Total Drek

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Reading this stuff isn't good for my blood pressure.

First thing in the morning recently I ran across this little gem from the Conservative Voice.* The title alone should be sufficient to explain why I was almost immediately at risk of stroke or cardiac arrest:

Evolutionists Still Wrong On Entropy!

Evolutionists, like those in Internet media organizations such as The Panda's Thumb and Pharyngula, ignorantly continue to criticize creationists and argue that the law of entropy in science (the tendency of matter to go towards greater disorder than greater order) does not contradict evolutionary theory because they claim the law of entropy does not apply in open systems such as our Earth, and evolutionists use examples such as a seed becoming a tree as a contradiction to the law of entropy. Evolutionists are wrong on both counts for reasons which will be fully explained in this article.

To put it bluntly, this makes me want to scream in incoherent rage. It requires such a catastrophic level of ignorance of basic physical law to make such assertions, assertions that have been debunked so frequently that it should be nearly impossible not to be aware of it, that to see such scorn associated with them is truly mind-boggling. I'm not even that intelligent and I've covered this nonsense- more than once! If I can get the point then anyone should be able to! And yet, here we are, back in the saddle again. It wouldn't be so bad except that this "article" has all the logical rigor and argumentative power of stereo instructions. Nevertheless, let's examine a selection of the "juicier" passages from the essay. Come along, won't you?

Entropy does occur in open systems. We discovered entropy here on Earth which is an open system in relation to the Sun. However, entropy applies only to spontaneous or chance processes.

This will no doubt come as a surprise to engineers, who often find themselves battling friction in their quite thoroughly designed creations. For the startlingly ignorant in the audience, friction is a manifestation of entropy which has almost nothing to do with chaos or disorder. Rather, entropy primarily refers to the tendency for heat, pressure and density to spread out to an even level throughout a given space. As it happens, this also eliminates the ability of that area to do "work" which has important implications for processes like life. So, in short, whether or not entropy applies has nothing the fuck to do with whether the system is natural or designed. That said, I am at least proud of the author for knowing we discovered entropy "here on Earth." Good to know it wasn't in a secret lab on Saturn.

The spontaneous (unaided or undirected) tendency of matter is always towards greater disorder -- not towards greater order and complexity as evolution would teach. Just having enough energy from the Sun is not sufficient to overcome entropy. This tendency towards disorder, which exists in all matter, can be temporarily overcome only if there exists some energy converting and directing mechanism to direct, develop, and maintain order.

This would be a great critique except for two issues. First, it is possible for entropy to decrease locally in exchange for a greater increase in entropy globally. So, for example, your digestive system burns food in order to do work which, among other things, reduces entropy in your body but to do this you must increase entropy in the food matter as well as in the wider world. Likewise, the reductions in entropy locally on Earth are more than paid for by the sun radiating fucktons of energy away into space every second. Second, it is trivial that an "energy converting and directing mechanism" is not necessary to overcome entropy. My proof? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the snowflake!

Even the scientific followers of Prigogine, the father of Chaos theory, have admitted that only a very minimal level of order will ever be possible as a result of spontaneous or chance processes.

And, indeed, it's worth noting that so far as we can tell the universe isn't exactly teeming with life, now is it?

The sequence of molecules in DNA (the genetic code) determines the sequence of molecules in proteins. Furthermore, without DNA there cannot be RNA, but without RNA there cannot be DNA. Without either DNA or RNA there cannot be proteins, but without proteins there cannot be either DNA or RNA. These complex molecules are all mutually dependent upon one another for existence!

If the cell had evolved it would have had to be all at once. A partially evolved cell cannot wait millions of years to become complete because it would be highly unstable and quickly disintegrate in the open environment, especially without the protection of a complete and fully functioning cell membrane.

Of course, once there is a complete and living cell then the genetic program and various biological mechanisms exist to direct the formation of more cells with their own genetic programs and biological mechanisms. The question is how did life come about when there were no directing mechanisms.

The difficulty is this guy is paying too much attention to the final developed stage and ignoring possible primitive precursors. For example, one might look at a modern laptop and exclaim that it is impossible to build a computer without integrated circuits. Alas, it turns out it is quite possible with the aid of vacuum tubes. And before that you could build one with mechanical linkages and before that you could build one that was really, really simple. Each stage makes the next stage possible and then falls away once that stage has been completed. It's like the scaffolding that surrounds a building under construction: once the edifice is complete, you remove the structure that allowed it to be built in the first place. Similarly, a modern cell is the product of a lengthy evolutionary history- life didn't start at this level of complexity. Oh, yeah, and while I'm thinking of it: RNA can be used to support life in the absence of DNA. Whoops!

Considering the enormous complexity of life, it is much more logical to believe that the genetic and biological similarities between all species is due to a common Designer rather than common biological ancestry. It is only logical that the great Designer would design similar functions for similar purposes and different functions for different purposes in all of the various forms of life.

Wait, because life is complex and difficult to explain let's explain it with recourse to something even more complex and inexplicable? How the hell is that logical, exactly?

Contrary to popular belief, scientists have never created life in the laboratory. What scientists have done is genetically alter or engineer already existing forms of life, and by doing this scientists have been able to produce new forms of life. However, they did not produce these new life forms from non-living matter. Even if scientists ever do produce life from non-living matter it won't be by chance so it still wouldn't help support any argument for evolution.

So, pray tell, what exactly would you accept as evidence for evolution? Because I don't think we have the time to hang around and watch new species evolve. Then again, we do have records. Do those help?

Ultimately, however, scientists concede that the law of entropy (the process of progressive energy decay and disorder) will conquer the entire universe and the universe, if left to itself, will end in total chaos (the opposite direction of evolution!). In fact, the law of entropy contradicts the Big Bang theory which teaches that the universe spontaneously went from disorder to order.

