Conservative/Religious PSA: Stupid Creationist Arguments

A while back Robert Prather posted on evolution and Intelligent Design (ID). What really tweaked Robert was the very real implication that by allowing ID into science curriculums it could weaken science education here in the U.S. which could have other consequences down the road such as health care, scientific research and even for our economy.

One of the trackbacks is to this post over at Conservative Culture which proves Robert’s point, in my opinion. In that post is this passage,

Not all Intelligent Designer’s are Christian. Intelligent design doesn’t designate a “god” but for the Christian it fits with their understanding of the Universe from the text. Interesting. Evolution precludes both a designer and design. There is no guiding force but perhaps mother nature. It seeks to create a scenerio of its own which it can’t prove and violates the basic laws of nature.

So naturally I asked which “law of nature” is violated by evolution and the response is a standard Creationist talking point that has been debunked for so long and so thoroughly that only the scientifically ignorant can still cling to it.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states simply that an isolated system will become more disordered with time.

The problem with this response is that the Earth is not an isolated system. I know to some this might come as a shock, but the sun is not part of the Earth and that we get massive amounts of energy from the sun. There are numerous entries for this on the Creationist Claims Index. The first one handles the above objection to evolution using the Second Law of Thermodynamics,

  • the earth is not a closed system; sunlight (with low entropy) shines on it and heat (with higher entropy) radiates off. This flow of energy, and the change in entropy that accompanies it, can and will power local decreases in entropy on earth.
  • entropy is not the same as disorder. Sometimes the two correspond, but sometimes order increases as entropy increases. (Aranda-Espinoza et al. 1999; Kestenbaum 1998) Entropy can even be used to produce order, such as in the sorting of molecules by size (Han and Craighead 2000).
  • even in a closed system, pockets of lower entropy can form if they are offset by increased entropy elsewhere in the system.

So, if you want to believe in Creationism, and think that evolution is nonsense fine, but please don’t put foward the above argument against evolutionary theory as you’ll end up looking like a complete dunderhead.

FILED UNDER: General
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. george says:

    I didn’t think serious ID’ers and creationists used the second law argument (in fact I think they’re embarrassed by creationists who invoke it, at least judging by the few chemists and engineers I know who are young world creationists … the old world creationists have no need to invoke it, since they tend to just say that God got the big bang going and have no trouble with anything science says happened after that).

  2. Steve Verdon says:

    george,

    You are right, most of the big IDers would be embarrassed by the use of the 2nd Law of Thermo as an argument against evolution. My point though, is that it is still used, and that those who use it are ignorant of the Laws of Thermodynamics and probably physics in general. Hence it makes Robert’s point, in that promulgating the idea that we can turn to non-explanations (ID) for explaining real world observations could lead to a degredation of scientific research in this country.

  3. Aoe says:

    Intelligent design doesn’t designate a god, but fits with christian text(text?). Evolution does not preclude a designer and design; mother nature is no guide here because nature is not the god not designated in the Christian text. Mother is not god in nature that does not allow christian text and the guiding force would be an anwer that mother nature is a creation of a scenario of its own(that cannot be proven,but shows itself through what one might consider creation rather than intelligent design by a god in or out of the the christian text), which violates the basics laws of nature in or out of the christian text.

  4. RJN says:

    Steve, this is straw-man squared. You picked the dumbest reasons, put forth by the dumbest reasoners to bolster a dumb fear held by Robert Prather.

  5. Steve Verdon says:

    Uhhhmmm, no it isn’t a strawman if I’m not making up the argument. I suggest you toddle on off to Conservative Culture and tell him to brush up on his physics.

  6. RJN says:

    I went to Conservative Culture and the nonsense just gets worse. While there I learned that Prather also wrote the following:

    “The article goes on to mention that some young person in one of the states that is attacking evolution will be robbed of a future by this nonsense; her head will be filled with superstition rather than science, thus limiting her ability to work as a scientist.

    I may return to this later when I’m not quite so upset.”

    I weep for him, and hope he recovers.

  7. just me says:

    You are right, most of the big IDers would be embarrassed by the use of the 2nd Law of Thermo as an argument against evolution.

    You need to be careful, if you are going to use arguments that are not generally argued by the serious creationist or IDer.

    There are examples of evolution that serious evolutionists know have been debunked that still show up in science curriculums. I remember being taught in my science course in college things that are now known to not be good examples (college was in the late 80’s, so it is possible that some of the stuff was debunked after I took the course), but some things like the evolution of the fetus still show up in science curriculums-I am sure to the horror of serious scientists.

  8. Steve Verdon says:

    just me,

    If you are referring to Haeckel’s drawings there is a grain of truth in your complaint, however, it is only a grain. Blowing that grain up into a cilo full of problems is highly misleading.

    Click here and here, and here for starters.

    This isn’t as bad as the 2nd Law of Thermo, but it is still a pretty egregious no-no when it comes to attempts to debunk evolution. And in this case the serious IDers/Creationists, as you put it, use this one…repeatedly.

  9. Let me make this one further comment here. I am well aware of “closed” and “open” systems. But you argue from the formation of the sun and earth. I want to push it further back. How did an unordered universe as a whole go into an ordered one? What source from the outside would have helped to generate what we now see?

    Call me ignorant. Fine. But I find that evolutionists are at least as dogmatic as they claim those on the other-side are. I as a question which evolution cannot… and has not satisfactorily answered the question.

  10. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Steve, oh believer in evolution, and I am not talking about a Harley motor, where is evidence of the link between modern man and whatever came before. Evolution indicates small changes over time, not a new specie from nowhere. Second, why are chimps still chimps? They have not evolved in 5 million years. Why?

  11. Steve Verdon says:

    Let me make this one further comment here. I am well aware of “closed” and “open” systems. But you argue from the formation of the sun and earth. I want to push it further back. How did an unordered universe as a whole go into an ordered one? What source from the outside would have helped to generate what we now see?

    Sigh

    Perhaps the second dumbest argument against evolution. Fine, so there isn’t much known about the formation of the universe. So what? This has what to do with evolution? Evolution does not deal with the formation of the universe, planets and other cosmological bodies, so this kind of an argument is both a strawman and a red herring.

    Steve, oh believer in evolution, and I am not talking about a Harley motor, where is evidence of the link between modern man and whatever came before. Evolution indicates small changes over time, not a new specie from nowhere. Second, why are chimps still chimps? They have not evolved in 5 million years. Why?

    And this ties for second place in terms of stupid arguments.

  12. legion says:

    I want to push it further back. How did an unordered universe as a whole go into an ordered one? What source from the outside would have helped to generate what we now see?

    Ah yes, CC. If at first your arguments get blasted out of the water, just move the goal posts. Prior to the big bang, all our measuring sticks don’t exist. All our basic concepts & perceptions of the universe fall out. We don’t know what happened before then, and there may be no rational way to ever even guess. That’s why scientific exploration and faith in god are _not_ incompatible.

    Call me ignorant. Fine. But I find that evolutionists are at least as dogmatic as they claim those on the other-side are. I as a question which evolution cannot… and has not satisfactorily answered the question.

    I don’t call you ignorant. I call you intellectually dishonest. When the question is answered, you change the question and blame the answerer.

  13. Wayne says:

    If you don’t agree with me you are stupid and your argument is stupid. Also I feel no need to debunk any of your arguments beyond saying they are stupid.

  14. Steve Verdon says:

    If you don’t agree with me you are stupid and your argument is stupid. Also I feel no need to debunk any of your arguments beyond saying they are stupid.

    Wayne that is a pretty serious case of projection you got there. I’d see somebody about it.

  15. Dos says:

    Entropy is an argument for time. Deacy soes nlot necessarily have to be measured by shining and radiation using heat as an indictor(thermodynamics). Entropy or decay may involve matter only and not the process of heat exchange(matter). It’s an argument for the use of time on the earth-‘time travel’ and the decay of matter because of the use of time outisde the normal flow of time use on the planet. Thermodynamics is not the measure of the abnormal use of time, but decay as measured by entropy excluding the thermodynamics argument for entropy(matter).

  16. Wayne says:

    Steve
    I thought you would be flatter since imitation is supposed to be greatest form of flattery.

