Evolution And The Second Law Of Thermodynamics
By Edward F. Blick, Ph.D.
But how does the probability of forming life by chance relate to the Second Law of Thermodynamics? This relation exists by the relationship between information theory and statistical mechanics. In 1948 Shannon1 established a new field of mathematics known as Information Theory. Information theory is the quantitative study of information: its measurements and its transmission. Shannon defined information (I) as the difference between two entropies or uncertainties: one that (in reference to a question [Q]) is associated with knowledge (X) before a message and the other that is associated with knowledge (X') after a message; in symbols,
Thus, entropy is considered to be a measure of the degree to which information is lost or becomes garbled in the transmission process. In 1957 E.T. Jaynes2 published a paper showing that by starting with Shannon's results, one could obtain in an elementary way all of the thermodynamic results of J. Willard Gibbs. The enormous conceptual difficulties inherent in Gibbs' approach were swept away. The text by Tribus3 developed the relationship of information theory to thermodynamics for the undergraduate engineering and science students. The uncertainty or entropy of Shannon was defined as
where pi is the probability of symbol i to the question Q and K is an arbitrary scale function. K is usually set equal to the ratio of (where represents the "natural" logarithm of 2). With this choice of K, S is said to be measured in bits of information. A common thermodynamic choice for K is kN, where N is the number of molecules in the system considered and k is Boltzman's constant, 1.38 x 10-23 joule per degree K. This important number is the smallest thermodynamic entropy change that can be associated with a measurement yielding one bit of information. One bit equals approximately 10-23 joule per degree K.
If one wished to mix half a molecular weight of each of two isotopes, the resulting entropy change would be where No (Avogardro's number, 6 x 1023) is the number of molecules per molecular weight. Numerically this change is about six joules per degree K, or 6 x 1023 bits. This latter number represents the number of decisions that would have to be made if a person were to sort the isotopes one at a time. Hence, information can be thought of as the number of decisions required to "insert" a mixture.
Tribus3 has pointed out that Shannon's equation, Eq. 2 is identical in form to the expression used below in statistical mechanics for thermodynamic entropy
where W represents the "number of ways" a system can exist compatible with the restraints (thermodynamic probability).
In the more familiar classical thermodynamics, the Second Law is formulated in terms of energy. Lindsays4 defines the Second Law in the classical sense as:
"It is in the transformation process that Nature appears to exact a penalty and this is where the second principle makes it appearance. For every naturally occurring transformation of energy is accompanied, somewhere, by a loss in the availability of energy for the future performance of work. "
In this case, entropy can be expressed mathematically in terms of the total irreversible flow of heat. It expresses quantitatively the amount of energy in an energy conversion process which becomes unavailable for further work. In order for work to be done, the available energy has to "flow" from a higher level to a lower level. When it reaches the lower level, the energy is still in existence, but no longer capable of doing work. Heat will naturally flow from a hot body to a cold body, but not from a cold body to a hot body.
Three Forms: Classical, Statistical, and Information
The entropy law is seen to appear in three main forms, corresponding to classical thermodynamics; statistical thermodynamics, and information thermodynamics, respectively. Each of these corresponds to a different, although equivalent, concept of entropy. In relating entropy to disorder, "W" in Eq. 3 is a quantitative measure of the atomistic disorder of the system in question. The Second Law of Thermodynamics was stated in the following way by Harold Blum.5
"All real processes go with an increase of entropy. The entropy measures the randomness, or lack of orderliness of the system; the greater the randomness, the greater the entropy. "
Isaac Asimov6 expresses this concept interestingly as follows:
"Another way of stating the Second Law then is: the universe is constantly getting more disorderly! Viewed that way, we can see the Second Law all about us. We have to work hard to straighten a room, but left to itself, it becomes a mess again very quickly and very easily .... How difficult to maintain houses, and machinery, and our own bodies in perfect working order; how easy to let them deteriorate. In fact, all we have to do is nothing, and everything deteriorates, collapses, breaks down, wears out, all by, itself . . . and that is what the Second Law is all about."
Obviously in our calculation of the chances of forming a protein molecule by random chance there was little hope of achieving this goal. The protein molecule represents a much higher state of order than the original batch of molecules. Entropy (disorder) tends to increase not decrease. The protein molecule represents a much higher degree of information (lower entropy) than the original batch. But isolated processes do not increase their amount of information or order, according to a general interpretation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Thus, there appears to be little hope for the evolutionist in developing a satisfactory scientific theory to fit the concept of evolutionary origins.
