Granville Sewell has dramatic news for gardeners

| 93 Comments

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

Granville Sewell is a mathematician at the University of Texas, El Paso, who is an expert on numerical solution of differential equations. He is also the author of repeated arguments that the Second Law of Thermodynamics makes it impossible for evolution to improve living organisms.

The obvious reply is that the biosphere is not an isolated, closed system, that to come near having one, we must also include the sun which undergoes a huge increase of entropy as it radiates energy, that more than compensates for the much smaller decrease of entropy involved in the evolution of life.

William Dembski, at Uncommon Descent, has announced that a paper by Sewell is in press at Applied Mathematics Letters. Sewell makes available a preprint version here. It is the same argument Sewell has been making lately:

Thus the equations for entropy change do not support the illogical “compensation” idea; instead, they illustrate the tautology that “if an increase in order is extremely improbable when a system is closed, it is still extremely improbable when the system is open, unless something is entering which makes it not extremely improbable”.

And Sewell does not think that anything has entered the Earth that explains the decrease of entropy by evolution of life because, as he said in a paper in The Mathematical Intelligencer in 2001:

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.

We should be grateful to Sewell: he has apparently proven something astonishing.

A year ago, I pointed out here at Panda’s Thumb that if true, Sewell’s arguments showed that weeds could not grow in a garden – that a few weed seeds could not turn into weed plants bearing many of the same seeds. All we see entering the weeds is (mostly) radiation from the sun, carbon dioxide, water, and a few minerals. Following Sewell’s logic, this is not enough to explain the decrease of entropy involved in the growth of the weeds.

Sewell continues to make the same arguments. If not only the Discovery Institute, but also William Dembski and, now, Applied Mathematics Letters [1] validate Sewell’s arguments, who are we to resist? We must get the word out, especially to gardeners. Sewell’s formulation of the Second Law proves conclusively that:

* Weeds can’t grow in your garden

and for that matter

* Flowers can’t grow either.

Granville Sewell may have saved gardeners a huge amount of wasted effort.

Notes

  1. Editor: Reports indicate that the Applied Mathematics Letters has rescinded the acceptance.

93 Comments

Snowflakes can’t possibly form either (complex crystals emerging from liquid water as it increases entropy). And chicken eggs sure can’t hatch chicks (much more complex than a single fertilised cell) because they only receive heat from outside, not even minerals or meteorites.

Clearly the existence of snowflakes and hatching eggs is a fraud perpetrated by Darwinists. :-)

Creationists like to cite Sewell’s MATHEMATICAL INTELLIGENCER article; one poster responded wearily that he actually looked it up, and noted that the MI gives its charter as:

Not only does The Mathematical Intelligencer inform a broad audience of mathematicians and the wider intellectual community, it also entertains. Throughout, the journal, humor, puzzles, poetry, fiction, and art can be found. The journal also features information on emergent mathematical communities around the world, new interdisciplinary trends, and relations between mathematics and other areas of culture.

The poster then politely added: “So is Sewell’s paper categorized as HUMOR – or FICTION?”

On learning about Sewell, I did some scouting around and I found the flap over the FORTRAN program he wrote in which he claimed to have simulated the past natural history of the Earth on his laptop computer – and his simulation showed evolution didn’t happen.

The responses were along the lines of: DID WE HEAR THIS RIGHT?! It sounded like a put-on, but creationists do say such things. Sewell admitted it was just a “thought experiment”.

Ah – an eccentric argument of incredulity. “But Professor Sewell, in MY imaginary computer simulation, it worked just fine. Can I take a look at your code so I can see what you did wrong?”

I was going to point out how absurd it is that this argument could be applied equally well to almost anything we observe happening on Earth, but then I realized, to a creationist, this is a feature, not a bug.

Editor: Reports indicate that the Applied Mathematics Letters has rescinded the acceptance.

As well they should. It’s Sewell’s Appendix D all over again. This septic tank has no drain field.

Mike Elzinga said: It’s Sewell’s Appendix D all over again.

Obviously AML decided an appendectomy was in order.

An adult is approximately a scaled up child.

Suppose each of the dimensions of the adult is twice that of the child. That’s eight times the volume and eight times the entropy for an adult relative to the child.

