I Felt Cheated!!

[Book Review] Many of my readers who are opposed to the doctrine of Creation often throw around names of books and research papers in their comments here to establish their points. However, what results from it is often very amusing and also telling!!

When I mentioned how the Second Law of Thermodynamics negated Abiogenesis, a number of books about Chaos/Complexity and a number of research papers were thrown at me. I had already read most of the research papers and I did mention that fact in my reply. I also added my observation that none of these papers supported Abiogenesis.

imageHowever, a few of the books mentioned in these reactions against my posts were totally new to me. Hoping learn much, the first thing I did was to order as many of them as possible through an international book search.

Three books reached me this week, and here is the first book I picked up to read: Complexity by M. Mitchell Waldrop. The 380 page paperback is a good read: a very good read if you love to read a book that promises one thing and delivers another. More so, if you like to read a book that does not touch the core subject!!  So much for the first book from the bibliography that was given in support of Abiogenesis.

Actually the 380 page books is nothing except a narrative of how one person after another thought about complexity, met each other, shared their ideas and came to new insights. However, there is nothing more. At least twice I checked whether it was a book of science or that of historical fiction.

This is not a “science” book at all. Nor even a popular science book. Hard scientific data, facts, observations, etc are sorely missing from the book. It does not introduce any scientific laws about Complexity that were discovered. In summary, here is a book that leaves you where you were before reading the book – I mean, if you were looking for scientific or mathematical facts.

If this is going to be the story of the other books waiting on my table to be read, then Abiogenesis definitely stands upon chaotic grounds as I have always been saying and no amount of this Chaos/Complexity quicksand would do the proponents of abiogenesis any good.

[Dr. Johnson C. Philip is a physicist, with expertise inter alia in Quantum-nuclear Physics, and has worked extensively on the inner quark-structure of Protons and Neutrons. He has also specialized in Christian Apologetics, Biblical Archeology, Journalism, Alternative Medicines, and several other fields]

26 replies
  1. Ian
    Ian says:

    I got quite a good understanding of complexity theory from the book so I guess you win some and lose some. If you prefer something more technical then Stuart Kauffman is probably your man.

  2. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    Ian,

    the book says nothing about the Complexity Theory per se. It only narrates the story some people who related their observations with each others. It does not go into the details of science or mathematics of chaos or complexity. Thus there is no light in this book on the physics or mathematics of chaos/complexity.

    By the way, you are the first person on this blog who gave me an incentive to go back to my physics, biochemistry, and mathematics textbooks. Thanks for that!

    Offer me any evidence for abiogenesis and I will be there to study it, howsoever difficult it might be. Make sure it is evidence before you offer, because I am not interested in pseudo-evidence.

    Johnson C. Philip

  3. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    The next on my table is Frontiers of Complexity by Coveney and Highfield

    The books seems interesting, and also seems to imply that a preexisting algorithm is needed for the generation of Complexity. I will report fully once I finish reading it.

  4. Ian
    Ian says:

    Offer me any evidence for abiogenesis and I will be there to study it, howsoever difficult it might be. Make sure it is evidence before you offer, because I am not interested in pseudo-evidence.

    For clarification, complexity theory offers a frame of thinking within which abiogenesis is much more likely than you’d otherwise think it would be. Kauffman and a few others have tried to tackle abiogenesis directly (particularly using autocatalytic sets) but the key benefit of complexity is that it opens up the unintuitive aspects of complex systems and makes them more accessible.

  5. Muhr
    Muhr says:

    Thank You Dr Philip for your intellectual integrity- actually reading the book and sharing your findings. Unfortunagely group-think-chats too often reinforce ideas as facts.

  6. Samuel Skinner
    Samuel Skinner says:

    “When I mentioned how the Second Law of Thermodynamics negated Abiogenesis”

    How does that follow? If you have an external source of energy you can have increasing complexity. If only there was some sort of nuclear reactor that blasted the earth with continual sheets of energy…

  7. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Samuel,

    The following statement makes an invalid inference;

    If you have an external source of energy you can have increasing complexity.

    Rather, when you have an external source of energy (the sun in this case, as you suggest) you have an open system. No more. The question here is whether it is justified to conclude that it is possible for an open system to initiate and sustain an increase of complex information that can produce abiogenesis. Your prematurely jumping to conclude complexity from a radiation source that may or may not be able to give.

  8. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Samuel Skinner

    Samuel, thanks for your comment. I was on tour, and that is why I am delayed in responding to you.

    You said:

    If you have an external source of energy you can have increasing complexity.

    Not at all !! Ask anyone who has gone into the details of thermodynamics and he will tell you that this statement is not right!!

    External source of energy does not automatically guarantee an increase in complexity.

  9. Damian
    Damian says:

    If you have an external source of energy you can have increasing complexity.

    Notice that the word Samuel used was ‘can’, not ‘will’.

    Not at all !! Ask anyone who has gone into the details of thermodynamics and he will tell you that this statement is not right!!

    Go plant a seed. See what happens with a little external energy.

  10. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Damian

    Thanks Damian for that comment!!

