Evolution and Thermodynamics

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Posted by Nick Stone ( on December 04, 2002 at 22:50:33:

Dear friends,

I'm afraid it is going to be a bit of a long post, but I would be grateful if you bear with me.

I finally managed to get hold of Hatcher's article which purports to demonstrate a scientific proof of the existence of God.

To state it as simply as I can, and as simply as my limited brain has understood it...

1) Thermodynamics means that systems will naturally move from states of order towards states of disorder, unless there is energy supplied from outside.

2.) Evolution, he argues, has gone from less complexity to more complexity, and in a relatively short space of time. Human beings are the most complex systems, and therefore highly unlikely to have come about through random chance.

3.) Therefore there must be an invisible force which has intervened to enable evolution to proceed so quickly with human beings at the top of the pyramid so to speak. The evolutionary force can be called God.

Well, I wanted to check out the science behind the article, and I have a friend who is studying for a Physics phD at Imperial College in London. I scanned in the article and sent it to him for his thoughts. He wrote back the following response which I have included below.

* * *

"as far as i can glean it seems to be arguing the following

1) on a fundamental level there is an invisible 'true' universe and a visible "what we are able to measure" universe

2) thermodynamics means that a system will progress randomly to a state of maximum disorder unless a force is applied to do otherwise

3) evolution seems to be making systems more ordered and so there is an 'invisible force' behind it (not random cos of plateaus and peaks in numbers of species)

4) we are the most complex and therefore the least thermodynamic
manifestation of evolution 5) we are therefore the product of that invisible force which we shall call god so my response is thus

the inviable true universe and the visible measured universe is a nice idea and oh only if it were so because then all scientists would be happy bunnies, however sods law comes into play and this is not the case. A foundation of all modern physics which is the most massively measured system of mathematically based understanding human beings have ever
possessed is a principle called the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle.

This states that not only are our measurements only able to be accurate to a certain level (about 10 to the power of -34 if you remember your scientific notation) or a very small number if you dont. That is a very small number that is still very much not zero) so not only can we not measure that small but ACTUAL PHYSICAL INTERACTIONS ARE UNCERTAIN AT THOSE LEVELS. This underlies all quantum mechanics and i would be grateful if you
would accept this as true or do a physics degree and then come back and argue with me. This means that not only is there a limit on the measured universe but also a limit on completely different effects they we cant measure directly and it is the same limit. So in fact the invisible and the visible are each as uncertain as each other and there is no such thing as "truth" only uncertainty and probability. having said that uncertainty
limits what we can measure and this is probably where this guy or one of his mates got the idea from. but uncertainty does not only limit what we can measure it limits what can actually happen and MANY experiments that have been very cleverly designed have proved this and i'm not going to bother going into the details.

So there are no invisible forces only those that we can measure
(however difficult it is) but that dosn't make the rest of the article necessarily wrong, it just means that we can measure the evolutionary force. Well of course we can BLOODY well measure it he has disproved himself by having mentioned the thing he thinks he has observed himself and so has measured it. observing is measuring just cos you arnt a scientist dosnt mean you cant make observatiosn

so the conclusion to that little bit is that there are no invisible forces and he thinks he has observed a force therefore he thinks it exists and is called god (as a scientist i would say that he believes he has just measured god) so lots of lovely inconsistencies already but most of that is based on accepting quantum mech and is a bit heavy

2) this is a reasonably true statement of the 2d law of
thermodynamics that you can get of the web but a lot more handwavng than would like

oh dear oh dear where can i begin this is unfortunately where it all starts to fall apart in a rather messy manner.

applying thermodynamics to evolution is like trying to see sound its complete gibberish im afraid. for a start he has completely missed the point of a huge subject of randomness and missed the point of evolution all in one go. the fact that you get plateaus and peaks in species number is proof that it is a random process and not driven by some force, the peaks are caused by mass extinctions like asteroid impact or massive volcanic eruption that made the world uninhabitable quickly and didnt give the species time to adapt and then it got better again (the dust settled) and all those that had survived flourished cos all of the predators and competitors had been killed causing the peaks this gradually flattend out because it IS a random process (as he argues in the papre)

