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1/24/2012 at 11:50:34 AM GMT
Posts: 60
American Journal of Physics
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKaF8vX6HXQ

On the website of the Skeptics Society, in a moderated blog topic ("Evolution and Religion”), I said Richard Dawkins was wrong when he said this:

"When creationists say, as they frequently do, that the theory of evolution contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics, they are telling us no more than that they don’t understand the Second Law (we already knew that they don’t understand evolution). There is no contraction, because of the sun!” (Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, p. 415)

The Deputy Director of the National Center for Science Education, Glenn Branch, said that I was wrong and cited an article by Emory F. Bunn titled, "Evolution and the second law of thermodynamics,” published in American Journal of Physics [(2009) 77(10):922-925]. This article does indeed present calculations involving the sun showing that evolution does not violate the second law.

I think the American Journal of Physics erred in publishing this article it for two reasons.The first reason is that the insight evolution violates this law comes from biologists, and only biologists are qualified to discuss it competently. The second reason is that the author has an understanding of the second law that is different from my understanding of it. One of us must be wrong.

If a gas in a container is connected with a valve to a vacuum and the valve is opened, the gas will flow into the empty container. There is more knowledge of the location of the gas molecules in the small volume than in the large volume. There is an increase in disorder or a decrease in complexity. Entropy is another word for order. Entropy always decreases in nature, according to the second law.

If a gas in a container has a piston that can compress the gas, an animal can increase the complexity of the gas by pushing the piston. This does not violate the second law because the gas is not an isolated system. The idea that the complexity of the gas increases because the complexity of the animal decreases by a greater amount strikes me as being flat out wrong. The idea of calculating the decrease of the entropy of the animal and showing it is greater than the increase of the entropy of the gas strikes me as absurd. I don’t see any difference between such a calculation and the calculation offered by Emory F. Bunn.

Statistical mechanics explains why a gas will fill up a container. If a gas consists of N molecules, there are N! = N x (N - 1) x (N - 2)…  possible ways the molecules can be distributed in the container. The chance of getting any particular distribution is 1 in N!. I don’t know how to complete the proof. But I know Maxwell’s distribution of velocities in a gas and the bell-shaped curve are derived using Stirling’s approximation: log N! = Nlog N.

The primary structure of a large protein can have 600 amino acids. There are 20 different kinds of amino acids. Biologists imagine that the 600 amino acids are non-interacting particles, just like in a gas. Just as in statistical mechanics, biologists ask how many different ways there are of arranging 600 amino acids? The answer is 600 to the 20th power instead of N!. Thus, it is impossible to get a protein by random chance since there is only 3 billion years available for the protein to evolve. This is why biologists say evolution violates the second law. It is the same kind of reasoning that explains why a gas will fill up the entire container.



David Roemer


1/26/2012 at 3:32:58 PM GMT
Posts: 2
David concluded with:

The primary structure of a large protein can have 600 amino acids. There are 20 different kinds of amino acids. Biologists imagine that the 600 amino acids are non-interacting particles, just like in a gas. Just as in statistical mechanics, biologists ask how many different ways there are of arranging 600 amino acids? The answer is 600 to the 20th power instead of N!. Thus, it is impossible to get a protein by random chance since there is only 3 billion years available for the protein to evolve. This is why biologists say evolution violates the second law. It is the same kind of reasoning that explains why a gas will fill up the entire container.

First, I could be wrong, but I think the number of different 600 amino acid-long sequences using 20 different amino acids would be 20 to the 600th power rather than 600 to the 20th power.  If so, the number is (much!) larger.

Regardless, I don't see what biological relevance such a calculation would have, because protein sequences don't assemble randomly.

 Nor do I and my fellow biologists say that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics. 

Chuck


1/28/2012 at 1:49:30 AM GMT
Posts: 60

Evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics because the second law is absolutely true. It is like saying the odds of getting heads when you flip a coin is 50%.

 

Biologists imagine that proteins or their DNA assemble by random chance when evolving. Biologists do probability calculations that show proteins or DNA could not have evolved by random processes in 3 billion years. This is why natural selection explains only adaptation, not the increase in the complexity of life.

 

It is perfectly reasonable to say evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics because they both use probability calculations. The supposedly peer-reviewed article I am criticizing implies that natural selection explains the increase in the complexity of life. This is pseudoscience.

 

My YouTube video at the top of this post gives the references and quotes from peer-reviewed articles and scholarly works that explains this in more detail.



David Roemer


1/29/2012 at 11:16:23 PM GMT
Posts: 110

David, I think a few clarifications are in order. You said "Entropy always decreases in nature, according to the second law." I think you mean "...always increases in a closed system..." Of course, in open systems with an energy flux, entropy can increase or decrease, according to the second law.

Also, you said "Entropy is another word for order." Yes, the two are related but it isn't always easy to quantify the two. Entropy is really defined by the number of possible states or configurations.

