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RE: 2nd Law of Thermodynamics



As a lapsed physicist myself, I don't think it is entirely fair to
compare physicists and chemists to creationists.   Perhaps some are, but
I doubt that any objective measure of various academic disciplines would
find them any more anti-evolutionist than any other area.  

You are of course wrong that biological systems do not follow the 2nd
law.   The reason that it is a LAW is that so far as we can tell
everything in the universe follows it.  Evolution is on very strong
grounds, scientifically speaking.  Thermodynamics is on even stronger
ground.

A system may decrease entropy in one aspect, but increase it elsewhere.
You say something similar in effect, but I would quibble with the way
you say it.   Any system - isolated or not in isolation fits the 2nd
law, as long as you a complete accounting.

The canonical example is a refriderator.  It creates a low entropy state
inside the fridge (by making it cold).  However, it does so at the cost
and increasing entropy by dumping heat to the surroundings.   In fact,
it dumps even more heat than it extracts, so the net is that the fridge
increases entropy overall.   Biological systems (like dinosaurs) also do
this.  They reduce entropy internally (by developing lots of structure)
but their total excreta - both physical and heat from metabolism -
provides a net increase in entropy.  Note that intake is not the issue -
it is output that matters here.

Also, since it is mentioned in the inclusion in the mail, the biosphere
is NOT entirely powered by the sun.   Bacteria, tube worms and other
creatures that live on the ocean bottom near deep sea vents are powered
by heat from the earth.  Bacteria found in oil wells, and in deep
basalts in the Columbia basin suggest that  Earth's crust supports
bacterial life down to many kilometers below the surface, which is also
not powered by the sun.   Surprisingly enough, estimates of the total
biomass of such crustal bacteria vastly outweighs that of terrestrial
and oceanic life.   So it may well be that 90% or even 99% of the
biosphere is not powered by the sun.   Familar life on the surface may
be the anomaly.

Nathan

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Robert.J.Meyerson@uwrf.edu [SMTP:Robert.J.Meyerson@uwrf.edu]
> Sent: Thursday, March 27, 1997 10:08 AM
> To:   dinosaur@usc.edu
> Subject:      2nd Law of Thermodynamics
> 
> Jeff Poling writes;
> 
> >     Is it just me or does the physics community have
> >more then its fair share of creationsists?  It has been my impression
> >that a lot of creationist arguments have been proposed by physicists,
> >and walking down the physics hall the other day I overheared two
> >physicists avidly discussing how evolution violates the second law of
> >thermodynamics (I guess the biospere isn't really powered by the Sun
> >after all).  Was that Hoyle's motivation for proposing that the
> Berlin
> >specimen feathers were a hoax?     
> 
> It has been my observation that creationists tend to be more common
> among both chemists and physicists, using the argument you site as a
> scientific objection to evolution (it's also the only objection I have
> ever heard that can truly be called "scientific").  Actually, the
> arguments are irrelevant.  The second law applies *only* to systems
> that have no energy input; the law states that in any ISOLATED SYSTEM
> (where there is no energy added or removed), that system will tend to
> go towards it's lowest energy state.
> 
> The truth is, no biological process follows this law.  Take the growth
> of a fertilized egg to an adult; that is a process that gets more
> complex over time.  How can an organism do this?  Because a living
> thing is not an isolated system; it is constantly taking in energy
> (all living things feed in some way).  This input of energy overwhelms
> the effect of entropy on a biological organism.  Further, since there
> is a input of energy, biological systems don't fit with the definition
> of the 2nd law, and one cannot assume that a biological system will
> follow the definition to the letter.
> 
> I find it amusing that there are still religious groups attempting to
> destroy evolution.  C'mon, if the Pope has no trouble accepting
> evolution as a fact, why should anyone else?
> 
> 
> Rob Meyerson
> Orphan Vertebrate Paleontologist
> 
> ***
> "Keep your stick on the ice."
>         -Red Green
>