Friday, 15 March 2013

Abusing Thermodynamics: Henry Morris

Another article at the Institute for Creation Research that abuses thermodynamics, this one by Henry Morris.

Henry Morris has a Ph.D. in hydraulic engineering; I would guess that a knowledge of thermodynamics would be part of that, so again, this is a guy who should know better. The article starts with a lot of discussion on the words, and in fact is rather wordy all the way through. Part way through the second on the Second Law, he presents his argument about the First Law (go figure):
... Similarly, the First Law shows that the universe could not have begun itself. The total quantity of energy in the universe is a constant, but the quantity of available energy is decreasing. Therefore, as we go backward in time, the available energy would have been progressively greater until, finally, we would reach the beginning point, where available energy equaled total energy. Time could go back no further than this. At this point both energy and time must have come into existence. Since energy could not create itself, the most scientific and logical conclusion to which we could possibly come is that: "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth."
No, the most scientific and logical conclusion is that we do not know what happened, and then you go and investigate it. You do not get to insert your personal ideology in just because any evidence is currently lacking. Well, except in so-called creation science!

With regards to the Second Law, Morris says:
Remember this tendency from order to disorder applies to all real processes. Real processes include, of course, biological and geological processes, as well as chemical and physical processes. The interesting question is: "How does a real biological process, which goes from order to disorder, result in evolution, which goes from disorder to order?" Perhaps the evolutionist can ultimately find an answer to this question, but he at least should not ignore it, as most evolutionists do.
This is easy to explain, because processes in which entropy decreases are part of every day experience. A cup of coffee cooling is an example of entropy decreasing.

What is interesting about this claim by Morris is that it is inconsistent with what he said earlier. You see, the Second Law is about the flow and distribution of energy. As he says himself:
In so-called classical thermodynamics, the Second Law, like the First, is formulated in terms of energy.

    "It is in the transformation process that Nature appears to exact a penalty and this is where the second principle makes its appearance. For every naturally occurring transformation of energy is accompanied, somewhere, by a loss in the availability of energy for the future performance of work."5

In this case, entropy can be expressed mathematically in terms of the total irreversible flow of heat. It expresses quantitatively the amount of energy in an energy conversion process which becomes unavailable for further work. In order for work to be done, the available energy has to "flow" from a higher level to a lower level. When it reaches the lower level, the energy is still in existence, but no longer capable of doing work. Heat will naturally flow from a hot body to a cold body, but not from a cold body to a hot body.
Entropy is a measure of how energy is distributed, how disordered energy is.

But Morris is using the Second Law to argument against the ordering during evolution; what has that to do with energy? Sure, energy is involved, but why should we think that as life becomes more ordered that energy should not at the same time become more disordered? Indeed, we know this happens; when a tree grows from a seed, or a baby from an embryo, there is an ordering going on. But the Second Law is not broken, overall energy (in the tree and the surroundings, or whatever) has become more disordered; entropy is increasing.

Apparently creationist AE Wilder-Smith said in 1984 that Morris "didn't know a thing about thermodynamics" so perhaps we can chalk this one up to ignorance.

No comments:

Post a Comment