Today’s lesson is about publishing. Not writing. Not scholarship. Just the act of getting words out in front of other people without any sort of tedious labor behind them. Oh, and most important, these words will have your name in the byline. The case study is Creationism – How Entropy challenges Evolution Theory by B. G. Ranganathan. It went up on the “Best Syndication” weblog yesterday. Along with the featured article, you get the opportunity to buy Ranganathan’s book offering,
Origins?, from Amazon, as it is prominently displayed in the left sidebar. (At least if you buy it here, you support this weblog.)
The first step is to pick your topic. When it comes to antievolution, there are three things going for you. First, there is a plethora of material to be recycled without risk. As antievolution advocates sometimes point out, their ideas have deep roots, tracing back at least to certain Greek philosophers. Recognizable material of somewhat more recent vintage (and thus easier to incorporate into a pseudo-essay that passes as modern) comes from authors like the Reverend William Paley. Authors such as George Macready Price and Henry M. Morris assembled many of the arguments together in various books. And, as I said, nobody cares if you steal it. In fact, others will be confused if you provide complete references and trace back claims to sources. That just isn’t done as a matter of course in this field, and, of course, it pays to pick up the social gestalt of your new career.
Second, there is a market. As Harvard Lampoon noted, it’s the sort of market whose pant’s pockets display the sort of scorch marks produced only by large quantities of spontaneously combusting cash. Antievolution, if it accomplishes nothing else, moves money around the marketplace from folks who read the same material over and over to those who, like you, are now learning how to be the sort of person who transfers material from old sources and puts your name over the top.
Third, the mere act of repeating various hoary old chestnuts will give you a solid sense of community. Others who are doing just as you do will welcome the opportunity to come to your defense if someone criticizes you. It gives them something to do other than look for more things to recycle. You will quickly learn to do this, too. Of course, the stances taken are also all borrowed from earlier writers, so it just comes down to copying slightly different parts of the usual sources in order to label and dismiss critical forays.
Babu Ranganathan has this down pat. Let’s take a look at his effort and see where he got his material.
Few scientists have considered or pondered the full implications of the law of entropy upon the theory of evolution. And, as we shall see, entropy does occur in open systems such as our Earth.
The theory of evolution teaches that matter tends to evolve towards greater and greater complexity and order. We are so accustomed to seeing evolution of technology all about us (new cars, boats, ships, inventions, etc.) that we assume that nature must work the same way also. Of course, we forget that all those new gadgets and technology had a human designer behind them. Nature, however, doesn’t work the same way.
The spontaneous (the unaided or undirected) tendency of matter is always towards greater disorder — not towards greater order and complexity as evolution would teach. This tendency towards disorder that exists in all matter can be temporarily overcome only if there exists some energy converting and directing mechanism to direct, develop, and maintain order.
Brooks and Wiley might be surprised at this claim that “few scientists have considered” thermodynamics and evolution. Of course, since Brooks and Wiley advance the thesis that entropic considerations actually drive biological evolution, they’d likely be doubly perplexed by Ranganathan.
Beyond that, the whole topic has been done to death in the antievolution literature. These arguments take up most of section CF in Mark Isaak’s “Index to Creationist Claims”. I’ll quote a bit from one entry there:
The second law of thermodynamics says that everything tends toward disorder, making evolutionary development impossible.
Morris, Henry M., 1974. Scientific Creationism, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, pp. 38-46.
1. The second law of thermodynamics says no such thing. It says that heat will not spontaneously flow from a colder body to a warmer one or, equivalently, that total entropy (a measure of useful energy) in a closed system will not decrease. This does not prevent increasing order because
* 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.
In short, order from disorder happens on earth all the time.
2. The only processes necessary for evolution to occur are reproduction, heritable variation, and selection. All of these are seen to happen all the time, so, obviously, no physical laws are preventing them. In fact, connections between evolution and entropy have been studied in depth, and never to the detriment of evolution (Demetrius 2000).
Several scientists have proposed that evolution and the origin of life is driven by entropy (McShea 1998). Some see the information content of organisms subject to diversification according to the second law (Brooks and Wiley 1988), so organisms diversify to fill empty niches much as a gas expands to fill an empty container. Others propose that highly ordered complex systems emerge and evolve to dissipate energy (and increase overall entropy) more efficiently (Schneider and Kay 1994).
