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Apr 28 2014

Checkmate, atheists

I think I’ve heard this argument a few thousand times now.

55 comments

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  1. 1
    Owlmirror

    . . . and the sun doesnt exist.

    And the Earth, from core to crust, is a uniform room temperature.

  2. 2
    Zeno

    One of the most common examples of creationists spouting talking points without any comprehension of their content. Why don’t they know that their precious arguments have been refuted? I think fingers in the ears and la-la-la-la have something to do with it.

  3. 3
    richardelguru

    The Sun doesn’t exist!!??…

    Why am I always the last person to find this stuff out?

  4. 4
    scoobie

    10 years ago when I started getting interested in all of this, that argument seemed kinda cogent (even with the joke on the end). At least I was in no position to refute it. Seems funny now, of course, that anyone might find it persuasive. Brian Cox’s series Wonders of Nature covers it brilliantly in episode 1 “What is Life”, in which he basically uses physics to explain evolution, something I’d never seen done before.

  5. 5
    D Carter

    Now and then I hear this argument, too. I just ask them to state the Second Law of Thermo then wait for the punch line.

  6. 6
    Alexander the Good Enough

    The reason why these folks won’t accept reason and facts is quite simple, actually.

    Genetics and evolution and science in general have shown beyond any doubt that the Adam and Eve story of Genesis is quite impossible and thus never happened. Therefore, without A&E willfully and transgressively eating their “apple,” there was no “original sin.” Without original sin to forgive there was no need for (the fictional) Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And without Jesus, the Christian religion utterly falls apart.

    The whole of Christianity is fundamentally based upon a nonsensical story that in the light of all of science cannot possibly be true. Game over, perhaps, but quite understandably creationist aren’t going to easily accept concepts that destroy their precious religion.

  7. 7
    Louis

    {Jumps up and down, pointing}

    BIG SHINY FIREY THING IN SKY!!!!!*

    Louis

    *Pro-tip: Pretty much only works in the day time. I have got this wrong before now.

  8. 8
    Francisco Bacopa

    And we should also keep in mind that entropy as understood in thermodynamics is only loosely connected with everyday notions of order and disorder.

    Furthermore, if the creationist “understanding” of the 2nd law were correct, it would imply that life itself is impossible. How could an individual organism even develop or grow if entropy always increases? I’m just glad my digestive tract is increasing the hell out of my breakfast right now so that my body can have the entropy reductions that it needs to get through the day comfortably.

  9. 9
    Snoof

    Genetics and evolution and science in general have shown beyond any doubt that the Adam and Eve story of Genesis is quite impossible and thus never happened. Therefore, without A&E willfully and transgressively eating their “apple,” there was no “original sin.” Without original sin to forgive there was no need for (the fictional) Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And without Jesus, the Christian religion utterly falls apart.

    The Biblical literalists have certainly painted themselves into that corner, yes.

    Those who claim the Bible is “not to be taken literally” but is “spiritually true” or “contains important messages” have their own problems to deal with.

  10. 10
    Francisco Bacopa

    Ack! I meant to say that I am increasing the entropy of my breakfast.

  11. 11
    twas brillig (stevem)

    No, no, no. They aren’t using Thermo to disprove Evo. They are just reminding us that Scientists ALSO say Thermo works, and Thermo contradicts Evo. so both must be wrong, cuz Scientists believe contradictory Theories (Theories, not LAWS!).
    Try to show them how Laws are just features OF Theories, that “Theory” doesn’t mean what they think it means, and that Evo is a consequence of Thermo, driven by that big ball of energy in the sky; and they will just tune out: “You’re talking too much”, they’ll say.
    I always ask, rhetorically, What makes these people so WILLFULLY ignorant of basic science? It ain’t a Philosophy of Good_v_Evil; it’s just a tool to understand how everything works, etc. etc. aaaarrrrgggg…..

  12. 12
    mattwatkins

    @8 Totally. I’m baffled by this argument whenever my dad brings it up. Evolution is a tiny but of flotsam floating on the great sea of anti-entropic activity that is living systems. There’s probably more “complexity” packed into the embryogenesis of a single fruit fly than there is in the last 10 million years of evolution.

  13. 13
    doublereed

    The Sun is actually an optical illusion generated by moon’s light reflecting off of the Sun.

  14. 14
    Jonathan Melvin

    Newtons theory of Gravity also disproves aeroplanes, which is why a true chritian never flys.

  15. 15
    procyon

    I’ve also heard that the Big Bang, which always comes up when creationists discuss evolution, is also negated by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, therefore….magic.

  16. 16
    mothra

    Those same creationists that spout the 2nd law of thermodynamics somehow overlook the first: Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. . .Where did their god come from again?

  17. 17
    Crimson Clupeidae

    This is one of those ‘I was there’ stories….

    A creationist actually posted words very similar to the comic above. This was on the now defunct IIDB evolution forums, probably around the 2004-ish time frame. It might be possible to find, but the IIDB archives really kinda suck.

    It did provide weeks of entertainment though.

    Almost as much fun as the butterfly wombs….. :-)

  18. 18
    Doug Little

    I just ask them to state the Second Law of Thermo then wait for the punch line.

    They can state the law… well that’s rather unusual, when I hear it bought up they are merely regurgitating what someone else told them and have no idea what thermodynamics even is.

  19. 19
    Doug Little

    {Jumps up and down, pointing}

    BIG SHINY FIREY THING IN SKY!!!!!*

    Arrrgghhh, why can’t I see anything in the center of my field of vision anymore. Thanks Louis.

  20. 20
    Doug Little

    Where did their god come from again?

    Unicornium and the rainbowon field?

  21. 21
    blf

    Crimson Clupeidae, That is one of the all-time favourites at FSTDT:

    Quote# 8255

    One of the most basic laws in the universe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that as time goes by, entropy in an environment will increase. Evolution argues differently against a law that is accepted EVERYWHERE BY EVERYONE. Evolution says that we started out simple, and over time became more complex. That just isn’t possible: UNLESS there is a giant outside source of energy supplying the Earth with huge amounts of energy. If there were such a source, scientists would certainly know about it.

  22. 22
    morgan ?! epitheting a metaphor

    I’m betraying my ignorance here, folks. Can anyone recommend a good “Idiot’s Guide to Thermodynamics” for me? This is a gaping hole in my education and I would be so grateful. Thanks.

  23. 23
    blf

    “Idiot’s Guide to Thermodynamics”

    Creationists.

  24. 24
    morgan ?! epitheting a metaphor

    blf
    Rim shot. Good one. Now, can you recommend a good resource on thermodynamics for someone who is seriously looking for some education?

  25. 25
    blf

    No, sorry morgan, I can’t. I’m kindof interested myself…

  26. 26
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Morgan, I looked at the Wiki article, and it appears to me to be written by a physicist. Not what I taught back when I introduced those concepts in general chemistry. Which may be a good place to start. Your local library may have a copy of a recent college/AP level general chemistry text, and you can look at the chapters having to do with the introduction to thermodynamics.

  27. 27
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Dang, afterthought. Morgan, some lectures of introductory chemistry courses are posted on-line. Just Google “introduction to thermodynamics”, and take a look. Usually you can tell the institution associated with the course.

  28. 28
    anuran

    “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Or Salon?
    Interesting piece by Greta Christina on why atheists freak out Christians and the pressure to stay in the closet

  29. 29
    CJO

    A good popular treatment of the history of Thermodynamics as a scientific concept is Maxwell’s Demon by Hans Christian Von Baeyer.

  30. 30
    morgan ?! epitheting a metaphor

    Thanks, Nerd. I’ll go dive in. Because I was a Humanities/English major my science education got criminally neglected. After I get a very elementary understanding of basic thermodynamics I will research how those laws are applied to areas outside of chemistry. That really is the crux of my confusion. I’ve seen the Laws of Thermodynamics referred to in many disciplines far outside of science.

  31. 31
    morgan ?! epitheting a metaphor

    CJO,
    Thank you so much for suggesting Maxwell’s Demon by Hans Christian Von Bayer. When I looked for the book on Amazon I discovered two wonderful things: 1) von Raeyer wrote another book a year later, “Warmth Disperses and Time Passes: The History of Heat” that seems to be an even better elementary introduction to thermodynamics from the perspective of history; 2) A book just published by Randall Schweller, “Maxwell’s Demon and the Golden Apple: Global Discord in the New Millennium.”

    To quote Amazon, “Schweller considers the future of world politics, correlating our reliance on technology and our multitasking, distracted, disorganized lives with a fragmenting world order. He combines the Greek myth of the Golden Apple of Discord, which explains the start of the Trojan War, with a look at the second law of thermodynamics, or entropy.

    “In the coming age,” Schweller writes, “disorder will reign supreme as the world succumbs to… entropy, an irreversible process of disorganization that governs the direction of all physical changes taking place in the universe.” Interweaving his theory of global disorder with issues on the world stage—coupled with a disquisition on board games and the cell phone app “Angry Birds”—Schweller’s thesis yields astonishing insights.

