Friday, December 30, 2005

Darwinism: The Queen Of The Junk Sciences

When I learned about thermodynamics in college, we were shown such things as that the age of the universe was insufficient for a sugar cube to come out of solution in a glass of water (even if the whole universe was glasses of sugar water), due to the improbabilities involved. Because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, dissolving a very simple thing like a sugar cube in a glass of water is an irreversible process (note, I am not saying you can't recover the sugar from the water, I'm saying that you would never see the time reverse of the cube itself dissolving, that is, the "film run backwards"). Yet, I am supposed to believe that Beatles CD's, Shakespeare, Zebras, my girlfriend, this computer, and the Mona Lisa all precipitated out of a superheated cloud of hydrogen, just by chance. Right.

Here's a good column by a mathematics professor, who would love it if his Darwinist colleagues would simply put down the crack pipe and learn from science [those are my words, of course; his article isn't a rant].


When you look at the individual steps in the development of life, Darwin's explanation is difficult to disprove, because some selective advantage can be imagined in almost anything. Like every other scheme designed to violate the second law [of thermodynamics], it is only when you look at the net result that it becomes obvious it won't work.

A National Geographic article from November 2004 proclaims that the evidence is "overwhelming" that Darwin was right about evolution. Since there is no proof that natural selection has ever done anything more spectacular than cause bacteria to develop drug-resistant strains, where is the overwhelming evidence that justifies assigning to it an ability we do not attribute to any other natural force in the universe: the ability to create order out of disorder?


SCIENCE HAS BEEN so successful in explaining natural phenomena that the modern scientist is convinced that it can explain everything. Anything that doesn't fit into this materialistic model is simply ignored. When he discovers that all of the basic constants of physics, such as the speed of light, the charge and mass of the electron, Planck's constant, etc., had to have almost exactly the values that they do have in order for any conceivable form of life to survive in our universe, he proposes the "anthropic principle" and says that there must be many other universes with the same laws, but random values for the basic constants, and one was bound to get the values right. When you ask him how a mechanical process such as natural selection could cause human consciousness to arise out of inanimate matter, he says, "human consciousness -- what's that?" And he talks about human evolution as if he were an outside observer, and never seems to wonder how he got inside one of the animals he is studying. And when you ask how the four fundamental forces of Nature could rearrange the basic particles of Nature into libraries full of encyclopedias, science texts and novels, and computers, connected to laser printers, CRTs and keyboards and the Internet, he says, well, order can increase in an open system.

The development of life may have only violated one law of science, but that was the one Sir Arthur Eddington called the "supreme" law of Nature, and it has violated that in a most spectacular way. At least that is my opinion, but perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps it only seems extremely improbable, but really isn't, that, under the right conditions, the influx of stellar energy into a planet could cause atoms to rearrange themselves into nuclear power plants and spaceships and computers. But one would think that at least this would be considered an open question, and those who argue that it really is extremely improbable, and thus contrary to the basic principle underlying the second law, would be given a measure of respect, and taken seriously by their colleagues, but we aren't.

The answer is simple. The second law of thermodynamics really isn't violated because we have separation of church and state in this country. BTW, comment all you want that I don't understand the Second Law. Someone's doin' the misunderstanding around here, and it ain't me. Be sure to check out the longer and more detailed version of his argument here [pdf].


Michael Poole said...

If you understand the Second Law of Thermodynamics, why do you quote someone who so clearly misunderstands or willfully misuses it, and who begs the question in the process?

(That is mostly a rhetorical question. I know the answer: It is the same answer as why any other Biblical literalist abuses and misinterprets scientific laws, scientific facts, and good argumentation to reach their desired conclusion. It is the same reason that Sewell's references include no biology publications more recent than 1960 and only one opposing publication.)

Sewell's response to the (obvious) observation that evolution, civilization, et cetera, involve net increases in entropy is to argue against a strawman. He spends a paragraph or two talking about entropy export from a region, recognizing it can be a cause of apparent entropy loss in that region, and then ignores it in his future analysis because he prefers the irrelevant and Second-Law-nonsensical idea of "imported order". You can import all the order you like, by whatever mechanism you like, but unless you export the preexisting entropy it will remain in the system -- which is the thing, and all of the thing, that the Second Law predicts.

His insistence on "simply describable phenomena" is scientifically bizarre. Starting from a suitably large cloud of hydrogen gas, you can explain the eventual existence of clay riverbeds -- but you cannot fit it into 1000 words by using only the laws of atomic behavior. The fact that an event takes a lot of explanation is irrelevant to its likelihood or practicability.

Snowflakes freezing with six sides are just one case where Sewell's argument could be applied to "disprove" that an everyday occurrence could happen at all. As you say, in a closed system, the lifetime of the universe is insufficient for water molecules to spontaneously align to a six-sided shape at a microscopic level, much less a macroscopic level. Under Sewell's absurd hypothesis, since this is unlikely (effectively impossible) in a closed system, it is also effectively impossible in an open system. Ergo, each snowflake is an intervention attributable only to space aliens or God!

I have to wonder: Is that petulant whining about probabilities and unknown evolutionary paths the best that Biblical literalists have to refute evolution? No wonder Judge Jones declared that ID simply isn't science. It barely even qualifies as a pseudoscience.

Matteo said...

As usual, Michael, we completely disagree. It really does seem to be beyond you that I disbelieve Darwinism for scientific reasons, not as some crutch for weak religious faith. And, frankly, I do have the impression that you are missing the crux of Sewell's argument (and many others that we've gone back and forth about). Your thing about snowflakes is quite bizarre and illustrative of this, IMHO.

Well, I'm not going to get bogged down going back and forth with you about Sewell's paper (that would just get in the way of my being able to whine petulantly). Look, we're both well-educated engineering guys. It's beyond you why I don't see all these alleged flaws in the material I link to, and it's beyond me why you can't see that your counterarguments are beside the point. But I do enjoy your comments and having you as a reader, and you seem to enjoy seeing what asinine thing Matteo has to say next. So everybody's happy.

Michael Poole said...

I enjoy reading what you have to say on virtually every other topic except ID and evolution, and I too enjoy these exchanges in the comments. Thanks for the time you spend on the blog!