The Second YEC Law of Thermodynamics

The Second YEC Law of Thermodynamics April 28, 2014

I remember falling for the claim that evolution was incompatible with the Second Law of Thermodynamics when I was a teenager. I apparently lacked the ability to realize that the world’s scientists were not so incompetent as to miss something so basic, nor did I consider that the fact that mainstream scientists were engaging in productive research while the charlatans who were spouting these criticisms were not collecting their Nobel prize for overturning widely-held scientific views.

But at the heart of young-earth creationism is not scientific ignorance and deceit, although those play a role. It is pride. The reason some of us fall for the lies that YEC proponents offer is because we like the idea that we, together with other Christians, are smarter than the world’s scientists.

Young-earth creationism isn’t just wrong. It isn’t just a deception. It is diabolically sinful.

"I also loved Archon, and you can play it for free in your web browser: ..."

Response to Raphael Lataster
""Archon" was one of my favorite games on my C64 when I was a kid. ..."

Response to Raphael Lataster
""Archons" actually doesn't have to mean demons of any kind. It just means "first somethings." ..."

Response to Raphael Lataster
"Leigh, you seem to think that mythicists aren't getting a fair crack of the whip ..."

Response to Raphael Lataster

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Alan Christensen

    I fell for this line too as a teenager, from books like “From Goo to You by way of the Zoo” (I do love the title). One reason I sometimes wish I’d taken more science classes in high school.

  • Alan Christensen

    One other thought: I’m not sure it’s necessary to accuse YEC-ers of sinful pride. The amount of ignorance and intellectual dishonesty is staggering enough.

    • arcseconds

      What else is one to say about a perspective, that if you reason two steps forward, implies that the scientific community is either grossly incompetent, or the largest and most effective conspiracy ever?

      I mean, to explain the ‘fact’ that high-school biology flagrantly contradicts high-school physics, either the only people who have ever taken both high-school physics and high-school biology and understood both are creationists, or the others that have are involved in the largest and most effective conspiracy ever.

      I suspect that most of them haven’t thought this far along the path, which is the most charitable interpretation. But that in itself demands further explanation, as incompetence or malevolence are obvious implications of this belief. Are we to say that all who say this thing are utterly incapable of thinking through the consequences of any of their beliefs? This seems almost as intellectually insulting as thinking that no physicist has ever read a biology textbook, and at any rate seems extremely implausible, as most young-earth creationists seem at least somewhat intellectually competent in other areas. No, we need an explanation for why they haven’t thought any further on this particular belief.

      Anyway. if you’ve ever spoken to anyone who believes this you can see the ‘gotcha’ in their eyes. They certainly are clapping themselves on the back for knowing this simple thing that all of those blinkered evolutionists have missed in their zeal for secularism.

  • histrogeek

    I remember seeing a creationist demonstrating the fools-rush-in concept by charging into Phyrangula pulling the entropy line. It came as quite a shock to this poor sheltered soul how fast the line was demolished by everyone.

    • arcseconds

      Did they actually recognise it had been demolished?

      • histrogeek

        It seemed so. They had kind of thrown down the gauntlet in a way that didn’t leave much wiggle room. And there was some undignified backtracking that left little doubt they saw that they had just walked Wiley-Coyote-like off the cliff.

  • TomS

    There is one thing about the Creationist 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

    It prevents the Flood from sorting out the fossil record.

    That inconsistency must show something about the thinking of YEC.

    One other thing.

    The laws of nature apply also to the only intelligent designers that we know of, such as the very clever engineers of the Industrial Revolution, who could not make perpetual motion machines – which is a major reason for the discovery of the (real) laws of thermodynamics.

  • LorenHaas

    A former pastor used this one from the pulpit and I remember turning to my wife and saying:

  • Georgi Gladyshev

    Misunderstandings in ideas about entropy

    Many misunderstandings in understanding the problems of life and evolution from the standpoint of physics and physical chemistry are typically associated with misconceptions in understanding entropy. The term “entropy” coined Rudolf Clausius. According to his “model” of the world (universe), he presented a statement: “The energy of the world is constant. The entropy of the world tends to the maximum”. Later this statement was chosen by JW Gibbs as an epigraph to the paper “On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances”. These scientists have given this statement in relation to their model of the universe. This model corresponds to a simple isolated system of ideal gas, i.e. isolated system of ideal gas, energy and volume of this system are constant and
    in which only the work of expansion is performed. Entropy of such a system can
    only increase!

