old creationist howler, no? Well … no. Granville Sewell’s arguments about the Second Law have already been answered, years ago and at length, by Mark Perakh (here) and by Jason Rosenhouse (here). Even in Sewell’s announcement of his book at Uncommon Descent, in the comments on that post the pro-evolution commentator “nakashima” has made a fairly devastating critique.

Granville Sewell’s response to the basic argument that the biosphere is not a closed system is that

… if all we see entering is radiation and meteorite fragments, it seems clear that what is entering through the boundary cannot explain the increase in order observed here.

Which leads me to a thought. My back yard has some very tough and capable weeds, with which we struggle. I know that if I take a few seeds from one of these weeds and plant them, in a few months there will be weed plants there, ones that have a great many of those same seeds on them.

That is a local decrease in entropy, an increase in order. A few seeds are replaced by many, with stems and leaves too. How did this happen? Aside from some water, carbon dioxide and minerals, mostly it happened by sunlight striking the plants and driving photosynthesis. It’s not a mystery. But all we saw entering the plants was radiation!

If Granville Sewall is right, the growth of the weeds is a violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Since Granville Sewell is a trained mathematician, and his work is endorsed by the Discovery Institute Press, surely we must be hesitant to conclude that his argument is simply wrong. No, the inevitable conclusion is that Second Law of Thermodynamics must be wrong. A momentous conclusion. Someone should tell the physicists.

There can hardly be any more repeatable and easily verifiable phenomenon in nature than the growth of weeds in my back yard. Evolution happens, natural selection improves the fitness of organisms … and weeds grow. If Granville Sewell is right, these all prove that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is wrong.

263 Comments

Dear Lord, if you exist, spare us from 2LOT trolls…

Bringing up the 2nd law of thermodynamics (2lot) is a clever ploy, for very few people understand it, and any argument based on the 2lot therefore sounds like quibbling over fine points between two groups of experts. That is, it sounds like there really is a “scientific controversy”, and it is “only fair to have open discussion between the two sides of the controversy.”

May I simply point out, rather, that the 2lot applies also to intelligent designers. It was discovered precisely because the very clever engineers of the 19th century ran into limitations on what they were able to do. They couldn’t make “perpetual motion machines of the 2nd kind”.

Therefore, if anyone discovers a violation of the 2lot, we can feel confident that the explanation for that violation is not to be found in the activity of intelligent designers.

This is, of course, merely pointing out once again that the advocates of intelligent design do not have an answer to the very question that they are raising. Which is an instance of the observation that ID does not have an answer to any question.

As a rule, when I see this argument used, the IDiot tends to simply state that complexity can not come from simplicity. It violates the 2nd law.

Have any of these people been to a child birthing? From a single sperm and a single egg we get babies. That’s about as complicated as any 747.

Creationist claims that there cannot be a LOCAL decrease in entropy demonstrate either extreme dishonesty or complete lack of ignorance of thermodynamics.

Also, presumably, since life does require energy input to be maintained, the ongoing reproduction and growth of organisms does represent a local decrease in entropy at some scale.

But this would be the case whether or not life was evolving. The facts that reproduction results in offspring that vary from parents, and that natural selection of phenotypes and other factors such as genetic drift can cause variation in allele frequency in population, don’t necessarily seem to suggest increased consumption of energy/extra decrease of local entropy. It takes energy and presumably local decrease in entropy to reproduce and survive; it doesn’t necessarily take EXTRA energy/local entropy decrease to evolve. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t (the chemistry behind mutations is complex but they are spontaneous events).

Perhaps the 2LOT argument is not merely wrong about 2LOT, but also entirely irrelevant. It may actually amount to an argument that life itself does not exist.

Ah, so now the DI is promoting 2LOT denial: all power to the big tent!

If Granville Sewall is right, the growth of the weeds is a violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Unless, of course, there is intervention of an intelligent designer capable of violating SLOT. So, in conclusion, if you are having problems with weeds in your yard, it is clearly a punishment from God The Intelligent Designer. HTH.

Now let’s see, all we have to do to fool the ignorant rubes is make a few nebulous statements conflating the terms energy, entropy and information (without ever actually defining these terms mind you) and everyone will be fooled. Brilliant!

Why these charlatans always think that they can bring down hundreds of years of scientific advancement with a few simple word games and absolutely no evidence or experimentation is beyond me. Why anyone would fall for this kind of tripe is another matter altogether.