This is a non sequitur. That the large scale fate of the universe may be an entropic death does not in any sense mean that evolution cannot occur now. In fact, life is itself a part of this entropic process as we increase entropy globally at a greater rate than the local decrease. To claim otherwise is effectively akin to saying that a child cannot grow into adulthood because eventually they will grow old and die. Additionally, entropy does not contradict the big bang theory, not least because we're not sure how many of the familiar physical processes even applied in the instant preceding the origin of the universe.

Furthermore, because of the law of entropy the universe does not have the ability to have sustained itself from all eternity since all the useful energy in the universe will some day become irreversibly and totally useless. The universe, therefore, cannot be eternal and requires a beginning. Since energy cannot come into existence from nothing by any natural process, the beginning of the universe must have required a Supernatural origin!

This is what I like to label the "I don't understand it, so god musta done it" explanation. We used to use the same thing for thunder and the black death. I leave it to you to evaluate the worth of an argument from ignorance.

Science cannot prove we're here by creation, but neither can science prove we're here by chance or macro-evolution. No one has observed either. They are both accepted on faith. The issue is which faith, Darwinian macro-evolutionary theory or creation, has better scientific support.

This is an inchoate wreck of an argument. Leaving aside the claim that evolutionary research is on a par with the book of genesis (i.e. reams of scientific data versus a repeatedly translated folk tale) if it's an issue of faith, why does the author then attempt to invoke evidence? If evidence can be used then we're not dealing with faith now are we, skippy?

Many have been taught to think that because Darwin had shown natural selection to occur in nature that evolution must be true. Natural selection does occur in nature, but natural selection can only "select" from biological variations that are possible and which have survival value.

Well, it's reassuring to hear that natural selection can't select variations that are impossible. That explains why there aren't any eighty ton fire breathing dragons about, doesn't it?

Natural selection itself does not produce biological variations. It is an entirely passive process in nature. Natural selection is simply another way of saying that if a variation (i.e. change in skin color, etc.) occurs which helps an animal to survive in its environment then that that variation will be preserved and be passed on to future generations. That is what scientists mean by "natural selection". Of course, nature does not do any active or conscious selecting. The term "natural selection" is simply a figure of speech. Furthermore, natural selection only applies once there is life and not before. In other words, natural selection is not involved in any pre-biotic, non-living interactions of chemicals.

This last bit is problematic. Natural selection really just requires that some entities are more likely to be preserved than others due to their characteristics. So, you can talk about natural selection occurring with pre-biotic chemicals, it's just not normally productive to do so. The comments also ignore that variation can originate from a lot of things including DNA transcription errors and random mutations generated by cosmic rays. Perhaps most important, scientists do not claim that selection produces variation in the first place. So, this guy's argument is like me observing that the bible doesn't explain how Athena was able to form inside Zeus' head.

Whatever evolution and natural selection that occurs in nature is limited to within biological kinds (such as the varieties of dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc.) but, evolution across biological kinds, especially from simpler kinds to more complex ones (i.e. from fish to human), is not possible unless Nature can perform genetic engineering.

Um... guys... what about that snake with legs? You think maybe that's a smidge... relevant here? Besides this "kinds" business has no scientific validity. Hell, species are hard enough to distinguish, what the hell makes you think that "kinds" are any different?

What we believe about our origins does influence our philosophy and value of life as well as our view of ourselves and others. This is no small issue!

Perhaps, but this is irrelevant to the issue of our origins. A dog belonging to an associate of my wife's recently died accidentally from drowning. That associate told her daughter, however, that the dog died painlessly from a sudden blood clot. This was a kindness for the child but does not in any way alter the real state of events. A fiction, no matter how personally pleasing, remains a fiction. And a claim that we should forget the truth in favor of that fiction is little more than an invitation to insanity.

Just because science can explain how life and the universe operate and work doesn't mean there is no Supreme Designer. Would it be rational to believe that there's no designer behind airplanes because science can explain how airplanes operate and work?

Non sequitur. The cases are not comparable. For the sake of argument, however, if science discovers that the natural operation of the universe may, under the right circumstances, produce life, doesn't that invalidate his claim? The latter claim I mean, I don't think you can invalidate the claim that god exists because god is defined in an utterly vacuous manner.

Natural laws are adequate to explain how the order in life, the universe, and even a microwave oven operates, but mere undirected natural laws can never fully explain the origin of such order.

A wonderful claim since it contradicts his earlier point about entropy. If there is no way to decrease entropy than our very existence should be impossible- no way to digest food and benefit from the experience. Alas, we appear to exist, and so he must be wrong.

It is important to understand that belief in neither evolution or creation is necessary to the actual study of science itself. One can understand the human body and become a first class surgeon regardless of whether he or she believes the human body is the result of the chance forces of nature or of a Supreme Designer.

More or less true but a surgeon is effectively a mechanic of the body. An epidemiologist, on the other hand, really needs to get evolution to do their job properly. Blaming AIDS on god's wrath is not likely to help very much in dealing with it.

And, just to amuse you, check out this guy's bio:

The author, Babu G. Ranganathan, is an experienced Christian writer. Mr. Ranganathan has his B.A. with academic concentrations in Bible and Biology from Bob Jones University. As a religion and science writer he has been recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis Who's Who In The East. The author's articles have been published in various publications including Russia's Pravda and South Korea's The Seoul Times.

Well, it's nice to know that a guy with a B.A. from an ideologically-motivated cesspool of a college is qualified to contradict the mass of the scientific community.

Yes, folks, a truly brain-searing mass of crap to get you started on this wonderful Monday morning. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go cry for my species.

* The newspaper for slack-jawed morons!

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