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The 2nd law, and the trend to disorder, is universal (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (The 2nd law, and the trend to disorder, is universal (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CF001.2:

The entire universe is a closed system, so the second law of thermodynamics dictates that within it, things are tending to break down. The second law applies universally.

Source:


CreationWiki response:

Here again, we have a scientific concept, being expressed so as to be understood by non scientists.

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. The second law of thermodynamics applies universally, but, as everyone can see, that does not mean that everything everywhere is always breaking down. The second law allows local decreases in entropy offset by increases elsewhere. The second law does not say that order from disorder is impossible; in fact, as anyone can see, order from disorder happens all the time.

Once again Talk Origins is using the straw man argument that the claim totally forbids a decrease in entropy. The claim only speaks of the most natural trend. No creationist claims that the 2nd law makes order from disorder impossible, it is only claimed that order to disorder in the most natural trend.

2. The maximum entropy of a closed system of fixed volume is constant, but because the universe is expanding, its maximum entropy is ever increasing, giving ever more room for order to form [Stenger 1995, 228].

No problem with this, but it is also irrelevant to the claim. All that this shows is that the expansion of the universe prevents a maximum level of entropy from being reached.

3. Disorder and entropy are not the same. The second law of thermodynamics deals with entropy.

When entropy is examined statistically it can be considered a measure of randomness. Now the more random a system is the more disordered it is. The formula for statistical entropy is:

S = k ln w

S is entropy.

k is the Boltzmann Constant = 1.380 6504(24) X 10-23 J K-1

w is the number of equivalent equally probable configurations. This is a direct measurement of disorder.


Random or disordered systems have such a significantly higher number of equivalent equally probable configurations, that they can basically be considered inevitable. Now it is true that entropy is not the same as disorder, but entropy is logarithmically related to disorder. Entropy can be considered a measurement of disorder in the way that the Richter Scale is a measurement of earthquakes or decibels are a measurement of sound. The result is that it is accurate to call entropy a measure of disorder.


  • There are no laws about things tending to "break down."

This is totally false! A sufficient increase in the disorder of a system will cause it to break down. Bromberg uses analysis of the entropy of an unshuffled and shuffled deck of cards as an example of the statistical analysis of entropy. This works on organisms, cars, and buildings, as well as a deck of cards. Saying that things tend to break down is just another way of saying that they tend to go from order to disorder.

References

  • J Philip Bromberg, Physical Chemistry, 1984, pg. 690. Note: This is a standard college text book, and as far as is known, the author is not a creationist.
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