Granville Sewell vs Bob Lloyd

Bob Lloyd, professor emeritus of chemistry at Trinity College Dublin, wrote an opinion article in Mathematical Intelligencer (MI) commenting on Sewell’s not-quite-published AML article. This was mentioned in a previous thread, where Bob briefly commented. Granville was invited to participate but never showed up.

In response to Lloyd, Sewell submitted a letter to the editor. On advice of a referee, his letter was rejected. (Rightly so, in my view. More on that later.) Sewell has now written a post on Discovery Institute’s blog describing his latest misfortune. The post contains Sewell’s unpublished letter and some of the referee’s comments. I invite you to continue the technical discussion of Sewell’s points started earlier.

Sewell’s reply to Lloyd deals mostly with “X-entropies:”

Lloyd cites my example, given in my letter to the editor in a 2001 Mathematical Intelligencer issue, of carbon and heat diffusing independently of each other in a solid… He proceeds to show that these “entropies” are not independent of each other in certain experiments in liquids. This seems to be his primary criticism of my writings on this topic. I may have left the impression in my 2001 letter that I believed these different “X-entropies” were always independent of each other, but in the more recent AML paper, I wrote:

He then quotes from his AML paper and rambles on for another eleventeen paragraphs. Read at your own risk.

Here is my brief take on this. I will expand on it in the comments.

“X-entropies” are not new quantities. Sewell does not define them in any of his papers and blog posts, but my reading is that they are either other thermodynamic variables (e.g., chemical potential or pressure) or they are regular thermal entropies of different parts of a large system (configurational entropy of carbon and entropy of lattice vibrations in Sewell’s example). Either way, the 2nd law is not threatened. In the latter case, if the two subsystems can interact and exchange energy then the entropy in one can decrease; the decrease is amply compensated, and then some, by an increase of entropy in the other subsystem. We saw this in the previous thread with an ice cube in a glass of water and with spins in a ferromagnet. Compensation works. Sewell has no leg to stand on.

151 thoughts on “Granville Sewell vs Bob Lloyd

  1. But Sewell calls the divergence of J in his Equation (1) the rate of change of energy, by his use of the subscript t. That’s wrong. And he also refers to it as “energy heat density” which is also wrong. It’s an energy flux density in units of energy per unit volume per unit time.

    Sewell is entirely correct in this passage. Eq. (1),
    \partial_t Q = -\nabla \cdot \mathbf J,
    does not define the rate of energy change. Rather, it expresses local conservation of energy. The left-hand side is the rate at which energy density Q increases at a given point. The right-hand side is the divergence of energy flux J. In an integral form, this law would say that energy increase in a given volume equals the incoming flux of energy through its boundary (hence a minus sign).

    Sewell’s entire derivation, Eq. 1 through 5, is correct when it comes to thermal entropy. He botches it entirely for X-entropy.

  2. That is one of the inconsistencies in Sewell’s notation and use of the integrals; and it is one of the things – among many – that reveal that Sewell doesn’t know what entropy means nor does he know what the integrals mean.

    Mike,

    I think this is a stretch. Sewell is an applied mathematician with expertise in solving partial differential equations by numerical means. Surely he knows what an integral is.

  3. I should look at the paper instead of trying to quote from memory.  I am in the habit of thinking of Q being heat, not heat per unit area. A momentary brain fart on my part.

    If he is calling J the “heat flux vector,” then we are talking energy per unit area per unit time.  Taking the divergence gives energy per unit volume per unit time – i.e., energy density per unit time – and integrating over volume gives energy per unit time. Dividing by temperature gives entropy per unit time.

    It is also important to note that div (J/U) is not the same as (div J)/U.  They both have the same units; but that latter integral is what Sewell is calling St.  I would have been a little more specific in referring to St as the total rate of entropy change and would use additional notation to refer to that specific integral.  But that is not important.

    Yes, the equations work for real entropy; which is what I think I said above.  But as I have been saying, there is no such thing as “X-entropy” and a dimensional analysis shows he is doing the equivalent of plugging weight and calorie intake into the Pythagorean Theorem to calculate IQ.

    Reading the abstract alone reveals his misconceptions. 

  4. Mike Elzinga: It is also important to note that div (J/U) is not the same as (div J)/U. They both have the same units; but that latter integral is what Sewell is calling St. I would have been a little more specific in referring to St as the total rate of entropy change and would use additional notation to refer to that specific integral. But that is not important.

    This is all right. Let us discretize the problem by splitting the continuous medium into small cells. Entropy change in a small cell number k is given by the heat influx,
    dS_k/dt = (dQ_k/dt)/T.
    Heat comes thanks to exchange of energy with adjacent cells with numbers i,
    dQ_k/dt = \sum_i J_{ik} = -\sum_{i}J_{ki},
    where J_{ik} is the rate of energy flow from cell i to cell k. The last term on the previous line is the rate at which energy flows from cell k to some adjacent cell. That is the discrete equivalent of the divergence of energy flux J.

    The two equations above can be combined to give the net rate of entropy change in the system:
    dS/dt = \sum_k dS_k/dt = -\sum_k (1/T_k) \sum_i J_{ki}.
    The continuuum version of this equation is
    dS/dt = - \int dV (\nabla \cdot \mathbf J)/T.
    This is an intermediate result in Sewell’s paper that goes between Eqs. 3 and 4. The rest is pure math.

  5. This divergence of an entropy flux equation works for a limited number of problems, particularly those in many engineering applications.  However, it is extremely confining conceptually.

    Most of the applications require vector and scalar fields that are continuous and differentiable over the volume in question.  This implies continuous fields and systems of condensed matter in which one can think of matter as being continuous.  As olegt points out, subdividing the space indefinitely leads to problems in counting energy states.  These were solved by quantum mechanics which set the lower limit on subdivision.

    There is also no motivation in those equations to ever think of temperature being negative because they are most commonly thought of in the context of the empirical temperature.  Most engineering applications don’t consider the absolute temperature scale as having any possibility of going negative; by definition.  And that idea comes from the fact that a gas contracts one 273rd of it volume for each degree drop on the Kelvin scale; there being (hypothetically) zero volume at zero degrees.

    One has to know something else about temperature in order to consider the possibility of negative temperatures.  And most practical, engineering applications would see entropy increasing with increasing energy input. So, right off the top, it is not obvious how one would apply this analysis to a two-state system, for example.  Negative temperatures and entropy decreasing with increasing energy input would be viewed as “unphysical.”

    But once that additional knowledge is gained from discrete systems and from statistical mechanics – and especially what the definition of temperature now becomes – it would be unlikely that someone would make the mistakes Sewell makes with these equations and his misconceptions about entropy.

    As a geezer who has watch this fiasco for decades, I sometimes tend to get a little grumpy at the fact that this entropy and the second law trope keeps coming up over and over.  I am no longer as “understanding” of ID/creationists who do this as are some of the newer generation.  It all gets back to really, really fundamental ideas about energy and matter taught in middle school and high school.

    Yet all these elementary misconceptions get buried in “advanced” topics that make it appear that people know what they are talking about.  It has been a ploy that ID/creationists have used ever since Morris and Gish taunted scientists into highly publicized campus debates.  It has been a publicity stunt that gets crackpots a free ride; and ID/creationists aren’t the only ones who try it; they just got better organized at doing it.

  6. Mike,

    Although I agree with the overall sentiment of your comment, I don’t agree with everything in it. It’s important not to exaggerate Sewell’s errors.

    There is nothing wrong with Sewell’s choice of a continuous medium. Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics apply to them as well as they do to discrete systems. Working with a continuous medium makes the math a little more complicated, but it does not change the physics all that much. I translated what Sewell did to a discrete system only to simplify the math. The errors he made in the continuum formulation remain in the discrete version. They are physics errors, not math errors.

    So, once again, discrete vs continuous is not an issue here. One does not run into a problem here while dividing the system into smaller and smaller units. To the contrary, one should get a consistent continuum limit if one deals with a sensible physical theory. And one does get the right continuum expression for the configuration entropy S of carbon, as I explained here. There is no need to invoke quantum mechanics.

    In contrast, Sewell’s theory of X-entropy is stillborn. He introduces his quantity X by doing rather meaningless mathematical manipulations. His only guidance is that the quantity increases in a closed system. But there are infinitely many X-entropies of carbon that one can introduce in this way, and almost all of them are unphysical. That is what Sewell does not understand. His problem is with physics, not math. The only physical X-entropy that one can introduce in this way is configuration entropy S, but then we are back to entropy that allows for compensation. That Sewell does not want.

