Re: design: purposeful or random? 1/2

Stephen Jones (
Mon, 31 Mar 97 22:49:45 +0800


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


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

PM>Evolution is defined quite well, extrapolating it to evolution of
>the universe, origin of life, origin of the universe is inappropiate
>and confusing.

Yet that is how it is routinely used, and indeed must be used if
metaphysical naturalism is to maintain its grand claim that nature
is all there is:

"Biological evolution is just one major part of a grand naturalistic
project, which seeks to explain the origin of everything from the Big
Bang to the present without allowing any role to a Creator. If
Darwinists are to keep the Creator out of the picture, they have to
provide a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life." (Johnson
P.E., "Darwin on Trial", 1993, p103)

Indeed the co-founders of Neo-Darwinism, Julian Huxley and Dobzhansky
claimed it:

"The overall process of evolution in this comprehensive sense
comprises three main which the general process of
evolution operates in three quite different ways. We may call these
three phases the inorganic or, if you like, cosmological; the
organic or biological; and the human or psycho-social" (Huxley J.,
"Evolution in Action", 1963 reprint, p12)

"Although this article is concerned with biological evolution, it
should be recognized that the concept of evolution is much
broader.... There is also cosmic or inorganic, evolution, and
evolution of human culture." (T. Dobzhansky, Evolution, in 10
Encyclopedia Americana 734, 734, 1982, Bird W. R., "The Origin of
Species Revisited", 1991, Vol. I, p433-434)

>PM>If one claims that evolution violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics
>one would expect some concrete evidence.
>SJ" 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>Evolution is not at a universal scale while entropy increase only
>applies on a large scale.

This is just a game with the word "evolution". "Evolution" is used
at "a universal scale" level, as Neo-Darwinism co-founder Julian
Huxley declared at the Darwin Centennial:

"Future historians will perhaps take this Centennial Week as
epitomizing an important critical period in the history of this
earth of ours-the period when the process of evolution, in the
person of inquiring man, began to be truly conscious of itself ....
This is one of the first public occasions on which it has been
frankly faced that all aspects of reality are subject to evolution,
from atoms and stars to fish and flowers, from fish and flowers to
human societies and values- indeed, that all reality is a single
process of evolution...." (Huxley J., in Tax S. (ed.), "Evolution
after Darwin", Vol. 3, 1960, Johnson P.E., "Darwin on Trial", 1993,

Here is a more modern example:

"Darwin's idea had been born as an answer to questions in biology,
but it threatened to leak out, offering answers welcome or not-to
questions in cosmology (going in one direction) and psychology
(going in the other direction). If redesign could be a mindless,
algorithmic process of evolution, why couldn't that whole process
itself be the product of evolution, and so forth, all the way down?
And if mindless evolution could account for the breathtakingly
clever artifacts of the biosphere, how could the products of our own
"real" minds be exempt from an evolutionary explanation? Darwin's
idea thus also threatened to spread all the way up, dissolving the
illusion of our own authorship, our own divine spark of creativity
and understanding." (Dennett D.C., "Darwin's Dangerous Idea", 1995,

PM>So while the large scale entropy can only increase, meaning the
>total entropy of a closed system (assuming for the moment that the
>universe is closed), entropy on smaller scale can increase or
>decrease as long as the total overal entropy change is positive.
The 'contradiction' if any is all but spurious.

I think you miss the point, Pim. Everyone knows that "entropy on
smaller scale can increase or decrease as long as the total overal
entropy change is positive". But the creationist argument is not
against "entropy on smaller scale" but entropy on "the large scale":

"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. 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. The universe as a whole system
is taken to be a closed system (classically), and according to the
creationist definition of evolution model, that model is unavoidably
committed to an internally generated overall increase in cosmic
order, since on that view reality is supposed to be self-developed
and self- governing. 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>Contradicted by Morris' own statements in scientific
>creationism. "there is no way of modifying the basic evolutionary
>model to accomodate this second law"

>SJ>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:

>SJ>"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)

PM>Morris is talking about evolution in the 'narrow sense' here.
>The previous two paragraphs contain statements like "The mechanism
>of mutation and natural selection are, to put it kindly, inadequate
>for such a gigantic task." "Neither can it assimilate energy into
>a more highly organized form of the structure it affects."
>Morris is wrong on these counts btw.

