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Systems left to themselves invariably tend towards disorder (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Systems left to themselves invariably tend towards disorder (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CF001.1:

Systems or processes left to themselves invariably tend to move from order to disorder.


CreationWiki response:

Here again is a scientific concept, worded for non scientists. Unfortunately it is poorly worded. A better wording would be:

In the absence of an organizing force, systems or processes invariably tend to go from order to disorder.

(Talk Origins quotes in blue)

1. This is an attempt to claim that the second law of thermodynamics implies an inevitable increase in entropy even in open systems by quibbling with the verbiage "left to themselves." The simple fact is that, unless "left to themselves" means "not acted upon by any outside influence," disorder of systems can decrease. And since outside influence is more often the rule in biological systems, order can and does increase in them.

This is a a straw man fallacy. It assumes the most restrictive possible meaning of "left to themselves." It also assumes that the claim forbids decreases in entropy. Neither of which is the case, it only speaks of the most natural trend. Finally, my proposed rewording eliminates this argument.

2. That the claim is false is not theory. Exceptions happens all the time. For example, plants around my house are left to themselves every spring, and every spring they produce order locally by turning carbon from the air into plant tissue. Drying mud, left to itself, produces orderly cracks. Ice crystals, left to themselves, produce arrangements far more orderly than they would if I interfered. How can a trend to disorder be invariable when exceptions are ubiquitous? And why do creationists argue at such length for claims which they themselves can plainly see are false?

This response is only legitimate with the original wording. With my suggested rewording all three fail to meet the qualification of being "In the absence of an organizing force."

  • Trees and all living things have an organizing force, i.e. cell functions and cell division, as controlled by DNA.
  • Drying mud has an organizing force in the form of a combination of the contraction of the drying mud and its adherence to the underlining material.
  • Ice crystals have an organizing force resulting from the electrical imbalance in water molecules.

water molecule

So all three examples have an organizing force.

3. Disorder and entropy are not the same. The second law of thermodynamics deals with entropy, not disorder

This is the lynch pin of the Talk Origins argument. However when entropy is examined statistically it can be considered a measure of randomness. Now the more random a system is the more disordered it is. The formula for statistical entropy is:

S = k ln w

S is entropy.

k is the Boltzmann Constant = 1.380 6504(24) X 10-23 J K-1

w is the number of equivalent equally probable configurations. This is a direct measurement of disorder.

Random or disordered systems have such a significantly higher number of equivalent equally probable configurations, that they can basically be considered inevitable. Now it is true that entropy is not equivalent to disorder, but entropy is logarithmically related to disorder. Entropy can be considered a measurement of disorder in the way that the Richter Scale is a measurement of earthquakes or decibels are a measurement of sound. The result is that it is accurate to call entropy a measure of disorder.

Reference 1: [ J Philip Bromberg, Physical Chemistry, 1984, pg. 690]

Note: This is a standard college textbook, to the best of my knowledge the author is not a creationist.

Reference 2: wikipedia

  • (although disorder defined to apply to microscopic states can be relevant to thermodynamics).

True, but it can be shown that disorder as applied to any set of statistical states can also be relevant to thermodynamics; both microscopic and macroscopic. It also needs to be noted that increased disorder on the molecular level causes an increase in disorder at the macroscopic level.

  • There are no laws about disorder as people normally use the word.

This is totally false! The above referred-to text book [Bromberg] uses analysis of the entropy of an unshuffled and shuffled deck of cards as an example of the statistical analysis of entropy. This works on organisms, cars, and buildings, as well as a deck of cards.

Related Reference