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Does Chaos Theory Refute Evolution?

  1. Oct 2, 2009 #1
    i apologize if my terminology is not correct because I am kind of new to this theology stuff.

    I know there is a theory, I'm not sure if it's chaos theory, that states that all things move toward disorganization or chaos rather than organization. This seems to be true in the broad sense of the universe today; however, it seems like most biological functions, processes, and adaptations do not follow this same pattern. The natural system seems to flow in an organized manner and all things seem to move toward organization and balance. In terms of evolution, how can amino acids have mutated into the many species we have today but still follow chaos theory? It just doesn't seem to add up; can both evolution and chaos theory exist, or are they separate and incompatible.

    As I said before, I'm not too educated on this subject so all ideas are welcome.
    Thanks!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 2, 2009 #2

    mgb_phys

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    It's not chaos it's entropy - which says that the disorder of a closed system must increase.
    This is true, except the closed system includes the sun which generates quite a lot of disorder, more than enough to make up for a few bits of slime walking upright
     
  4. Oct 2, 2009 #3
    You are referring to the second law of thermodynamics that states roughly that in closed system, the entropy ("disorder") will either increase or remain the same. This does not contradict evolution because (1) evolution is not always an increase in "complexity" or "order" and (2) the earth is not a closed system, the sun radiates plenty of energy on the surface of the earth to sustain both life and evolution.

    I suggest reading up on the topic of evolution. Here are some easy and accessible articles and websites.

    Understanding Evolution
    15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense
    Index to Creationist Claims
     
  5. Oct 3, 2009 #4

    Chalnoth

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    This is a bit off topic for the forum, but just to attempt to nail the point home, if this were true, it wouldn't only be impossible for life to form. All sorts of other things would also be impossible. You couldn't mold a shape out of clay, for instance: a shape being molded out of a lump of clay is an increase in order, right? And yet it happens, and the second law of thermodynamics explains why: fundamentally it's an input in heat that allows us to do work (like molding clay, or driving a car, or reproducing).
     
  6. Oct 6, 2009 #5
    The only problem you have their is that your intelligence harnesses that heat and inputs the information necessary to "create" an object of higher order. This fact does not prove creation, it simply makes it more complicated of an issue that can be dismissed with a single statement.

    I think that in order for unbiased scientific progression to occur in this field you can not actually refute intelligent design as "impossible". If you take the leap necessary to say that creation is impossible you are using some of the scientifically unfounded faith that the more adamant creationists use in saying that evolution is impossible because of x.

    Personally I am something of an agnostic, my scientific pursuits will be unhampered by my origin beliefs so I will attempt to avoid some of the more hot arguments.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2009
  7. Oct 6, 2009 #6

    DaveC426913

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    It doesn't require an intelligence to locally reverse entropy. The sun's energy causes atoms and molecules to form higher-energy, more complex configurations than they would in its absence.

    And that is what created the intelligence you speak of as well. It just took a more roundabout way.

    And a lot longer to get there...
     
  8. Oct 6, 2009 #7
    Saying that the addition of energy to a system does not prove that higher order is being generated. Entropy is not reversed simply by adding energy, it is the tool by which greater order can be added or removed. Without information being added to the system it is not possible for the energy to increase in order. A system must be in place to lay the template for the generation of a higher order.

    When you are making a soup on the stove you are adding heat to the items in the pot. This increase in order is only observed when you know that the objective is to make the soup from the raw ingredients. The soup itself is actually decreasing in order from the perspective of the individual ingredients. They are breaking down from their ordered individual selves to become a more complex system. To an outside observer who had no concept of the idea of soup you would be destroying those individual pieces. If you add too much heat the breakdown would continue until the ingredients would be unusable.

    In order for the successful generation of the desired effect information must be present.
    This is not to say that it is impossible for soup to naturally occur in nature, it is to say that without information it is not capable of being anything more than an increase in entropy or a decrease in order.
     
  9. Oct 6, 2009 #8

    HallsofIvy

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    DaveC426913 did not say that "adding energy generates higher order". His point was that in the sun, smaller atoms are fused to make larger atoms. That is creating "more complex configuarations".

    Randomness can produce order if there is some "mechanism" (not necessarily an "intelligence") selecting that order. That is the whole point of evolution- that "natural selection" is sufficient to produce today's species.
     
  10. Oct 6, 2009 #9

    D H

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    An air conditioner is not intelligent.

    Most parts of the US are experiencing gorgeous fall weather right now. Not true where I sit. It is currently 84 degrees Fahrenheit outside, humidity 87%. High 92 F. I am so glad that with the use of a bit of energy (but zero intelligence) my air conditioner can reduce the entropy inside my house.
     
  11. Oct 6, 2009 #10
    This is the fundamental difference though between the two theories is it not?
    One side is saying that this order can arise, given enough time, from less complex materials. The other side is saying that, given enough time, anything generated by this process would have succumbed to the effects of entropy as everything does in small local experiments.

    In order to prove or disprove either side you would have to observe the universe for a period of time comparable to the amount of time that has passed between origin and now. This is the only way an experiment could occur without the inclusion human generated information. This is to say that given enough time we would know whether or not one or both or neither theories are correct. Until that point both sides are merely arguing that evidence they have that supports there own theory is sufficient to disprove the others theory. This is simply not the case.

    In the meantime, it would be better to simply gather observations of our universe and only make statements as are advantageous to us at the time of a discovery. It does not really matter who is wrong or right from this standpoint. We will make advances scientifically regardless.

