(The purpose of this page is to present evidence from the Second Law of Thermodynamics that darwinian evolution is, in fact, bad science)
THE SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS AND EVOLUTIONISM
The purpose of this brief paper is to cause the thinking student to re-evaluate the basis on which the theory of evolution is built in light of the second law of thermodynamics. In recent years there has been an assumption on the part of many that to question evolutionism in a public school is tantamount to a violation of the establishment of religion clause of the first amendment of the U.S. constitution! This assumption, while not reflecting good logic, is a result of the fact that many (but by no means all!) who question evolutionism do believe the Biblical account of creation. Therefore I would like to underline emphatically from the beginning that this is not a theological paper. My purpose here is not to argue in behalf of any philosophical position. This paper does not endorse or attack any religious view or belief. My purpose simply is to state an observation, not heard often enough, from the laws of physics and mathematics that the theory of evolution contradicts universally recognized and accepted laws of science and mathematics.
The second law of thermodynamics was first expressed in stated form by the German physicist, Rudolf Clausius (1822-1888). He observed that "it is not possible to construct an engine whose sole effect is the extraction of heat from a heat source at a single temperature and the conversion of this heat completely into mechanical work."1 In other words, when mechanical work is done in a system, even though there will be no loss of energy in the system (law of conservation of energy), there will be a loss of useful energy. Some of the energy will be dissipated and lost in the form of heat and random energy (e.g. friction). There is no such thing as a perfectly efficient engine. Any time work of any kind is done some energy is lost. In every mechanical operation a certain amount of energy becomes unusable, spread out into random, disordered molecular activity in the form of sound waves or increased heat. If you apply directed energy to boards and nails using hammer and saw in order to build a doghouse, some of the energy has the desired effect, but much energy is dissipated in the sound of the hammer and saw, heat in the boards, nails, and surrounding air, etc.
This fundamental law of physics is also often stated as the law of increasing entropy. Entropy refers to the amount of energy that cannot be converted into mechanical work. "Disorder" and "randomness" are close synonyms. High entropy refers to a state of great disorder. Thus the second law of thermodynamics is often stated as the law of increasing entropy: "A natural process always takes place in such a direction as to cause an increase in the entropy of the universe."2
The effect of this law is that unless there is a purposeful source of energy operating in a system, the various parts, molecules, etc. become less and less organized and more and more random. Illustrations abound. Men can build houses, automobiles, watches, computers, etc. by application of purposeful, directed energy. Some of the energy used to effect this decrease in entropy is lost in the process in the form of sound and heat energy. A certain amount of the useful, directed energy used to construct these organized things becomes useless. Not only that, but unless more purposeful energy is applied, these things ("pockets" of decreased entropy) become more and more disordered over time. A house will eventually become a mere pile of rubble unless additional directed energy is used for upkeep. Have you ever looked at an old house that had not been kept up? After a period of time, the wood begins to rot. The metal pipes begin to rust. The roof and walls fall in. The structure becomes more and more disorganized and random. It eventually will become a pile of molecules and atoms indistinguishable as a house. This is the law of increasing entropy. Your desk or your room provides a good illustration. Unless you (or someone) applies purposeful, directed energy, it is astounding how quickly increasing entropy can be observed! Automobiles wear out and rust away. Bees expend intentional purposeful energy to build elaborate hives. But when the intentionality is removed, the hive inevitably and invariably deteriorates and eventually disintegrates.
Perhaps you are thinking, "Well, the second law of thermodynamics is very interesting, and I can see some practical applications (for example, when Mom says 'Clean up your room!' I can tell her I am conducting an experiment on increasing entropy), but what does it have to do with evolutionism?" Just this: one of the basic assumptions of the theory of evolution of life is that somehow, over billions of years, very simple elements and compounds combined, and stayed combined, in ever increasing and incredible complexity, until mind-bogglingly complex organisms came into being. (It does not require much study to begin to realize that the simplest one-celled organism is mind-bogglingly complex!)
Most evolutionists would, of course, acknowledge the validity of the second law of thermodynamics. It would be granted by most any scientist that simple molecules do not normally combine with one another to form extremely complex molecules (decreased entropy) unless the scientists themselves carefully and intentionally supply directed energy in just the right circumstances (carefully arranged by the scientists). Because of the second law of thermodynamics, we do not expect simple molecules to become complex ones in a random fashion.
Thus the only means to maintain the theory of evolution in light of the second law of thermodynamics is to postulate that, while chance combinations of simple molecules into exceedingly complex ones would be very rare, given enough time (billions of years) it could happen. And in fact, it is theorized, this is precisely what happened.
At first glance this hypothesis seems plausible. Julian Huxley's famous argument that, given enough time, a million monkeys typing on a million typewriters would eventually produce a Shakespearean play is based on such thinking. After all, over a period of billions of years surely many extremely improbable events could occur! Perhaps even a systematic and monumental exception to the second law could occur, given a few billion years.
Fortunately it is not necessary for us to come to a conclusion of such probability on the basis of "It seems (or doesn't seem) reasonable to me." There are relatively simple mathematical techniques that help us get a better handle on the probability of the occurrence of such chance events. All that is necessary is to agree on some basic assumptions.
For example, take the case of the monkeys typing a Shakespearean play. Let us assume one million monkeys typing twenty-four hours a day on one million typewriters having forty keys each. Assume each monkey types one hundred "words" per minute. How long might we expect it to take for one of them to type Othello? Well, let's start with the first few words of Othello, "Never tell me; I take it much unkindly...". The probability of randomly hitting the letter "N" on a typewriter of forty keys is one out of forty. The probability of hitting an "N" followed immediately by an "e" is 1/40 x 1/40 or one out of 1600. The probability of typing "Never" would be 1/40 x 1/40 x 1/40 x 1/40 x 1/40 or about one out of one hundred million. One million monkeys, each typing 500 characters per minute (8.33 characters per second), would type 8.33 x 106 characters per second. Therefore we could expect one of them to type the first word in about 12 seconds (one hundred million divided by 8.33 x 106). However, the first 20 characters and spaces (getting us into the fifth word) would require 4020 divided by 8.33 x 106 seconds. A calculator will quickly show that we could not expect a monkey to type the first four words for over 4 x 1017 years! Astronomers and cosmologists would agree that that's at least 20 million times the age that they themselves assign to the universe! (While the age of the universe is certainly open to debate, virtually all modern cosmologists and astronomers agree that the evidence is overwhelming that the universe could have been in existence no more than 20 billion years.)
So much for monkeys and Shakespearean plays. But what about the complex molecules of life? Let us make some generous assumptions on behalf of evolutionism. Let us assume that: 1—There are 101000 atoms in the universe (astronomers estimate approximately 1080 atoms). 2—There are 10100 collisions per atom per year (scientists say 1020 is closer to reality). 3—One out of every two collisions are in the right combination to produce a mutant to further evolution. 4—All the beneficial mutants survive. No one could argue against the fact that these four assumptions are far more favorable to evolutionism than we find in the real world. (from David Penny Master Thesis, "The Redemption of Nature in Romans 8," Dallas Theological Seminary, 1970)
Realize that simple amino acids require the orderly arrangement of about 20 atoms. Proteins, however are far more complex and require the arrangement of approximately 10,000 atoms. And, of course, a DNA molecule is several orders of magnitude still more complex (about 10 billion atoms!). One living cell requires the arrangement of 1015 atoms. A human body has approximately 1024 atoms in an unimaginably complex arrangement!
(Some of you who have not worked very much with exponents and scientific notation might wonder how there could be 1024 atoms in one person and "only" 1080 atoms in the entire universe. Remember we are talking about orders of magnitude! There are approximately 1024 atoms in an 80 kg. man. The mass of the sun is approximately 2 x 1030 kg. Solving a simple proportion gives us 2.5 x 1052 atoms in the sun. There are about 100 billion stars in an average galaxy (1011). That would be about 2.5 x 1063 atoms. There are also about 1011 galaxies in the universe. Multiplying again we get about 2.5 x 1074 atoms in the universe.)
