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Feedback from January 1998
© 2005-2007 T. Wallace. All Rights Reserved.


From: Glade Diviney

Thanks for presenting such a well-reasoned rebuttal to the cult of Darwinism. I hope that you and others like you succeed in encouraging Darwinists to more closely examine their experimental biases (especially when making public claims) and to exercise more discretion when venturing into philosophical realms in which they have no grounding.

In earlier feedback to this site, a reader mentioned Evolutionary Algorithms (EAs) as possible “supporting evidence” for biological evolution. Although the computational processes in question may not map closely to actual biological processes, it seems true that an evolutionary model (i.e. descent with modification) can result in innovative solutions to complex, non-deterministic problems.

EA developers begin by assuming that evolution worked in developing complex biological organisms. They continue by building a computer system, based on Neo-Darwinistic principles, that is focused on solving some particular problem. Then, the variables that affect mutation and recombination are tweaked until the system finds the most effective solution. In some cases, the optimization variables themselves are tweaked in a Darwinistic way! Often, the solutions found in this way rival “human-designed” solutions.

In this sense, it seems that seems that Darwin's theory of descent with modification stands justified; that is, successive generations of mutated/recombined “solutions” (lifeforms) can result in optimal solutions for a particular “problems” (environments). Also, variations in the problem could correspondingly result in the evolution of different solutions.

I'm not a geneticist, but it doesn't seem like a stretch to draw a strong analogy between DNA and a self-modifying algorithm. Nor am I a biologist, but to me, the kinds of complex problems that nature present to a species bear a striking resemblance to the kinds of problems that EA's are best at solving (such as pattern recognition and other non-deterministic problems).

Missing, of course, is a fossil record that supports a gradual model of evolution; strong genetic evidence that a beneficial mutation can occur in high enough frequencies to support huge phenotypic improvements such as eyes or wings; and a sufficient explanation for the apparent contradiction of the second law of thermodynamics (an objection, I must admit, that I can't seem to find relevant).

Now, I certainly don't wish to enter into a debate of theism vs. naturalism. It is far beyond me to debate whether some undetectable creative being continuously organizes matter, or simply initiated the laws that allowed life to flourish, or whether there was no such being at all. However, I do wish to ask of you: do you 1) disagree that a “descent with modification” mechanism could have produced the abundance of species we witness, 2) agree that such a mechanism could, but that biology as we know it would not allow descent with modification to work, or 3) agree that the biological evidence indicates that such speciation is possible, but that other sources (such as the fossil record and perhaps the Bible) disagree with this picture?

My guess is that your opinion is best expressed by the second option. If so, would proof of biological processes that identify strongly with proven EA models change your position? If not, what kind of evidence would?

Respectfully,
Glade Diviney


Response from Timothy Wallace:

In your message you refer (I believe) to Justin Bradford's “November Feedback” suggestion of Genetic Algorithms (GAs) as possible “supporting evidence” for biological evolution. In connection with this, I would respectfully offer the following in response to your comments and questions:

>>Although the computational processes in question may not map closely to actual biological processes, it seems true that an evolutionary model (i.e. descent with modification) can result in innovative solutions to complex, non-deterministic problems.<<

I think it is important to differentiate between a biological phenomenon that is assumed (but by no means proven) to have taken place, and a intelligently designed and implemented development process based essentially on a “trial and error” algorithm. The “model” which serves as the basis of the successful GA concept, it seems to me, is one in which solutions and improvements are desired and sought, and which have been formulated from very real, logical, and intelligently designed mechanisms.

>>...They continue by building a computer system, based on Neo-Darwinistic principles...<<

While it may be granted that descent with modification and selection serve as the “Neo-Darwinistic” principles upon which GAs are based, the Neo-Darwinistic model allows for absolutely no intelligent design, expectations, plan, program, or criterion for survival other than survival (or survivability) itself. This seems very much unlike the fundamental nature of a GA program, which (in your words) is “focused” (by intelligent designers) “on solving some particular problem” (identified by those same intelligent designers) and “tweaked” (by those designers) until the system “finds” the most effective solution (purposefully sought by the designers).

>>Often, the solutions found in this way rival “human-designed” solutions.<<

It seems to me that this is a misleading statement, since the GAs are most defintiely no less “human-designed” than their non-GA computer-based counterparts. Men and women have relied on computer-based programs to produce remarkably precise and efficient solutions to a wide variety of problems. That a particular pattern or process of such an operation is described as “based on” biological evolution by no means qualifies it as evidence that biological evolution has occured, nor does it serve as an accurate or realistic model of the alleged Neo-Darwinian model or mechanism.

>>In this sense, it seems that seems that Darwin's theory of descent with modification stands justified...<<

It is this conclusion which I believe I have been addressing and (with all due respect) disputing. I trust that I have not failed to make clear my understanding or position on this matter.

>>I'm not a geneticist, but it doesn't seem like a stretch to draw a strong analogy between DNA and a self-modifying algorithm.<<

I'm not a geneticist either, but I do know that DNA is by no means self-modifying, except in the sense that the genetic apparatus (not just DNA alone) modifies itself *only* for the purpose of *repairing* errors or damage to the best of its ability, in an effort to *restore* itself to conform to a pre-exisiting blueprint.

>>Nor am I a biologist, but to me, the kinds of complex problems that nature present to a species bear a striking resemblance to the kinds of problems that EA's are best at solving (such as pattern recognition and other non-deterministic problems).<<

Again, I'm also not a biologist, but I see a vast difference between human-designed algorithmic programs that solve intelligently recognized and identified problems, and the wholly undesigned and chance-based process which serves as the essence of the Neo-Darwinist model. A “striking resemblance” can be seen between these two only when one simultaneously discounts the value and role of human intelligent design in (and the goal-oriented function of) GAs while ignoring the absence of any comparible counterpart in the alleged biological evolution scenario.

>>...do you 1) disagree that a “descent with modification” mechanism could have produced the abundance of species we witness...<<

While there may exist a “descent with modification” postulate, I don't believe that an actual “descent with modification” mechanism has been identified, so my answer would be yes, I disagree that a “descent with modification” mechanism could have produced the abundance of species we witness.

>>...[do you] 2) agree that such a mechanism could, but that biology as we know it would not allow descent with modification to work...<<

I find it hard to answer whether I agree that something that is unknown and unidentified could work or not. Nevertheless I will say that it seems to me that biology as we know it does indeed pose some serious challenges to the Neo-Darwinist concept of descent with modification (particularly in reference to its supposedly having produced the abundance of species we witness).

>>...[do you] 3) agree that the biological evidence indicates that such speciation is possible, but that other sources (such as the fossil record and perhaps the Bible) disagree with this picture?<<

As I indicated in #2, not only do I find no biological evidence indicating that Neo-Darwinist “descent with modification” evolution is possible, but there are strong indications from a biological viewpoint that seem to render the notion untenable. And among the “other sources” which disagree with the Neo-Darwinist picture are not only paleontology and the Bible, but also (and no less significant) genetics, archeology, embryology, molecular biology, statistical probability, thermodynamics, and a host of other fields of study, the empirical data of which contradict the basic assumptions inherent in the evolutionist framework of interpretation.

>>...would proof of biological processes that identify strongly with proven EA models change your position?<<

Perhaps you will need to clarify what you mean by “proof of biological processes that identify strongly with proven EA models.” I understand this to mean biological processes strongly indicating that they have been intelligently designed to function in a goal-oriented process for the purpose of efficiently resolving intelligently identified problems. I happen to believe that there exist *many* biological processes that reflect this inherent character, but far from changing my position, they serve better support and establish it.

>>If not, what kind of evidence would?<<

This is a difficult question. Since on careful and detailed examination much more of exisiting empirical evidence seems to better fit the creationist model (and with far less explanatory modification of theory) than any evolutionist counterpart, it would seem that the evidence that would change my position would have to be of such profound and far-reaching significance that it would essentially render all exisiting evidence insignificant or erroneous. It is hard for me to imagine or identify just “what kind of evidence” might carry such qualifications, though I should think it would be hard to miss in the event that it were to appear.

Kind Regards,
TW


Response from Glade Diviney:

In my original mail, I suggested that computer implementations of Evolutionary Algorithms (EAs) might provide some basis to show that a Darwinian “descent with chance modification and fitness-based selection” model could result in the complex adaptations, interrelationships, and speciation apparent in a natural ecosystem.

If I may summarize your response in the following two paragraphs:

First: Successful EA models are focused at a specific problem, so it is no surprise that they find solutions, much as intended by their intelligent creators. As such, EAs do not differ significantly from other intelligently-designed algorithms, and form a poor parallel to Darwinian models that exclude intelligent design from the outset.

Second: Any algorithm which claims to be genetically based, but in fact implements a self-modifying operation that moves it away from its original type, claims falsely. Actual genetic apparatus acts to repair or restore itself to “conform to a prexisting blueprint”.

