Evidence that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is wrong?
The Discovery Institute Press has published a book by Granville Sewell,
a mathematician at the University of Texas at El Paso. Under the
title of In The Beginning And Other Essays on Intelligent Design,
it apparently consists of previous writings of Sewell, some in
revised versions. I hasten to say that I do not have a copy of the
book, and have not read it. However Sewell makes it clear that
its basic arguments can also be found online in earlier versions of
these essays. The one that interests me is his argument that evolution
contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which will be found
Now the statement that evolution can't have occurred because it
contradicts the Second Law is one of the hoariest old creationist
myths. When you hear it you know you are dealing either with someone who
does not understand science, or else someone who does understand
science but is actively, and dishonestly, trying to get you not
to understand science. It is easily answered, and has been, many
times: in a closed system
entropy does increase, but the biosphere is not a closed system -- it
is utterly dependent on inflows of energy, mostly from the sun, and
the entropy increase from the outflow of energy from the sun far
exceeds the decrease of entropy by reproduction and by evolution.
Surely the Discovery Institute wants its scientific arguments to be
ones that can be taken seriously. Sewell must have come up with some
new argument that is more powerful than the old creationist howler, no?
Well ... no. Granville Sewell's arguments about the Second Law have already
been answered, years ago and at length, by Mark Perakh (here) and by Jason Rosenhouse (here).
Even in Sewell's announcement of his book at Uncommon Descent, in the
comments on that post the pro-evolution commentator "nakashima"
has made a fairly devastating critique.
Granville Sewell's response to the basic argument that the
biosphere is not a closed system is that
... if all we see entering is radiation and meteorite fragments, it seems
clear that what is entering through the boundary cannot explain the increase
in order observed here.
Which leads me to a thought. My back yard has some very
tough and capable weeds, with which we struggle. I know that if
I take a few seeds from one of these weeds and plant them, in
a few months there will be weed plants there, ones that have a great
many of those same seeds on them.
That is a local decrease in entropy, an increase in order. A few
seeds are replaced by many, with stems and leaves too. How did
this happen? Aside from some water, carbon dioxide
and minerals, mostly it happened
by sunlight striking the plants and driving photosynthesis. It's not
a mystery. But all we saw entering the plants was radiation!
If Granville Sewall is right, the growth of the weeds is a violation of the
Second Law of Thermodynamics. Since Granville Sewell is a trained
mathematician, and his work is endorsed
by the Discovery Institute Press, surely we must be hesitant to
conclude that his argument is simply wrong. No, the inevitable
conclusion is that Second Law of Thermodynamics must be wrong.
A momentous conclusion. Someone should tell the physicists.
There can hardly be any more repeatable and easily verifiable
phenomenon in nature than the growth of weeds in my back yard.
Evolution happens, natural selection improves the fitness of
organisms ... and weeds grow. If Granville Sewell is right, these
all prove that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is wrong.