# Max’s Demon, a Design Detection Riddle

Suppose Max comes to you with a sealed but clear container consisting of two separate chambers with two visible certified thermometers mounted on the sides of the two chambers. Thermometer one reads 100 degrees and Thermometer 2 reads 10 degrees. Max tells you that the temperature differential you see is the result of tiny invisible demon that controls a microscopic door between the two chambers. As individual gas molecules approach the door, the demon quickly opens and shuts the door so that only fast molecules are passed into chamber one, while only slow molecules are passed into chamber two.

Your mission if you choose to accept it is to devise a way to objectively verify the demon’s design influence on the contents of the container?

As always when it comes to riddles like this there are few ground rules.

1) you may examine the container and it’s contents in any way you like as long as you don’t violate it’s physical integrity because that will let the demon escape and ruin the closed nature of the system.

2) The demon is invisible so efforts to view him directly won’t work

3) You may examine the thermometers to verify that they are functioning correctly or replace them with ones of your choosing if you like.

I don’t want to spoil the fun by sharing my proposed method for detecting the demon’s design until I hear some of your ideas.

What do you say is objective design detection possible in this case?

peace

## 227 thoughts on “Max’s Demon, a Design Detection Riddle”

1. Is it just me, or is it a wee bit strange to take a thought experiment in which the demon is not real, and to turn it into thought experiment in which the problem is to verify that the demon is real?

2. Tom English: Is it just me, or is it a wee bit strange to take a thought experiment in which the demon is not real, and to turn it into thought experiment in which the problem is to verify that the demon is real?

1) Who said the demon is not real in the original experment?
2) The purpose of the thought experment is not to verify that the demon is real but to verify that her design choices affect the environment inside the container.

peace

3. ppnl: No, defining design in terms of choice or free will simply repeats the problem. I don’t know what “free will” or “choice” is.

That is a problem because the foundation of Darwinism is something called natural selection.

“Selection” is a direct synonym for “choice” in the riddle and “natural” is a direct antonym for what I’m calling “personal”.

If my terms are not defined well enough to be scientifically useful then Darwin’s aren’t either. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to go down that road

peace

4. fifthmonarchyman: 1) Who said the demon is not real in the original experment?

As I recall, the reason to refer to Maxwell’s door operator as a demon is that the possible existence of such an entity is in question. If there does exist such an entity in physical reality, then it’s a mechanism, not a demon. You are positing the existence of a nonmechanistic and inherently unobservable entity producing observable effects. Rather than ask for falsification of the premise, you call for verification. It’s a cute little trap, and I suppose that you will get some folks to stick their fingers into it.

2) The purpose of the thought experment is not to verify that the demon is real but to verify that her design choices affect the environment inside the container.

That’s a distinction without a difference, if ever there were one.

5. fifthmonarchyman: Selection” is a direct synonym for “choice” in the riddle and “natural” is a direct antonym for what I’m calling “personal”.

If choice is determined by one’s nature , either erosion or human seems to be natural. Why would personal decisions be unnatural, contrary to nature?

What is the difference from humans causing the extinction of a species and a meteor?

6. newton: If choice is determined by one’s nature , either erosion or human seems to be natural. Why would personal decisions be unnatural, contrary to nature?

Choices are not contrary to “one’s” individual nature.

The contrast here is between one’s individual personal nature and universal impersonal nature.

peace

7. Tom English: That’s a distinction without a difference, if ever there were one.

I don’t think so, if you can’t demonstrate that the Demon is designing the environment of the container it in no way means that the demon does not exist it just means you can’t demonstrate she is designing the environment in the container.

Perhaps she is doing something else or maybe her designing activities are beyond our capacity to grasp.

peace

8. newton: What is the difference from humans causing the extinction of a species and a meteor?

The species is extinct regardless, however.

The point of the riddle is to see if there is any detectable difference between those two things. I think perhaps there is

peace

9. fifthmonarchyman: We don’t know. We don’t even know if she does eat. It could be that she feeds on the confusion and muddleheadedness

Well, if you make up a magical explanation, then anything is possible. But assuming the laws of thermodynamics apply, then it takes energy to open and close the door, and it takes energy to make decisions. We presume the energy of the system is stable, so that would imply a gradient of some sort, such as gravity.

10. fifthmonarchyman: I don’t think so, if you can’t demonstrate that the Demon is designing the environment of the container it in no way means that the demon does not exist it just meansyou can’t demonstrate she is designing the environment in the container.

Perhaps she is doing something else or maybe her designing activities are beyond our capacity to grasp.

peace

I don’t want to get into this, so I’ll just say that this seems a bit cheaty to me. You’ve got a “demon” rather than a mechanism, and you’re looking for “choices” but you insist that “everybody” can agree that there are choices! (After all, you tell us, one might be a hard determinist and still concede there are choices!) So does design require more than just ANY kind of “choice” then? Do we have a demon if there’s just some deterministic mechanism operating that we can’t find or haven’t yet found? What makes an undetected mechanism a demon if a demon could be a demon and have its every activity be strictly determined by the laws of nature?

As ppnl (and, I think dazz) said–and as you have been told countless times over the past five years in thread after thread after thread, it’s important to define your terms so that people can know what the hell you’re talking about. Your arguments (or non-arguments, as you sometimes like to describe them) nearly always depend on the sort of equivocation that can arise when one is, as you are, so determined NOT to say what the hell you mean by any term before getting off to the races.

ETA: Welcome ppnl; you’ll be so sorry you came before you know it.

11. In addition to being invisible, the demon is pink.
There’s no design, nor choice, going on here: the temperature difference is a simple consequence of the direction in which the demon’s alicorn is pointing.
Sheesh!

12. fifthmonarchyman: I don’t think so, if you can’t demonstrate that the Demon is designing the environment of the container it in no way means that the demon does not exist it just meansyou can’t demonstrate she is designing the environment in the container.

Or that she exists or can choose or design. We only have Max’s speculation which might be testable. Such as a demon can be restricted by a container of a certain material.

Perhaps she is doing something else or maybe her designing activities are beyond our capacity to grasp.

Perhaps.

peace

13. walto: ETA: Welcome ppnl; you’ll be so sorry you came before you know it.

Didn’t the mid-terms cheer you up even a little bit? 🙂

14. newton: Not if you make it a drinking game.

There is no theory of evolution! Cheers!

Fitness is whatever survives! Hic!

We don’t know what a schpeshies ish!

15. Zachriel: But assuming the laws of thermodynamics apply, then it takes energy to open and close the door, and it takes energy to make decisions. We presume the energy of the system is stable, so that would imply a gradient of some sort, such as gravity.

You can presume what ever you want. The question is what can you demonstrate.

I don’t want to go down too much of a rabbit hole with you on this one because this entire line of thinking is completely irrelevant to the riddle in my opinion.

If you can determine exactly what the demons energy consumption is with out violating the integrity of the container then more power to you. We don’t know going in

I hope you will explain why knowing that piece of information is necessary for design detection.

Otherwise I’m simply not all that interested in the culinary habits of this particular poltergeist .

peace

16. Allan Miller: There is no theory of evolution! Cheers!

Fitness is whatever survives! Hic!

We don’t know what a schpeshies ish!

You double up with any mention of quantum.

17. walto: So does design require more than just ANY kind of “choice” then?

I could be wrong but I don’t think so. It’s my tentative opinion that any choice will do

walto: Do we have a demon if there’s just some deterministic mechanism operating that we can’t find or haven’t yet found?

If you are a hard determinist then yes there is still a demon.

Unless you deny all individual personality whatsoever and posit that we live in a philosophical zombie universe.

In that case we would simply modify the criteria to “apparent” choice and the definition still works.

walto: What makes an undetected mechanism a demon if a demon could be a demon and have its every activity be strictly determined by the laws of nature?

individual personality

walto: it’s important to define your terms so that people can know what the hell you’re talking about.

My “terms” in this case are simply the opposite of Darwin’s concept of natural selection. If you don’t understand my terms then you don’t understand his.

I chose them very carefully for just that reason

It’s really that simple

I understand the temptation to try and get into a semantic jousting match here. The problem is that a wily wordsmith can argue endlessly on something as obvious as what the exact meaning of the word “is” is. Just ask Bill Clinton.

walto: Your arguments (or non-arguments, as you sometimes like to describe them) nearly always depend on the sort of equivocation that can arise when one is, as you are, so determined NOT to say what the hell you mean by any term before getting off to the races.

This is a riddle. Not a deep philosophical argument.

I’m just curious to see if you all will say that it’s impossible to detect design in the context of the situation I laid out. And if you think it’s possible I’d like to know how you might go about doing it

I like the riddle precisely because it lets us knock the very interesting idea of design around in a manner that is not tainted with theological arguments about God’s existence or the problem of evil or philosophical arguments about free will or political arguments about how hypocritical and intolerant Christians are.

peace

18. newton: You double up with any mention of quantum.

I appreciate the humor.
But could we try and dial the mockery down a little in this one thread. I don’t think it’s particularly conducive to open and fruitful discussion about design detection and I’d really like to give that a try

peace

19. fifthmonarchyman: You can presume what ever you want.

It’s your scenario. This is something we can observe. So is the energy of the system stable? If the temperatures in both chambers remain the same without loss, then there is no demon, as any “real” demon would require energy to do work on the system. It’s more likely some sort of gradient, and the system is in equilibrium on the gradient. For instance, air temperature in a column of air doesn’t require demons to maintain a temperature differential, but the simple result of gravity and pressure.

If the demon is unbound by the laws of physics, then it’s a meaningless scenario because anything may occur. The chamber may spit out unicorns at aperiodic intervals, or whatever.

20. Zachriel: If the temperatures in both chambers remain the same without loss, then there is no demon, as any “real” demon would require energy to do work on the system.

Again the demon’s existence is not at issue. You are assuming that immaterial beings are impossible. For the purposes of this riddle …….I don’t care

The demon could have chosen to facilitate the temperature difference when the container was fashioned and slipped out or died long ago. We just don’t know.

We are interested in if the temperature difference we see is the result of a design choice or not that is all.

Zachriel: If the demon is unbound by the laws of physics

Again we know nothing at all about the demon except that Max claims that she is causing the temperature difference in the container and he believes it’s through the use of a tiny door.

You can assume she is magic if you are so inclined or you can assume that magic is impossible and she is just a little smaller than your microscope can perceive at present, it does not matter.

You can spend lots of time trying to prove it one way or the other……………For the purpose of this riddle I just don’t care.

I’m only interested to know if you can detect her design influences on the container. And how you would do it.

peace

21. Zachriel: It’s more likely some sort of gradient, and the system is in equilibrium on the gradient. For instance, air temperature in a column of air doesn’t require demons to maintain a temperature differential, but the simple result of gravity and pressure.

Ok how would you determine that it’s a “gradient” rather than a demon with out violating the integrity of the container.

Is looking for an explanation that you consider to be more likely the way that you would verify Max’s impression of design?

peace

22. fifthmonarchyman: The demon could have chosen to facilitate the temperature difference when the container was fashioned and slipped out or died long ago.

The original scenario was in the present tense, with the demon maintaining what appears on the surface to be a disequilibrium. Without that, we would expect the temperature differential between the two sides and with the outside to decrease over time.

fifthmonarchyman: We are interested in if the temperature difference we see is the result of a design choice or not that is all.

There is no way to know based on the evidence. As the container and thermometers are artificial, there is no reason to suppose it is anything more than a divided thermos with chicken soup on one side and iced tea on the other.

fifthmonarchyman: Ok how would you determine that it’s a “gradient” rather than a demon with out violating the integrity of the container.

We could look for a field, such as a gravitational or electromagnetic field, either of which would extend beyond the container.

23. newton: Allan Miller: There is no theory of evolution! Cheers!

Fitness is whatever survives! Hic!

We don’t know what a schpeshies ish!

You double up with any mention of quantum.

If you guys keep this up, I think I will be requesting a like button at some point.

24. Zachriel: Without that, we would expect the temperature differential between the two sides and with the outside to decrease over time.

Unless the demon has a constructed a contraption to do the work for her like the heat pump/battery that was discussed earlier.

Did you miss that? It was right there and easy to see.

Honestly sometimes I feel like you try to make things difficult here for some reason.

Zachriel: There is no way to know based on the evidence.

Finally!!! a strait answer. Thank you. There is no need for you to comment further here. Have a good day and please try and leave the some room for those who would give it a try.

Zachriel: there is no reason to suppose it is anything more than a divided thermos with chicken soup on one side and iced tea on the other.

I would think a few hours in a microwave followed by some weeks with the container at absolute zero would lay that hypotheses to rest.

Zachriel: We could look for a field, such as a gravitational or electromagnetic field, either of which would extend beyond the container.

We could. Is that what you would do to detect design?

What if you could find no observable evidence of such field that is accessible to the instruments you have right now? Would you conclude that there was no way to tell if the temperature difference was the result of design?

peace

25. fifthmonarchyman: I like the riddle precisely because it lets us knock the very interesting idea of design around in a manner that is not tainted with theological arguments about God’s existence or the problem of evil or philosophical arguments about free will or political arguments about how hypocritical and intolerant Christians are.

I fear that most TSZ residents were sharp enough to spot a metaphor here, so I doubt that it helped.

26. Corneel: I doubt that it helped.

I expect that you are right. It’s a pity.
Some folks would rather be sharp than anything else

peace

27. Zachriel: Well, if you make up a magical explanation, then anything is possible. But assuming the laws of thermodynamics apply, then it takes energy to open and close the door, and it takes energy to make decisions.

This isn’t quite right. In principle, most of the operations involved can (at least in principle) be done with arbitrarily small loss. There’s one exception, though: resetting the mechanism (door, or whatever) after blocking/letting through a molecule. The demon can detect an incoming molecule, decide whether the door should be open or closed, and put it in that state (provided it starts in a standard state) with arbitrarily small thermodynamic cost. But resetting the door to that standard state (or opening/closing it if it doesn’t start in a standard state), involves changing from a system that might be in either of two states (open or closed) to one that’s in a definite state, and if there’s no other change that means a decrease in the number of microstates (microscopically distinct states) the system might be in, and that means a decrease in entropy. That’s only allowed by the second law if it’s coupled to a corresponding increase an entropy , such as the conversion of free energy into heat.

Essentially, the entropy increase isn’t associated with deciding to open/close the door, or actually opening/closing the door, but with forgetting that decision afterward. And of course that entropy increase will be at least as large as the entropy decrease of the gas.

This analysis is primarily due to Rolf Landauer and Charles H. Bennett. As Bennett put it in “The thermodynamics of computation — a review”, International Journal of Theoretical Physics, v. 21 (1982), pp. 905-940:

It is often supposed that measurement (e.g. the measurement the demon must make to determine whether the molecule is approaching from the left or the right) is an unavoidably irreversible act, requiring an entropy generation of at least k ln 2 per bit of information obtained, and that this is what prevents the demon from violating the second law. In fact, as will be shown below, measurements of the sort required by Maxwell’s demon can be made reversibly, provided the measuring apparatus (e.g. the demon’s internal mechanism) is in a standard state before the measurement, so that measurement, like the copying of a bit onto a previously blank tape, does not overwrite the information previously stored there. Under these conditions, the essential irreversible act, which prevents the demon from violating the second law, is not the measurement itself but rather the subsequent restoration of the measuring apparatus to a standard state in preparation for the next measurement. This forgetting of a previous logical state, like the erasure or overwriting of a bit of intermediate data generated in the course of a computation, entails a many-to-one mapping of the demon’s physical state, which cannot be accomplished without a corresponding entropy increase elsewhere.

A post of mine in talk.origins back in 2000 covers this (and other aspects of the connection between information and thermodynamics) in more detail; it’s available here.

Zachriel:We presume the energy of the system is stable, so that would imply a gradient of some sort, such as gravity.

Actually, it’s possible without a gradient; there are any number of reasons a temperature difference might appear. What they’ll all depend on, though, is some sort of internal source of thermodynamic disequilibrium (free energy or similar). And they’ll all use that source up, and the effect will run down when it’s gone. Note that this applies whether there’s a demon involved or not. As far as the second law is concerned, the presence or absence of an intelligent demon is completely irrelevant.

BTW, there is one semi-exception to what I said above: if you have two objects with negative heat capacity, a temperature difference will tend appear spontaneously and increase without bound. If one’s even slightly warmer than the other, heat will flow from the warmer one to the cooler one as usual, but it’ll have the opposite of the usual effect: the warmer one will get even warmer, and the cooler one will get even cooler. The temperature difference gets more and more extreme over time.

Negative heat capacities are weird. But they do exist. The classic example is self-gravitating balls of gas, i.e. stars. Add heat to a star, and it expands and gets cooler. Remove heat, and it collapses and gets warmer. The heat released by fusion actually keeps stars cool.

28. fifthmonarchyman: Unless the demon has a constructed a contraption to do the work for her like the heat pump/battery that was discussed earlier.

Whether a demon or a heat pump, it requires a source of energy.

Gordon Davisson: There’s one exception, though: resetting the mechanism (door, or whatever) after blocking/letting through a molecule.

Sure. One-way action of the door can be “downhill”.

29. fifthmonarchyman: I appreciate the humor.

Really? I just get that feeling of not so much.

But could we try and dial the mockery down a little in this one thread.

I don’t think it’s particularly conducive to open and fruitful discussion about design detection and I’d really like to give that a try

As you wish. How is it going so far?

30. Zachriel: Whether a demon or a heat pump, it requires a source of energy.

Agreed, as long as we remember that a demon with the technology to sort and shuffle individual molecules probably is more than capable of sneaking energy in with it out being detectable by you. Or perhaps she has developed a way to harness the dark energy that is latent in empty space and has a supply to last till long after your gone.

So the demons food intake is still irrelevant to the riddle as far as I can tell.

peace

31. newton: As you wish. How is it going so far?

Pretty good, we have several folks that almost never participate here chiming in and I have discovered that you and I would begin the task of design detection in pretty much the same way.
That is better than 90 percent of the threads here.

I haven’t seen any serious objections to the definition of design I’m using so that is also a plus.

I’m still hoping for someone to actually take a gander at the challenge and detail what they would do to detect design.

peace

32. At this point It might be a good idea to ask.

How exactly do you distinguish between natural selection and personal choice?

I would think that anyone who accepts that natural selection plays a big part in evolution would be able to explain how we identify it.

peace

33. Corneel: If you guys keep this up, I think I will be requesting a like button at some point.

They’d rather you pick up the tab.

34. fifthmonarchyman: At this point It might be a good idea to ask.

How exactly do you distinguish between natural selection and personal choice?

I would think that anyone who accepts that natural selection plays a big part in evolution would be able to explain how we identify it.

peace

No, first you need to explain to us the distinction of subjective and intersubjective experience.

35. Tom English: first you need to explain to us the distinction of subjective and intersubjective experience.

1) Is there a distinction?
2) What does the supposed distinction have to do with the riddle?

I’d be happy to discuss “experience” with you if you can explain it’s relevance to the question at hand.

I hope we can agree that the “nature” referred to in natural selection has no experience whatsoever.

peace

36. Tom English: No, first you need to explain to us the distinction of subjective and intersubjective experience.

fifthmonarchyman: 1) Is there a distinction?

The distinction is manifest in what you are doing in the Zone.

fifthmonarchyman: 2) What does the supposed distinction have to do with the riddle?

Most people, making an honest attempt to answer the question, would see what it has to do with the riddle. I will understand if the prospect rouses a great, nameless fear within you.

37. fifthmonarchyman: Agreed, as long as we remember that a demon with the technology to sort and shuffle individual molecules probably is more than capable of sneaking energy in with it out being detectable by you.

Which brings us back to why, with this technology this advanced why sort molecules confined in a container. (Insert clever remark here). Why is it probable? We only think a demon exists due to Max’s hunch.

Perhaps a demon is more like bee or ant , running purely on instinct, collecting certain molecules

What we can pretty sure of is the box is designed ,clear rigid transparent material, thermometers installed to measure temperature, a spokesperson to focus the attention inside the box ,all very convenient, like one on those escape rooms, a creation of distraction.

Or perhaps she has developed a way to harness the dark energy that is latent in empty space and has a supply to last till long after your gone.

Or perhaps the simplest answer is the best, like the riddle of the man who each day crossed the border with a wheelbarrow, the border guards searched him and the wheelbarrow everyday to discover what he was smuggling, nothing was ever found…

Unfortunately to finish the riddle might be construed as a distraction, take my word, it makes my point beautifully.

38. Mung: I think I’ve seen versions that don’t.

An effective invisible heat pump that can indefinitely maintain those temperatures that doesn’t use energy?

A home size version would be swell.

39. fifthmonarchyman:
At this point It might be a good idea to ask.

How exactly do you distinguish between natural selection and personal choice?

I would think that anyone who accepts that natural selection plays a big part in evolution would be able to explain how we identify it.

peace

There are ways we can measure natural selection, for example if we can measure phenotypes, and/or identify genotypes, and evaluate whether individuals have survived and reproduced. These have nothing to do with whether the organism has made personal choices. Unless you call different phenotypes “personal choices”.

And whether or not we can measure it, a process can exist. I am pretty sure that there are a lot of places in my house where I could find Brownian Motion, for example, even though nowhere in my house is it being measured by anyone.

40. It’s a remarkable coincidence that the choices made by the ‘selection demon’, who controls every aspect of every organism’s life in order to generate a net excess or deficit for given alleles, are those that the environment would make if it were given the chance.

41. newton: Why is it probable? We only think a demon exists due to Max’s hunch.

I would say that if we discovered a sealed container where apparently the 2nd law was held in suspension we’d assume that something was up. The point of the riddle is to see if we can determine if that something is a person rather than not.

newton: Perhaps a demon is more like bee or ant , running purely on instinct, collecting certain molecules

Perhaps,

The question is is there any way to determine if a bee or ant or demon is running on instinct rather than actively choosing.

Can you tell if a human being is running purely on instinct for instance

newton: What we can pretty sure of is the box is designed

Why? Why not assume that Max and the makers of the container are operating purely on instinct like an ant?

Joe Felsenstein: There are ways we can measure natural selection, for example if we can measure phenotypes, and/or identify genotypes, and evaluate whether individuals have survived and reproduced. These have nothing to do with whether the organism has made personal choices.

Unless it’s not the organism that is making personal choices but a farmer who chooses what will survive and what will perish.

The question that the riddle is getting at is how do we determine it’s nature that is selecting and not some hidden farmer.

If Natural selection is to be a major part of evolution don’t you think we need to be able to make that distinction.

Joe Felsenstein: And whether or not we can measure it, a process can exist.

I completely agree. Instead of measuring natural selection right now I’m interested in how we objectively distinguish it from personal choice.

peace

42. Tom English: Most people, making an honest attempt to answer the question, would see what it has to do with the riddle. I will understand if the prospect rouses a great, nameless fear within you.

I really have no idea what you are talking about. Can you unpack what you are asking a little bit.

It seems to me that the difference between subjective and intersubjective experience is just the number of people involved. That has zero to do with the riddle that I can tell. unless I’m missing something.

peace

43. Allan Miller: It’s a remarkable coincidence that the choices made by the ‘selection demon’, who controls every aspect of every organism’s life in order to generate a net excess or deficit for given alleles, are those that the environment would make if it were given the chance.

If that was demonstrated to be the case I’d agree it’s quite a coincidence.

How do you know that all the selections made are exactly the same that impersonal “nature” would make? That question is relevant to the riddle.

peace

44. fifthmonarchyman: Agreed, as long as we remember that a demon with the technology to sort and shuffle individual molecules probably is more than capable of sneaking energy in with it out being detectable by you.

And unicorns. Don’t forget the unicorns.

45. fifthmonarchyman: If that was demonstrated to be the case I’d agree it’s quite a coincidence.

How do you know that all the selections made are exactly the same that impersonal “nature” would make? That question is relevant to the riddle.

If an allele is detrimental to possessors’ net survival and reproductive output, then that alone would tend to eliminate it from the population. Therefore, the ‘demon’ would be notable for its tendency to sustain detrimental alleles, against the attrition of the environment. If it chooses to actively sustain beneficial alleles, or eliminate detrimental ones, it does not really have to bother; it will happen anyway. A deliberately cryptic demon indistinguishable from selection has no choices; it is constrained … “what would Selection do? I’ll do that”.

This is somewhat the reverse of your scenario. This ‘demon’ is sampling the average velocity of atoms on either side and letting through an excess of those tending to equilibrate. But it does not really have to bother, nature will do it.

46. fifthmonarchyman: I would say that if we discovered a sealed container where apparently the 2nd law was held in suspension we’d assume that something was up. The point of the riddle is to see if we can determine if that something is a person rather than not.

It’s not a person, because people can’t violate the 2nd law. Nothing known can violate the 2nd law. If the key to your riddle is “apparently”, then there are all sorts of possible causes, depending on the sensitivity and length of observation. It could be a well-designed dual thermos with chicken soup on one side and iced tea on the other. It could be a bit of naturally occurring radioactive material on one side the container. It could be a magic trick.

47. Zachriel,
I agree.
Creationists often claim that only “intelligence” can “overcome” (or “violate”) the 2LoT.
Which is wrong, obviously.
It is our universal experience that all agents, intelligent or otherwise, obey the 2LoT. Including any Maxwellian Demon with finite memory.
So, if you’ve got a violation of 2LoT, then you are talking about MAGIC.
Here’s the fun thing about fifth’s riddle: once you have MAGIC, then your “design detection” paradigms are useless.
The magical heat pump may be the result of design, or it may be an unintended consequence of the actions of the Invisible Pink Unicorn.
Similarly, humanity might be the unintended consequence of the actions of some deity. How could one tell?