Regarding your first point, I feel compelled to explain how certain EAs are quite different from ordinary algorithms. An ordinary algorithm starts with a concrete statement of a problem (input) and follows a completely non-random, pre-described path to produce a solution (output). On the other hand, these EAs start with only a description of the problem and seek to produce a problem-solving algorithm as output.

Let's say I asked an undergrad to design a cherry-picking machine. I might describe how tall the average cherry tree is, how many cherries it might bear, even how much force must be exerted to pluck a standard cherry. In a month, the student returns with a design. It might not be the best design, but it looks workable. I would have every reason to call the machine “human-designed”.

Similarly, if I give an EA a description of a problem and allow it some time to work, and it responds with an algorithm that solves the problem adequately, we can safely call the algorithm “machine-designed”.

Of course, with EAs, the trick is in 1) defining the problem with sufficient clarity and 2) defining a language for representing a solution algorithm. When these conditions can be satisfied, EAs have shown modest successes.

When you crack open an EA implementation, you see a process at work which the Darwinists would be entirely comfortable with. Spot mutation, recombination, and fitness-based selection (a way to determine whether one algorithm or another is more “fit”, typically by comparing two competing algorithms) are the nuts and bolts of an EA. In this, I believe Darwinism and EA to exhibit strong parallelism.

This brings us to your second objection: that biological processes simply don't work in the way that either EA or Darwinism demands, but instead, life forms adhere to a pre-existing blueprint. However, if that blueprint is DNA, and DNA can change, then the species' blueprint can change over time. This is exactly what EAs attempt to model.

I've felt I might be missing some biochemical objection to this. So I turned to “Darwin's Black Box” by Michael Behe. Behe affirms that, indeed, evolution, random mutation, and natural selection do occur (p.175), but that they can't explain _all_ biochemical machinery, specifically those components that exhibit “irreducible complexity”. Such components, Behe posits, simply can't have evolved by the kind of step by step process that both Darwinism (and thus EAs) depend upon.

(It is interesting that when you present an irreducibly complex mechanism to a Darwinist, you usually get the pat answer that the mechanism must have taken a _very_ long time to develop, or in the case of Richard Dawkins, you get outright hostility: “[Behe] should stop being lazy and should get up and think for himself about how the flagellum evolved”. What you almost never get is an explanation of a known step-by-step process that has actually led to an irreducibly complex system!)

Perhaps EAs can show how an apparently “irreducibly complex mechanism” could come about. John Holland, a researcher at the Santa Fe Institute, writes some telling words on this in “Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity”. In the book, he spends a great deal of time explaining a mechanism by which “agents” could interact in a complex, interrelated ways (in this case, a trio of organisms that depend on each other). He concludes on page 107: “Finally, can we observe the evolution of such a triangle from a simpler starting point? At this point we don't know. The experiment has not yet been tried.”

Hogwash. Holland writes a book subtitled “How Adaptation Builds Complexity” and then claims that an experiment that would demonstrate the concept hasn't even been attempted? I find it more likely that such experiments have taken place, but that they are not conclusive (and therefore haven't been published).

Perhaps, someday, EAs will demonstrate this breakthrough. And perhaps, in the future, such breakthroughs will be shown to relate to actual biological processes. At this point, however, I agree with you that this field of research does not immediately bear on the question of the origin of species.

It's been a pleasure corresponding with you. I realize that this message has grown rather long; I just thought you'd be interested in the results of my inquiries. I hope you find them interesting.

Respectfully,
Glade Diviney


Response from Timothy Wallace:

If I may, I'll begin with your summary of my previous response:

>>First: Successful EA models are focused at a specific problem, so it is no surprise that they find solutions, much as intended by their intelligent creators. As such, EAs do not differ significantly from other intelligently-designed algorithms, and form a poor parallel to Darwinian models that exclude intelligent design from the outset.<<

Yes.

>>Second: Any algorithm which claims to be genetically based, but in fact implements a self-modifying operation that moves it away from its original type, claims falsely. Actual genetic apparatus acts to repair or restore itself to “conform to a prexisting blueprint”.<<

Yes.

>>Regarding your first point, I feel compelled to explain how certain EAs are quite different from ordinary algorithms. An ordinary algorithm starts with a concrete statement of a problem (input) and follows a completely non-random, pre-described path to produce a solution (output). On the other hand, these EAs start with only a description of the problem and seek to produce a problem-solving algorithm as output.<<

I recognize the difference to which you point, yet it seems to me that we must consider that to even recognize a problem in need of a solution (or a means of arriving at a solution, as in this case), one must begin with intelligence and the initiation of even such a process as you have described requires boht intelligence and intelligent application of energy.

On the other hand, by its very definition, evolution (i.e., random mutations and natural selection) recognizes no problems, but is postulated to simply grind away at its task. Every product that turns out to be a “solution” to a “problem” can be said to be no less an accident than the most tragic of fatal genetic errorss, since it has been only by “chance” that the “solution” arose in the first place, and all natural selection did was allow it to persist.

>>Let's say I asked an undergrad to design a cherry-picking machine ... I would have every reason to call the machine “human-designed” ... Similarly, if I give an EA a description of a problem and allow it some time to work ... we can safely call the algorithm “machine-designed”.<<

But again, where did the EA come from? Have you really ruled out all vestiges of intelligence and the intelligent application of energy in the process? This doesn't seem to have been accomplished in the comparitive examples you have cited.

>>Of course, with EAs, the trick is in 1) defining the problem with sufficient clarity and 2) defining a language for representing a solution algorithm. When these conditions can be satisfied, EAs have shown modest successes...<<

Again (at the risk of repeating myself excessively), both (1) (defining problems) and (2) (defining language) are strictly intellectual activities, not accomplished by random processes.

>>This brings us to your second objection: that biological processes simply don't work in the way that either EA or Darwinism demands, but instead, life forms adhere to a pre-existing blueprint. However, if that blueprint is DNA, and DNA can change, then the species' blueprint can change over time. This is exactly what EAs attempt to model.<<

[Here I am compelled to draw the distinction between the very real and observed “DNA changes” which amount to genetic variation (recombination of existing genetic code for various traits, which emergee and recede according to the population's reproduction patterns [aka “micro-evolution”]) and the unobserved “DNA changes” postulated by evolutionists in which unequivocally *new* code appears, producing entirely unequivocally *new* traits, organs, species, complexity, etc. (aka “macro-evolution”)]

>>...Perhaps EAs can show how an apparently “irreducibly complex mechanism” could come about. John Holland, a researcher at the Santa Fe Institute, writes some telling words on this... [He] writes a book subtitled “How Adaptation Builds Complexity” and then claims that an experiment that would demonstrate the concept hasn't even been attempted? I find it more likely that such experiments have taken place, but that they are not conclusive (and therefore haven't been published).<<

I'm inclined to agree with you completely here.

>>Perhaps, someday, EAs will demonstrate this breakthrough. And perhaps, in the future, such breakthroughs will be shown to relate to actual biological processes.<<

It's not absolutely out of the question, but I for one won't be holding my breath.

>>At this point, however, I agree with you that this field of research does not immediately bear on the question of the origin of species... It's been a pleasure corresponding with you...<<

Likewise, I have enjoyed hearing from you, and would welcome any future discussion of a similar nature, should it interest you.

Kind Regards,
TW

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From Aaron Adamack:

I read part of your faq and your Dec. /97 responses and am left with more than a few questions. Overall, the faq was not written clearly and had a few blatant errors. It did have some interesting points, but I question their accuracy as I haven't examined the sources.

As for some specifics: First off in the section talking about the formation of DNA, the faq says something to the effect that organic chemicals don't solidify into chains or clumps like water does. From what I've learned and have actually observed in organic chemistry, and real life this does happen. Vinyl monomers can form polymers, and lipids/fats from cooked meet solidify upon cooling. Could you please clarify the statement.

Second point is about what it takes for genetic change: The faq says that there must be an increase in the quantity and quality of the genome for evolution to occur. What's to prevent a shortening of the genome from being a cause for evolution. Instead of taking 1000 kb pairs to form some protein, you can form an equivalent protein using only 750 kb pairs. The animal gains a competitive advantage in that it takes less energy to do the same actions. Its also possible for genes that are already encoded in the DNA to recombine for some reason or another leading to a change in the functioning of the body. For example some gene that codes for the production of stomach acid all the time gets slipped into a gene that produces salivary amylase. Now gastric acid can only be produced when the gene for salivary amylase is activated. Why can't this be evolution without a change in genome size?

Finally, what about the interspecies transfer of plasmids in bacteria? Bacteria species ABC has never had a gene that deals with being exposed to a pH of 9 and thus dies on exposure. Bacteria species XYZ which does have a gene for dealing with pH 9 is then place in a container with Bacteria ABC and two weeks later when Bacteria ABC is exposed to pH 9 it can survive. Why isn't this evolution? How many more genes does Bacteria ABC have to get before you say it is a new species?