Evolution isnt making things "more ordered" once we got to the single cell level things have remained about the same complexity
ok this needs a bit of justification cells are made of proteins which are some of the most complicated molecules we know of, these proteins function as microscopic machines that make cells work. In this case i think it is fair to define complexity as "structure per volume" this is not very scientific but is a good approximation to the full answer for which you need information theory that is again a bit heavy, but you can see that a protein is much more complex than a massive model of a protein because it has so much more information packed into a small space. Once we have gotten past this the mammalian nervous system starts to look a bit tame, in fact a 100Kg lump of amoebas would contain easily as much complexity as i do because after al the human nervous system is just an arrangement of
cells. and the level of complexity in it is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WHEN COMPARED TO THE LEVEL OF COMPLEXITY IN A PROTEIN. A single strand of DNA contains soooooooooooo much more information than all the nervous systems in the world today its just not worth writing all the zeroes on the screen. As far as i can ascertain our nervous system isn't any more complicated than for
example a primitive creature like a shark, its just that ours is
optimized for pattern recognition and abstract thought and that a sharks is use to detect blood in water at levels that are so ridiculously small it makes the mind boggle (again we are talking numbers its not worth quoting cos they are just soooooooo tiny) but believe me it makes any detector put
togeter by mankind look like two bits of rock being bashed together, ok we can go to the moon but try smelling the direction of a wounded seal 10Km away underwater and then have a go at sharks for being under evolved. it is PURE HUMAN ARROGANCE TO SAY WE ARE MORE COMPLICATED AND THAT EVOLUTION
MAKES THINGS MORE COMPLICATD it dosnt it just lets the best or the lucky randomly survive and sometimes die out cos they were under a big bit of falling rock

4) we are not the most complex we are not even the most successful lots of species have lasted a lot longer than us the fossil record tells us so the problem with his point is that he has once gain applied the amazing arrogance that has made the human race what it is today, incidentally it is the same arrogance that said we were the center if the solar system,
the universe, had mastery over all beasts, inventd racism and cause so many wars its not worth thinking about

he says because we are the most successful at being humans we are the most successful and complicated its bollox again sorry but there we are, is art science and culture any way to measure the success of a species, not in evolutionary terms there is only one way to do that and its how long you last as a species.

Its a very old human failing of measuring all things in human terms and its something all people should fight violently against unfortunately its one of the points that keeps crap like this going so i shall continue.

5) There is no "evolutionary force" so we cant call it god


the article you sent me was someone who has a very dangerous thing "a little knowledge" they have used half truths and pseudo logic to get to the conclusion they wanted to get to. and then have committed the heinous crime of claiming to speak for science when not even scientists claim to do that (we know how little we know which paradoxically is the most any human
being can know in my opinion)

My philosophy on the world is if you cant measure it, it cant effect you anyway so it dosnt exist in my reality."

* * *

So my initial thoughts are as follows.

I don't know anything about physics, but this uncertainty principle only seems to back up what Hatcher was saying about the relativity of science.

How do we measure complexity? So many people say that we are the same as animals. They can say that animals have much greater physical senses than us, as my friend does above, and are made of the same materials. I can point out that we build rockets, but when we see apes using stones to crack notes we jump about in excitement as if they have just discovered the theory of gravity or how to make fire. It's hardly rocket science. Where can one go in a discussion when people do not recognise these kinds of differences?

If there is difference, it is because we have a more complex brain? Is our brain really so much more complex than an apes? If we share so many of the same genes? Is it enough to account for the huge differences between us? Is this not an inconsistency if we do not admit that we are more complex than they, and if we are not, where does the difference come from?

A third thing I would ask people to give their ideas about is the speed of evolution. My friend did not address this in his critique, but he did say that the plateaus and spikes in the evolution graph are the result of random events like asteroids, which then brings into play the survival of the fittest theory. What do others make of that?

Thanks for reading it all through, would be very grateful for your responses. My friend is also awaiting mine!

Best wishes,


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