# Does evolution violate the second law of thermodynamics?

• dcderek24
In summary: The ones that were heated all the way up will be more "disordered" than the ones that were only heated a little bit, right? Wrong. The ones that were only heated a little bit will be more "ordered" than the ones that were heated all the way up. Entropy is not about disorder; it is about the statistical distribution of energy among particles.It assumes that the universe is a closed system. This argument is invalid because the universe is not a closed system. The sun is constantly emitting energy and the Earth is constantly absorbing energy. The total entropy of the universe will always increase, but it may not be evenly distributed so there could be pockets of higher and lower
dcderek24
does evolution violate the second law. from my understanding the second law only applies in a closed system and the Earth is an open system with an energy output. (the sun)
so therefore entropy is increasing and it doesn't violate the law
correct or incorrect?

Yes, you are correct. The theory of evolution no more violates the the second law of thermodynamics than does a tree growing from a seed. The tree is clearly getting more "complex" as it grows. In both cases, evolution and the tree growing, the flow of energy through the system overshadows any local increase in order. People who claim that don't understand either evolution or the laws of thermodynamics.

Entropy is a tricky thing to get right...e.g. start with the various discussion on this list...

You have the basic idea, save that the sun is an energy INput to the earth. The total entropy in a closed system will always increase, but it may not be evenly distributed so there could be pockets of higher and lower entropy even then. In an open system that is absorbing energy, like the earth, the increase could be "passed-off" to the outside somehow. If you expanded your boundary to include the entire solar system you could treat it as "closed" and see a total entropy increase over time.

The argument linking life and evolution to decreasing entropy centers around thinking of low entropy as more "organized" -- that a low entropy system has fewer states that it can occupy compared to all the states in the universe. In this sense life is anti-entropic, but remember it is also a local phenomenon. Eventually we will all have to pay the piper.

For a more intelligent answer than I can provide, look into the links between thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and information theory.

Entropy only applies to simple random systems like gases. There is no solid justification to apply it anywhere else.
So indeed evolution, planet motion and just almost anything interesting has nothing to do with the second law of *thermodynamics*.

Gerenuk said:
Entropy only applies to simple random systems like gases. There is no solid justification to apply it anywhere else.
That is so wrong on so many levels that I don't know where to start.

dcderek24 said:
does evolution violate the second law. from my understanding the second law only applies in a closed system and the Earth is an open system with an energy output. (the sun)
so therefore entropy is increasing and it doesn't violate the law
correct or incorrect?
Almost correct. The Earth is very close to being a closed system. What you meant to say was an isolated system. An open system exchanges mass and energy with its surroundings. A closed system exchanges energy but not mass with its surroundings. An isolated system doesn't exchange anything with its surroundings; it is as if the surroundings don't exist.

That entropy always increases for an isolated system does not apply to the Earth for the simple reason that the Earth is not an isolated system.

D H said:
That is so wrong on so many levels that I don't know where to start.
The reason you don't know where to start is simple: No-one has ever given a justification why entropy should be applied to any system.
It's a popular science myth that entropy is everything and something called "disorder".

I mean do you know the proof why entropy works? The proof is simple and shows it's limit. If you don't know the proof, then of course you cannot judge where the limits are. Or can you sketch the proof?

Gerenuk said:
The reason you don't know where to start is simple: No-one has ever given a justification why entropy should be applied to any system.
It's a popular science myth that entropy is everything and something called "disorder".

Then you should prepare and submit a rebuttal to the following papers:

http://arxiv.org/abs/1003.3937
http://www.physorg.com/news137679868.html
D. Styer, Am. J. Phys. v.76, 1031 (2008).
E.F. Bunn, Am. J. Phys. v.77, p.922 (2009).

Zz.

S=k*log(w)

I think an understanding of this would cure a lot of the problems here.

Yes, it would, but this is a major sidetrack from the topic of this thread.

On the other hand, the topic of this thread is about refuting a ridiculous creationist argument. The argument is ridiculous for at least three reasons:
1. It is a blatant misrepresentation of the second law of thermodynamics. My air conditioner and refrigerator work quite nicely in spite of the fact that they are reducing the entropy inside my house and inside my fridge. They do so at the expense of energy and of an increase in the entropy of the surrounding environment. This increase in entropy will inevitably exceed the reduction of entropy in my house / fridge.
2. It makes the common mistake of conflating entropy with disorder. Suppose you take a bunch of marbles. You heat some by 5 degrees, heat some others by 10 degrees, cool some by 5 degrees, etc. Now take those marbles, toss them in a bag, and mix them up. You'll have hot marbles next to cool ones, warm ones next to cold ones. Put the bag in a thermally isolated container, seal it, and let it sit for a while. All of the marbles will now be more or less the same temperature. Which is more "disordered": The bag with marbles with a bunch of different temperatures, all mixed up to boot, or the bag in which all of the marbles have a uniform temperature? Entropy is a measure of how well energy is dispersed throughout a system.
3. It assumes, without justification, that life is "ordered" and hence has a higher entropy. This is a major assumption and it needs to be proven.

