The Second Law of Thermodynamics

Since heat is one of the most common forms of energy in the Universe, and since its action can be seen on bodies everywhere, the science of thermo-dynamics (heat-motion) received very early development in physics.

Entropy is a mathematical measure of disorder. This means that any work in the Universe results in a net increase in disorder in the Universe, so that if the Universe is left untouched, it will eventually reach the state of maximum disorder, a state of death known as the Entropy Death.

While many people are under the impression that the Universe is “evolving”, actually it is running down every moment like a clock wound up some times back. Just as a clock moves towards an eventual standstill if it is left to itself after winding it once, the Universe is also moving to that state where all order will be lost.

This is the reason why clothes fade in sunlight. The ultraviolet light destroys chemicals when it randomly interacts with chemical dyes. The same is the reason why medicines have expiry dates and why it says that the cap should be closed tight and that the medicine should be kept away from direct sunlight. The natural tendency of matter and energy, when they randomly interact with each other, is to increase entropy by destroying order. There is no exception to it.

While the Universe as a whole is running down, it is possible for isolated segments of it to increase its order by creating a greater disorder outside itself. This is again an application of the second law of thermodynamics. A good example is an air-conditioner. Even when the tendency of a room is to become hot, an air-conditioner can keep the inside of the room cold by throwing the heat from inside to the atmosphere outside. The total heat dissipated into air by the air-conditioner in that process is greater than the amount of heat it takes for throwing outside because a lot of heat is generated through the air-conditioner’s own working.

In other words, if a mechanism is available, to isolate a body (insulation of the room) from external heat, and if a mechanism is available to pull out heat from inside this isolated body (the insulated room) to throw it outside the system, then a room can be cooled. This is not a violation of the second law, but rather an application of the law using a very cleverly contrived system.

Taking heat and throwing it out of the insulated room is the simplest of simple cases (where one can create order in the face of the second law) but it does explain the basics. Here are the things needed if order is to result in the face of the second law:

1. A carefully contrived mechanism to isolate the system (room) that prevents random external energy (heat) from entering it.

2. A carefully contrived mechanism to draw heat from inside and transfer it to a body outside, which would then radiate it (through the radiator and the air-cooling or water cooling system).

The most simple living cell needs a million systems more complex than the above to sustain it. The information coded on DNA and the associated RNA, enzymes, and numerous other entities do this work. No amount of expounding can explain the complexity of the mechanism needed to sustain life in the presence of the second law of thermodynamics which would reduce everything to mere disjoint atoms.

Summary: When matter and energy interact freely, without interference, and blindly, entropy (disorder) always increases irrespective of whether the system is open or closed. A carefully contrived system, and a complex mechanism is needed anywhere for creating order out of chaos. Where there is a system, information is needed to drive that system, such as the information that resides on DNA.

No amount of speculation, guesswork, or wishful thinking can do away with the necessity of a complex system if one has to create order out of chaos in the face of the second law of thermodynamics.

[Here is the article I promised. Try to pick holes in it, if you can. I might not be able to respond fast at times becasue I will be traveling for a full two weeks]

[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]

58 replies
« Older Comments
  1. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Simon
    @Ian

    Thanks for the research and a greater thanks for telling about the “methodology” used for your “research” !!!

    I would not like to comment about researches in physics and chemistry done by googling.

    Thanks also for ignoring the words intrinsic and extrinsic that I had used.

    I have nothing to add except that I googling is not research.

  2. Ian
    Ian says:

    Johnson: Did you read my post or did you read Simon’s quote of my post? He didn’t quote the whole thing you know… but let me explain what I did despite the fact it is obvious in my post:

    I used google as a starting point (standard research practice in the modern era to establish context) followed by google scholar (which is a recognised research tool, have you tried it?) followed by the ISI Web of Science which is a top notch academic journal, conference proceedings and citations database.

    But never mind all that – I am quite happy to be wrong and all you have to do is provide a list of websites or academic journals or books or whatever that specifically use the phrase “pre-coded order”. Or, failing that simple task, you can even just tell me what specific academic journal database you believe will give me papers discussing that phrase and I’ll do your work for you… couldn’t be easier.

    Another alternative would be to fill in the gap on wikipedia by adding a page on “pre-coded order”. That would be a great public service too…

  3. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Ian

    Thanks Ian for your suggestions. Pre-coded (intrinsic) order and extrisic order are words I coined to explain the discussion. You might not find the precise terminology on the net.

    However, your suggestion of adding an article on the Wiki is a good one. But instead of Wikipedia I will add that article either on this website or on http://www.Kalkion.com which is devoted to hard-core science.

  4. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Hello Johnson,

    I really appreciate your polite manner. It makes a gratifying (and unfortunately rare in my experience) contrast. I regret the necessity of you having to develop intelligent discussion against the backdrop of such belligerent attitudes. I’m understanding more about the second law of thermodynamics, and understand what you mean by pre-coded (intrinsic) order, if no one else does.