    I’m just disappointed since I would like to hear a serious discussion between Intelligent Designer, Creationists and Evolutionists with each point being addressed. Unfortunately all we get is name calling and repeating of talking points while ignoring any point that don’t support one owns point of view.

    Steve it seems like anytime you can’t explain something you call names or quickly change subjects. Sound like a liberal.

  17. RJN says:

    Legion: What! Wow! Do you know that Christian people were the people that invented science? Science was built upon the scientific work of centuries of Christians.

  18. Cernig says:

    How did an unordered universe as a whole go into an ordered one? What source from the outside would have helped to generate what we now see?

    The math’s actually pretty clear and no outside source is required, I believe. In any field of chaos for no reason and at no particular time a field of apparent order will arise, continue for an unpredictable time and then collapse again. Its called a Markoff Chain.

    The dice do actually play God with the universe
    🙂

    Regards, C

  19. george says:

    The math’s actually pretty clear and no outside source is required, I believe.

    This is, in essence correct. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics doesn’t require entropy to uniformly increase over a whole system (you’d never get a snowflake if it did). The universe as a whole isn’t ordered, and it has been becoming less ordered since the first 10 to the minus 42 seconds (no idea what it was like before that). You’re forgetting to take into account energy when you suggest it’s primarily ordered. Do the calculations yourself if you find that hard to believe.

  20. bains says:

    Nothing quite like the arrogance of the evolutionists…

    Except the arrogance of any true believer.

  21. I never moved the goal posts. You wanted to put the goal on your 40 yard line. Tell me what the mathematical probability that this much order could randomly happen. This is essentially the evolutionist argument. Not only one random act to bring order in the universe so that it could produce life.. but many acts of random acts.

    The mathematical probability, if one is honest, is to remote to be a serious likely hood. However, since you already nix an Intelligent Designer, this becomes the only probability and therefore the only answer.

    Shall I press the issue on once life was established how the required genetic information for the ‘major’ leaps for survival happened. Remember that most changes or mutations are nearly all fatal and at least detrimental.

  22. legion says:

    Tell me what the mathematical probability that this much order could randomly happen. This is essentially the evolutionist argument.

    Wrong. There is a vast – possibly infinite – number of different states the universe _could_ be in right now. but there is a 100% chance that it is in one of them. Whether the chances of the universe being what it is today are 1 in 1 (per God’s will) or 1 in (vast), the fact that the universe exists neither proves nor disproves God.

    However, since you already nix an Intelligent Designer, this becomes the only probability and therefore the only answer.

    Wrong again. See above. My position is that it is impossible to prove the existence (or lack of same) of God. Attempting to do so is the very definition of pointless. Science and faith only intersect when someone wants to use one as a weapon against the other.

  23. Still interested in hearing your take on the required genetic information jumps for amino acids to proteins to single celled life to man progressions evolution requires. I accept micro-evolution but I am sure you already guessed, not macro-evolution

  24. Steve Verdon says:

    I’m just disappointed since I would like to hear a serious discussion between Intelligent Designer, Creationists and Evolutionists with each point being addressed.

    Then check out my posts at debunkers.org. Not much discussion there, but those are serious posts where I raise serious issues with some of Dembski’s stuff.

    Steve it seems like anytime you can’t explain something you call names or quickly change subjects. Sound like a liberal.

    Wayner, if you search through my posts here on ID/evolution/creationism you’ll find lots of posts/comments where I explain things in nauseating detail, and yet the same people show up time and time again making the same points that have been thoroughly refuted. It isn’t that I can’t explain, more like I’m just getting tired of doing it again, again, and again.

    By the way, you’ll note I did explain why two (out of three) of the arguments are bogus. You really think my reply to the third one was simply based on ignorance? Please.

    CC,

    I never moved the goal posts. You wanted to put the goal on your 40 yard line. Tell me what the mathematical probability that this much order could randomly happen.

    Noooo, you moved the goal posts. The post in question (Robert Prather’s) discussed evolution, not the origins of the universe. You couldn’t handle that topic so you switched to the origins of the universe question as it was easier for you to refute.

    Further, the question of probability is perhaps interesting from an academic stand point it is a weak argument for God or some other intervening supernatural entity.

    The mathematical probability, if one is honest, is to remote to be a serious likely hood.

    Careful here, you are tipping your hand that you don’t understand probability theory all that well. Further, a low probability event does not equate to being impossible.

    Shall I press the issue on once life was established how the required genetic information for the ‘major’ leaps for survival happened. Remember that most changes or mutations are nearly all fatal and at least detrimental.

    Not true at all. While most mutations that have an impact on the organism are fatal (AFAIK), not all of them are. Further, the bulk of mutations are neither fatal nor beneficial.

    Still interested in hearing your take on the required genetic information jumps for amino acids to proteins to single celled life to man progressions evolution requires. I accept micro-evolution but I am sure you already guessed, not macro-evolution

    This is a distinction without much a difference. The very same processes that you accept for micro-evolution are the very same processes at work in macro-evolution. The only difference between the two is that one occurs at or above the species level (macro-evolution) vs. below the species level (micro-evolution). Thus, to reject one is to really reject both.

    Finally, the idea that we have to go from single celled life forms to man is misleading. You are presuming a target when in fact, it is almost surely the case that evolution has no target. This is why probability arguments tend to fall apart when used against evolutionary theory. Most of these arguments implicitly or explicitly assume a target. Remove that assumption, as is the case with actual evolutionary theory, and the arguments fall apart.

    Wayne (again),

    See, I can put forward very good arguments as to why this nonsense is nonsense. The problem is that Conservative Culture is simply lacking in the initiative to go find these answers.

  25. Wayne says:

    Steve
    You explanation seems quite possible. It is just what I have observed in your posts that I read in the last couple of months that I go off.

    The probability argument is faulty. It is like saying from a purely statistical view that water has the possibility to go in all sorts of direction therefore the probability that it will go downhill is remote. In an “ideal math system” this would be true. In reality “most” of the time it goes downhill because of the system that it does exist in.

    Proteins combining to form amino acids probably doesn’t exist in the ”ideal math system” therefore one would be incorrect to treat it as such and is another case of abusing math.

    One can argue if the laws of nature simply exist or if there is a deity influence but neither can really be proven.

  26. I am afraid that “Origins” is a deeply related issue. Even PBS’s page on orgins and Tyson’s book on how the jump was made from no-living to living. Evolution deals with the evolution from non-living matter into living beings. It deals with the adaptation and process of struggle and death to arrive at highest level of evolution… man. It’s not just limited to ape to man discussion. So I deny moving the post. You just wanted to play half field… which is ok. But its not the way I want to deal with it. Its a big picture (as opposed to big bang — tongue in cheek) look.

  27. Further, the question of probability is perhaps interesting from an academic stand point it is a weak argument for God or some other intervening supernatural entity.

    Academic way of looking at it yes… that is why I brought it up. But if the probability of something happening is near zero and then by some ‘chance’ it occurs… I find that evolutionary speculation on a set of circumstances which may or may not have existed to be no less speculative that an Intelligent God had its hand in it.

    The God of Creation has made himself known in the course of history. He came 2,000 years ago and made it clear who he was. Those who argue that all things are as they have always been deny that we are responsible to any higher authority than ourselves. I take it this drives your frame of reference. You know my bias… will you admit your bias. Then the discussion might progress.

    Really. I take it that you don’t believe in God or are perhaps an agnostic. Every scientist looks at the same evidence and their own bias slants their view of the evidence that we both look at.

  28. Wayne says:

    Keep in mind that evolution doesn’t always result in a more complex or intelligent being. The opposite can happen as well.

    All scientists have biases. The good ones though will come up with logical methods and experiments to mitigate their biases and to minimize the biases influences on their work. Also being open to other possibilities help greatly. Unfortunately I see to many of them who don’t follow these fundamental principles. Of course part of it is that it is the controversial and absolute positive sounding ones who get most of the press.

    Often it is not the actual conclusions but the violation of the scientific process as well as the abuse of math that perturbs me.

  29. I like that phrase you used… the abuse of math :). IF this was a liberal blog I would suspect getting the courts to protect math from abuse. lol

  30. Wayne says:

    Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for that term. It came from a title of a Mathematics book I read.
    Math abuse happens so often; it would clog the court system beyond repair.

  31. That puts a new take on “calculated” risks. lol