Everything Falls Apart: A challenge to Darwinism

Speaking of challenges to Darwinism:

In the 1860s Charles Darwin proposed a theory of the origin of species. He predicted it would be solidly supported by fossils when enough had been found to fill the gaps. But the fossil record is still just about as gap-py now as it was then: new discoveries are leaving as many empty transitional slots as they are filling. And nobody has yet observed a definite instance of speciation, especially one that involves new structures or functions, in all that time, despite up to 40,000 generations (of animals, bugs, plants, etc.) of trying.
Tom Gilson

Tom’s blog is called Thinking Christian; it’s a site I visit often, as he usually has some interesting things to say. I like Christians who think about things; we need more of them.

You may also want to check out this; it is a short commentary on an article in Nature about the need to look for intermediate evolutionary life forms (a notable quote: Indeed, in their opposition to evolution, the proponents of ‘intelligent design’ have seized on our current ignorance of intermediates.”).

The issue, however, that I want to discuss is the challenge that entropy is to Darwinism. Entropy has often been raised as a challenge to Darwinism, as the 2nd law of thermodynamics essentially says that everything tends toward entropy or disorder, and this is in direct opposition to the claims that through a combination of random events and natural selection, without any “outside” influence, life began and became more complex and ordered. I’ve read where evolutionists summarily dismiss this argument as the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics only deals with temperature distribution. Ah… but does it?

Granville Sewell, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas El Paso, writes in A Second Look at the Second Law:

However, it was soon realized that other types of order can be defined which also never increase in a closed system, for example, we can define a “carbon order” associated with the distribution of carbon diffusing in a solid, using the same equations, and through an identical analysis show that this order also continually decreases, in a closed system. With time, the second law came to be interpreted more and more generally, and today most discussions of the second law in physics textbooks offer examples of entropy increases (or order decreases, since we are defining order to be the opposite of entropy) which have nothing to do with heat conduction or diffusion, such as the shattering of a wine glass or the demolition of a building.

Sewell, being a mathematician, points out that “The second law is all about probability, it uses probability at the microscopic level to predict macroscopic change…” This is then in opposition to non-IDist evolutionary theory, which is “widely accepted in the scientific world as proof that natural selection — alone among all natural forces — can create order out of disorder, and even design human brains, with human consciousness. Only the layman seems to see the problem with this logic.

So, it seems we are back to a point I made previously, that sometimes thinking too much makes you blind to the basic principle of Occam’s Razor.

Sewell recognizes the common response to this proposition, that the Earth itself is not a closed system, as energy is being received from the sun, etc. The reverse-entropy created by evolution is small in relation to the total entropy of the universe, so it all balances (or unbalances) out. This, however, appears to be mathematical hogwash: “… an extremely improbable event is not rendered less improbable by the occurrence of other events which are more probable.

Being a mathematician, he is uniquely qualified to comment on the mathematical equations which are the foundation for the theory. As it turns out, the creation of order from disorder is no less improbable in an open system; in fact, the only way for order to increase is for order to be imported into the system! Therefore, he says, “THE EVOLUTIONIST … cannot avoid the question of probability by saying that anything can happen in an open system, he is finally forced to argue that it only seems extremely improbable, but really isn’t …

The article goes on to point out a number of the other inconsistencies of Darwinism, and how (these are my words, not his) philosophical materialism is a “science of the gaps” approach, and it’s worth reading.

Again, for what it’s worth, a naturalistic approach to evolution has to be doubted in light of Occam’s Razor. That is, unless you presuppose philosophical materialism, because then any simpler, more probable (and some would add obvious) explanation has merely been excluded from consideration.

11 thoughts on “Everything Falls Apart: A challenge to Darwinism”

  1. Argumentative entropy?

    “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”
    —Thomas Aquinas

  2. Mike, I read through the Talk Origins piece you referenced above. I believe this is specifically the argument that Sewell disputes.

  3. Peter, you apparently haven’t following the conversation here, or you’d know that I accept that some evolution is occurring. However, I don’t buy in to the whole neo-Darwinist thing, and believe philosophical materialism to be a flawed worldview.

    Darwin, by the way, gets way too much credit for evolutionary theory.

  4. “that sometimes thinking too much makes you blind to the basic principle of Occam’s Razor.”

    And sometimes writing too much blinds you to the fact that evolution in happening all around you all the time. Those species having more offspring than can survive, the best adapted ones passing their advantageous traits on to the next generation. Bugs developing resistence, mutation happening, some some good, others deleterious. On my local beach whelks are specifying before our very eyes. And they don’t give a crap what you, I, your thermodynamicist or the fossil record says. You need to read more about that, by the way. It’s come on some way since Darwin’s day.

  5. Actually, I’m not either. If I had based an argument on the Pope having an opinion, that would be arguing from authority. I’m just saying that a mathematician is qualified to talk about mathematical formulas (where a biologist might not be). He has a right to his opinions outside of math, and those opinions stand or fall on their own merit.

    I deal with expert witnesses on a daily basis; one of the keys in choosing an expert is that they are qualified to discuss certain issues. Their testimony in court is given greater weight if it’s within the scope of their expertise; as to any other opinions, they’re given the same weight as testimony from percipient witnesses. Some, of course, are more percipient than others …

  6. Crap, I wasn’t clear enough, Alden. I meant to say that you are arguing from authority. Sewell is misapplying the Second Law and making his own assumption on the definition of complexity, neither of which are applicable to biology.

  7. I think you at least win the award for the longest comment… 😉

    Sewell isn’t using an argument from authority (if he is, then everyone else is, too); his argument is that the math is what it is. The argument still is that systems cannot create order without some input from outside. There may be forces, like gravity, electromagnetic, etc., that are at work; however, over time things will unravel. i will, however, read the link you include, but I’ve a feeling that I’ve read it (or something similar) before.

  8. I have read the article and it contains many argumentative fallacies, and really, the main thrust that you have bought into regarding the second law of thermodynamics is obviously the main one.

    Even avoiding pointing out that he is using an argument from authority as a mathemetician to tell biologists that they are wrong (and I am not using an ad hom here,) he is completely misstating the application of the 2nd law to biology and natural selection (and remember that natural selection is only one of the factors of evolution.)

    I’ll demonstrate what I mean here. Given 2 hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom floating free separately, they would not be able to bond to form water by the way he examines the 2LOT; but there are forces here that are stronger than entropy at play. Hydrogen has the unique capability of forming “polar covalent bonds” with other elements that have high “electronegativity bonding characteristics.” Oxygen has 8 protons and 8 electrons, the problem being that 2 of the electrons are in the inner (A) “shell” and only 6 are in the “outer” (b) shell. Atoms attract electrons when their shells are short of the natural level of electrons in each particular shell. It’s basic atomic theory, the same atomic theory that led to the destruction of Hiroshima.

    The hydrogen atom shares its electron to fill the electron deficit, not in the oxygen atom, but in the B shell of the oxygen atom. According to Sewell’s re-working of the Second Law this wouldn’t happen, the water molecules would tend to fall apart. Proteins form through a similar process of co-valent bonding, and as proteins themselves are more complex than their component molecules, this should also not be able to happen using his statement of the second law. The second law is used to measure entropy exchange between matter, and is used to measure the probability of an increase or decrease in entropy based on the strength of the other factors involved in an exchange.

    There is a very detailed discussion of how creationists and ID advocates misuse 2LOT here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/thermo/probability.html

    “A simpler analogy to the airplane/junkyard scenario would be the stacking of three blocks neatly on top of each other. To do this, intelligent design is required, but stacking does not violate the laws of thermodynamics. The same relations hold for this activity as for any other activity involving thermodynamical energy changes. It is true that the blocks will not stack themselves, but as far as thermodynamics is concerned, all that is required is the energy to pick them up and place them one on top of the other. Thermodynamics merely correlates the energy relationships in going from state A to state B. If the energy relationships permit, the change may occur. If they don’t permit it, the change can not occur. A ball will not spontaneously leap up from the floor, but if it is dropped, it will spontaneously bounce up from the floor. Whether the ball is lifted by intelligent design or just happens to fall makes no difference.”

    This is one of the conclusions of the step-by-step explanation of how 2LOT relates to natural selection.

    But I really need to go back to “randomness.” It is a bogeyman, a strawman wrt evolution. It is a necessary part of the process of evolution, but it is still a minor part. Natural selection and genetic drift among populations are the two major processes of evolution, and research into evo-devo is making major gains into further understanding how evolution works. Randomness can lead to minor changes in a DNA strand, but without natural selection to force a “response” randomness would have no effect at all.

    Sewell also needs to be careful about how he uses the term “complexity” here. At a very basic level, the cellular structure of an amoeba is vastly complex, and just as complex as any one cell in a human body. The body is complex in terms of systematics, but DNA works on the molecular level the same way in an amoeba as it does in a human cell. Cellular biologists understand very well the processes of meiosis and meitosis, and how cells join with other cells to develop into systems. It isn’t a problem; and evolution takes advantage of these existing problems.

    I think we would both agree that a glacier is vastly more “complex” than a snowflake, but snowflakes join to form glaciers over long periods of time; again violating Sewell’s version of 2LOT. I don’t think he is proposing that we need an intelligent designer to make a glacier in opposition to entropy. Heat, pressure and crystalline properties of snow defeat entropy to form glaciers.

    Eldridge and Gould were arguing for a special corollary to Natural Selection in the quote selected by Sewell from the New York Times, and their theory of Punctuated Equilibrium is based on the concept of spandrels, or the empty spaces between arches in domes. While they lend no structural support to the arches themselves, they fill in holes at first and then purpose is applied. Many of the steps that lead to such things as bacterial flagella are described as “spandrels” as they aren’t there to fulfill a structural purpose but are useful enough to be kept until use is found.

    While Sewell doesn’t mention flagella, he alludes to them in his discussion of the aquatic bladderwort. Nick Matzke published a recent discussion of the development of the flagella without resorting to “design” or irreducible complexity:


    To dismiss it because it is published at Talk Design, would be an example of an ad hom, but remember that Nick is a Christian who has no problem with evolution.

    The main problem that I see, Alden, is that you are stubbornly insisting that the Theory of Evolution rests on a presupposition of naturalistic philosophy. The naturalistic philosophy is one conclusion that (yes, a majority) of skeptics have come to; and while natural methodology made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist (which Paine and Hume couldn’t quite figure out how to do,) the two are not equivalent concepts. The natural methods of science are what led Glenn B. Morton away from mixing science and religion but he has not abandoned his religion. He simply concluded that young earth creationism is impossible to reconcile with geology.

    Intelligent Design is very similar to Creationism in that instead of exploring it seeks to destroy using rhetoric the discoveries of science by casting doubt on the method. Sewell’s article is one long attempt. It claims Occam’s razor, saying that the Designer is simpler; but the Designer is not a testable proposition and can’t be included scientifically as one of the possible explanations to be discarded. I would hate to live in a Universe based on his interpretation of the 2lot. My body wouldn’t be able to replace the cells that die out without God intervening in every single step.

    ID fails because it claims to be a scientifically testable proposition without invoking the Designer at any single step (natural methodolgy,) but then when its proponents are shot down scientifically the cry is loud against naturalist philosophy. So which way is it supposed to be?

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