According to creationist “physics” the child is “eight times more orderly,” therefore eight times more advanced as an organism.

So, as plants and animals develop, their entropy increases and they become stupider.

That certainly appears to apply to creationists.

How do we know that nuclear submarines and computers are unlikely to appear in our environment without the aid of intelligence? Well, because they don’t appear without intelligence being involved.

How do we know that life is unlikely to appear without the aid of intelligence? Well, because they don’t appear without intelligence being involved. Uh, because of the analogy with nuclear submarines and computers.

I mean, there isn’t anything that makes life markedly different from machines, is there? Apart from imperfect replication, that is. That wouldn’t make any difference, now would it?

Oh sure, if you’re an evil Darwinist you’d claim that imperfect replication allows evolution to proceed, and likewise you’d ask why, if life appeared via (divine) intelligence, don’t nuclear submarines and computers appear from that same intelligence? Maybe they don’t, but a fine-tuned universe did.

So we know that life had to appear via intelligence, and that wasn’t human intelligence. Of course cave paintings supposedly dating to before the flood could have been made by exactly that same intelligence, which shows how much Behe and other evil IDists know. They’d just say that humans made handaxes and the like, but it’s obvious that the intelligence that could make life could also make handaxes, so those don’t mean anything about early human life.

And so we’ve neatly shown that with ID there is absolutely no way of determining if humans did it or if it was just ordinary God-action. God only makes technology that reproduces, so that’s why he’s not making nuclear submarines and computers for us, and so it’s just by chance that God’s technology only happens to appear to be like what evolutionists say can evolve. And you have no business asking why the Designer only makes technology that reproduces–that’s theology, even though ID isn’t about God at all.

Glen Davidson

I’m a gardener so that is indeed wonderful news. And I won’t have to pay for fertilizer this year either; I’ll just use Sewell’s paper.

The simplest rejoinder, of course, is that weeds are also designed. Meh.

Creationists are still stuck in this “spontaneous molecular chaos / tornado in a junkyard” mental groove they’ve carved themselves.

No, your house won’t clean itself if you leave the curtains open, but your house isn’t a small, localized chemical reaction.

Teh stupid, it burns.

Credit where credit is due; Sewell has done something remarkable.

This paper is a tour de force of thermodynamic misunderstanding that manages simultaneously to include no original ideas and include no recent references more scholarly than a physics textbook.

Amazing.

A thermodynamic system consisting of two creationists duct taped together is twice as stupid as one.

SWT said:

Credit where credit is due; Sewell has done something remarkable.

This paper is a tour de force of thermodynamic misunderstanding that manages simultaneously to include no original ideas and include no recent references more scholarly than a physics textbook.

Amazing.

Similarly, Peter Urone, in College Physics [Urone 2001], writes:

Some people misuse the second law of thermodynamics, stated in terms of entropy, to say that the existence and evolution of life violate the law and thus require divine intervention.… It is true that the evolution of life from inert matter to its present forms represents a large decrease in entropy for living systems. But it is always possible for the entropy of one part of the universe to decrease, provided the total change in entropy of the universe increases.

And even the information drawn from the textbook is misleading. Sigh!

Mike Elzinga said:

Editor: Reports indicate that the Applied Mathematics Letters has rescinded the acceptance.

As well they should. It’s Sewell’s Appendix D all over again. This septic tank has no drain field.

Dang! I missed that – I was hoping to get a quick publication from writing a response.

A year ago, I pointed out here at Panda’s Thumb that if true, Sewell’s arguments showed that weeds could not grow in a garden – that a few weed seeds could not turn into weed plants bearing many of the same seeds.

Worse than that. Humans and all megafauna are impossible.

The scientist’s story is that we start as a single cell zygote which grows and differentiates into a fantastically complex baby in 9 months. This huge decrease in entropy and increase in complexity can’t happen according to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

The real theories have been out there for centuries. The stork theory of reproduction or the cabbage patch one explains the available facts far better.

raven said:

The scientist’s story is that we start as a single cell zygote which grows and differentiates into a fantastically complex baby in 9 months. This huge decrease in entropy and increase in complexity can’t happen according to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

The real theories have been out there for centuries. The stork theory of reproduction or the cabbage patch one explains the available facts far better.