When you say "It is perfectly reasonable to say evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics because they both use probability calculations,"  I would caution that they use probability very differently and it does not follow that evolution violates the second law. As Chuck rightly points out, no biologist I know thinks that. Probability calculations are useful in assessing various paths for natural processes but none that I know of says that evolution couldn't have or didn't happen.

Your comment that "...natural selection explains the increase in the complexity of life" isn't quite complete. While the selection process is an important part, one must also include the source of variation, in which, usually through energy influx, there is replication with variation as the source of increased information and complexity, with selection as the vital feedback constraint. Rather than being pseudo-science, it's a very successful and thriving area of science, seems to me.



1/30/2012 at 1:49:13 AM GMT
Posts: 60
I emailed the following letter to the DI (advocates of intelligent design) and NCSE (against intelligent design):

Robert L. Crowther, II
Director of Communications
Discovery Institute

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education

I am planning to write a letter of complaint to the editor of the American Journal of Physics for publishing an article by a physics professor, Emory F. Bunn, titled "Evolution and the second law of thermodynamics,” in 2009 [77(10):922-925]. As your organizations claim to be dedicated to truth in science, I am asking for your support.

The article reports calculations purporting to show that evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics. This is true, but it can’t be proven the way the author says.

What is inconsistent with the second law of thermodynamics is the false idea that natural selection explains the increase in the complexity of life as it evolved. Biologists think of a protein as being a system of non-interacting amino acids and perform probability calculations similar to those performed by physicists. Such calculations and a knowledge of the complexity of living organisms is why natural selection only explains the adaptation of living organisms to the environment.

The fake calculations in the article imply that natural selection does indeed explain the complexity of living organisms. The author or the American Journal of Physics should take whatever steps are necessary to undo their mistake.

I made a YouTube video titled, "The Truth About Evolution and Religion,” with references to peer-reviewed articles, biology textbooks, and scholarly works.

Very truly yours,

David Roemer



David Roemer


3/10/2012 at 12:51:28 PM GMT
Posts: 60
I just posted the following comments on the forums of Christians in Science. The latest turn of events in my dispute with the American Journal of Physics is at http://newevangelist.me/2012/02/23/american-association-of-physics-teachers/. I'v also attached one of the AJP articles. This is the post:

I am under the impression that 90% of the members of the Christians in Science are not orthodox Christians, who believe in the trinity, but liberal Christians, who think believing in life after death is irrational. One reason for this is that no one on this website or that of your sister organization, the American Scientific Affiliation, are supporting my efforts to get the American Journal of Physics to put an end to the damage being done by the two articles criticizing creationism and promoting Darwinism.

In the light of Christian doctrine, "the Word” in John’s gospel can be a reference to Jesus and the doctrine of the trinity. However, talking about the trinity in front of atheists is like speculating about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.

The interpretation that gives atheists a reason to believe in God is that the "Word” is the concept of the universe in God’s mind before God created the universe. The discovery of the Big Bang in the 1960s is a sign that God was the primary author of the Bible.



David Roemer

 Attached Files: 

3/11/2012 at 11:27:54 PM GMT
Posts: 44
RE: American Journal of Physics
D. Roemer said:
The primary structure of a large protein can have 600 amino acids. There are 20 different kinds of amino acids. Biologists imagine that the 600 amino acids are non-interacting particles, just like in a gas. Just as in statistical mechanics, biologists ask how many different ways there are of arranging 600 amino acids? The answer is 600 to the 20th power instead of N!. Thus, it is impossible to get a protein by random chance since there is only 3 billion years available for the protein to evolve. This is why biologists say evolution violates the second law. It is the same kind of reasoning that explains why a gas will fill up the entire container.

 

This is confusing to me.  Are you sure the statistical approach is restricted to non-interacting particles?  That doesn't sound very biological.  If we combine helium and oxygen in a gas chamber experiment, similar to the one you described earlier, then try the same experiment with carbon and oxygen, won't we see a significant variance in the results due to variables not considered in a simple statistical gas analysis?   As long as a given structure somehow benefits from any change, and the new structure can be replicated, why would statistics claim otherwise?  I don't see evolution violating the 2nd law any more than a refrigerator might, though I am neither biologist nor physicist.

 

[I too think it will be 20 to the power of 600 in possible mathematical combinations.]

 

The tenet of natural selection is a general term, not a specific process.  Indeed, it wasn't until genetics came along that Darwin's hypothesis of natural selection became respected.  

 

A minor nit: Big Bang Theory was not discovered in the 1960s, though the cosmic background radiation was discovered in 1964, which gave huge credence to the original, but less structured, theory by Lemaitre from his 1927 paper.  His "primeval atom" was introduced, I think, in 1931 while in England.

 



Last edited Sunday, March 11, 2012
3/14/2012 at 3:54:22 AM GMT
Posts: 24
RE:
D. Roemer said:
. . .

I am under the impression that 90% of the members of the Christians in Science are not orthodox Christians, who believe in the trinity, but liberal Christians, who think believing in life after death is irrational. One reason for this is that no one on this website or that of your sister organization, the American Scientific Affiliation, are supporting my efforts to get the American Journal of Physics to put an end to the damage being done by the two articles criticizing creationism and promoting Darwinism.

