Evolution & the 2nd law?

John Ladasky ladasky at leland.Stanford.EDU
Wed Nov 22 00:50:35 EST 1995


In article <Pine.OSF.3.91.951122001949.29588A-100000 at plato.ucs.mun.ca>,
Mark Fry  <wmfry at morgan.ucs.mun.ca> wrote:
>
>The other day a physicist friend of mine said that he does not believe 
>the theory of evolution, based on the laws of physics.  His argument went 
>something like this:
>
>The theory of evolution, as it is generally presented, states that 
>billions of years ago, some proto-organism arose from the primevil ooze.  
>It presumably had some genetic material, encoding but a few "genes".  
>Since then, more complex organisms have "arisin":  each of these more 
>complex organisms contains more information in its genetic code.  This 
>represents an accumulation of information and energy, or a tendancy towards 
>more order in the universe.  This is in direcyt conflict with the second 
>law of thermodynamics that states "the entropy of the universe increases 
>in all natural processes".
[etc.]

	The basic problem with this argument is that the existence of life
does not indicate a tendency towards order *in the universe* -- it is only
a tendency towards order in living systems on Earth.  The Earth is not a
closed system.  We receive a constant input of energy from the Sun.  And
Earth's living systems consume solar energy, turning a fraction of it into
work, and thought, and new genes, and whatnot.  But the *other* fraction 
of that energy that is passed through living systems is turned into heat,
which is ultimately radiated away into space and contibutes to universal
entropy.  

	Locally, life may be observed as a tendency towards order.  But
universally, life is a catalyst for the process of disorder.  Life merely
harnesses energy to externalize the disorder that life itself generates.
Have you been to a garbage dump lately?

>"What does a physicist know anyway?"  ;)

	Only the half of it, it would seem.

-- 
Unique ID : Ladasky, John Joseph Jr.
Title     : BA Biochemistry, U.C. Berkeley, 1989  (Ph.D. perhaps 1998???)
Location  : Stanford University, Dept. of Structural Biology, Fairchild D-105
Keywords  : immunology, music, running, Green



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