I think we will need to go over this again.

I did a talk on this at a Science Café last year.

The links to the audio as well as the PowerPoint presentation that accompanies it are both there on the above link. The audio recorder died about 2/3 of the way through the talk (sorry), but the PowerPoint presentation is still there.

It is a mistake to attribute decreases in entropy to increases in complexity or to spatial order. Entropy is about the number of energy microstates consistent with the macroscopic state of the system (its total energy, its temperature, volume, magnetization, etc.) How this all connects with the actual physical structure of a thermodynamic system is not straight forward; it is highly system dependent.

Classically it is closely related to the fact that energy flows spontaneously from high temperature to low temperature. So if a given amount of energy leaves a system at a high temperature and arrives in the surrounding environment at a lower temperature, dividing that quantity of energy by a lower temperature is a larger quantity than that same amount of energy divided by the higher temperature. Thus the total entropy increases.

And it turns out from statistical mechanics that spreading the same amount of energy around into more microscopic states represents an increase in entropy.

One has to be very careful not to confuse this with how a system is structured. All else being equal (same temperature, same energy density, etc.) doubling the volume doubles the entropy. If heat flows out of a system, the entropy decreases.

A small very complicated system (microscopically) can have greater entropy than a large simpler system. It depends on number of microstates. So it is not primarily about order or structure or complexity.

He is also the author of repeated arguments that the Second Law of Thermodynamics makes it impossible for evolution to improve living organisms.

The obvious reply is that the biosphere is not an isolated, closed system…

Um…isn’t the obvious reply that we actually observe organisms improving, all the time, every single day? I mean, so much so that evolving resistant strains of E. coli is a basic BIO 101 lab experiment.

Creationists may as well argue that objects falling to the ground is impossible. Once you see it happen over and over and over again, what else needs to be said? It happens, get over it!

raven said:

A year ago, I pointed out here at Panda’s Thumb that if true, Sewell’s arguments showed that weeds could not grow in a garden – that a few weed seeds could not turn into weed plants bearing many of the same seeds.

Worse than that. Humans and all megafauna are impossible.

The scientist’s story is that we start as a single cell zygote which grows and differentiates into a fantastically complex baby in 9 months. This huge decrease in entropy and increase in complexity can’t happen according to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

If the 2nd Law really did apply to Evolution, then mitosis and being alive would be totally impossible.

Holy Crap! That “discussion” going on over at UD is just grotesque!

Even though the journal has rescinded the acceptance of this paper, I’m shocked that this leaked through the peer review process. WTF? Was this shepherded through like Meyer’s 2004 “Origin of Biological Information…” was?

If not, were the mathematical peer reviewers really that ignorant of basic thermodynamics?

GvlGeologist, FCD said:

Even though the journal has rescinded the acceptance of this paper, I’m shocked that this leaked through the peer review process. WTF? Was this shepherded through like Meyer’s 2004 “Origin of Biological Information…” was?

If not, were the mathematical peer reviewers really that ignorant of basic thermodynamics?

I was wondering the same thing. I don’t know what the proportion of mathematical physicists subscribing to that journal is, but one would think the editors would have at least contacted a physicist knowledgeable about thermodynamics and statistical mechanics somewhere if not among the usual reviewers for this particular journal.

That may be what ultimately happened that led to the rescinding of the “paper”; they had to make a contact outside their normal circle of reviewers after someone expressed some doubts.

But it does emphasize the extent to which legitimate journals are under stress with the increased work loads all editors and reviewers are experiencing.

And from what I know of past behaviors of ID/creationists, they are constantly on the lookout for overloaded systems in order to slip something through when the gatekeepers are distracted.

Was this shepherded through like Meyer’s 2004 “Origin of Biological Information…” was?

Wouldn’t be surprised; that seems to be standard creationist technique. It worked with Steinberg, and it very nearly worked at Ohio State. It’s working with the Texas school board. And one more religion-inspired Supreme Court justice, and it will become law of the land. Recall that Edwards was not unanimous. Scalia is still on the court, and he argued that academic freedom protects the teacher’s right to preach (Scalia’s) religion in science class.

