My Atheist Professor And Evolution!

I became interested in Christian Apologetics when I was a college student. Actually I had lost my faith by the time I reached school senior years, and wanted to know the truth. That is the time when someone gave me a copy of Bible and Modern Science by Dr. Henry M. Morris.

From there it was almost 14 years of study — of Bible, history, archeology, the mathematics of probability, chemistry, and physics — before I came to the final conclusion. The conclusion was that a rational person needs to make a choice between evolution or creation based upon which of these models best fits the available evidence. I decided in favor of creation.

Dr. KG Bansigir, one of India’s most prominent physicist was the Professor and Department Head. The School of Advanced Studies and Research in Physics at the Jiwaji University was a centre of excellence at that time. Dr. Bansigir had seen to it that an atmosphere highly conducive for open discussion was created and maintained.

What the department called “Seminars” were a frequent event. In it a student or faculty member would speak for about an hour on a selected topic from Physics, and then the audience made up of MSc. students, PhD researchers, the professors, and (at times) specially invited subject specialists would grill this person for 3 to 4 hours on that topic.

image

Picture: A Michelson interferometer for use on an optical table

The seminar was never easy for the speaker, but it forced him to think through the subject and present it in the most accurate way. I still remember when I was speaking about the Michelson’s Interferometer. A couple of professors from the Engineering College and the nearby Science College were present. As the questions proceeded, they finally came to a question where I was supposed to get a white band of light. On being asked the theory, I explained it with surgical precision, and then dropped a bombshell that the band I got was dark instead of white. You should have seen the commotion, because what I got in the laboratory was just opposite to what the textbooks had been saying for around four decades before me.

I was only into the second month of my MSc., but instead of brushing aside the anomaly I reported, my professor made it a point to spend several hours with me in the darkroom studying the anomaly. He then presented a “Seminar” in which he explained how textbooks and researchers tend to neglect anomalies — though anomalies often help one to perfect the theory. He then went on to present the mathematical justification for this anomaly. That was back in 1976. But many things happened after that.

The most important development was the academic bonding that developed between me and my professor. We made it a point to challenge each other’s assertions in a spirit of research and were not content till the other person offered a satisfactory answer to the challenge.

Once when I mentioned the evolution of life as the result of random processes, he immediately challenged me in the classroom. That was a bit embarrassing, because he was known to be a non-creationist. But that challenge worked wonders. He was the most outstanding teacher of the mathematics or Probability. Thus with his help I started to explore the depths of probability and molecular evolution. This was an eye opener.

He, to the best of my knowledge, never became a creationist. But by challenging my leaning towards evolution he questioned me on mathematical-scientific grounds. Eventually he helped me to see the impossibility of molecular evolution through blind chance.

Objectivity, whenever it is directed to science, has to result in the conclusion that blind chance is a destroyer and not creator of order. [Picture from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelson_interferometer]

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

46 replies
  1. Ian
    Ian says:

    Cool story about how science reacts to changes in the evidence :)

    Objectivity, whenever it is directed to science, has to result in the conclusion that blind chance is a destroyer and not creator of order.

    As a conclusion, this feels like a non-sequitur from the rest of the article. It also doesn’t make much sense because it is entirely unclear what is meant by “blind chance”.

    Having said that, and reading between the lines, I gather the point you are really making is that tired old saw about evolution violating the second law of thermodynamics? If so then your conclusion is wrong. If not then I am interested in hearing you expand your conclusion so I can understand it :)

  2. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    Actually I had lost my faith by the time I reached school senior years

    In other words you never really were an atheist. Kids much younger that are too young to know for themselves either way; they just do what others have taught them.

  3. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Heraclides

    You commented: “In other words you never really were an atheist.”

    I never claimed that I was an atheist!! What– then — is the purpose of your comment??

    Johnson C. Philip

  4. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Ian

    You said: “I gather the point you are really making is that tired old saw about evolution violating the second law of thermodynamics? If so then your conclusion is wrong.”

    I would love to hear your exposition of the second law of thermodynamics!!

    Johnson C. Philip

  5. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    Thanks for confirming my point. Your article impies that you were (it’s not stated, but implied.)

  6. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Hello,

    I love your articles. They are clear, well articulated and thought through. It’s great to have such an enthusiastic contributor.

  7. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Stuart

    Stuart, thanks for the comment!

    you should read the quotation that I just posted in the comments of the first article in this set.

    That is just one of the several statements from the recent issue of the current issue of New Scientist.

    Johnson C. Philip

  8. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    Stuart:

    You should also read the various rebuttals to this journalists’ (not scientists’) article. It was widely criticised for being quite misleading. I’ve inclined a link to one, but there are many others on science-related blogs.

  9. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Heraclides

    Dear Heraclides

    Just a note about your comment to Stuart: It is good to notice that my articles are getting such response — negative or positive. Surely a sign that my articles do touch a raw nerve somewhere!!

    It is always interesting to see why and when people turn a “discussion” into “name-calling”.

    By the way, thanks for the name-calling. Fortunately, a decision about whether I am a scientist or not is in the hands of the science-establishment here!! What is more, what I am is irrelevant to the ongoing discussion — which is not about me, but about Evolution.

    Johnson C. Philip

  10. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    Surely a sign that my articles do touch a raw nerve somewhere!!

    You are trying make things have a spin that suits yourself. I just suggested that he look for balance, especially as the views that are relevant are those of the research scientists, not journalists. This is good suggestion, one you would do well to heed yourself.

    It is always interesting to see why and when people turn a “discussion” into “name-calling”.

    By the way, thanks for the name-calling.

    Where in post 9 did I call anyone names? You seem to reading from an imaginary post as far as I can tell.

  11. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Heraclides

    Dear Heraclides,

    thanks for your continued responses. Surely a sign that my articles did touch a raw nerve somewhere!! Surely nobody has time to spend on a couple of blogposts, writing comments that amount to material ten times longer than the original post, if they do not touch a raw nerve somewhere.

    You asked

    Where in post 9 did I call anyone names? You seem to reading from an imaginary post as far as I can tell.