ZapperZ said:
Then you should prepare and submit a rebuttal to the following papers:
I looked at the first papers. The thing is they make no justified derivation like stating (mathematically and well-defined) what entropy means and then showing why it's working.
They rather taylor thermodynamics so make it not fail for biology.

If one wants to apply entropy, then you should first make up your mind what entropy means. And this should be an exact derivation without undefined concepts like "disorder" and so on.

Next you should at least state the model you wish to apply to your test case. I doubt that there is a complete model of biology/evolution(e.

Phyisab**** said:
S=k*log(w)

I think an understanding of this would cure a lot of the problems here.
I fully agree. The main reason for the popular science confusion is that people don't go deep enough to understand entropy. However, one should understand the Boltzmann equation and set up a well-defined notion of microstate to apply entropy. Next one should proof why entropy increase. It's not an empirical law, but has it's fundamentals in the microscopic processes. And last one can try to identify mathematically exact micro states (e.g. in evolution).
Everything less than that is just popular science for no more than entertainment.

D H said:
[*]It assumes, without justification, that life is "ordered" and hence has a higher entropy. This is a major assumption and it needs to be proven.[/list]

I don't really see how that's a 'major assumption'. When atoms form a molecule, it constitutes a loss of degrees of freedom and hence entropy. All else being equal, the larger the molecule, the greater the loss of entropy. Polymerization is almost never an entropically favorable process. This is basic chemical thermodynamics.

The existence and origins of "life as we know it" hinges entirely on macromolecules: RNA, DNA, ribosomes, proteins. The formation of organic matter from simpler inorganic compounds does lead to a decrease in entropy.

Saying it's because "life is more ordered" isn't a proper rationale though. Nor does evolution in any way imply any kind of continual decrease in entropy. Besides the fact that there really isn't such a thing as 'more evolved' or 'less evolved' (evolution can lead to the gain of genes and the loss of genes), there really isn't any direct relationship between the complexity of an organism and its chemical entropy. We're not chemically very different from the simplest of bacteria. Once again someone's confusing evolution with abiogenesis.

What always makes me wonder is the fact that the same reasoning - things can't get more ordered - leads to conclusion that it is not possible to make a car, it is not possible to build a house and so on. As it is enough to look around to see those 'impossible' objects, there must be something wrong with the reasoning.

alxm said:
The formation of organic matter from simpler inorganic compounds does lead to a decrease in entropy.

ITYM "...does lead to a *local* decrease in entropy."

Does creationism violate the second law of thermodynamics?

Gerenuk, I suggest you break open a descent text on statistical mechanics and start from beginning.

Second law applies to evolution, but as correctly stated, there is an energy source and an energy sink. The source is at 6000K, Earth is at 300K, and the sink is at 3K. The flux is about 1400W/m². Run the numbers and you'll see that there is plenty of room for a huge local entropy decrease and still giving you a net increase.

skeptic2 said:
Does creationism violate the second law of thermodynamics?

Yes, but only if you assume God actions follow thermodynamics.

I have in mind the reason Las Vegas and Monte Carlo exist is to balance, nay outweigh, all the ordering that is going on elsewhere in the world.

Why else would evolutionary rational beings gamble?

Andy Resnick said:
ITYM "...does lead to a *local* decrease in entropy."

Is there any other kind?

alxm said:
Is there any other kind?

There are certainly claims of other kinds.

## 1. How does evolution relate to the second law of thermodynamics?

According to the second law of thermodynamics, entropy (or disorder) in a closed system will always increase over time. Evolution, on the other hand, involves the development of complex and organized structures, which seem to contradict this law. Therefore, many people question whether evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics.

## 2. Can evolution be explained by the second law of thermodynamics?

The second law of thermodynamics applies to closed systems, where no energy or matter is exchanged with the surroundings. However, biological systems, such as living organisms, are open systems that constantly exchange energy and matter with their environment. This exchange of energy and matter allows for the increase in complexity and organization seen in evolution, without violating the second law of thermodynamics.

## 3. How does natural selection fit into the second law of thermodynamics?

Natural selection is a key mechanism in evolution, where individuals with advantageous traits are more likely to survive and pass on their genes to the next generation. This may seem to contradict the second law of thermodynamics, as it suggests an increase in order and complexity. However, natural selection operates within an open system, where energy and matter can be exchanged, allowing for the increase in complexity without violating the second law.

## 4. Is the second law of thermodynamics applicable to non-living systems only?

The second law of thermodynamics applies to all systems, both living and non-living. However, the increase in complexity and organization seen in living systems is possible due to the continuous input of energy and matter, which is not the case for non-living systems. Therefore, the second law of thermodynamics does not prevent the evolution of living organisms.

## 5. Can entropy decrease in an open system?

In an open system, where energy and matter can be exchanged, the total entropy of the system and its surroundings may decrease. However, the second law of thermodynamics states that the overall entropy of the universe will always increase. Therefore, while local decreases in entropy may occur in open systems, the overall trend is still towards increasing entropy.

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