[b-hebrew] Supernatural faith and scientific faith

James Read J.Read-2 at sms.ed.ac.uk
Mon Jul 20 11:59:06 EDT 2009


Quoting Rolf Furuli <furuli at online.no>:

> Dear James,
> According to the second law of thermodynamics, the entropy (disorder)
> will always increase.

Not always. Entropy can decrease if there is a greater +ve change in  
enthalpy. i.e. if the reaction is so exothermic that it releases  
enough energy to compensate for the decrease in entropy. Hence the dH  
term in the equation of Gibb's free energy. I think you may be  
confusing entropy with Gibb's free energy. Gibb's free energy always  
increases. i.e. the universe tends towards disorder.

> But this is a general law, and there is one big
> problem in applying this law to the origin of life, namely, that it
> is only valid definitively or conclusively inside a closed system;

Yes. Exactly. You first have to determine the whole system so that it  
is closed. Opponents of the implications of the second law of  
thermodynamics will point out that we have to include the Sun if the  
system is to be truly closed. However, this is not true. You can only  
factor in the part of the exothermic reactions of the Sun that lead to  
energy entering the Earth's biosphere. This is a very small percentage  
of the total exothermic activity of the Sun.

> in
> a part of an open system the entropy can decrease, provided that it
> increases somewhere else. So, I think that the only way to make an in
> depth study of the origin of life is the cumbersome way that I
> followed.

Also, I wrote in haste from memory. Gibb's free energy must increase  
for a reaction to be feasible. The equation of reaction feasability is:

dG = dH - dS

For the proposed reaction dH is -ve, dS is -ve. Therefore:

dG = -ve + -ve

    = -ve

    = infeasible reaction

If you are to factor in the exothermic activity of the Sun which  
enters the Earth's biosphere you need to show that such is sufficient  
to overcome both the endothermic reaction implied in the creation of a  
cell and the decrease in entropy implied. Even the most exaggerated of  
approximations would show that this is impossible.

Although, I agree your probabilistic data is also a useful angle of  
objective reasoning. However, die hard opponents will usually spout  
something like "given enough time any event no matter how unlikely can  

What it then all boils down to is this. The universe is tending  
towards disorder. If the universe had no beginning it has been tending  
towards disorder infinitely. Therefore, the universe should already be  
in total disorder. However, the universe is not in total disorder.  
Therefore, the universe had a beginning. Therefore, the mass that  
constitutes the universe had a beginning. Something came from nothing.  
This is scientifically undisputable.

James Christian

The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
Scotland, with registration number SC005336.

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