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Reply to Dr. Ross Olson on the Second Law of Thermodynamics

By Robert Holloway

November 27, 2000

In your response of today, to my posting, you suggest that other arguments, outside of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, be used in the discussion of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and its relation to evolution. I am not opposed to a discussion of other aspects of evolution. However, the argument that Creationists have been making is that the Second Law of Thermodynamics prohibits evolution. If you want to succeed in that line of argument, then it is not honest for you to bring in unrelated factors to help with your case. It could be, for example, that some type of intelligence is necessary to convert raw matter and energy into a more organized form. If you can prove that, you have proven only that something else is required to create organized forms and evolution. You have not proven that the Second Law of Thermodynamics prohibits evolution because the Second Law of Thermodynamics says nothing at all about mechanism or intelligence. It deals only with final and initial conditions and certain limits on those conditions.

Surely you can see the difference in these two approaches. Maybe an analogy will be helpful here, although I am surprised that you cannot readily accept the idea. Suppose the Internal Revenue Code allows pastors to accept tax free housing from their congregation, on the very specific grounds that only pastors are allowed this perk, based on a very specific part of the tax code, let's say section 4.52. This section requires the clergyman to show proof that he is an active pastor. Now a certain pastor is called upon to prove in tax court that he is due this free housing allowance. Suppose his lawyer tells the judge that the pastor is due the tax free allowance due to the fact that the pastor was a chaplin in the Korean war and provides no evidence whatsoever that his client is currently a clergyman, as required by the tax code. The judge would surely say that the attorney is not arguing on the proper basis and insist that the arguments be made on the basis of the relevant portion of the tax code, rather than some unrelated argument. Only issues relevant to the particular portion of the tax code would be allowed in this case and it would be a foolish attorney indeed who tried to make the case on grounds that have nothing to do with the applicable law. If the pastor is to prove his point, he cannot use just any argument but he must prove his point in accordance with the proper section of the tax code, if he wants the benefits of that portion of the tax code.

You say that reliance on a 150 year old law is outmoded and other ideas should be considered. The fact is that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is still considered to be valid and any variations or modifications of it must be considered questionable until they become generally accepted. The vague and inaccurate versions of the law, that you and Ms. Fryman have proposed, have not been accepted by the scientific community. And to my knowledge, they have not even been seriously proposed.

It is the Creationists who have claimed that the 150 year old Second Law of Thermodynamics prohibits evolution. It is not my claim. If what you say is true, then show that your proof is based on an accurate statement of the Second Law. You cannot do that and that is the reason for your frustration. It is dishonest for you and other Creationists to make your own version of thermodynamics or to use any unrelated arguments because your side has claimed that it is the traditional Second Law of Thermodynamics that does not allow evolution. Let me repeat that. You Creationists have claimed that it is a law from mainstream science that prohibits evolution. For you to prove that, you have to use the mainstream formulation of the Second Law. The use of any other formulation or any arguments outside of the Second Law is a dishonest approach on your part. You are not free to develop a "Voodoo" version (an incorrect version) of the Second Law and use that to prove your point. Nor can you legitimately add things to the second law, because the original claim that you are defending involves only the Second law.

If you creationists want to admit that the old Second Law of Thermodynamics does not, in and of itself, prohibit evolution, then that would be a giant step forward and we can discuss those other things that you think do prohibit evolution. But that is not the claim that has been made by your side. Your claim is that the Second Law of Thermodynamics, in and of itself, prohibits evolution. Ms. Fryman wants to create some new version of the Second Law but the Creationist line on this issue is not original with her but goes back at least 25 years and was originally based on the traditional version of the Second Law. You feel a need now to modify that version a little because you feel that it does not quite do the job, isn't that right?

Maybe you don't have as much confidence in the laws of Thermodynamics as I have. But if you do not, it is up to you to show that there is something better. You have not done that and the talk about a "generalized" Second Law from which the commonly accepted Second Law is derived, is sheer nonsense. To be more precise, Creationists have not claimed that they have a special version of the Second law that prohibits evolution. Rather, they have claimed that the traditional, 150 year old Second law is what prohibits evolution. Perhaps Ms. Fryman is having trouble defending that claim and she needs to modify the Second Law into a more convenient form. The book on thermodynamics that you referred to is just a feeble attempt, in 150 pages, to pull Creationism out of the hole that Gish and others have dug for themselves over the past 25 years. With these articles on your web site, you are just digging your hole deeper.

What you now seem to prefer is to set aside the Second Law and develop new arguments unrelated to the Second Law. Very well, but at least admit to yourself that you can no longer defend your position using only the Second Law even though that is the original claim by Creationists. Your side didn't say that the Second Law when used with six other unrelated arguments, prohibits evolution. Your claim was more ambitious than that and now you realize that it cannot be defended in its original form. Basically, what you are doing is retreating from your original position, it seems to me.

Incidentally, I looked at the web site that you mentioned on alternative physics and I don't consider it very promising. New ideas are necessary but for every good new idea, there are a hundred bad ones. To me, it seemed lacking in supporting evidence.

Near the end of your comments you claim that my views on this issue are the result of social pressures rather than my own reasoning. You don't know that and you are mistaken. You seem to think that there is some grand conspiracy to promote a certain line over others. Nonsense! In my Ph.D. program, I was not required to discuss the Second Law. It was one of many topics upon which to write, in a very small portion of the program. I happened to have had a good background in the area, so I voluntarily selected that subject out of several that I could have selected. I don't mind being a rebel if I think the cause is just. But quite often a scientific idea has the support of the bulk of the scientific community for very good reasons. I would say for instance, that the mainstream medical community has very solid reasons for not accepting the idea of demon possession as a valid approach to medicine. I think you have some personal experience with that issue, don't you? But we digress. Let's keep this discussion limited to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and whether or not it prohibits evolution. That is the key issue that your side would like to avoid right now.

Whenever you are prepared to admit that the Second Law does not prohibit evolution, then we can discuss other lines of evidence where you may be more successful.

Robert Holloway

Nevada Technical Associates, Inc.
Phone 702-564-2798 or Fax 702-558-7672