    Maxwell’s Demon and the Golden Apple will appeal to leaders of multinational corporations and government programs as well as instructors of undergraduate courses in international relations.”

    I love stumbling across wonderful things which searching for other things.

  32. 32
    Doug Little

    S = k.logW

    It’s written in stone, literally.

  33. 33
    CJO

    Re: Warmth Disperses and Time Passes: The History of Heat

    I’m pretty sure that’s the same book with a different title for the US market.

  34. 34
    Felix

    @ #8 “Furthermore, if the creationist “understanding” of the 2nd law were correct, it would imply that life itself is impossible”

    That’s precisely their point. They’re trying to argue that life IS impossible because it requires magical divine intervention or guidance outside of nature to happen. To creationists, life is not electromagnetic energy exchanges (chemistry, physics), but something magical that’s idadequately explained by any known or even possible natural process. Basically they’re stuck in 1st century philosophy, because maybe their subconscious is telling them that Jesus really didn’t know better, but it’s forbidden to admit, so they go the opposite way and refuse to pay attention to reality.

  35. 35
    Ed Seedhouse

    “Can anyone recommend a good “Idiot’s Guide to Thermodynamics” for me? ”

    Asimov’s New Guide to Science is a good start. Nobody explains things better than the Good Doctor except perhaps PZ. And as a bonus you get all the rest of Science as of arond 1985 too. So far as thermodynamics goes, nothing has really changed since then.

  36. 36
    morgan ?! epitheting a metaphor

    Thanks, Ed Seedhouse. Another good recommendation. Much gratitude.

  37. 37
    mnb0

    Of course the Sun doesn’t exist. Neither does the Moon.

    http://www.revisionism.nl/The-Mad-Revisionist.htm

  38. 38
    Mr_V

    Years ago I saw an excellent riposte on FSTDT. Someone posted a quote by some creationist about the second law of thermodynamics, and about how scientists are at a loss to explain how energy can be added to the closed system that is the earth. To which someone responded (quoting freely from memory):

    That’s a really good argument. I lay awake all night wondering what that energy source might be. And then it dawned on me…

  39. 39
    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk

    I once saw a university lecturer in thermodynamics state that the 2nd law of thermo proves god. I almost cried.

  40. 40
    hyphenman

    @D Carter

    My favorite gross oversimplification of the three laws is:

    1. You can’t get ahead.
    2. You can’t break even.
    3. You can’t get out of the game.

    Cheers

  41. 41
    Jerry

    Morgan,
    One critical concept to keep in mind when reading about science is that the distinctions between physics, chemistry, and biology are artificially imposed human concepts. They just help us think in different, simpler ways to describe smaller views of reality, but in the end, physics *is* chemistry *is* biology. All living biological systems are made up of chemicals reacting together at the atomic level based on relatively simple physical properties. One reason why most scientists get angry about creationists selectively denying one aspect of science is because these inseparable interconnections mean that in effect, they are denying all rational descriptions of reality.

  42. 42
    hyphenman

    @Jerry,

    I’ve always thought that we teach High School science in the wrong order.

    In my experience schools follow an Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics progression. I think it would be much better to do Physics (Classical/Newtonian/Einstienian), followed by Chemistry then Biology and finish off senior year with a more advanced Physics that would introduce students to the basics of Quantum Mechanics, &c.

    Jeff

  43. 43
    orchidgrowinman

    Jerry,

    I think XKCD has the best explanation: http://xkcd.com/435/

  44. 44
    favog

    Gen, as painful as that does sound, I confess to being curious. The Second Law of Thermodynamics proves the existence of God? The law that proves that nothing is eternal if it’s active in any way? Are you sure it wasn’t a lecture on the Special Pleading Fallacy?

    Incidentally, it was this realization that moved me from “I don’t think so” to “that’s BS” on theism. And it came while reading the “History of Heat” book mentioned up thread, as a direct consequence of it. So I’m backing that recommendation, too.

  45. 45
    opposablethumbs

    Minor derail: I get how “you can’t get ahead” = the first law, energy can neither be created nor destroyed, and I get how “you can’t break even” = the second law, entropy always increases (in a closed system, obviously) … but I’d be grateful if anyone would care to explain how “you can’t get out of the game” = the third law? TIA to anyone who fancies setting me straight.

  46. 46
    David Marjanović

    I’ve always thought that we teach High School science in the wrong order.

    *shudder*

    …Does the US seriously teach science in an order?!?

    That’s honestly scary.

    Where I come from, it’s taught in parallel, not in series: biology as a separate subject from the 5th year of school onwards (with, in the school type I was in, a bizarre break in the 11th), physics from the 6th, chemistry (in the school type I was in) in the 8th, 11th and 12th, geology as a neglected part of geography which is a separate subject from the 5th year onwards.

    In my experience schools follow an Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics progression.

    So, by the time you get to chemistry, you’ve forgotten all geology. *slow clap*

    how “you can’t get out of the game” = the third law?

    I think the idea is that in a system where everything is at 0 K, entropy couldn’t increase, so you could cheat the 2nd law by “refusing to play”; but since you can’t get a closed system to 0 K, that’s not an option.

    But wouldn’t things like radioactive decay happily continue at 0 K?

  47. 47
    Christopher

    …Does the US seriously teach science in an order?!?

    Even worse, it is often in the most brain dead order imaginable.

    My wife is a teacher in California. Fifth grade students are expected to know a collection of large landform types (various mountain types, basin and range formations, that sort of thing), but they aren’t taught plate tectonics until sixth grade. They are expected to know the various states of matter, but not the atomic theory of matter.

    Sadly, science education boils down to the memorization of disconnected factoids.

    Of course my wife bucked this trend and taught theory first accompanied with the data used to formulate that theory. But she could only do that because the science books are 15 years out of date: if they were new she would be forced to follow the shitty book in content and ordering.

  48. 48
    opposablethumbs

    I think the idea is that in a system where everything is at 0 K, entropy couldn’t increase, so you could cheat the 2nd law by “refusing to play”; but since you can’t get a closed system to 0 K, that’s not an option.

    Ah, that makes sense – thank you, David M. So it’s not possible – even theoretically – to get a closed system to 0 K? I did not know that.

    Incidentally, something I’ve always wondered … and I bet somebody here would know. What matter, if any, would still exist at the heat death of the universe, would it be at 0 K and what state would it be in? Atoms as we know them?

  49. 49
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Technically, if we’re truly at maximum entropy, everything would be iron, as that is the most stable element–where the nuclear binding energy is maximum. In reality, you can only synthesize iron in very large, hot stars or supernovae.

    Also, a lot of black holes and neutron stars. And presumably, about as much dark matter as we have now, since it doesn’t seem to do much.

  50. 50
    opposablethumbs

    Thank you ARIDS. Wow, neutron stars at heat death? Right then, neutron stars eventually stop spinning, don’t they … ? So after enough time, would there be a motionless (well, non-spinning) ball of neutrons at 0 K?

    Plus black holes and a lot of balls of iron, all too far apart to interact gravitationally, plus the dark matter?

    And don’t black holes eventually evaporate? So would that mean that after enough time there would be nothing but balls of neutrons too small to form black holes, plus dark matter, plus balls of iron? Or is there some way that any of these things would eventually break down even further?

    As a non-scientist greedily wondering aloud, have I used up an entire year’s allowance of question marks?

  51. 51
    David Marjanović

    Even worse, it is often in the most brain dead order imaginable. [...]

    *headdesk*

    So it’s not possible – even theoretically – to get a closed system to 0 K?

    As far as I understand, that’s what the 3rd law says.

    When you have a bunch of atoms of certain elements, you can get most of them to join a Bose-Einstein condensate, which is at 0 K to the best of my understanding – but never all of them.

    everything would be iron, as that is the most stable element–where the nuclear binding energy is maximum.

    Isn’t nickel actually at that point? (Iron is much more common because it’s easier to make.)

    Also, a lot of black holes

    “Heat death” entails that they’ve all evaporated by giving off Hawking radiation, doesn’t it?

    Or is there some way that any of these things would eventually break down even further?

    Only if protons decay, I guess.

    have I used up an entire year’s allowance of question marks?

    Only one way to find out.

  52. 52
    azhael

    In the last Cosmos episode there was mention of lead as a stable atom that would remain in its state for eternity. Would it eventually decay into other elements or is it really stable in the same permanent way as iron?

  53. 53
    Rob Grigjanis

    @55: Cue scary music – No elements would be immune from proton decay!

    Also, The Big Rip is still a possibility, AFAIK.

  54. 54
    Rob Grigjanis

    Oops, guess I meant @52.

  55. 55
    opposablethumbs

    I think it must have been vague recollections of having heard of the Big Rip that had me wondering back at #48 whether any matter as we know it would still exist. I suppose time would come to an end then as well, since you can’t have time without space (is that right?) (ah, there were still a theoretically infinite number of question marks in the barrel).

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