In the light of Christian doctrine, "the Word” in John’s gospel can be a reference to Jesus and the doctrine of the trinity. However, talking about the trinity in front of atheists is like speculating about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin.

The interpretation that gives atheists a reason to believe in God is that the "Word” is the concept of the universe in God’s mind before God created the universe. The discovery of the Big Bang in the 1960s is a sign that God was the primary author of the Bible. 


While I appreciate your efforts to hold the American Journal of Physics accountable for an unnecessarily narrow view, I would caution you against characterizations of the doctrinal positions of the members of ASA or any other organization without thorough investigation.  I think you might find, as I have, that there are many Trinitarians that also endorse evolutionary theory.  

If someone were to ask me if I believe in the Trinity I would answer in the affirmative.  I am not a scholar of theology but as I understand it, the Trinity became part of orthodoxy in AD 325 at the Council of Nicea.  At that time even in orthodoxy there were various conceptions of what it meant. I would not be surprised if you found, as I have, quite a few very thoughtful views on the Trinity that would fall as much within the bounds of orthodoxy as those at the Council of Nicea.

I, for one, would like to support you in your efforts to encourage the AJP to avoid aligning themselves with narrow views on a cross disciplinary topic like this.  I seems to me that physicists are experts in the Second Law of Thermodynamics and biologists work to understand the implications of that law in biological organisms.  Complexity scientists and systems scientists also have important perspectives.  That's one of the things I love about ASA.  The conversation between these parties, in my opinion, would be better served if doctrinal positions on the Trinity were not used to stifle the conversation.  

I think there may be others here that are essentially in your corner and would like to see your arguments refined and strengthened through conversations and debate.  Please accept my apologies if I am overstepping on behalf of anyone here. For the record I work in the field of learning science and the psychometrics of learning analytics.


Last edited Wednesday, March 14, 2012
3/21/2012 at 10:39:29 AM GMT
Posts: 60
Trinity and the AJP hoax
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKaF8vX6HXQ

The American Journal of Physics and the American Association of Physics Teachers are not guilty of having an "unnecessarily narrow view," they are guilty of lying in order to cause people not to believe in the Bible.

According to the Bible, God created the universe from nothing and keeps it in existence. A reason to believe in the Bible is that science has not yet been able to explain the Big Bang, the origin of life, and evolution.

Natural selection only explains adaptation, not common descent. Biologists have a thermodynamic model for the primary structure of a protein. It is like an English sonnet. The odds of getting an English sonnet in 3 billion years by the random selection of letters is close to zero. This is why it can be said that evolution violates the second law. It is not really the law that is violated, but the model biologists use to understand evolution. The theory of natural selection doesn't violate the second law because biologists, not laymen, understand the limitations of the theory.

What the AJP articles do is calculate the entropy of the biosphere using Boltzmann's constant to prove that evolution does not violate the second law. The equation is a hoax. It is like calculating the entropy of a deck of cards or the temperature of a deck of cards.

By the way, my understanding of the trinity is this: When humans communicate with each other, the communication is imperfect. You never perfectly understand what the other person is saying. But when God communicates Himself to mankind the communication is perfect. God communicates Himself to us in three ways. He created us and keeps us in existence (the Father). He gave us everlasting life (the Son). He answers our prayers (the Holy Spirit).


David Roemer


3/21/2012 at 8:05:04 PM GMT
Posts: 24
AJP and the Bible...

To be clear I take you to be saying that AJP, and the portion of the academy it represents, and not a particular author, are specifically targeting the Bible by publishing this article.  Again, I am not an expert in the field but it seems to me that they are publishing the view of an author (or perhaps authors) who contends that evolution does not violate the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.  It appears to me that there are folks that are part if ASA, who are Trinitarians, take the Bible to be God's word, are career biological scientists who tend to share the perspective presented in the AJP article.  

 

I'm sorry but I have a hard time jumping to the conclusion that this biological position on the 2nd Law constitutes an attack on the Bible.  Seems to me it is an attack on a particular interpretation of the biological implications of the 2nd Law and open for healthy debate regardless of a faith position.   Perhaps the problem is that a scientific question like this doesn't make a lot of sense in the context of faith, a little like discussing marriage in heaven.  The author obviously takes a position against creationist positions who claim that the 2nd Law is violated by evolution.

 

For me the Trinity boils down to the passage in 1 John 4 "God is Love." For God to be Love, there must be the authority and will to love, the power to love, and a physical presence express it to the beloved.  Love is fundamentally relational and the Trinity flows from the relationship between the Father, Holy Spirit and the Son.  That God would choose to invite us to be part of that family and make it possible through Jesus Christ is the Good News of the Bible.  Quite frankly, I'm not sure what any of that has to do with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, except to say that the 2nd Law expresses God's amazing love for us because it makes life, consciousness and breath possible.



Last edited Wednesday, March 21, 2012