    I am amused when people who ask for scientific rigor in the statements of Christian apologists fall back upon non-rigorous and non exact statements to support their case.

    Go plant a seed. See what happens with a little external energy.

    I have planted a lot of seeds in my life, and nothing has happened “with a little extra energy” alone. Much more than that was needed for the seed to sprout. Please do take those extra factors also into consideration!!

    If we are discussing only “a little external energy” then a better example would a bunch of seeds roasted in a frying pan. One does not need to be an expert in rocket science to deduce what that extra bit of energy would do to the seeds!!!

  11. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    Thanks Damian for that comment in point 12!!

    Unlike you, I would not want to bring emotionalism, teasing, and taunting into an objective discussion.

    It is not my incapability to use language that limits me from bringing in irony, satire or mockery, but rather it the quest for objectivity that restrains me from emotional manipulation.

    Please come back to an objective critique of what I wrote !!

  12. Ian
    Ian says:

    Food for thought:

    If an (open, non-equilibrium) ecosystem recieves a boundary flow of energy from its environment, it will use what it can of this energy, the free energy or the exergy content, to do work. The work will generate internal flows leading to storage and cycling of matter, energy and information, which moves the system further from equilibrium. Self-organizing processes get started. This is reflected in the decreased internal entropy and the increased internal organisation.” Jorgensen (2006)

  13. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    Dear Ian,

    thanks for the food for thought. In fact you have given a LOT of food for thought through this quotation and I invite you to share in that process of thought!!!

    1. Would you care to give the full title of the book or paper from which you quoted this

    2. would you care to tell how a reference about an “ecosystem” applies to abiogenesis where there is no system?

    3. Would you care to show how a complex “ecosystem” with a complex information-controlled-system is analogous to the pre-biotic soup in which abiogenesis is said to have taken place.

    Greetings from India !!

  14. Ian
    Ian says:

    Oops missed your comment:

    1. Jorgensen, S.E. (2006) Eco-exergy as Sustainability WIT Press, Southampton.

    2. Actually it is just a nice way of describing one of the so-called fourth law of thermodynamics or the maximum power principle. Yes this example specifically refers to ecosystems (it was just something I came across looking for something else) but the principle applies to any system.

    3. The “prebiotic soup” was most likely made up of many different materials all interacting in various ways in an incredibly volatile environment with tectonic and volcanic activity, meteorite and comet impacts, electrical and storm activity, a young active sun and the rest of it. The system would have been highly dynamic and it would have been kept that way by energy throughput. In other words it would have been a complex dynamic system… much like an ecosystem.

  15. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    The explanation for abiogenesis in point three stretches beyond belief. This complex, dynamic hypothesis seems to require an external source of energy to maintain the decreased internal entropy and the increased internal organisation.

    That’s my attempt at a joke. :-)

  16. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Ian

    1. What is the fourth law of thermodynamics ?

    2. How does a statement about an eco “system” apply to the prebiotic soup which had no system.

    3. Your point 3 is full of woulds and coulds. Can you say something that is more definite about the prebiotic soup.

  17. Ian
    Ian says:

    @Stuart: I think Demon energy drink is the external source of energy… :)

    @Johnson

    1. There are numerous variations of it, but it essentially deals with the tendency of non-equilibrium thermodynamic systems to maximise order when receiving energy throughput in excess of that required to maintain the system.

    2. Perhaps some more basic reading on the definition of a system might be in order? Otherwise read number 3 of my previous comment.

    3. Of course it is full of woulds and coulds, I wasn’t around 4 billion years ago to observe it lol. Perhaps if you could identify a particular part of the description that bothers you and we go from there?

  18. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Ian

    Thanks Ian for your replies.

    Physics is my first love and let me remind you that there is NO fourth law of thermodynamics.

    I will make no other comment !!

  19. Ian
    Ian says:

    Sure the fourth law isn’t nearly as well established as the first 4 laws but it’s getting there *shrugs*, take it as you will.

  20. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    Thanks Ian! I hope you are not serious when you mention this site because among the article only goes on to say that there are 17 different statements that claim to be the 4th law:

    The fourth law of thermodynamics is not yet a solidified concept. What seems to be the case is that many new authors each decade seem to feel compelled to lay claim to a new fourth law of thermodynamics.

    Obviously, each one of those 17 proponents feels that he has discovered a new law of thermodynamics but none has every been accepted as a law — thus the proliferation to 17 different claims (not related to each other, or not different aspects of the same phenomenon).

  21. Ian
    Ian says:

    Sigh, fine, just to take away your obsession with the term “law”, replace the phrase “so-called fourth law” in all my previous comments with “potential candidate for fourth law dealing with energy flows”.

    Now we have that strawman out of the way would you like to address the actual substance of the discussion rather than its linguistics? If not I am happy to end the conversation as we’re going nowhere.

  22. Ed
    Ed says:

    Dr. Philip,
    Thank you for your thoughtful comments.
    But take in consideration that
    If you stop every time a dog barks at you,
    You are never going to get far.
    Keep up the good work. (I Tim 6:11,12)

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