    In the meantime theistic evolutionists are quiet and tick away at the eons waiting to have enough data for positive or negative conclusions.

    (This does not bring to light any answers philosophically as to the relationship between the people on the different sides of the opposing view points Some would argue that a single solution would cause an end to conflicts between different view points. The same people who commit atrocities are more than happy to commit those atrocities regardless of the ideology that they may hold.)

    I think we may have digressed a bit from the topic of the thread as these questions often do, but I will go ahead and say that no, the "chaos theory"(entropy) does not refute evolution.
     
  12. Oct 6, 2009 #11

    Chalnoth

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    Except that last sentence you just wrote is completely and utterly wrong. This isn't the way things occur. If heat is being input into the system, in general entropy does not increase. This is what small local experiments show. And this is why we're able to build, for instance, motors, or air conditioners (as D H pointed out).

    It's also the reason why, for instance, tornadoes or hurricanes form. Both are highly-ordered structures, and both are produced, ultimately, by the heating of the Earth by the Sun.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2009
  13. Oct 6, 2009 #12
    Once again you are looking at a system with information. We are harnessing the results of expended energy when we add energy to a system. When you use an engine to produce work you are harnessing the expended energy of the fuel as it is broken down. In order to reverse entropy you would have to break the law of conservation of energy. The only reason that entropy appears to have been reversed is because the observer sees an increase in order or an increase in complexity. An increase in complexity is not the only indication of a reversal of entropy. A hurricane/tornadoes is weather phenomenon that results from a combination of thousands of individual forces acting on each other resulting in a natural phenomenon, not to mention the fact that the result of a tornado/hurricane is destruction and it will always be destruction you will never have a tornado building a house. This is not the point though.
    By your definition a reversal of entropy is anytime something appears to be more complex to the observer. Are not the individual particles still breaking down in one form or other. Whenever something is actually pushed to a higher level of true comlexity is it not at the expence of another element?
    Are we arguing whether or not adding energy causes things to rise to another level of complexity or are we arguing whether or not entropy occurs withen every reaction?
     
  14. Oct 6, 2009 #13

    DaveC426913

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    I'm not really sure what your point is, or your stance in the discussion.


    I'm going to make one request/suggestion though, to all: let us eliminate the confounding factor of intelligence. There are plenty of examples of chaos, entropy and local reversal of entropy that are naturally occurring without complicating the issue by invoking an intelligence (regardless of wether that intelligence is supernatural or merely a human standing at a stove.)
     
  15. Oct 6, 2009 #14
    To be honest I'm not sure at this point what the objective of our discussion was either.

    I guess I am saying that if evolution occurs you can not say that it is occurring contrary to the laws of thermodynamics.

    I am also saying that stating that the added energy of the sun to the planet is sufficient to show the development of incredibly complex systems on the planet; is not a conclusion to the argument.

    I guess that is it in a nutshell.
     
  16. Oct 6, 2009 #15

    Chalnoth

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    The point is extremely simple: the entropy of an isolated system can decrease through an input in heat. That is all there is to it. We make use of this fact to build things like engines and air conditioners, but it also happens quite naturally under a variety of circumstances. None of your objections to this are in any way applicable to the second law of thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics doesn't give a rat's *** about things like "information" or "intelligence". They do not matter. As long as your system isn't closed, under the right conditions (which are quite common), you will get a decrease in entropy.

    This is, fundamentally, why this second law of thermodynamics argument is completely irrelevant when it comes to life: life on earth is powered almost exclusively by the tremendous influx in heat that comes from the Sun. The very fact that the Sun is shining on us, providing us with this tremendous influx in heat, makes it completely reasonable for the entropy of things on the Earth to go down. And this happens, all the time.
     
  17. Oct 6, 2009 #16

    DaveC426913

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    I would make only one alteration:
    There are other forms of energy input from the sun that are not heat, UV being one.
     
  18. Oct 6, 2009 #17

    russ_watters

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    No. Entropy creation and reduction is ongoing, so one only needs to measure long enough to ascertain the rate of entropy creation and reduction to find out if life on earth is violating the second law. And one need only look at the earth's energy balance to realize that humans are a mere footnote to the vast entropy generated by the sun.
    No scientist would ever argue such a point. The issue quite simply isn't useful. Please understand: the question of the implications of the 2nd law of thermodynamics for evolution is not brought up by scientists - it is only brought up by crackpots who wish to challenge evolution (or by people asking about what they heard a crackpot say).
     
  19. Oct 7, 2009 #18

    Chalnoth

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    Ah, fair enough. Heat is only thermal energy. Yes, there is also non-thermal energy, though I wouldn't count UV light as being non-thermal energy. It's just a particular wavelength of light, much of which will be thermal. The spectrum of radiation from the Sun isn't a perfect black body spectrum, though, so a lot of it might not be considered heat.
     
  20. Oct 8, 2009 #19

    DaveC426913

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    I do think that UV light interacts with chemistry in ways more complex than merely thermally. For instance, it aids in the creation of ozone by splitting gaseous oxygen. I guess it may depend on how broad a definition of "thermal" you use.
     
  21. Oct 8, 2009 #20

    Chalnoth

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    Fair enough.

    In any case, though, the principle is sound: systems on Earth can decrease in entropy due to the radiation coming from the Sun (for the most part...some comes from chemical or nuclear reactions of substances within the earth).
     
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