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Saturday, February 23, 2002

From Goo to You By Way of the Zoo-part III-Thermodynamics and Open Systems-Hokie Pundit has passed on a challange from David Tepper over at "Wake Me Up on Judgement Day." He says
I refuse to even debate creationists anymore unless they fully understand the Second Law of Thermodynamics (it only applies to closed systems, which the Earth is not) and understand both steps of evolutionary theory: random mutation coupled with non-random selection. I've saved a lot of money on Tylenol that way.
Well, Tepper only wants to talk to fellow scientists, depending on how full an understanding of thermodynamics he wants. Excuse me while I scrape a quarter-century of rust off of my high school chemistry and physics. True, I keep up on current events in science, but only from an informed layman perspective, this is something you don’t get on the Discovery Channel. It looks like the Hokie Pundit and I must have had the same Google search, pointing to this Frank Lamber site, secondlaw.com. I gave the companion site, 2ndlaw.com, a quick read over that might fall short of “fully understanding” but enough to play the game with his card deck. The key concept from the Second Law is entropy; energy wants to be free and spread out. The secular end-times version of entropy is that things will get more and more spread-out and less energetic until the universe cools into a just-above zero Kelvin slush of dead particles. The reality is a bit different. Over time, energy will tend to disperse unless steps are taken to contain it. However, complex compounds, which are more stable, are created in a counter-intuitive part of the law. These compounds will have energy spill off (thus maintaining the entropic slant) as a side effect of their creation. Lamber then points out that complex chemical compounds are created naturally and don’t need any outside agency to organize them, thus making the complex combinations of hydrocarbons called DNA feasible without God calling the shots. Now, to give an once-over on mutations-sometime genes get changed/mutated from parent to child. Usually, this is bad, as the change will take away some feature and thus will be detrimental. Sometimes, this is good, if the change creates an advantage for the individual. The giraffe’s neck is an oft-cited example, as the longer neck will allow it to get at leaves that shorter-necked giraffe’s can’t reach and thus being better able to feed during dry spells or overpopulation. Species can pick up traits from this evolutionary selection, the ones with the good mutations have more kids and thus the species will pick up the beneficial mutation. This is where a different breed of creationist makes their argument. They will grant the microevolution of the giraffe's neck, but question the macroevolution that will create daisies, goldfish, giraffes and man all by random mutation. Speciation is the $10 word in this area, the idea that macroevolution will create different species. Bryan Preston over at Junkyard Blog has a good sequence going on speciation. I'll say, "Adios, amoebas" and let you read it, come back when you're done. This spins into the Intelligent Design theory that is an issue these days, which posits that life is too complex to have happened by dumb luck. Granted, complex molecules can form on their own, but did these complex set of molecules that are plugging away at this keyboard form on their own without some extra-universal influence? If the universe is a closed system, we're left with no choice but to accept a evolutionist argument. If the universe is a open system, other options are available. There are evolutionary processes in an open system, but an open system also allows for an outside agent to arrange the system to promote the creation of life. If you want to avoid God, you can place your faith in the Second Law's ability to conjure up the needed molecules. It could happen, and if God ain't an option, it must have happened. If the universe is a closed system, then evolution is your only option. Star Trek had a progenitor species that, as they were dying as a race, placed DNA that would produce the humanoids that we've come to know and love. One problem: where did the progenitors come from? The question that I want to address is-“Is the universe a closed system?” A Lamber catch phrase is "system+surrondings"; to me, God is the surroundings. My faith points to a creator God who is outside the system of our physical universe but interacts with it. You can’t go to Alpha Centuri, hang a right for three parsecs and find heaven. I’m open to a concept of the days in Genesis 1 being eras, as Bryan Preston elucidates on here, but I think God had more of a hand in things that just being the first cause of the Big Bang. The naturalist's sequence of events go in roughly the same order as Genesis 1. As a kid, I looked at Genesis 1 and evolution theory taught in biology class and had few problems with it. Evolution looked at how things happen, Genesis look at who made it happened. My problem with evolution doesn't come from Genesis 1, it's Genesis 2-11 that are the problems. From Genesis 12 (Abraham) on, you're on solid historical and archeological footing; it's at worst a good period piece. Meshing Adam, Eve and Noah into a evolutionist's argument is problematic, and I'm still working on that. More on that tomorrow.

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