    Look at the following 2 quotes:

    to this journalists’ (not scientists’)

    research scientists, not journalists

    Very similar to saying “he is not a doctor but only janitor in a hospital”

    I have noticed that this is a standard mind-manipulating technique used by many evolutionists and atheists against Christians — particularly when they feel that a certain Christian communicator is getting a hearing from serious readers.

    Most interesting: I may or may not be a scientist, but I did NOT claim anywhere in my last 3 posts that I am a “scientist” because my post should be judged on the basis of the content, not on the basis of who wrote it. Even my creditline does NOT use the word “scientist”. What matters is the content that I presented here.

    Even my creditline does NOT use the word “scientist”. You first created a straw man “scientist” and then you tried to claim that this title should be “downgraded” to a mere “journalist”.

    I appreciate the fact that I have been getting so much attention from you. I also appreciate the fact that many of you have started writing much about me on websites devoted to evolution, atheism, and the so-called rationalism. I have been reading all that and have been enjoying the free publicity that I am getting — for at least a few of their readers will google for me and would reach my writings. That — in turn — will help them to discover the truth.

    Dear Heraclides, Once again let me say that I offer many many thanks for all the attention that you have lavished upon me in the last few days

    Johnson C. Philip

  12. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    Surely a sign that my articles did touch a raw nerve somewhere!!

    No, I did tell you that last time.

    You are way, way off track. I can only assume you have put your ego so firmly in front of your eyes that you can’t see it’s not about you.

    Let me repeat myself and spell it out slowly for your comprehension:

    You wrote:

    you should read the quotation that I just posted in the comments of the first article in this set.

    That is just one of the several statements from the recent issue of the current issue of New Scientist.

    I wrote:

    You should also read the various rebuttals to this journalists’ (not scientists’) article. It was widely criticised for being quite misleading. I’ve inclined a link to one, but there are many others on science-related blogs.

    Firstly, obviously, very obviously, I was referring to the article you quoted, the NewScientist article. It was written by a journalist, not a scientist. Is the penny dropping yet? Or do I need to spell it out even more?

    I merely suggested that Stuart read what scientists have to say about the journalist’s article in. Nothing more.

    NewScientist is science journalism, not the science literature.

    You weirdly have somehow made this about yourself. Might I suggest your ego is getting in the way of reading what I actually wrote?

    You see, it has nothing to do with you…

    It has to do with the article and the subject matter. Scientists have criticised the NewScientist article for not representing the science correctly. You are merely repeating the errors in the article, and compounding them with errors of your own.

    I appreciate the fact that I have been getting so much attention from you.

    Don’t have such a big ego :-) It is your errors that are getting the attention, not you. After all, I am inclined to deal with the content; here you are not dealing with content but a person… yourself.

    I’m sure most people googling you will discover someone with an enormous ego who is so persistently wrong :-) They certainly will see someone who ignores sensible points. You should remember that it works both ways :-)

  13. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Johnson,

    I hope you don’t mind but I noticed a couple of errors and I’d like to point out where you’re mistaken.

    Once when I mentioned the evolution of life as the result of random processes, he immediately challenged me in the classroom. That was a bit embarrassing, because he was known to be a non-creationist.

    The non-creationist part is irrelevant, all you need to say was that he was/is a person who understands evolution – it could be an atheist, theist, or even a creationist who understands how evolution operates – it doesn’t matter as the result would be the same: evolution is not the result of random processes, so they were correct to challenge you.

    Even though evolution contains a random element (mutation) this does not make it a random process. To suggest evolution is the result of random processes is to ignore natural selection and the fact that survival of specific traits are nonrandom.

    Eventually he helped me to see the impossibility of molecular evolution through blind chance.

    As far as I’m aware, anybody who has ever read an introductory book on evolution would have to agree with you. Not because you’re right and you’ve destroyed the credibility of evolution, but rather you have just ripped apart the strawman. The diversity of life is of course impossible to have happened through blind chance, this is why the theory of natural selection was suggested.

    Objectivity, whenever it is directed to science, has to result in the conclusion that blind chance is a destroyer and not creator of order.

    As pointed out by Ian above, this is an odd statement but I assume you are talking about the second law of thermodynamics. Below is a quote from a website that has contributions by the author of the book you mentioned, as well as other popular creationists, who shaped your viewpoint and so I think it may be an accurate representation of what you believe (please correct me if I’m wrong).

    If Evolution is true, there must be an extremely powerful force or mechanism at work in the cosmos that can steadily defeat the powerful, ultimate tendency toward “disarrangedness” brought by the 2nd Law. If such an important force or mechanism is in existence, it would seem it should be quite obvious to all scientists. Yet, the fact is, no such force of nature has been found.

    The answer is the sun. The earth is an open system.

    I hope you don’t take these criticisms as an attack on you and I hope you can be honest with yourself to take the time to correct your misconceptions about evolution. It may turn out that once you actually understand what evolution is and how it works you still disagree with it, but at the very least you won’t have to argue against a position nobody holds (ie that of evolution being blind chance).

    Thanks for your time,
    Mike.

  14. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Mike

    Dear Mike,

    thanks for the very professional way in which you have tried to interact with the material presented in my articles.

    Even though evolution contains a random element (mutation) this does not make it a random process. To suggest evolution is the result of random processes is to ignore natural selection and the fact that survival of specific traits are nonrandom.

    This is a very surprising statement. If you claim that evolution is not the result of random processes, then you are saying something totally opposite to everything that the evolution-proponents have been saying for the last 150 or so many years. Please remember that I was speaking about molecular evolution.

    All the standard textbooks claim that molecular evolution is the result of blind chance. Do you mean to deny it.

    The diversity of life is of course impossible to have happened through blind chance, this is why the theory of natural selection was suggested.

    Thanks for the first half of the statement above. About the second half: if natural selection has to operate, it needs to get a set of choices in the form of different traits. Are those traits produced randomly or are they created by some non-random causes.

    About the violation of the second law of thermodynamics you wrote:

    The answer is the sun. The earth is an open system.

    How does the sun overcome entropy to steadily defeat the powerful, ultimate tendency toward “disarrangedness” brought by the 2nd Law. I would love to hear it from you. Also, is an “open system” a sufficient condition to produce order randomly out of disorder.

    Dear Mike, yours has be a courteous and straightforward note and I would appreciate your feedback to the questions that I have posted above.

    Johnson C. Philip

  15. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Heraclides

    Dear Heraclides

    thanks for the clarification on the “scientist” issue. Many of your statements are phrased in such a way that they can be interpreted in more than one way. However, in future I will ask you for the “intended” meaning if I see the possibility of multiple interpretation of your statement.

    It has to do with the article and the subject matter. Scientists have criticised the NewScientist article for not representing the science correctly. You are merely repeating the errors in the article, and compounding them with errors of your own.

    It is scientists on both the sides. One side claims the Evolutionary Tree needs to be discarded, and that was reported in New Scientist. The other side says this is a wrong outlook, and that was also reported.

    If one set of scientists says the Phylogenetic Tree needs to be rejected, and if the other set of scientists says the tree does not need to be rejected, obviously, the controversial tree cannot be used as an evidence for evolution. This is what I have been saying all along.

    Obviously there are cracks in the edifice, else why would people working with the same set of data would take such opposing stand!!

    Johnson C. Philip

  16. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Johnson,

    I’m glad you appreciate my approach and thank you also for your honest rebuttals.

    This is a very surprising statement. If you claim that evolution is not the result of random processes, then you are saying something totally opposite to everything that the evolution-proponents have been saying for the last 150 or so many years. Please remember that I was speaking about molecular evolution.

    All the standard textbooks claim that molecular evolution is the result of blind chance. Do you mean to deny it.

    Firstly, even though it may seem a little silly, would you mind briefly defining what you specifically mean by molecular evolution? I was replying under the assumption you were referring to the process of evolution at the level of DNA etc?

    I know that a large proportion of scientists in the field would, more or less, agree with the notion that mutations can be considered random but I don’t know any that would argue that any form of evolution is random. Are you able to link me to some references or point me in a specific direction to find more information on this, please?

    It is true that mutations are essentially random, but to complicate matters they aren’t completely random – there are specific mutational hotspots. For now we’ll just assume they are random though. Since mutation is an important part of the evolution it does introduce a stochastic variable which means that evolution is not wholly deterministic. However, this form of “random” is the more strict mathematical sense of the word which means that an equation possesses a random variable, and not the everyday usage which implies that absolutely anything could happen, such as a crocodile giving birth to a crocoduck. The introduction of natural selection means that the mutations are regulated; making evolution a deterministic process. I think Richard Dawkins puts it much better, and in a much more succinct way than me: “Life results from the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators”.

    How does the sun overcome entropy to steadily defeat the powerful, ultimate tendency toward “disarrangedness” brought by the 2nd Law. I would love to hear it from you. Also, is an “open system” a sufficient condition to produce order randomly out of disorder.

    Unfortunately this isn’t my area so my explanations were always going to be a bit hazy.. Essentially what it boils down to is a misunderstanding of entropy in a system. Creationists tend to assume that the 2nd law implies that over time all parts of a system will break down, when in fact this isn’t the case. All it means is that the over-all entropy of the system will increase, whereas the entropy of specific sub-systems within the system will fluctuate and can either increase or decrease.

    But as I said, that really isn’t my area and so I can’t really expand on much more than that. I’m sure you’ve probably already visited talkorigins.org and find their explanations unsatisfying, however, on the off chance that you’ve never been there I recommend this specific entry of theirs on the 2nd law of thermodynamics: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/thermo/probability.html

    I hope I clarified my earlier comments in a satisfactory way and if I’ve misunderstood one of your questions just let me know and I’ll fix my reply. Also, if Heraclides, Ian or anyone else notices anything terribly incorrect in my replies I’d appreciate being corrected.

    Thanks,
    Mike.

  17. Ian
    Ian says:

    I would love to hear your exposition of the second law of thermodynamics!!

    In lay language it states that the disorder of any closed system must increase over time. This is a statistical argument so at any point in time a closed system could increase it’s order but a long term increase in disorder is inevitable.

    In order for any system to decrease it’s disorder there must be an external input of energy from outside the system, or in other words it can’t be a closed system. From this is the implication that any real process is irreversible and that available energy (exergy) is destroyed during such processes.

    Evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics in any way. All biological process involved are irreversible. All organisms which take in energy from outside and use it to maintain/change their state, and to reproduce – all of which leads to evolution – without violating the second law (since it is not a closed system).

  18. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Ian

    Thanks Ian for trying to explain the second law of thermodynamics. I had actually asked Mike to give an answer, and I hope he will also give an answer.

    You said

    In order for any system to decrease it’s disorder there must be an external input of energy from outside the system, or in other words it can’t be a closed system.

    Is that a SUFFICIENT condition for decrease of disorder ? Or are there additional conditions?

    Johnson C. Philip

  19. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    It is scientists on both the sides.

    Anyone who who so much as reads a newspaper knows that journalists can, and do, present things out of context, use loaded language, etc., etc. You do it yourself and done it several times to several people who have written to you on this forum.

    It is a journalist’s account, not a scientist’s: it is not the primary literature. It would appear your only support for your “idea” is from popular journalism. Since you cannot seem to be able to work from the science itself, you cannot speak for science itself either.

    obviously, the controversial tree cannot be used as an evidence for evolution.

    Yes it can. I have told this many times already but you persist in ignoring it. (Go ignoramus, go!) How species have evolved, i.e. is their evolution represented by a tree or not?, takes absolutely nothing away from that they have evolved. Right throughout this you persist in trying to mix referring to the “how” with referring to “that” evolution has occurred. You seem totally unable to grasp this simple distinction.

    Even if were to change the “tree of life” even more, it’d still represent what evolution did. The revisions of “paths” of the “tree of life” take nothing at all away from that evolution occurred (and occurs).

    Regards evolution not being random:

    This is a very surprising statement.

    This is only “surprising” if you are ignorant of how evolution works. You writing this re-affirms to me that you know very little about evolution. I would, like Damian, suggest you learn more, as you clearly know too little to be in a position to present ideas about evolution. You have to do your homework first, you know ;-)

    For example, in response to you writing “Dear Mike, yours has be[en] a courteous and straightforward note and I would appreciate your feedback to the questions that I have posted above.”, could I suggest you try do your own homework first? After all what he has written offers plenty of easy leads and it is very easy to find explanations of all these things on the WWW, never mind current textbooks. Asking others to do your work for you seems wrong-headed to me.

    But back to the topic. As Mike was saying, while mutations may be (nearly) random, selection isn’t. Selection operates at a molecular level, too, contrary to what you imply: citing “I was talking about molecular evolution” doesn’t let you off the hook for your error. (Add gene flow and genetic drift, too.) Suggestion: if you don’t understand, try find out yourself, first. I’m sure you are able to use google and read :-)

    How does the sun overcome entropy to steadily defeat the powerful, ultimate tendency toward “disarrangedness” brought by the 2nd Law. I would love to hear it from you.

    You claim to be a physicist and you ask this?! Come on, a high school student should be able to connect the logic. We start with energy input and …

    I see now that Ian has replied. I am unable to join in discussion properly because of the silly moderation policy that has been forced on me. Ian is quite right in saying that “Evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics in any way.” This is widely explained on the WWW. Could I suggest you do some homework on claims before you make them? You are repeatedly wrong on simple points for which explanations are widely available.

    Here is the very first hit on a 3-second google search: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/thermo/probability.html

    If it’s too hard for you, search around, there are simpler explanations.

    (I prefer to describe the second law in terms of equilibria, but that’s a quibble over nothing much.)

    By the way, I am under the impression you have never been a physicist: it would seem you may have once been a physics student, but there seems to be no evidence that you have ever been a scientist and you are certainly don’t appear to be one now. Apparently, you don’t have any scientific publications at all.

  20. Ian
    Ian says:

    Is that a SUFFICIENT condition for decrease of disorder ? Or are there additional conditions?

    The simple answer is that it depends on the form of the energy tghat is input into the system. An organism or ecosystem however is much more than just a simple system and is pretty well set up to use energy (exergy) to offset entropy. In fact organisms and ecosystems are effectively exergy engines, destroying exergy to maintain order.

  21. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Ian

    Dear Ian

    In your own words, your answer relates to systems that are already “pretty well set up to use energy”. My question was not about organisms, and ecosystems that are “well set up” already.

    My question is about the ORIGIN of life. The basic question is “how did molecular evolution take place in spite of the second law of thermodynamics”.

    So let me repeat the question:

    In order for any system to decrease it’s disorder there must be an external input of energy from outside the system, or in other words it can’t be a closed system.

    Is that SUFFICIENT condition for the ORIGIN of life at the molecular level.

    Johnson C. Philip

  22. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    My question is about the ORIGIN of life.

    Actually, you are showing misunderstanding again. Your original “question” (in you article at the head of this thread) was aimed at molecular evolution. You said nothing about the origin of life.

    Where you err is that molecular evolution as a term applies to studies of how the “molecules of life” evolved after life has formed, as do most uses of the term ‘evolution’. If you are going to discuss science, you need to use the terms as scientists use them or, if you want to differ from this, explain yourself from the onset. As someone who has studied science yourself, you should know the importance of using terms properly. Again, I would suggest you make an effort to educate yourself about evolution, so that you might not err so often.

    This may be my last post. I have written a proper explanation of your original article, but owing the unfairness of the moderation policy foisted on me (and not others) I can’t contribute properly.

  23. Ian
    Ian says:

    Is that SUFFICIENT condition for the ORIGIN of life at the molecular level.

    Yes. For an example, consider air currents. They are ordered motion that continue to occur day after day. They can change form, direction, and generally act in an ordered manner without any dedicated energy metabolism. They use solar and gravitational energy to keep the cycles running, effectively offsetting the second law losses with new energy inputs.

  24. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @vHeraclides

    Dear Heraclides

    I will miss you if you quit, but then it is your choice.

    The definition you have given for molecular evolution is totally at variance with the way it is generally used in scientific literature. On the other hand, the meaning in which I used this phrase is the most common and normal scientific usage.

    Please check!!

    Johnson C. Philip

  25. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Ian

    Ian, my question is not at the macroscopic level, and therefore I will not at present touch the wrong macroscopic explanation that you have given.

    My question is at the molecular level, and perhaps you missed noticing that. Here we go again

    In order for any system to decrease it’s disorder there must be an external input of energy from outside the system, or in other words it can’t be a closed system.

    Is that SUFFICIENT condition for the ORIGIN of life at the molecular level.

    Johnson C. Philip

  26. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @ 17.Mike

    Dear Mike

    Firstly, even though it may seem a little silly, would you mind briefly defining what you specifically mean by molecular evolution?

    The concept of molecular evolution can be found in any standard introductory book on evolution. It refers to the process of atoms interacting with each other to become complex molecules, which keep increasing in complexity till they give life to the first entity that can be called “living”. From there there is further “aggregation” of molecules for it to become the first unicellular life.

    I was replying under the assumption you were referring to the process of evolution at the level of DNA etc?

    That is also part of the molecular evolution, but at a later stage. We can surely discuss that, but only after we discuss the earliest stages (in relation to randomness and second law of thermodynamics).

    You then talked about mutations, but we need to cover a long way before we reach that point. Remember, our discussion was about molecular evolution and thermodynamics.

    In response to my question “How does the sun overcome entropy to steadily defeat the powerful, ultimate tendency toward “disarrangedness” brought by the 2nd Law. I would love to hear it from you. Also, is an “open system” a sufficient condition to produce order randomly out of disorder.” You said:

    Unfortunately this isn’t my area so my explanations were always going to be a bit hazy.. Essentially what it boils down to is a misunderstanding of entropy in a system. Creationists tend to assume that the 2nd law implies that over time all parts of a system will break down, when in fact this isn’t the case. All it means is that the over-all entropy of the system will increase, whereas the entropy of specific sub-systems within the system will fluctuate and can either increase or decrease.