    Let me ask… how would you respond to the critics who say an open system solves the problem of life’s origin posed by the second law of thermodynamics? I know this was discussed in Thaxton, Bradley and Olson’s The Mystery of Life’s Origin some of which I have read;

    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. (page 183)

    Are you familiar with this work? and in your opinion, though this material is now 25 years old, have its conclusions been remedied, as others here imply?

  5. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    SImon,

    There may be nothing in principle in the chemistry that that prevents life’s building blocks from forming or those building blocks from assembling into larger complex molecules, but that does not mean; (1) you have life (building blocks are far from life), (2) you have information (complexity is far from information), (3) life’s building blocks can form or those building blocks can assemble into larger complex molecules in practice when physics – particularly the second law of thermodynamics – is considered, (4) and life’s building blocks can form or those building blocks can assemble into larger complex molecules when placed in the geo-relevant conditions of the early earth.

    You have failed to read correctly and comprehend this basic point. It seems you are propping up your opinions on invisible stilts. Nothing said there counters what is said here on this thread.

  6. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Stuart

    Dear Stuart, thanks for your comments.

    1. Thaxton et al based their presentation on the basis of the fundamental laws of science (particularly, that of physics and chemistry). Since the foundation is firm, the conclusions have not become dated, let alone outdated. Additional data and observations plus theoretical studies in the field of chaos and complexity have become available to lend support to their contention.

    2. I am very happy to note that my essentially very brief presentation on the second law of thermodynamics has been helpful to you. I now feel that I should write a detailed presentation, maybe 10 to 20 pages, with a liberal amount of illustration to make things clear for anyone who wishes to understand the implications of this law.

    3. You asked

    Let me ask… how would you respond to the critics who say an open system solves the problem of life’s origin posed by the second law of thermodynamics?

    People who make this statement either do not understand the second law of thermodynamics and its implications, or they are simply being stubborn without being honest.

    I have a great appreciation for Lord Gaylord Simpson who was stubborn about his views on evolution, but who was honest to admit that what sways him to evolution is not hard proofs of science but rather his personal philosophy.

    4. Thanks for the very kind words about my attitude. A word of encouragement goes a long way to lift up my spirit, particularly because what I am getting in the form of comments is mostly empty arguments by people who do not understand their science. It is tiring to explain “string theory” to a tailor who insists that he has been dealing with “strings” all his life.

    Ian is the only exception and it is a pleasure to enter into discussions with him even if we stand poles apart in our basic commitment. The only problem is that after an honest admission, he is quickly swayed by the other guys who say “hey, you should not have made that admission” or something like that.

    5. I am happy that I became a contributor here. All the criticism has given me sufficient incentive at this age (I am 56, semi retired) to buy an entire library of the most current and authentic graduate and postgraduate level books in physics. The books on Chaos and complexity, biochemistry, etc are in addition that.

    Thanks God for critics. They make us more studious, more accurate, and more humble in our life

    I am back to the comfort of my person office with electricity, running water and broad-bad net connection, which I did not have for the last two weeks.
    Johnson C. Philip

  7. Ian
    Ian says:

    Johnson:

    Thanks for pointing out that “pre-coded order” is your own phrase. I have no problem with that but, in my opinion, I don’t think it really helped this discussion so I suggest we put it aside and focus on the main prize.

    2. I am very happy to note that my essentially very brief presentation on the second law of thermodynamics has been helpful to you. I now feel that I should write a detailed presentation, maybe 10 to 20 pages, with a liberal amount of illustration to make things clear for anyone who wishes to understand the implications of this law.

    What I would personally really like, rather than a general coverage of the second law, is a specific and direct discussion of the second law as it pertains to complex chemical systems capable of life forming from simpler chemical systems without life.

    So far I have only seen general statements (perhaps due to time or otherwise) dismissing this possibility so there hasn’t really been any argument we can get our teeth into, just assertions. We can stand here all day saying “the second law allows abiogenesis”, “no it doesn’t”, “yes it does” ad nausium but for the discussion to progress we need specifics.

  8. Simon
    Simon says:

    Stuart,

    The very reason that this thread exists is because Johnson believes that in principle it is not possible for life to have fomed abiogenetically; that principle, he claims, is the 2nd Law. Everything I have said in this thread is to show that the second Law says nothing of the sort.

    All of your four points in 55 are irrelevant; you are trying to turn this round on me and claim that I havn’t proven abiogenesis – and to be sure, I havn’t! But I don’t need to. That is not the issue. The issue is that Johnson’s claims about the second Law are wrong and I have shown this in posts 1 and 6. Johnson’s post 4 does not help him, because the second Law says nothing about “new” information (such an entity doesn’t exist), and therefore I am necessarily correct: a decrease in entropy is perfectly valid for an open system according to the second Law.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

« Older Comments

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *