Granville Sewell: 2nd Law Disproves Evolution?


6 posts were merged into an existing topic: Side Comments on Sewell and Evolution and Reproduction

Since we know that entropy = information, one of the testable and confirmable facts of the second law is that information and complexity are guaranteed to increase with time, not decrease. Reminds me again about: Information = Entropy and Chance = Choice. I hope the author ( Granville Sewell) can catch up on the conversation a bit.

Here is what the author writes:

I hesitate to bring the second law back into this debate because of the controversy it always generates. But people sometimes say that the second law only requires that order should not increase (entropy should not decrease), it does not require that order must actually decrease, so there is nothing unnatural about species simply maintaining their complex structures and passing them on generation after generation without significant degradation. Yet common sense tells us that, when only natural forces are at work, complex things must degrade, and slowly only if everything is almost “frozen in time” (nothing is changing), or else they are already degraded to nearly simplest form.

Obviously, neither of these conditions holds for the case of animal reproduction. Common sense is actually confirmed by the equations of entropy change when we consider the application of the second law to diffusion of a substance X. Notice that since usually J = -D*gradient©, equation A7 of my Physics Essays article (equation A4 for the case where X-entropy is just thermal entropy) says that if “X-order” is not imported from outside (the boundary integral term is zero), the only way X-order can not decrease rapidly is when either things are almost frozen in time (the diffusion coefficient D is small), or the X-order is already close to the minimum possible (gradient© is small).

[Misread this badly the first time (see it here: Side Comments on Sewell and Evolution and Reproduction). Removed incorrect read.]

I hope that Sewell can join us. Should be very interesting.

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Interesting back story here. Take a look at this article:

On “compensating” entropy decreases
Granville Sewell

Abstract: The “compensation" argument, widely used to dismiss the claim that evolution violates
the more general statements of the second law of thermodynamics, is based on the idea that there is
a single quantity called “entropy" which measures disorder of all types. This article shows that
there is no such total entropy, and that the compensation argument is not a valid way to dismiss the
claim that evolution violates the second law. Note that the article does not argue that evolution
violates the second law, only that the compensation argument is logically invalid.

And even more back story on this article: Apparently…

Dr. Granville Sewell, a tenured professor of mathematics at University of Texas, El Paso, and author of over 50 journal articles and four academic books on numerical analysis, wrote a technical article challenging unguided evolution. He submitted it to the journal Applied Mathematics Letters in 2011; the article was peer-reviewed, accepted, and published online as a pre-print.

Then, a blogger objected. This blogger was not a scholar or a professor. He did not have a PhD in mathematics, physics, or any other field. Nevertheless, the journal editor pulled Sewell’s article without even consulting Sewell or giving him an opportunity to respond.

Sewell obtained legal assistance, and the journal issued a statement apologizing.

“The published apology states that the article was withdrawn ‘not because of any errors or technical problems found by the reviewers or editors, but because the Editor-in-Chief subsequently concluded that the content was more philosophical than mathematical,’” said Sewell.

“It’s hard to imagine a more blatant assault on intellectual freedom and the free exchange of ideas,” Sewell’s attorney Pete Lepiscopo said. The journal paid him $10,000 in attorney’s fees.

Very interesting. I really hope that he joins the conversation.

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A post was merged into an existing topic: Are Arguments from Incredulity Valid?

Sewell emailed me, letting me know he might join in a bit. Looking forward to it. He pointed me also to his article of his, where he explains himself more on the 2nd law:

He quotes his article:

In Signature in the Cell, Stephen Meyer appeals to common sense, in applying the second law to information: “Most of us know from our ordinary experience that information typically degrades over time unless intelligent agents generate (or regenerate) it.

I’m puzzled by this on two levels.

  1. Common sense usually leads to incorrect scientific conclusions, because the world does not act according to our intuitions. Also, we all have different intuitions, so appealing to common sense make us less persuasive. So why would a scientist appeal to common sense as if this strengthened the claim?

  2. The claim is that the 2nd Law holds except for intelligence, a type of intelligence exceptionalism. I’d like to see the formal evidence that intelligence violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics. I see no evidence that it does, but an immense amount of evidence to the contrary. No where in the derivation or explication of the 2nd law is intelligence granted as an exception either.

I’m very curious to see how Sewell (or @Agauger or @pnelson or @bjmiller or another ID leader) would make sense of this. Maybe the @physicists could help make sense of this? Do any of the @physicists believe that intelligence allows violations of the 2nd law?


Duane Gish of the ICR was infamous for claiming the 2nd law of thermodynamics prevented naturalistic OOL. Granville Sewell essentially said the same argument. I took a lot of heat for disagreeing. Here are some reasons.

There are a minority of creationists (myself included) who openly advise against using the 2nd law of Thermodynamics as an argument for creation and/or ID. Those creationist are none other than Walter Bradley and Perceval Gange (who actually got an endorsement from Nobel Laureate Eugene Wigner for his creationist book).

To illustrate why I think Gish and Sewell are wrong, I ask students of Chemistry, Physics and Engineering (especially mechanical) this question which is related to what they study:

“What has more entropy: a living human or a frozen dead rat?”

The answer is a living human!!!

To see why lets do comparison between a human and a lifeless ice cube. The calculation can be extended to a human and frozen dead rat.

A warm living human has substantially more thermodynamic entropy than a lifeless ice cube. This can be demonstrated by taking the standard molar entropies of water and ice and estimating the entropy of water in a warm living human vs entropy of water in a lifeless ice cube. Std Molar Entropy liquid water: 69.95 J/mol/K Std Molar Entropy ice: 41 J/mol/K

A human has more liquid water, say 30 liters, than an ice cube (12 milliliters).

Let S_humum be the entropy of a human, and S_ice_cube the entropy of an ice cube.

Order of magnitude entropy numbers:

S_human > 30 liters * 55.6 mol/liter * 69.95 J/K = 116,677 J/K

S_ice_cube ~= 0.012 liters * 55.6 mol/liter * 41 J/K = 27 J/K approximately (ice is a little less dense than liquid water, but this is inconsequential for the question at hand).

Thus a warm living human has more entropy than a lifeless cube of ice.

So why do creationists worry about entropy increasing in the universe as precluding evolution? Given that a warm living human has more entropy than an ice cube, then it would seem there are lots of cases where MORE entropy is beneficial.

Ergo, the 2nd law does not preclude evolution or origin of life Other lines of reasoning should be used by ID proponents to criticize evolution, not the 2nd law.

4 posts were merged into an existing topic: Side Comments on Sewell and Evolution and Reproduction