Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Why does the centre hold?

I just posted this to the LSN blog.

I may be totally off base here, not (I reiterate) being a science person myself. But aren't the two ideas, entropy and materialist Darwinian evolution, fundamentally in conflict?

Thoughts?

Hey, has anyone else thought of this?

You know entropy? The tendency of things in the universe to fall apart, to dissipate energy, rather than come together in complex systems?

It's this: the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
No process is possible whose sole result is the transfer of heat from a body of lower temperature to a body of higher temperature.

In an isolated system, heat cannot flow spontaneously from cold regions to hot regions without external work being performed on the system. Entropy is a measure of the amount of energy in a physical system not available to do work, that gets dissipated in the working of the system. As a physical system becomes more disordered, and its energy becomes more evenly distributed, that energy becomes less able to do work.

This means that the entropy of an isolated system (a system that has nothing acting on it from the outside) can, at best, remain the same and will increase for most systems. Thus, the overall disorder of an isolated system must increase.

This is one of those universal laws of physics, the basic units of order that the universe is based on. For us non-science people, it can be compared with a statement like, "You cannot be both in the room and not in the room at the same time and in the same way".

I'm not a scientist, and I only made it as far as high school physics, but I remember a fair bit of it due to years of reading sci-fi novels (by real science-y people, like Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Azimov, not the dragons-and-teenage-girl kind). So I have a question for the evolution people (the science-y kind, not the thump-the-Christians-over-the-head-with-their-own-Bibles kind).

If there's entropy, and entropy means that systems don't spontaneously become more complex but instead tend to fall apart, become less complex and eventually dissipate entirely, why do the evolution people propose that things “evolve”? Evolutionists not only propose that living things, very complex systems, spontaneously change over long periods of time, but that they tend to become more complex. Phytoplankton “gave rise” to plants. Single-cell organisms “moved on” to become multicellular autotrophs.

Entropy is an amazingly complex idea and I have nothing like the background I would need to start understanding it as it is defined in classical thermodynamics and statistical mechanics.

But the concept isn't that difficult to get. It can be observed:

Unless you apply some effort to them, simple systems do not spontaneously become more complex systems.

Both simple and complex systems (a stack of bricks and a mote of phytoplankton photosynthesising in the sea) tend to break down over time.

Systems that convert mass to energy, lose a bunch of the energy in the process.

Ultimately, the system breaks down entirely and its component bits dissipate.

In cosmology, entropy is described as a hypothetical tendency for the universe to attain a state of maximum homogeneity in which all matter is at a uniform temperature. This is called “heat death” in which no more energy is exchanged.

Things fall apart, as the poet said, the centre does not hold and mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

I have physics friends back in British Columbia who refer to doing housework, fixing a car, paying bills, the general efforts one puts in to keep one's life going, as "fighting entropy". (Which goes to show that even strict materialist atheists need to apply some kind of cosmological meaning to daily life.)

I was fighting entropy in my kitchen earlier today, and the thought popped in there, "If complex systems only tend to fall apart when left on their own instead of spontaneously coming together in more complex systems - if there's entropy, in other words - how can evolution be true?"

I mean, the kind of evolution that is spontaneous, totally random, has no external force working on it. The strict God-is-out-of-bounds, Darwinian kind.

How can the less complex system just spontaneously become a more complex system? How can we have gone from inanimate matter, to phytoplankton to giant lizards? How can we have gone, spontaneously, from Homo Habilis to Homo Sapiens, without any external force acting on the system?

How, in fact, could life have come into existence at all from inanimate matter?

A while ago Pope Benedict addressed the atheists with this question: "Why does anything exist?" Why is there something instead of nothing? And, if there was nothing before, how did something come from nothing? Professor Stephen Hawking is said to have answered this by saying, in essence, "Before the something, there was another something”. Things exist because they exist; a banal response which only means that he has not looked back far enough in the chain of causality. If things exist now, but didn't before, where did they come from? To say they simply came from other things just ignores the question.

Cosmologists agree that "the universe," material existence, was not always here. In fact, they have even put a birthdate on the universe, about 13.7 billion years.

There was a time when something was not. But I have noticed something about cosmologists and physicists in general. Many of them are radical materialists, and seem incapable of grasping the existence of anything that is real, but exists outside of time and space. It seems like a kind of block in their imaginations. They can't seem to conceive of things that are real but not material.

But the non-material Real is actually necessary, logically, for the existence of (and certainly for the development into complexity of) the material universe.

Without an Actor doing things to the material universe from the outside, an outside force, the laws of physics say that things could not be. Systems could not have simply popped into existence from nothing on their own or become more complex over time.

Without God, their explanations of Where Things Come From are ultimately going to be reduced to absurd tautologies.