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Second Law of Thermodynamics - Does this basic law of nature prevent Evolution?


Photo copyrighted, Films for Christ.
Evolutionary tree—scene from the ORIGINS motion picture series.

Evolution versus a basic law of nature

Scores of distinguished scientists have carefully examined the most basic laws of nature to see if Evolution is physically possible - given enough time and opportunity. The conclusion of many is that Evolution is simply not feasible. One major problem is the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

law of science: basic, unchanging principle of nature; a scientifically observed phenomenon which has been subjected to very extensive measurements and experimentation and has repeatedly proved to be invariable throughout the known universe (e.g., the law of gravity, the laws of motion).

thermodynamics: the study of heat power; a branch of physics which studies the efficiency of energy transfer and exchange.1

Photo copyrighted, Films for Christ.
Decaying buildings. Massive structures may appear to be capable of lasting almost forever, but they will not. The need for ongoing repairs stems, in part, from the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. (Scene from the ORIGINS motion picture series.)

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics describes basic principles familiar in everyday life. It is partially a universal law of decay; the ultimate cause of why everything ultimately falls apart and disintegrates over time. Material things are not eternal. Everything appears to change eventually, and chaos increases. Nothing stays as fresh as the day one buys it; clothing becomes faded, threadbare, and ultimately returns to dust.2 Everything ages and wears out. Even death is a manifestation of this law. The effects of the 2nd Law are all around, touching everything in the universe.

Each year, vast sums are spent to counteract the relentless effects of this law (maintenance, painting, medical bills, etc.). Ultimately, everything in nature is obedient to its unchanging laws.

2nd law of thermodynamics: Physicist Lord Kelvin stated it technically as follows: "There is no natural process the only result of which is to cool a heat reservoir and do external work." In more understandable terms, this law observes the fact that the useable energy in the universe is becoming less and less. Ultimately there would be no available energy left. Stemming from this fact we find that the most probable state for any natural system is one of disorder. All natural systems degenerate when left to themselves.3

Photo copyrighted, Films for Christ.
Cells and blood vessels—scene from the ORIGINS motion picture series.

It is well known that, left to themselves, chemical compounds ultimately break apart into simpler materials; they do not ultimately become more complex. Outside forces can increase order for a time (through the expenditure of relatively large amounts of energy, and through the input of design). However, such reversal cannot last forever. Once the force is released, processes return to their natural direction - greater disorder. Their energy is transformed into lower levels of availability for further work. The natural tendency of complex, ordered arrangements and systems is to become simpler and more disorderly with time.4

Copyrighted, Films for Christ. Artist: Paul S. Taylor.
Evolutionism claims that over billions of years everything is basically developing UPWARD, becoming more orderly and complex. However, this basic law of science (2nd Law of Thermodynamics) says the opposite. The pressure is DOWNWARD, toward simplification and disorder. (Illustration from the ORIGINS series)

Thus, in the long term, there is an overall downward trend throughout the universe. Ultimately, when all the energy of the cosmos has been degraded, all molecules will move randomly, and the entire universe will be cold and without order. To put it simply: In the real world, the long-term overall flow is downhill, not uphill. All experimental and physical observation appears to confirm that the Law is indeed universal, affecting all natural processes in the long run.5

Naturalistic Evolutionism requires that physical laws and atoms organize themselves into increasingly complex and beneficial, ordered arrangements.6 Thus, over eons of time, billions of things are supposed to have developed upward, becoming more orderly and complex.7

However, this basic law of science (2nd Law of Thermodynamics) reveals the exact opposite. In the long run, complex, ordered arrangements actually tend to become simpler and more disorderly with time. There is an irreversible downward trend ultimately at work throughout the universe. Evolution, with its ever increasing order and complexity, appears impossible in the natural world.

Has the 2nd Law Been Circumvented? No, says expert Frank A. Greco:

"An answer can readily be given to the question, 'Has the second law of thermodynamics been circumvented?' NOT YET." 8

No experimental evidence disproves it, say physicists G.N. Hatspoulous and E.P. Gyftopoulos:

"There is no recorded experiment in the history of science that contradicts the second law or its corollaries…" 9

Creationist Duane Gish comments:

"Of all the statements that have been made with respect to theories on the origin of life, the statement that the Second Law of Thermodynamics poses no problem for an evolutionary origin of life is the most absurd… The operation of natural processes on which the Second Law of Thermodynamics is based is alone sufficient, therefore, to preclude the spontaneous evolutionary origin of the immense biological order required for the origin of life." (Duane Gish, Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of California at Berkeley) 10

Emmett Williams, Ph.D:

"It is probably no exaggeration to claim that the laws of thermodynamics represent some of the best science we have today. While the utterances in some fields (such as astronomy) seem to change almost daily, the science of thermodynamics has been noteworthy for its stability. In many decades of careful observations, not a single departure from any of these laws has ever been noted." 11

If Evolution is true, there must be an extremely powerful force or mechanism at work in the cosmos that can steadily defeat the powerful, ultimate tendency toward “disarrangedness” brought by the 2nd Law. If such an important force or mechanism is in existence, it would seem it should be quite obvious to all scientists. Yet, the fact is, no such force of nature has been found.

