Evolution and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

Proponents of Creationism and its slightly more sophisticated (though ultimately no less nonsensical) progeny Intelligent Design sometimes argue that the second law of thermodynamics refutes blind, Darwinian evolution and necessitates an intelligent “prime mover”. The basic argument is this:

  1. The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy never decreases in closed systems.
  2. Evolution, as a Darwinian process, involves increases in complexity and associated decreases in entropy.
  3. Therefore: (a) evolution does not occur, or (b) evolution occurs, but does so with a sprinkling of magic.

Those with some basic familiarity with biological evolution, systems theory, and/or the second law of thermodynamics might notice a flaw or two in this reasoning. In particular, they might note that biological systems are not – as Ludwig von Bertalanffy had noted by at least 1950 –  energetically closed: plants use photosynthesis to convert light energy from the sun into chemical energy, herbivores eat the plants, carnivores eat the herbivores, etc. etc.

Anyway, this is all a rather protracted way of introducing a comic that captures the whole “thermodynamics negates evolution” argument quite nicely:


From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal via Why Evolution is True.




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