Granville Sewell Wrote:

It is a well-known prediction of the second law that, in a closed system, every type of order is unstable and must eventually decrease, as everything tends toward more probable states. Not only will carbon and temperature distributions become more disordered (more uniform), but the performance of all electronic devices will deteriorate, not improve. Natural forces, such as corrosion, erosion, fire and explosions, do not create order, they destroy it. The second law is all about probability, it uses probability at the microscopic level to predict macroscopic change: the reason carbon distributes itself more and more uniformly in an insulated solid is, that is what the laws of probability predict when diffusion alone is operative.

Sigh!

I have been watching this shtick for over 40 years, and it is one of the most exasperating displays of gut-bustingly, determined stupidity imaginable.

The second law of thermodynamics is NOT about order. Entropy is NOT about order.

I and other physicists have said this repeatedly over those 40 years, but the meme spreads faster than we can keep up with it. We even see other scientists catching this virus.

And I have also pointed out here on PT and in talks I have given over the years that this misconception is The Fundamental Misconception of the ID/creationists. There is nothing else that even comes close to identifying ID/creationist writings as reliably as this misconception.

Even when ID/creationists attempt to avoid using the 2nd law argument overtly, the misconceptions remain in their work. Dembski’s “conservation of information” and “complex specified information” and his tactics for calculating probabilities all reveal the misconception. Behe’s “irreducible complexity” is founded on this misconception. Abel’s “spontaneous molecular chaos” is a result of this misconception. Sanford’s “genetic entropy” derives from this misconception. So do entropy barriers.

Every example given by ID/creationists from the time of Morris and Gish and their “tornadoes-in-junkyards” argument employs this misconception and makes the further mistake of completely disregarding the energy ranges in which various complex systems form and operate.

All the “improbability arguments” made by ID/creationists rely on this misconception because they must employ the “lottery winner fallacy” in order to get their “argument” to come out “right.”

Granville Sewell Wrote:

If archeologists of some future society were to unearth the many versions of my PDE solver, PDE2D , which I have produced over the last 20 years, they would certainly note a steady increase in complexity over time, and they would see many obvious similarities between each new version and the previous one.

This one is particularly ironic in view of the claims by Dembski, et. al. that Dawkins’ Weasel Program has the solution put in by intelligence. Dembski and Marks also criticize the genetic algorithm programs for having algorithms that make use of “active information” to find the solution.

Just what the hell does Sewell think his partial differential solvers do; randomly select solutions from essentially infinite solution spaces?

Not on your life; Sewell “cheats” just like anyone else who puts in things like continuity, differentiability, analyticity, and whatever other properties one can use to solve systems of PDEs.

Suggesting that physicists and biologists cannot be allowed to put into their computer programs the algorithms that nature uses to “find solutions” is also another manifestation of that Fundamental Misconception.

ID/creationists, as I have said before, live inside their heads. They never observe what goes on in nature, they never study how complex systems evolve in nature. They know nothing of the four fundamental forces in nature. They know nothing of solids and liquids, of wetted surfaces, of Vander Waals forces.

By coincidence there is a very nice article in the February 2010 issue of Physics Today about how water wets. But this stuff has been known about and studied for well over a century. The more technological tools we acquire, the more we learn of the subtle details of these processes.

And NONE of them violate the laws of thermodynamics, PERIOD.

carlsonj said: Unless, of course, there is intervention of an intelligent designer capable of violating SLOT.

That, of course, is the unspoken crux of their argument. Unspoken because natural designers obey 2LOT, so admitting their designer does not shows their whole “it could be aliens” line is bogus and they are only talking about God.

harold said:

Creationist claims that there cannot be a LOCAL decrease in entropy demonstrate either extreme dishonesty or complete lack of ignorance of thermodynamics.

A lack of ignorance? No, that is something of which they have an endless supply.

http://books.google.com/books?id=s7[…]CBQQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=&f=false

Has anyone read this book?

Granville is a fascinating example of how much trouble the creationists and intelligent design proponents have of getting people who are actually productive in their fields (although in the case of Behe it looks like he was productive until he got involved). Let’s look at Granville’s publication record according to Mathscinet, which covers pretty much all mathematics in the Western hemisphere

We have two items about his software (which he can’t resist plugging any here), one from 1983 and the other from 1985. We have a paper from 1988 about making graphs look pretty and easy to see on computer screens. We have two marginally large works. One is a review work/textbooks on the state of PDE research from 2005, but that is a second edition. Original is from 1988. The other is a textbook on computational linear algebra from 2005. The textbooks seem to be well-received judging from a quick Google search for reviews, two of which note that Granville uses the textbook in his own classes (memo to Granville, you are not Serge Lang). It seems like his productivity isn’t exactly high. No real research since the 1980s.

Hmm, I may need to take my comment back slightly. I just looked also at Granville’s resume (linked to from his homepage http://www.math.utep.edu/Faculty/sewell/ )and it looks like if one moves outside pure math his productivity doesn’t look as bad, with some papers in metallurgy and geology. The result doesn’t look nearly as bad. He doesn’t look impressive at all. Seems more like a mediocre academic than someone with a poor record.

Also apparently he’s been pushing some form of ID for a while. There appears to be some sort of postscript to “Analysis of a Finite Element Method: PDE/PROTRAN” which the DI claims is pro-ID. That’s from 1985. If anyone can track down a copy I’d be interested in seeing what it says.

Granville Sewell Wrote:

With time, the second law came to be interpreted more and more generally, and today most discussions of the second law in physics textbooks offer examples of entropy increases (order decreases, since we are defining order to be the opposite of entropy) which have nothing to do with heat conduction or diffusion, such as the shattering of a wine glass or the demolition of a building.

Damn! He even accuses the physicists of spreading this meme.

Prior to the Morris and Gish, physicists knew of the misconceptions about entropy and compensated for them in their courses. Since Morris and Gish, the misconceptions students brought into statistical mechanics and thermodynamics courses in physics grew dramatically. The meme was spreading with a vengeance by the 1980s.

The history of thermodynamics, the 2nd law and entropy contains many “interpretations” which were gradually being consolidated into a more consistent picture, and physics instructors were making efforts to ensure students understood that thermodynamics was about the bookkeeping of energy, NOT order.

It didn’t help that von Neuman and Shannon started using the term entropy for a formula in information theory that looked a lot like Boltzmann’s expression for entropy. But that was being dealt with by instructors.

However, some physicists, in their attempts to introduce the concepts of probability and statistics, would use illustrations of permutations and combinations that involved the spatial distributions of balls in slots. It was a well-intentioned attempt to clarify concepts that sometimes backfired when the instructor or textbook made the transition back to the enumeration of energy states. Students sometimes didn’t make the transition and would conflate spatial order with energy states.

Then along came the creationists and Morris and Gish who managed to grab onto the most egregious mischaracterizations of thermodynamics. After “scientific” creationism morphed into ID, those very misconceptions and mischaracterizations flooded the molecular level arguments by Dembski, Behe, et. al..

There are many efforts by the physics community as well as the chemistry community to deal with this misconception. Many introductory courses are placing far more emphasis on the enumeration of ENERGY states and trying to avoid the association of entropy with disorder.

I suspect one of the reasons that the ID/creationists jumped onto the “information shtick” is because it is a relatively new field compared with physics and chemistry, and the word “entropy” is used differently but can be easily conflated with its use in thermodynamics.

Conflation is one of the favorite games of ID/creationists. That game derives from their upbringing in exegesis, hermeneutics, etymology, and generalized word-gaming. I have never seen an ID/creationist speaker who didn’t play this game.

Confusing entropy with disorder is ridiculous. It has nothing to do with order/disorder and if it did entropy increases order. Example: add hot water to a cup of cold water the initial state is quite disorderly but over time it becomes a uniform temperature due to entropy. And discounting the sun? The sun adds 0.174 exajoules to Earth every second. That means every 10 minutes it add more energy than that consumed by the US every year (105 EJ).

Dude, if you’ve really overturned the second law of thermodynamics, you need to email the President of Physics.

How would it help the antievolution activists to show that the 2nd law was wrong, anyway? That wouldn’t rule out evolution, it would just rule out one of their oldest arguments. At least, to anyone who’s paying attention that’s what it would do.

Besides, entropy is about the distribution of energy states among atomic (or subatomic) particles, not the arrangements of those particles in molecules.

Henry

Joe, their argument will simply be that God “the designer” (nudge, wink), created the weeds in the first place, they’re just doing what they were designed to do.

Not agreeing, just saying.

Mike, not exactly. From a mathematical perspective entropy really is deeply related to permutation issues. Boltzmann entropy and Gibbs entropy are both defined specifically in terms of permutations, and there are some of the oldest forms of entropy known. And yes, some formulations of Shannon information theory aren’t just similar to the entropy equations, but actually identical. And the analogy is actually a helpful one in some contexts (such as for example in making Landauer principle argumens which are sort of related to understanding why Maxwell’s demon doesn’t work).

Note also that we need to be careful when we talk about just “entropy” as a general issue because there are actually multiple definitions used by physicists. All the often used defintions agree closely if one is dealing with a well behaved object, such as a gas that is close to ideal. However, they branch off quickly from there, not so much from disagreement of values (although in the case of Boltzmann v. Gibbs that does happen) so much as that some of them are just not meaningful in certain contexts. Thus for example, the definitions of entropy used for most classical purposes will break down in contexts where there is quantum mechanical behavior but we have other definitions that pick up the slack in those cases.

Disclaimer: I’m a math grad student not a physicist, so some of the above may be wrong.

These mathematicians are a funny lot. They happily start with a few axioms and start proving theorem after theorem that were all consistent with those axioms even if it has absolutely no connection to reality.

Italian mathematician Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri set about to prove that Euclidean geometry is the only possible geometry. He started with a postulate that basic axioms of Euclid are not true and proved theorem after theorem, looking for a violation of the starting axioms to finally say, “Since this can not be true, our assumption Euclidean axioms are wrong also can not be true. So Euclidean geometry is the only True Geometry”. He never could. Every theorem he proved was consistent. He died thinking he was a miserable failure. But what he had done was to have invented an entirely new branch of mathematics, “Non Euclidean geometry”. Of course we dont have a single example of non euclidean geometry existing, none physicists could detect. But that still that non euclidean geometry is a vibrant and active field.

So let this mathematician also start with the axiom that second law of thermody is false, and go on to prove a new field of mathematics. Since 2lot is the only physical law that obeys an arrow of time, (all other physical laws work forward as well as backward in time) he will have a fertile field where water flows uphill, heat flows from cool to hot bodies, even faster than light travel may be possible.

But that will not make it real or physical any more than non Euclidean geometry.

Sorry guys, yesterday I was roped in to sit in an all day meeting a French mathematician who kept talking about Kryolov sub spaces and singular value decomposition till we all keeled over.

Joshua Zelinsky said:

Mike, not exactly. From a mathematical perspective entropy really is deeply related to permutation issues. Boltzmann entropy and Gibbs entropy are both defined specifically in terms of permutations, and there are some of the oldest forms of entropy known.

The permutation issues arise only for the ideal gas and, as we all know, no gas is ideal.

A good discussion about why disorder is a poor metaphor for entropy is presented by Professor of Chemistry Frank L. Lambert at

http://entropysite.oxy.edu/

Since retirement, Lambert has led a crusade to get texts to stop using the “entropy as disorder” metaphor. (As Granville notes, this poor usage is depressingly common. Granville, however, takes this as evidence that it’s correct!)

The site currently starts off with the announcement: “The 2nd edition of Burdge’s Chemistry was published in late January. It is truly excellent. Not only have all references in the previous edition to entropy as “disorder” been eliminated but, far beyond this, the introduction to “what entropy is” is superbly handled.”

A side note here is that this book was published by the Dishonesty Institute Press (who/what?). The DI has apparently gone into the business of publishing their own nonsense. This allows them to publish their religious tracts as science, their creationism as science, and also they can claim their materials are peer reviewed (by fellow creationits of course), thus giving them an air of legitmacy to their followers and answering the claims of the real scientific community that they have no peer-reviewed materials. This must be a strategy linked to their 2010 wedge efforts.

Ravilyn Sanders said:

Sorry guys, yesterday I was roped in to sit in an all day meeting a French mathematician who kept talking about Kryolov sub spaces and singular value decomposition till we all keeled over.

I love singular value decomposition!

But I must admit that if I’ve ever heard of Kryolov subspaces, I’ve forgotten.

If someone disses your experimental results, just say, “They’re as repeatable and verifiable as Felsenstein’s Weeds.” In this way, you can demonstrate a complete lack of ignorance.

Phillip Moon said:

As a rule, when I see this argument used, the IDiot tends to simply state that complexity can not come from simplicity. It violates the 2nd law.

Have any of these people been to a child birthing? From a single sperm and a single egg we get babies. That’s about as complicated as any 747.

I use the EXACT same argument. “Wait. Don’t all your arguments apply equally well to development? Are you arguing that the second law forbids a single cell to grow into a person?”

Yes there is a Flea in the comment threads of my local newspaper who is a YEC/bible literalist. He repeats all the old creationist canards and 2LOT is a favorite. Yesterday I got the giraffe neck one. Yawn.

I’d love to know how many creationists believe that human inventors can evade the 2nd law. My impression is that many of them don’t realize that genuine intelligent design, i.e. what engineers do for a living, is as constrained by thermodynamics as any other process in the universe.

Dan said:

The permutation issues arise only for the ideal gas and, as we all know, no gas is ideal.

As I understand it, the issue arises if one wants the approximate entropy of a near-ideal gas to actually behave asymptotically how it should. Indeed, the whole permutation thing comes in what amounts to the non-ideal case. In an ideal gas Boltzmann and Gibbs entropy agree. It is only in the non-ideal case that we care about permutations. Am I missing something here?

A good discussion about why disorder is a poor metaphor for entropy is presented by Professor of Chemistry Frank L. Lambert at

http://entropysite.oxy.edu/

I have zero objection to that and indeed support it a lot. Thinking about entropy in terms of disorder is generally misleading and thinking in terms of information is only helpful in certain narrow contexts. But this is a distinct issue from what I was talking about, which is thinking in terms of permutations and ensembles.

Joshua Zelinsky said:

Mike, not exactly. From a mathematical perspective entropy really is deeply related to permutation issues.

Josh,

Entropy refers to the number of energy microstates that are consistent with the macrostate of the system (its temperature, pressure, volume, magnetization, etc.)

It is actually the logarithm of that number multiplied by Boltzmann’s constant(S = kB ln W, where W is the number of microstates). The enumeration of those states gets into the technical issues of counting, and that is often where the confusion starts because there are lots of individual cases one can play with. It also depends on whether one is considering a classical system or a quantum mechanical system. Then there are the issues of energy distributions, Boltzmann, Bose-Einstein, and Fermi-Dirac.

But the form of that relationship (the logarithm along with Boltzmann’s constant) gives it a tight relationship to the absolute temperature of the system and the way that number of microstates changes with total energy. And it eventually all ties together with the older thermodynamic calculations.

I don’t want to drive away people here. My past experiences warn me to avoid getting into the nerdy, arcane details in the presence of people who may be uncomfortable with the math; and it isn’t necessary to get into these details because the misconceptions actually begin at a much more elementary level.

So let me just divide this into a couple of stages.

You may be familiar with the fact that thermodynamics can be taught without any regard to the details of the “internal states” of a system. One can divide up the energy budget into “heat” or “internal energy” and energy that goes into doing mechanical work. The “working medium” can hold energy, and we can do empirical measurements to determine how much the medium can store energy in the form of “heat”. Then the entire subject can be reduced to a set of partial derivatives on multivariable functions that give the relationships among things like temperature, volume, pressure; all macroscopic parameters of the system. Some courses can be taught in an almost axiomatic fashion.

But ultimately one wants to lay the groundwork that actually allows one to look into the “working medium” and actually account for where that internal energy is stored and in what form.

To do that in a beginning calculus level or classical mechanics course, one can start making toy models of classical molecules that spin, vibrate, bend and do a number of other kinds of motions for which kinetic and potential energy can be calculated. Then a collection of these “molecules” can be made the “working medium” inside a container in which they can also pick up energy from interactions with the “outside world”.

From this little exercise, one can begin to talk about the total internal energy and the average energy per degree of freedom among all the ways the toy molecules can store energy. This starts laying the groundwork for the concept of temperature from the microscopic perspective (in classical thermodynamics, temperature is related to a macroscopic property of the system, such as its length within a constraining tube; i.g., a mercury thermometer. There are lots of other things that can be used also; and there are details that need to be considered as well, but let’s hold off on that for now.).

However, for laypersons, explanations have to be far simpler; and it is very difficult for a working physicist to not want to start slinging around mathematics, but one must learn to resist.

Therefore, one is limited to telling laypeople that energy is contained inside a system within a bunch of microscopic “buckets” or “wiggly mechanisms” that vibrate in various ways. With a little effort and elaboration, one can bridge the gap somewhat so that people get the idea (I have used rattle-trap cars with all their loose and vibrating parts as it hauls down a bumpy road to illustrate frictional heating, for example.)

I think most physicists these days are being very careful about “multiple definitions” of entropy. The issues for the transition from classical to quantum physics comes down to counting; and even classical systems must ultimately come down to a denumerable set of states. Quantum mechanics ultimately erased the paradoxes in classical physics with infinitesimal divisions of energy states. So that issue no longer exists; or at least should not cause serious problems.

Where the issue for the layperson and the ID/creationists lies is in how matter condenses into increasingly complex systems and does this within various distinct energy ranges. This is the mistake that nearly all ID/creationists make; namely, that “spontaneous molecular chaos”, to use Abel’s made up term, applies. That is dead wrong and always has been.

The rule in nature is that matter condenses; and it does so in various energy ranges depending on the depth of the potential wells formed by their mutual interactions.

In order for particles to condense into these wells, energy must be released. That energy goes off in the form of photons, phonons, or is carried away by other particles. And in accounting for that energy, one finds that the second law always holds.

One can also count the number of microstates and compute entropy. If the total number of microstates for a given set of molecules has decreased because they clustered, a greater number of microstates had to become available in order for them to do this. That greater number encompasses all those photons, phonons, and other molecules that carried excess energy away.

Here is a link to a colloquial description of Maxwell’s Demon I did on an earlier thread. I can think of better ways to do it if I had to do it again, but it conveys the idea, I hope.

The reason these thermodynamic arguments persist so long, and despite so much debunking, is probably simple: they’re one of the few arguments where the creationist god is not an option, it is absolutely required, and evolution is either impossible and so didn’t happen, or is impossible without the creationist god.

For the average non-physicist creationist (and even for those who ARE physicists), the claim that their god MUST be involved, because evolution would defy fundamental laws without it, is obviously intoxicating. I think this is a sort of creationist version of physics envy.

darwinism.dogBarf() said:

Evolutionists are so stupid they do not even know the difference between a closed and an isolated system. A closed system can have energy exchange with the outside world, but not matter exchange. Only in an isolated system are both energy and matter sealed off from the outside world.

Look up the words adiabatic and isothermal.

Then look up the word brain-dead.

Evolutionists think even in a closed system like the earth, and certainly in an open one, complexity increases because of the input of energy.

This is a false characterization so that you can make the stupid remark that followed.

We suspect that you know that you are doing the typical “Christian” taunting shtick.

Before you make a whole bunch of assertions and assumptions about what scientists know, why don’t you read this entire thread and the “Entropy and Evolution” thread as well?

darwinism.dogBarf() said:

I am proposing a new category of system–cognitively isolated–that does not allow information exchange.

Oh.

And are you going to conduct any actual research as to the veracity of your construct, or is this a another Bill Dembski “definition by fiat”?

darwinism.dogBarf() said: Well, I am using the same definition used at evolutionists’ universities. Check this site out if you’re not convinced. A closed system can still exchange energy, just not matter. (Yes, I am aware there are a few meteorites coming down and space probes going up, but it still practically closed.) I am proposing a new category of system–cognitively isolated–that does not allow information exchange.

I can say great confidence that a) your assumptions are wrong by more than just a few meteorites (the Earth’s atmosphere is constantly being bombarded) and b) a system need not exchange matter for a local decrease in entropy to be observed.

Since you’re going to make up a new category of system called “cognitively” isolated (which, BTW, anthropomorphizes natural phenomena themselves - the irony is delicious,) you had better define it. And all of the supporting terms. In a way that is testable.

Then you should really strive hard to make the argument that you are not conflating shannon entropy with thermal entropy.

Let me just make this statement: Entropy doesn’t mean what you think it means.

I only count two so far, e.db. You still need eight more for extra credit.

dogbarf(),

Actually, I made the distinction between closed and isolated systems on the fourth page of this thread. If the argument you are trying to make is that the second law of thermodynamics in all cases prevents the formation of dissipative structures (like living organisms), the distinction between open, closed, and isolated systems doesn’t matter – if I have an isolated system that is not at equilibrium, I can subdivide it into subsystems that can participate in the mass and/or energy exchanges necessary to maintain a dissipative structure for some period of time. There is some very nice work done on the requirements for the formation of dissipative structures and the stability of these structures. You appear to be completely unaware of this work, as do most if not all of your fellow science deniers.

If you really want to discuss advanced thermodynamics with people who are (or were) using it as part of their work as scientists, you really do need to learn at least basic undergraduate thermodynamics … and you won’t get that from an introductory book on earth science. Especially from one that is, wrong in categorizing the earth as a closed system.

And, I’m sorry I didn’t see your posts sooner, all the really good snark about cognitive isolation has already been used.

SWT said: And, I’m sorry I didn’t see your posts sooner, all the really good snark about cognitive isolation has already been used.

Fear not, SWT. I suspect that, with a fresh semester of Dembski students vying for those extra credit points, there will be plenty of new and previously unexplored word salad thermodynamics and information theory nonsense to snark at.

fnxtr said:

I only count two so far, e.db. You still need eight more for extra credit.

I wonder if Dembski counts snarky taunts as part of the 10 posts.

And I don’t know how he would judge substance of any of his students’ posts since he is not aware of his own misconceptions which are so profound and ingrained.

It makes it appear that his is sending out his rubes as point men to do the reconnaissance and take the flack for his own stupidity because he himself is terrified of the crucible of peer-review by real scientists.

SWT said: And, I’m sorry I didn’t see your posts sooner, all the really good snark about cognitive isolation has already been used.

Not so. That was some good snark all by itself.

stevaroni said:

SWT said: And, I’m sorry I didn’t see your posts sooner, all the really good snark about cognitive isolation has already been used.

Fear not, SWT. I suspect that, with a fresh semester of Dembski students vying for those extra credit points, there will be plenty of new and previously unexplored word salad thermodynamics and information theory nonsense to snark at.

Yeah, like how a system “knows” whether or not to take in information, and further, what to do with it if it “decides” to take it in.

Mike Elzinga said: Yeah, like how a system “knows” whether or not to take in information, and further, what to do with it if it “decides” to take it in.

Maxwell’s Daemon?

Or

Morton’s Daemon?

darwinism.dogBarf() said:

“I am proposing a new category of system–cognitively isolated–that does not allow information exchange.”

Oh, like creationists. No matter what, no new information will ever be looked at, discussed or even acknowledged. They just keep pointing out over and over again that Darwin didn’t know everything while ignoring all of the findings of science in the last one hundred and fifty years. You mean that kind of “cognitive isolation”? Yea, nothing good can ever come of that type of thing.

I am proposing a new category of system–cognitively isolated–that does not allow information exchange

I am proposing that you don’t know the first thing about information or entropy, beyond whatever rhetorical balloon animals you can spin with those words and concepts, to manufacture sciency but vacuous religious apologetics for your lame god, who apparently has nothing to say herself.

And do you think all this exploratory snark will help the IDists any closer to a working definition of infotmation.

Maybe they’re trying to prove conservation of information by showing that they never increase the amount of it they possess?

Henry J said:

Maybe they’re trying to prove conservation of information by showing that they never increase the amount of it they possess?

I would take it a little farther than that. The Law of Conservation of Information requires that an increase in scientific knowledge must be offset by an equal increase in ignorance somewhere else. In other words scientific progress is making creationists more ignorant.

tresmal said:

Henry J said:

Maybe they’re trying to prove conservation of information by showing that they never increase the amount of it they possess?

I would take it a little farther than that. The Law of Conservation of Information requires that an increase in scientific knowledge must be offset by an equal increase in ignorance somewhere else. In other words scientific progress is making creationists more ignorant.

You forgot about the intelligent designer part. It takes some intelligence to be that willfully ignorant. You could say it is by design.

darwinism.dogBarf() said:

Evolutionists are so stupid they do not even know the difference between a closed and an isolated system. A closed system can have energy exchange with the outside world, but not matter exchange. Only in an isolated system are both energy and matter sealed off from the outside world.

… [delete rest] …

I am going to make a big confession. darwinism.dogbarf() is right … on one point. After looking at a few thermodynamics textbooks, Wikipedia, etc. I have to say that I was wrong – the opposite of an open system is supposed to be called an isolated system, not a closed system. My bad.

So please go through my original argument and replace “closed” by “isolated” throughout.

And then what? Well, it turns out to still be valid. Granville Sewell turns out to still be wrong, and the Discovery Institute turns out to still be sponsoring wrong science.

If dogbarf is an not a silly off-the-wall troll, dogbarf could perhaps explain what is wrong with my argument. But not by making up general principles of “cognitive isolation” which are contradicted – like Sewell’s original argument – every time a weed grows in my back yard.

ben said:

rhetorical balloon animals

Brill. Absolutely brill.

Joe Felsenstein said:

I am going to make a big confession. darwinism.dogbarf() is right … on one point. After looking at a few thermodynamics textbooks, Wikipedia, etc. I have to say that I was wrong – the opposite of an open system is supposed to be called an isolated system, not a closed system. My bad.

It’s a little easier to keep track if you think of the three main mechanisms that can carry energy into an out of the system; namely, photons, phonons, or other particles of matter.

Then there is also the issue of interactions among the constituents of a system whereby they exchange energy among themselves. All matter interacts, especially when in close proximity. And it is the nature of these interactions that generate the photons and/or phonons that carry away energy (unless the system is adiabatically enclosed; in which case those photons are returned to the system and transfer their energy back into the matter).

If the constituents of a system did not interact at all, then the energy within the system would not ultimately get distributed into the most probable states. Those interactions lead to the 2nd law because photons or phonons get generated. If these can leave the constituents, carrying energy away as they do, then matter condenses.

It is extremely difficult to make a totally isolated system; and it is nearly impossible to make the constituents of such a system non-interactive.

tresmal said: I would take it a little farther than that. The Law of Conservation of Information requires that an increase in scientific knowledge must be offset by an equal increase in ignorance somewhere else. In other words scientific progress is making creationists more ignorant.

Actually, this is kinda true.

Once upon a time, it was common for learned men to have a background in both science and theology. In fact, you weren’t considered “educated” without it.

These mean (there were precious few women, sadly) had no trouble keeping both sides of the equation in their heads.

DaVinci, Gallileo, Newton, Maxwell, they were all religious men. Copernicus was a monk, and even Darwin was an ordained minister.

They were all unblinking creationists, the vast majority of Victorian scientists were happy to accept that God made the world, they were excited that they finally had the tools to figure out exactly how the Big Guy accomplished the task.

The problem was, that as more and more knowledge about the mechanisms of nature was dug up (sometimes literally), the less and less need there turned out to be for God to watch every sparrow fall.

The more people really looked at nature, the more it was apparent that the world seemed to run just fine without divine intervention. As Laplace famously noted in the dry analysis of science “The ‘God hypothesis’ was no longer necessary.”

This started to pose a significant problem for people who read the Bible literally. In order to remain a classic New Earth / Garden / Noah’s Ark creationist, you actually had to start ignoring an increasing pile of data that pointed in the other direction.

Nowadays, we’re faced with the farcical display of creationist websites like AIG trying to explain that creation could have happened as told in Genesis becasue the speed of light randomly changes, the Earth is surrounded by a giant shell of water, and the dinosaurs were all killed and methodically sorted by global floods - all things which can only be believed if you’re willing to ignore piles of empirical data that the rest of mankind has been happily using for decades.

So yes, scientific progress is making creationists ignorant. The more data science turns up, the more things that creationists must ignore.

Maybe dogbarf is onto something here and I’ve been too hasty with him.

Maybe Dembski actually has turned up a new principal of nature - “conservation of ignorance”.

stevaroni said:

Nowadays, we’re faced with the farcical display of creationist websites like AIG trying to explain that creation could have happened as told in Genesis becasue the speed of light randomly changes, the Earth is surrounded by a giant shell of water, and the dinosaurs were all killed and methodically sorted by global floods - all things which can only be believed if you’re willing to ignore piles of empirical data that the rest of mankind has been happily using for decades.

I suspect it has a lot to do with market share. Ken Ham’s AiG, the “Discovery” Institute, and the Institute for Creation “Research”, all these are the primary sources of income for the charlatans who run them.

Fundamentalists are a fertile territory for finding rubes. They are already frightened into line by their personality cult leaders, and they have spent so much time in word-gaming that they can no longer discriminate among concepts, reality, and fantasy.

So snake-oil salesmen can find easy refuge among them by speaking their language and appearing educated in science.

Then the political demagogues take note and sweep them up in conspiracy theories and paranoiac fear.

Now you have an army of blind rubes who will obey every command of their leaders while believing they are doing God’s work.

stevaroni said: Copernicus was a monk, and even Darwin was an ordained minister.

Neither is true.

TomS said:

stevaroni said: Copernicus was a monk, and even Darwin was an ordained minister.

Neither is true.

OK, after looking it up, here’s the long story.

Copernicus had a long affiliation with the Catholic church.

He appears to have have skirted the actual formalisms of church hierarchy, being more interested in the access his credentials provided to the science and diplomatic actives of the church.

Nonetheless, he was an apprentice at the Papal Curia in 1500 and received a Doctorate in Canon Law in 1503, positions which, at the time, would have required demonstrable adherence to formal theological practice.

It is unknown whether he was fully ordained a priest, he is known to have taken minor orders, giving him similar status to a monk. He was known to be a member of the Warmia canonry. Although he had independent means which at times he enjoyed, he spent most of his life living in a semi-formal relationship with the church.

I’m calling that legitimate “monk”.

You are, correct on Darwin, however.

Charles Darwin went to Cambridge to earn a degree in Theology in anticipation of a career in the Anglican clergy. However, he got diverted into biology.

After his return to England, he was active as an assistant deacon and elder in his parish but was not in fact, ever ordained.

Later in life, the death of his beloved daughter, Annie caused Darwin to have a severe crisis of faith and he stopped going to church.

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