This time I really mean finally :) Example from my Evolution course: 6 kids who are born infected with AIDS have blood drawn at constant intervals. For the first 4 or 5 drawings (about a year) there is no change in the genome of the AIDS virus. After that, several changes occur in the genomes of the AIDS virus in each of the kids. The genomes differ from the initial genome of the AIDS virus in the kids. Why is this not evolution.

-Aaron


Response from Timothy Wallace:

I respectfully offer the following:

>>Overall, the faq was not written clearly and had a few blatant errors...<<

I'm sorry to learn that this seems to be the case for you (that it “was not written clearly”). Yours is the first feedback I know of in which this complaint is made. Perhaps you could specify a few of the places where the lack of clarity is the most evident to you, and we could go from there.

As for the “blatant errors,” I trust these are covered in the balance of your message, to which I will now proceed...

>>First off in the section talking about the formation of DNA, the faq says something to the effect that organic chemicals don't solidify into chains or clumps like water does... From what I've learned... Could you please clarify the statement.<<

Perhaps you refer here to an essay found somewhere other than the True.Origin site, for I know of no place on the site containing a section featuring the above-described terms (i.e., “...formation of DNA...” or “...solidify into chains or clumps like water...”).

>>Second point is about what it takes for genetic change: The faq says that there must be an increase in the quantity and quality of the genome for evolution to occur. What's to prevent a shortening of the genome from being a cause for evolution. Instead of taking 1000 kb pairs to form some protein, you can form an equivalent protein using only 750 kb pairs. The animal gains a competitive advantage in that it takes less energy to do the same actions...<<

Sounds great, but are you aware of any observed case in which a living organism began spontaneously producing a fully functional protein, “equivalent” to one normally generated by the same organism, using 25% less genetic resources, and then went on to produce generations of healthy, fully functional offspring which both carried and continued to benefit from this change?

If so, I am very interested in reading about it. If not, it seems to me that your suggestion does little to change or contest the point to which it is addressed.

>>Its also possible for genes that are already encoded in the DNA to recombine for some reason or another leading to a change in the functioning of the body. For example some gene that codes for the production of stomach acid all the time gets slipped into a gene that produces salivary amylase. Now gastric acid can only be produced when the gene for salivary amylase is activated. Why can't this be evolution without a change in genome size?<<

It can certainly be considered “evolution” if by evolution we simply mean “change” and it can even serve as “evolution” if we only mean small variations based on the existing genetic material (“micro-evolution”). What it does not do is satisfy the need for evidence that entirely new complexities (e.g., organs, systems, structures, etc.) can spontaneously arise from existing genetic material (i.e., “macro-evolution”). For your example calls for “genes that are already encoded” and which end up involved in an erroneous configuration - not an improved or increased genetic code.

>>Finally, what about the interspecies transfer of plasmids in bacteria? Bacteria species ABC has never had a gene that deals with being exposed to a pH of 9 and thus dies on exposure. Bacteria species XYZ which does have a gene for dealing with pH 9 is then place in a container with Bacteria ABC and two weeks later when Bacteria ABC is exposed to pH 9 it can survive. Why isn't this evolution?<<

(By the way, these are excellent questions!) It doesn't qualify as (macro-) evolution because the two varieties of bacteria have engaged in a unique activity involving the exchange of EXISTING genetic material. No new genetic code was formed, but it was simply transferred.

>>How many more genes does Bacteria ABC have to get before you say it is a new species?<<

It's not the number of genes alone that is needed, but the spontaneous increase in genetic code specifying new complexity, structure, or systematic functions, so that the organism (and its progeny) has done more than simply VARIED (i.e. “micro”-evolution) according to available DNA code.

>>Example from my Evolution course: 6 kids who are born infected with AIDS have blood drawn at constant intervals. For the first 4 or 5 drawings (about a year) there is no change in the genome of the AIDS virus. After that, several changes occur in the genomes of the AIDS virus in each of the kids. The genomes differ from the initial genome of the AIDS virus in the kids. Why is this not evolution.<<

In fairness, I cannot speak with sufficient knowledge concerning the genetic changes that take place within a virus, so I have little to say concerning the example you cite - except to ask whether the variations found within the virus have been unequivocally demonstrated to be spontaneous genetic changes. It seems to me that viruses are known to have some pretty unique inherent properties in this area, of which I have limited knowledge - yet I would be reluctant to call even this example a demonstration of “macro”-evolution without much more knowledge.

Even if I were willing to concede today that the AIDS scenario were in fact a case of “macro”-evolution, I could scarcely see the justification of extrapolating this single case as “proof” that all other organisms are products of the same phenomenon, when none of them exhibit the same phenomenon in any observable measure.

Again, I thank you for taking the time to write, and I hope that my responses to your very thoughtful questions have been of at least some interest to you.

Kind Regards,
TW

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Response from Frank Steiger:

I recently reviewed Tim Wallace's web page section “Thermodynamics vs. Evolutionism.” [sic] This section is devoted exclusively to an attack on two talk origins faqs that I authored on the subject of probability and the second law of thermodynamics. It consists of 15 pages of misinformation on the nature of thermodynamics, interspersed with numerous personal slurs. I have tried to condense Wallace's lengthy diatribe into the salient points in order to effectively respond to his charges.

In his attack on “Evolutionism,” Wallace starts off with the statement:

“...a handful of dogmatic evolutionists continue to vocally and energetically deny the truth concerning a simple matter of scientific knowledge: The second law presents an insurmountable problem to the concept of a natural, mechanistic process: (1) by which the physical universe could have formed spontaneously, and (2) by which biological life could have arisen and diversified (also spontaneously) from a non-living, inanimate world (both postulates form essential planks in the platform of evolutionary theory in general).”

So what is this “scientific knowledge”? The assumption that the energy conversion mechanism necessary to bring all this about is necessarily missing, although it is present in the case of seeds sprouting into plants and eggs hatching into chicks.

The creationist second law argument is full of contradictions. They claim that: (1) Thermodynamics will not permit order to spontaneously arise from disorder. (2) Except in the case of changes in non-living things. (3) Order will not spontaneously arise from disorder in the case of living things. (4) Except in the case of the growth of living things. (5) Order will not arise from disorder in the case of the evolution of living things, because (6) in this case the energy conversion mechanism is missing.

In my talk origins faqs (same information also available in my web page: (http://users.deltanet.com/~fsteiger/) I have presented a great deal of information that is entirely consistent with any standard text on thermodynamics. Wallace does not refute any of this information, but instead resorts to personal attacks:

“Steiger himself steps out of the realm of scientific knowledge to defend the standard dogma of the evolutionist faith, freely blending fact and fancy, using his own smoke and mirrors to make the fundamental premise of evolutionism appear immune to the best established scientific law known to man.”

He goes on to state:

“Not far into the more verbose of his two Talk.Origins essays (“The Second Law of Thermodynamics, Evolution, and Probability”), Steiger attributes to creationists a wide-spread and totally false belief that the second law of thermodynamics does not permit order to spontaneously arise from disorder.”

Wallace neglects to mention that I documented the statement with three referenced quotations by Henry Morris, President Emeritus of ICR. Furthermore, in his web page, Wallace states:

“Every system, left to its own devices, always tends to move from order to disorder, its energy tending to be transformed into lower levels of availability (for work), ultimately becoming totally random and unavailable for work. ...or... The entropy of a closed system cannot decrease. Evolutionist theory faces a problem in the second law, since the law is plainly understood to indicate that things tend towards disorder, simplicity, randomness, and disorganization, while the theory insists that precisely the opposite has been taking place since the universe began (assuming it had a beginning).”

Then Wallace seems to contradict himself: referring to my web page, he states:

“He correctly acknowledges that a less probable state may be reached by a system, only as long as it is an “open” system (i.e., able to interact with its surroundings) and there is an external increase in entropy exceeding the measure of system's internal decrease in entropy.”

With respect to my statement that the second law does in fact permit order to arise from disorder (e.g. formation of snowflakes from water vapor molecules, crystallization of salts from solution, seeds developing into plants and eggs into chicks), Wallace has this to say:

“Steiger fails to recognize the profound difference between these examples of low-energy molecular crystals and the high-energy growth process of living organisms (seeds sprouting into flowering plants and eggs developing into chicks). His equating these two very different phenomena reveals a serious misunderstanding of thermodynamics (as well as molecular biology) on his part, and he perpetuates this error in the balance of both his essays, as we shall see.”

I made the following statement in my web page:

“The application of energy can reverse a spontaneous, thermodynamically “irreversible” reaction. Leaves will spontaneously burn (combine with oxygen) to form water and carbon dioxide. The sun's energy, through the process of photosynthesis, will produce leaves from water vapor and carbon dioxide, and form oxygen.”

