Pink Entropy

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I recently wrote on the subject of entropy here, and set off a maelstrom of comments. Some people just have that gift, and other people don’t. That appears to be just the way it is for me, and I try to be humble about it. Sometimes I think my comments section is a good example of entropy.

If I might, I would like to supplement my initial observations with a few quick follow up jabs, and see if it happens again. These are just quick responses to a couple of basic questions that were raised, and which I would like answer outside the thread.
Since I speak English, let us go with a dictionary:

Entropy is “a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.”

Now I don’t see anything in my argument or illustrations that would constitute a howler when it comes to that definition. Assuming that this is a reasonable English expression of what entropy means, it also means that applications to the question of evolution are entirely reasonable. Entropy increases over time, meaning that disorder and randomness are also increasing. But evolution requires us to believe that the disorder and randomness are decreasing.

In order for that disorder and randomness to decrease, it is necessary to have a transfer mechanism that can utilize available energy (in a closed system) or newly imported energy (in an open system) into mechanical work that is productive.

Otherwise, any energy, new or old, will simply dissipate. The energy will get tired and take a nap. The energy will go bye-bye. We might exhort that energy not to take it lying down, and we might urge the energy to “not go gentle into that good night.” “Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Sure, rage all you want. Rage against the heat death of the light, for all the good it is going to do you.

Now the point of my illustration in the previous post is that the transfer mechanism that can make energy useful is itself an example of decreased randomness, and hence it is also something that must be accounted for.

Now the reason all such applications to evolution get shouted down is that — in my view — they make a potent case. This is a case that can be made in English, and it should be refuted, if it can be, in English. To appeal to the inside baseball language of higher mathematics as a final arbiter does not help us with anything.

This is not knocking those who are adept in that language, as I am not, and I do thank them heartily for all the good they do in the world. One of the good things they do is that some of them know how to translate what they have done into English. When that is done, the central claims can be evaluated in English, and if that evaluation is bungled, the bungling can be revealed, also in English.

For example, if I said that entropy was pink on the inside, I trust that somebody would set me straight. If I said that an increase in entropy mean an increase in order, I trust that someone would take me aside. But if I say that entropy means that energy can’t organize itself into higher orders of complexity without help, and yet this is precisely what evolution claims it can do, the best response would be to engage with the argument itself.

Muslims do the same kind of thing with the Koran. If you don’t know Arabic, you don’t know the Koran, and so any objections are out of court. Now as a Christian pastor, do I have to refrain from saying that Islam is a false religion because I do not know Arabic? The answer is no, because translation is possible, despite what devout Muslims claim.

Another person asked a question about theistic evolution. I cheerfully grant that naturalism is an easy target, and theistic evolution does not present the same kind of easy target. This is because the theistic evolutionist can always appeal to the ultimate “God of the gaps.” Since every theist grants at the outset that God has sufficient power to have created by means of evolution, the argument that He did in fact do so can never be reduced to self-contradictory absurdity. There are problems with it though. I will mention three.

First, the God who is supposed to have done this told us in His Scriptures that He did it another way. In other words, the first issue is exegetical. What does the Bible actually reveal? And would it reveal that same thing if we were not under pressure from the naturalistic evolutionists to make our faith more “respectable to the real scientists?” The real scientists in this set-up, whose respect we must apparently have, are the ones maintaining and defending the easy target scenario.

Second, the fossil record is a record of death. I do not believe that God created millions of years of suffering — nature red in tooth and claw — and then pronounced it good. This is the theological problem. Going the way of theistic evolution exacerbates the problem of evil, and actually turns it into a genuine problem — which it is not in a fallen world. Death came into the world because of sin, and sin came into the world because of one man (Rom. 5:12). Any record of death we come across should be dated after Adam.

The third issue is that I don’t believe the scientific evidence, rightly weighed, supports the theory of evolution. But that requires discussion in the particulars, as specific arguments are brought forward.

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Matthew N. Petersen
Matthew N. Petersen
7 years ago

Entropy increases over time, meaning that disorder and randomness are also increasing. But evolution requires us to believe that the disorder and randomness are decreasing.

Species diversity is disorder and randomness.

timothy
timothy
7 years ago

Sounds good.
 
Could you please address the “one day is like  a thousand years and a thousand days like a year” argument for an old earth? (and any other common ones you know of)
 
thx.
 
 

Matthew N. Petersen
Matthew N. Petersen
7 years ago

the transfer mechanism that can make energy useful is itself an example of decreased randomness, and hence it is also something that must be accounted for.

Yet you haven’t defined “decreased randomness”. And the definition is mathematical.

Matthew N. Petersen
Matthew N. Petersen
7 years ago

One of the good things they do is that some of them know how to translate what they have done into English. When that is done, the central claims can be evaluated in English, and if that evaluation is bungled, the bungling can be revealed, also in English. Yes, it’s important to translate the technical language into English. And though I can do that in some areas, in others I cannot, and this is one where I cannot. However, that’s different from saying they can be evaluated in English. It’s kinda like Lewis observes in Mere Christianity: We can and… Read more »

Matthew N. Petersen
Matthew N. Petersen
7 years ago

This is again an example of your misunderstanding of the terms. Randomness, in the issue in question, has a mathematical definition, and it doesn’t have to do with design or not design.

Matthew N. Petersen
Matthew N. Petersen
7 years ago

Muslims do the same kind of thing with the Koran. If you don’t know Arabic, you don’t know the Koran, and so any objections are out of court. Now as a Christian pastor, do I have to refrain from saying that Islam is a false religion because I do not know Arabic? The answer is no, because translation is possible, despite what devout Muslims claim. No, of course you don’t need to know Arabic. However, you do need to listen to what the Muslims are actually saying, and try to hear them at their best, etc. before trying to argue against… Read more »

Matthew N. Petersen
Matthew N. Petersen
7 years ago

And if God has a point in creating diverse species, there is nothing random about it.

On the definition of randomness used in entropy, there is. That you have a different definition of randomness that you like is irrelevant.

Matthew N. Petersen
Matthew N. Petersen
7 years ago

Just doing my part to make there be lots of comments. :P

Ben Bowman
7 years ago

What I always find interesting is that when you use a term like randomness the atheist rushes in with the fire hose to douse that idea quick “no, no, it just looks random! That’s the evolutionary process.” Then if you say the d word they come in with the same hose and try to whip you with it. “No, It’s not designed, it just looks that way.” 

Bro. Steve
Bro. Steve
7 years ago

As one who occasionally has to speak the inside-baseball lingo of mathematics, I think you did just fine with the entropy discussion.  But there is another aspect to entropy that should be brought in at some point.  Above all else, the second law of thermo means that the universe had a definite beginning point when the maximum energy was available in the most available form.  Somebody pumped up the air tank, wound up the clock, perched all the rocks at the top of hills, or whatever metaphor pleases you, and the tripped the lever to get it all moving.  After that initial release,… Read more »

Bro. Steve
Bro. Steve
7 years ago

Matthew N. Petersen, if you see this, would you mind providing your definition of randomness?

Matthew N. Petersen
Matthew N. Petersen
7 years ago

It will never heat treat a turbine blade or torque a set of bolts in the right pattern or create phosphate ester hydraulic fluid.  It will never do any of the other ten thousand things required to make a working 747. Sure the tornado doesn’t do that. But assuming that that never happens for purely natural reasons, in order to prove that it doesn’t, is viciously circular. Regarding math snob: If it isn’t good when atheists mock the Trinity “ha ha how can one be three, lolz” without actually engaging what we mean, but only with a dumbed down version, then it isn’t… Read more »

Matthew N. Petersen
Matthew N. Petersen
7 years ago

Steve: Shannon Entropy, divided by information length, I believe. But I’m not sure. Like I said, I’m not an expert on entropy, I only know enough to know that it’s way beyond me. (I could probably spend a semester studying and figure it out.)

Matthew N. Petersen
Matthew N. Petersen
7 years ago

That said, I think Pr. Wilson has legitimate questions that someone who actually understands the mathematics may be able to answer. But only if they’re seen as questions, not as refutations. I suppose it’s possible he’s found a refutation, but it seems to me more likely he’s in the position of a highschool student who confidently declares “Descartes is crap”, because he got an A in a highschool religion class (though he hasn’t read Descartes). The student probably has legitimate questions to ask someone who knows Descartes, or to bring to his reading of Descartes. But he doesn’t have a refutation of Descartes.… Read more »

carole
carole
7 years ago

Matthew, you spend so much time and energy trying to prove that Pastor Wilson isn’t as smart as we all think he is…. do you agree?  Why is that?  You mentioned that you went to Logos School.  Is this a case of a student/child wanting to prove that he is as smart as his teacher/father?  The ironic thing is the more you try to take him down, so to speak, the more I admire and learn from him.  Did you ever watch his lecture at Indiana? It was honestly frightening how those students behaved, but more importantly I was struck… Read more »

Matthew N. Petersen
Matthew N. Petersen
7 years ago

carole: Yes. He has some real strengths. I’ve sometimes sharply disagreed with him recently, but other times just interacted with him here. Anyway, I don’t think he minds sharp disagreement–actually, I think he likes the engagement (though perhaps he doesn’t find me engaging). I’m commenting on here now because I tried to have a respectable discussion on food, but his next post was sufficiently out of line that I decided I needed to call it out as such, but that if I needed to do so, I also needed to interact with him otherwise. Like anyone, he has weakness and strengths, and… Read more »

Mark
Mark
7 years ago

Could the start of Entropy be rooted in the Flood? At least it seems to have accelerated since the flood.                                                                                                                                                   How much of what we observe today… Read more »

Michael D
Michael D
7 years ago

Doug,
Thanks for the clear response to my question from the last post. Let’s try to move the discussion forward.
If the fossils are not dead animals, then what are they? If they are dead animals, how old are they?
I need to get an understanding of whether you are advocating non-uniformitarianism in the vein of Ken Ham, or if you prefer a variant of the Omphalos hypothesis.

Andrew Lohr
7 years ago

Entropy:  “You can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t get out of the game”–from one of the sequels to Jerry Pournelle’s  “Janissaries.”

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

Matthew Peterson, even children can poke holes in logic.  Nothing + Nothing = Something?

Joshua Nieuwsma
Joshua Nieuwsma
7 years ago

Michael D: If you cast your search net around the intersea, you can come across some interesting factoids about fossils that ‘unexpectedly’ have soft structures still inside them, even though they were believed to be hundreds of thousands to millions of years old. It appears that in a lot of situations the ‘age’ of the fossil, rather than being fully examined through various chemical tests and decomposition, is assumed from the pre-existing theory about the rock strata. Here’s an example article: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geology/soft-tissue-dinosaur-fossil.htm Obviously the article does their best to explain away why the original fossil theory of tissue turned to… Read more »

Thrica
7 years ago

The problem with the entropy argument is that we see this sort of thing happening all the time in different and more readily observable contexts. Language, for example, or an economy. The feedback mechanisms that standardize the former in some area, and drive the growth of the latter, are very similar in their entropy-defying properties to the feedback mechanisms that are supposed to drive natural selection. (See: http://www.ucss.ge/publication/Week%2004.pdf )
So why doesn’t entropy rule out economic growth, or a community of language-speakers that can understand each other?

Michael D
Michael D
7 years ago

Joshua, For the sake of argument, suppose I agree that all of the fossils are young. That is to say, the entire fossil record was created after Adam & Eve left Eden 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, since no animal died before death entered the world through Adam. Now, the vast majority of the fossils are of species that have never been described in human literature, nor depicted in human art, even the ones found in areas of continuous human habitation for the last 4,000 years. At what time in human history, did we have a massive explosion of animal… Read more »

David Bennett
David Bennett
7 years ago

As a further exhibit of increasing entropy, I encourage all of you to peruse today’s ABCNEWS article entitled “Gender Non-Conforming Youth Applaud Facebook for New Identity Tool”, located at http://abcnews.go.com/Health/gender-conforming-youth-applaud-facebook-tool/story?id=22505300
If this doesn’t prove that entropy/randomness is increasing at an alarming rate, nothing will!

Genevieve
Genevieve
7 years ago

Doug, I have nothing smart to say. But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these posts, and have been intellectually stimulated and encouraged in my faith. Thanks from a stay at home mom :) evolution is bunk! (sometimes I think my eloquence has atrophied..ah, well)

Dan
Dan
7 years ago

My question for theistic evolutionists is, did God create Adam directly, or did Adam evolve?  Was Adam the first man on earth as Genesis describes, or was he not the first man?  It’s interesting to find out if theistic evolutionists are able to adhere to the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture in light of their position.  Here’s another question?  In the New Testament, doesn’t Jesus clearly view Adam as a created being?  Thus, if Adam wasn’t created but merely evolved, was Jesus wrong?  Is the Bible wrong?

D. Lawrence
D. Lawrence
7 years ago

Coming in a little late here, but I want to riff off of Doug’s last statement in his post: “The third issue is that I don’t believe the scientific evidence, rightly weighed, supports the theory of evolution.”  I do not know where Doug is going with this, but I expect that whatever he brings up will likely be immediately dismissed with comments like: “He isn’t a scientist, so what does he know?  When you talk to ‘real’ scientists, they all uniformly agree that the theory of evolution is beyond debate.”        Well, I am a ‘real’ scientist (published… Read more »

Dan
Dan
7 years ago

I think theistic evolutionists need to be careful about elevating science above God’s Word, and thus making God’s Word subordinate to science.  In my opinion, in order to maintain a coherent Christian worldview, I believe we must acknowledge that God’s revelation is superior to (and supersedes) man’s limited knowledge of the natural world.  This is because both the world and man were created by God.  Moreover, man’s knowledge and judgment are finite as well as affected by sin, due to man’s fallen nature. 

Michael D
Michael D
7 years ago

Dan, if you do a web search for Alvin Plantinga Historical Adam, you will find the answer offered by Mr. Plantinga. I doubt you’ll find it persuasive. At some point you have to accept that the opening chapters of genesis are not historical, and see what theological road that leads you down. 

Dan
Dan
7 years ago

Michael, I respectfully disagree.  I don’t place science on that high of a pedestal.  I don’t believe that science, or scientific inquiry, is the chief standard upon which all human knowledge rests.  It can’t be, since God created the universe, and God clearly intervenes supernaturally in it, thus demonstrating both His transcendence and His imminence.  We live in a material universe that also has an immaterial (and spiritual) dimension to it.  What does science inform us about this dimension?  What possibly can it inform us about it?  The answer is silence.  God is the ultimate reality, and God created and sustains… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
7 years ago

Death through Adam?  So no carnivorous biology in action, pre-fall?  Are you seeing it as a “natural” consequent of sin?  Or are you saying it is a God-imposed curse, like the extra thorniness in gardening?  And must suffering as we know it accompany any of the death as it was (I’m proposing) experienced pre-fall?

Kimberley
Kimberley
7 years ago

I’m with you Genevieve :D

Seth B.
Seth B.
7 years ago

JOSH do you have a book to recommend on that?!

Dan
Dan
7 years ago

Eric, where in Genesis does it mention death or suffering pre-fall?  And no, I’m not viewing death as merely a “natural” consequent of sin.  It’s part natural, but also part metaphysical/spiritual, since man is both body and spirit.  As the Bible teaches, due to sin entering the world, man doesn’t just die a physical death, he dies a spiritual death as well.  Man was created in the image of God, therefore man bears God’s likeness and His communicable attributes.  Moreover, since we are created in His image, we have His law written on our hearts, to which our consciences also bear witness (Romans 2:14-15).  Thus,… Read more »

Rob Steele
Rob Steele
7 years ago

I hate to be the one asking “Did God actually say …?” but really, did he specify six earth days?  I’m suggesting that young earthers are reading Genesis wrong.  I don’t insist upon it but that’s how it looks to me.  Anyway, that’s my answer to “God told us.”  The second objection is like unto the first: the problem of primordial evil.  The answer to that is a better theodicy: It is good that there is evil.  I tend to agree with the third issue, the interpretation of the scientific evidence but then I’m no scientist either.

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

Rob, evening and morning first day seem pretty unambiguous.

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

*seems
 

J Trocke
J Trocke
7 years ago

I’m not so sure we can rule out the possibility of death pre-fall.  What did Adam and Eve eat?  If they ate of the approved vegetation in the Garden, doesn’t that mean plant cells were dying?  Did the pair have hair and fingernails?  If so that’s dead skin cells.  Working our way up the food chain, where do we begin our objection?  Were the ants tread underfoot by Adam unsquashable?

Jon
Jon
7 years ago

Doug, on the point of the “fossil record of death.” Scripture says nothing regarding the death of anything in creation except humanity. We know that the death of man was uniquely introduced at the Fall as a consequence of sin. There is no indication that the rest of creation: plant and animal did not die and decay. I don’t see why those things are necessarily “not good.” In fact, since we know that Adam and Eve ate of plants, we know that at least cell-death existed pre-fall. Scripture does not permit you to reject out of hand pre-fall death of… Read more »

David R
David R
7 years ago

@Rob                                                                                                                                                1) Like Tim said, each day has an evening and morning, which does not make a lot of sense if the days here represented a long period of… Read more »

John
John
7 years ago

Really enjoyed following this discussion the past few days!  Thought I’d chime in since thermodynamics is right up my alley.  It’s a complex subject that isn’t very well understood.  There is a quote in the front of my Thermo textbook that puts it well: “Thermodynamics is a funny subject. The first time you go through it, you don’t understand it at all. The second time you go through it, you think you understand it, except for one or two small points. The third time you go through it, you know you don’t understand it, but by that time you are so used to… Read more »

David R
David R
7 years ago

in regards to death, Leviticus 17:14 says that life is in the blood. So the “death” of plants would not qualify since they do not have blood and never were “alive” in the way that matters.

carole
carole
7 years ago

Dan, as always, I learn a great deal from your posts.  Can you explain again, though, why it would be a problem if God did supernaturally infuse the spiritual side of man after he evolved?  I would like to understand that argument better if you don’t mind posting about it again.  Thx

timothy
timothy
7 years ago

When scripture tells us a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day, then that implies to me that a thousand years can have something like a morning and and an evening.                                                                                                                                                 Furthermore, we use allegories about days and time all the time–‘Entering ones Winter Years” , “The twighlight of life” , “The Dawn of Time”…                                                                                                                                                                                                                           … Read more »

Jon
Jon
7 years ago

As far as what us theistic evolutionst think about Adam. I think he was uniqely create as Adam and Eve from his side, just like scripture says. But I also think that the earth is likely several billion years old, because that’s was science, primarily astro-physics has to say, and I don’t think scripture contradicts that. Like Waltke, I believe there Gen 1:1 is a summary statement and that the story doesn’t start until Gen 1:2. “In the beginning…” But there is no definitive declaration about when the beginning was, compared to what comes next. I think that God progressively… Read more »

Rob Steele
Rob Steele
7 years ago

John, thank you for the explanation of the second law–clearest I’ve heard.

Rob Steele
Rob Steele
7 years ago

Regarding the plasticity of time, 1000 years being like a day and so forth, do we agree that time is a created thing and not somehow prior to God?  Genesis and the Bible as a whole picture God in time but is it not gross idolatry to suppose that God has his being in time rather than vice versa?

Tim Mullet
Tim Mullet
7 years ago

Timothy,                                                                                                                                                                You said, “When scripture tells us a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day,… Read more »