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The Second Law Of Thermodynamics:the Argument Between Creationists And Evolutionists


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The Second Law of Thermodynamics:

The Argument Between Creationists and Evolutionists

 

There has been some debate between creationists and evolutionists on the second law of thermodynamics and it’s relation to evolution. Creationists believe this law disproves evolution. On the other side, evolutionists believe this law does nothing more than supports evolution. From my research on this subject, it seems this argument is based on nothing more than definition misinterpretation.

 

“Thermodynamics is an exact science that is based on a limited number of specific mathematical concepts. In order to understand the relationship between probability and the second law, the reader must be familiar with the relationship between probability and entropy. Entropy is a mathematically defined entity which is the fundamental basis of the second law of thermodynamics and all of its engineering and physical chemistry ramifications.”(Mills,D)

 

To explain farther, lets start with the first law, it states that in a closed system total energy remains constant. Please take this into consideration when you read the second law. The second law states that, in a closed system, usable energy decreases. This law was formulated in the middle of the last century by Clausius and Thomson following Carnots earlier observation that, like the fall or flow of a stream that turns a mill wheel, it is the “fall” or flow of heat from higher to lower temperatures that motivates a steam engine. Since the world is usually active and whenever energy allots is at symmetry a potential or thermodynamic “force” exists that acts spontaneously to dissipate or minimize, all-real world changes or dynamics is seen to follow or be caused by this law.

 

Now lets talk about entropy. To be clear I’d like to state the definition of entropy. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, entropy is defined as –for a closed system the quantities measure of the amount of thermal energy not available to do work. However, there are two definitions, the second definition, logical entropy is- a measure of disorder or randomness in a closed system. Only one of these definitions applies to thermodynamics.

 

The general argument presented by the creationist point-of view goes something like this: "The 2nd law says everything tends toward increasing entropy (randomness and disorder). But the evolution of life involves the development of great complexity and order. Therefore, evolution is impossible by the 2nd law of thermodynamics." Creationists believe the second law of thermodynamics disproves evolution.

 

Consider this, it is only in isolated systems that entropy must increase. Systems that can exchange energy with their surroundings have no such restriction. A good example is water. When water changes into ice, it gives up heat to its surroundings. The Earth is no different. It has the sun as a major source of energy, and the Earth also radiates energy into space.

 

As a consequence, when energy comes from a hot source –like the sun- and is output to a cold reservoir –like space- it can be used to do work. Making complexity or order possible. Some creationists believe that advanced life -such as human life- represents a decrease in entropy. This would violate the second law.

 

These creationists believe that the laws of thermodynamics do not affect God. They believe that when god created man, he did so without having to adhere to the laws of thermodynamics. However, after God created man, the laws applied. In order for this logic to be true, God would have to constantly intervene.

 

In conclusion, understanding the definition of entropy is vital to understanding the laws of thermodynamics. The creationist arguments are without standing. The second law of thermodynamics actually states, “Disorder in a close system tends to increase.” Meaning, a closed system is receiving no energy from an outside source. The Earth however, is an open system that obtains energy directly from the sun and both the Earth and sun are contained within a closed system, the universe. The universe has not violated any law of thermodynamics.

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For Nathen

 

The Second Law of Thermodynamics:

The Argument Between Creationists and Evolutionists

 

There has been some debate between creationists and evolutionists on the second law of thermodynamics and it’s relation to evolution. Creationists believe this law disproves evolution. On the other side, evolutionists believe this law does nothing more than supports evolution. From my research on this subject, it seems this argument is based on nothing more than definition misinterpretation.

Indeed. Creationists misquote the definition by conveniently leaving out the ever important bit about it applying only to closed systems. The earth is not a closed system. It gets a great deal of energy from that big yellow glowing thing.....what's it called....the sun.

 

The general argument presented by the creationist point-of view goes something like this: "The 2nd law says everything tends toward increasing entropy (randomness and disorder). But the evolution of life involves the development of great complexity and order. Therefore, evolution is impossible by the 2nd law of thermodynamics." Creationists believe the second law of thermodynamics disproves evolution.
Not only does life get energy from the sun, life itself gives off energy in the form of heat.

