Physics, Earth & Space Icon Physics, Earth & Space

Two Schemes to Defeat the Second Law

Second Law

In a recent post at Evolution News , Michael Egnor quoted “universal Darwinist” John Campbell:

The second law is one of the most fundamental laws of physics, and states that the total entropy — that is, disorder — of an isolated system can only increase over time. Darwinian processes may be viewed as nature’s method of countering this universal tendency towards disorder and non-existence.

My reaction was: finally, a Darwinist who says what they all really believe about the second law, which is: we have a scheme that can defeat (“counter”) it.

“To Heck with It”

Understandably, most do not want to say, “To heck with ‘one of the most fundamental laws of physics,’ we have a scheme that can beat it.” So they have developed creative ways to avoid having to say this. Traditionally, the primary way to avoid saying this has been: unintelligent forces rearranging the atoms on a barren planet into computers and libraries and nuclear power plants and Apple iPhones — just entropy decreasing in an open system, happens all the time. Well, no, it doesn’t happen all the time. 

In other cases where order increases in an open system, it is because the order or information is being imported from outside, not created (more precisely: something is entering that makes the increase in order not extremely improbable). The fact that entropy can decrease in an open system does not mean that computers can appear on a barren planet as long as the planet receives solar energy. Something must be entering the system from outside that makes the appearance of computers not extremely improbable, for example, computers. This “compensation” argument has been the target of much of my writing on this topic, such as a 2016 post here, “The Common Sense Law of Physics,” and more recently a 2017 Physics Essays article, “On ‘Compensating’ Entropy Decreases.”

A Fun Homework Assignment

Once Darwinists realize how silly the compensation argument is, they generally fall back on: the second law is really only about thermal entropy and should never have been generalized beyond thermodynamics. But it has been generalized by scientists for a long time: physics texts often cite things like tornados running backward, turning rubble into houses and cars, as examples of “entropy” decreases that are forbidden by the second law. Here is a fun homework assignment for you: try to imagine something that would be a more spectacular example of what is forbidden by the generalized second law than what has happened on Earth.

In the first half of my (recently revised) video Why Evolution Is Different, I point out that the compensation argument could equally well be used to say that because tornados receive their energy from the sun, tornados running backward would not violate the second law either. (The second half explains why similarities do not prove absence of design.)

In fact, as I noted there, the only reason it is widely claimed that what has happened on Earth is allowed by the second law, while tornados running backward are forbidden, is that there is a widely believed scientific theory as to how intelligent beings could arise on a barren planet, while there is no widely accepted theory as to how tornados could turn rubble into houses and cars.

Follow Campbell’s Lead?

So now maybe other Darwinists will follow John Campbell’s lead and finally openly argue what they have always believed, that they have a scheme that can “counter” the second law. Do they? Is natural selection of random mutations really the one natural cause in the universe that can create spectacular order out of disorder? Although Michael Behe’s new book Darwin Devolves does not mention the second law in its index, the whole book argues that natural selection, like every other known natural process, only destroys order and information, it does not create them.

Well, now I have to admit that I also have a scheme that I believe can defeat the generalized second law. My scheme is called “intelligence.” But while Behe and his critics are engaged in a lively debate as to whether or not the Darwinian scheme for violating the second law has ever been observed to result in any non-trivial increase in genetic information, we can watch my scheme create spectacular amounts of order and information every day, in every writer’s office, in every inventor’s lab, and in every R&D division of every engineering firm throughout our civilization. You can even try it yourself, at home.

Photo: A tornado, near Elie, Manitoba, Canada, by Justin1569 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.