No. "The previous two paragraphs" are the tail end of a
sub-argument about the need for an energy conversion mechanism.
Here are your two quotes fully in context:

"Now the question again is, not whether there is enough energy
reaching the earth from the sun to support evolution, but rather how
this energy is converted into evolution? The evolutionary process,
if it exists, is by far the greatest growth process of all. If a
directing code and specific conversion mechanism are essential for
all lesser growth processes, then surely an infinitely more complex
code and more specific energy converter are required for the
evolutionary process. But what are they? The answer is that no
such code and mechanism have ever been identified. Where in all the
universe does one find a plan which sets forth how to organize
random particles into particular people? And where does one see a
marvelous motor which converts the continual flow of solar radiant
energy bathing the earth into the work of building chemical elements
into replicating cellular systems, or of organizing populations of
worms into populations of men, over vast spans of geologic time?
The mechanisms of mutation and natural selection are, to put it
kindly, inadequate for such a gigantic task. Mutation is not a code,
but a random phenomenon. Neither can it assimilate energy into a
more highly organized form of the structure it affects." (Morris
H.M., "Scientific Creationism", 1985, pp44-45)

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

>SJ: 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,

PM>You might want to check out the article, Gish made the same
>mistake as presenting Prigogine's introduction to what he was going
>to prove wrong as if it were his belief.

I will add the journal to growing my list of library requests! The
only statement by "Gish"about "Prigogine's introduction" that I
know about is:

"Actually, although he believes that he is on the right track, Prigogine
does not claim he has solved the problem of the origin of life or the
origin of complex biological organizations. In a book he co-authored in
1977, the year he won the Nobel Prize, Prigogine says:

`There seems to be no doubt that dissipative structures play an essential
role in the function of living systems as we see them today. What was the
role of dissipative structures in evolution? It is very tempting to speculate
that prebiotic evolution corresponds essentially to a succession of
instabilities leading to an increasing level of complexity.' (Nicolis G. &
Prigogine I., "Self-Organization in Non-equilibrium Systems: From
Dissipative Structures to Order Through Fluctuations", John Wiley &
Sons: New York, 1977, p12)."

(Gish D.T., "Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics", 1993, p187)

PM>"Prigogine's words were taken from the beginning of his article
>where he summarized the position he was about to spend the next
>several pages refuting. Perhaps Gish only read the first page".
>Skeptic, vol 4(4), 1996, pp. 92.

If the above was what the "Skeptic" was referring to, then it seems he/she
"only read the first page" of what Gish wrote. Gish actually quotes from a
book review by a non-creationist, Peter Engels:

"Prigogine is a Belgian citizen in his mid-sixties who teaches at the
Universite Libre in Brussels, and, for part of the year, at the
University of Texas at Austin. In 1977, he received the Nobel Prize in
chemistry for using thermodynamics, in the words of the committee,
"to bridge the gap that exists between the biological and the social
scientific fields of inquiry."...enter Prigogine and Stengers, dei ex
machina, with their plan for resolving the paradox of the second law.
Theirs is, at the least, an earnest and noble attempt. Whether they
ultimately succeed or merely add their names to the roster of
scientists who have tried, they tackle this most formidable of
challenges in a truly novel and exciting way.... The most compelling
example of this process that the authors offer is the Benard
instability.... The book's examples of self-organization range from
carefully conducted laboratory experiments to wild, untested (and
perhaps untestable speculations).... "We are tempted to go so far as
to say," they conclude, "that once the conditions for self-organization
are satisfied, life becomes as predictable as the Benard instability or a
falling stone."...The obvious question is: What are the conditions for
self- organization? But, disappointingly, the authors fail to identify
the physical mechanisms underlying most of their examples of self-
organization, leading one to wonder if the fluctuations really exist."
(Engels P., "The Sciences" 24(5):50-55, Sept/Oct. 1984, in Gish
D.T., "Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics", 1993, p189-190)

PM>I am waiting to get copies of the Physics Today article, but in
>the light of Prigogine's own statements, I consider it extremely
>unlikely that Gish was accurately representing Prigogine's beliefs.
>And that is an understatement.