To which Wallace responded:

“Apart from his ostensible intention to portray these two processes as “reversals” of one another, it seems to have escaped Steiger's notice that the process photosynthesis does not function apart from the complex cellular apparatus inherent in leaves—it does not “produce” leaves, but is an inherent function of them. To postulate photosynthesis as a non-biological, independent “leave-producing” phenomenon is to misrepresent it entirely.”

Not really. The net result of burning leaves is carbon dioxide and water. The net result of photosynthesis is carbon dioxide and water forming leaves. The fact that a complex mechanism is involved in forming the leaves is irrelevant, because the use of thermodynamics does not require a knowledge of the detailed mechanisms by which the change is brought about. This is a fundamental axiom of thermodynamics. This can be confirmed in any legitimate text on thermodynamics.

“Here Steiger blithely excuses himself from facing a most profound fact: Spontaneous, sustained decreases in entropy do not occur in nature apart from the presence of a design or plan and a means of storing and/or converting energy.”

“First we are told that no energy conversion mechanism need be accounted for. Then it is inferred that the changes in (and relationships between) heat and work within biological processes are somehow outside the realm of thermodynamics. Next comes a concession that okay, it is “reasonable to assume” that such conversion mechanisms “actually exist” (whew!), yet we are now firmly assured that the changes in (and relationships between) heat and work within biological processes are surely “outside the scope of thermodynamics”-and to disagree with Steiger here is to “distort and pervert the true nature of thermodynamics!”

I never disputed the fact that energy conversion mechanisms are necessary to bring about chemical changes in living things. I simply said that it was unnecessary to postulate mechanisms in using thermodynamics. I do take issue with the nonsense that the laws of thermodynamics are subservient to energy conversion mechanisms. In fact, it is the other way around. Creationists have painted themselves into a corner by the flat out statement that the second law of thermodynamics will not permit order to spontaneously arise from disorder, a claim that has been repeated ad nauseum by Gish and others.

Instead of making fools of themselves by displaying their ignorance of thermodynamics, creationists should face the fact that their position is based on assuming that an energy conversion mechanism for evolutionary change does not exist. (Given all the evidence for evolutionary change, this would be a difficult assumption to prove.)

The talk origin faqs and my web page clearly show that classical thermodynamics does not support the falsehood that the second law will not permit order to spontaneously arise from disorder. I have seen no evidence or scientific claim that statistical thermodynamics negates the second law as applied to macro systems. My web page does not deal with mechanisms, nor is there any necessity for it to do so. My message was/is simply this: thermodynamics does not negate the possibility of order spontaneously arising from disorder. Contrary to Wallace's ravings, it is a fundamental axiom of thermodynamics that mechanisms need not be considered in using the equations of thermodynamics. This fact is clearly stressed in any legitimate text on thermodynamics.

Based on his comments, it appears to me that Mr. Wallace's knowledge of thermodynamics is limited to creationist propaganda and that he has never actually studied the mathematical relationships that are the basis of thermodynamics. He is obviously unaware of the fact that thermodynamics laws exist independently of mechanisms, and this independence is what provides thermodynamics with its power to deal with heat/work relationships.

In attempting to portray my web page as outside the realm of accepted scientific thought, Wallace states:

“The following statements...from respected (evolutionist) scientists don't seem to reflect Steiger's perspective, effectively indicating that it is he who has resorted to distorting and perverting the true nature of thermodynamics in order to convince his readers that his naturalistic religious views have scientific validity:”

I can't comment on first quotation, as the reference was not available to me; however I can comment on the second quotation:

“Closely related to the apparent “paradox” of ongoing uphill processes in nonliving systems is the apparent “paradox” of spontaneous self-organization in nature. It is one thing for an internally organized, open system to foster uphill processes by tapping downhill ones, but how did the required internal organization come about in the first place? Indeed the so-called dissipative structures that produce uphill processes are highly organized (low entropy) molecular ensembles, especially when compared to the dispersed arrays from which they assembled. Hence the question of how they could originate by natural processes has proved a challenging one.”

Wallace conveniently neglects to finish the paragraph:

“As before, creationist exhortations about violations of the second law need not confuse the issue because local decreases in entropy during self-organization do not imply any such contradiction. Overcompensating increases in entropy elsewhere need only be coupled with the self-organization process. Again, the paradox is only illusory and has only to do with how self-organization occurs, not whether it does. But again we must leave the realm of classical thermodynamics to seek explanation.”

[J.W. Patterson, “Scientists Confront Creationism, L. R. Godfrey, Ed., W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 1983, p. 110]

Then Patterson goes on to describe the theories of Prigogine et al on the application of statistical physics and instability principles to self-organization, concluding that:

“The overwhelming majority of biochemists and molecular evolutionists who have looked into this matter realize that Prigogine's dissipative structures provide a very viable, perfectly natural mechanism for self-organization, perhaps even for the genesis of life from nonliving matter (abiogenesis). These structures can be induced merely by imposing strong temperature, pressure, or composition gradients. Indeed, those formed in certain laboratory-simulated, prebiotic broths have caused a rat deal of excitement because of their remarkable similarity to the simplest know forms of life.”

It is quite clear that Wallace has resorted to the old creationist trick of quoting out of context to misrepresent the views of the author.


Response from Timothy Wallace:

Mr. Steiger,

Thank you very much for your comments concerning the essay entitled “Thermodynamics vs. Evolutionism.” [I deliberately chose “evolutionism” to place emphasis on the principles and doctrines inherent in evolutionist beliefs, rather than to treat mere “evolution” as a viable, self-evident concept].

I respectfully offer the following in response:

>>This section is devoted exclusively to an attack on two talk origins faqs that I authored... It consists of 15 pages of misinformation on the nature of thermodynamics, interspersed with numerous personal slurs...<<

The essay is meant to serve as a criticism, not an “attack,” and it seems that perhaps you flatter yourself by considering your work the “exclusive” subject. (While it is true that the larger portion deals with your faqs, nearly half of the essay addresses the evolutionist position in general.) Charges of “attack” and “misinformation” sound awfully reactionary.

Nothing in the essay was designed or intended to diminish your worth or dignity as a person. What you seem eager to perceive as a “personal slur” amounts to objective criticism of your methodology. Nevertheless, in the interest of goodwill, you have my apology for any perceived malevolence toward you as a person.

>>So what is this “scientific knowledge”? The assumption that the energy conversion mechanism necessary to bring all this about is necessarily missing, although it is present in the case of seeds sprouting into plants and eggs hatching into chicks.<<

Here you are projecting a straw man argument. No one has postulated that an energy conversion mechanism is “missing” from living organisms. Your error in logic is the assumption that such known mechanisms are de facto evidence of evolution, though they are not observed to accomplish any work required for evolution. It is faulty logic to extrapolate the assumption of imagined macro-evolution from genuine observations of science (e.g., biological mechanisms and the mathematics of entropic reversals).

>>The creationist second law argument is full of contradictions...<<

Here again, you seem bent on redefining for yourself what “creationists claim,” rather than dealing directly with the straightforward words of your challengers. Contrary to your straw man distortion (and unnecessary complication) of the matter, the facts are (once again) as follows:

1) The second law dictates that entropy (a loss of work-ready energy) is the rule, the universal trend, everywhere, at all times. (This statement, regularly made by both creationists and evolutionists, is not a denial that exceptions are possible—for your benefit, I reiterate, it is the rule.)

2) Living organisms are able to effect sustained and significant reversals of the second law by means of: a) inherent energy conversion and storage mechanisms, and b) inherent complex, coded, detailed instructions (i.e., information systems).

3) The “spontaneous” order found in such non-living things as snowflakes does not qualify as an example of sustained and significant entropic reversal, but is the result of: a) externally effected entropic reduction, and b) pre-existing, inherent patterns in molecular structure.

4) The assumption that macro-evolution is thermodynamically plausible finds no basis in item 2, for a conclusion that biological reversals in entropy are the result of evolution must begin with the assumptions that living organisms arose spontaneously and/or that living organisms have not always had inherent energy conversion and storage mechanisms and information systems—that is, the assumption of evolution, which amounts to circular reasoning.

5) The assumption that macro-evolution is thermodynamically plausible finds no basis in item 3, for a conclusion that non-living low-entropy molecular patterns lead to evolution must begin with the assumption of an unobserved (and purely speculative) transition between such observed limited molecular patterns and the observed highly complex mechanisms and information systems inherent in living organisms—that is (again), the assumption of evolution, which amounts (again) to circular reasoning.

6) The assumption that macro-evolution is thermodynamically plausible finds no basis in examples of thermodynamic principles employing the intelligent designs of men (e.g., refrigerators, water-wheels, water pumps)—designs which themselves are energy conversion mechanisms, and which function according to detailed instructions. (I still find very curious your metaphorical use of these man-made, purposeful systems as evidence of “spontaneous” reversals in entropy!)