Some evolutionists will take refuge in the idea that, since the universe is almost infinitely large and we can only sample a small part of it, we don't really know that the entropy principle always applies. However, what we do know is that, wherever it has been tested, it always works. Even if a rare accidental spurt in some process violated entropy and created an evolutionary gain of some sort, the next spurt would undoubtedly be in the opposite direction and undo it.
Most knowledgeable evolutionists, however, if pushed for an answer to the entropy problem, will take refuge in the "open system" argument. Asimov6 has stated:
"Life on earth has steadily grown more complex, more versatile, more elaborate, more orderly over the billions of years of the planet's existence .... How could that vast increase in order (and therefore the vast decrease in entropy) have taken place? The answer is it could not have taken place without a tremendous source of energy constantly bathing the earth, for it is on that energy that life subsists .... In the billions of years that it took for the human brain to develop, the increase in entropy that took place in the sun was far greater: far, far greater than the decrease that is represented b y the evolution required to develop the human brain. "
In other words the Earth in its geologic time setting is "open" to the sun's energy, and it is this tremendous influx of energy which powers the evolutionary process and enables it to rise and overcome the entropy law which would otherwise inhibit it. The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics apply only to isolated systems - systems into which no external energy can flow - and so supposedly do not apply to the Earth.
The evolutionist will also cite various examples of growth in open systems to illustrate his point -- such as a seed growing up into a tree with many seeds. In like manner, he says, the sun supplies energy to the open Earth-system throughout geologic time to keep evolution going, even though perhaps at some long-distant time the greater Earth-sun system will finally die and evolution will stop.
This is an exceedingly naive argument and it indicates the desperate state of evolutionary theory that leads otherwise competent scientists to resort to it. It should be self-evident that the mere existence of an open system of some kind, with access to the sun's energy, does not of itself generate growth. The sun's energy may bathe the site of an automobile junkyard for a million years, but it will never cause the rusted, broken parts to grow together again into a functioning automobile. A beaker containing a fluid mixture of hydrochloric acid, water, salt, or any other combination of chemicals, may lie exposed to the sun for endless years, but the chemicals will never combine into a living bacterium or any other self replicating organism. More likely, it would destroy any organisms which might accidentally have been caught in it. Availability of energy (by the First Law of Thermodynamics) has in itself no inhibition for thwarting the basic decay principle (by the Second Law of Thermodynamics). Quantity of energy is not the question, but quality!
STEADY STATE OPERATION OF LIVING ORGANISMS
It is somewhat difficult to separate the relationship of the Second Law and the "creation" of life from the steady state operation of life. Of course, it is also recognized that in reality no such steady state operation exists (only "quasi-steady") since the organism is continually changing from birth until death.
How can we express in terms of thermodynamics the marvelous faculty by which a living organism delays the decay into thermodynamical equilibrium (death)? Schrodinger7 stated it in this fashion:
"It feeds upon negative entropy, attracting, as it were, a stream of negative entropy upon itself, to compensate the entropy increase it produces by living and thus to maintain itself on a stationary and fairly low entropy level.
"If W is a measure of disorder, its reciprocal, 1 / W, can be regarded as a direct measure of order. Since the logarithm of 1 / W is just minus the logarithm of W, we can write Boltzmann's equation thus:
"Hence, the awkward expression 'negative entropy' can be replaced by a better one: entropy, taken with the negative sign, is itself a measure of order. Thus, the device by which an organism maintains itself stationary at a fairly high level of orderliness (fairly low level of entropy) really consists in continually sucking orderliness from its environment. This conclusion is less paradoxical than it appears at first sight. Rather could it be blamed for triviality. Indeed, in the case of higher animals, we know the kind of orderliness they feed upon well enough, viz. the extremely well-ordered state of matter in more or less complicated organic compounds, which serve them as foodstuffs. After utilizing it they return it in a very much degraded form - not entirely degraded, however, for plants can still make use of it. (These, of course, have their most powerful supply of 'negative entropy' in the sunlight.)"
Dr. Henry Morris8 has listed the following four requirements for a growth process:
"(1) An open system. Obviously growth cannot occur in a closed system; the Second Law is in fact defined in terms of a closed system. However, this criterion is really redundant, because in the real world closed systems do not even exist! It is obvious that the Laws of Thermodynamics apply to open systems as well, since they have only been tested and proved on open systems!
"(2) Available energy. This criterion is also actually redundant, since the energy of the sun is always available, whether directly or indirectly, to all systems of any kind on the entire earth. As the Scripture says, 'There is nothing hid from the heat thereof' (Ps. 19:6).
"Now, however, we come to the real heart of the problem. The evolutionist glibly gives entropy the brush-off because the earth is an open system bathed in the sun's energy. Such an answer is vacuous and trivial, since all systems are open to the sun's energy, but only a few exhibit a growth process, and even those only temporarily. What must be the remarkable additional conditions that can empower a worldwide evolutionary growth process in the whole biosphere for three billion years?
"For even the local, temporary growth systems with which men have observational acquaintance (as distinct from philosophical predilection), there must be at least two additional criteria satisfied.
"(3) A coded plan. There must always, without known exception, exist a pre-planned program, or pattern, or template, or code, if growth is to take place. Disorder will never randomly become order. Something must sift and sort and direct the environmental energy before it can `know' how to organize the unorganized components. The fact that a `need' exists for growth to take place is of little moment to bobbing particles.
"In the case of the plant, for example, the necessary program for its growth has been written into the genetic code, the amazing system of the DNA-RNA complex which somehow, by its intricately-coiled template structure and `messenger' functions, directs the assimilation of the environmental chemicals into a resulting plant structure like that of its predecessor plants. A similar coding system is also present in the animal seed.
"In inorganic systems, the growth is directed by the intricate molecular structure of the crystal compound and by the chemical properties of the elements comprising it. Each crystal is directed into a predictable geometric pattern on the basis of the chemical code implicit in the, periodic table of the elements and their own pre-existing structures.
"Artificial processes also have their 'codes.' The building is based on a blueprint and the dress on a pattern.
"But whence came these codes? How did the chemical elements acquire their orderly properties? What primeval DNA molecule had no previous DNA molecule to go by?
"Our experience with artificial processes indicates that a code for growth requires an intelligent planner. An architect had to draw the blueprint and a dress designer prepared the pattern. Could mindless, darting particles plan the systematic structure of the elements that they were to form? Even more unbelievably, could these elements later get together and program the genetic code, which could not only direct the formation of complex living systems of all kinds, but even enter into the replication process which would insure the continued production of new representatives of each kind? To imagine such marvels as this is to believe in magic - and magic without even a magician at that!
"A code always requires an intelligent coder. A program requires a programmer. To say that the most fantastically complex and effective code of all - the genetic code -somehow coded itself in the first place, is to abandon all pretense of science and reason in the study of the world as it is. "But the genetic code is utter chaos in comparison with the complexity of a program which might conceivably direct the evolutionary growth process from particles to people over five billion years of earth history! Where is the evidence for such a program? What structure does it have? How does it function, in order to direct elements into proteins and proteins into cells, cells into plants and invertebrates, fishes into birds, and monkeys into men?
"The sun's energy is there all right, and the earth is assuredly an open system, but by what marvelous automated directional system is this energy instructed how to transmute a school of jellyfish into a colony of beavers?
"Does the evolutionist imagine the mutation and natural selection could really perform the function of such an unimaginably complex program? Mutation is not a code, but only a random process which, like all random processes, generates disorder in its products. Natural selection is not a code, but only a sort of cybernetic device which snuffs out the disorderly effects of the mutation process. Is the evolutionist really so foolish as to think this kind of mindless interplay could produce the human brain - or, is it not simply that `the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them who believe not' (2 Cor. 4:4).
"But there is still another criterion which must be satisfied, even for a local temporary growth process:
"(4) An energy-conversion mechanism. It is naively simplistic merely to say: `The sun's energy sustains the evolutionary process.' The question is: `How does the sun's energy sustain the evolutionary process? 'This type of reasoning is inexcusable for scientists, because it confuses the First Law of Thermodynamics with the Second Law. There is no doubt that there is a large enough quantity of energy (First Law) to support evolution, but there is nothing in the simple heat energy of the sun of sufficiently high quality (Second Law) to produce the infinitely ordered products of the age-long process of evolutionary growth.
"One could much more reasonably assume that the sun's energy bathing the stockpiles of bricks and lumber on a construction site will by itself erect an apartment building, an infinitely simpler structural project than organic evolution. There is far more than enough energy reaching the building site than is necessary to build the building, so why bother to rent equipment and hire workmen? This very reasonable suggestion will not work, however, even if the sun's heat bears down on those materials for a billion years.
"The missing ingredient is an energy-conversion mechanism! Some mechanism has to be on hand to convert the sun's energy into the mechanical energy required to erect the structure. That is always true, for any growth process. the natural tendency is to decay, so that for growth to take place, some very special and effective mechanism must be superimposed to convert the simple heat energy into the complex growth system.