    I appreciate your forthrightness. Since you say that this is not your area, I will not press you to discuss it with me. I wish to be fair. I only wish to tell you that the explanation you gave above is partially right, but it does not solve the problem.

    Once again, I appreciate your forthrightness.

    Johnson C. Philip

  27. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @ 20 Heraclides

    Dear Heraclides

    Would you kindly leave moderation of the discussion to the moderators. For example, when Mike showed an interest in interacting with me and in answering my questions, you said

    For example, in response to you writing “Dear Mike, yours has be[en] a courteous and straightforward note and I would appreciate your feedback to the questions that I have posted above.”, could I suggest you try do your own homework first? After all what he has written offers plenty of easy leads and it is very easy to find explanations of all these things on the WWW, never mind current textbooks. Asking others to do your work for you seems wrong-headed to me.

    What is more, You have suggested that instead of asking Mike, I look for explanations on WWW. I appreciate that bit of suggestion. Does that not run counter to the idea of mutual discussion. And is it not better to leave these things to me and Mike.

    You wrote,

    By the way, I am under the impression you have never been a physicist: it would seem you may have once been a physics student, but there seems to be no evidence that you have ever been a scientist and you are certainly don’t appear to be one now. Apparently, you don’t have any scientific publications at all.

    I very much appreciate your comments against me. I will not offer any explanation or defense of my physics background because we are here to discuss “ideas” not “people”. Of course, I do have ONE request — please do not bring the kind of argument that goes this way “I could not find any evidence on the net that you ever went to school. Thus I conclude that you are illiterate”.

    Please bring arguments against the “ideas” I presented.

    Have a great weekend!!

    Johnson C. Philip

  28. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    Given how the moderation is affecting me, I have every right to question it. I note for example, that several of my posts still have not been published. It isn’t really a discussion if one side is being suppressed. In any event was writing to the moderator, as was quite clear. If you are not moderating my comments, it has nothing to do with you, in which case why are you replying about it?

    What is more, You have suggested that instead of asking Mike, I look for explanations on http://WWW. I appreciate that bit of suggestion. Does that not run counter to the idea of mutual discussion. And is it not better to leave these things to me and Mike.

    You are misconstruing what I wrote. I did not write “instead of asking Mike” at all: you are trying to put these words in my mouth. My advice was general advice. It has nothing to do with any other particular poster: it has to do with you seemingly not bothering to even try check things out yourself, something I find is a very strange attitude for someone who presents himself as a “scholar”.

    It certainly does not run counter to discussion. It is hard to have sensible discussion if one person consistently brings nonsensical things to the table because they can’t be bothered making an effort to do a little homework first. It science discussions, as you should know from your (claimed) experience as a student, you are supposed to do your own homework. Isn’t that part of the reason why “invited subject specialists would grill this person” ;-)

    I will not offer any explanation or defense of my physics background No, you wouldn’t. It would undermine your claim to authority, wouldn’t it? If you are to make a by-line, it should be accurate. Anyone writing under a false by-line will have it question, so trying to duck it by making out that it is not to be questioned is very poor form. It is not about you being illiterate, it is about accuracy of you claims in your by-line. (Typical of you to try twist it around to “negative” meaning and imply that of me.) If the claims in your by-line are false, then your by-line needs to be changed. To be a physicist, you would have to have been a working scientist, e.g. worked as a researcher in a university after a Ph.D. in a scientist position. Others have pointed out that you seem to have no research publications, so this does seem questionable to me, and as a result I am asking.

    he definition you have given for molecular evolution is totally at variance with the way it is generally used in scientific literature. On the other hand, the meaning in which I used this phrase is the most common and normal scientific usage.

    You are wrong I am afraid. re “Please check!!” I actually don’t have to, it’s that familiar with me. I happen to know this better than you ever will ;-) (Or, put another way, I did my homework on this decades ago.) In any event, even wikipedia, etc. will get this one right.

    The concept of molecular evolution can be found in any standard introductory book on evolution. It refers to the process of atoms interacting with each other to become complex molecules, which keep increasing in complexity till they give life to the first entity that can be called “living”. From there there is further “aggregation” of molecules for it to become the first unicellular life.

    And this shows it. It is not what the term ‘molecular evolution’ usually means. It simply means evolution at the level of molecules; evolution starts once you already have life. It is an extremely well-known definition in biology, so I think you need to justify your claim that your “definition” “can be found in any standard introductory book on evolution”. I have to funny idea, that you have lifted it out of an introductory book on evolution written by a creationist. Why? Easy. Creationists so often try mix the origin of life with evolution in a way that few biologist do.

    therefore I will not at present touch the wrong macroscopic explanation that you have given.

    This is asking to avoid reality. It may be convenient, but it hardly the way to get things right.

    Is that SUFFICIENT condition for the ORIGIN of life at the molecular level.

    Just to be clear for your sake, that has nothing to do with molecular evolution. It may have something to do with the origins of molecular life, a different issue ;-) (Evolution is the derivation of novel forms of life from a pre-existing form of life. Your first two quotes and replies in post 27 are at odds because you do not seem to understand what “molecular evolution” really means.)

    Also, is an “open system” a sufficient condition to produce order randomly out of disorder.”

    This is actually a misleading question in many ways, e.g. you need to first define order. It is one of the reasons I prefer to describe the 2nd law in terms of equilibria. When you get systems that are able to work against equilibria, as biological systems invariably do, the whole question of the 2nd law becomes moot.

    I only wish to tell you that the explanation you gave above is partially right, but it does not solve the problem.

    You can’t presume to know that you know the correct answer! Trying to assert yourself “the authority” again, when it is painfully obvious you know very little and make little attempt to check what you do present.