>>In my talk origins faqs ... I have presented a great deal of information that is entirely consistent with any standard text on thermodynamics. Wallace does not refute any of this information, but instead resorts to personal attacks...<<

There is no need to “refute” any information “that is entirely consistent with any standard text on thermodynamics,” for few standard texts go beyond the facts of thermodynamics to treat as scientific facts the assumptions found in your essays. That you perceive criticism of your erroneous logic to be a “personal attack” seems more a defense mechanism than a reasonable assessment of either the contents or motives of my rebuttal.

>>Wallace neglects to mention that I documented the statement [attributing to creationists “a wide-spread and totally false belief that the second law of thermodynamics does not permit order to spontaneously arise from disorder”] with three referenced quotations by Henry Morris, President Emeritus of ICR.<<

Considering the context and balance of the cited quotations, consistency should compel you to attribute the same “wide-spread and totally false belief” to the likes of Asimov, Pippard, Ross, Wicken, Prigogine, Smith, Simpson, Beck, and Patterson—all evolutionists—who iterate essentially the same understanding of the second law as Morris, a creationist, whom alone you are eager to discredit. Where I come from, we call this a double-standard.

It is not clear what purpose you mean to serve by repeating your equation of crystals with living organisms without an explanation or defense. This being the case, my point remains entirely unchallenged that the spontaneous formation of “ordered” snowflakes is by no means evidence that “complex” biological systems could similarly arise from a hypothetical spontaneous generation scenario.

>>The net result of burning leaves is carbon dioxide and water. The net result of photosynthesis is carbon dioxide and water forming leaves. The fact that a complex mechanism is involved in forming the leaves is irrelevant, because the use of thermodynamics does not require a knowledge of the detailed mechanisms by which the change is brought about. This is a fundamental axiom of thermodynamics. This can be confirmed in any legitimate text on thermodynamics.<<

Here again you resort to oversimplification in an attempt to excuse theoretical thermodynamics from dealing with the complexities of biological processes. In the first place, the implication of your statement is that “carbon dioxide and water forming leaves” is the equivalent of a thermodynamic equation—which it is not, for it ignores the complex endothermic biochemical reactions which would of necessity be included in an accurate formulation of the photosynthetic process. Furthermore, the notion that “forming leaves” is the “net result” of photosynthesis entirely (and in this case perhaps deliberately) overlooks the primary role of photosynthesis in a complex of genetically-controlled energy-conversion and -storage processes.

While it may be true that the biochemical details of an energy conversion and/or storage mechanism are “irrelevant” to general, textbook thermodynamics, it is a logical absurdity to conclude that any such mechanism is therefore a spontaneous thermodynamic event devoid of the complex, coded, detailed instructions by which it actually operates.

>>I never disputed the fact that energy conversion mechanisms are necessary to bring about chemical changes in living things. I simply said that it was unnecessary to postulate mechanisms in using thermodynamics.<<

You claim to have never disputed a “fact,” but you insist that the fact may be ignored as “irrelevant” and “unnecessary” in “using thermodynamics.” Again, this may suffice in matters of general theory (in which you are obviously well-grounded), yet the mechanism must not only be postulated in studies involving the thermodynamics of the biochemical process, but detailed knowledge of the mechanism's actions and effects is both relevant and necessary to such study.

>>I do take issue with the nonsense that the laws of thermodynamics are subservient to energy conversion mechanisms...<<

As well you should. Had you not contrived such nonsense and sought to attribute it to the pens of “creationists,” you wouldn't have to spend so much time “refuting” it!

>>...creationists should face the fact that their position is based on assuming that an energy conversion mechanism for evolutionary change does not exist. (Given all the evidence for evolutionary change, this would be a difficult assumption to prove.)<<

Your suggestion seems to imply knowledge on your part of “an energy conversion mechanism for evolutionary change.” Would you care to share such knowledge with the rest of us? If not knowledge, then perhaps it is an assumption of your own, which apparently would not be “a difficult assumption to prove” ...In which case, perhaps you would care to offer such proof?

As for “all the evidence for evolutionary change” to which you allude, perhaps you would like to set yourself apart from your evolutionist colleagues by citing a few unequivocal examples of such “evidence,” the interpretations of which are not based on the a priori assumption of evolution?

>>...My web page does not deal with mechanisms, nor is there any necessity for it to do so. My message was/is simply this: thermodynamics does not negate the possibility of order spontaneously arising from disorder....<<

Your message in fact goes far beyond this subtle exercise in semantic subterfuge:

1) Your message involves false claims about the beliefs and claims of “creationists”—claims and beliefs which would have to be attributed to their evolutionist counterparts if their words were to be fairly appreciated and taken in context.

2) Your message involves the false claim that there is no fundamental difference between mere “order” (as found in a non-living snowflake) and “organized complexity” (as found in a living organism).

3) Your message involves the false claim—based on the erroneous claims inherent in items 1 and 2, and contrary to the acknowledgments of many highly respected evolutionist authorities—that the concept of evolution is fully consistent with thermodynamics.

>>Based on his comments, it appears to me that Mr. Wallace ... is obviously unaware of the fact that thermodynamics laws exist independently of mechanisms...<<

Perhaps you would care to cite that portion of my essay which amount to a declaration that thermodynamic laws are dependent on mechanisms?

>>I can't comment on first quotation, as the reference was not available to me; however I can comment on the second quotation... Wallace conveniently neglects to finish the paragraph... It is quite clear that Wallace has resorted to the old creationist trick of quoting out of context to misrepresent the views of the author.<<

First, Patterson's comments are not the “second” but the third in a series of three cited quotations, and one of no less than fourteen highly respected evolutionist authorities cited for their acknowledgment of the immutable nature of thermodynamic law.

Second, Patterson's acknowledgment of the “challenging question” as to how spontaneous generation is possible in the face of the second law is neither denied nor effectually diminished elsewhere in his text, which I “conveniently neglect” to cite (indeed, a concession that “we must leave the realm of classical thermodynamics to seek explanation” speaks for itself). His venture into the realm of statistical physics and instability principles and their purely theoretical application to self-organization (read: spontaneous generation), holds little relevancy, despite his reference to an “overwhelming majority” of evolutionists (who else?) who buy into Prigogine's hopeful—and still very theoretical—ideas.

I readily apologize if my citation of Patterson appears to misrepresent his views, for it was not my intention to do so (or I wouldn't have pointed out that he is an evolutionist to begin with). In any case, all things considered, it is quite a stretch for you to accuse me of “the old creationist trick of quoting out of context.”

>>“...These [dissipative] structures can be induced merely by imposing strong temperature, pressure, or composition gradients. Indeed, those formed in certain laboratory-simulated, prebiotic broths have caused a rat deal of excitement because of their remarkable similarity to the simplest know forms of life.”<<

Patterson's inference that a laboratory-induced “dissipative structure” might reflect a “remarkable similarity to the simplest know[n] forms of life” is an exaggeration of the highest order. What little resemblance such a product might have to a scrap of biological material furthermore qualifies only as certain evidence of what is possible when intelligence is applied to a goal-oriented project in a controlled environment.

To sum up, I certainly appreciate your unhappiness with the light shed on your faqs by a critical appraisal, but I think you will agree that in matters of science one must be careful to properly identify mere speculations and theoretical inferences as well as the genuine limitations imposed by scientific law. The purpose of my work is not to “attack” you or anyone else, but to address the erroneous assumptions and faulty logic used to argue in defense of evolutionism vis-a-vis the laws and knowledge of science.

Again, I thank you for taking the time to respond, and I welcome any further comments you may wish to make.

Kind Regards,
TW


Response from Frank Steiger:

>>The essay is meant to serve as a criticism, not an “attack,” and it seems that perhaps you flatter yourself by considering your work the “exclusive” subject. (While it is true that the larger portion deals with your faqs, nearly half of the essay addresses the evolutionist position in general.) Charges of “attack” and “misinformation” sound awfully reactionary.<<

Oh really? Let me quote from your paper: “...freely blending fact and fancy, using his own smoke and mirrors...” “Steiger fails to recognize the profound difference...” “...Steiger's work is reduced in simple terms to the same old song and dance with a few pot shots thrown in for effect.” “Steiger's attempt to blur the distinction...can logically be attributed only to either indefensible ignorance or a willfull misrepresentation of the facts.” “...seems to have escaped Steiger's notice that the process...” In a note of sarcasm, you state: “Now we come to some of Steiger's best material. Still harping on the possibility reversibility, he tells us:” “Again, refusing to face to face reality, Steiger claims that:” “It seems to fair to say at this point that Steiger hasn't done the math (or his biology homework)..”

The title includes the phrase: “including a rebuttal of Frank Steiger's Thermodynamics FAQ in the Talk Origins Archive” My name is repeated over and over again, sometimes several times on the same page.

>>Nothing in the essay was designed or intended to diminish your worth or dignity as a person. What you seem eager to perceive as a “personal slur” amounts to objective criticism of your methodology. Nevertheless, in the interest of goodwill, you have my apology for any perceived malevolence toward you as a person.<<

Thank you very much. Care to edit your web page to remove all the slurs, including the above?