3. Creationists themselves admit that increasing order is possible. They introduce fictional exceptions to the law to account for it.
4. Creationists themselves make claims that directly contradict their claims about the second law of thermodynamics, such as hydrological sorting of fossils during the Flood.
1. Aranda-Espinoza, H., Y. Chen, N. Dan, T. C. Lubensky, P. Nelson, L. Ramos and D. A. Weitz, 1999. Electrostatic repulsion of positively charged vesicles and negatively charged objects. Science 285: 394-397.
2. Brooks, D. R. and E. O. Wiley, 1988. Evolution As Entropy, University of Chicago Press.
3. Kestenbaum, David, 1998. Gentle force of entropy bridges disciplines. Science 279: 1849.
4. Han, J. and H. G. Craighead, 2000. Separation of long DNA molecules in a microfabricated entropic trap array. Science 288: 1026-1029.
5. Demetrius, Lloyd, 2000. Theromodynamics and evolution. Journal of Theoretical Biology 206(1): 1-16. http://www.idealibrary.com/links/doi/10.1006/jtbi.2000.2106
6. McShea, Daniel W., 1998. Possible largest-scale trends in organismal evolution: eight live hypotheses. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 29: 293-318.
7. Schneider, Eric D. and James J. Kay, 1994. Life as a manifestation of the second law of thermodynamics. Mathematical and Computer Modelling 19(6-8): 25-48. http://www.fes.uwaterloo.ca/u/jjkay/pubs/Life_as/lifeas.pdf
Atkins, P. W. 1984. The Second Law. New York: Scientific American Books.
Kauffman, Stuart A. 1993. The Origins of Order. New York: Oxford. (technical)
Lambert, Frank L. 1999. The second law of thermodynamics. http://www.secondlaw.com
See for Yourself:
You can see order come and go in nature in many different ways. A few examples are snowflakes and other frost crystals, cloud formations, dust devils, ripples in sand dunes, and eddies and whirlpools in streams. See how many other examples you can find.
Ranganathan’s further prose similarly borrows, sometimes with attribution, like the lack of 747s made by tornadoes in junkyards as due to Sir Fred Hoyle, though Ranganathan doesn’t tell you the year. You can find out by reference to Isaak’s entry CF002.1 Tornadoes in junkyards do not build things, which provides the Hoyle citation and its date (1983). Sometimes the prose is just theft, though, as when Ranganathan says, “There must also exist an energy converting and directing mechanism,” but fails to note Duane Gish as his source on that.
Ranganathan closes smugly, as should you, if you take up this lesson.
It is important to understand that belief in neither evolution or creation is necessary to the actual study of science itself. One can understand the human body and become a first class surgeon regardless of whether he or she believes the human body is the result of the chance forces of nature or of a Supreme Designer.
Of course, this isn’t original, either. Isaak’s entry CA215 Evolution is a useless theory takes up this objection, and points out various practical applications that have been due to evolutionary biology. Ranganathan is prepared to dump all that in the memory hole. Somehow, I’d defer granting “first class surgeon” status to anyone who didn’t have a grasp of evolutionary principles when dealing with matters touching on the immune system, antibiotic regimens, and compatibility of tissues for organ transplants. I think it is clear that a surgeon with a good grounding in evolutionary biology has an edge on a colleague who is ignorant of it when it comes to these aspects of surgical practice.
But, remember, when writing an antievolution article, sheer chutzpah will see you through. Nor should you sully yourself in responding to criticism; that role will be happily taken on by your fellow antievolution advocates. When you represent yourself as selling the Truth with a capital T, admitting error would be a social blunder of immense proportions, and one that your fellows will find hard to forgive. Along the way, feel free to indulge in plagiarism and the entire laundry list of logical fallacies; those simply will establish that you are one of the gang. Certainly Mark Isaak’s resource has made the job far simpler: he has collected together enough material to enable you to happily churn out essay after essay, and book after book, so long as you pay no heed to the parts that offer criticism of the arguments that you need for your new career in antievolution self-promotion.