  29. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    Oh, I forgot:

    re Please bring arguments against the “ideas” I presented. I have, many times, and you continue to ignore them or dismiss them out of hand with your false “authority”. Given that you don’t address my points, it’s very rich of you to ask that I deal with yours. And as a practical matter it is not possible to deal with yours as they are founded on fallacies; they have no foundation to be examined to start with. So the most I can do is just point out the fallacies. If you manage to present something without obvious fallacies, then there might be a point to address, but so far you have just trotted out variants of “standard” creationist fallacies.

  30. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Johnson,

    The concept of molecular evolution can be found in any standard introductory book on evolution. It refers to the process of atoms interacting with each other to become complex molecules, which keep increasing in complexity till they give life to the first entity that can be called “living”. From there there is further “aggregation” of molecules for it to become the first unicellular life.

    Ah, I had a feeling that this is what you referring to, but as Heraclides has pointed out this is not what is meant by molecular evolution. (I’m sure that you probably do own a textbook which claims that your definition is what molecular evolution is, but unfortunately there are bad textbooks out there as well as everyday mistakes that are made, as Ian has pointed out either in this topic or an earlier one).

    What you are referring to, which is further emphasised by asking about the “origin of life”, is abiogenesis. This is not a part of evolution and does not affect the truth-value of evolution in any way; by this I mean life could have formed by natural processes, it could have been planted here by god, or it could have been engineered by aliens – all this is irrelevant as evolution only deals with how it has diversified from that initial point.

    Abiogenesis is the field that describes how non-life can come to form life through natural processes. Abiogenesis is a huge field with many different competing theories so if you would like to discuss abiogenesis, I’d appreciate it if you could narrow down our topic so that we can focus on a specific avenue that you are critical of.

    I appreciate your forthrightness. Since you say that this is not your area, I will not press you to discuss it with me. I wish to be fair. I only wish to tell you that the explanation you gave above is partially right, but it does not solve the problem.

    I’m glad you appreciate my forthrightness, I just feel that it is inappropriate for one to try to go beyond their field and explain concepts they can’t fully grasp. I find this usually ends in a lot of confusion and mistakes, so I try to avoid this whenever I can. However, I would like to refer back to Ian’s explanation of how evolution does not violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics as it is presented in a simple straightforward manner, and has the added bonus of being correct:

    In lay language it states that the disorder of any closed system must increase over time. This is a statistical argument so at any point in time a closed system could increase it’s order but a long term increase in disorder is inevitable.

    In order for any system to decrease it’s disorder there must be an external input of energy from outside the system, or in other words it can’t be a closed system. From this is the implication that any real process is irreversible and that available energy (exergy) is destroyed during such processes.

    Evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics in any way. All biological process involved are irreversible. All organisms which take in energy from outside and use it to maintain/change their state, and to reproduce – all of which leads to evolution – without violating the second law (since it is not a closed system).

    Thanks again for the discussion. If you wouldn’t mind could you possibly refer to (what you were calling) ‘molecular evolution’ as ‘abiogenesis’ from now please? I know that the two terms seem very similar, and as I said I’m sure that some textbooks in the world have confused the two meanings, but it would help the discussion flow much better and prevent any further confusion as the term ‘molecular evolution’ refers to something very different.

    Thanks,
    Mike.

  31. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    Heraclides,

    Given how the moderation is affecting me, I have every right to question it. I note for example, that several of my posts still have not been published. It isn’t really a discussion if one side is being suppressed. In any event was writing to the moderator, as was quite clear. If you are not moderating my comments, it has nothing to do with you, in which case why are you replying about it?

    Stop whining. If you post a comment with a large number of links, naturally it is going to be marked as spam by the automatic spam filter. And, this may surprise you, but I don’t spend my day constantly refreshing the WordPress dashboard, waiting with baited breath for your posts to see whether I should approve them.

  32. Ian
    Ian says:

    Is that SUFFICIENT condition for the ORIGIN of life at the molecular level.

    Of course not because that is like saying “is gravity sufficient for planets to exist?” which it clearly is not. However energy flows plus a molecular system with the potential to build a replicator plus sufficient time will eventually produce abiogenesis so to answer the question the way you should have phrased it, yes.

    Incidentally the difference between macro and molecular systems is, I suspect, just more semantics. Complex adaptive systems at any scale follow similar rules.

  33. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Heraclides

    Dear Heraclides

    your posts continue to follow the following format (in the same or different order):

    Pejorative comments
    Long statements with nothing substantial
    More Pejorative statements
    More Long statements with nothing substantial

    You are more concerned about the writer than what is written.

    Thus

    1. Meaningful communication with you is becoming difficult

    2. It is obvious that my articles have touched some raw nerve somewhere. Nobody has time to write ten times the length of the original post unless it has touched him in some way.

    3. There are others who post comments, but keep pejorative talk away. They discuss ideas. Each discussion with them takes the subject to new heights. New ground is broken.

    This is the current situation!!

    Johnson C. Philip

  34. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @ 31 Mike

    Dear Mike, thanks for your very objective comments. It is good to proceed with our discussion.

    You said:

    Ah, I had a feeling that this is what you referring to, but as Heraclides has pointed out this is not what is meant by molecular evolution. (I’m sure that you probably do own a textbook which claims that your definition is what molecular evolution is, but unfortunately there are bad textbooks out there as well as everyday mistakes that are made, as Ian has pointed out either in this topic or an earlier one).

    For the sake of my writings, I live in the vicinity of a University campus with half a dozen libraries. So the vocabulary I used is NOT from a “single book” I own, but from a large number of biology textbooks.

    What you are referring to, which is further emphasised by asking about the “origin of life”, is abiogenesis.

    Ok, if you prefer to use that term, I have no problem. I have been using the more general term found in biology textbooks.

    What you are referring to, which is further emphasised by asking about the “origin of life”, is abiogenesis. This is not a part of evolution and does not affect the truth-value of evolution in any way; by this I mean life could have formed by natural processes, it could have been planted here by god, or it could have been engineered by aliens – all this is irrelevant as evolution only deals with how it has diversified from that initial point.

    Your statement that “abiogenesis” is not part of the evolution of life comes as a big surprise, and here again your statement contradicts biology textbooks. Also, your statement that “evolution only deals with how it has diversified from that initial point.” is contrary to what biology textbooks say.

