Re: design: purposeful or random? 2/2

Stephen Jones (
Mon, 31 Mar 97 22:50:21 +0800


On Thu, 13 Mar 1997 23:23:17 -0400, Pim van Meurs wrote:


PM>Prigogine shows how systems far from equilibrium evolve elaborate
>structures: patterns of circulation in the atmosphere, formation and
>propagation of chemical waves, aggreagation of single celled animals.

That's nice.

PM>From Prigogine's work it becomes painfully clear that increase in
>complexity and order does not happen in spite of the 2nd law of
>thermodynamics but because of the second law of thermodynamics.

No doubt. But he has not shown that this relates to the origin
of real living systems.

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

>SJ>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.

PM>Which still does not mean that the four fundamental forces do not
>exist or have not been explained.

Who claimed that "the four fundamental forces do not exist"? Please
read my words *carefully* Pim to avoid wasting everybody's time.


>SJ>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>Cosmic evolution, if you mean the Big Bang cannot be explained by
>the 2nd law of thermodynamics since these laws became relevant a
>small fraction after the onset of the explosion that started this
>universe. So while they cannot explain the Big Bang (other
>theories try to) they are not contradicted either.

Please stop putting words into my mouth Pim! I said *nothing* about
"Cosmic evolution" meaning "the Big Bang". It is claimed that "the
Big Bang" was the *start* of "cosmic evolution":

"The epic of cosmic evolution had begun, a hierarchy in the
condensation of matter from the gas of the Big Bang-clusters of
galaxies, galaxies, stars, planets, and, eventually, life and an
intelligence able to understand a little of the elegant process
responsible for its origin." (Sagan C., "Cosmos", 1981, p247)

>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

>SJ>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:

PM>What is special about the 'complexity' in living things. And what
>makes you believe that the complexity is specified in advance ?

See Dawkins quote below!

PM>"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)

PM>Now you are talking about the non-randomness of natural

Where do I say that? Read the quote again and please stop putting
words into my mouth.

PM>That selective pressure and autocatalytic systems or hypercycles
>can lead to increased complexity is also well known (Eigen,
>Kaufman). so there is nothing inherently different about
>complexity. The complexity is not specified in advance other than
>that if situations change the one best adapted for the situtaion is
>most likely to succeed. Such experiments have been performed in
>laboratories and found to happen. Is this a violation of the 2nd
>law ? Not likely.

All "Eigen" and "Kaufman" have shown are *theoretical models*. Behe

"It is clear from his writings that Kauffman is a very smart guy,
but the connection of his mathematics to chemistry is tenuous at
best. Kauffman discusses his ideas in a chapter entitled "The
Origin of a Connected Metabolism," but if you read the chapter from
start to finish you will not find the name of a single chemical- no
AMP no aspartic acid, no nothing. In fact, if you scan the entire
subject index of the book, you will not find a chemical name there
either. John Maynard Smith, Kauffman's old mentor, has accused him
[in jest SJ] of practicing "fact-free science."* ...the complete
lack of chemical details in his book appears to justify the
criticism" (Behe M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical
Challenge to Evolution", Free Press: New York, 1996, p156)

As for Eigen's "hypercycles", Edey & Johanson admit they are "Not
true at all if our criterion is whether or not it has been proved":

"Eigen has named his feedback loop of RNA sequences a "hypercycle,
"and has stated that the existence of hypercycles is the only way to
explain the subsequent growth and stability of small RNA sequences.
Without hypercycles there would have been nothing but an aimless
scramble of dwarfed quasi-species members milling around, unable to
get any bigger because of being unable to say anything that would
lead to their getting bigger...How true is all this? Not true at
all if our criterion is whether or not it has been proved." (Edey
M.A. & Johanson D.C., "Blueprints", 1989, p290)

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

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

PM>Nope, that is a common misunderstanding of entropy and evolution.
>Entropy can increase and there can still be a local increase in
>order at the expense of the outside system.

Agreed, but this is not the point I made above. Please read more
carefully what I say.

PM>While at equilibrium such processes are not very interesting, at
>far-equilibrium they are very interesting since this is where the
>complexity and increase in order is almost inevitable.

Unfortunately, I don't share your naturalistic religious faith Pim.
Show me one proven example where this relates to real living systems
and I will be more impressed.

>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.

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

PM>Irrelevant for evolution and life. That the universe might be
>dying of an entropy death does not mean that it cannot lead to
>creation of life on its way.

You would need to define which "evolution" you are referring too.
It is not "Irrelevant for evolution" "At the level of the entire

PM>The confusion of entropy at the 'entire universe' level and the
>entropy at the level where evolution and life has taken place is
>common but leads to a confusion in arguments.

Agreed. That is Ratzsch's point:

"First, when claiming that the Second Law flatly precludes
evolution, major creationists almost invariably have in mind
evolution in the overall cosmic, "evolution model" sense...What
Morris and others mean to be claiming is that any such view
according to which the entire cosmos is itself in a process of
increasing overall order is in violation of the Second Law."
(Ratzsch D.L., "The Battle of Beginnings", 1996, pp91-92)

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

>SJ>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)

PM>1955 is quite a bit before the groundbreaking work of Prigogine.
>Heck, if you quote from 1970 book on the evolution and
>transitionals of whales you would get a completely different
>picture than when looking at modern day literature. Science
>evolves and in some cases it is appropiate to point out the data of
>the material. This is such an example.

Disagree. What Ramm said has not changed. "At the level of the
entire universe (which Ramm is referring to) "entropy" is indeed
"degenerative under all circumstances", despite "the groundbreaking
work of Prigogine".

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

PM>Surprise.... That's my whole point.

No "Surprise.... That's" *my* "whole point"!

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

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

PM>The sun itself is enough to serve as such a system. The initial
>formation of aminoacids for instance does not require more than the
>presence of UV light/lightning/heat.

Unfortunately "aminoacids" are not "a system".

>PM>Yep, so where is the problem ?

>SJ>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.

PM>That is completely wrong. Behe shows an ignorance on this issue
>which is not limited to this topic but I digress.

Judging by your simplistic comments to date Pim, I would be inclined
to believe "Behe" rather than you.

PMFirst of all the Miller-Urey experiment shows how from the
>pre-biotic soup, without the need for a metabolic system,
>amino-acids could form. We even see complex systems form
>spontaneously in nature all the time.

What "pre-biotic soup"?

" geological evidence indicates an organic soup, even a small
organic pond, ever existed on this planet. It is becoming clear
that however life began on earth, the usually conceived notion that
life emerged from an oceanic soup of organic chemicals is a most
implausible hypothesis. We may therefore with fairness call this
scenario "the myth of the prebiotic soup." (Thaxton, et. al., "The
Mystery of Life's Origin", 1992, p66)

And "amino-acids" are not "complex systems".

>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.

>SJ>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!

PM>then the answer must be less than scientific?

No. It is *more* "than scientific" (if "scientific" is defined as

PM>Let me point out to you that the energy conversion systems lie
>in the simple thermodynamics of the chemicals involved. A mixture
>of chemicals under the influence of a spark can form more
>complicated structures known as amino-acids. So source of energy
>is enough since the mechanisms for transforming it are present. If
>your question is what causes the thermodynamic behavior of these
>elements then we can discuss this.

Thermodynamically, forming "amino acids" is a `downhill' reaction:

"The polymerization of amino acids to polypeptides (protein) or of
nucleotides to polynucleotides (DNA) occurs through condensation |
reactions...Thus, chemical work must be done on the system to get
polymerization to occur...One can easily see that chemical work must
be done on the biomonomers to bring about the formation of
macromolecules like those that are essential to living systems. By
contrast, amino acid formation from simple reducing atmosphere
gases (methane, ammonia, water)...means energy is released rather
than consumed. This explains why amino acids form with relative
ease in prebiotic simulation experiments " (Thaxton, et. al., "The
Mystery of Life's Origin, 1992, p135)

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

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

>SJ>"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".

PM>Indeed, but why ask about motive ? THere is no need for motive
>for chemical reactions to take place.

>SJ>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

PM>Nope, it can but guess why.

I disagree that it is juest a "guess". But at least "theistic
models like Mediate Creation" can *in principle* explain "why",
whereas naturalistic models like "Naturalistic Evolution" cannot
even even do that.

PM>Naturalistic evolution can explain why it happens based on
>thermodynamical considerations not on second guessing of motives
>where there need to be none.

I think you are confusing "why" with "how"?

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

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

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

PM>But they do work that is the problem with your reasoning.

No. While "naturalistic explanations" may "work" at the operational
level, they do not "work" at the *origins* level. Only "a
supernatural explanation" can work at that level.

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

>SJ>The short answer is that even Naturalistic Evolutionists "look
>for a purpose":

>SJ: "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)

PM>That is not a purpose that is looking for the explanation how it
>happened. Need there be a purpose for chemicals to combine ?

See my comment above with your confusion with "how" and "why". Now
you are agreeing with me. But Gould is not asking "how" above - he
already knows that - he is asking "why".

>SJ>Their problem is that Naturalism is devoid of purpose:

PM>And that is why it is to be prefered over an assumption of
>purpose without showing that such is necessary.

If there is no "purpose" then when?

>SJ>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.

PM>Well, the problem lies in that evolution does not care about the
>cosmic level entropy and that at the biological level, all is
>needed is an energy flow and temperature.

No. Even some thoughtful evolutionists have realised that more than
just "energy flow" is enough. For example, another co-founder of
Neo-Darwinism, George Gaylord Simpson said that "specifications"
are required:

"We have repeatedly emphasized the fundamental problems
posed for the biologist by the fact of life's complex organization.
We have seen that organization requires work for its
maintenance and that the universal quest for food is in part to
provide the energy needed for this work. But the simple expenditure
of energy is not sufficient to develop and maintain order.
A bull in a china shop performs work, but he neither creates nor
maintains organization. The work needed is particular work;
it must follow specifications; it requires information on how to
proceed. " (Simpson G.G. & Beck W.S., "Life - An Introduction to
Biology", 1965, p466, in Morris H.M., "The Troubled Waters of
Evolution", 1974, CA, p100).

PM>Since noone has shown that at the level of biology the 2nd is
>violated by evolution and since our present understanding of
>far-equilibrium thermodynamics shows no problems the suggestion
>that the 2nd is violated by evolution is irrelevant at the broader
>definition and untrue at the narrower definition of evolution.

Read what I said again. I did not say that "the 2nd is violated by
evolution", if there "is an energy-conversion system".

PM>We see increase in order without a 'energy conversion' mechanism
>all the time

Not in *biological* systems you don't. They *all* without exception
have "`energy conversion' mechanisms", the most basic of which is

PM>unless you mean by energy conversion mechanism the
>thermodynamics of chemicals and that we understand quite well. Now
>if your problem lies with the origins of this mechanism, you can
>invoke a supernatural force and evolution in the narrower sense can
>still be true.

I never said that "evolution in the narrower sense" (ie.
microevolution) isn't "true".

PM>Or we can look at the naturalistic explanations which give a
>scientific explanation of the observed mechanisms.

This is just a tautology if naturalism is true. Since naturalism
claims that "scientific" = "naturalistic", this reduces down to:

"Or we can look at the naturalistic explanations which give a"
*naturalistic "explanation of the observed mechanisms"


"Or we can look at the" *scientific* explanations which give a
scientific explanation of the observed mechanisms".



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