Re: design: purposeful or random?

Stephen Jones (
Thu, 13 Mar 97 06:27:55 +0800


On Mon, 03 Mar 1997 21:14:16 -0400, Pim van Meurs wrote:

>SJ>Thanks to Gene, but this adds nothing new - see above. 1.
>Ratzsch points out that when YECs say that "thermodynamics prohibits
>evolution" they mean "evolution" is the broadest sense:

PM>Evolution in the broadest sense is also a statement in the vaguest

Agreed. Yet it is the same word "evolution" that is usually used with
no defintion or qualification in NE and TE arguments.

PM>If one claims that evolution violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics
>one would expect some concrete evidence.

At the broadest level "evolution" and "the 2nd law of thermodynamics"
are at least apparently in conflict. The first postulates a
universal disorder to order principle, while the latter a universal
order to disorder principle. See my Ramm quote below.

PM>"....when claiming that the Second Law flatly precludes evolution,
>major creationists almost invariably have in mind evolution in the
>overall cosmic, "evolution model" sense.The clues to that meaning
>are the almost invariable use (especially in Morris's writings) of
>phrases like philosophy of evolution or cosmic or universal or on a
>cosmic scale. " (Ratzsch D.L., "The Battle of Beginnings', 1996,

PM>Contradicted by Morris' own statements in scientific creationism.
>"there is no way of modifying the basic evolutionary model to accomodate
>this second law"

Apart from the fact that Pim misquotes Morris (Morris says "There
seems no way..." not "there is no way..."), this is actually a good
example of what Ratzsch means. Morris is discussing evolution in the
broadest sense:

"We are warranted, then, in concluding that the evolutionary process
(the hypothetical Principle of Naturalistic Innovation and
Integration) is completely precluded by the Second Law of
Thermodynamics. There seems no way of modifying the basic
evolutionary model to accommodate this Second Law." (Morris H.M.,
"Scientific Creationism", 1985, p45)

SJ>I am not really interested in wasting time defending Gish since I
>am not a YEC. I suggest that Gene read Chapter 7 of Ratzsch's
>book: "Creationist Theory: Popular Evolutionist
>Misunderstandings" pp91-96.

PM>I understand you distancing yourself from Gish.

It's not a question of "distancing" myself "from Gish". The simple
fact is that I am not a YEC, and apart from the first few months of
my Christian life 30 years ago, I never have been.

SJ>Since the important macromolecules of living systems
>(DNA, protein, etc.) are more energy rich than their precursors
>(amino acids, heterocyclic bases, phosphates, and sugars), classical
>thermodynamics would predict that such macromolecules will not
>spontaneously form. Roger Caillois has recently drawn this

PM>On the contrary, the far-equilibrium, dissipative nature of DNA
>makes evolution all but inevitable as shown by Prigogine for instance.

I doubt that "Prigogine" actually says this. Bradley & Thaxton
point out that "Prigogine is more modest in his own assessment":

"The probability that at ordinary temperatures a macroscopic number
of molecules is assembled to give rise to the highly ordered
structures and to the coordinated functions characterizing living
organisms is vanishingly small. The idea of spontaneous genesis of
life in its present form is therefore highly improbable even on the
scale of the billions of years during which prebiotic evolution
occurred." (Nicolis G., Prigogine I. & Babloyantz A.,
"Thermodynamics of Evolution," Physics Today, November 1972, pp23-31,
in Bradley W.L. & Thaxton C.B., "The Creation Hypothesis", 1994,

Thaxton, et al, say:

"Prigogine has developed a more general formulation of the laws of
thermodynamics which includes nonlinear, irreversible processes such
as autocatalytic activity...If these same systems are driven
sufficiently far from equilibrium, however, ordering may appear
spontaneously...Under certain conditions, however, this random
movement of water down the drain is replaced by the familiar soapy
swirl-the highly coordinated flow of the vortex. In each case random
movements of molecules in a fluid are spontaneously replaced by a
highly ordered behavior. Prigogine...and others have suggested that
a similar sort of self-organization may be intrinsic in organic
chemistry and can potentially account for the highly complex
macromolecules essential for living systems. But such analogies have
scant relevance to the origin-of-life question. A major reason is
that they fail to distinguish between order and complexity. The
highly ordered movement of energy through a system as in convection
or vortices suffers from the same shortcoming as the analogies to
the static, periodic order of crystals. Regularity or order cannot
serve to store the large amount of information required by living
systems. A highly irregular, but specified, structure is required
rather than an ordered structure. This is a serious flaw in the
analogy offered. There is no apparent connection between the kind of
spontaneous ordering that occurs from energy flow through such
systems and the work required to build aperiodic information
intensive macromolecules like DNA and protein. Prigogine et al
suggest that the energy flow through the system decreases the system
entropy, leading potentially to the highly organized structure of DNA
and protein. Yet they offer no suggestion as to how the decrease in
thermal entropy from energy flow through the system could be coupled
to do the configurational entropy work required." (Thaxton C.B.,
Bradley W.L. & Olsen R.L., "The Mystery of Life's Origin", 1992,

PM>If this argument were to hold, we would be breathing O instead of

"O2" is hardly a "macromolecule"! Oxygen has *two* atoms -
bio-macromolecules have millions of atoms.

SJ>the stage for refined efforts to understand life's origin. Harold
>Morowitz4 and others have suggested that the earth is not an isolated
>system, since it is open to energy flow from the sun. Nevertheless,
>one cannot imply dismiss the problem of the origin of organization
>and complexity in biological systems by a vague appeal to
>open-system, non-equilibrium thermodynamics. The mechanisms

PM>The appeal to far-equilibrium thermodynamics is neither vague nor
>an appeal. It is an observed fact...

I think you should read a bit more carefully! Thaxton et al and I
would agree with you that "far-equilibrium an
observed fact". It is the claim that "open-system, non-equilibrium
thermodynamics" are adequate to explain "the origin of organization
and complexity in biological systems" that they are referring to as a
"vague claim".

PM>and far better supported in observation and theory than the
>statement that 'evolution in some broad sense violates the second law
>of thermodynamics"

They are two completely different issues. There are some things in
science that are "far better supported in observation and theory
than" others - so what? Sometine the broader and more general a
theory the harder it is to "support" it "in observation and theory".
Consider the difficulty in "supporting in observation and theory" the
Grand Unified Theory of the four fundamental forces in nature.

I do not necessarily claim that "evolution...violates the second law
of thermodynamics". Part of the problem is the vagueness of the word
"evolution". I would not claim it of microevolution for example, but
I might claim it of cosmic evolution.

PM>responsible for the emergence and maintenance of coherent
>(organized) states must be defined." (Thaxton C.B., Bradley W.L. &
>Olsen R.L., "The Mystery of Life's Origin", 1992, pp116-117)


PM>Mechanisms need not be defined for something to be true. Example:
>Gravity. But the emergence of complexity and order at
>far-equilibrium states is well-understood due to the bifurcation
>nature. Similar patterns show up in chaos and fractals, non-linear
>dynamical systems, limit cycles, hysteresis, frequency doubling

See above. No one is denying that. But that it is relevant to the
special type of "complexity" in living systems, eg. specified
complexity, ie. complexity specified in advance:

"This has been quite a long, drawn-out argument, and it is time to
remind ourselves of how we got into it in the first place. We were
looking for a precise way to express what we mean when we refer to
something as complicated. We were trying to put a finger on what it
is that humans and moles and earthworms and airliners and watches
have in common with each other, but not with blancmange, or Mont
Blanc, or the moon. The answer we have arrived at is that
complicated things have some quality, specifiable in advance, that is
highly unlikely to have been acquired by random chance alone. In the
case of living things, the quality that is specified in advance is,
in some sense 'proficiency'; either proficiency in a particular
ability such as flying, as an aero-engineer might admire it; or
proficiency in something more general, such as the ability to stave
off death, or the ability to propagate genes in reproduction."
(Dawkins R., "The Blind Watchmaker", Penguin: London, 1991, p9)

SJ>"Evolution must reckon with energy and design in Nature. The
>second law of thermodynamics cannot be ignored in the construction
>of evolutionary theory. Evolution and entropy are headed in
>opposite directions. Clark's fundamental thesis is that entropy
>represents a

PM>Nope, evolution and entropy can be headed in the same direction.

No doubt. But when "evolution and [increased] entropy" are "headed
in the same direction" its more meaningfully called degeneration,
rather than "evolution".

SJ>random and degenerative process, whereas life represents an
>ordered and generative process. Entropy is the gradual equalization

PM>But it isn't degenerative under all circumstances.

At the level of the entire universe (which Ramm is referring to)
"entropy" is indeed "degenerative under all circumstances"

SJ>universal law than evolution." (Ramm B. "The Christian View of
>Science and Scripture", Paternoster: London, 1955, p193)

PM>1955: A bit more recent would better reflect the present knowledge
>on this issue.

This is the usual evolutionist "out-of-date" ploy:

"Evolutionary biologists have a habit of ignoring the most pertinent
criticisms of their theory until they can decently call them
out-of-date" (Berlinski D., "Denying Darwin: David Berlinski and
Critics", Commentary, September 1996, p26)

I would indeed be surprised if "the present knowledge on this issue"
differs in any significant way from what it was in 1955.

SJ>IMHO Gish and Wilder-Smith's are correct. Naturalistic evolution
>is contradicted by the second law of thermodynamics, *unless there
>is a pre-existing energy-conversion system*:

PM>And since there is such a system, there is no problem for

And how did that "system" come about in the first place *before*
there was any such "system" to harnessing the sun's energy:

"In fact, none of the papers published in JME over the entire course
of its life as a journal has ever proposed a detailed model by which
a complex biochemical system might have been produced in a gradual,
step-by-step Darwinian fashion. Although many scientists ask how
sequences can change or how chemicals necessary for life might be
produced in the absence of cells, no one has ever asked in the pages
of JME such questions as the following: How did the photosynthetic
reaction center develop?...The very fact that none of these problems
is even addressed, let alone solved, is a very strong indication that
Darwinism is an inadequate framework for understanding the origin of
complex biochemical systems." (Behe M.J., "Darwin's Black Box",
1996, p176)

SJ>"For animals, energy flow through the system is provided by eating
>high energy biomass, either plant or animal. The breaking down of
>this energy-rich biomass, and the subsequent oxidation of part of it
>(e.g., carbohydrates), provides a continuous source of energy as well
>as raw materials. If plants are deprived of sunlight or animals of

PM>Yep, so where is the problem ?

The "problem" is that there needs to be a " means of converting this
energy". How did these complex systems arise in the first place? We
don't see them arising spontaneously in nature today. As Behe points
out, no-one has ever attempted to explain the spontaneous origin of
such systems.

SJ>food, dissipation within the system will surely bring death.
>Maintenance of the complex, high-energy condition associated with
>life is not possible apart from a continuous source of energy. A

PM>Indeed, since there is such a source where lies the problem ?

As they say in the Phantom comics - now read on!

SJ>source of energy alone is not sufficient, however, to explain the
>origin or maintenance of living systems. The additional crucial
>factor is a means of converting this energy into the necessary useful
>work to build and maintain complex living systems from the simple
>biomonomers that constitute their molecular building blocks. An

PM>Indeed, so where lies the problem since such means and mechanisms
>exist plentiful. UV radiation, electric discharge, increased temperature to
>mention but a few.

This is the energy. Where did the energy-conversion systems come
from in the first place? If you can answer it you will win the Nobel
Prize! I can answer it but I won't win the Nobel Prize!

SJ>Pirsig asks:
>"Why, for example, should a group of simple, stable compounds of
>carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen struggle for billions of years
>to organize themselves into a professor of chemistry? What's the

PM>A useless question to ask about motives when there are none other
>than basic thermodynamics.

The point is that Naturalistic Evolution at its broadest level does
claim that:

"a group of simple, stable compounds of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and
nitrogen" over "billions of years" did spontaneously "organize
themselves into a professor of chemistry".

The fact that Naturalistic Evolution does not know "why" is another
reason why theistic models like Mediate Creation are superior to NE.
MC can not only answer how, but it can also answer "why".

>compounds That's a scientific fact The question is: Then why does
>nature reverse this process? What on earth causes the inorganic
>compounds to go the other way? It isn't the sun's energy. We just
>saw what the sun's energy did. It has to be something else. What
>is it?" (Pirsig R.M., "Lila", 1991, pp144-145)

SJ>The answer to Pirsig's question is "intelligent design"!

PM>Since far simpler naturalistic explanations work why resort to
>a supernatural explanation?

Because the "naturalistic explanations" *don't "work"!

PM>After all we observe that chemicals form more complex chemicals,
>why look for a purpose?

The short answer is that even Naturalistic Evolutionists "look for a

"Embryology and paleontology provide adequate documentation of the
`how,' but we would also like more insight into the `why.' In
particular, why should such a transition occur-especially since the
single-boned stapedial ear seems to function quite adequately (and,
at least in some birds, every bit as well as the three-boned
mammalian ear)?" (Gould S.J., "Eight Little Piggies", 1993, p106)

Their problem is that Naturalism is devoid of purpose:

"The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems
pointless." (Weinberg S., "The First Three Minutes", Andre Deutsch:
London, 1977, p149 in Davies P., "Evidence of Purpose", 1994, p45)

But Theism can answer "purpose" questions that Naturalism cannot.

SJ>Yes, The key word is "system". Where does "the system" that "can
>organize matter" come from in the first place?

PM>Evolution does not care where it came from.

That's not what I asked.

PM>But similarly a supernatural explanation causes even more
>problems as it requires an explanation of the origin of the

No. It is only the natural which "requires an explanation" and NE
can't even do that. The "supernatural", ie. the existence of God does
not require a further "explanation" other than that God is. After
all, NEs must either believe that: 1. matter (in one form or another)
was always there; or 2. matter just popped into being out of nothing.

>GM>...I fully agree with you and do not think evolution is contrary
>to the second law.

SJ>It all depend on what Glenn means by: 1. "evolution"; 2. "contrary
>to"; and 3. "the second law".

PM>Explain what is how violated when then?

As I said, I do not necessarily use the word "violated". I do believe
at the broadest cosmic level, the basic evolutionary principle of
disorder -> order is contrary to the second law of thermodynamics
basic principle that order -> disorder. At its biological level,
evolution is not contrary to the second law *if* there is an
energy-conversion system that can take energy and convert it into
order. But our uniform experience is that energy-conversion systems
require intelligent design and no one has even attempted to explain
how they could arise by purely naturalistic means.



| Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\ |
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