>>So what is this “scientific knowledge”? The assumption that the energy conversion mechanism necessary to bring all this about is necessarily missing, although it is present in the case of seeds sprouting into plants and eggs hatching into chicks.<<

>>Here you are projecting a straw man argument. No one has postulated that an energy conversion mechanism is “missing” from living organisms. Your error in logic is the assumption that such known mechanisms are de facto evidence of evolution, though they are not observed to accomplish any work required for evolution. It is faulty logic to extrapolate the assumption of imagined macro-evolution from genuine observations of science (e.g., biological mechanisms and the mathematics of entropic reversals).<<

Your answer is non-responsive. You have made it clear in your web page that an energy conversion for evolutionary change is missing, although it is present for other biological changes.

>>...you seem bent on redefining for yourself what “creationists claim”... The second law dictates that entropy (a loss of work-ready energy) is the rule, the universal trend, everywhere, at all times. (This statement, regularly made by both creationists and evolutionists, is not a denial that exceptions are possible—for your benefit, I reiterate, it is the rule.)<<

Let me quote from your own web page:

“This profound statement on Steiger's part, then, is simply stating the obvious-restating the second law in terms of a system's more or less “probable state” as a direct consequence of the respective increase or decrease in entropy. He correctly acknowledeges that a less probable state may be reached by a system, only as long as it is an “open” system (i.e., able to itneract with its surroundings) and there is an external increase in entropy exceeding the measure of system's internal decrease in entropy.”

In other words, in your own words: entropy can decrease!

>>Living organisms are able to effect sustained and significant reversals of the second law by means of: a) inherent energy conversion and storage mechanisms, and b) inherent complex, coded, detailed instructions (i.e., information systems).<<

First you say that entropy can never decrease and then you say that the second law can be reversed! Make up your mind!

>>The “spontaneous” order found in such non-living things as snowflakes does not qualify as an example of sustained and significant entropic reversal, but is the result of: a) externally effected entropic reduction, and b) pre-existing, inherent patterns in molecular structure.<<

It's obvious you never studied thermodynamics! The entropy of the snowflake is LESS than the entropy of the vapor molecules from which it was formed; not only that, the entropy decrease can be readily calculated as heat evolved divided by absolute temperature.

>>The assumption that macro-evolution is thermodynamically plausible finds no basis in item 2, for a conclusion that biological reversals in entropy are the result of evolution must begin with the assumptions that living organisms arose spontaneously and/or that living organisms have not always had inherent energy conversion and storage mechanisms and information systems—that is, the assumption of evolution, which amounts to circular reasoning.<<

Evolution does not require an explanation of how the original primitive organisms came into existence. It merely states that present life forms are descended from primitive ancestors. Scientists are interested in how these original forms came into existence, but regardless of how they came to be formed, the evidence supporting evolution remains unaffected. If the laws of thermodynamics don't permit these primeval life forms to have come into existence, then how did they form?

>>The assumption that macro-evolution is thermodynamically plausible finds no basis in item 3, for a conclusion that non-living low-entropy molecular patterns lead to evolution must begin with the assumption of an unobserved (and purely speculative) transition between such observed limited molecular patterns and the observed highly complex mechanisms and information systems inherent in living organisms—that is (again), the assumption of evolution, which amounts (again) to circular reasoning.<<

It seems to me that you are involved in circular reasoning. You assume, perhaps with some justification, that the probability of a living entity forming from non-living organic material is extremely small (although the probability of a living plant forming from the organic material of a seed is essentially 100%). Based on this assumption, you conclude that since the probability is extremely small, the change would require a large decrease in entropy, and therefore the laws of thermodynamics will not permit such a change to take place.

If you want to assert that you believe that the probability of large organic molecules formed from non-living material combining to form a living cell is much smaller than the probability of the starch and protein molecules in a seed developing into a plant, fine. This assertion seems reasonable, and you may be right (although it begs the question of how did life arise). But by bringing the laws of thermodynamics into the picture, you have cloaked your argument with a misleading facade of authenticity that it does not possess. Basically all you are saying is that you believe:

(1) The probability of life forming from non-living organic molecules is vanishingly small.

(2) Descent with modification (i.e. evolution) REQUIRES that the mechanism by which the original primeval living things were formed must be PROVEN.

(3) Since no laboratory mechanism has been demonstrated to form living things, evolution is “proven” to be false.

Statement (1) may be true, but if so, what hypothesis can you suggest to explain the appearanace of living things on planet earth, other than the nonsense in the Book of Genesis? Statements (2) and (3) are manifestly false.

>>Considering the context and balance of the cited quotations, consistency should compel you to attribute the same “wide-spread and totally false belief” to the likes of Asimov, Pippard, Ross, Wicken, Prigogine, Smith, Simpson, Beck, and Patterson—all evolutionists—who iterate essentially the same understanding of the second law as Morris, a creationist, whom alone you are eager to discredit. Where I come from, we call this a double-standard.<<

It's a double standard all right. We have science and engineering based on the laws of thermodynamics, and creationists like Gish and Morris touting voodoo thermodynamics. I really don't know you continue to argue the point, when the mathematics of classical thermodynamics clearly show that order can spontaneously arise from disorder, and it happens all the time in nature. Oh sure, Gish will bury a disclaimer to cover his ass somewhere is his publications, but the message that is repeated over and over again in his propaganda is very direct and very simple: evolution violates the laww of thermodynamics.

>>...Here again you resort to oversimplification in an attempt to excuse theoretical thermodynamics from dealing with the complexities of biological processes. In the first place, the implication of your statement is that “carbon dioxide and water forming leaves” is the equivalent of a thermodynamic equation—which it is not, for it ignores the complex endothermic biochemical reactions which would of necessity be included in an accurate formulation of the photosynthetic process. Furthermore, the notion that “forming leaves” is the “net result” of photosynthesis entirely (and in this case perhaps deliberately) overlooks the primary role of photosynthesis in a complex of genetically-controlled energy-conversion and -storage processes.<<

How many times do I have to say it: Classical thermodynamics does not deal with the path by which a particular change is brought about. You start with leaves, and get carbon dioxide and water vapor. Or you start with carbon dioxide and water, and get leaves. If you want to apply statistical thermodynamics to the various mechanisms involved, fine. But you had better demonstrate a knowledge of the detailed mechanisms involved if you want to make your case.

When you talk about thermodynamics it is reasonable to assume that you are referring to the laws of classical engineering thermodynamics. In this context, the statements that evolution “violates the laws of thermodynamics” and that the formation mechanisms in living cells “overcome” the second law don't make any sense at all. You appear to have some reasons to support your beliefs. But they are far from proven, and they have nothing to do with thermodynamics. It is particularly galling to have the proven laws of thermodynamics treated as if they were merely my ignorant opinion, when all you have to do is open any standard text on the subject.

>>While it may be true that the biochemical details of an energy conversion and/or storage mechanism are “irrelevant” to general, textbook thermodynamics, it is a logical absurdity to onclude that any such mechanism is therefore a spontaneous thermodynamic event devoid of the complex, coded, detailed instructions by which it actually operates.<<

I never said that mechanisms don't exist. I merely stated tthat classical thermodynamics does not concern itself with the mechanisms that bring about a change. I so stated in my previous comment:

>>You claim to have never disputed a “fact,” but you insist that the fact may be ignored as “irrelevant” and “unnecessary” in “using thermodynamics.” Again, this may suffice in matters of general theory (in which you are obviously well-grounded), yet the mechanism must not only be postulated in studies involving the thermodynamics of the biochemical process, but detailed knowledge of the mechanism's actions and effects is both relevant and necessary to such study.<<

Here you have chosen to ignore my straightforward statement and a fundamental axiom of thermodynamics. What can I say? Your response is a non sequitur.

>>...creationists should face the fact that their position is based on assuming that an energy conversion mechanism for evolutionary change does not exist. (Given all the evidence for evolutionary change, this would be a difficult assumption to prove.)<<

>>Your suggestion seems to imply knowledge on your part of “an energy conversion mechanism for evolutionary change.” Would you care to share such knowledge with the rest of us? If not knowledge, then perhaps it is an assumption of your own, which apparently would not be “a difficult assumption to prove” ...In which case, perhaps you would care to offer such proof?<<

No, it doesn't imply that! Your response is illogical and irrelevant.

>>As for “all the evidence for evolutionary change” to which you allude, perhaps you would like to set yourself apart from your evolutionist colleagues by citing a few unequivocal examples of such “evidence,” the interpretations of which are not based on the a priori assumption of evolution?<<

Check out my web page: http://users.deltanet.com/~fsteiger/ and talk origins newsgroup faqs. There probably at least a hundred pages of material.