    It should be noted that when we say on ideal model, which would correspond to the real universe, it would be necessary to accept the unreal assumption that any form of energy real universe will be transformed into thermal energy. Only in this case, also under additional unrealistic assumptions, the real universe “would turn” into the model of ideal system of Clausius – Gibbs.
    However, lovers of science have applied representations on simple systems to systems of other types, in which the interactions takes place between particles of different nature (interactions of molecules or other objects of different hierarchies) and to systems which interact with the environment. Some scientists, who are not professionals in the relevant fields of knowledge, have not escaped such errors. This has led to unimaginable confusion. This has slowed down the development of science, more than on a century. There are thousands of publications in scientific journals and popular literature containing marked misunderstandings. To these were added incorrect ideas on the negentropy and on the dissipative structures in the living world.
    The origin of life and its evolution can be easily explained from the standpoint of hierarchical near equilibrium thermodynamics of complex dynamic systems. This thermodynamics established on a solid foundation of equilibrium thermodynamics – thermodynamics of Rudolf Clausius, JW Gibbs and other great scientists.

    Detailing theories about the origin of life and evolution is presented in the new sites (Knol moved to WordPress): Some work:

  • arcseconds

    The Gambler’s Three Laws of Thermodynamics:

    1) You can’t win.
    2) You can’t break even
    3) You can’t stay out of the game.

    (The first two are actually reasonable summaries of the Thermodynamics Three Laws of Thermodynamics. Although I’ve never been able to see how (3) is related to a perfect crystal at absolute zero having zero entropy and being impossible to achieve…)

    • TomS

      This is attributed to the poet Allen Ginsberg: Ginsberg’s Theorem
      Perhaps the third is better taken as a statement of the zeroth law of thermo?

    According to the Bible, God made the stars on the fourth day of creation. But even more remarkable is the fact that He is creating them still, though the latter miracle is considered not worth mentioning by any of the Bible’s authors. (I wonder why? The creation of new stars in enormous stellar nurseries is being chronicled continually in magazines and journals like Astronomy, Sky & Telescope and The Astrophysical Journal, just to name a few.)

    And God is still creating new planets (that continue to form out of rings of matter circling stars–see the above mentioned magazines).

    And God is still fusing simple hydrogen atoms together inside stars to create other elements with greater proton and electron numbers (the heaviest known elements are created during super nova explosions of stars).

    And God is still creating large multi-cellular organisms out of a single cell that keeps dividing over and over by a process called embryogenesis.

    And God is still transforming inorganic substances into organic ones, because there are tiny microorganisms that live by taking in nothing but water and inorganic molecules and turning them into more members of their own species. I am speaking of microorganisms that live directly on minerals, including plants that live on minerals and sunlight. That’s where the “chain of life” begins, with the inorganic world and the organisms that ingest inorganic substances, and next comes all the forms of life that live on those organisms and so on and so forth. In fact, if you keep in mind the entire chain of life and the way the organisms at the bottom live on inorganic substances, then God is still creating human beings out of inorganic matter (and turning inorganic oxygen molecules into “the breath of life,” every time we inhale).

    Still, creationists argue that

    aside from the continued creation of new stars;

    aside from the continued creation of new planets;

    aside from all the elements in the periodic table continually being created out of the simplest and lightest element of them all, hydrogen;

    aside from the continued creation of multi-cellular organisms from a single cell via embryogenesis;

    aside from the continued creation of living organisms out of inorganic matter which lay at the base of the chain of life;

    aside from the fact that organisms continually increase in number as well as branch off into new species (as even creationists admit);

    aside from all of that; creationists continue to claim that evolution is “prohibited by the second law of thermodynamics!”

    I’d say that creationists are missing the forest for the trees, which continue to grow from tiny seeds; trees that become forests that continue to reach out and envelop as much of the earth as they can, and whose members continue to branch off (forgive the pun) into new species as they do so.

    And none of that violates the second law of thermo-d. In fact the enormous number of animals that perish is the price paid for evolution, because life is a series of hurdles that an organism either makes it over or not, starting with conception in sexually reproducing species, then having to survive embryogenesis (half of all human zygotes don’t survive it, which is admitted by pro-lifers as well), surviving birth, surviving childhood illnesses and infections (half of all children didn’t live past the age of eight according to Buffon writing in the 1750s), getting past every hurdle in the way of the continuance of life from the time of conception to sexual maturity and mating. There are hurdles galore, biological, environmental, social, et al. That’s what natural selection is about, the weeding out of countless zygotes, babies, children, adolescents, such that only some of them survive to produce the next generation, or they produce more offspring than others. Meanwhile not just individuals are included in the selection process of cousin species, because for every species that does well, many cousin species including sub-species related to it, do not do well, but perish over time. So that overall, the price of decay, of thermo-dynamics is paid. Yes, the evolution of new species does come at a tremendous price that is paid by nature.

