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Be sceptical about the skeptics!

Part 3: Fridges and Hot Air

By Carl Wieland

In a chapter titled ‘Thermodynamics and Evolution’ of the Skeptics’ book, Dr Ken Smith attempts to rebut the creationist use of basic and well-established principles of nature. The article reveals a profound misunderstanding of the argument (compare for instance Professor A.E. Wilder-Smith’s book, The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution (see inset below, on right), or The Second Law of Thermodynamics).

Ken Smith gives the usual ‘red herring’ of a flow of energy being enough to produce growth in complexity. Interestingly, he doesn’t use the usual evolutionary argument of a seedling growing into a plant. Many evolutionists say that this proves that all it takes is energy (the sun) flowing into an open system (the earth) to produce growth in complexity, and point to plant growth as an example. But this would only demonstrate the need for a programmed mechanism to harness and direct the random, undirected energy, which is what creationists have been saying all along.

Smith dismisses the ‘programmed mechanism’ argument with a reference to ‘orderly patterns of the flow of air in the atmosphere’. His argument would imply that the appearance of eddies and whirlpools from the energy of a fast-moving river, for instance, provides us with evidence that all that is needed to produce these ‘ordered structures’ is a supply of energy. This is true, but what relevance has this to growth in biological complexity? He says ‘this order arises because the input of energy is high enough’ (referring to the patterns of airflow in the atmosphere from the results of heating by the sun’s energy). But the really fantastic part follows directly after that quote:

‘As another example, food in a refrigerator stays fresh while the power is on, but turns into a disorderly mess if there is no energy being supplied from the mains.’

Note the context. Creationists say you need energy supplied plus specific machinery. Smith is in the process of dismissing this by saying, here in his atmosphere example, that energy is all you need. As another example, he tells us about the fridge. The average, superficial reader may well nod his head in agreement—‘yeah, that makes sense’—and Smith, who is familiar enough with our arguments to know better, will have succeeded. But the astonishing thing is that when one thinks a little about his example, it precisely makes the point for us.

What Keeps Your Food Fresh?

If energy were all that were needed to keep food fresh (or to increase the ordering in liquid water to form ice in the cube trays), why not just open the door of your refrigerator and blow in hot air with a fan heater? This is a flow of energy. Will that keep your food fresh? Hardly! Random energy pouring into a system will increase the tendency to destructurization of matter, to disorder, unless it is harnessed by a specific mechanism.

The electricity for the fridge must flow into a motor, which is specifically coupled to a complex cooling mechanism programmed to function in a specific way.

To put it simply, water tends to flow downhill, but it can be pumped uphill by a motor and the right machinery. In the same way, complex machines can be forced to arise from simple matter by appropriate programmed machinery (as occurs when living things make copies of themselves). But the programmed machinery cannot itself arise from non-living matter in the absence of such mechanism. To achieve that would require the direct input of mind or intelligence.

The most unscientific thing one could possibly believe is that on a ‘primitive earth’ the complexity of a living thing arose merely by a ‘flow of energy’. Every observable result of science reinforces the fact that such energy will only worsen the problem for the evolutionist, in the same way the food will become a more disorderly mess from blowing hot air towards it.