Handy Dandy Evolution Refuter
|Chapter 4 - Would Evolution Violate Known Physical Law?|
|1. Is evolution contrary to the natural law of degeneration?||Answer: One of
the most firmly established laws of physics (it could be called the Natural Law of
Degeneration) states that all natural processes of change in a closed system produce in
the system a net decrease in information and a net loss of free energy. Free energy is
energy available to cause continuing change in the system. This is the Second Law of
Thermodynamics.1 The origin of living cells from
non-living chemicals is said to begin with a process referred to as chemical evolution.
Chemical evolution is supposed to be a natural process which from disordered and simple
molecules gradually produced increasingly complex sets of integrated chemical reaction
systems and more complex molecules. Finally there resulted complex living cells that
require much information for their description and contain much free energy. Thus the
spontaneous origin of life (sometimes called abiogenesis) requires a spontaneous (natural,
automatic) local increase in both information and free energy. Therefore, it appears that
chemical evolution contradicts the law of increasing entropy.
The burning of a candle illustrates the Second Law in action. The paraffin in a candle is composed of hydrocarbon molecules. Paraffin consists of long chains of carbon atoms to which are attached hydrogen atoms. Thus, paraffin molecules are structured; also, they possess much chemical energy stored in the chemical bonds of the molecules. If a candle is lit, it will burn spontaneously. Oxygen from the air combines with the carbon and hydrogen to produce water vapor, carbon dioxide gas, and light and heat energy. The ordered chemical energy concentrated in the chemical bonds of the paraffin molecules is changed into heat energy. This is the energy of chaotic motion of the heated atoms and molecules in the combustion products. The candle burns spontaneously, but never will a candle "unburn" itself spontaneously. The Second Law of Thermodynamics describes this uniform behavior of the natural world as follows: In a closed system the combined result of all natural processes is to change information-rich complexity into random information-poor disorder and to change organized or free energy into random heat energy in the environment.
The increase in the disorder or randomness of the structure and energy of a physical system is measured as an increase of a property of the system called "entropy." So the Second Law predicts that entropy will increase. But according to the evolutionary view of the world, entropy decreased when life arose from non-life and more complex species arose from simpler ones. Evolution is supposed to be a natural process which occurred according to the laws of physics, yet transformed completely disordered matter into highly ordered, complex, energy-rich living plants and animals. This supposedly has been going on for billions of years. There does appear to be a contradiction here between evolutionary theory and a firmly founded law of physics.
2. Do evolutionary scientists offer a solution to this difficulty with the law of increasing entropy, of increasing disorder?
standard answer to the entropy problem is that the flow of high free energy light photons
from the sun and of energy rich chemicals from the earth's crust could reverse the
processes of degeneration locally on the earth's surface without violating the entropy law
in the earth-sun system taken as a whole.
This argument is based upon the fact that the earth's surface layer where life supposedly evolved from dead chemicals is an open system, not a closed system. That is, energy from the sun continually flows through the earth's atmosphere and to its surface. Therefore, the earth and the sun must be considered together. There can be a large increase of entropy in the sun at the same time a small decrease occurs on the earth's surface. Supposedly, then, life could begin by chance on the earth, with a modest local decrease in entropy, an increase in complexity and free energy. At the same time the sun would have expended a huge amount of energy, with a very large increase in entropy.
So the net result in the earth-sun system would be an increase in entropy. Life could begin and the Second Law would still be satisfied in this system.
Let us develop this idea further to see if it is valid. It is a fact that when some chemical mixtures are irradiated with light, energy is absorbed and new reactions occur.2 Some molecules are produced that are more complex and energy-rich than those in the original mixture. The argument is that, if this can happen to a small extent in the laboratory, a similar process continued for billions of years on the earth's surface could have initiated life. It supposedly could have formed the entire biosphere out of non-living chemicals, without violating the entropy law for the earth-sun system.
