Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sun-Gazing: Tired Darwinist Arguments Against the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

Who says Neo-Darwinists can't evolve?   The appearance of Intelligent Design has afforded them to add a new argument to the standard one of  "just add sunlight":  "Young Earth creationists have been pointing to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics for years, so you can dismiss the argument out of hand."  If you don't believe me, look at how many articles start out with "guilt by association."   These same articles will purport to open your eyes to the (supposedly) mere rhetorical devices of all nonbelievers in Darwinism (collectively and misleadingly, called "creationists").
Accepting for the moment Sewell’s idiosyncratic terminology, we can say that if we take the Earth by itself as our system, then there is definitely something entering to make an increase in biological complexity more likely. The solar energy received by the Earth fuels the chemical reactions that allow living organisms to survive and reproduce. This cycle of survival and reproduction ultimately leads to natural selection, which can, in turn, lead to increases in biological complexity. Minus that energy living organisms would quickly go extinct and evolution would not occur. --Jason Rosenhouse  
The gas I put in my car certainly makes locomotion much more likely to happen.   How the gas makes an engine more likely is apparently unnecessary to explain, though it's the difference between my car behaving like a vehicle or like a pretty boulder.  Rosenhouse would almost certainly cry foul to this and fall back on the most common version of "I just point at the sun":  evolution works through an alchemical combination of chance and necessity as revealed in the Methinks It Is Like A Weasel experiments of the renowned atheism evangelist Richard Dawkins.  It is almost suggested that some precursor to natural selection acted on protometabolic processes, leading ultimately to natural selection in his words.  I say "almost" because I am giving the benefit of the doubt since it really does sound like the availability of energy to exploit directly leads to survival of complex cybernetic entities (i.e. "living organisms") which directly leads to complexity.   Keep this progression/cycle in mind.

Another argument that is almost always present either implicitly or explicitly is the bandwagon argument.  If you perceive a problem with the aforementioned progression, that means many people much more distinguished than you are wrong, and you don't want to appear foolish, do you?  Again, these articles proceed unabashedly in this manner even while warning you of the fallacious rhetoric of the enemy.

I want to revisit Rosenhouse's last sentence there:
Minus that energy living organisms would quickly go extinct and evolution would not occur.
What is the point of this last sentence?  It is saying nothing more than that the available energy is a prerequisite for living organisms. Now a beginning course in logic distinguishes necessity and sufficiency.  Something that is necessary doesn't not explain in the same way that a sufficient cause does.  Oxygen is necessary for fire, but the availability of oxygen everywhere is not a sufficient condition for fire, it doesn't explain why fire occurs here and not there.   And fire is much simpler phenomenon than the biochemical processes that are mediated by the complex machinery of enzymes.

In the article by Rosenhouse I originally came across, the "detailed reply" to Sewell was a broken link, and but this was the match I found at the CSICOP site.

In that later article that I first came across, Rosenhouse makes a claim about the people he despises:
... [Nonbelievers in neo-Darwinism] are generally unmoved when you ask them to clarify what they mean by information, and are uninterested in the distinctions, say, between Shannon and Kolmogorov.
As I've alluded to on this blog, they are apparently in good company, because I haven't seen anything near a consensus from the neo-Darwinist camp, let alone the larger camp of materialists.  There are many still that seem unaware that there is anything other than Shannon information, many that do not recognize how CSI contrasts with Kolmogorov information, most don't bother to distinguish Shannon vs. Kolmogorov, and 99.99% seem altogether unaware of Bennett's logical depth or effective complexity Szostak's functional bits, and none of them acknowledge Gregory Chaitin on conservation of information.  If ignorance is a hallmark of absurdity, the leading voices of the neo-Darwinists seem as absurd to me as the hoi polloi for whom they exhibit such contempt.

When any ID advocates do distinguish between CSI and Shannon or Kolmogorov information, they can expect to get the usual objections with the usual sneering attitude.
These sorts of considerations should be obvious to anyone with a modicum of mathematical or scientific training.
These very common sorts of statements from Rosenhouse's camp never fail to put me in mind of a certain emperor and his invisible clothes.  I have more than a mere modicum of mathematical and scientific training, as do the many ID advocates that Rosenhouse and company revile.  Many Darwin critics think Sewell's point should be obvious to Rosenhouse.  And no doubt the "2nd Law argument" is to Rosenhouse an example invisible clothes.   I don't hold to the conceit that only stupid people see things Rosenhouse's way -- though it seems apparent that anyone associated with Panda's Thumb do hold to that conceit.  I do think that groupthink plays a significant role in it though for most people.  And this is supported by Rosenhouse's desperate appeal to groupthink.

