Evolution & the 2nd law?

ed williamson Edward.Williamson at EMBL-Heidelberg.DE
Wed Nov 22 13:54:02 EST 1995


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".

Even if the case of natural selection is considered (the differential
survival and REPRODUCTION of those individuals with greater fitness) we
still have an increase in proportion of genes that optimize survial in a
given environment.  This again represents a tendancy towards more order.

Extinction is consistant with the second law.

His argument is not that of a crackpot, but seems to be based in the laws
of physics.  I'm not sure if the basis of his argument (ie information =
energy) is strong enough to support his argument.

I know this a little out of the scope of this group, but I know that most
of you are knowledgable about molecular evolution.  I would like to know
what others think of this argument.

"What does a physicist know anyway?"  ;)



>HI, I have heard this before, also from a physicist.  But I thought that
>the second law applied to a closed system only.  Entropy increases in a
>closed system unless there is some input of energy to offset this
>difference.  Your hard drive will become increasingly disorganized unless
>someone or something expends some energy to organize it - a lot at once or
>a little along the way.  The process of life is not spontaneous, it
>requires the input of energy: the sun in most cases.  So, with this huge
>nuclear fusion thing, releasing more energy than humans should be allowed,
>the life forms on this planet have enormous amounts of energy to utilize.
>Isn't this consistent with the second law?  Maybe we should worship a sun
>god.  Then again.
        Opinions?  ew





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