A number of scientists believe the 2nd Law, when truly understood, is enough to refute the theory of Evolution. In fact, it is one of the most important reasons why various Evolutionists have dropped their theory in favor of Creationism.

open systems/closed systems: open thermodynamic systems exchange heat, light, or matter with their surroundings, closed systems do not. No outside energy flows into a closed system. Earth is an open system; it receives outside energy from the Sun.

Is Energy the Key?

To create any kind of upward, complex organization in a closed system requires outside energy and outside information. Evolutionists maintain that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics does not prevent Evolution on Earth, since this planet receives outside energy from the Sun. Thus, they suggest that the Sun's energy helped create the life of our beautiful planet. However, is the simple addition of energy all that is needed to accomplish this great feat?12

Compare a living plant with a dead one. Can the simple addition of energy make a completely dead plant live?

A dead plant contains the same basic structures as a living plant. It once used the Sun's energy to temporarily increase its order and grow and produce stems, leaves, roots, and flowers - all beginning from a single seed.

If there is actually a powerful Evolutionary force at work in the universe, and if the open system of Earth makes all the difference, why does the Sun's energy not make a truly dead plant become alive again (assuming a sufficient supply of water, light, and the like)?

What actually happens when a dead plant receives energy from the Sun? The internal organization in the plant decreases; it tends to decay and break apart into its simplest components. The heat of the Sun only speeds the disorganization process.

The Ultimate Ingredient: Designed and Coded Information

Photo copyrighted, Films for Christ.
Dr. A.E. Wilder-Smith in the ORIGINS motion picture series.

The distinguished scientist and origins expert, Dr. A.E. Wilder-Smith, puts it this way:

"What is the difference then between a stick, which is dead, and an orchid which is alive? The difference is that the orchid has teleonomy in it. It is a machine which is capturing energy to increase order. Where you have life, you have teleonomy, and then the Sun's energy can be taken and make the thing grow - increasing its order" [temporarily].13

teleonomy: Information stored within a living thing. Teleonomy involves the concept of something having a design and purpose. Non-teleonomy is “directionlessness,” having no project. The teleonomy of a living thing is somehow stored within its genes. Teleonomy can use energy and matter to produce order and complexity.14

Where did the teleonomy of living things originate? It is important to note that the teleonomy (the ordering principle, the know-how) does not reside in matter itself. Matter, itself, is not creative. Dr. Wilder-Smith:

"The pure chemistry of a cell is not enough to explain the working of a cell, although the workings are chemical. The chemical workings of a cell are controlled by information which does not reside in the atoms and molecules."15

Creationists believe cells build themselves from carefully designed and coded information which has been passed from one life to the next since their original inception.

[See below for further evidence that the 2nd Law is a major problem for Evolution]

[Learn more about the origin of life]

References and Endnotes

The Illustrated ORIGINS Answers Book
Recommended book from Films for Christ. The Illustrated ORIGINS Answer Book by Paul S. Taylor. [info]

1

  • Heat is the name of energy when it is moved from one area to another. [Allen L. King, Thermophysics (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman & Company, 1962), p. 5.]

  • Heat is transferred by virtue of a temperature difference. Work is energy transferred by virtue of a force.


2

  • Emmett L. Williams, editor, Thermodynamics and the Development of Order (5093 Williamsport Drive, Norcross, Georgia 30092: Creation Research Society Books, 1981), p. 18.


3

  • Lord Kelvin as quoted in A.W. Smith and J.N. Cooper, Elements of Physics, 8th edition (New York, New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing, 1972), p. 241.

  • Emmett Williams (1981), p. 19 (endnote above).

  • World-renowned Evolutionist and avid anti-Creationist Isaac Asimov confirmed that:

    "Another way of stating the second law then is, 'The universe is constantly getting more disorderly!' Viewed that way we can see the second law all about us. We have to work hard to straighten a room, but left to itself it becomes a mess again very quickly and very easily. Even if we never enter it, it becomes dusty and musty. How difficult to maintain houses, and machinery, and our own bodies in perfect working order: how easy to let them deteriorate. In fact, all we have to do is nothing, and everything deteriorates, collapses, breaks down, wears out, all by itself - and that is what the second law is all about."

