Two articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals under the title “Entropy and Evolution”. One (Daniel Steyer, American journal of physics, Flight. 76., No. 11, Nov. 2008) says that evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics and the other says that it does (Granville Sewell, BIO-Complexity2013 (2):1-5, June 22, 2013).

The three main branches of physics are nuclear physics, dynamics, and thermodynamics. Nuclear physics is the study of the evolution of stars and the creation of elements. Dynamics studies the laws of nature and the creation of chemical compounds.

Thermodynamics is the study of liquids, solids, and gases. The zeroth law of thermodynamics is that temperature is measured by a thermometer in units called degrees. The first law defines heat and internal energy. The second law is that heat flows from hot substances to cold ones. The third law is that 454 degrees below zero is as cold as it gets. Thermodynamics has nothing to do with the workings of machines, biology, or the evolution of stars. A pendulum is not a thermodynamic system. A pendulum exists only in the minds of physicists, and has no temperature and no entropy. A pendulum and a Boeing 747 in flight obey the laws of dynamics, not thermodynamics.

The evangelists have the unintelligent but intelligible idea that evolution and the origin of life violate the second law. The second law can be expressed by saying that entropy, which is measured in units of energy per degree, always increases. The evangelists juxtapose the fact that a sugar cube put in a cup of coffee will dissolve (second law) with the fact that proteins exist (evolution).

Entropy is related to knowing the location of sugar molecules in Cartesian coordinates (x,y,z). The entropy of an undissolved sugar cube is less than the entropy of a dissolved sugar cube. Entropy is also related to probability calculations because there is a chance that the sugar molecules in a cup of coffee will drift toward a point and stop sweetening the coffee.

In trying to understand where proteins come from, biologists calculate the probability of obtaining a protein from the random selection of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids and an average protein contains 300 amino acids. The probability is very small because each amino acid has to be in exactly the right position relative to the other amino acids.

Evangelists confuse informative knowledge of the location of amino acids in a protein with knowledge of the Cartesian coordinates of the sugar molecules in a sugar cube. They are also confusing biologists’ probability calculations with physicists’ probability calculations. There is nothing unlikely about a protein because proteins exist. It is quite unlikely that a sugar cube will be reconstituted in a cup of coffee.

At the beginning of his article, Styer shows some understanding of this with the statement: “Disorder is a metaphor for entropy, not a definition of entropy.” Sewell ignores this truism, as does Styer. However, Sewell crushes Styer with the following statement:

According to Styer, Boltzmann’s formula, which relates the thermal entropy of an ideal gas state to the number of possible microstates and thus to the probability of the state, can be used to calculate the change in thermal entropy associated with any change in probability. : not just the probability of an ideal gas state, but the probability of anything. (page 2)

Sewell formulates Styer’s statements in a theory he calls the “compensation argument.” He then argues against the “compensation argument” instead of ridiculing it as unintelligible. Sewell is confusing the first law with the second law.

Suppose you have two pieces of metal, one hot and one cold, and you bring them into thermal contact. According to the first law, the internal energy of the hot part will decrease and the internal energy of the cold part will increase. There will be no loss or gain of energy. The increased energy of the cold piece is “compensated”, just as a merchant is compensated when he buys something.

However, the matter is completely different with respect to entropy. There are two ways to see what happens. The first way is that the entropy of the cold piece increases and the entropy of the hot piece decreases. The second way is to increase the entropy of both pieces considered as a single system. The idea that the increase in entropy of one is “offset” by the decrease in entropy of the other is nonsense.

This conflict between Sewell and Styer over the second law is related to the cultural conflict over intelligent design theory, which is related to the cosmological argument for the existence of God. Many people mistakenly think that the cosmological argument involves a “first cause” and is invalid because there can be an infinite regress of causes. In the context of this reasoning, the Big Bang, the origin of life, and evolution are considered evidence for the existence of an intelligent designer. The cosmological argument, as Thomas Aquinas explained by Etienne Gilson, is based on the existence of finite beings and the idea that there is an infinite being, not a “first cause”. The Big Bang, origin of life and evolution is evidence that God does not exist because it is evidence that the universe is not intelligible.