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Entropy at work: skeptic blunders on thermodynamics

Published: 15 April 2012 (GMT+10)

This feedback features a skeptic who can’t seem to get basic definitions in Thermodynamics right, and yet accuses us of failing to study the topics we write about. Ph.D. physical chemist and CMI scientist Dr Jonathan Sarfati sets the record straight.

Wikipedia: Wavesmikey

Garth V. from the United States writes:

I just read your article titled ‘The Second Law of Thermodynamics’ in so far as evolution goes. Of course I wasn’t surprised that your ‘scientist’ got the different thermodynamic systems wrong. He claimed that an isolated thermo system allows for the exchange of energy and matter—wrong. An isolated Thermodynamic system allows for the exchange of energy but not matter. The real show stopper was that the author of the article claimed that a closed thermodynamic system allows for the exchange of energy and matter—wrong again. A closed Thermo system can neither exchange energy nor matter with its surroundings.

Seriously, do you guys actually bother to study the topics you discuss, or do you just make it up as you go along?

Mr V.

Which article are you talking about?

My article The Second Law of Thermodynamics: Answers to Critics defined systems correctly, and not like what you have said:

Wikipedia: Mintz l
  • An isolated system exchanges neither matter nor energy with its surroundings.
  • A closed system exchanges energy but not matter with its surroundings.
  • An open system exchanges both matter and energy with its surroundings.

Your own definitions are wrong—you have mixed up closed and isolated systems.

If you have a problem with my article, then logically you must also have a problem with university pages like Physical systems: types of systems:

United States Department of Energy
“Systems can be classified as open, closed, or isolated. Open systems allow energy and mass to pass across the system boundary. A closed system allows energy but not mass across its system boundary. An isolated system allows neither mass or energy to pass across the system boundary.”

Or with http://www.bluffton.edu/~bergerd/NSC_111/thermo2.html:

Open systems can exchange both matter and energy with an outside system.Closed systems exchange energy but not matter with an outside system.Isolated systems can exchange neither energy nor matter with an outside system.

If you disagree, please write to them demanding that they fix this—making sure that you include a disparaging comment about scientists in scare quotes—and let me know the response.

Jonathan Sarfati (Ph.D. physical chemistry, which includes thermodynamics, i.e. I do know what I am talking about—in contrast with almost all evolutionists, in my experience).

Garth V. from the United States writes:

Here’s another fun comment from your website:

“The open systems argument does not help evolution. Raw energy cannot generate the specified complex information in living things. Undirected energy just speeds up destruction”

Ever hear of photosynthesis and trophic levels?

Of course, given that I have written articles about them Green power (photosynthesis). Please study this article. You will find that photosynthesis is the antithesis of undirected energy.

Plants use the radiant energy of the sun to produce a complex/organized system. They take low energy molecules such as CO2 and H20 and with the addition of sunlight produce carbohydrates.

Yes, read my article about how the photosynthetic system stores energy from four light quanta so it is enough to split two water molecules into 4 H+ ions and an O2 molecule; this is irreducibly complex.

Herbivores eat said plants and carnivores eat them.

My article said, “Even now, plants are the basis of the food chain … ”

The base of all this is sunlight which has been converted to a useable form—it’s not raw energy at this point.

This is fun! Any other Creationist pseudoscience arguments I can shut down?

You first need to do what I asked you to do in my previous reply before I will reply further. It is clear that you need remedial instruction in thermodynamics, as well as in common courtesy, i.e. study the opponent’s position before criticizing it!

Dr Sarfati

Randy G. from the United States writes:

I was in a chemistry lab class the other night, and the instructor mentioned the light spectrum and the small part of the spectrum visible to humans. He mentioned in passing that the reason mammals are limited in the light they can perceive is the result of small mammals in the time of the dinosaurs having to hide during the day and go out at night in search of food.

I have a couple of questions regarding his line of reasoning. 1) Does this work within the evolutionary scenario of life’s history? 2) Are there reasons humans and other mammals don’t see other spectra of light? 3) Are there resources dealing somewhat in depth with night vision of different mammals and irreducible complexity involved in night vision mechanisms? 4) Also, has this question been answered specifically in an article or book? I did a quick search, but the articles seemed to be dealing with the issue of complexity of the eye and the issue of evolution from simpler to more complex eyes.

Wikipedia: DarkEvil

CMI’s Jonathan Sarfati writes:

Dear Mr G.

Thank you for writing in.

My book By Design has a section on colour vision, and I am a specialist in spectroscopic chemistry. We also pointed out the superb dynamic range of the eye in Excellent eye.

This instructor is grasping at straws. For one thing, he is out of date about mammals in the time of dinosaurs—see Did dinosaurs really rule the earth? and Living fossils: a powerful argument for creation.

Hope this helps

Jonathan Sarfati

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