As long as Rosenhouse feels free going on about what he typcially encounters, I'll add that Joe Felsenstein's post at Panda's Thumb is typical of the Darwinist camp's grasp of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics:
A year ago, I pointed out here at Panda’s Thumb that if true, Sewell’s arguments showed that weeds could not grow in a garden – that a few weed seeds could not turn into weed plants bearing many of the same seeds. All we see entering the weeds is (mostly) radiation from the sun, carbon dioxide, water, and a few minerals. Following Sewell’s logic, this is not enough to explain the decrease of entropy involved in the growth of the weeds.
Sewell very explicitly argued that the mass/energy transfer across the barrier of the open system must contain information that leads to the reduction of entropy.  Felsenstein may consider a weed seed to not have much organization in it, and may think that the organized complexity of the weed is not inherent in the hereditary material of the seed, but this is specious thinking.  Felsenstein has not grasped Sewell's argument in the least bit.  All the other elements, solar radiation included, don't result in weeds without the seeds that contain very complicated weed-building instructions and plant-building machinery. Bombard the weed seeds with enough radiation and the weed seeds may fail for some odd reason to become weed plants, even though there is still solar radiation and minerals and such.

Another common variation of this is: "If Darwin critics are right, a fertilized egg would not become a human being."  This is even more obviously arguing in a circle.  What inspired evolutionary thinking (before the immense amount of information in the egg was understood) has somehow now become proof of evolutionary process -- explanandum has become explananans.  The fertilized egg is a human-making machine, where almost all the information of the human body is there to be unfolded over time, but the functional organization is inherent in the DNA sequences and other hereditary mechanisms.  As a useful analogy, it would help to argue that all the information for the animal kingdom was there in the first organism (and I think, some are now trying to do that!).  At least then the analogy might be relevant--if only by appealing to a similar mystery.

Felsenstein not only misses the mark in grasping Sewell's point but then practically makes Sewell's point for him.  And if Felsenstein's understanding is atypically off the mark, why hasn't Panda's Thumb asked him to correct these posts?

By Felsenstein's and Rosenhouse's logic, I could have a very large, closed room with the material components of a silicon chip, and an initial state that has the room's air separated into hot and cold.  The room will be completely sealed off except for a window that has the meager amounts of solar radiation necessary to make improbable things happen without violating the 2nd Law.  (Why does Rosenhouse argue about the amount of radiation necessary?)  A day or a millenium or an era later, we come back and see that there is a microchip in the room, but any loss of entropy that exists is more than compensated by the increase in the entropy of the air molecules.  (What this increase in entropy has to do with the local decrease in entropy is of no interest in Rosenhousian logic.)  Overall, the entropy of the room has increased, the microchip notwithstanding.  And if the entropy of the air is not enough to explain it, the increased entropy of the sun can be taken into account!  And if the sun isn't enough, the cosmic background radiation permeating the universe can be invoked to balance the books for the 2nd Law!  (Wow, even our solar system can't be considered a closed system for the purposes of discussion -- somehow cosmic background radiation plays a role!)

Just add sunlight.  (Or cosmic background radiation.) 

Now, it could be argued that what isn't clear (and for all the unenlightened people like me, Rosenhouse should make it clear, since his goal is ostensibly to clarify the issue, not simply to revel in the superior wisdom of the Darwinist majority) is that it is the fundamental laws of physics combined with the wonder-working power of  natural selection that plays the same role that weed DNA does for the weeds in the garden analogy.

For them, the microchip analogy fails because there is nothing in the room that has microchip-making power, but in the Earth we had gravitation and sunlight and radioactivity bringing all the elements together where metabolic processes automagically emerge and code-processing nanotechnology emerges to control the metabolic processes, and then from there, eukaryotic cells are practically an eventuality, and once you have the eukaryotic technology, why it is practically inevitable that animals will invent flight multiple times by extracting the necessary knowledge about air pressure from the environment through the sensory apparatus of natural selection.

Again, the microchip analogy fails because we already know that there is a wonder-working mechanism in the Earth.  Because a 100 million Darwinists are immune to groupthink and can't be wrong.  Why, the greater their numbers, the more you can be assured that groupthink isn't involved.  The greater the numbers, the more you can be assured that people aren't being merely carried along by assurance of the sheer numbers themselves, because science is open to criticism and in this case the critics are just idiots not to be carried along with the majority.

As one eloquent defender of science once put it: "When someone tells me that evolution violates the 2nd Law, I just point at the sun."  Sure you can point at the sun, but you could also take out your crayons and draw a picture of the sun shining down on weed seeds in a field.  If you look at it long enough, you might see the light.  

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