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The ID argument from thermodynamics

Since in my last post a commenter put on the table thermodynamics to support evolution I decided to offer my personal answer in a specific post, although UD already dealt with this issue. As known, 2nd law of thermodynamics (SLOT, also called “entropy law”) states that in a closed system the overall energy entropy ΔS never decreases spontaneously (i.e. without an external intervention). Example: in a room (considered a closed system) a hot cup of coffee on a tabletop, loosing heat, decreases in energy entropy –ΔSc (neghentropy). Around the table the environment, absorbing heat, increases energy entropy ΔSe, in such manner that the overall energy entropy of the room ΔSr doesn’t decrease. In this example SLOT can be expressed with this formula:

ΔSr = ΔSe – ΔSc = ΔQe/Te – ΔQc/Tc >= 0 (measured in Joule/Kelvin)

ΔQx are amounts of heat and Tx are absolute temperatures.

In statistical mechanics it is used also another definition of entropy. The statistical entropy H of a system, given the number W of its microscopic configurations (or microstates), can be written as:

H = ln W (measured in bits, ln is base-2 logarithm).

To correlate somehow the two definitions of entropy, S (energy entropy) and H (statistical entropy), they write the statistical entropy in the Boltzmann’s form:

H = k * ln W (k is the Boltzmann’s constant 1.38 x 10^-23 J/K)

The constant k is introduced to match the measure units.

If a system A is more improbable, more complex, than a system B it means that its microstates Wa, consistent with the specification of A (chosen from a given universe of microstates U) are less than the microstates Wb, which meet the specification of B (chosen from the same universe of microstates U):

Wa < Wb

As a consequence the statistical entropy of A is less than the statistical entropy of B:

Ha < Hb

Smaller probability signifies more information (because the information of a sequence of characters or bits is inversely proportional to its probability to occur), then system A contains more information than B. In this sense statistical entropy is a measure of the lack of information (or ignorance of). According to another similar point of view, since more the microstates more the disorder, system A is said to be more ordered and system B more disordered. Along this line, statistical entropy becomes sort of measure of disorder (and statistical neghentropy a measure of order).

Given the above scientific scenario, evolutionists elaborated a flawed argument that sounds something like this: while, according to SLOT, the overall entropy of a closed system doesn’t decrease, however there can be entropy downwards fluctuations somewhere in the system. In short, while entropy doesn’t decrease globally, it can decrease locally. Since, according to the statistical definition of entropy, a decrease of entropy implies more information and complexity, evolution (intended as a continue process increasing them) is possible locally in the planet, also if the global entropy of the universe increases. However, to justify the continuity of evolution, they need something more than some rare fluctuations, they need an endless sequence of neghentropies. They believe that the cause or origin of these series of neghentropies could well be the Sun, which continually emits heat towards the Earth, allowing the continue biological evolution of organisms (from simple forms to ever more complex forms). The Daniel F. Styer’s paper "Entropy and evolution" makes this argument quantitative and shows that just a very little part of the entropy flux from the Sun is just sufficient to allow the evolution of all organisms arisen on Earth. However the author admits that his calculations allow or permit evolution, they do not require it. As we will see below, this article is not at all a proof of evolution because it considers evolution only from the energy viewpoint and not from the organization viewpoint (which is the essential one).

Below I will provide an explanation which will be in the same time a disproof of the above evolutionist argument and the ID argument from thermodynamics against evolution.

First off, a decrease of entropy, despite the fact it can be measured in bits, is not at all what Intelligent Design Theory (IDT) calls "Complex Specified Information" (CSI). The order of neghentropy is not CSI, which is very organization. Whenever and wherever only CSI can produce organization. This is a basic statement which Norbert Wiener, just before the arise of ID, expressed so: "The amount of information in a system is a measure of its organization degree" ("Cybernetics", Introduction). When we deal with organization we always have CSI. But the entropic order is not true organization and as such cannot account for the complexity of organisms, which are highly organized systems.

A misunderstanding that causes the evolutionist’s error is that statistical entropy, Shannon information and CSI can all be measured in bits. But the simple fact that two things can be measured or evaluated by the same unit doesn’t mean that they are the same thing or do the same work. A scientist and a porter are both paid in dollars but their jobs are different. Analogously the neghentropic bits are not bits of organization, rather bits of simple order. Eventually they can yet speak of information when they deal with entropy expressed in bits, but however these bits have nothing to do with the CSI of organization. As such they cannot account for the spontaneous generation of CSI systems as organisms. As an example, the immense organization of a biological cell has nothing to do with the simple order of a crystal (which generation implies decrease of entropy).

ID theory says that organization is different from the simple energy decrease in entropy because the former implies CSI while the latter doesn’t. In fact CSI is not simple information but information that is complex and specified. The question is: can the information related to a decrease in entropy event on the Earth be complex and specified? If this event were complex and specified it should be such also its cause (as a general principle, what is contained in the effect must be potentially in its cause). The cause, according to evolutionists, is the heat coming from the Sun. Hence the question becomes: can the information related to an energy flux from the Sun be complex and specified? We can admit that this energy flux is complex, but of the kind of complexity of a long random sequence. In fact we could for example convert the measured analog data stream of the solar energy flux by means of an ADC (Analog Digital Converter). Likely the sampled sequence of bits (obtained by the analog-digital conversion) is complex (of low probability). But sure this data stream is not specified, in the sense that IDT considers specification (predefined patterns). No particular predefined pattern (of the kind we see in the biological systems) is recognizable in an energy transfer from the Sun. To claim otherwise would mean that the energy transfer is someway "modulated" or "codified" according to pre-specified patterns (as radio/TV transmissions or the sound waves of a speech are): a clear absurdity. Lacking specification in no way the energy flux from the Sun conveys CSI to the Earth. To put it bluntly, the Sun sends energy, not organization. As a consequence the Earth-is-not-a-closed-system evolutionist objection (to escape the ID argument from thermodynamics) is not valid.

Another way to consider SLOT from an ID "no free lunch" perspective is: SLOT states that order cannot come from nothingness, order must always have a source or counterpart. It is also in this sense that SLOT supports ID and denies evolution. In fact if just order needs a source to greater reason organization (which has higher rank than order) does. In a system organization can increase if the system is not closed and an external CSI source inserts it into the system to increase its internal organization. This must be the case of the ID origin of life and of species on the Earth: an external intelligent source provided CSI.

In a sense, the evolutionist "Sun argument" means that CSI can be paid by simple energy. But energy cannot create CSI. For absurd, whether energy provided CSI, for example, software houses could think of not to pay expensive computer programmers, rather they would buy power plants; publishers wouldn’t pay writers, they would buy power supplies instead, and so on. Thermodynamics states that in any energy conversion, the quantity of energy is the same before and after the conversion, but the quality decreases. Never energy conversion is 100 percent efficient. In the thermodynamics processes there is quality degradation (entropy) of energy. But if energy quality decreases to greater reason organization cannot increase, which is far more qualitative than energy.

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87 Responses to The ID argument from thermodynamics

  1. 1

    niwrad,

    In my book “The Numerical Solution of Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations,” John Wiley, 2005 here I dealt with this issue, my conclusions are somewhat similar to yours.

  2. Mr Niwrad,

    Thank you for such a long post on this topic, I really appreciate it.

    Thank you for clarifying that local decreases in entropy can happen, if olny at the cost of even greater entropy increases elsewhere. I was afraid my refrigerator would stop working! Thank you also for brining up the Styer paper.

    There are those who claim that the energy flux from the Sun is in fact a modulated source, modulated by the Earth’s rotation so that it waxes and wanes every day. A very low frequency source of “information”, but perhaps sufficient for your purposes.

    However, I think the better answer is that the Sun’s energy is only one input to any reaction. I think the CSI you are looking for, the “active information” is snuck in by the Designer through the laws of physics and chemistry. This argument says that the “cause” which prefigures the “effect” is the law, not the ingredients.

  3. in this vid I clam that 2nd law encourages genetic decay

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpApuOy-3v0

  4. An article and letter citing Styer:

    Evolution and the second law of thermodynamics
    Emory F. Bunn
    Department of Physics, University of Richmond, Richmond, Virginia 23173

    Skeptics of biological evolution often claim that evolution requires a decrease in entropy, giving rise to a conflict with the second law of thermodynamics. This argument is fallacious because it neglects the large increase in entropy provided by sunlight striking the Earth. A recent article provided a quantitative assessment of the entropies involved and showed explicitly that there is no
    conflict. That article rests on an unjustified assumption about the amount of entropy reduction
    involved in evolution. I present a refinement of the argument that does not rely on this assumption.

    LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, EVOLUTION AND EARTH’S ENTROPY
    Robert D. Klauber
    Fairfield,[email protected]
    American Journal of Physics, Sept. 2009, Vol. 77, #9, pp. 773-773
    (No abstract)

  5. 5

    Interesting article. It concludes:

    If we compare this value with the rate of entropy production due to sunlight in Eq. (3), we ?nd that the second law,
    in the form of Eq. (1), is satis?ed as long as the time required for life to evolve on Earth is at least [equation removed] ~ 10^7 s, or less than a year. Life on Earth took four billion years to evolve, so the second law of thermodynamics is safe.

  6. 6

    Copy/paste glitch there: it should read “we find that the second law,”

  7. Nakashima at 2

    I think the CSI you are looking for, the “active information” is snuck in by the Designer through the laws of physics and chemistry.

    Respectfully, all “information” via the laws of physics and chemistry are still part of natural law which is explicitly excluded in identifying CSI. CSI cannot be obtained by either natural law or stochastic processes. Dembski’s explanatory filter is applied to distinguish CSI from both of those with sufficiently low probability compared to the probability of all configurations over all time.

  8. Doomsday Smith
    More remarkable are Bunn’s previous paragraphs.

    An E. coli bacterium has about 4×10^6 protein molecules.7 (This number refers not to the number of distinct types
    of protein, but to the total number of protein molecules in the cell.) We will find the multiplicity cost of assembling all of these molecules by first considering the multiplicity cost of assembling a single protein molecule. Imagining
    assembling the protein one amino acid at a time. At each step we must take an amino acid that was freely moving through the cell and place it in a specific position relative to the others that have already been assembled. If the amino
    acids were previously in a dilute solution in the cell, then the multiplicity loss due to each such step is approximately nQ/n, where n is the number density of amino acids and nQ is the density at which the amino acids would reach
    quantum degeneracy.8 This ratio is large: amino acids in a cell are far from degenerate. To assemble a protein with Na amino acids, we would repeat this process Na ?1 times, resulting in the large number Omega i/Omega f = (nQ/n)^(Na?1). For instance, if nQ/n = 10 (much too low) and Na = 300 (about the average size of a protein7), the multiplicity ratio is
    ~ 10^299 for the production of a single protein molecule. If we use this conservative estimate for the multiplicity change associated with the formation of a single protein
    molecule, we estimate the multiplicity reduction required to assemble all of the proteins in the bacterium to be ~(10^299)^4×10^6
    ~ 10^10^9. If the entire 4 billion years (4×10^7 centuries) of biological evolution were required to achieve this number, we would require a multiplicity reduction of (10^10^9)1/(4×10^7) = 10^25 in each century, not 10^3.

    Bunn then notes:

    The chemical potential ? in a chemical reaction is of order 1 eV (~10^?19 J) or more, implying multiplicity changes of order e^40 (~10^17 for each chemical bond formed or broken at biological temperatures.

    In Specification: The Pattern That
    Signifies Intelligence
    William Dembski (2005) observed: “Theoretical computer scientist Seth Lloyd has shown that 10^120 constitutes the maximal number of bit operations that the known,observable universe could have performed throughout its entire multi-billion year history.” citing: Seth Lloyd, “Computational Capacity of the Universe,” Physical Review Letters 88(23)(2002):7901–4.

    This number sets an upper limit on the number of agents that can be embodied in the universe and the number of events that, in principle, they can observe. Accordingly, for any context of inquiry in which S might be endeavoring to determine whether an event that conforms to a pattern T happened by chance, M·N will be bounded above by 10^120.

    (Sir. Fred “Hoyle said last week that … the origin of life … the information content of the higher forms of life is represented by the number 10^40 000 – representing the specificity with which some 2,000 genes, each of which might be chosen from 10^20 nucleotide sequences of the appropriate length …. The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that `a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein’. “

    Hoyle, F., in “Hoyle on evolution,” Nature, Vol. 294, 12 November 1981, p.105.

    Bunn calculates an estimate of 10^1,000,000,000 magnified by the energetic bond formation requirements. Bunn’s estimate is, shall we say just a wee bit larger than all the probabilistic resources in the universe!

    Bunn may subsequently conclude that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is safe (was there every any doubt?) However, in reading the preceding “fine print”, may I suggest that Bunn has alot more to say about the probability of evolution – or should we say the astronomical improbability of evolution(to give a British understatement!)

  9. DLH, you may have something to say in that regard, but Bunn most emphatically does not. His conclusion, as I posted above, is that evolution is perfectly in accord with the 2nd Law and that arguments against it on that basis are unfounded.
    His only caveat in that regard can be found in footnote 12:

    Creating all of life in six days might be thermodynamically problematic, however.

  10. Doomsday Smith #9

    Evolution disagrees with ID theory AND thermodynamics. My post deals with both theories.

    Thermodynamic processes can locally provide decreases of entropy. These neghentropies, in the statistical sense, can be interpreted as increases of order. But this statistical “order” has nothing do to with CSI, then contributes exactly zero to increase real organization in the systems. One of the intentions of my post is indeed to carefully distinguish the two concepts: thermodynamic “order” and CSI.

    So to say as you “evolution is perfectly in accord with the 2nd Law” is poor comfort because is as to say “I am perfectly in accord with my bank”, but when I try to get dollars from it I get nothing because my bank account has zero money.

  11. Niwrad,

    I don’t see how anything in your post means that Evolution disagrees with thermodynamics. What you seem to be saying is that the sun doesn’t supply CSI. I would agree, the sun supplies energy and living systems consume energy (and generate entropy). In fact living systems tend (as far as I understand) to generate more entropy than non-living systems because as a part of their function they constantly do work (in the physics sense) and dissipate energy – there is a whole area of research into this idea called the ‘Maximum Entropy Production Principle’.

    If CSI is unrelated to thermodynamic order then thermodynamics does not prevent evolution. Maybe I’m missing something but your argument seems to add up to: “Decreases in thermodynamic entropy are not related to CSI, therefore evolution is wrong”. I get the first half, the second seems unrelated.

  12. 12

    Yes, well, no one ever said that not violating the 2nd Law accounted for or explained the increases in organization seen in biology. Or chemical reactions in general for that matter. The point is, simply, that they don’t violate it, as is so often claimed. You’re arguing against something that no one, as far as I know, would ever subscribe to in the first place. IOW, evolutionary theory cannot be ruled out on thermodynamic grounds, and this is completely separate from the question as to whether or not the currently accepted mechanisms of genetic change are sufficient to explain the diversity of life.

    Your post is merely an assertion that they cannot combined with an attempt to make it look like (or maybe a sincere misunderstanding that) “evolutionists” claim energy input automatically leads to biological complexity. Or so it reads to me, anyway. Typically, when someone invokes the “Argument to the Sun”, its because a creationist (or “evolution skeptic”, if you prefer) has dusted off the hoary 2nd law objection yet again. “The sun” is a pithy (and at this point, almost reflexive) answer to that specific objection, and that is it. As to accounting for the organization and complexity of biological systems…well, that is what evolutionary theory is for after all (plus significant contributions from a plethora of other fields).

    Srsly, this is one ridiculously dead horse. Please, just let the poor battered-beyond-all-recognition thing rest in peace.

  13. I think the CSI you are looking for, the “active information” is snuck in by the Designer through the laws of physics and chemistry.

    Nakashima-san, you make a very good point. The danger in using CSI (or ID) to buttress a religious faith is that such a thing might very well be found.

  14. Doomsday Smith #11,

    Your claim that no evolutionist considers the Sun as source of biological complexity is contradicted by many examples. For instance read the following recent statement by Biologos Foundation (of Dr. Francis Collins, a major evolutionist scientist):

    “With biological evolution however, the system being considered is not the universe, but the Earth. And the Earth is not an isolated system. This means that an increase in order can occur on Earth as long as there is an energy input — most notably the light of the sun. Therefore, energy input from the sun could give rise to the increase in order on Earth INCLUDING COMPLEX MOLECULES AND ORGANISMS.” here

    Your “dead horse” is not so dead after all.

  15. niwrad,

    “With biological evolution however, the system being considered is not the universe, but the Earth. And the Earth is not an isolated system. This means that an increase in order can occur on Earth as long as there is an energy input — most notably the light of the sun. Therefore, energy input from the sun could give rise to the increase in order on Earth INCLUDING COMPLEX MOLECULES AND ORGANISMS.”

    This is not a claim that the sun delivers biological complexity, it simply states that mechanisms which can produce biological complexity derive power from the sun.

    No one is claiming that the sun delivers CSI to the Earth, just that the sun provides energy that can power chemical and biological processes on earth, which in turn can generate complexity.