 

Consider this, it is only in isolated systems that entropy must increase. Systems that can exchange energy with their surroundings have no such restriction. A good example is water. When water changes into ice, it gives up heat to its surroundings. The Earth is no different. It has the sun as a major source of energy, and the Earth also radiates energy into space.
Indeed.

 

As a consequence, when energy comes from a hot source –like the sun- and is output to a cold reservoir –like space- it can be used to do work. Making complexity or order possible. Some creationists believe that advanced life -such as human life- represents a decrease in entropy. This would violate the second law.
This is another thing creationists "forget" to mention when they talk about the second law. If work is done, entropy can decrease. That has to do with the "on average" part of the definition.

 

In conclusion, understanding the definition of entropy is vital to understanding the laws of thermodynamics. The creationist arguments are without standing.
Quite so.

 

The second law of thermodynamics actually states, “Disorder in a close system tends to increase.” Meaning, a closed system is receiving no energy from an outside source. The Earth however, is an open system that obtains energy directly from the sun and both the Earth and son are contained within a closed system, the universe. The universe has not violated any law of thermodynamics.

We must not forget this little word "tends". That implies "on average." For example, the stock market tends up. Does it always increase? No. The stock market does go down, but on average, it goes up. This is one of the important parts of the definition creationists ignore.

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I did a weeks worth of research on this subject and read Atheist Universe by David Mills. It was quite a bit of info but I'm glad I did it. I understand physics a bit better now.

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We must not forget this little word "tends". That implies "on average." For example, the stock market tends up. Does it always increase? No. The stock market does go down, but on average, it goes up. This is one of the important parts of the definition creationists ignore.

 

Exactly. Both definitions of entropy listed in the above article, the one in reference to a perpetual loss in free energy as time increases and the one in reference to an (average) increase in disorder, are applicable in the physical world.

 

When an organism metabolizes, it is creating order (anobolism) and also disorder (catabolism). During catabolism, energy is released into the living system and made available to do work. Anabolism uses the energy released during metabolism to maintain its order (homeostasis).

 

However, it should be noted that during catabolism nowhere near all of the released energy is available to work. Much of the energy released during catabolism is in the form of random chaotic motion of molecules (aka waste heat), which results in an overall increase in the temperature of the surrounding environment. This results in less and less energy being available for successive tiers (starting with primary producers with the most energy available) in the food web. This is predicted from theory, and is evidenced through observation. In other words, as we live, we increase the disorder of our enviroment in an amount that exceeds the order necessary to maintain our metabolism.

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Not only does life get energy from the sun, life itself gives off energy in the form of heat.

 

Not to nit pick, but energy cannot be created, only transfered from one form to another, one form being mass. An object within a system cannot alter the systems energy as its energy is contained within the system to start with.

 

 

Also, this law has nothing to do with evolution. It is thermodynamical, describing behaviours in environments and how they change under changes in factors such as temperature and pressure. Once you introduce intelligent action they are no longer relative at all. From the moment the first form of life was able to act on it's surroundings the law had nothing to say. Also, it may have helped bio-genisis as mixing would be more likely to bring together the mix of chemicals needed for life. A very unlikely thing but if you give it enough time it will eventually occur and it need only happen once. A good model of increasing entropy is having two book cases, one with blue books and one with red. You then get blind men to swap the books around at random. You will still occasionally get patches of decreased entropy (all one colour) within the mixed up whole. Left for an infinite amount of time you may even get it all coming back to how it was to start. Imaging watching the film of the event in reverse, you would still see books being moved at random but at somepoint they would be perfectly sorted.

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The Earth however, is an open system that obtains energy directly from the sun and both the Earth and sun are contained within a closed system, the universe. The universe has not violated any law of thermodynamics.

I have been able to understand this law up until this point. If the universe is in a closed system and we are in that closed system, then entropy must be increasing on whole, right? Does that mean that the entire order of the universe is degrading?

 

This stuff messes with my mind!

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The Earth however, is an open system that obtains energy directly from the sun and both the Earth and sun are contained within a closed system, the universe. The universe has not violated any law of thermodynamics.