    And it is important to note that, all these technical problems notwithstanding, Sewell’s argument boils down to a shameless sleight of hand. He starts with a well-known result stating that entropy in an open system tends to increase but may decrease if the system exchanges energy or matter with the outside world. Sewell then simply renames the flux of energy or matter into entropy flux and declares that entropy in an open system can only increase unless it (entropy) is exported through the boundary. And to top it off, he further declares, with a straight face, that just having a flux of energy is not enough! Order does not increase unless order comes in, presumably as the hand of God.

    Sewell’s paper may contain respectable physics and sophisticated math and his technical errors may not be easy to spot unless you know the field well. But his sleight of hand is not all that impressive.

  7. If I may offer a little friendly advice from an old geezer who has been around and has seen much; it is a mistake to take ID/creationists, or any other crackpot for that matter, seriously.  Many of the errors in ID/creationist writings are taunts.

    There is nothing that an ID/creationist wants more than a full-blown “technical debate” on either a public stage or in some journal.  They want to be able to claim to their followers that there is a “raging debate” about some concept in science going on in “respectable journals.”

    This feeds down to the political operatives putting pressure on legislators, school boards, teachers, judges, that there is a legitimate alternative to what is taught in the public school science class, and that it is intelligent design.  They want to point to articles, letters to the journal editors, or to any paper that slips by peer review, and claim that their “science” is making headway in the science community and should therefore be taught.

    Crackpots of all sorts show up at colloquia, at professional meetings, at trade shows, and at any place they think they can hitch a ride on some scientist’s coattails.  ID/creationists have been playing this game in the US for well over 40 years now.

    It took almost a decade for the science community to learn to stop taking the bait that the ID/creationists kept dangling in front of scientists, demanding that they debate them in public forums.  That has generated considerable desperation among the leaders in the ID/creationist community now that scientists won’t debate them but focus on educating the public instead.

    I too once felt some empathy for the early “scientific” creationists, believing that they were sincere but misguided.  Neither I nor most members of the science community understood the socio/political tactics the creationists were using back then.  The resulting blitz of bills promoting creation science – and, later, intelligent design – was due to a shrewd marketing campaign on the part of outfits like ICR, the DI, and AiG. The political grass roots became dead certain that their leaders were onto something that would allow their religion to be taught in the public schools.

    Don’t be naive about ID/creationists; they will stick it to you every time.  I have seen it happen to others many, many times over the years.  They want your sympathy.

    Your responsibilities are toward your students, your profession, and to the public if you receive public funds.  It is not to the ID/creationists.  Beware of allowing any of them a free ride on your back or because of something you are willing to engage them in.  It will eat up time and emotion and it will not help your career; but it will, however, help them. Learn from their misconceptions and misrepresentations and become a better teacher and researcher as a result.

    If you want to continue to engage them directly and provide opportunities for them to appear legitimate, you do so at your own peril. 

  8. I will also add that, as you well know, most of the mathematical issues are dealt with in physics and math courses.  But they are not anything that will be of interest to the general public or to students who are just starting out.

    Every ID/creationist misconception and misrepresentation strikes directly at the most basic, elementary ideas in science.  Duane Gish was a master at insulting his opponents in a debate by putting up a glaring misrepresentation of a basic concept and getting his audience to laugh at the scientist.

    ID/creationists are aiming at the general public and at the students.  You should never let them take you to an advanced level.  It is your ego they are playing on when they taunt you to do that.  Rip their basic understanding apart if you must, but don’t prolong the agony for your students or for the public.

    I got some very good advice from good friends back in the 1970s; dump as much of the math as you can, and learn to articulate concepts in a way that makes it interesting to the public and your colleagues as well.  And, by the way, much of that advice came from Victor Weisskopf who was a master at explaining complex ideas to the public.  He rarely used anything more than simple arithmetic and occasionally some algebra.

  9. Most creationists are perfectly sincere, honorable intelligent people. How can I possibly say that?  Because they constitute about 45% of the U.S. population, and no, most of those folks are not idiots or liars.  They really believe what they say.

    But if by “creationists” you mean professional debaters, well that is a different story entirely.  Stories abound of debaters who admitted in conversation after the debate that OK, they must have that Second Law argument wrong — and then used that argument all over again on the next stop of their speaking tour.

    And what of the creationists and ID advocates who debate here?  I would say most of those are sincerely deluded and are fooling themselves.  We are seeing more and more of them who have some scientific or technical training.  It is to expose their arguments to careful dissection that this forum exists.

    But let’s be careful about the saying “creationists are liars”.  There is nothing the professional debaters love to do more than to run off to the 45% and say “these Darwinists think you are all idiots and liars”.  That is a big win for them.    

  10. Joe F,

    Evos are the liars and deceivers- you can’t produce a testable hypothesis nor positive evidence for your position. 

  11. —But let’s be careful about the saying “creationists are liars”. There is nothing the professional debaters love to do more than to run off to the 45% and say “these Darwinists think you are all idiots and liars”. That is a big win for them. —  

    Especially when they know perfectly well that’s not true. Just as perfectly well as they know everything else they say is not true. The facts are easy to find, their falsehoods have become PRATTs – points refuted a thousand times.

    Sure, there’s 45% of the population who believe what they prefer because they sincerely don’t know any better. And until they have been well informed, they have no reason to change their minds. But how many of them WOULD change their minds if they knew better, and how many would simply keep repeating what they now knew to be falsehoods? Lying isn’t merely saying something false, it is knowingly saying somethng false.

    I’ve met well educated, highly competent engineers whose knowledge of many things is quite extensive. And when evolution comes up, they just say “The science is all wrong. I don’t believe that stuff.” Is this dishonesty? Delusion? They KNOW the facts. Maybe it’s just the brain on religion.  
       

  12. Yes, we know the facts and the facts do not support evolutionism.

    As a matter of fact the only people who accept evolutionism are the people who do not know any better. 

  13. Joe Felsenstein wrote:

    But let’s be careful about the saying “creationists are liars”.  There is nothing the professional debaters love to do more than to run off to the 45% and say “these Darwinists think you are all idiots and liars”.  That is a big win for them.

    Joe, I am not sure that anyone expressed such a sentiment in this thread, certainly not me. I have searched for the words liar and lying on the last two pages of comments and your post was the first one in which they appeared.

    We should certainly not call anyone a liar without ample evidence of intent to deceive. It was not my goal to paint creationists with a broad brush in this thread anyway. The goal explicitly stated in the OP (of this thread and of its predecessor) is to discuss technical merits of Sewell’s paper. I have been pretty clear that motive mongering is not encouraged. Commentators more or less stuck to constructive critique, more or less. (Mike Elzinga, I am looking at you.)

    The other side? See the comment from Joe G above.

  14. I used to debate evolution on a conservative political forum. One of the pro-evolution posters was a computer science type. Not a teacher, but someone rather well versed in the actual production of commercial websites.

    His take was that anti-evolutionists are neither dishonest nor stupid, but simply unable to grasp the concept of a dynamic system. He asserted that most engineers are trained in static systems, and such systems are designed to be fragile.

    The standard joke is that anyone can design a bridge that will stand up, but it takes an engineer to design a bridge that will just barely stand up. 

    Such designs cannot tolerate errors or untested changes to specifications. Computer software, for the most part, falls into this bucket. 

    Because all their experience is with systems that cannot tolerate  variation, they cannot envision one that can.

  15. “Designed to be fragile” is a bit harsh. Engineers design for practical optimal solutions, and affordability. The comparable joke is that the optimist says the glass is half full, the pessimist says the glass is half empty, and the engineer says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be. Redundency is waste, but single points of failure are to be avoided also.

    Personally, I don’t see any good reason why those unable to grasp dynamic systems just all happen to share the same religious views. In my mind, there’s little question these people start with their non-negotiable religious convictions, and bring whatever tools they have at hand to bear on the task of rationalizing those convictions. The common denominator isn’t an engineering or mathematical or medical or historical (or whatever) bias, but rather an inability to overcome very early religious training.

    Remember, it’s a religious order that supposedly says “Give me the child for seven years, and I will give you the man.”

  16. I think this thread is seriously veering off its intended course, viz. a technical discussion of Sewell’s work.

  17. Hey oleg-

    Why don’t you attempt a technical discussion pertaining to materialism and evolutionism?

    I say it is because you evos are too cowardly to do so.    

  18. That’s precisely what is happening here, Joe. A technical discussion of Granville Sewell’s paper, which implies that evolution violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics. We have analyzed his arguments and pointed out technical flaws as well as a simple equivocation used by Sewell to reach his conclusions. Sewell is certainly aware of the ongoing discussion, but so far he has not responded.

    If you have something to say on the technical merits, say it. I am asking Elizabeth to move any future taunts and insults from you straight to Guano.

  19. Taunts and insults may be off topic, along with discussions about other people’s sincerity, but I think it is reasonable to ask why some people are unable to grasp a concept that seems within the reach of their training and ability.

    I think it’s a bit like one of those optical illusions that can be seen as one of two distinct images. With some of them I fine it enormously difficult to switch frames of reference. 

  20. Let’s say that early on, you developed a mental model of your world that is wildly wrong in some areas. But those areas weren’t challenged within your local environment until they had “set up” into neural pathways no longer subject to much change. Kind of like neck-stretching or foot-binding as infants – when you’re old enough to decide you don’t like it, it’s too late.

    And gradually you encounter things that flat don’t fit anywhere in your model, and the model can’t be changed. So the data must be force-fit, whatever it takes, so that it “makes sense” within the only context you have. Eventually your model looks like the old geocentric model of the solar system, with lots of complex epicycles, plenty of special pleading, no general physical principles because the model doesn’t allow them.

    It’s been said that some scientific theories are discarded not because evidence overthrows them directly, but because their adherents die off and are not replaced. Being wrong is no reason to change a model that disallows being wrong. 

  21. This thread has a narrow focus: a technical discussion of Sewell’s arguments against evolution. It is not the goal of this thread to provide evidence for evolution. Elizabeth has stressed this point in one of her comments:

    (Remember – I am not here arguing that evolution is probable – I’m merely demonstrating that Sewell’s argument that it cannot have happened because it would violate the 2nd Law is clearly false, because exactly the same argument tells us that “oaks grow from acorns” is also false.)

    Sewell made a positive claim that evolution is impossible unless someone imports order to the Earth. We have shown here that his claim is unfounded because his reasoning contains errors. Thus the 2nd law of thermodynamics does not prohibit evolution in the absence of a designer’s input.

    If you have something to say on this specific subject (e.g., defend Sewell), you are welcome to do so. If you are looking for positive evidence for evolution, you are in the wrong place.

  22. oleg-

    Thank you for making my point- also Sewell argues against evolutionism.

    And yes, I know asking evos to actually support their position is the wrong question for any place.

         

  23. In my above comments I was referring explicitly to those ID/creationists and other crackpots who dog scientists and attempt to provoke debates and generate misconceptions and misinformation about science; I was NOT talking about the audiences made up of students and the general public.

    Those ID/creationists who generate this crap worked hard to do what they do.  They trained for confrontational debate; they practiced hard.   They developed subtle techniques to provoke their opponents into anger, they made provocative slide and overhead presentations (today it is PowerPoint), and they developed the Gish Gallop in order to prevent reflection on what they were dispensing.

    I have watched the process of training, and I have read their instructions to each other.  They practice in front of each other and discuss the finer points of provocation and audience reactions.  You can see many examples of this in the videos over on AiG.

    Most scientists are not prepared for this kind of public confrontation; and they don’t usually think about their audience in the way that the ID/creationists and political demagogues do.  Most of the members of the science community who have been lured into debates in the past – before they figured out the socio/political tactics of the ID/creationists – could be easily lured into putting on a dazzling display of their technical prowess, and then be made to look like cocky fools. And that is exactly the wrong thing to do. 

    There are only a very few scientists – like Ken Miller – who have had the talent and ability to talk directly to the public in a public debate with these kinds of characters.  And Ken prepared by studying his opponents and their tactics; not by jacking up the technical level of discussion.

    One needs to consider the audiences and general public as they would their students or how they would treat a person asking for directions, and not as someone to be manipulated to a point of view.

    Once the science community got wise to the debating taunts, they stopped taking the bait and got better at educating the public.  However the provocations continue with things like this stupid second law shtick.  But now the ID/creationists want the debate to take place at a “high technical level” in journals.

    Sewell’s second law paper is as goofy as Duane Gish’s pictures of things like crocoducks catdogs, and dog fish.  It is a caricature of science designed to provoke.  The fact that Sewell keeps kvetching about it over on UD is pretty strong evidence that he wants the attention in order to make the second law “controversial” in the journals.

    Be careful about responding in a way that can be spun as making Sewell’s paper a legitimate work of science.

    This technical discussion is on this thread is excellent, but goes far, far beyond what one needs to do for beginning students and the general public.  Most physicists would look at Sewell’s paper and recognize instantly what is wrong with it at many levels.  These levels of discussion are what instructors discuss among themselves when working through the history of the subject as well as how to develop the best pedagogical techniques for getting the subject across to their students. 

    But the levels that are important for beginning students and the public (the very people the ID/creationists are trying to sway) are those that one would teach beginning students about matter and energy and checking units.

  24. I would like to emphasize, mostly for the anti-evo hangerons, that neither Sewell’s 2LoT argument, nor our criticism of it, has anything really to do with evolution specifically.  Sewell has claimed, over and over, in multiple venues, that “we have to conclude that the second law has in fact been violated here” (“here” being the planet Earth).  Similarly — “the increase of order observed on the Earth . . . violates the laws of probability and the second law of thermodynamics in a spectacular fashion”.  Sewell is not just saying that evolution cannot produce the “order” we see — he’s saying no physical process whatsoever can without violating the 2LoT.  Sewell thinks that every time we build a spaceship, or a computer, or a television set, we violate the 2LoT.  

    And our criticism has nothing to do with evolution.  All of evolutionary theory could be completely false, and Sewell’s argument would be just as wrong.  
     

  25. ID is not anti-evolution and even YEC accepts a change in allele frequency over time, ie evolution.

    So who are you referring to with  anti-evo hangerons   ?

  26. When one counterargues that humans and their brains are material and thus what they do doesn’t and can’t violate the Second Law, one finds these folks arguing that humans and their brains aren’t material entities and thus what they do can violate the Second Law.  I was taken aback the first time I saw that argument used.   It is of a piece with Denyse O’Leary’s argument that human minds aren’t just in their brains but are really Somewhere Else.

    (Which makes me wonder whether, if you bump your head into the kitchen cabinet and fall down unconscious, does your mind off Somewhere Else also become unconscious?)

    Anyway, I think Sewell considers that all activities resulting from human thought can violate the Second Law.  How about chimpanzee thought?  I suspect that these folks have religious reasons for assuming that chimp minds are just in their brains and not Somewhere Else.  And thus that chimps can’t violate the Second Law.

    Following their logic takes one on a bizarre journey to cloud-cuckoo-land.

  27. So is that the actual point of Sewell’s stuff?  That human intelligence can violate the 2LoT?  If so, that’s just crazy.  The second law was largely developed in an effort to find the limits on what humans can create (namely, thermo showed that steam engineers cannot, as a law of nature, make perpetual motion machines).  If Sewell were right that minds can violate the second law (and do all the time when we make things like airplanes), then we should have no problem solving the worlds energy needs — we just need to tell the engineers to quit making inefficient engines and make perpetual motion machines.  

  28. I think the point he wants made is that since living organisms must (according to him) be also violating the Second Law, some Designer has been at work.  Everywhere and at all times, I guess.  But you are right, his work is a challenge to us all to make a working Perpetual Motion machine.

  29. Some of the people who once dogged me were connected in some way with Joe Newman and his energy machine.  They had either bought a franchise from Newman or were helping him develop his battery powered car. I never met Newman himself.  The car was alleged to have efficiency greater than 100%.

     

    They seemed to want me to observe a demonstration and give them some kind of endorsement in exchange for some “free demonstrations” of huge Tesla coils for use in physics courses.  It was hard to get rid of them.

  30. I would like to emphasize, mostly for the anti-evo hangerons, that neither Sewell’s 2LoT argument, nor our criticism of it, has anything really to do with evolution specifically.

    It seems to have a lot to do with ongoing confusion about the relationship of entropy to order, information and complexity. If one reduces evolution to its chemical fundamentals, there is not much more going on than DNA copying among survivors, which is a perfectly respectable, thermodynamically-permitted process. Indeed, that connection is deep, because ATP, which transports energy to sites of action, is itself an RNA and (with slight modification) DNA base – plugging activated xTP onto a nucleic acid strand is energised by the cleavage of the diphosphate. And, to me, it all stems from that. If there is a process (and there are several) whereby bits of DNA from one place become duplicated and inserted elsewhere, then there is a means by which X amount of whatever metric you care to pose (‘complexity’, ‘information’, ‘order’) can be modified to give X+x – all fuelled by the energy in xTP. It does not need to happen every time, or at all, but whenever it does, the energy form is exactly the same as that involved in every Life process: xTP, which in turn derives its energy, by non-2LoT-violating gradient coupling, ultimately from plants and other autotrophs. 

  31. Joe

    ATP synthase is evidence for ID, Allan.

    The existence of something is not evidence for its cause.

    IC (even if it exists in nature) is not evidence that the 2LoT can be violated.

  32. Anything that has/ had a beginning requires a cause. And the evidence says the cause of ATP synthase was design- intentional design.

    That the 2nd LoT even exists is evidence for ID, Allan. 

  33. dtheobald on May 8, 2012 at 8:22 pmsaid:

    So is that the actual point of Sewell’s stuff?  That human intelligence can violate the 2LoT?  If so, that’s just crazy.  The second law was largely developed in an effort to find the limits on what humans can create (namely, thermo showed that steam engineers cannot, as a law of nature, make perpetual motion machines).  If Sewell were right that minds can violate the second law (and do all the time when we make things like airplanes), then we should have no problem solving the worlds energy needs — we just need to tell the engineers to quit making inefficient engines and make perpetual motion machines.  

    This was my email to Dr Sewell:

    Dear Dr Sewell

    On my blog site, The Skeptical Zone (which is really more of a discussion forum), there have been several threads concerning your argument that evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

    While most of the posters at TSZ are non-IDists, my motivation for starting the site was to provide a forum in which people from very different points of view could exchange views as respectfully as possible – hence the strapline of the blog!  There are people from various backgrounds there, including some physicists, mathematicians and biologists.  I myself am a cognitive neuroscientist.

    The relevant threads are these (in chronological order):

    2LoT trouble
    Does intelligence violate the 2LoT?
    A Second Look at the Second Law…

    We would be delighted if you would drop by and comment, and, in particularly, address a question we have for you, namely: is it your contention that intelligent processes (e.g. human intelligence) violate the Second Law?  That is how I understood one of your posts at Uncommon Descent, and would be grateful for clarification, either on my site, or by email.

    Thanks!

    He politely declined, and did not address my question.

    It seems strongly implied though.

  34. Perhaps Joe could ask at UD on your behalf if intelligent processes violate the second law? 

    It might be a good education for him in the incoherency of ID. That is if anybody dares answer the question. 

  35. OMTWO on May 11, 2012 at 3:40 pm said:

    Perhaps Joe could ask at UD on your behalf if intelligent processes violate the second law? 

    It might be a good education for him in the incoherency of ID. That is if anybody dares answer the question. 

    Bruce David said yes.  Granville Sewell sort of avoided it.

  36. I’m not surprised. But Granville knows that what little credibility he has would be wiped out were he to say that rather then just strongly imply it.

    Yet it appears fundamental to his argument. 
     
    Also interesting that no ID supporters appear to want to dig into this, if true it does kinda revolutionise our understanding of energy etc. 

    But I guess they simply don’t want that Nobel! 

  37. Joe Anything that has/ had a beginning requires a cause. And the evidence says the cause of ATP synthase was design- intentional design.

    You’re just making exactly the same point with a few unnecessary extra words! And my response is, again: the existence of something is not evidence for its cause. 

    That the 2nd LoT even exists is evidence for ID, Allan. 

    And again – see above.

    Every last ickle quark, every conceivable arrangement of matter, every interaction past present and future – all evidence for ID: Occam’s Blunt Instrument. I get it.

     

  38. However, when the aeronautical engineer produces the astronomically improbable arrangement of materials into a craft that can and does fly through the air, there is no natural law that explains how the Second Law could have been superseded to bring that craft into being.

    It’s a little sad really.

  39. Elizabeth wrote:

    Here

    That part of that discussion at UD I had not noticed.  Thanks for the link.  Sewell and Bruce David are very clear there that they think “intelligence” violates the Second Law.  I wonder whether they include the intelligence of, say, chimpanzees?  Mice?

  40. One more time- they are equating entropy with order/ disorder. In that sense agencies can create order from disorder and thus apparently violate the 2nd law.

  41. OMTWO on May 11, 2012 at 3:52 pmsaid:

    However, when the aeronautical engineer produces the astronomically improbable arrangement of materials into a craft that can and does fly through the air, there is no natural law that explains how the Second Law could have been superseded to bring that craft into being.

    It’s a little sad really.

    Well, Bruce has the courage to say it explicitly, presumably because he thinks it makes sense.  I can’t help suspecting that Sewell knows there’s a body buried in there.

  42. One more time- they are equating entropy with order/ disorder. In that sense agencies can create order from disorder and thus apparently violate the 2nd law.

     

    Yes, I know they are, Joe.  But that’s a mistake.  You can’t just substitute one thing for another into a law and expect it still to hold.  It would be like claiming that V =IR, even when V stands for Velociraptors.

  43. Everything about ATP synthase points to design, Allan.

    Nothing about ATP synthase points to design, Joe.

    And no, not everything is evidence for ID.

    OK, I’ll start the bidding at nothing.

    The post to which you responded was, incidentally, about ATP, not ATP synthase. That ATP is made by ATP synthase now does not force us to conclude that ATP cannot possibly be produced without ATP synthase – a protein complex, synthesised via tRNA, mRNA and rRNA, which all contain ATP. At some point prior to the first working heritable ATP synthase, some mechanism must have existed that allowed RNA to be synthesised from non-synthase-derived ATP. Saying “therefore that mechanism was ID” simply puts a mind in for no apparent purpose, to do something that intelligence does not appear to have the power to achieve. ID is simply a non-answer to every interesting question.

  44. That series of comments by Bruce David, eric, Sewell, and others contains many of the misconceptions and conflations I have seen with ID/creationists for the last 4 decades.  I have studied the persistence of ID/creationism’s misconceptions about the second law; and it always comes down to the fact that ID/creationists simply do not understand all the basic physics that must precede a discussion of the second law.

     

    Most crucially, they don’t understand the concept of condensed matter, why it condenses, and more importantly, the magnitudes of the electromagnetic and quantum mechanical interactions down at the atomic and molecular levels.  Whenever you see Sewell or any other IC/creationist making use of cards or inert macroscopic objects to illustrate probabilities of various arrangements made by random processes, you are observing their complete lack of comprehension of just how strong atomic and molecular interactions are relative to the gravitational interactions at those levels.

     

    Even if you can find an ID/creationist that can do a calculation using one of the mathematical expressions for entropy, you find they always want to conflate entropy with disorder or with decreasing information, even though there is absolutely nothing about any of the calculations that says anything about order.  They point to death and decay and assert that this is a manifestation of entropy. It is a grotesque misuse of the word.

     

    They revert to word-games in order to preserve their misconceptions in the light of the occasional small glimmers they pick up from criticisms of their claims.  And no matter how directly a quantitative illustration refutes their misconceptions, they instantly revert to using entropy as disorder.  They simply reword their argument.  In that comment number 14, Sewell claims that he tries to say “it violates the underlying principle behind the second law.”

     

    This simply illustrates that he doesn’t understand the second law at all.  In fact, he is missing most of physics and chemistry; and that is something that has been an obvious characteristic among ID/creationists since at least Henry Morris and Duane Gish.

     

    Misconceptions happen all the time in the processes of learning; and most of the professional organizations connected with the teaching of mathematics and the sciences have been cataloguing and analyzing these for a very long time.  Most of these professional organizations now have entire subsections devoted to studying these, analyzing their sources, and finding pedagogical techniques for addressing them.

     

    Unfortunately the misconceptions within ID/creationism have become institutionalized and ossified into political talking points directed at grass roots activists who want to change the rules and the laws. Any serious effort to correct these misconceptions and misrepresentations is not likely to happen within that socio/political context.

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