Re: Second law of Thermodynamics

Glenn Morton (
Sun, 23 Nov 1997 22:43:47 -0600

At 10:53 PM 11/22/97 -0800, Arthur V. Chadwick wrote:
>At 09:14 PM 11/22/97 -0600, Glenn wrote:
>>I would respond with 2 things: First, the bacteria has had 3.5 billion years
>>of selection to look for a better solution than Joyce was able to find in 2
>>years. Second, this is a property that ribozymes don't have in nature as I
>>understand the situation. Joyce wanted to evolve an ability that didn't
>>exist in nature.
>>So I am not surprised that better solutions can be found. The point is that
>>functionality is spread far more widely throughout sequence space than
>>Christians teach.
>Which Christians? (That includes us, doesn't it?)

Maybe I should have used the term Christian apologists or published
Christian apologists or widely accepted Christian apologetics. But in fact,
the view is so widespread among antievolutionists with very few voices in
opposition that I chose the more inclusive term.

I am a Christian, but I don't teach that one and only one permutation
performs a given biological functionality so I would not include myself in
what they are teaching.

It was pointed out to me privately that this is probably why some people
mistake me for an atheist. I told my friend that having nearly become one I
now sound like one occasionally. :-(

>>But Art, you miss the whole point of the example. I am not trying to prove
>>that life originated from molecules (although this has implications in that
>>regard). I do not have the ability to put together a origin of life
>>scenario. I am trying to show that the classic probability argument that
>>Christians put forth is very flawed. The standard arguments makes two
>>erroneous assumptions:
>>First they assume that a molecule either works or doesn't work, on or off, 0
>>or 1. But functionality is not the simple. Some work, albeit slowly, other
>>work rapidly.
>>Secondly they asume generally that only one sequence will work. Both of
>>these assumptions are wrong.
>Well, "they" are just wrong. Sorry I missed your point.

That's OK. Here is the example that bugs me the most. Thaxton, Bradley and
Olsen in _The Mystery of Life's Origin_ p. 137 talk about the configuational
entropy. They say:

"If only one specific sequence of amino acids could give the proper
function, then the configurational entropy for the protein or specified,
aperiodic polypetptide would be given by

S(cm)=k ln (omega(cm))
=k ln (1)
= 0"

In this and the following section S(cm)=configurational entropy for a
sequence with a 'message', S (cr)= configurational entropy for a random
sequence.(see p. 132-133)

The next section they determine the change of configurational entropy going
from random poplypeptides to a peptide with a specific function.

They then calculate the configurational entropy change for an E. coli. They

"In like manner the configurational entropy work for a DNA molecule such as
for E. coli bacterium may be calculated assuming 4 x 10^6 nucleotides in the
chain with a 1 x 10^6 each of the four distinctive nucleotides, each
distinguished by the type of base attached, and each nucleotide assumed to
have an average mass of 339 amu. At 298K:

-T Del(S(c)) = -T(S(cm)-S(cr))

= T(S(cr)-S(cm))

= kT ln (omega(cr)-ln(omega(cm))

= kT ln{4 x 10^6! / (10^6! 10^6! 10^6! 10^6!)] - kT ln(1)" p. 138

Notice this obscure -kT ln(1) at the end of the bottom equation. It is
saying that only ONE permutation of the 4 million DNA bases makes an E.
Coli. This is ridiculous yet to my knowledge, none of the prepublication
reviewers of this section every called the authors on it (I reviewed the
book prior to publication but not this section). Lots of Christians accept
this as a good book against evolutionary theory and yet it has stuff like
this in it.

As you say "they" are just wrong. And I have pointed this error out to
privately to both Charles and Walter but have never gotten a response. That
makes me cry. I personally know and like both of those guys, but they are
badly wrong here. Christian apologists should do better.


Foundation, Fall and Flood