Entropy and Intelligent Design 1.05.2006

Intelligent Design - Fact or Fiction
Secondly, some of the popular evolutionary postulates are contrary to proven physical law. For instance, the idea that the original creation of a life form as a random occurrence from inert or simple organic forms flies in the face of the principle of entropy which states in part that order without intelligent intervention will ultimately decay into chaos or disorder.

(Rolls eyes.)

This mis-understanding of Entropy is very common for those advocating Intelligent Design, and is a mis-statement of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Mathematically, the second law of thermodynamics states that the total amount of energy (both potential and kenetic) available after a process will always be less than the amount of energy available at the state of a process. That is, energy cannot be conserved.

The misunderstanding comes from a misunderstanding of the mathematical definition of entropy. Intuitively we think of entropy as organization: the more disorganized a thing is, the more entropy it has. (So, for example, a dirty, disorganized room has more entropy than a clean, organized room.) However, this is not the mathematical definition of entropy. The mathematical definition of Thermodynamic Entropy is the amount of internal energy in a system (measured in units of joules per kelvin in the SI system) which is available for work. So, for example, the amount of energy available for producing work in a cold room with a hot cup of water (the entropy of that room) is much higher than a cool glass of water in a room at the same temperature. (A thermocouple, which generates electricity based on the temperature differential between the hot end and the cool end, will light a small LED in the former case, but once the glass of water assumes room temperature, the light will no longer light up.)

Understanding what entropy is allows us to start poking holes in the above statement. Since the Earth presently has a constant source of (virtually) unlimited energy from the Sun, this notion that it takes an intelligent designer to go against the Second Law of Thermodynamics is rediculous: the Sun itself provides a constant source of positive Entropy. If we assume that self-organization is impossible, then we must assume that hurricanes (which also self-organize in a turbulent environment) can not happen without the direct intervention of an intelligent designer. But again, huricanes self-organized due to energy ultimately coming from the Sun.

Because of this misunderstanding Intelligent Design advocates claims that life without an Intelligent Designer would be impossible as it flies in the face of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Yet self-organizing systems arising from simplier systems occurs all the time in nature with nothing more than the energetic input of the Sun (such as hurricanes and weather systems); the propensity for complex systems to arise from simplier systems with nothing more than the input of an energy source is one of the topics of Chaos Theory.

posted by William Woody at 10:21 AM

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A moderate conservative living in the left coast, surrounded by the sureal, wonders if there is a sane life living amongst those who have lost touch with reality.

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