>>Your message involves the false claim that there is no fundamental difference between mere “order” (as found in a non-living snowflake) and “organized complexity” (as found in a living organism).<<

No, I stated that the laws of thermodynamics apply equally to all systems. Now, if you don't agree that the laws of thermodynamics apply equally, then what is the basis of your argument that the second law is “overcome” in the case of changes in living things?

>>Your message involves the false claim—based on the erroneous claims inherent in items 1 and 2, and contrary to the acknowledgments of many highly respected evolutionist authorities—that the concept of evolution is fully consistent with thermodynamics.<<

Well, you have not proven that evolution violates the laws of thermodynamics. You have merely assumed that the probability of life arising from non-living material is vanishingly small, and based on that assumption, have formulated a “thermodynamics” argument that descent with modification is therefore not possible. Your argument is based on the assumption that (1) life was not spontaneously formed from non living organic molecules, and therefore (2) simpler life forms could not have possibly evolved into more complex life forms. You have cloaked all this with vague references to statistical thermodynamics without providing any evidence that you or anyone else has any knowledge of the detailed mechanisms involved. Your sarcastic comment in your web page regarding my examples of refrigerators and pumps reveals that you haven't a clue as to the meaning of classical thermodynamics.

>>Based on his comments, it appears to me that Mr. Wallace ... is obviously unaware of the fact that thermodynamics laws exist independently of mechanisms...<<

>>Perhaps you would care to cite that portion of my essay which amount to a declaration that thermodynamic laws are dependent on mechanisms?<<

Gladly:

“A declarataion that a theoritical decrease in entropy is possible serves little in explaining biological processes and their relationships to energy and organized complexity. Steiger seems to avoid altogether any discussion of how biolgical processes achieve and sustain the very decrease in entropy which he goes to great lengths to demonstrate as mathematically “possible.”


Response from Timothy Wallace:

Mr. Steiger,

I respectfully offer the following in response:

>>Oh really? Let me quote from your paper...<<

Apparently we disagree as to the difference between an “attack” or a “personal slur” and a plainly stated criticism. I don't mind repeating for your benefit - as needed - that the comments you cite were not designed or intended to diminish your worth or dignity as a person, but to serve as objective criticism of your methodology and work. That your name is used in connection with criticims of your work in no way constitutes an intentional personal attack or slur.

>>The title includes the phrase: “including a rebuttal of Frank Steiger's Thermodynamics FAQ in the Talk Origins Archive” My name is repeated over and over again, sometimes several times on the same page.<<

Yes, indeed. Did you not write those faqs? The portions of my essay addressing the contents of those talk.origins faqs would necessarily mention the name of the implied author of those faqs, and “Frank Steiger” is given as the name of that author. Your name is used repeatedly, but only in direct connection with what you are supposed to have written. I would suggest to you that if you so dislike seeing your name connected with criticisms of material that you write, perhaps you should assume a pen name or publish anonymously.

>>Thank you very much. Care to edit your web page to remove all the slurs, including the above?<<

I might consider softening the tone of my criticism, but I seriously question whether this is at the heart of your problem with my essay.

>>Your answer is non-responsive. You have made it clear in your web page that an energyconversion for evolutionary change is missing, although it is present for other biological changes.<<

Naturally I disagree. My answer (again) remains that the presence of a mechanism for “biological changes” is not ipso facto evidence for a mechanism for “evolutionary change.” The point (again) is that biological life cannot simply be equated with evolution, yet this is what you are attempting to do in your faqs by pretending that biological mechanisms may be implied to be or borrowed as mechanisms of macro-evolutionary change.

Now, your position on this matter seems suspiciously nebulous, for if I were to ask you to produce a mechanism for evolution, I suspect you would again resort to the protection of your “thermodynamics doesn't need mechanisms” argument, which plainly attempts to side-step the issue. Yet you don't mind mentioning mechanisms, as long as you can assemble your own “creationist” argument: “They say there's no (evolutionary) mechanism, but look! Here's a (biological) mechanism right here!”

>>...The entropy of the snowflake is LESS than the entropy of the vapor molecules from which it was formed; not only that, the entropy decrease can be readily calculated as heat evolved divided by absolute temperature.<<

Well said! You'll have to pardon my apparent dullness, but I don't find where I've contradicted your assertion. What you seem to be missing however, is the fact that the entropy reduction involved in a snowflake's formation is purely exogenous, and the ensuing order arises as a direct consequence of the already present patterns of molecular order in the elements themselves. This cannot be realistically compared to the functions of the biological, genetic apparatus and energy conversion mechanisms by which organisms build themselves from seed or egg into highly complex, mature creatures.

>>Evolution does not require an explanation of how the original primitive organisms came into existence...<<

On the contrary, many evolutionists are very emphatic about evolutionist theory being able to account for not only “change” but “origins.” Your “we-don't-make-any-claims-about-that” argument is not a general reflection of the evolutionist community at-large, and you should certainly know that.

>>...If the laws of thermodynamics don't permit these primeval life forms to have come into existence, then how did they form?<<

The evidence, when viewed without the standard-issue Darwin-colored glasses, weighs heavily in favor of creation by an intelligent, thinking mind incapable of being exhaustively comprehended from a human point of view, and (therefore) against spontaneous generation. This is of course dogmatically denied by those steeped in a grossly excessive pride and confidence in the infallibility of human science, combined with a religious - if passive - devotion to naturalism.

>>It seems to me that you are involved in circular reasoning. You assume, perhaps withsome justification, that the probability of a living entity forming from non-living organic material is extremely small (although the probability of a living plant forming from the organic material of a seed is essentially 100%). Based on this assumption, you conclude that since the probability is extremely small, the change would require a large decrease in entropy, and therefore the laws of thermodynamics will not permit such a change to take place.<<

Again, I don't mind repeating myself, if it will help you eventually understand:

1) That “the probability of a living entity forming from non-living organic material is extremely small” is NOT an “assumption” - it is a statistical reality.

2) We KNOW why “the probability of a living plant forming from the organic material of a seed is essentially 100%” - it has nothing to do with chance, and everything to do with the fact that the seed (which itself is already organic) is DESIGNED and EQUIPPED to build itself into a plant, in accordance with the coded information contained within it, coupled with the essential energy-conversion and -storage mechanisms which are inherent in the same code.

3) The knowledge that a sustained, continuous increase in order (i.e., organised complexity) requires a decrease in entropy is not based ony any assumptions, as you imply (see #1 again).

4) Again, without resorting to assumptions, we know that the second law does not permit “such a change to take place” AS A RULE.

5) We also know that every living organism functions (as decribed in #2) as an well-designed, fully-functioning “EXCEPTION” to the rule - and we know exactly how and why, again without resorting to any assumptions.

These five points do not involve a process of concluding any assumptions are true by beginning with any assumptions (i.e., circular reasoning) - in fact they involve no assumptions at all!

>>If you want to assert that you believe that the probability of large organic molecules formed from non-living material combining to form a living cell is much smaller than the probability of the starch and protein molecules in a seed developing into a plant, fine. This assertion seems reasonable, and you may be right...<<

Again, this is not a matter of “belief.” It's not just “creationists” who understand the plain statistical impossibility of spontaneous generation, and it's only a few evolutionists who persist in simplistically equating spontaneous generation with the growth of an organism from seed.

>>But by bringing the laws of thermodynamics into the picture, you have cloaked your argument with a misleading facade of authenticity that it does not possess...<<

My argument requires no “cloak” or “facade” in order to be consistent with the laws of science in general and the laws of thermodynamics in particular. You have yet to explain how my position wrongly invokes or defines the principles or application of thermodynamic principles, so your allegation, with all its graphic imagery, seems misapplied.

>>[Basically all you are saying is that you believe] (1) the probability of life forming from non-living organic molecules is vanishingly small.<<

Again, this is not merely my “belief” nor merely a “creationist” “belief” - it is statistical reality, understood by most respected (evolutionist) scientific authorities.

>>[Basically all you are saying is that you believe] (2) descent with modification (i.e. evolution) REQUIRES that the mechanism by which the original primeval living things were formed must be PROVEN.<<

Again, you are postulating arguments out of the air and attributing them to me. And again, my position is neither a matter of “belief” nor a matter of arbitrary “requirements”: The fact is that there IS NO evidence (let alone proof) that a natural mechanism exists or has existed by means of which spontaneous generation could be systematically described as a viable postulate.

>>[Basically all you are saying is that you believe] (3) since no laboratory mechanism has been demonstrated to form living things, evolution is “proven” to be false.<<

Again, you are postulating arguments out of the air and attributing them to me. And again, my position is neither a matter of “belief” nor a matter of arbitrary “requirements”: And again, while the absence of ANY mechanism (laboratory or field, if you like) is certainly not “proof” that your theory is false, it certainly serves as grounds for seriously questioning the tired and thinning claims of evolutionists - particularly in light of today's growing body of biological, genetic, molecular, and paleontological knowledge.