"In the case of the seed growing up into a tree, for example, the mechanism is that of photosynthesis. This is a marvelous and intricate mechanism by which the sun's radiant energy, is somehow transformed into the growing plant tissue. Photosynthesis is so complex and wonderful a mechanism that scientists even yet do not fully comprehend it9 involving as it does an involved combination of electrochemical reactions, bacterial agencies, and other factors.
"Similarly, various metabolic mechanisms convert the chemical energy stored in the plant into mechanical and other forms of energy which the animal that eats the plant needs in his activities. The plant's energy may also eventually be converted into coal, the burning of which may drive a boiler which produces steam for a generator to make electrical energy. The latter is available at the construction site for conversion into the mechanical energy necessary for the construction equipment as it is operated to build the building.
"Always, therefore, one or more energy conversion mechanisms must be available for utilization of the sun's energy whenever there is any kind of growth process. This is in addition to the pre-programmed plan for directing the growth process, which must also be available.
"But the most extensive and energy demanding growth process of all -- namely, the organic evolution of the entire biosphere has no such mechanism! Neither does it have, as we have seen, a program. How, then, can it possibly work?"
Concerning the requirement for a code, Dr. Bolton Davidheiser 10 (who at one time taught evolution in his John Hopkins University biology courses, but later became an ardent creationist) has stated:
"In the development of an egg, there is increasing complexity. The entropy requirements are satisfied, BUT a genetic code is required Without the genetic code the egg ,would not develop regardless of energy or entropy. The question is, what was the source of the genetic code?.
"In cases like birds building intricate nests of the type characteristic of their species, they use energy and entropy increases. BUT without the instinct they could not do it, regardless of their physical fitness and sufficiency of energy.
"Human beings can accomplish great feats of building structures, and there is no problem with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. BUT intelligence is required. A bunch of morons could play with bricks, sand, etc. and expend more energy than the contractor's workmen, but they would not make a building. Something MORE than the satisfaction of energy requirements is needed.
"The evolutionists say (bluffing, I believe) that there is no problem about evolution in regard to the Second Law of Thermodynamics because the energy requirements are satisfied. This seems like saying there is no problem about building a skyscraper if only there is available mechanical equipment, a source of fuel for the equipment, and enough healthy people selected at random. (The people do not have to know anything about building skyscrapers; the only requirements being that they are healthy and vigorous.)
"In the case of living things there is needed BESIDES a source of energy, one or more of the following: a genetic code, an instinct, intelligence."
The answer to the source of the code is obvious to the creationist:
"In the beginning God created. . . " (Gen. 1:1).
1. Shannon, CIE., Bell System Technical Journal, Vol. 27, p. 379 and p. 623 (1948), reprinted: CIE. Shannon and W. Weaver, The Mathematical Theory Of Cornmunication, University Of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1949.
2. Jaynes, E.T., Physics Review, Vol. 106, p. 620, 1957; Physics Review, Vol. 108, p. 171, 1957, Probability Theory In Science And Engineering, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1961.
3. Tribus, M., Thermostatics And Thermodynamics, D. Van Nostrand Co., Princeton, New Jersey, 1961.
4. Lindsay, R.B., "Entropy Consumption And Values In Physical Science," American Scientist, Vol. 47, Sept. 1959, p. 378.
5. Blum, H., "Perspectives In Evolution," American Scientist, Vol. 43, p. 595, Oct. 1955.
6. Asimov, Isaac, "In The Game Of Energy And Thermodynamics You Can't Even Break Even," Smithsonian Institute Journal, p. 6, June 1970.
7. Schrodinger, Erwin, "Heredity And The Quantum Theory," pp. 975-1000, World Of Mathematics, James I. Newman, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1956.
8. Morris, Henry, "Evolution Or Entropy," unpublished manuscript, 1973.
9. Levine, R.P., "The Mechanism Of Photosynthesis," Scientific American, Vol. 221, pp. 58-70, Dec. 1969.
10. Davidheiser, Bolton, private communication with author, June 1, 1973.
Chapter 4 of SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS OF GENESIS, First Edition, 1991, Copyright (c) by Dr. Edward F. Blick, Oklahoma City, OK, Published by: Hearthstone Publishing. P.O. Box 815, Oklahoma City, OK 73101, ISBN 1-879366-12-6, used by Permission.
Dr. Blick was Professor of Aerodynamics, Nuclear Engineering, Geological Engineering, and other subjects for over 30 years at the University of Oklahoma. He worked on the Mercury Project and F4 fighter and has written 150 scientific papers.