Feedback archiveFeedback 2003

Weathering the Storm (Negative (thermodynamics))

31 January 2003

To Whom It May Concern,
re: Article Review Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation

I read your informal review of this book by Dennis Peterson with interest. And I have no great problem with that informal review overall

Thanks. It was a pity it was necessary.

However, I am concerned with your response concerning the content at Page 83 — ‘everything in our physical universe is running down’. Your comment, ‘This is an incorrect statement of the law of entropy. Not everything runs down. Some things run the other way. Open systems can go “uphill”.’

Indeed so. The author oversimplified in such a way as to make the book very vulnerable, and it was simply incorrect the way he put it.

Firstly, of course, the ‘law’ of entropy itself appears to bring about great debate as to its true meaning, as does ‘closed systems’, ‘open systems’, ‘isolated systems’ and other such ‘systems’, particularly in relation to the universe. Which in itself makes it difficult to take a categorical ‘scientific’ stand on the entropy issue.

Which is why we advise against using the thermodynamics argument, and recommend concentrating on information.

My query is that you seem to be having two bob each way on this issue. Firstly you claim that the statement ‘everything in our physical universe is running down’ is an incorrect statement. However, your own [CMI] website has these comments made by Sarfati in his article ‘The Second Law of Thermodynamics: — Answers to Critics’.

Here’s the difference—I had all the necessary caveats, because I was answering critics of creationist thermodynamics arguments, which unfortunately include some of the more simplistic formulations, like Petersen’s.

… Moreover, if you believe that the universe is not running down, …

Here again there is a difference: I said the universe is running down, i.e. as a whole, not that everything in the universe is running down as Petersen did. This commits the fallacy of division (e.g. an elephant is heavy, therefore all its atoms are heavy). I hope this explains why we had to correct the book for the way it was said in it, with the response we made.

… how do you explain certain biblical references to the universe running down?

There is nothing to explain. We believe the universe as a whole IS running down. But we point out that it is wrong to equate such an anthropomorphic conception of ‘running down’with thermodynamic entropy increase. This is because even processes which we would call ‘building up’ will still increase the overall entropy of the universe. Yes, a garment wearing out is an expression of the second law, but the manufacture of a pristine garment also increases the overall entropy of the universe. Old-style creationist arguments that the 2nd Law began at the Fall forget this. Our position is explained in Did the 2nd Law begin at the Fall?.

Jonathan Sarfati,
Ph.D. (Physical Chemistry)

Dear [CMI],

That I found your handling of Dennis Petersen's book wholly unChristian is an understatement. First you put on one of the most “hit” websites in the world (according to your speakers) a “refutation” that I'm sure you'll allow Dennis no chance to address. The purpose can be no less than to destroy his ministry. When I wrote to you last spring about the book I would have loved a critique about it, privately. Instead you have made this a “ministry vs. ministry” debacle. What happened to the verse that all the world will know we are Christ's disciples if we have LOVE for one another. You could have done this differently!!!!

Secondly, your critique is lacking. First you seem more concerned about the evolutionists who think we're whacked anyways, than you do about treating a Christian brother properly. I'm not overlooking Dennis' mistakes. But you have become exceedingly nit picky. My wife began working thru your critique and found you had misquoted Dennis or overstated what he had said in a number of the cases.

You also resort to the straw man. Do you remember the little picture of the scarecrow you put in a recent Creation article and talked about how evolutionists love to use straw man arguments. Maybe you should reread that article. I have listened to Dennis' video series a number of times where he talks about “nothing new under the sun.” Not once did I ever think he was saying "laptop computers, the A-bomb, etc.” had ever been invented. His point clearly was that we don't know what they did in the past, but NOTHING should surprise us. They were incredibly intelligent, closer to the creation and in God's image. My wife and I probably will continue to work thru your rebuttal.

Because of the nature of your global-scale attack on a fellow creation ministry we will be seriously considering whether we can continue supporting your ministry. Obviously my past correspondence with you by snail mail in which I cautioned you about your seeming territorial dominating tactics had just the opposite effect. Instead you thought you'd better make sure you wipe Dennis off the map. I may only be the leader of a small home school group today, but that can change. And today I can affect those around me. I send many gift subscriptions of Creation magazine and often talk up [CMI]. Please don't ruin my ability to wholly heartedly support your ministry!!!

To call him “fringe” as you do is wholly unsupported. I know few people of any value who don't have what the establishment would consider a few "fringe" ideas. Other than your screwy ideas about his views on “nothing new” you stated he was very biblical. How many of your past scientific views have you discredited yourselves? Do you remember the article you just put in Creation about all the discarded theories by creationists. What are you so afraid of that he may still hold to some that you currently do not support?

This is my hope if you have any intention of redeeming yourself.

1) Yank this global attack and redo it in a Christian manner—properly quoting his book, removing the strawman arguments and removing your attempts to make him a “fringe” lunatic.
2) Give Dennis a chance to respond. Surely you believe in fairness. Why are you adopting the same heavy-handed tactics that the evolutionists use against us?
3) Consider circulating the idea that SOMEONE create a website in which books and ideas can be critiqued without ministry against ministry. Your overemphasis on peer review is smacking of snobbery. We are not the world. We are the body of Christ. And all of us bring something to every argument. You creation scientist need to become a little more humble and acknowledge that you are not the people on whom the creation science debate rests. It rests upon God, His Word and how all of his people obey Him.

I don’t think that anything could persuade you that we were not trying to wipe anyone off the map. It is the book and its potential effects which we have the problem with, and did all this with a sense of great heaviness of heart. Virtually all feedback we have had, even from friends and acquaintances of the author, and those who have bought the book already, was overwhelmingly positive, and understood our motivation. In fact, the degree of that understanding surprised us.

In relation to the suggestion that we have somehow not give the author a ‘chance’, I attach a form letter which might put things in a different perspective. [See Did CMI Share its Concerns with the Author?] Apart from giving you my personal reassurance concerning the motivations, there is very little else I think I can do.

Sincerely yours in Christ
Carl W.

I have been a supporter of [CMI] since becoming an advocate of literal biblical creationism. However, after gagging through 7 pages of your review of Petersen’s book, I now seriously question your real motives. I found that article to be mostly cheap shots and extremely picky, while seeing your own mistakes in them. Apparently you got too big for your britches. Your own products could be nit picked just as much, if not more. "Sour grapes" is all I can say.

Thanks for communicating your feelings.

If you can let us know with sound reasons, documentation, etc.where any of our works are wrong, we will want to modify/withdraw as necessary. We tend to be our own worst critics, and always want to have ‘iron sharpening iron’. Our purpose is most definitely not to claim infallibility, but to ensure that all of us try to take advantage of the processes of peer review, etc. I attach a form letter which at the end includes a copy of a letter I wrote to Dennis Peterson in the 1990s outlining all the accumulated errors in the previous edition. [See Did CMI Share its Concerns with the Author?] Sadly, a huge number, if not most, reappear in this version.

Re ‘sour grapes’, the suggestion that somehow this has an ulterior motive; you may wish to consider that the easiest path to follow by far would have been to just ‘go with the flow’. We sell lots of books by lots of authors who are not associated with CMI so would have had no problem in principle selling a book by Dennis. With such a presentation, CMI would have made a huge profit at its seminars, etc. on selling this book and biting its tongue.

A gentle suggestion; you may benefit from working through more than just a few pages, read the whole thing and see if you still have the same impression. We have had a number of letters from people who read the book, were somewhat stunned by the review, then went through the review page by page and ‘saw the point’ overall. Even personal friends of the author have said they understand that we did what we felt was right (and they were positive about it too) and were not taking the easy road, as we would get a lot of misunderstanding. Actually, far less than I thought have misunderstood to date. Perhaps—who knows—we can have your understanding in due course, too. At the least, perhaps you could take my word for it that we are far too busy to spend time on petty jealousies or rivalries. We would like to build up other creation ministries, and encourage them to join in peer review efforts.

Kind regards,
Carl Wieland

Published: 16 March 2006