Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Increase of Order in a Thermodynamic System

Creationists often posit that evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (the energy in any system tends toward being less usable over time; or, order becomes disorder over time; or, entropy increases over time).

Evolutionists counter that this is true only in a closed system, and that our Earth is an open system, with new energy arriving from the Sun, and thus the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics doesn't apply to evolution on Earth. (Never mind that the Universe as a whole is a closed system, and thus its evolution would violate the 2nd Law.)

But evolutionist err in their understanding.

In order to increase order from a disordered system, you don't need just an input of energy. You need three things:

1) An input of energy. The sun inputs energy into the Earth.

2) A machine that converts that energy into useful work. That machine might be a living cell containing chlorophyll, or a solar panel, or a heat-exchange device, etc.

3) A program that controls that machine. Oftentimes this program is "hard-coded" into the design of the machine, via length/size of gears, timing of levers, cranks, valves, etc.

Take for example a pile of metal laying in your front lawn. You can input energy into that pile of metal for millions of years, in the form of sunlight, or wind energy, or rain pressure, or ice-expansion, etc, and it'll never form into an ordered state, but will only get more disordered (e.g. rust) over time.

So, the input of energy is not sufficient to bring order from disorder.

So let's magically provide a machine to convert energy into order. Let's replace our hypothetical pile of metal with a very specific arrangement of metal, one that forms a lawn-mower. Surely if we add energy, we'll get useful order from this system, perhaps a nice orderly-trimmed lawn.

Again, we can put energy into that system, sunlight, wind, rain, ice, even gasoline poured on top of it, and maybe a lit match to boot, and you'll not get an increase of order. Instead, you'll again only get increased disorder.

So, it's not sufficient to input energy into a system, or to have both an input of energy and a machine capable of converting that energy into work.

We need the third requirement: a program that controls the machine. In the case of our lawn mower, that program is built-into the design of the mower, consisting of a specifically-designed combustion chamber and a spark plug that has a timing program tied to the stroke of the piston and valves programmed to open and close at the proper time, etc.

Now, with the input of energy (and not just any energy, but specifically in the case of our lawn mower, energy in the form of gasoline, input into the system in accordance with the machine's programming - the gas can't be poured on top of the mower, but must be put into its fuel tank), and a machine to convert that energy into useful work (the lawn mower itself), and a program to control that machine (the mechanical design of the mower, along with a a second control-program to steer the mower around the yard), we can get useful work, and order from disorder.

To sum up, the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (entropy/disorder spontaneously increases) of a system (open or closed) can not be overcome simply with the input of energy into the system; it requires three things:

1) the input of energy (of a specific sort)
2) a machine to convert that energy into useful work or order
3) a program that controls that machine

Originally published at: