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The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

Facts concerning the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that "every time energy is converted from one form to another some is lost." This does not mean that this energy is destroyed as that would violate the first law. What is meant by "lost" is that some of the original energy has been converted into an unusable form. In the end this unusable form is heat energy. An automobile needs a radiator to eliminate the heat that is created during the combustion of fuel. (Of course in the cold of winter this heat may not be considered "unusable" by the passengers in the automobile.)

All living things radiate heat as part of life's processes. Whether it is man or machine as much as 75% of the energy used in an energy transformation is lost as unusable heat. All of the heat that is created during energy conversions eventually makes its way into outer-space. Scientists talk of the "heat death", or thermodynamic equilibrium, of the universe. This is thought to be when all of the energy in the universe becomes uniformly distributed. At this point all energy transformations, and therefore all life, will cease.

Another way of stating the second law is with the idea of entropy or disorder. Stated in this way the second law states that every time energy is converted from one form to another the entropy, or disorder, of the system increases. In common language this law states that everything in the universe is winding down or becoming less ordered.

There is a tremendous amount of mathematics and theoretical physics involved with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. All too often this "law" has been misconstrued by well-meaning individuals. Many Christians claim that evolution violates the second law and therefore evolution is not possible. Evolutionists will claim that evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics.

Observations on the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

The Second Law of Thermodynamics has absolutely nothing to do with evolution. Evolution may or may not violate the second law. So what would happen if evolution was indeed shown to violate the second law? It would simply mean that the second law of thermodynamics would need to be revised. The beauty of science lies in its ability to change course whenever the evidence demands it. The first law of thermodynamics was re-written in the 1930's as a result of the discovery of atomic energy. The second law may someday be re-written as well. It may state something like: "in all non-living systems everything tends toward a lower energy state or increased disorder". Do living things and/or evolution violate the second law? In the end it does not really make any difference. The second law of thermodynamics has absolutely no bearing on whether evolution is possible or not. And we always need to remember that scientific laws are developed by humans to describe how the universe operates - not dictate how it operates.

It is in fact impossible to determine whether a living cell, or the evolution of that cell, violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics or not. Scientists can calculate the changes in entropy (disorder) and enthalpy (heat) involved in many chemical processes. They do this in controlled lab environments using precise measurements of individual reactions. A living cell has thousands, if not millions, of chemical reactions taking place all at the same time. It is not physically possible to measure the enthalpy and entropy changes of every reaction that takes place within a living cell. It is therefore currently impossible to determine whether a living cell, or the evolution of that cell, violates the second law of thermodynamics.

The 2nd law is a universal statement and as such it cannot be proved. Does every chemical reaction result in a loss of energy or increasing disorder? In order to make this broad statement one would need to measure the enthalpy and entropy changes in every reaction that is taking place in the universe. This is not likely to happen any time soon. And, it is important to remember that the Second Law of Thermodynamics, just like the 1st Law, was developed in the 1800's in an attempt to explain the workings of the steam engine. It is a long way from steam engines to living cells. The Second Law of Thermodynamics may be universal in scope - but then again it may not.

Evolution may or may not violate the second law. But it does not take any type of scientific background or an advanced degree in mathematics to realize that non-living things tend toward a state of disorder. Whether we can mathematically make sense of it or not makes no difference. The evidence of increasing disorder in non-living systems is all around us. Rooms get dirty, dead bodies decay and buildings fall down. We continually witness the effects of this increasing disorder every day of our lives. The fact every non-living thing tends toward disorder is an ever-present fact of life.

And yet we see order all around us. We can calculate the orbits of the planets with great precision. Scientists are able to predict the outcome of various experiments. Living organisms can be categorized based upon observable traits. It is obvious that we live in a uniform and ordered world that is predictable in nature. So where does all of this order come from?

Scientific evidence indicates that order comes from disorder only when there is an input of energy in conjunction with a directional force. If energy is added to a system without a directional force there will usually be increased disorder. (An exception to this is the formation of crystals.) If you start a house on fire you will get increasing disorder. If you watch a tornado come through town you will see increasing disorder. A tsunami, a volcano or an earthquake will always increase disorder. It is obvious from everyday experience that adding energy without direction results in increasing disorder.

Only living things are able to create order out of disorder. Living organisms can do this because they use energy in conjunction with a directional force. This energy is used either to build things or to build themselves. The directional force organisms use to build things is intelligence or instinct. Humans can build bridges, buildings and spaceships using intelligence. Birds build nests using instinct. The directional force that living organisms use to build themselves is contained in their DNA or RNA. Cells produce proteins using the code contained in DNA/RNA. Non-living matter does not have any intelligence or instinct and it does not contain any DNA or RNA. Non-living matter therefore has no directional force. When non-living matter absorbs energy the Second Law of Thermodynamics is in full force and disorder will always increase.

Modern science claims that this universe, along with all of its well-ordered systems, somehow came about through a huge explosion of energy called the Big Bang. Just as in a tornado, earthquake or tsunami this claim of order coming from disorder goes against all of the scientific evidence. Based on a multitude of repeated observations, the scientific evidence indicates that there was a directional force involved in the creation of the universe. Due to the self-imposed limitations of science this force may never be identified using modern scientific methods.

The Four Fundamental Forces


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