The local Christian apologetics blog “Thinking Matters” appears to have made a policy decision to outsource most of the content. Specifically to the subcontinent (where else do New Zealanders outsource to) and a Walter Mitty type of character, Johnson Philip.
Philip claims to be “a physicist, with expertise inter alia in Quantum-nuclear Physics, and has worked extensively on the inner quark-structure of Protons and Neutrons.” However, as he doesn’t appear to have published anything in a scientifc journal I think the more relevant part of his CV is that he “has also specialized in Christian Apologetics, Biblical Archeology, Journalism, Alternative Medicines, and several other fields.” He has written extensively in those areas.
However, Philip seems to have been co-opted to provide some “scientific” cred to the blog. But you know how apologetics treats science. They attempt to use it, to distort it, to quote out of context, etc. (you know the game) to support their religious beliefs. But Philip has come up with a whopper here (see The Second Law of Thermodynamics). He wishes to use the Second law of Thermodynamics to support his religious ideas of creationism! You know – the idea that evolution violates the second law!
It doesn’t, of course, so Philip resorts to completely distorting the science. He claims in summary:
” When matter and energy interact freely, without interference, and blindly, entropy (disorder) always increases irrespective of whether the system is open or closed.”
Well, he is so wrong. But you can see where he is going:
“A carefully contrived system, and a complex mechanism is needed anywhere for creating order out of chaos.”
His complex mechanism is, presumably, his god. In his discussion he gives the example of an air-conditioner. I can’t help thinking of Rev Paley finding a watch on the heath argument for intelligent design. What if he had found an air-conditioner on the heath?? Now that would be something.
So, a very brief outline of what the second law is about – entropy. Simply presented heat cannot spontaneously flow from a material at lower temperature to a material at higher temperature. In the figure on the left heat will flow from A to B – but not in the reverse direction (without help).
Entropy is, simply, the measure of disorder of a system. ( In a hotter body the molecules are more disordered so A has a higher entropy than B. But notice that as heat flows for A to B the entropy of B will increase – but the entropy of A will decrease! Because A and B are not insulated from each other they each represent open systems.
Energy can be transferred from one open system to another – spontaneously, as for A to B, or by a machine. A refrigerator using energy to pump heat form B to A, for example (as on the right). And in the open systems represented by the sun, earth and living objects energy transfer enable the entropy of one part of the system to decrease (eg as life produces more organised structures) while it increases in another part – such as the sun.
The little trick Philip is trying to pull refers to an isolated or thermodynamically closed system. For example the combined structure of A and B thermodynamically isolated from its surroundings (the red dotted boundary of the closed system in the diagram on the left). The total entropy of that isolated system cannot decrease. In fact the internal processes will cause the total entropy to increase or remain unchanged.
Philip is attempting to treat an open system – like living material in the presence of, and exchanging energy with, the sun and earth – like a closed, isolated, system. One could, in theory, imagine a closed system of the earth and sun, thermodynamically insulated from the rest of the universe. The total entropy of that closed system would never decrease. But the entropy of the separate parts (which are themselves open systems) can decrease. The entropy of living organisms can decrease.
This is a very old, and very naive, distortion of science used by creationists. I am surprised that anyone claiming scientific credentials can promote such ideas (perhaps that is why he could never get anything published in a scientific journal). These concepts are taught in high school science.
God as an air conditioner. the mind boggles.