>>what hypothesis can you suggest to explain the appearanace of living things on planet earth, other than the nonsense in the Book of Genesis?<<

On what grounds do you exclude the Book of Genesis as “nonsense”? I happen to accept the Genesis record as fully factual and historically and scientifically true. But even if I did not, the absence of “better hypothesis” is not a good excuse for clinging to the hollow lie of evolutionism. There's absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “We don't actually know,” when it happens to be the truth.

>>Statements (2) and (3) are manifestly false.<<

Well, of course they are: I didn't write them, you did.

>>It's a double standard all right.<<

How noble of you to at least admit it.

>>How many times do I have to say it: Classical thermodynamics does not deal with the path by which a particular change is brought about. You start with leaves, and get carbon dioxide and water vapor. Or you start with carbon dioxide and water, and get leaves...<<

I assure you that you will never conduct an experiment in the laboratory or in the field in which you simply “start with carbon dioxide and water” and “get leaves.” It won't happen. All the thermodynamic knowledge available to man will be of no use to you, because there will be nothing to measure, no math to do, except to track the dissipation of the carbon dioxide and water toward thermodynamic equilibrium. That's all the “classical thermodynamics” you'll get.

If you want leaves, you will need a set of instructions, which you will find in the genetic code of the organism from which you wish to generate leaves. The genetic code dictates the entire growth and functioning process of the leaves - including the intake and conversion of available energy for use in productive work. If you truly estimate this process to be entirely unrelated and unessential to either biology or thermodynamics, and if you truly believe that it is a more “thermodynamically accurate” description of the process to say we “start with carbon dioxide and water and get leaves,” then you truly have no business mocking my understanding of thermodynamics.

>>It is particularly galling to have the proven laws of thermodynamics treated as if they were merely my ignorant opinion, when all you have to do is open any standard text on the subject.<<

If you wouldn't so freely blend your ignorant and erroneous opinions with the facts of thermodynamics, perhaps you would find it easier to discern one from the other, and thereby avoid some of your unfortunate frustration.<<

>>I never said that mechanisms don't exist....<<

Which is fine, for I never accused you of saying so.

>>...Here you have chosen to ignore my straightforward statement and a fundamental axiom of thermodynamics. What can I say? Your response is a non sequitur.<<

On the contrary, I explained (again) that the truth of the “fundamental axiom” to which you refer is not a valid excuse for not having an identifiable process to which the “fundamental axiom” may be practically applied. My point is a non sequitur to one who wishes to deny the existence of a practical application of thermodynamic principles to the analysis of biological functions.

>>[For a few unequivocal examples of evidence for evolutionary change not based on the a priori assumption of evolution] check out my web page and talk origins newsgroup faqs. There probably at least a hundred pages of material.<<

I've already examined the talk.origins faqs and found no such examples (see brackets above). I won't mind checking out your web page when time allows, but if your faqs and our dialogue are any indications, I have serious doubts that the evidence to which you allude could be documented there. Why not just cite one or two samples?

>>No [I did not claim that “there is no fundamental difference between mere “order” (as found in a non-living snowflake) and “organized complexity” (as found in a living organism)], I stated that the laws of thermodynamics apply equally to all systems.<<

You are denying your own words here.

Your faq states: “In fact, there are many examples in nature where order does arise spontaneously from disorder: Snowflakes with their six-sided crystalline symmetry are formed spontaneously from randomly moving water vapor molecules. Salts with precise planes of crystalline symmetry form spontaneously when water evaporates from a solution. Seeds sprout into flowering plants and eggs develop into chicks.”

Here you are lumping snowflakes and living organisms into a single category of alleged “spontaneous” order arising from disorder. You simplistically treat them as fundamentally the same kind of phenomeon.

Again, in your first e-mail response to my critique, you state: “With respect to my statement that the second law does in fact permit order to arise from disorder (e.g. formation of snowflakes from water vapor molecules, crystallization of salts from solution, seeds developing into plants and eggs into chicks), Wallace has this to say...”

Again, here you reaffirm your treatment of the two very different phenomena by listing them together as if they operated similarly, when they most certainly do not. If in these two statements you do not “claim” to equate them as fundementally similar, then you most certainly strongly imply it.

>>Well, you have not proven that evolution violates the lawsof thermodynamics....<<

My goal is not to “prove” that evolution violates the laws of thermodynamics. Evolutionists more knowledgeable than both of us have already conceded that fact.

>>Your argument is based on the assumption that (1) life was not spontaneously formed from non living organic molecules, and therefore (2) simpler life forms could not have possibly evolved into more complex life forms....<<

I truly wish you would stop inventing new straw man versions of “my argument.” I do not make the above argument or assumptions anywhere, and you may keep those as your own, thank you very much.

>>...Your sarcastic comment in your web page regarding my examples of refrigerators and pumps reveals that you haven't a clue as to the meaning of classical thermodynamics.<<

Please explain the basis for this assertion.

In response to my request that you cite that portion of my essay which amounts to a declaration that “thermodynamic laws are dependent on mechanisms” you quote:

“A declarataion that a theoritical decrease in entropy is possible serves little in explaining biological processes and their relationships to energy and organized complexity. Steiger seems to avoid altogether any discussion of how biolgical processes achieve and sustain the very decrease in entropy which he goes to great lengths to demonstrate as mathematically 'possible'.”

...yet you fail to explain how my statement serves as an assertion that “thermodynamic laws are dependent on mechanisms.” Your message ended with that quote, and there was no signature, so perhaps your explanation was lost in transit. Perhaps you could furnish the explanation?

Kind Regards,
TW

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From: Nathan Bryant

Once again, I have found someone who has misinterpreted the 2nd law of thermodynamics in the attempt to discredit evolution. There is one key element of the law that people are missing here: as long as the total entropy of the universe increases during a given reaction or process, said reaction or process does NOT violate the law.

I would also like to point out that evolution does not necessarily favor organisms becoming more “ordered”: rather, it causes selectable traits in the population to occur or appear less frequently depending on the fitness value it gives the organism.

I would also like to point out that Mr. Wallace needs to read further than the few sources he's found supposedly saying there's no fossil record for any species, because I've personally found much data to suggest his claims are erroneous. Perhaps Mr. Wallace would care to explain why there are nearly complete fossil records showing the evolution of the horse, or why we have more than a few fossils of human ancestors.


Response from Timothy Wallace:

I would encourage you to re-examine your claim that I have “misinterpreted the 2nd law of thermodynamics.” The evolutionists whom I cite in my essay clearly disagree with you on this point, and the “one key element” which you claim as “missing” is invalidated by such highly respected (evolutionist) authorities as Dr. Harold Blum and several others.

While it is indeed true that an “isolated corner” of reduced or reversed entropy may spontaneously exist within a system, the whole of which still tends toward increased entropy, evolutionist theory requires vast lengths of time, which highly favor equilibrium - not sustained or maintained entropic reductions or reversals. Great lengths of time thus not only fail to increase the chances of spontaneous, sustained entropic reversals, but actually reduce those chances to essentially zero.

I assure you that this is no “misrepresentation” of the second law, and a perusal of any respectable text on thermodynamics will corroborate this - the claims of evolutionism's proponents notwithstanding.

Your claim that “evolution does not necessarily favor organisms becoming more 'ordered'” is a complete contradiction of a central postulate of evolutionist theory. Namely, that evolution (i.e., random mutation coupled with natural selection) is the means by which simpler single-celled organisms “became” (over time) highly complex (i.e., highly ordered) human being with all their integrated systems and structures. With all due respect, to claim otherwise is to pretend (temporarily) that evolution is not what evolutionists describe it to be - more a semantic “shell game” than a rational argument.

Your suggestion that I “read further than the few sources [I've] found supposedly saying there's no fossil record for any species” is curious, to say the least. Nowhere to I state in my essay that there is “no fossil record for any species” - for I know this would be untrue. However I do state that there are no known unequivocal transitional fossils, which is a very different matter, and one in which I stand by my original position. Should you like to discuss any specific fossils which you believe contradict my position, I invite you to begin doing so.

You ask whether I “would care to explain why there are nearly complete fossil records showing the evolution of the horse, or why we have more than a few fossils of human ancestors.” The popular “horse evolution” model with you are apparently familiar was discarded (by evolutionist paleontologists) long ago, because the various species of which it was comprised came from widely varying geographical proximities (e.g., totally different continents), and because they were not in proper chronological sequence. At your request, I will gladly cite a few evolutionist authorities on this matter for purposes of documentation.

As for the “more than a few fossils of human ancestors,” I would only remind you that much debate continues over many of the fossils of which you speak, so much so that few of them are held to be of unequivocally determined age and/or known ancestry. Beyond this, all of them have been effectively placed - by at least a few authoritative pleontologists - in the category of either man or ape. The proverbial “missing links” remain very much ... MISSING. Again, at your request, I will provide you with appropriate references for this.

Should you wish to discuss more specific fossil specimens or other details concerning the empirical data, please feel free to write again.

Kind Regards,
TW


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