Getting Your Science Education
From A Preacher
Dear Cliff Walker,
I have this theist friend who believes that the universe was created by a god. He said that the second law of thermodynamics says that since every process increases entropy, that it is nearly impossible to get organized structures, like cells.
He also said that the random mutations would taking a very long time, much longer than most scientist said, to form complex organisms.
There are more, I just need to get them from him.
Could you help me by refuting these?
I'd really appreciate it.
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: I need help
Date: August 18, 2001 7:49 AM
They always invoke the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but strangely ignore the other Laws of Thermodynamics in these discussions. Ask your friend to state for you the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics and see just how much he or she knows about physics. The Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics tells us that when each of two systems is in equilibrium with a third, the first two systems must be in equilibrium with each other. This shared property of equilibrium is the temperature. The Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics provides a precise definition of temperature, as developed by Norwegian-American chemist Lars Onsager, who won the 1968 Nobel Prize in chemistry for this work. I'll bet your friend cannot tell you this without looking it up. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that your friend has never seen even a photograph of a Nobel Prize.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics only applies to a closed system. The Earth within its Solar System is not a closed system but is an open system, receiving energy from the Sun and dissipating heat into space. (That the Christians are still teaching their young to invoke this argument -- and to lie like this for Jesus -- never ceases to astonish me.) The Solar System itself is not entirely closed, because the Universe is constantly expanding, and that expansion makes room for tiny pockets of order to form and still keep within the confines of the laws of entropy at all. Thirdly, the Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to macroscopic processes but not microscopic processes, so a chemical reaction between two molecules would not necessarily be irreversible as they would be in a larger (closed) system.
Of course, if your friend knew very much about physics, she or he would know this much and wouldn't be telling you the things you're hearing. I suggest that your friend is every bit as culpable for talking authoritatively about physics without knowing much if anything about physics. Abraham Lincoln said that you're just as guilty even if you're accidentally right!
I have one up on your friend in that I have held a few conversations with one of the world's leading particle physicists, Victor J. Stenger, currently of Colorado, discussing the very topic of the Christian creationists' misrepresentation of physics in their efforts to win souls for Christ. In addition, I've read all his books -- twice -- and several other related books from the world's most prominent scientists who work in this particular field. In our "Interview With Particle Physicist Victor J. Stenger," the good professor gave us an overview of the common misrepresentations of science made by Christian creationists and explained for us the latest knowledge in physics as pertains to these questions.
Most amazing is when Professor Stenger explains that the Universe began and formed to where we see it today using zero energy. This was a quantum fluctuation that escaped into a vacuum, kinda like the guys in that Schwarzenegger film where side blew out of their space station and their eyes started bugging out because of the vacuum -- only that was what Stenger calls a false vacuum, and this singularity is escaping into what Stenger calls a true vacuum, which (I guess), produces much more of a bang than a false vacuum (considering that the Universe is still escaping into it).
Meanwhile, the organisms currently living on Earth have ancestor organisms that were living over three billion years ago. How much time does this person want? Do you realize how long three billion years is? I recently wrote an imaginary history of the world, placing one year on each page. I built imaginary bookshelves to store the volumes of this book, and could fit 100,000 years on each shelf. Then I built a building that would hold 625 bookshelves of volumes on each floor. The reason I built the building is because to lay the volumes of this book end-to-end, I would need a bookshelf that reaches from San Diego to San Francisco for the 4.5 billion years the Earth has existed. On the 65th floor of this building (today being on the ground floor), we already had diamonds forming from the carbon of organic life that had lived much earlier than that (3.2 billion years). That's a book stretching a little over 300 miles, with one foot equaling 2,000 years.
In light of all this, how many generations can a single-celled organism multiply in one day? and with a whole planet full of them, how many years does it take for the flu virus to completely mutate so that we need a whole new vaccine? And on what basis do the scientists who make this virus successfully predict what it's going to take to kill next year's virus in time to produce enough vaccine to protect practically the entire civilized world? Do these scientists make these predictions based upon the Theory of Evolution? or do they make their cattle drink before rods of green poplar, hazel, and chesnut tree pilled with white strakes in them, so that by drinking before these sticks the cattle will conceive and bring forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted? (Genesis 30:37ff.)
What's your alternative, that a god waited all this time -- 528 miles worth of pages just for the 4.5 billion-year blip in eternity that this Earth has existed -- just for that final 12 inches of this book? "Duh-ee! Which way did he go, George? Which way did he go?" It's much easier for me to think that evolution took all this time to get to where we are than to think that an intelligent god has taken all this time to pull off 2,000 years of Christian history.
And think of this: If the Universe is so vast and complex that we need a god to explain its existence (it isn't very complex at all, but let's humor them for a minute), just how much more vast and complex would this god need to be in order to create the Universe? and wouldn't the god all that much more need to be explained? If they require that the Universe needs to be explained because it's so vast and complex, it's only fair that we demand that they explain the existence of the more vast and more complex god! If they're not willing to explain where the god came from, then I don't want to hear about where the Universe comes from!
The Universe is here, and it looks as if it appeared through natural means. It looks as if zero energy was used to get the Big Bang going, and it looks as if the initial stages of the Big Bang were so utterly random (chaotic) that there is no room for any organizing effort whatsoever during that time. The Universe today is about three degrees above absolute zero -- complete equilibrium.
Tell your friend to get rid of the 100-year-old physics books (published when the entropy arguments were still a formidable problem for materialists -- before Hubble discovered that the Universe is expanding). Tell them to get an up-to-date education in physics before they go around talking as if they know anything about the laws of entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. There is no easier way to shoot your credibility right in the foot than to start invoking scientific-sounding highbrow gibberish -- only to get caught using arguments that were shot down by Edwin Hubble before Adolf Hitler even started running for office.
And the surest way to make this mistake is to secure your science education from a preacher rather than from a science professor.
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
people with no reason to believe
Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.