I have been able to understand this law up until this point. If the universe is in a closed system and we are in that closed system, then entropy must be increasing on whole, right? Does that mean that the entire order of the universe is degrading?

 

This stuff messes with my mind!

Well, it is. Stars do most of the work, creating heavier elements and releasing heat and light energy in the process. Eventually, there'll be nothing for the stars to run on and the universe will be dead. Not for a very long time, though.

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Guest catalyst

*sigh* I too am truly sick and tired of Christians (specifically ardent christian creationists) constantly bringing forth The Second Law of Thermodynamics 'arguement'. Just to add to the other wonderful posts here, here's a little more info, but before I do... I note that the christians I have seen posting on this board are conspicuous by their absence??? :scratch:

 

Anyway...here goes..

 

Thermodynamics (from the Greek thermos meaning heat and dynamics meaning power) is a branch of physics that studies the effects of changes in temperature, pressure, and volume on physical systems at the macroscopic scale by analyzing the collective motion of their particles using statistics. Entropy in thermodynamics is not equivalent to "disorder" in the everyday sense. I could have a room which is messy and thus "disorderly" - but this by no means has anything to do with "entropy" in thermodynamics.

 

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy is conserved in a thermodynamic system. If we bring a hot object into contact with a cold object, we observe that the hot object cools down and the cold object heats up until an equilibrium is reached. The transfer of heat goes from the hot object to the cold object. We can imagine a system, however, in which the heat is instead transferred from the cold object to the hot object, and such a system does not violate the first law of thermodynamics. The cold object gets colder and the hot object gets hotter, but energy is conserved. However we don't encounter such a system in nature and to explain this and similar observations, thermodynamicists proposed a second law of thermodynamics.

 

Here are some basic definitions:

 

Heat: The amount of energy transferred from one system to another due to a temperature difference

 

Entropy: For a closed system, the quantitative measure of the amount of thermal energy not available to do work.

 

Second law of thermodynamics: The entropy of an isolated system not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium.

 

Example:

Imagine that I have a hot stone and I put it into a bucket of cold water. There are two possibilities:

1. The hot stone gets hotter, while the cold water gets cooler.

2. The hot stone gets cooler, while the cold water gets hotter.

 

Let's go with the incorrect prediction first. Let's assume that the hot stone gets hotter, and the cold water gets cooler. If the hot stone gets hotter, it is absorbing heat. The cold water is losing heat by the same amount. Let the amount of heat absorbed by the stone = X where X > 0. Using equation (1) above we get:

 

dSstone = X/Tstone

dSwater = -X/Twater

 

The total change in entropy of the system is:

dS = X/Tstone -X/Twater

 

Since the temperature of the hot stone is greater than the temperature of the cold water, then the entropy change will be negative if X > 0. This would violate the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy can only increase. Therefore the prediction that the hot stone will absorb heat and the cold water will lose heat is incorrect. In order to obey the second law of thermodynamics we must have dS > 0 which would mean X < 0 i.e. the hot stone loses heat while the cold water absorbs heat.

 

I advise anyone who comments on the laws of thermodynamics with respect to anything other than heat, (which is what the christian arguement ALWAYS does) to go and buy a physics textbook on the subject and read it.

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For those who don't want to shell out the bucks for a physics book (although it would be a fine purchase), here is a nice little link to a concise read which deals with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and even deals with creationist arguments: Entropy Explained

 

edit:

In my earlier post I said this: "Much of the energy released during catabolism is in the form of random chaotic motion of molecules (aka waste heat), which results in an overall increase in the temperature of the surrounding environment."

----Me

 

A better choice of words in the last sentence would've been "a temporary increase" instead of "an overall increase", as of course this energy too would eventually radiate out into space.

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Catalyst, thank you for such an outstanding explanation. :thanks:

 

I am confused on how creationist use the 2nd LOT to bolster their idea that evolution did not happen. We do have an outside source of energy, the sun. So what's their argument concerning this law? :scratch:

 

It seems the only argument using the 2nd LOT a deist might use, is to support some kind of creator as the outside source that initiated the Big Bang. :wicked:

 

But of course.... no one knows this right now...

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