    Biologists consider the sun a source of energy, nothing more.

  16. niwrad, I’ve read your post, and I see no “ID argument from thermodynamics” in it. All I see is an argument that hinges on unsupported premises regarding CSI.

    They believe that the cause or origin of these series of neghentropies could well be the Sun, which continually emits heat towards the Earth, allowing the continue biological evolution of organisms (from simple forms to ever more complex forms).

    The sun is a hot spot in an otherwise cold sky. Biological organisms rely on this thermal differential in order to live. This isn’t speculation. Of course, the sun isn’t sufficient for life and evolution. Has anybody ever said that it is?

    However the author admits that his calculations allow or permit evolution, they do not require it. As we will see below, this article is not at all a proof of evolution because it considers evolution only from the energy viewpoint and not from the organization viewpoint (which is the essential one).

    Of course it’s not proof of evolution! To say that the calculations don’t require evolution is to say that they don’t prove evolution.

    Analogously the neghentropic bits are not bits of organization, rather bits of simple order. Eventually they can yet speak of information when they deal with entropy expressed in bits, but however these bits have nothing to do with the CSI of organization.

    Dembski’s currently defines specificity in terms of descriptive simplicity. All else being equal, a system of simple order has more CSI than a system of organization.

    But sure this data stream is not specified, in the sense that IDT considers specification (predefined patterns). No particular predefined pattern (of the kind we see in the biological systems) is recognizable in an energy transfer from the Sun. To claim otherwise would mean that the energy transfer is someway “modulated” or “codified” according to pre-specified patterns (as radio/TV transmissions or the sound waves of a speech are): a clear absurdity.

    Dembski’s definitions of specificity have never entailed “predefined” or “pre-specified”. His point was to generalize the notion of specification such that events could be specified post hoc. As mentioned before, his current definition is in terms of descriptive simplicity.

    As a consequence the Earth-is-not-a-closed-system evolutionist objection (to escape the ID argument from thermodynamics) is not valid.

    The Earth-is-not-a-closed-system objection does negate ID arguments from thermodynamics. It does not negate ID arguments from CSI. As you point out yourself, CSI is not the same as thermodynamic negentropy.

    Another way to consider SLOT from an ID “no free lunch” perspective is: SLOT states that order cannot come from nothingness, order must always have a source or counterpart.

    Nothingness is as ordered as you can get, as it has only one microstate.

    It is also in this sense that SLOT supports ID and denies evolution.

    How does the SLOT deny evolution in a thermodynamically open system?

    In fact if just order needs a source to greater reason organization (which has higher rank than order) does.

    In the thermodynamics processes there is quality degradation (entropy) of energy. But if energy quality decreases to greater reason organization cannot increase, which is far more qualitative than energy.

    The “reason” underlying the SLOT is empirical and mathematical. Is your conservation of organization law based on “greater” empirical data and math?

  17. Um, what evolutionist is making the argument that the Sun can decrease information entropy? Furthermore, Schneider has shown that information entropy can be decreased through natural selection.

    If you are going to criticize your opponent, at least criticize a claim they are making.

  18. R0b #14

    Of course, the sun isn’t sufficient for life and evolution. Has anybody ever said that it is?

    I am glad you agree with me that the sun isn’t sufficient for life and evolution. Unfortunately many evolutionists disagree with us, see my comment #13.

    Dembski’s currently defines specificity in terms of descriptive simplicity. All else being equal, a system of simple order has more CSI than a system of organization.

    Here I disagree with you. CSI always implies complexity. Simplicity never makes CSI. A crystal shows simple order. A biological cell shows complex organization. Would you claim that crystal has more CSI than cell?

    The Earth-is-not-a-closed-system objection does negate ID arguments from thermodynamics. It does not negate ID arguments from CSI.

    When the Earth-is-not-a-closed-system objection is used to argue that the Sun is the cause of evolution, an IDer can oppose an ID argument that, given the thermodynamic scenario and given the ID theory own tools (CSI), denies the evolutionist assumption. I call this ID counter-argument “ID argument from thermodynamics”. We could call it “ID argument based on thermodynamics” or “ID argument suggested by thermodynamics” or whatever. But the substance doesn’t change: Earth-is-not-a-closed-system doesn’t prove evolution.

    How does the SLOT deny evolution in a thermodynamically open system?

    I wrote: “Order must always have a source or counterpart. It is also in this sense that SLOT supports ID and denies evolution.” I meant that SLOT states the necessity of a source of order. In that SLOT agrees with ID (which too states the necessity of an intelligent source of organization), and in the same time from that specific point of view, SLOT disagrees with evolution when denies the necessity of an intelligent source of organization.

    The “reason” underlying the SLOT is empirical and mathematical. Is your conservation of organization law based on “greater” empirical data and math?

    Whenever and wherever empirical data show that organization is designed by intelligence. You can find the math of this ascertainment in ID theory textbooks.

  19. Olin #15

    If you are going to criticize your opponent, at least criticize a claim they are making.

    Have you read my post and the comments? I do criticize claims made by ID opponents. In fact in my post I criticize evolutionist statements of the sort ”energy input from the sun could give rise to the increase in order on Earth INCLUDING COMPLEX MOLECULES AND ORGANISMS” (see my comment #13). This claim was not invented by me; it was made by a major evolutionist organization.

  20. niwrad:

    I am glad you agree with me that the sun isn’t sufficient for life and evolution. Unfortunately many evolutionists disagree with us, see my comment #13.

    Biologos does not say that the sun is sufficient for evolution. The only sentence in the quote that could possibly be taken that way is: “Therefore, energy input from the sun could give rise to the increase in order on Earth INCLUDING COMPLEX MOLECULES AND ORGANISMS.”

    I think it’s a stretch to interpret this as saying that solar energy is all that is needed for complex molecules and organisms to arise. Do you really think that Biologos expects there to be complex molecules and organisms on every planet and asteroid in every solar system?

    Here I disagree with you. CSI always implies complexity. Simplicity never makes CSI. A crystal shows simple order. A biological cell shows complex organization. Would you claim that crystal has more CSI than cell?

    You’ve fallen into a terminology trap with the word “complexity”. If a cell has more CSI than a crystal, it is not because the cell has complicated organization while the crystal has simple order. Your disagreement should be taken up with Dembski, as he’s the one who defined CSI.

    When the Earth-is-not-a-closed-system objection is used to argue that the Sun is the cause of evolution, an IDer can oppose an ID argument that, given the thermodynamic scenario and given the ID theory own tools (CSI), denies the evolutionist assumption. I call this ID counter-argument “ID argument from thermodynamics”.

    Earth-is-not-a-closed-system successfully refutes the ID argument that evolution is impossible because entropy cannot decrease. But you seem to be referring to a different argument, one that is based on both thermodynamics and CSI, and I’m having a hard time putting my finger on what it is. Is your argument that since negentropy requires a source, CSI must also? If so, what does this have to do with ID? Negentropy does not require an intelligent source.

    In that SLOT agrees with ID (which too states the necessity of an intelligent source of organization), and in the same time from that specific point of view, SLOT disagrees with evolution when denies the necessity of an intelligent source of organization.

    The SLOT says nothing about the alleged necessity of an intelligent source of organization, so it makes no sense to say that it agrees or disagrees with ID or evolution in this respect.

    Whenever and wherever empirical data show that organization is designed by intelligence.

    What empirical data are you referring to? To have such data, there must be operational definitions for “organization”, “designed”, and “intelligence”. Where are these definitions and data documented?

    You can find the math of this ascertainment in ID theory textbooks.

    Which book did you have in mind? We can walk through the math to see if it shows that organization requires an intelligent source.

  21. The Mystery of Life’s Origin reviewed origin of life research and spent three chapters (7-9) examining thermodynamic issues in detail. I believe their conclusions may clarify the force of niwrad’s central points.

    Evolutionists are correct in saying it is a mistake to simply argue as if the Earth is an isolated system. It’s not. It’s open. But evolutionists themselves are mistaken when they think that showing the Earth can have a local decrease of entropy solves all issues. This first excerpt is from p. 165.

    Summary of Thermodynamics Discussion

    “Throughout Chapters 7-9 we have analyzed the problems of complexity and the origin of life from a thermodynamic point of view. Our reason for doing this is the common notion in the scientific literature today on the origin of life that an open system with energy and mass flow is a priori a sufficient explanation for the complexity of life. We have examined the validity of such an open and constrained system. We found it to be a reasonable explanation for doing the chemical and thermal entropy work, but clearly inadequate to account for the configurational entropy work of coding (not to mention the sorting and selecting work). We have noted the need for some sort of coupling mechanism. Without it, there is no way to convert the negative entropy associated with energy flow into negative entropy associated with configurational entropy and the corresponding information. Is it reasonable to believe such a “hidden” coupling mechanism will be found in the future that can play this crucial role of a template, metabolic motor, etc., directing the flow of energy in such a way as to create new information?”