Given the assumptions above we would expect very large numbers of amino acids to be produced every second. (Therefore it is not surprising that scientists have produced them in laboratory situations after about a week of chance collisions.) But when we examine the probability of a simple protein coming about by chance the numbers become staggering. To claim that obtaining an amino acid by setting up an opportunity for chance collisions of the molecular components shows us how proteins came into existence would be even more monstrous than to give a million monkeys typewriters, let them pound away, discover the word "NEVER," and say, "Aha! Now we know how Shakespeares plays were written!" The age of the universe is many orders of magnitude too small to allow us to expect a chance formation of a protein. And remember, we are assuming that all favorable combinations last until the protein is formed. But now we have carried our assumptions so far that we have to discard the second law of thermodynamics to accept them! Remember, complex entities (e.g. polypeptides) do not of themselves get more complex! They tend to break down. Energy is dissipated. Entropy increases. We cannot expect order to increase by chance. The universal experience of scientists to this effect is formulated in the second law of thermodynamics.
Harold F. Blum, Princeton University physicist, points out that if we assume the presence of amino acids in abundance, assume the proper catalysts are present, and assume favorable temperature and moisture conditions, the chances of getting a polypeptide of only ten amino acids would be only one in 1020. And this probability, infinitesimal as it seems, is large compared to the probability of getting a simple protein.3 It is inconceivable. And remember, millions of proteins would be needed for the next step toward life. And remember further that even if complex amino acid chains could be produced, the second law of thermodynamics tells us that they would begin to disintegrate since they are all reversible chemical processes.
These simple and obvious facts of physics and mathematics have caused many notable scientists who have thought logically about the matter to draw conclusions similar to Nobel Prize winner Sir Ernest Chain who said: "To postulate that the development and survival of the fittest is entirely a consequence of chance mutations seems to me a hypothesis based on no evidence and irreconcilable with the facts. These classical evolutionary theories are a gross over-simplification of an immensely complex and intricate mass of facts, and it amazes me that they are swallowed so uncritically and readily, and for such a long time, by so many scientists without a murmur of protest."4
In his book, Life Itself, Dr. Francis Crick (Nobel Prize-winner and codiscoverer of DNA) wrote: "What is so frustrating for our present purpose is that it seems almost impossible to give any numerical value to the probability of what seems a rather unlikely sequence of events .... An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle..."5
Finally, a couple of quotes from the renowned British mathematician and astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle: "The probability of life originating at random is so utterly miniscule as to make it absurd..."6 and "The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein."7
Straightforward and universally recognized laws of physics and mathematics make a powerful statement against the hypotheses of evolutionists concerning the origin and development of life. Students must learn to do the kind of careful detailed thinking fostered by the study of math and physics in order to avoid making the ludicrous sweeping generalizations that fly in the face of careful logic, but that are carelessly assumed to be true by many scientists and nonscientists alike.
1. John E. Williams, Frederick E. Trinklein, and H. Clark Metcalfe, Modern Physics (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1984), p. 208. (go back)
2. Ibid., p. 210. (go back)
3. Harold F. Blum, Time's Arrow and Evolution (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1962), p. 119. (go back)
4. D.T. Rosevear, "Scientists Critical of Evolution" (Pamphlet No. 224, Evolution Protest Movement, 1980), p. 4. (go back)
5. Francis Crick, Life Itself (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981), p. 79. (go back)
6. Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, Evolution from Space (London: J.M. Dent and Co., 1981), pp.141, 144. (go back)
7. "Hoyle on Evolution," Nature, V. 294, 12 November 1981, p. 105. London: J.M. Dent and Co., 1981), pp.141, 144. (go back)
© 2000 Steve Hall. Permission is hereby granted to quote from these web pages, in part or in full, as long as the following statement is included: "© 2000 Steve Hall (email@example.com). Quoted by Permission."
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