I ate my wafer...

4/21/2005

Hmm, so the collegian ran my letter, (at least in the online version, slightly modified, it should have read: "false dichotomy between materialism (or darwin) and religion") . An interesting snippet of letters were published, oddly my reply was definitely the most caustic. Jim Stephens has a VERY good reading list in his, I second most of his reccomendations enthusiastically.


Now, on to what passes for support for Bailey's original piece, the collegian ran a fun letter by Aaron Hummel. I don't know him, but I feel that science 101 has horribly failed him, because he trots out the long dead, and completely logically incoherent argument that the second law of thermodynamics prohibits increased order in biological systems. There are lots of nice rebuttals to this ancient. hoary, and silly argument on the internet, read the links, but just for grins, here's a summary:

Hummel writes:

"Evolutionary theory as an attempt to explain the diversity of life on earth has so many flaws that it even violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says that all systems have a tendency toward increasing disorder.

While some may argue by saying that the earth receives energy from the sun, since when does increasing the thermal energy of any system by heating it with a massive fireball result in increased order? No, the entropy on earth is continuously increasing, just as it is in the whole universe. This includes the disorder within biological systems as well."

My from the hip response:

Good, at least you seem dimly aware that the second law only applies to closed systems. That will make this faster: massive amounts of freely availible energy will not resualt in increased entropy, that's in the of definition of entropy (maybe a cup of coffee before science 101 would be a good idea). Sunlight is relatively low entropy, its not just simple waste heat. Oh, the sun isn't actually fire per say either, and the non-heat radiation plays an important role in natural selection. (UV rays causing DNA changes). Finally, there are all sort so examples, even in non-living things, without a method of converting sunlight into chemical energy, where massive amounts of energy creates order from randomness. Snowflakes and sanddunes come quickly to mind as ones specifically caused by the sun's infrared energy. I know some creation science folks love the idea that there is an exception to their silly intrepretation of the 2nd law only for living things with devinely created mechanisms like photosynthesis, but no repectble physicist would argue that.

Thermodynamics even allows pockets of decreased entropy to resualt in closed systems IF they are off set with increased entropy elsewhere, so even assuming the entire universe is a closed system under the the laws of thermodynamics, there is NO problem with decreased entropy here on earth.

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