    Abiogenesis is the field that describes how non-life can come to form life through natural processes. Abiogenesis is a huge field with many different competing theories so if you would like to discuss abiogenesis, I’d appreciate it if you could narrow down our topic so that we can focus on a specific avenue that you are critical of.

    Yes, we will narrow it down to Abiogenesis. Any idea of how the second law of thermodynamics is overcome or violated to give rise to living entities? (This was indeed the topic on which my atheist professor and I had a long exchange, and where my atheist professor told me that abiogenesis is not possible because of the second law of thermodynamics).

    If you wouldn’t mind could you possibly refer to (what you were calling) ‘molecular evolution’ as ‘abiogenesis’ from now please? I know that the two terms seem very similar, and as I said I’m sure that some textbooks in the world have confused the two meanings, but it would help the discussion flow much better and prevent any further confusion as the term ‘molecular evolution’ refers to something very different.

    Sure, we will use the word “abiogenesis” rather than what I have been seeing in biology textbooks.

    The question now is, how is abiogenesis possible in the face of the second law of thermodynamics.

    With greetings from India! (Yes, I am based in India, and there is a time-gap between the countries. Thus at times my replies might take longer than what you expect).

    Johnson C. Philip

  35. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @ 33 Ian

    Dear Ian

    Thanks for your objective replies to my questions. It is good to proceed with our discussion when things are objective.

    in response to my question “Is that SUFFICIENT condition for the ORIGIN of life at the molecular level.” you replied

    Of course not because that is like saying “is gravity sufficient for planets to exist?” which it clearly is not. However energy flows plus a molecular system with the potential to build a replicator plus sufficient time will eventually produce abiogenesis so to answer the question the way you should have phrased it, yes.

    The second law of thermodynamics has no known exceptions. According to the implications of this law, when matter and energy are left to interact randomly with each other, the net result will be disorder.

    Thus how can abiogenesis happen in the first place through the interplay of atoms and random forces.

    With greetings from India! (Yes, I am based in India, and there is a time-gap between the countries. Thus at times my replies might take longer than what you expect).

    Johnson C. Philip

  36. Ian
    Ian says:

    The second law of thermodynamics has no known exceptions. According to the implications of this law, when matter and energy are left to interact randomly with each other, the net result will be disorder.

    You left out a crucial part: When matter and energy are left to interact randomly with each other in a closed system the net result will be disorder. In an open system with an external energy source the 2LT really implies how much energy is required to offset the loss of order that would come without an external energy source.

    A question: how familiar are you with complex adaptive systems and complexity theory?

  37. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @ 37 Ian

    Dear Ian, Thanks for a very objective topic-based discussion. That is always a very stimulating experience.

    You asked me “how familiar are you with complex adaptive systems and complexity theory?”

    I have as much familiarity with these topics as a person with BSc (Mathematics, chemistry, physics all main subjects) needs and a researcher in theoretical physics needs. I also did additional study in mathematical physics, real analysis, and a variety of topics related to the effect of randomness on “information” at the MSc and PhD levels. What is more, this gives me a solid background to go through any additional material that you might want me to read/study as and when we discuss these subjects. But there is a task at hand before we do that, and that is given below:

    I will surely add the phrase and condition you pointed out about open systems. My revised statement would stand this way, strictly based upon the second law of thermodynamics:

    The second law of thermodynamics has no known exceptions. According to the implications of this law, when matter and energy are left to interact randomly with each other, in a closed or in an open system, the net result will be disorder — if the processes are truly random.

    The question once again is, how did abiogesis overcome this thermodynamic barrier??

    Johnson C. Philip

  38. david w
    david w says:

    The second law of thermodynamics has no known exceptions. According to the implications of this law, when matter and energy are left to interact randomly with each other, in a closed or in an open system, the net result will be disorder — if the processes are truly random .

    You missed the important caveat “for the system as a whole”. Parts of a system can increase in order but only if they are themselves in equilibrium with some energy source. Like, I don’t know, a giant fiery ball of fusion about 8 light minutes away…

    A nice household example is heating oil in a fry pan, sometimes, just by heating you can form near perfect, very orderly hexagons. The state in the pan becomes much less probable than it was before heating, in other words an outside energy source has spontaneously decreased the entropy in the liquid. Obviously at the same time heat from the element is being dissipated so the second law is not being violated for the system as a whole.

    I actually don’t think this is a very useful conversation. It’s a fairly safe assumption that life started at some point, so not really relevant to discussions about later evolution (trees and what is usually meant by molecular evolution etc etc) and it can’t seriously be maintained that dissipative structures and hypercycles and the like a couldn’t possibly make enough chemical diversity for a selective ratchet to start driving complexity “uphill” without violating the 2nd law for the system as a whole so you’re left with the creation side saying “i personally don’t believe that this could happen”, which isn’t much of an argument.

  39. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @david

    Dear David

    the examples given by you do not apply in the current case as we are discussing the second law of thermodynamics at the atomic and molecular level. (Anyway your interpretation of the examples is wrong).

    You said

    You missed the important caveat “for the system as a whole”

    It can be added, if Mike wants, but it will make no difference — contrary to what you think.

    Greetings !!

    Johnson C. Philip

  40. Ian
    Ian says:

    The question once again is, how did abiogesis overcome this thermodynamic barrier??

    The answer is in complexity theory which, among other things, shows how simple systems can produce complex outcomes including complex adaptive systems in a so-called a far-from-equilibrium state. My recomended reading list:

    Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos by Mitchel Waldrop (1992)
    Frontiers of Complexity: The Search for Order in a Chaotic World by Peter Coveny & Roger Highfield (1995)
    Emergence: From Chaos to Order by John Holland (1998)
    Deep Simplicity: Chaos, Complexity and the Emergence of Life by John Gribbin (2004)

  41. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @ Ian

    Dear Ian,

    Would you care to explain the conclusion of complexity theory, as applied to this abiogenesis, in a few sentences? Just the conclusion would do, the mathematics is not necessary.

    Many are reading our discussion, and not all of them have access to these books (nor do they need it). Just state how complexity theory explains abiogenesis. What laws of physics and chemistry violate the second law of thermodynamics to give rise to life at this level?

    Johnson C. Philip

  42. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    [Written some time ago, but couldn’t be bothered posting it.]

    re Dr. Johnson C Philip on March 9th, 2009 4:00 am

    Just a brief explanation of my approach, so that you might understand, as you seem to be busy making out that I am doing things I am not. I’m speaking for both threads here to save a little time.

    You did not reply to the points I have wrote in the original thread, so I decided to shift to something that might be simpler for you readers and that reflected your unwillingness to reply to points. There is nothing personal in it as you have several times tried to make out. I’m just pointing out simpler underlying things that make your arguments fallacious that don’t depend on understanding science.

    Your readers may not understand or may not care about the details of the science and I don’t expect them to—not everyone does, after all—but they will understand that if you can only present a journalist’s account as “support”, then you are not presenting a science case.

    Likewise, they will understand that if you repeatedly get terms wrong, then you obviously do not have the “scientific authority” you imply you have in your original post.

    They will understand that if you repeatedly avoid addressing points raised, then you are avoiding having your claims honestly examined.

    They will understand that you write very little and keep asking others to say things, you are not presenting much at all.

    They will understand that it is odd for someone claiming to be a scholar not to check out the meanings of words, laws and so on themselves before using them.

    They will understand that you are not presenting any support for your case. So far we only have a hand-waving exercise involving a piece of journalism.

    And so on. I’m just making the point that your arguments are not science-based in a way that doesn’t need understanding of science.

    Having got that out of the way, let me briefly address your latest claims (from March 9th, 2009 4:00 am). Let me start by repeating from what I wrote, that you are replying to:

    Given that you don’t address my points, it’s very rich of you to ask that I deal with yours. And as a practical matter it is not possible to deal with yours as they are founded on fallacies; they have no foundation to be examined to start with. So the most I can do is just point out the fallacies. If you manage to present something without obvious fallacies, then there might be a point to address, but so far you have just trotted out variants of “standard” creationist fallacies.

    (My pointing out fallacies isn’t anything more than any of the others commenting are doing.)

    <blockquote
    Pejorative comments
    Long statements with nothing substantial
    More Pejorative statements
    More Long statements with nothing substantial

    You are more concerned about the writer than what is written.

    You are accusing me of precisely what you are doing, right there as you write. Its dishonest.

    That you have not presented anything substantial is quite true. You posted an initial argument, which had several fallacies and no support offered for it. In reply you received a good number of substantial comments, very few of which you have addressed. Of the few you do reply to, you presented nothing of substance: most replies side-step by trying to ask others to do your homework for you, or by trying dismiss their points out of hand.

    You are more concerned about the writer than what is written. I explicitly told you I am not to the last time you accused me of that.

    1. Meaningful communication with you is becoming difficult You’re just trying to invent a straw man to justify attacking me. Fine, you look the poorer for it.

    2. It is obvious that my articles have touched some raw nerve somewhere. Nobody has time to write ten times the length of the original post unless it has touched him in some way.

    Straw man again and a rather silly attempt to goad me. You must realise by now it’s not working. As for the “length of time” argument, you are planting your choice of reason on me. I touch-type: long posts aren’t a big deal to me and I don’t care if I’m wordy. (As any writer would tell you, it’s editing that takes time, which is why I don’t and there are a silly number of grammar errors and whatnot in my comments.)

    3. There are others who post comments, but keep pejorative talk away. They discuss ideas. Each discussion with them takes the subject to new heights. New ground is broken.

    Straw man again, trying to make out my posts to be “pejorative”, to suit your attack on me, presumably to try deflect attention from you weaknesses I pointed out.

    You should be reminded that a huge difference is that you have steadfastly avoided replying to points raised from the get-go. My general suspicions from this were you had no reply to the points made. What you have written since backs this: you fall further into creationists fallacies and side-stepping instead of presenting anything substantive to back your claims.

    Bnonn: Currently it is like having a regular lunch conversation but one where a person “rules” that you cannot reply until the next day, while others can reply on the spot.

  43. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Heraclides

    Dear Heraclides

    thanks for the lengthy post.

    Each time you post, you do make things a bit more clear as to why discussion with you is not progressing linearly, while it is very linear with others who have responded.

    Here is another reason: each time I try to give a specific answer, you change it into generalities. Specific then becomes fuzzy.

    Thanks for the rest of the post. I agree with you, let the readers decide the merit of the case. Of course, I would not look down upon my readers you did in the following:

    Your readers may not understand or may not care about the details of the science and I don’t expect them to—not everyone does, after all

    I presume that my readers do understand the concepts presented here. I also presume that they are able to analyze these presentations in a logical manner.

    With greetings from India

    Johnson C. Philip

  44. Ivan McIntosh
    Ivan McIntosh says:

    I note that Mr Philip tends to dismiss reasonably fleshed out argument with trite comments like “and your understanding is wrong” with nothing more, yet continually asks for more from the posters.

    Eg: “the examples given by you do not apply in the current case as we are discussing the second law of thermodynamics at the atomic and molecular level. (Anyway your interpretation of the examples is wrong). ”

    WHY do they not apply? WHY is his interpretation of the examples wrong?

    Having you criticise Heraclides for alleged failure to answer your arguments is pure hypocrisy. I’ve read this far, but it is clearly a waste of time….and I suspect you are actually just on a wind-up especially when you so wilfully misunderstand the second law of thermo-dynamics (as you state it the stars and planets would never even have formed).

    Having had a brief look at the no-tuition-learn-at-your-own-pace pardoy of education that is trinity theology – with its courses in Mind Manipulation 101 and Witnessing, I suspect I now have a better understanding of the value of your claimed “doctor” status.

  45. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    You have reminded me of why there have been many times that I wished I could wrap my brain around physics. I love your conclusion and totally agree with it….I just wish I knew why. ;)

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