Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

If you are a creationist, or a supporter of science, you have heard the old canard, the second law of thermodynamics disproves evolution, Darwin's research, etc.

It is an OLD one.

To look at the faces and listen to the words as creationist pull it out of their pockets, you'd think it was either new, or damning to science.

"Oh, no. Thermodynamics? we can't answer that!"

It has been answered. More to the point, the second law of thermodynamics has been explained and reexplained as the scientifically minded sow that the law is being abused by creationist. Neither the first or last bit of science that creationist will try to do harm to in their cause.

Please visit Panda's Thumb, or one of the other evolution boosters to see a full lay out of the why the 2nd law and Evolution are not in conflict.

Evolutionblog looks at the latest role out of this beaut.

The folks over at Uncommon Descent have unveiled a new blogger: mathematician Granville Sewell. He's the latest know-nothing to convert a comically simplistic version of the second law of thermodynamics into an anti-evolution argument.

Of course, this is one of those shark-jumping, litmus-test arguments that tell you immediately you are dealing with a crank. The second law of thermodynamics and modern evolutionary theory are not in conflict. That is a fact, not an opinion. Anyone claiming they are in conflict is confused about at least one of them, and probably both.

I have previously dealt at length with Sewell's arguments. Let's have a look at his latest rantings.

After linking to a blogger from Colombia who endorsed Sewell's view of things, Sewell writes the following:

Every time I write on the topic of the second law of thermodynamics, the comments I see are so discouraging that I fully understand Phil Johnson's frustration, when he wrote me “I long ago gave up the hope of ever getting scientists to talk rationally about the 2nd law instead of their giving the cliched emotional and knee-jerk responses. I skip the words '2nd law' and go straight to 'information'”. People have found so many ways to corrupt the meaning of this law, to divert attention from the fundamental question of probability-primarily through the arguments that “anything can happen in an open system” (easily demolished, in my article) and “the second law only applies to energy” (though it is applied much more generally in most physics textbooks). But the fact is, the rearrangement of atoms into human brains and computers and the Internet does not violate any recognized law of science except the second law, so how can we discuss evolution without mentioning the one scientific law that applies?
The sheer, breathtaking gall of these folks is simply not to be believed. Phillip Johnson was the Berkeley law professor who got the ID movement rolling with his book Darwin on Trial. This book contained very little that was scientifically accurate. The very idea of Johnson lamenting the lack of rationality in the way scientists discuss the second law, or anything else, is just too rich.

Sewell does not link to any critics actually making either of the points he attributes to them. I'd be surprised if any scientifically knowledgeable person has ever suggested either that anything can happen in an open system, or that the second law only applies to energy. It is probably too much to hope that Sewell will engage seriously with criticisms of his argument (doing so, after all, would force him to admit that he is wrong). Nonetheless, let us explain why he is not correct.

And that first part really just throws me. The lack of rationality in scientists? That is...WOW!

Look at "I long ago gave up the hope of ever getting scientists to talk rationally about the 2nd law instead of their giving the cliched emotional and knee-jerk responses" and "People have found so many ways to corrupt the meaning of this law".

With the first, it is just like with Johnson. Knee jerk response? You mean...the actually applied and research knowledge versus your own back of the pamphlet argument. Could it be the fact that your argument is faulty and broken is the problem? No? Why am I not surprised?

Second, doesn't that one sound like a scientist talking about a proponent of pseudoscience? Yet it is the pseudoscience lover that is making the claim. Amazing!

Really. These two remind of the cranks who every year send in their treatise on why Einstein's Theory is wrong and they are the first to disprove it. Every year, so many. People, on breaks from work, in their basements, just cranking away. And when they are told they are wrong, bad numbers, misapplied science, etc...It's the CONSPIRACY...the scientists trying to hide the truth...those damned scientists.

Sewell...Egnor...Behe...and all of them...isn't time to call it?

Isn't it time call them...KOOKS!

Just asking.

1 comment:

TheFallibleFiend said...

I was thinking "Crank," but only because I don't how to distinguish "cranks" from "kooks."

Phil Johnson, a lawyer, complains that those silly scientists don't understand the second law. Granville Sewell - a person with no more familiarity on the subject - concurs.

The unmitigated hubris of these know-nothings has no limit. Every time I think we have plumbed the depths of human stupidity, another one of these geniuses opens his mouth to say something even dumber. What is it? Do they have some kind of contest going on and real scientists just aren't in on the joke?