Theories of Evolution

Radford Neal radford at cs.toronto.edu
Sat Aug 20 11:54:05 EST 1994


In article <333gnf$tk at bbs.pnl.gov>, Robert S. McKee <rs_mckee at pnl.gov> wrote:

>>Could someone please explain to me simply the theories of Darwin, Lamarck 
>>and others on human evolution. References would also be appreciated.
>>        With thanks in advance,
>>                Benji.
>
>Simply stated, evolution is the belief that physical systems (in this case 
>biological systems) spontaneously through random processes organize 
>themselves into states of higher-order.  Unfortunately, this violates the
>entropy laws which tell us that all physical systems tend toward greater 
>disorder.
>
> Ref:  Thermodynamics With an Introduction to Thermostatistics, 
>       Herbert B. Callen, 3rd ed. 

Thermodynamics is a *quantitative* science.  It deals with the *amount*
by which entropy changes, not some sort of qualitative description of
whether things are "higher-order" or not.

Hence, if biological evolution *really* violated the laws of
theromodynamics, these laws would also be violated if you were to seed
a lifeless, but otherwise earthlike, planet with a single bacterium,
and watched as this organism relicated until it covered the whole
planet.  Any degree of "high order" in the single original bacterium
is negligible in a quantitative sense, on the scale of the planet as a
whole.  Yet I think we would all agree that there is no reason why
this organism shouldn't relicate to occupy the whole planet,
increasing the amount of "order" by many, many orders of magnitude.

The whole argument must therefore be wrong.  In particular, you've
forgotten that planets aren't closed systems.

   Radford Neal



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