    [Isaac Asimov, "In the Game of Energy and Thermodynamics You Can't Even Break Even", Smithsonian Institution Journal (June 1970), p. 6 (emphasis added).]

    "The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the amount of available work you can get out of the energy of the universe is constantly decreasing. If you have a great deal of energy in one place, a large intensity of it, so that you have a high temperature here and a low temperature there, then you can get work out of that situation. The smaller the difference in temperature, the less work you can get out of it. Now, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, there is always a tendency for the hot areas to cool off and the cool areas to warm up—so that less and less work can be obtained out of it. Until finally, when everything is one temperature, you cannot get any work out of it, even though all the energy is still there. And this is true for EVERYTHING in general, the universe all over."

    [Isaac Asimov in The Origin of the Universe in the ORIGINS: How the World Came to Be video series (PO Box 1167, Marysville WA 98270-1167, USA: Films for Christ, 1983).]

  • Technically and most succinctly, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics says that:

    "The total amount of entropy in nature is increasing."

    [S. Gasstone, Textbook of Physical Chemistry (New York: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1946).]


4

  • R.B. Lindsay, "Physics - To What Extent Is It Deterministic?" American Scientist, Vol. 56, No. 2 (1968), pp. 100-111.


5

  • Creationist Emmett Williams, Ph.D.:

    "Obviously Evolution involves transformation, and natural transformations require energy. Such a description of evolution as given above [refers to Huxley quote] would require tremendous quantities of energy and many energy transformations. The process of Evolution requires energy in various forms, and thermodynamics is the study of energy movement and transformation. The two fields are clearly related. Scientific laws that govern thermodynamics must also govern Evolution."

    [Emmett L. Williams, editor, Thermodynamics and the Development of Order (5093 Williamsport Drive, Norcross, Georgia 30092: Creation Research Society Books, 1981), p. 10.]


6

  • The well-known chemist and Evolutionist Sidney Fox confirms this belief in increasing complexity:

    "Evolution, however, has put together the smallest components; it has proceeded from the simple to the complex."

    [Sidney W. Fox, "Chemical Origins of Cells - 2," Chemical and Engineering News, Vol. 49 (December 6, 1971), p. 46.]

7

  • In the context of this discussion, “order” means “arrangedness”, not necessarily “uniformity”. That is, adaption of the parts to the whole, and of the whole to some plan.

    [Harold L. Armstrong, "Thermodynamics, Energy, Matter, and Form, Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 2 (September 1978), pp. 119-121, and Vol. 15, No. 3 (December 1978), pp. 167-168, 174.]


8

Frank Greco, "On the Second Law of Thermodynamics," American Laboratory, Vol. 14 (October 1982), p. 80-88 (emphasis added).


9

E.B. Stuart, B. Gal-Or, and A.J. Brainard, editors, Deductive Quantum Thermodynamics in a Critical Review of Thermodynamics (Baltimore: Mono Book Corporation, 1970), p. 78 (emphasis added).


10

Duane Gish, "A Consistent Christian-Scientific View of the Origin of Life," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 4 (March 1979), pp. 199, 186 (emphasis added).


11

Emmett L. Williams, editor, Thermodynamics and the Development of Order (5093 Williamsport Drive, Norcross, Georgia 30092: Creation Research Society Books, 1981), pp. 7-8.]

[Also, see: Charles B. Thaxton, Walter L. Bradley, and Roger L. Olsen, The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories (New York: Philosophical Library, 1984), pp. 113-165.]


12

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is just as valid for open systems as it is for closed systems, says John Ross, Harvard University:

"…There are no known violations of the second law of thermodynamics. Ordinarily the second law is stated for isolated systems, but the second law applies equally well to open systems."

[John Ross, letter in Chemical and Engineering News, Vol. 58 (July 7, 1980), p. 40.]


13

Arthur E. Wilder-Smith in Willem J.J. Glashouwer and Paul S. Taylor, The Origin of the Universe (PO Box 1167, Marysville WA 98270-1167, USA: Eden Films and Standard Media, 1983) (a Creationist motion picture).


14

  • Dr. Henry Morris has proposed A COMPREHENSIVE DEFINITION OF THE 2ND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS in accordance with this concept:

    "In any ordered system, open or closed, there exists a tendency for that system to decay to a state of disorder, which tendency can only be suspended or reversed by an external source of ordering energy directed by an informational program and transformed through an ingestion-storage-converter mechanism into the specific work required to build up the complex structure of that system.

    If either the information program or the converter mechanism is not available to that 'open' system, it will not increase in order, no matter how much external energy surrounds it. The system will decay in accordance with the Second Law of Thermodynamics."

    [Henry M. Morris, "Entropy and Open Systems," Acts and Facts, Vol. 5 (P.O. Box 2667, El Cajon, California 92021: Institute for Creation Research, October 1976).]

  • Ernst Mayr, Ph.D., Evolutionist:

    "Living organisms, however, differ from inanimate matter by the degree of complexity of their systems and by the possession of a genetic program… The genetic instructions packaged in an embryo direct the formation of an adult, whether it be a tree, a fish, or a human. The process is goal-directed, but from the instructions in the genetic program, not from the outside. Nothing like it exists in the inanimate world."

    [Ernst Mayr in Roger Lewin, "Biology Is Not Postage Stamp Collecting," Science, Vol. 216, No. 4547 (May 14, 1982), pp. 718-720 (quote from p. 719, emphasis added).]


15

For further evidence that the 2nd law is a major problem for Evolution (including rebuttal arguments against claims that this law is wrongly applied against Evolution or that it is contradicted by growth, living systems, crystal formation, etc.)

  • "Creationist Interpretations of Chemical Organization in Time and Space," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 4 (March 1986), pp. 157-158.

  • Charles B. Thaxton, Walter L. Bradley, and Roger L. Olsen, The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories (New York: Philosophical Library, 1984).

  • Henry M. Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1984), pp. 185-215, and "Creation and the Laws of Science," in Henry M. Morris and Gary E. Parker, What Is Creation Science? (Santee, California: Master Books, 1982), pp. 153-188.

  • Emmett L. Williams, editor, Thermodynamics and the Development of Order (Norcross, Georgia: Creation Research Society Books, 1981).

  • Harold S. Slusher, The Origin of the Universe, revised edition (El Cajon, California: Institute for Creation Research, 1980), pp. 3-10.

  • Arthur E. Wilder-Smith, The Creation of Life (Wheaton, Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1970), and Man's Origin, Man's Destiny (Wheaton, Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1968).

  • Walter L. Bradley, "No Relevance to the Origin of Life," Origins Research, Vol. 10, No. 1 (1987), pp. 13-14 (addresses some arguments raised by Dr. John W. Patterson and Francis Arduini, etc., shows that the basic arguments used by Evolutionists against the 2nd Law have no relevance to the origin of life).

  • Robert A. Gange, "Commentary on the Patterson/Walter Exchange," Origins Research, Vol. 10, No. 1 (1987), pp. 14-16, and Origins and Destiny (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1986) (contains an explanation of The New Generalized Second Law of Thermodynamics and the information content in biological systems).

  • Tracy Waters, "A Reply to John Patterson's Scientific Arguments," Origins Research, Vol. 9, No. 2 (1986), pp. 8-9.

  • Jerry Kelley, “Thermodynamics and Probability,” Origins Research, Vol. 9, No. 2 (1986), pp. 11-13, and "On the Nature of Order," Origins Research, Vol. 9, No. 2 (1986), pp. 14-15.

  • Dudley J. Benton, "Thermodynamics, Snowflakes, and Zygotes," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 23, No. 2 (September 1986), p. 86.

  • David A. Kaufmann, "Human Growth and Development, and Thermo II," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 1 (June 1983), pp. 24-28.

  • Emmett L. Williams, editor, Thermodynamics and the Development of Order (Norcross, Georgia: Creation Research Society Books, 1981), pp. 91-110.

  • Harold L. Armstrong, "Evolutionistic Defense Against Thermodynamics Disproved," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 4 (March 1980), pp. 226-227, 206, and Vol. 17, No. 1 (June 1980), pp. 72-73, 59.

  • Duane T. Gish, "A Consistent Christian-Scientific View of the Origin of Life," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 4 (March 1979), pp. 185-203, especially pp. 200-201, and Speculations and Experiments Related to Theories on the Origin of Life (Santee, California: Institute for Creation Research, 1972).

  • J. Coppedge, Evolution: Possible or Impossible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1973).

  • Hubert P. Yockey, "A Calculation of the Probability of Spontaneous Biogenesis By Information Theory," Journal of Theoretical Biology, Vol. 67 (1977), pp. 377-398.

Author: Paul S. Taylor, Films for Christ. Adapted from The Illustrated ORIGINS Answer Book.

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