    This second excerpt is from p. 183 from within their Summary for the book.

    “… The primary difficulty was not lack of suitable energy sources. Rather it was both a lack of sufficient energy mobilizing means to harness the energy to the specific task of building biopolymers and a lack of means to generate the proper sequence of, say, amino acids in a polypeptide to get biological function. We have identified this latter problem as one of doing the configurational entropy work. Here the difficulty is fundamental. It applies equally to discarded, present, and possible future models of chemical evolution. We believe the problem is analagous to that of the medieval alchemist who was commissioned to change copper into gold. Energy flow through a system can do chemical work and produce an otherwise improbable distribution of energy in the system (e.g., a water heater). Thermal entropy, however, seems to be physically independent from the informational content of living systems which we have analyzed and called configurational entropy. As was pointed out, Yockey has noted that negative thermodynamic entropy (thermal) has nothing to do with information, and no amount of energy flow through the system and negative thermal entropy generation can produce even a small amount of information. You can’t get gold out of copper, apples out of oranges, or information out of negative thermal entropy. There does not seem to be any physical basis for the widespread assumption implicit in the idea that an open system is a sufficient explanation for the complexity of life. As we have previously noted, there is neither a theoretical nor an experimental basis for this hypothesis. There is no hint in our experience of any mechanistic means of supplying the necessary configurational entropy work. Enzymes and human intelligence, however, do it routinely.”

  22. The old 2nd law (again). I think you are flogging a dead horse.

    See Here

  23. BillB #14

    “Therefore, energy input from the sun could give rise to the increase in order on Earth INCLUDING COMPLEX MOLECULES AND ORGANISMS.”

    This is not a claim that the sun delivers biological complexity, it simply states that mechanisms which can produce biological complexity derive power from the sun.

    Don’t defend the indefensible. “X gives rise to the increase in order on Y” is fully different from “X powers Y” and the guys at Biologos Foundation know it.

  24. 24

    niwrad: OK, nifty. “X gives rise to the increase in order of Y” is “fully different” Only it’s fully not.

    Allow me to explain in far more detail than should be necessary:

    It first states that Earth has a constant energy input, the sun, and it does so because you’re supposed to keep this role in mind when reading the rest of it. This is called “context”.

    So anyway, it then says that because of this fact (remember: sun == energy input) “the sun could give rise”. Could give. As in “a constant energy input makes all sorts of stuff possible”. So the basic idea that you’re supposed to be getting here is that the sun is a cause, but not the only cause.

    And, BTW, it’s not “gives rise”, as you have paraphrased it, though that’s more of a nitpick. I mention your version, though, because it’s basically equivalent to saying “X causes Y”, which is a construction used constantly in science-related discussions, making it very easy to find examples.

    Take for instance this sentence: The sun causes skin cancer.

    So, would you really assume that someone saying this actually thinks that’s the whole story, or would you behave sensibly and recognize that they’re merely skipping over the details, such as UV being the particular solar product of interest when it comes to skin cancers, the physics and chemistry involved in the direct and indirect damage to DNA resulting from interactions with UV photons, the various mutations which can result from these interactions, the changes in cell behavior one can expect to find in skin cancers in general, the differences between basal and squamous cell carcinomas (and their respective sub-types) and melanoma (and its respective sub-types), the existence of numerous cases which aren’t caused by UV damage (e.g. Kaposi’s sarcoma), et cetera, et cetera, et cetera?*

    I would guess that you’d go for “skipping the details”. Most people would. Point of all this being? Your Biologos quote isn’t so much damning as it is the same damn thing, and what this all looks like to me is that:

    A. You’re either willfully misinterpreting the obvious intent of that sentence for rhetorical purposes

    or

    B. Your reading comprehension could use some work. At least when it comes to English, anyway. For all I know, it’s not your primary language.

    I’m not trying to be a jerk here: I just honestly can’t come up with anything else to explain the strained reading you’re insisting on.

    Whatever the actual reason, though, there’s still nothing in thermodynamics for either you or ID in general to latch onto and that poor horse is still stone-cold dead. If it seems like it’s still twitching a bit, that’s only because you keep whacking on it so much.

    *Cancer’s actually some pretty complex and specific stuff when you get right down to it, eh?

  25. 25

    Broken link above. Here’s the fixed version:

    The sun causes skin cancer.

  26. 26

    OK, let’s see if WordPress can handle this properly:

    The sun causes skin cancer.

  27. Doomsday Smith, have you read the excerpts I provided above at 21?

    They show the error in your claim that “there’s still nothing in thermodynamics for either you or ID in general to latch onto”.

    In short, “mechanisms which can produce biological complexity derive power from the sun.” is a bogus concept, a fiction. There is no support whatsoever, either empirical or theoretical, for supposing there could be such a mechanism in an undirected prebiotic universe.

    “No mechanism” means all that power is ineffectual and completely irrelevant with regard to the origin of biological complexity. “No mechanism” means literally no connection between the two topics.

    Without a mechanism, the sun can’t help at all. Pointing people to the sun is misdirection from the core thermodynamic problem — no mechanism to do the necessary conversion.

  28. Mr ericB,

    In short, “mechanisms which can produce biological complexity derive power from the sun.” is a bogus concept, a fiction. There is no support whatsoever, either empirical or theoretical, for supposing there could be such a mechanism in an undirected prebiotic universe.

    To be clear, you are saying there are no photon powered reactions in chemical settings like the surface of the prebiotic Earth that would connect amino acids together or connect sugars and nucleotides together? Is that correct? What was written in TMLO 25 years ago is still accurate?

  29. Are we seriously to believe that inanimate materials are really complexity and life just waiting to happen if exposed to energy? That seems to be what we’re getting at.

    Are there any observed instances of such a reaction, or is this just another grasping-at-straws hypothesis?

  30. Doomsday Smith #24

    In the Biologos Foundation statement “energy input from the sun could give rise to the increase in order on Earth INCLUDING COMPLEX MOLECULES AND ORGANISMS” is not matter of “skipping the details” as you say. The problem is in the core concept: is that an impossible thing is wrongly considered possible. The problem is they write “black on white” that solar energy could provide information and it can’t.

    That unfortunately solar energy, far from providing information, can easily destroy it is indeed proved by your ascertainment (and by many other examples):

    “The sun causes skin cancer. [...] Cancer’s actually some pretty complex and specific stuff when you get right down to it, eh?”

    The skin cancers caused by UV radiation are terrible examples of corruption of information contained in the organisms. Energy cannot construct but can destroy. Why is to destroy easier than construct? Because disordered states are more numerous than ordered ones. Hence order is more probable than disorder. Again we are back to 2nd thermodynamics law. (Of course if this is true for order to greater reason is true for organization.)

    I add that of course cancer is not “complex and specific stuff” in the sense that it entails complex specified information (CSI). Cancer is pure degeneration of biological systems. It is something purely negative. If it seems to show something positive, that entirely pertains to the systems it invades. For example, cancer’s cells self-reproduce, migrate to other organs, cancer’s tissues vascularize and so on. All these CSI capabilities are not of the cancer, but of its host, the organism body. I say this to prevent the idea that UV-caused cancers prove that . . . “energy input from the sun could give rise to the increase in CSI in bodies”.

  31. Mr Niwrad,

    The quoted Biologos statement is skipping the mechanism, as is the statement “UV causes skin cancer”.

    I think everyone agrees that there are many more ways to increase entropy than to decrease it. That statement doesn’t contradict the idea that there are some ways to decrease it.

    One thing that abiogenesis researchers need to show is how the helpful work done by UV is not immediately degraded by another photon. One possibility that is discussed is if the chains of matter being assembled are tethered to a substrate. In effect, they are grounded, and the energy of an otherwise disrupting photon is rapidly transmitted down the chain before it can disrupt a bond in the chain. Substrates can also provide physical shade.

    Perhaps it is also worth noting that all UV is not alike. The UV responsible for cancer is a higher frequency than the UV that helps you tan. 4 billion years ago, the sun shone weaker than it does now. I don’t know the predicted shift in the solar spectrum as a result, but the sheer number of helpful vs. harmful UV has to be considered.

  32. Mr ScottAndrews,

    Yes, that is the basic argument. Life seems to have arisen very quickly after the surface of the Earth became solid for the last time. Miller Urey experiments easily generate the precursors and building blocks of life. Those are two strands of evidence pointing in that direction.

    NASA is spending the money to look for Earthlike planets and test their atmospheres for evidence of life (is the atmosphere more like Earth or more like Venus and Mars). So in a few years we hope to have comparative evidence as well as historical and experimental results.

  33. Nakashima:

    Life seems to have arisen very quickly after the surface of the Earth became solid for the last time.

    That life did not first appear in a sea of molten lava is a line of evidence pointing to self-organization? What does one have to do with the other?

    Miller Urey experiments easily generate the precursors and building blocks of life.

    That’s a bit like saying that televisions sprang from natural causes, because look – when lightning hits sand it makes glass, and we can replicate the effect in lab. Glass is a building block of televisions. No one who’s seen the relatively simple circuitry of a television would take such a notion seriously, nor should they.

    Life only “seems to have arisen this way” if you start from that conclusion. But as it stands, particles and molecules never self-organize into functioning, replicating machines, regardless of how bright the sun shines on them. Anyone is free to believe or hope otherwise, but in the absence of evidence it’s just an alternate religion. I respect other people’s religions, but we have to call it that.

  34. “Miller Urey experiments easily generate the precursors and building blocks of life.”

    ScottAndrews:
    “That’s a bit like saying that televisions sprang from natural causes, because look – when lightning hits sand it makes glass, and we can replicate the effect in lab. Glass is a building block of televisions. No one who’s seen the relatively simple circuitry of a television would take such a notion seriously, nor should they.”

    Exactly!! and everyone who has been contributing to this site for some time should understand this by now.

    The “problem” with informational arrangements (not defined by law or best explained by chance) is that they are not defined by the physical properties of their units. Explaining the existence of the units is not the problem. Its the non-lawful, yet also non-random arrangement that needs an explanation. Why do some people not yet get this?

    Natural processes can create the ingredients for a TV. Hey, I can even fashion the parts and assume that somehow natural law and chance made those parts. But, if you wish to convince me that you can shake all those parts together and after millions of years you have a TV or better yet a self-replicating information processing system without any intelligent input, you are trying to sell me a religion … and one void of logic at that!

  35. Mr ScottAndrews,

    Since your original questions related to whether life was “just waiting to happen”, a response on the speed with which life arose is, I think relevant.

  36. Nakashima:

    The question was whether inanimate materials are likely to self-organize and form life when exposed to energy.

    I don’t see how the speed with which life arose is relevant at all. Perhaps you can clarify what you meant

    Life seems to have arisen very quickly after the surface of the Earth became solid for the last time.

    and how it provides evidence that life originated spontaneously when substances were exposed to sunlight.

    One could state that the Mona Lisa did not appear until after the canvas was made and the paint was mixed. Once that happened, the painting appeared relatively quickly. Does any of that information lead to the conclusion that the Mona Lisa was a spontaneous byproduct of canvas and paint?

  37. Mr ScottAndrews,

    I am reading speed as a measure of probability. Speed could be also be a measure of luck if you think that life is very difficult to arise, needing more than the lifetime of the universe for example.

    With only one data point, it may difficult to distinguish between likelihood and luck. I look forward with interest the result of NASA’s satellite surveys.

  38. Nakashima:

    Speculating whether the spontaneous origin of life was a lucky event or a probable one still assumes the conclusion, that life originated spontaneously. The cart is ahead of the cart.

    There’s little or no basis to even speculate that such spontaneous generation occurred. Of course, we’re all free to speculate, hypothesize, and perform Miller-Urey experiments. But the conclusion that life self-created, with out without lots of sunlight, is as far from science as the sunrise is from the sunset.

  39. Mr ScottAndrews,

    I’m sorry, I thought there were a few unstated assumptions in your question “was life just waiting to happen?”, one of which was the assumption of spontaneity and materiality.

    If your question is open to other assumptions or interpretations, you will have to wait for other participants to handle those options. For example, if your question really was “was life just waiting to happen (with Divine assistance)?” there are many sincere believers in a Divinity on this site who be able to help.

  40. Nakashima:
    I’m sorry, I thought there were a few unstated assumptions in your question “was life just waiting to happen?”, one of which was the assumption of spontaneity and materiality.

    My question makes no unstated assumptions. I’m asking whether there’s any scientific basis to the speculation that chemicals + sunlight = (or can =) self-organization and life. The answer appears to be no.

    I do have religious beliefs. They don’t conflict with science in this matter. If we take ID out of the picture, science has absolutely nothing to say about life’s origins. There are strongly held convictions that life self-created, but that has nothing to do with science.

  41. Mr ScottAndrews,

    Thank you for adding the word ‘scientific’ to your latest restatement. I think you must have a different understanding of science if the historical and experimental evidence mean nothing to you.

  42. Nakashima:
    I think you must have a different understanding of science if the historical and experimental evidence mean nothing to you.

    They mean a great deal to me. But we would not be having this discussion if there were history or experimentation to support self-organization of any chemicals into functional machines.

    Neither historical nor experimental evidence supports your position. Name an experiment or observation in which any such degree of self-organization has occurred. There are none. What degree of complexity or function was achieved in any Miller-Urey type experiment?

    Some may choose to view such experiments as steps in the right direction. But that requires optimistically assuming the outcome. You can’t have steps in the right direction unless you choose a destination.

    If we set aside preconceptions and wishful thinking, evidence of biological self-organization from inanimate matter is absolutely nonexistent.

  43. R0b #20

    “The SLOT says nothing about the alleged necessity of an intelligent source of organization, so it makes no sense to say that it agrees or disagrees with ID or evolution in this respect.”

    Not true. Thermodynamics does speak a lot about “an intelligent source of organization”. What is “Maxwell’s demon” (a fundamental concept in thermodynamics) but “an intelligent source of organization”? Bill Dembski wrote: “It is CSI that enables Maxwell’s demon to outsmart a thermodynamic system tending toward thermal equilibrium” (“Intelligent Design”, 6.1). So also from this viewpoint thermodynamics perfectly agrees with ID theory. When thermodynamics says that Maxwell’s demon is the only way to systematically decrease entropy in a system it states exactly the same thing of ID theory when says that intelligence is the only source of CSI.

  44. niwrad:

    What is “Maxwell’s demon” (a fundamental concept in thermodynamics) but “an intelligent source of organization”?

    Maxwell’s demon is a thought experiment in which it superficially appears that overall entropy decreases. It says nothing about intelligence or organization, as you use the term.

    Do you define “intelligence” in such a way that a one-way filter requires intelligence? And do you define “organization” in a way that a simple differential is an example of organization?

  45. Mr R0b,

    The demon adds as much CSI to Maxwell’s experiment as the cat adds to Schrodinger’s experiment! ;)

  46. Mr Nakashima, LOL. Not to mention the twin that takes a rocket trip while the other twin stays home. Physics is all about CSI.

  47. Am I missing something? An entity (demon) opening and closing a door based on its observation of the speed of a particle approaching the door is a process void of intelligence?

  48. Nakashima @44:

    Both papers describe what are essentially chemical reactions. Neither even attempts to explain the origin of any functional organization.

    As I said before, papers such as this describe lightning making glass from sand. Presto, a few more undirected natural events and we have a 42″ plasma TV.

    There is no scientific basis for concluding that the resultant molecules could ever arrange themselves for the purposes of sustaining and then replicating their own existence. That goes beyond the findings of the research and becomes an expression of wishes and hope.

  49. 50

    I guess your missing the part where it’s revealed the demon is entirely fictitious. Also, the entire point of the thought experiment in the first place: namely, the demon is an attempt to imagine a process that violates the 2nd law. Spoiler alert: most people are pretty sure the demon loses in the end and entropy wins again.

    Oh, and that ROb’s point is that the demon isn’t actually required here: a hypothetical and perfect one-way filter devoid of any intellect whatsoever would serve just as well.

    Alright, show of hands: how many of you are going to say something like “OK, well, somebody has to engineer this perfect filter” in response to this?

  50. 51

    Above, 1st sentence: s/your/you’re/

  51. Mr ScottAndrews,

    Both papers describe what are essentially chemical reactions. Neither even attempts to explain the origin of any functional organization.

    Yes. Please cite the experiment that shows in scintific terms which part of life _isn’t_ essentially a chemical reaction.

    These papers do not explain the origin of functional organization, they demonstrate it, contra your claim that there are no such results.

  52. Nakashima at 28, yes the point made by TMoLO is still correct, but you are missing the crucial distinction that they made.

    As you can see even from those excerpts, they affirmed the ability of energy to accomplish merely chemical tasks, but that is insufficient.

    What is missing is a mechanism for converting the energy into configurational work — work of the kind that can construct molecules whose function depends on rich specified complexity. Please note:

    “We found it to be a reasonable explanation for doing the chemical and thermal entropy work, but clearly inadequate to account for the configurational entropy work of coding (not to mention the sorting and selecting work). We have noted the need for some sort of coupling mechanism. Without it, there is no way to convert the negative entropy associated with energy flow into negative entropy associated with configurational entropy and the corresponding information.”

    There is no such mechanism in the undirected, prebiotic universe. That is the fiction that rests entirely upon wishful thinking without empirical or theoretical support.

  53. Mr ericB,

    You may be interested in

    RNA–Amino Acid Binding: A Stereochemical Era for the Genetic Code

    which argues the mechanism is direct chemical affinity.

  54. The money quote from that article:

    “Therefore, RNA sites can easily bind amino acids or carboxyl-activated amino acids (see “Part IV: A Model”), making sufficient distinctions among them to support coded peptide synthesis, in which a pre-coded stereoisomer and side chain selectivity would potentially be emphasized at each encoded position. Though it could not be obvious beforehand even to prescient observers like Carl Woese or Leslie Orgel, amino acids interacting with RNA, acting alone, can support specific, potentially code-forming interactions.”

  55. Nakashima:
    Yes. Please cite the experiment that shows in scintific terms which part of life _isn’t_ essentially a chemical reaction.

    I’ll overlook the unfounded assumption that life is a chemical reaction (for all I know it’s true) and the unusual claim that we should begin from that assumption and experiment to prove it false.

    But you seem to think that because life is a chemical reaction, any experiment that results in a chemical reaction is relevant to the origin of life. The assumptions now pile upon the assumptions. First, assume that it’s possible for life to originate via undirected chemical reactions. Next, assume that it did. Next, assume that any particular experimental reaction is potentially a step toward the assumed reaction.

    Assume, assume, assume and call it science.

    The experiments are science unto themselves. The extrapolations and speculations based upon them are no such thing.

  56. Nakashima:
    amino acids interacting with RNA, acting alone, can support specific, potentially code-forming interactions.

    What bearing can this paper have on the undirected chemical organization of life when it begins with existing RNA?

    Potentially code-forming interactions? Which is it? Where codes formed or were they not? If the former, why call the interactions “potential?” What type of codes were formed? On the other hand, if no codes were formed, isn’t it highly speculative to say that codes could potentially be formed?

    Such research allows for one to hope that an undirected cause for life may one day be found, if one is inclined to wish for that and exhibit extraordinary faith in that eventual outcome. But as of this year and day there is no scientific basis for drawing that conclusion.

  57. Mr ScottAndrews,

    That life is essentially chemical reactions is a quite parsimonious place to start our inquiry. Any evidence to the contrary would be appreciated.

    I’ve tried to respond to your questions, which have shifted with every response. These last references are responses to your assertion that there are ‘no’ experiments that show the creation of functional organization. You might have responded that the results were ‘not functional enough’ or ‘not organized enough’ to contradict your assertion, but to instead dismiss them by sniffing that they are essentially chemical reactions does not honor your own position.

    But please, continue to change the subject.

  58. Nakashima:
    “Please cite the experiment that shows in scintific terms which part of life _isn’t_ essentially a chemical reaction.”

    Woah, hold it right there. You’re getting off track. Mere transfer of energy and chemical reactions are not what needs to be explained. If you think that the fact that life follows the laws of chemistry can account for its organization, then that is like stating that because my computer only operates upon physical reactions then the laws of physics can account for my computer’s organization — which is in fact not defined by laws of physics. Refer to my post #34 and the example given referencing lightning, glass, and the organization of a TV.

    Of course every reaction in life is either chemical or physical (based on laws of physics) or quantum mechanical, and so is every “reaction” in my computer and TV. Once they are all sufficiently organized, life and technology follow laws of nature. This is not in dispute. What needs explanation is the organization which is not defined by law — mathematical descriptions of regularity emerging from the physical/material/measurable properties of matter and energy.

    And in reference to the transfer of energy, much more is needed than merely transfer of energy in order for life to operate. Again, yes life can be described in terms of transfer of energy and chemical reactions (along with physical and quantum reactions) but even that is not sufficient. The type of life and technology that we have been discussing also necessarily requires the organization that I have been drawing your attention to and which requires an explanation.

    I will now cite George Gaylord Simpson and William S. Beck, Life: An Introduction to Biology, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge and Kegan, 1965), 145, to put the relationship between 2LOT, life, organization, and information into perspective:

    “In the face of the universal tendency for order to be lost, the complex organization of the living organism can be maintained only if work – involving the expenditure of energy – is performed to conserve the order. The organism is constantly adjusting, repairing, replacing, and this requires energy. But the preservation of the complex, improbable organization of the living creature needs more than energy for the work. It calls for information or instructions on how the energy should be expended to maintain the improbable organization. The idea of information necessary for the maintenance and, as we shall see, creation of living systems is of great utility in approaching the biological problems of reproduction.”

  59. Mr ScottAndrews,

    What bearing can this paper have on the undirected chemical organization of life when it begins with existing RNA?

    Perhaps you haven’t been actually reading the references I’ve been providing. They show that RNA can form abiotically, and lengthen, in environments that protect the forming strands from degradation by UV. This paper merely shows that amino acids, which also form abiotically, can directly template against a strand of RNA. Thus strings of AAs can be formed into proteins without any special machinery to assist, such as a ribosome.

    Since Mr ericB was asking about mechanism, I pointed out this paper. The mechanism of affinity means that sequences of RNA are correlated, loosely or tightly, with proteins. Whereas energy from the sun created the stacked nucleotides and the free amino acids, it is the laws of physics and chemistry that create the affinities. Energy is transduced via chemistry into order. Beautiful, isn’t it?

    The gradual tightening of these correlations is the formation of the genetic code and the creation of information, which was where Mr niwrad and I started this discussion on the previous thread. It was quite interesting to see a fragment of the genetic code table filled with probabilities in that paper, just as Mr niwrad and I had been discussing.

  60. Nakashima:
    “These last references are responses to your assertion that there are ‘no’ experiments that show the creation of functional organization.”

    The functional organization that requires explanation is an organization which can be defined as “a functionally specified spatial arrangement which is not defined by law — mathematical descriptions of regularities that emerge from the physical/material/measurable properties of matter and energy.”

    If you can show an experiment that does not begin with either intelligence or any functional organization and yet arrives at such then we have something to discuss.

    Until then, a belief in such “self-organization” is purely faith based. But, of course, there is nothing wrong with that as science requires faith that a given hypothesis will produce results until that hypothesis does indeed begin producing results. However, the hypothesis becomes more so of a religious belief when a person clings to such a faith based hypothesis when the evidence points in the opposite direction. ie: attempting to shoehorn organization not defined by law or best explained by chance into a law and chance based explanation. Its kinda like observing patterns (such as data collected from atmospheric noise – http://www.random.org) which pass the majority of statistical tests for randomness, and which also have no clear regularities, and attempting to explain those patterns in terms of law as one would explain planetary orbits or the order within a crystal.

  61. Nakashima:

    I’ve tried to respond to your questions, which have shifted with every response. These last references are responses to your assertion that there are ‘no’ experiments that show the creation of functional organization.

    As I repeatedly claim that there is no evidence indicating the self-organization of life, your responses have repeatedly shifted to various non-answers. If I appear to be shifting, it is because I address each response individually.

    Each research paper provides a simple result and then extrapolates wildly from it. Observe:

    They show that RNA can form abiotically, and lengthen, in environments that protect the forming strands from degradation by UV.

    A impressionable reader might conclude from this that at least once, RNA had been observed organizing from chemicals by itself. That would be quite impressive. But it’s never happened. We need to draw the line between thinking that a thing could happen and having reasonable scientific evidence.

    That’s neither changing the subject nor “sniffing.”

  62. R0b #45 and Doomsday Smith #50

    Maxwell’s demon is a thought experiment and is fictitious, nevertheless it clearly proves that intelligence can counter entropy in principle. That is what matters, because makes the Maxwell’s demon an important conceptual bridge between thermodynamics and ID theory and shows their perfect agreement.

    I see a serious contradiction in your position: from a side you say (A) “a perfect one-way filter devoid of any intellect whatsoever would serve just as well” and from the other side you say (B) “the [intelligent] demon loses in the end and entropy wins again”. You cannot have it both ways: A true and B true. In fact if intelligence loses against entropy (B true) to greater reason an artificial device (which is lower than intelligence) loses (A false). If a device serves ok (A true) to greater reason intelligence (which is higher than a device) works ok (B false).