  • arcseconds

    You know, I’ve got a bit of sympathy for creationists (and other pseudoscience advocates) wanting to buck the scientists.

    It seems to be an aspect of human nature, at least in a literate society with some degree of freedom of thought, to want to rebel against authority figures (particularly external ones) and pave their own way. We can see this trait in ancient greece and in mediæval europe, so it’s not solely a modern trait, and nor is it solely a western trait.

    And of course, when we agree with the rebels and dislike the authority figures, we celebrate this hugely.

    And scientists definitely are an external authority figure for most people in society, telling everyone else what to think. Most people don’t know any personally, aren’t engaged in the scientific world at all, don’t really have much of an understanding of science, and only hear from them in pronouncements in the media. In those pronouncements, they often seem to share no concerns whatsoever with ordinary people. They transgress all sorts of boundaries with glee, and propose things like fuel taxes which are just going to make life diffiicult for ordinary people trying to get by.

    So from their perspective, there’s little difference between scientists and a distant, top-down priesthood. These days, priests and ministers are in fact far more accessible to most people, and more obviously share their concerns!

    • A lot of this is because people say “scientist” but don’t actually think “wait, what IS a scientist?”.

      Technically speaking, I am a scientist, for example. Yet the YECs in my life try to talk down to me claiming I’m not. Douchebags….

      • arcseconds

        So, you’ll be a signed-up member of the conspiracy, then? Or did they use their mind-control rays on you once it looked like you weren’t going to comply?

        • Actually, in order to get in to the conspiracy, you have to have constructed your own mind-control ray to convince them to let you in.

          • Pam

            Being the scientist child of scientists, I didn’t have to go through the mind-control ray rigmarole. Good old nepotism for the win.

  • SpyPlus

    My pastor still tows this line. I didn’t have the heart to ask him in front of the bible study if the earth is following the ‘YEC 2nd law’, how is it that a few cells in a womb grown into a wonderfully complex baby? Of course the sun provides the energy for the food to grow that we consume. The earth is NOT a closed system

    • MattB

      I used to be a YEC, but now I am between Old-Earth Creationist and Theistic Evolutionist

      • arcseconds

        What changed your mind?

        • MattB

          Evidence my dear chap;)

          • Well met, good sir, and well met indeed (I’m sure we travelled the same path, but we’re both at the same pub, it seems).

          • MattB

            haha yes! you too were once a yec?

          • Yep. I couldn’t reconcile it with, of all things, linguistics. Just couldn’t fit all the language change we find, even with the Tower of Babel, into a short 7000-8000 years.

          • Linguistics is such a wonderful field! I wish I had the patience for it.

          • I just dabble, myself.

          • MattB

            Same here. I think many biblical events like the Tower of Babel happened way before what YEC’s propose.

          • I have my doubts that it happened at all, at least as described. If it did, I’d think it probably happened around when it’s said to have happened, but was a diaspora of the languages of the SEMITIC world, not the world entire.

          • MattB

            that sounds like a possibility. I’m not a science expert or anything, but the idea of the earth being 6-10 thousand years old is sooooooooooooooo improbable.

            One could argue that God made the earth appear with an old age, but why would God decieve when God can’t decieve?

          • And why would he bother? Is the world less pretty because God set a process in motion rather than guiding each step along the way?

          • MattB


          • arcseconds

            Was there any particular evidence you found especially convincing?

          • MattB

            Yes, alot;) I realized that the fossil record we have is reliable via radiometric dating to tell us that certain creatures lived way back before humans did. I also realized that there is tons of evidence in space(Red shift was very convincing to me), Land mass shifting(Pangea and Hawaii Island Chain are some examples). Basically it was the fossil record and the Scientific methods I had learned in high school that convinced me I was wrong. I at first tried to refute them, but I then realized that YEC as a theory was just too implausible to account for all this evidence available. I also learned that the “6000” year old calculation is a misreading from a theologian back long ago. He miscalculated the biblical genalogies by adding the genealogies from Adam to Christ, and he came up with 6000; however, where he errored is in thinking that the recorded genealogies were in fact that short because he counted Genesis 1 as a 24 hour day and from there he got 6000.

    • TomS

      “Those few cells have the possibility to grow designed into them. Which they inherit from the parents, and so on back to Adam and Eve.”
      Of course this is abandoning any talk of physical properties and the 2LoT.
      (It would be inappropriate to ask for the calculation for the entropy for the cycle of bodies of parents and cells.)

  • BubblesGump

    It’s all very simple. YEC is a mental disorder.

    • Sven2547

      That’s not very fair to folks with mental disorders.

    • MattB

      I gotta find Bubba!

  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is such a wonderful comic. Nice to see a blog using its material 😀