Nothing like an open mind! Yockey says much the same thing as Gish:

"...the spontaneous generation of life is highly improbable
(Prigogine, Nicolis & Babloyantz, 1972). The uninvited guest will
not go away nor will the biological evidence to the contrary
notwithstanding" (Yockey H.P., "A Calculation of the Probability of
Spontaneous Biogenesis by Information Theory," Journal of
Theoretical Biology, 67, 1977, p380)

But there is no need to get hung-up on a Gish-bashing diversion.
Shapiro, a non-theist is also sceptical about Prigogine's
mathematical approach:

"Ilya Prigogine received the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his
development of the thermodynamics of nonequilibrium states. He has
stated that "a prebiological system may evolve through a whole
succession of transitions leading to a hierarchy of more and more
complex and organized states." During this development a series of
instabilities, called "dissipative structures," emerges...They may
be sufficient, but we can't be sure what they are...The mathematics
reassures us that a solution exists, but it is not the solution. We
need to see it demonstrated in the laboratory, to watch a system
evolve in stages in accord with the concepts of chemical evolution."
(Shapiro R., "Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Origin of Life",
1986, p211)

So are others, who claim that "Prigogine...has made little or no
concrete contribution to science":

"In 1977 Prigogine won a Nobel Prize for studies of so-called
dissipative structures, notably" pumped" chemical cells that never
achieve equilibrium but oscillate between multiple states...But many
scientists assert that while Prigogine excels at waxing
philosophical, he has made little or no concrete contribution to
science. `I don't know of a single phenomenon he has explained,"
says Pierre C. Hohenberg of Yale University, a specialist in pattern
formation.' " (Horgan J., "From Complexity to Perplexity",
Scientific American, June 1995, pp78-79)

SJ>"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"

PM>First of all the discussion was about the 2nd law of
>thermodynamics being violated by evolution. Not the origin of life.

More word-play! "evolution" includes "the origin of life" - its
called Chemical Evolution:

"Within one billion years after the formation of the earth 4.6
billion years ago one-celled organisms had evolved out of organic
molecules produced nonbiologically in an atmosphere containing no
free oxygen" (Dickerson R.E., "Chemical Evolution and the Origin of
Life", Scientific American, September 1978, p62).

If you want to claim that *biological* "evolution" does not include
"the origin of life", then that is true by definition.

Indeed, the very next page from your quote above, Morris discusses
"The Origin of Life":

"No doubt one of the most difficult stages in the evolutionary
process would be the transition from non-life to life from
non-replicating chemicals to self-replicating systems Nevertheless,
if the evolution model is valid, this transition must have occurred,
and it must have occurred by natural processes which can be
explained in terms of the same laws of nature which operate
today." (Morris H.M., "Scientific Creationism", 1985, p46)

SJ>"...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, p151)"

PM>The flaw here is that information entropy is similar to
>thermodynamical entropy.

Thaxton et al are aware of that. They have a section
heeaded "Information and Entropy":

"There is a general relationship between information and entropy.
This is fortunate because it allows an analysis to be developed in
the formalism of classical thermodynamics, giving us a powerful tool
for calculating the work to be done by energy flow through the
system to synthesize protein and DNA (if indeed energy flow is
capable of producing information). The information content in a
given sequence of units, be they digits in a number, letters in a
sentence, or amino acids in a polypeptide or protein, depends on the
minimum number of instructions needed to specify or describe the
structure. Many instructions are needed to specify a complex,
information-bearing structure such as DNA. Only a few instructions
are needed to specify an ordered structure such as a crystal."
(Thaxton, et. al., "The Mystery of Life's Origin", 1992, p131).

PM>Regularity and order are eactly how information is stored, in
>highly dissipative systems af far equilibrium.

Disagree. "Regularity and order" stores virtually *no*
"information". Under the heading "Order vs. Complexity in the
Question of Information" Thaxton, et al. state:

"Only recently has it been appreciated that the distinguishing
feature of living systems is complexity rather than order. This
distinction has come from the observation that the essential
ingredients for a replicating system-enzymes and nucleic acids-are
all information- bearing molecules. In contrast, consider crystals.
They are very orderly, spatially periodic arrangements of atoms (or
molecules) but they carry very little information...Nucleic acids
and protein are aperiodic polymers, and this aperiodicity is what
makes them able to carry much more information. By definition then,
a periodic structure has order. An aperiodic structure has
complexity. In terms of information, periodic polymers (like nylon)
and crystals are analogous to a book in which the same sentence is
repeated throughout. The arrangement of "letters" in the book is
highly ordered, but the book contains little information since the
information presented-the single word or sentence-is highly
redundant." (Thaxton, et. al., "The Mystery of Life's Origin",
1992, pp129-130)

PM>If you could explain what they mean by the last sentence because
>it does not appear to make sense.

They define "Configurational entropy" as:

"Configurational entropy measures randomness in the distribution of
matter in much the same way that thermal entropy measures randomness
in the distribution of energy" (Thaxton, et. al., "The Mystery of
Life's Origin", 1992, p120)

You probably need to read the book fpr yourself. In a more layman
oriented book Here is how they define "configurational entropy" as
"mathematically identical" with "biological information":

"It is likely the case that biological information, while being
mathematically identical to configurational entropy...has no
physical connection whatsoever." (Bradley W.L. & Thaxton C.B.,
"Information & the Origin of Life", in Moreland J.P. ed., "The
Creation Hypothesis", 1994p, p188)

Therefore, "the last sentence" would presumably mean:

"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" biological information "work required."

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

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

PM>You miss the point, why would the argument only apply to
>macromolecules? It is the same argument on a smaller scale
>showing the argument to be missing the point.

I think *you* "miss the point" Pim. It is obvious that a chemical
structure containing *two* atoms could be generated randomly, but
one containing "millions of atoms" in a highly specified way,
cannot. Fred Hoyle likened the self-assembly of a macromolecule to
a Boeing 747 being assembled by a tornado blowing through a

"A junkyard contains all the bits and pieces of a Boeing 747,
dismembered and in disarray. A whirlwind happens to blow through
the yard. What is the chance that after its passage a fully
assembled 747, ready to fly, will be found standing there? So small
as to be negligible, even if a tornado were to blow through enough
junkyards to fill the whole Universe." (Hoyle F., "The Intelligent
Universe", 1983, pp18-19)

A tornado might conceivably put "two" Boeing 747 parts together
correctly by chance. But not "million" of parts.

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

>SJ>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>The increase in complexity and organization of systems due to far
>equilibrium thermodynamics is also an observed fact. Now the
>question is does this apply to biological systems? And the answer
>should be simple, why not? After all these are similar chemical
>systems? DNA is a dissipative structure, the energy ADT/ADP
>pathway is a dissipative structure at far equilibrium.

The difference is that "biological systems" have *specified
complexity* whereas non-living systems do not:

"In the same way only certain sequences of amino acids in
polypeptides and bases along polynucleotide chains correspond to
useful biological functions. Thus, informational macromolecules may
be described as being aperiodic and in a specified sequence.
Orgel notes:

`Living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity.
Crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity;
mixtures of random polymers fail to qualify because they lack
specificity.' (Orgel L.E., "The Origins of Life", 1973, p189)
(Thaxton, et. al., "The Mystery of Life's Origin, 1992, p130)

The answer to your "why not?" is "why hasn't it been done?"

PM>I refer you to:


Thanks. I refer you to:

Horgan J., "From Complexity to Perplexity", Scientific American,
June 1995




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