    A contradictory position cannot refute the truth of my initial statement.

  63. Mr CJYman,

    I think the RNA nucleotides constructed in the referenced paper are obviously functional, we use the same structures in our bodies all the time. They are more organized than the feedstock molecules, so functional organization has increased. That is what Mr ScottAndrews didn’t think there was evidence for.

  64. Each research paper provides a simple result and then extrapolates wildly from it.

    Irrational exuberance?

  65. I think the RNA nucleotides constructed in the referenced paper are obviously functional

    They transcribe DNA?

  66. A impressionable reader might conclude from this that at least once, RNA had been observed organizing from chemicals by itself. That would be quite impressive.

    Observing The Intelligent Designer organizing RNA from C,H,O,N, and P would impress me.

  67. Mr niwrad,

    I think you can combine A and B as “a perfect one-way filter devoid of any intellect whatsoever would serve just as well and loses in the end and entropy wins again”. In other words “just as well” == “loses”.

    Not that that is such a great result. The main point is that there are other approaches, besides intelligence, to attacking the demon thought experiment. Or rather, if a perfect one-way filter is intelligent, so is all chemistry intelligent to the same degree, and you are back to the TE position.

  68. Mr ScottAndrews,

    They transcribe DNA?

    Hardly the only function of RNA. As the other paper referenced for Mr ericB showed, RNA functions as a template for amino acids. It can also function as an enzyme for itself or for other RNA strands.

  69. Mr DiBagno,

    Each research paper provides a simple result and then extrapolates wildly from it.

    Irrational exuberance?

    The words simply bubble off the page! ;) Read them and see.

  70. niwrad,

    Maxwell’s demon is a thought experiment and is fictitious, nevertheless it clearly proves that intelligence can counter entropy in principle.

    I’m not so sure it proves that. Indeed, it has been demonstrated mathematically that the decrease in entropy caused by the “intelligent” demon is more than compensated for by an increase in the demon’s own entropy:

    link

  71. Mr Nakashima,

    I have read them, and I am exuberant!

    (Yarus et al.; that is delicious!)

  72. Mr DiBagno,

    I agree, it is wonderful to see a scientist pursue a line of reasoning over years and years, working out details, taking advantage of technical advances, etc. Yarus’ writing style is also quite clear. That paper is so recent I was quite happy to find it.

  73. 74

    Niwrad:

    Maxwell’s demon is a thought experiment and is fictitious, nevertheless it clearly proves that intelligence can counter entropy in principle.

    It doesn’t prove anything of the sort. The overwhelming consensus is that everything, intelligent or not, is subject to the 2nd law. The contradiction you’ve read into my post is as imaginary as Maxwell’s Demon. All local entropy decreases are paid for by global increases. The demon cannot violate SLoT every time he types or sorts a molecule or whatever. So, in that respect, he adds nothing to the thought experiment and can easily be replaced by an (equally imaginary) perfect filter.

  74. re #74
    Actually there are some very interesting exceptions to the second law:

    it should be noted that, counter-intuitive to materialistic thought, a computer does not consume energy during computation and will only consume energy when information is erased from it. This counter-intuitive fact is formally known as Landauer’s Principle. If a computer had unlimited storage space it would never consume energy. Erasing information is a thermodynamically irreversible process that increases the entropy of a system.

    Landauer’s principle
    Of Note: if no information is erased, computation may in principle be achieved which is thermodynamically reversible,,, In 2003 Weiss and Weiss came to the conclusion that information processing by the brain has to be based on Landauer’s principle. In 2008 this has been empirically confirmed by a group of neurobiologists.,,, Landauer’s Principle has also been used as the foundation for a new theory of dark energy, proposed by Gough (2008). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L....._principle

    The fact that our “mind/brain” must work on Landauer’s principle, and is thus semi-immune from the entropy that has such complete dominion over all the “material” of this universe, strongly suggests that our “soul/mind” is a unique entity which is transcendent of the material brain, just as Theism has always suggested. ,,, As well, the ability of a computer to “find answers” without ever, hypothetically, consuming energy strongly suggests that the answers/truth already exist in reality, and in fact, when taken to its logical conclusion, is very suggestive to the fact that the “truth of Logos (John 1:1)” is ultimately the foundation of our “material” reality in the first place.

    John 1:1-3
    In the beginning, the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
    Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.

    (of note: “Word” in Greek is “Logos”, and is the root word from which we get our word “Logic”)

  75. I am glad to have initiated this discussion and to see the participation is good. Thanks to all the smart commenters for their interesting contributes and challenging objections. Honest discussion can help to find truth. I am truly convinced the relations between thermodynamics and ID theory are very deep and involve some of the more fundamental questions one can ask about the cosmos. Please feel free to not abandon this discussion also when the thread will disappear from the top page of UD. Thank you.

    ~~

    It seem to me an important questions is: Maxvell’s demon does violate or does not violate SLoT? Just here not all commenters agree. In my opinion Maxvell’s demon can be considered in two main senses: (1) a machine, an artificial system (one-way filter); (2) a thermodynamic metaphor of intelligence.

    (1) Maxvell’s demon as a machine. But there are many kinds of machines, and then we have again to distinguish.

    (A) Maxvell’s demon as a mechanical-thermo machine. In this case I agree with Monastyrski #71 when says “the decrease in entropy caused by the intelligent demon is more than compensated for by an increase in the demon’s own entropy”. SLoT is not violated.

    (B) Maxvell’s demon as a computer. If the Maxvell’s demon is a computer for which the Landauer’s principle is involved, according to givemeabreak #75, there is no increase of entropy because computation per se does not consume energy. SLoT is violated.

    (2) Maxvell’s demon as intelligence. But what is intelligence in the first place? This is one of the above fundamental and difficult questions. Without knowing what intelligence is how can we to speak about Maxvell’s demon, which is one of its symbols? Intelligence can be considered in two main senses: (A) physical intelligence; (B) pure intelligence or metaphysical intelligence.

    (A) If intelligence is a physical agent then energy is involved. SLoT is not violated.

    (B) If intelligence is a metaphysical entity then no energy is involved. SLoT is violated.

    Feel free to express your comments about my four cases (1A, 1B, 2A, 2B) and eventually provide your ones (please continue the enumeration accordingly to a coherent tree of hypothesis, e.g. 1C, 3A … ).

  76. Nakashima:

    They are more organized than the feedstock molecules, so functional organization has increased.

    Ultimately, an experiment that begins and ends with RNA is underwhelming with regard to the subject at hand.
    I’m still not the least bit clear on what living system these more functional RNA molecules participated in, without which they could hardly be called “functional” in any non-hypothetical sense.

  77. Mr ScottAndrews,

    Why do you restrict definitions of function to living systems? We’ve had a lot of discussions here about function, and I’ve never heard anyone introduce that limitation before. Watches aren’t alive, but they have a function, to tell time. If we choose a functon, such as “catalyse ATP formation at rate greater than X” (making that up) then we can count all the molecules of any structure at all, organic or inorganic, that have that function.

  78. CJYman at 59, Excellent post.

    Nakashima, sorry I could not respond sooner, but that post by CJYman is on the mark.

    Consider two systems A and B, each holding exactly the same atom types in exactly the same quantities, with exactly the same number of chemical bonds and exactly the same mass.

    Both systems are obeying the laws of chemistry. Nevertheless, one of them may be rich with encoded symbolic information, while the other has no symbolic information at all.

    The laws of chemistry make no requirement for symbolic information. None whatsoever. Notice again, both systems A and B satisfy the laws of chemistry, yet one is devoid of symbolic information.

    Symbolic information is essentially something more than “X obeys the laws of chemical reactions.”

    That is why it will never be enough to show merely that by the laws of chemistry there is potential to connect amino acids together. That is not the issue. A functional protein is much more than just a random string of amino acids.

    Functional protein sequences are exceedingly rare with the space of possible amino acid sequences, and (apart from a recipe driven system) there is no chemical requirement that an amino acid sequence should be a functional protein. It can just be amino acids and/or other stuff joined together in whatever configuration happens to happen.

    Furthermore, the recipe for a functional protein, encoded as symbolic information according to the same language convention as an associated and implemented translation machine, is much, much, much more than a unrelated sequence of RNA bases.

    This is the difference between mere chemistry and symbolic information.

    Chemistry allows ink to make marks on paper. Ink has the chemical potential to be used in a writing system to express symbolic information. But chemistry itself makes no requirement that ink should do this. A meaningless blotch satisfies chemistry just as well as a sentence, and blotches are easily accomplished by undirected processes.

    The missing mechanism is not the potential for ink to associate with paper. That is mere chemistry. The missing mechanism is the one that converts energy to work that satisfies the configurational requirements (beyond the requirements of chemistry) of a system of meaningful symbolic information and translation.

  79. Mr ericB,

    When you bring in the word ‘meaningful’, I have to ask – “to whom”? You reject a length of RNA as containing no symbolic information, but lo! it really contains the compressed works of the classical Vogon poets.

    So the materialist answer to the desire for meaning is that all of these RNA sequences _are_ meaningful – to other pieces of RNA, or to stretches of amino acids strung together and folded. Of course, ensembles of RNA and proteins only outcompete each other for the scarce resource of feedstock chemicals if they mean something to each other, the metabolic cyles that kick the RNA world forward in terms of complexity.

    So we could have a large series of systems such as you A and B, above. Each contains symbolic information, meaningful to some party or other. Vogon poets, Youtube videos, whatever. But one of those systems might be remarkable because the meaning of each part of the system comes from another part of the same system.

    To say “That is mere chemistry.” is to denigrate what we ourselves are. After just scratching the surface of chemistry in terms of our global knowledge (and my personal knowledge), “mere” isn’t a word I would use about chemistry. “That is awe inspiring chemistry!” is more like it.

  80. Nakashima,
    I find it ironic that you can speak favorably of the RNA world hypothesis, and in the same note effectively disparage my point about “mere chemistry”. It was Dr. Leslie Orgel, one who has advocated the RNA world perspective, that early on pointed out that living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity.

    Both living and non-living things have mere chemistry. Mere chemistry does not explain what we are as distinct from the rest of the universe, and Orgel recognized this. Living organisms have something more than mere chemistry — something not found anywhere else in the universe other than in the artifacts of intelligent agents — that is the only other place it is found.

    The challenge of abiogenesis/origin of life research is to explain how a universe completely devoid of specified complexity could give birth to this in the form of living organisms — supposedly without intelligent intervention (unlike every other case of specified complexity).

    That specified complexity requires configurational work. There is plenty of energy to do work. Where is the mechanism that can convert the energy into this type of configurational work realistically in available time? That is the thermodynamic missing piece.

    BTW, while functional proteins are prohibitively rare among possible amino acid sequences, symbolic representations of functional proteins as a sequence of bases in RNA (or DNA) are guaranteed to be at least as rare among possible base sequences of an appropriate length to represent the protein. Under realistic considerations, they are likely to be even more rare.

    So the problem isn’t easier by doing the configurational work within RNA. It is actually harder.

    When you bring in the word ‘meaningful’, I have to ask – “to whom”?

    “Meaningful” in this context means translating an encoded sequence into a functional realized structure. I would have thought that is obvious by now. What is mysterious about that?

    You reject a length of RNA as containing no symbolic information, but lo! it really contains the compressed works of the classical Vogon poets.

    You say that as though it helps your position, but it makes it worse. Much worse.

    Your statement hints at the truth — and it is true — that the symbolic meaning of a sequence is extrinsic, not intrinsic. The same sequence could mean one thing or another or another — depending on what translation is applied. The “meaning” comes through the translation. It is not inherent in the sequence itself.

    The consequence is that a sequence has no symbolic meaning of itself, independent of applying an appropriate translation convention matched to the original encoded meaning.

    In other words, you can juggle the order of bases in RNA for billions of years, but of itself it doesn’t ever inherently mean anything symbolically. By one convention a sequence could potentially correspond to a protein and by another convention to your address and by the overwhelming majority of conventions complete gibberish — absolute nonsense — just random noise or static.

    This means that explaining symbolic meaning requires accounting for the origin of four things. All are required to have symbolic meaning.

    1. The stored symbolic sequence (e.g. DNA or perhaps RNA). But not just a random sequence of bases. It must be encoded according to …

    2. A specific convention for translation to the realized meaning (e.g. one of the genetic codes), by…

    3. A translation mechanism (e.g. a ribosome or something else; if something less, it still needs to produce..)

    4. The meaning, i.e. a realized functional output of the translation (e.g. a working functional protein, not just a random sequence of amino acids that connect).

  81. niwrad @76:

    Are Italian keyboards different from American? Otherwise I would suggest that you try at least to spell Maxwell’s name correct while discrediting physics.

  82. Mr osteonectin,

    correct-ly

    Let’s keep adverbs and adjectives straight while criticizing other people’s spelling.

    This subject makes me think about Chomsky’s idea that language is an organ of the mind. Since it is a human universal, I would tend to agree that there is something genetic that makes language develop. It has obvious survival value in a social group to communicate better than the next guy, or for a tribe of talkes to expand at the cost of a tribe of grunters. But the selection pressure seems to have let up after we were all babbling. So we are stuck with language organs good enough for “Where was the mammoth?” or

    Roses are red,
    violets are blue,
    all my base,
    are belong to you

    but Strunk and White needs to be taught.

  83. osteonectin #82

    The idea of discrediting physics is very far from me and I don’t understand what caused such false impression to you. I have an high consideration of physics and think it (and any hard science when is not biased by prejudices) as friend of ID. Moreover I have an high consideration of many physicists and, specifically, for Maxwell my admiration cannot be higher (not only for his important contributions to thermodynamics).

    I challenge any one to find something in this post (and other posts of mine) that is offensive to physics. The fact itself that I decided to post here about thermodynamics and ID (considering the former allied of the latter) is a proof of that. Besides the fact itself that I consider Maxwell’s demon (which some consider an unimportant imaginary trick only) very seriously and say it can suggest interesting scientific and philosophical remarks is another proof of that.

    Sorry for my fault in spelling Maxwell’s name. Obviously it doesn’t depend by the keyboard (I always use US keyboards and don’t like IT ones because the former are more apt for scientific work in general while the latter for writing Italian prose only).

  84. R0b #20

    If a cell has more CSI than a crystal, it is not because the cell has complicated organization while the crystal has simple order.

    The order and formation of crystals is perfectly explainable by the laws of chemistry and physics. The same thing cannot be stated for the organization and arise of cells. The same word “organization” recalls the concept of “organ” (functional sub-system). In fact one of the aspects of organization is functional hierarchy, i.e. a tree of nested functional sub-systems. It is undeniable that a cell is a functional hierarchy and a crystal is not.

    Also if we consider the three components of CSI there is no comparison between crystals and cells.

    The content of information of cells is far greater than the information content of crystals. It is sufficient to consider just only the information content of DNA and RNA molecules to understand that nothing similar exists in crystals.

    The complexity of cells is far greater than the complexity of crystals. This is also true when we examine both from the point of view of Kolmogoroff complexity. Crystals are composed of few configurations that repeat always equal many times. This lowers Kolmogoroff complexity of crystals to a minimum. In fact it is as we had a string of few characters that repeats many times. It is easy to see that a short algorithm can easily output such concatenation. And in fact that is exactly what physical and chemical laws do. Laws, from the perspective of algorithmic information theory (AIT), are algorithms. Differently from crystals the algorithmic complexity of cells is very high because their organs and their processes (if we model them as characters strings) are not outputable by algorithms.

    The specification in cells can be tied to the many different functions and processes that a cell must work out. Nothing similar to what happens in crystals that have not different functions. As a consequence crystals have little specification.

    To sum up, no complexity, no specification, no information. How can one claim that crystals have CSI as cells?

    To my knowledge, and according to the above ascertainments, there is no better synonymous of CSI than the term “organization”. ID theory, information theory, AIT, cybernetics and informatics (fields where organization is studied and designed) agree well about the big difference of organization between crystals and cells.

  85. niwrad:

    Don’t defend the indefensible. “X gives rise to the increase in order on Y” is fully different from “X powers Y” and the guys at Biologos Foundation know it.

    I e-mailed the Biologos Foundation about this quote:

    With biological evolution however, the system being considered is not the universe, but the Earth. And the Earth is not an isolated system. This means that an increase in order can occur on Earth as long as there is an energy input — most notably the light of the sun. Therefore, energy input from the sun could give rise to the increase in order on Earth INCLUDING COMPLEX MOLECULES AND ORGANISMS.

    They (after a long delay) replied to say:

    . . . You’re right that nowhere in the Questions’ response were we making a statement about ‘information’ being delivered to Earth via light beams from the sun. We meant only to clarify that the Earth itself is not a closed system, as is often mistakenly assumed in conversations about the 2nd law.

  86. 87

    Who is niwrad?

    Are you on Facebook or Twitter or Google+?

    I don’t understand most of what you say but I can feel it’s awesome because of the discussions in comments. You are awesome.

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