3. Is this open-system argument really valid? Can it stand critical analysis?
reversals of natural degeneration (i.e., of entropy increase) can be only very limited and
temporary. The open-system argument cannot be shown to be valid unless scientists can show
experimentally that chance or random chemical reactions can actually bring about virtually
unlimited increase in chemical complexity and produce something having the properties of
life. All chemical research on the origin of life has thus far failed at both of these
First, when light is absorbed by a chemical mixture, any formation of molecules with more complex structures and more energy content reaches a dynamic balance and stops progressing. Pushing the process farther by pumping in more radiation or higher energy (shorter wavelength) light photons would soon start breaking up molecules and overheating the mixture. Only limited increase in chemical complexity has ever been achieved in such experiments.
Second, to capture light energy and use it to build up the structures in living things requires the complex machinery already present in those organisms. The photosynthetic apparatus of green plants is the prime example. Without such energy-capturing and energy-organizing systems, the effect of light energy is mainly to break down complex structures. An example of this is sunburn, the destruction of skin tissue by the sun's ultraviolet light.
Third, no laboratory experiments have demonstrated the production of coded information, reproduction, or other essential attributes of living systems. By random chemical reactions no self-contained structure has been produced that exhibits the unique set of nine properties characteristic of life. These are (1) a stable, complex structure, (2) metabolism (use of materials and energy from outside to build and operate the system), (3) growth, (4) homeostasis (maintaining constant internal conditions, e.g., body temperature or chemical concentrations different from the environment), (5) response to environmental effects, (6) reproduction, (7) adaptability, (8) a genetic code and coded, heritable information, and (9) genetically transmitted heritable variations.
Until it can be demonstrated that some mixture of non-living chemicals can originate structures with these nine characteristics of life, the Second Law of Thermodynamics makes the spontaneous generation of life under any conditions extremely improbable. In particular, in the absense of a structural/chemical system capable of capturing radiant or chemical energy from the environment and directing it for the construction of the other complex and sophisticated functions listed above, the spontaneous origin of life from non-life would have to violate the second law of thermodynamics.
In Chapter 3 we showed that the probability of the spontaneous origin of the first living cell is extremely small*from two perspectives. First is the statistical improbability of the chance chaining together of the twenty different biologically useful amino acid molecules in a correct sequence to form a working protein molecule. Second is the thermodynamic improbability for the chance concentration of free energy contained in the chemical bonds that tie those amino acid units together in the chain. The most thorough study of these problems is the excellent 1984 book, The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories, by Thaxton, Bradley and Olsen.3 The authors show that both the statistical and the thermodynamic probabilities can be related mathematically to the second law of thermodamics. Thus this most thoroughly established law of physics makes the origin of life without God the Life-Giver effectively zero.
4. Does the entropy law have anything to do with mutations? If so, can mutations be expected to produce increasingly complex order in living creatures?
mutations occur according to the law of increasing entropy (disorder), it seems
unreasonable to believe that they could produce increasing order and complexity. The
majority of observable mutations do, in fact, appear to be bad, destroying the order of
complex biological designs. Many mutations are apparently neutral, however, causing no
Each time cell division occurs the DNA molecules that are genes must be copied so that the resulting daughter cells have the same coded information as the parent cell. A large proportion of the mutations in wild populations probably result from errors in the copying process. These may well be caused by the random heat motion of the molecules when the DNA is being copied.4 Radiation, certain chemicals, and other physical influences can also cause mutations. In accordance with the Second Law the effect of mutations should be to make the sequence of the letters of the genetic code message carried by the DNA molecules become more disordered or random. That is, the coded message carried by the DNA molecules should become on the average less meaningful, more and more scrambled, until it becomes nonsense after many cell divisions. Therefore, mutations should not be expected to produce increasingly complex and meaningful information content in the DNA of any species. Rather, the result should be just the opposite. This is verified in nature where most visible mutations appear to be bad for any organism.5
5. But does not natural selection solve this problem and reverse the effect of the second law of thermodynamics by filtering out bad mutations and preserving good ones?
|Answer: It has
not yet been shown that mutations and natural selection can change DNA to produce new
complex structures or organs.
There is no question that the pressure of the environment acts to remove from the population those types that are not so well adapted. Thus natural selection is primarily conservative, preserving the normal or wild type.6 But the vital question is whether or not mutations can be preserved and accumulated by natural selection so as to produce creatures with new structures, new organs, new behavioral patterns, etc. This is the essential point which has yet to be demonstrated by observation or controlled experiment. The belief that evolution can happen and that it has happened in the past is more a faith than a scientific theory.7
6. Do living cells violate the second law?
cells do not violate the second law. They do, however, overcome its effects for a limited
Living cells, while not violating the entropy law, do overcome it for a while by feeding on free energy (energy available to do work) in food taken from the surroundings.8 Non-living systems cannot do this. The structures in living cells are held together only by fairly weak bonding forces. Therefore, they are easily broken down by the random heat motions of the molecules. This is an entropy effect. In a dead cell this process soon reduces the cell to formless rubbish. In a living cell energy imported from outside powers a multitude of repair projects that operate continually. They are guided by the plans carried in the DNA molecules, the genes, so that the correct cell structure is preserved. The DNA molecules are held together by stronger forces than is the general cell structure; therefore the plans are not normally altered by the molecular heat motions. Gradually, however, the degenerative entropy effect does cause the breakdown of some of the permanent structures of the cell, including probably alteration of the DNA, and this leads to aging and death. Non-living systems cannot duplicate the entropy-overcoming activities of living cells.
7. What is a good example of this unique capability of living cells, and what does it mean for theories of the spontaneous generation of life?
living cell, say a micro-organism, continuously pumps selected chemicals in and out
through its outer membrane to maintain homeostasis. These processes consume energy that
the cell abstracts from the environment. The overall result is an increase in entropy in
the system comprised of the environment plus the cell. Therefore, the living cell does not
violate the second law of thermodynamics. It does, however, for a while counteract and
delay the effects of the second law on the organism. Ceasing to do this, the organism
A particularly amazing and crucial ability of cells is seen in their mechanisms for correcting or editing errors when genes are copied during cell division. Many errors occur due to the degenerative second law effect on chemical reactions. However, the cell can detect the errors and correct almost all of them. Thus the actual probable error rate in copying any single genetic code letter is only about one part in a billion. This is a very high degree of accuracy.
Now here is a serious problem for the origin of life theories. The assumed original cells had to be primitive, very simple compared with modern, fully evolved cells. Therefore, their process for copying genes would have been comparatively inaccurate. Furthermore, they could not yet have evolved the error-correcting machinery possessed by modern cells. Recent research has led to the conclusion that, without error-correcting machinery, the gene copying, transcription, and translation of the first simple cells would have been so inaccurate that they would rapidly have self-destructed. Life would have perished, so to speak, before its first full breath, without producing a second generation. Grant R. Lambert's quantitative study led him to the conclusion that the spontaneous origin of life has not been explained until this problem has been solved.
[Abstract] Current knowledge of enzymic editing mechanisms in DNA replication, transcription and translation can be used to predict error rates in the absence of editing. Primitive enzymes which possessed synthetic activity but not yet editing mechanisms would have had extremely high error rates resulting in heterogeneous proteins. Based on present knowledge of molecular biology and biochemistry, it is concluded that the evolution of contemporary information transformation systems from primitive systems lacking such editing mechanisms remains an unsolved problem in theoretical biology.9
second law of thermodynamics be violated by the evolution of a more complex organisms from a simpler one?
question is difficult to answer in a precise, quantitative manner. However, a more complex
organism certainly requires more information for its description. Therefore, the evolution
of increased complexity certainly does appear to violate the second law of thermodynamics.
Evolutionary change is supposed to occur in a species population as a result of interaction with the environment. The quantitative measurement of the entropy of such an extremely complex system is simply not possible. Since a more complex plant or animal requires more information for its description, it would presumably carry more information in its genes. Evolution would have to create this stored information. The process of natural selection is supposed accomplish this because the living organism is able to use free energy from its environment to pay for the creation of the new information, but without violating the second law. This is, however, a proposition that has yet to be proved experimentally. Production of greater biological complexity by the allegedly natural process of evolution would, on the other hand, certainly appear to be a violation of the natural law of degeneration.
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