The right to preach other religions in science hasn’t been tested. I wonder if Scalia would be so enthusiastic about academic freedom if a Muslim exercised it?

Here’s a link to the editorial board of the journal: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/jo[…]itorialboard

There are people on this board who should understand thermodynamics well enough to recognize the problems in this paper. It’s possible that one of them saw the online version and called an end to the nonsense.

As others have noted, it does seem odd that such a deeply flawed work made it through peer review in the first place.

SWT said:

Here’s a link to the editorial board of the journal: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/jo[…]itorialboard

There are people on this board who should understand thermodynamics well enough to recognize the problems in this paper. It’s possible that one of them saw the online version and called an end to the nonsense.

As others have noted, it does seem odd that such a deeply flawed work made it through peer review in the first place.

Ah; I was just over there searching through the board.

Looking over the Editorial Board at Elsevier, I see only one possible editor, P.A. Markowich at Cambridge, who might be qualified to direct this “paper” to the proper reviewer.

I suspect international publishing houses might have a harder time vetting stuff than say the AMS or MAA or any of the usual scientific journals.

But still, these publishers don’t really want to acquire a reputation for publishing pure crap.

FWIW, the paper is still available on the AML website.

raven said:

A year ago, I pointed out here at Panda’s Thumb that if true, Sewell’s arguments showed that weeds could not grow in a garden – that a few weed seeds could not turn into weed plants bearing many of the same seeds.

Worse than that. Humans and all megafauna are impossible.

Well of course we are. That’s why we’re miraculous. If things had a naturalistic explanation, there’d be “no purpose” in life!

Anti-evolutionists NEED us to be impossible.

There are people on this board who should understand thermodynamics well enough to recognize the problems in this paper. It’s possible that one of them saw the online version and called an end to the nonsense.

Obviously, the board needed some hint from outside.

Sewell’s formulation means that oil and water will mix spontaneously and never, ever separate into perfectly-ordered phases.

If the 2nd Law really did apply to Evolution, then mitosis and being alive would be totally impossible.

Yeah; evolution is a side effect of the reproductive process, which decidedly is observed. (Otherwise there wouldn’t be so many rabbits hopping around out there.)

sparc said:

There are people on this board who should understand thermodynamics well enough to recognize the problems in this paper. It’s possible that one of them saw the online version and called an end to the nonsense.

Obviously, the board needed some hint from outside.

Ah; nice!

Stanton said: If the 2nd Law really did apply to Evolution, then mitosis and being alive would be totally impossible.

The 2nd Law really does apply to evolution, yet mitosis and being alive are not impossible.

IBelieveInGod said:

Energy transformation is extremely important for the metabolic activities of organisms, without the ability to transform energy for use all metabolic activities would cease.

Pulling stuff from Duane Gish back in the 1970s? It wasn’t a good argument then, and it’s certainly decayed a bit since that time. Do you enjoy mouthing moldy oldies?

Metabolic processes often proceed via paired reactions. A thermodynamically disfavored reaction coupled to one that is thermodynamically favored can proceed, and the result is still a net increase in entropy. There’s nothing magic there. If the conditions needed to support one or both reactions (say, an interruption in oxygen supply or transport in an obligate aerobe), the result is cessation of the paired process. Again, no magic elan vital in sight, and no violation of 2LoT to be found.

mrg said:

Stanton said: If we can trust that Lying Coward for Jesus to go to ATBC, I suppose so.

Well, he’s not paying any real attention to anyone’s replies whether you post here or on ATBC. But if you post to ATBC, you get to denounce him AND not play along with his little games any more.

At the very least, someone should kill this thread.

I concur.

mrg said:

Stanton said: If we can trust that Lying Coward for Jesus to go to ATBC, I suppose so.

Well, he’s not paying any real attention to anyone’s replies whether you post here or on ATBC. But if you post to ATBC, you get to denounce him AND not play along with his little games any more.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Guest Contributor published on February 27, 2011 6:06 PM.

Free documentary, Kansas vs. Darwin was the previous entry in this blog.

A Journal Imposes Order, Rejects High Entropy Submission is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter