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Darwinists Take Refuge in Logically Invalid “Compensation” Argument

Granville Sewell


The journal Physics Essays has recently published my article “On ‘Compensating’ Entropy Decreases” (copyright held by Physics Essays Publications, the original is here). The focus is similar, but with important improvements, to my 2011 Applied Mathematics Letters article, “A Second Look at the Second Law.” The latter was peer-reviewed and accepted, then withdrawn at the last minute. Why? The editor suddenly decided that “it [did] not consist of the kind of content we are interested in publishing.” (See that story here.)

Here is a short explanation of why this issue is important. The layman looks at what evolution is said to have accomplished and observes that there seems to be something very unnatural about an advanced civilization arising from the dust of a barren planet. Isn’t that exactly what physics texts say the second law of thermodynamics is supposed to forbid — at least the more general statements of this law, such as “In an isolated system, the direction of spontaneous change is from order to disorder”?

If natural selection of random mutations can accomplish all this, it must be very different from all other natural causes, which destroy order rather than create it. Darwinists don’t want to have to argue that natural selection is the one natural cause in the universe that can create spectacular order out of disorder, even though that is what they really believe. So they have invented the “compensation” argument. They say the Earth is not an isolated system. Instead, it receives energy from the sun, and order can increase in an open system — it happens all the time.

Well, no, what has happened here doesn’t happen all the time: order can increase in an open system, but in all other cases it is because order is imported, not created. More precisely, in all other cases where order increases in an open system, there is not something macroscopically describable happening that is extremely improbable from the microscopic point of view. Something is just entering the open system that makes the increase in order not extremely improbable.

The fact that order can increase in an open system does not mean that atoms can spontaneously rearrange themselves into computers on a barren planet as long as this decrease in entropy (increase in order) is compensated by entropy increasing outside. Something must be entering the open system that makes the appearance of computers not extremely improbable — for example, computers.

As I have always acknowledged, if you want to make the argument that the influx of solar energy really makes the rearrangement of atoms into computers and spaceships and Apple iPhones not extremely improbable, then, yes, this is just like the other cases of order increasing in an open system. But Darwinists know this is a much harder sell, because it sure seems impossibly improbable. So they prefer to avoid the issue of probability by using the logically invalid compensation argument. They say, “Nothing to see here, folks, just entropy decreasing in an open system. Happens all the time.”

While the Physics Essays article is really not difficult to understand, I have written several articles here at Evolution News about the “compensation” argument that are even more accessible. See, most recently, “Why Should Evolutionary Biology Be So Different?” Also see, “Why Similarities Do Not Prove the Absence of Design.”

I believe these and other articles I have written deal effectively with the two reasons Darwinism remains popular despite the mounting evidence against it.

Photo: Advanced civilization, by W45lin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Granville Sewell

Granville Sewell is professor of mathematics at the University of Texas El Paso. He has written four books on numerical analysis, most recently Solving Partial Differential Equation Applications with PDE2D, John Wiley, 2018. In addition to his years at UTEP, has been employed by Universidad Simon Bolivar (Caracas), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Purdue University, IMSL Inc., The University of Texas Center for High Performance Computing and Texas A&M University, and spent a semester (1999) at Universidad Nacional de Tucuman on a Fulbright scholarship, and another semester (2019) at the UNAM Centro de Geociencas in Queretaro, Mexico.



Applied Mathematics LetterscompensationentropyPhysics EssaysSecond Law of Thermodynamics