Kelly Jowett, WSU Chemistry
I have been reading the posts occasionally, this is my first response in a long while.
I noticed that a common attack on atheism by theists, mostly Christians, involves thermodynamics. I find this interesting since their belief is out of faith and not of science. This argument seems real to them only due to the fact they do not understand the science very well.
So, out comes my old physics book.
They state that due to the 'X' law of Thermodynamics, the universe must always be changing into a higher state of entropy or disorder. 'X' has been referred to as the 'First,' 'Second,' 'Third,' and even 'Fourth' (even though no Fourth really exists). Their immediate conclusion follows that highly complex chemical structures like ourselves simply cannot exist since we are creating order from disorder.
They then note that God must have been the initiator of this otherwise impossible state of order.
This is how I feel we should respond.
Imagine a block of ice. Each of its water molecules is fixed rigidly in place in a highly structured and ordered arrangement. The ice is set out to melt. As heat enters the ice, the water molecules are disordered and unorganized. The molecules in a liquid are free to move from place to place.
Now imagine freezing water. The disordered and unorganized molecules are placed in the freezer. Heat is released from the water while the molecules assemble themselves into their previously fixed, rigid, and highly organized crystalline structure.
Did we just violate the second law of thermodynamics? No! It is possible to freeze water.
The process of freezing and melting water is a change in physical state. This is called a reversible process. Chemical reactions are reversible processes. The second law of thermodynamics states that the total entropy of the universe does not change when a reversible process occurs and increases when an irreversible process occurs. If entropy does not change then no laws are violated.
Order can be replaced with heat in the universe. As the water melts it absorbs heat in exchange for the increase in disorder. As it freezes, heat is released in exchange for the increased order. Our bodies have used heat energy to assemble the complex chemicals necessary for life. If we were to take a human body and release all of the energy in each chemical bond, we would release the same amount of energy required to produce them. This is the Law of Conservation of Energy. Since no overall order was created, no physical laws were broken.
Our structures are possible without god. Highly ordered chemicals are produced everyday to make plastics, cosmetics, electronics, fuels, pesticides, coolants, solvents, the list goes on. These are all examples of higher physical order the universe allows for the simple fact that heat is given in exchange.
Hope this helps.
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Kelly Jowett"
Subject: Re: I just had a thought.
Date: Thursday, August 03, 2000 2:47 PM
In my interview with particle physicist Victor Stenger he pointed out that the entroy argument became outdated about 100 years ago, when we discovered that the universe is expanding:
This actually was a legitimate question a hundred years ago, when we thought that the Universe was a firmament, but now we know that the Universe is expanding. An expanding universe leaves increasingly more space for order to form.
An example I like to give on this, is, suppose that you have a very small yard, and every day you take your rubbish and you dump the rubbish into the yard. Eventually it's going to cover up those petunias that you plotted over there your garden, and your yard is going to become very disordered. How can you, then, get some more petunias growing? Well, what you can do is buy the land around your yard. Then you have more space and you can plant some petunias. As time goes on, of course, you keep dumping the rubbish and it fill up the space, you've got to keep buying more and more land. But, in principle, you can do it that way; you can always have some space left over. As long as the Universe continue to expand, in other words, there's always room for more order to form.
In the section I linked above, Stenger discusses arguments based upon both laws of thermodynamics.
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