World Winding Down—a further tool for building up believers
A review of World Winding Down by Carl Wieland
93 pp, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs GA 2013.
Published: 17 October 2013 (GMT+10)
The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the best verified law that we have in science, and yet it is also a law that is often misused and misunderstood. It has been confusing physics students for many years, not to mention laymen. It is also frequently misused, by both sides, in the creation/evolution debate. So CMI has even had longstanding cautions against its use. But in the process, creationists have been missing out on some powerful ammunition when this law is used appropriately. World Winding Down is Carl Wieland’s response. It reflects his well-known passion to explain things in everyday terms—but without a hint of patronizing or oversimplification.
If you have ever wondered about the ‘law of decay’, this is the place to find out. There are a lot of wrong ideas out there, such as saying that microbes-to-man evolution is not possible because it goes in the opposite direction to the Second Law of Thermodynamics (or 2LT). World Winding Down shows clearly and with lots of diagrams what this law is really all about. It also gives examples of how the law works in everyday life.
If you are the type of person who prefers a little more depth to the argument, footnotes with extra scientific detail are included. If you wish to skip over them however, the meaning of the main text will not be affected.
Here are some of the concepts I gleaned from World Winding Down, though there is much, much more to learn and enjoy in its pages than this:
- The Second Law is the tendency for everything in nature to reach its most disorderly state. (It was interesting to consider the real reason for this, and amazing to see the way this links with loss of available energy, and the tendency for things to become ‘evened out’.)
- Things can become more ordered by themselves, if an appropriate mechanism is in place. But in the absence of such a mechanism, intelligence (transmitted, for example in the form of a program) is needed. Importantly:
- Even when something more orderly is produced, the surroundings will always become more disordered as a result. So every single process that takes place ‘scrambles up’ the universe as a whole, makes it increasingly ‘run down’. There are no exceptions to this.
Yes, we can build a house, which decreases its entropy (makes it more orderly). But the ‘disorder’ produced by the machinery, power tools and builders themselves will always outweigh the order produced in the house.
This is why we have to be careful using the argument loosely, telling evolutionists that the 2LT must be an insurmountable obstacle to biological (microbes to man) evolution. It is possible for things to become more ‘orderly’. But that is provided that somewhere else in the universe, things are pushed even further in the other direction. There is no such thing as a free lunch!
World Winding Down shows us that the 2LT has other things to tell us about evolution however. It looks at the problems that the theory of evolution must deal with in claiming that natural selection and mutations are a sufficient mechanism to produce all the life forms we see today from single-celled organisms. It also shows the effects of the 2LT on the genome (an organism’s entire DNA code), leading to what some scientists now call ‘genetic entropy’.
Also, looking at the ‘big picture’, since every process that occurs makes the universe increasingly run down, how could it have started in a more fully ‘wound up’ condition if there was no agency greater than (and ‘outside of’) the universe?
A common mistake we can make is to claim that the Second Law only came into being with the Fall. In other words, we start to confuse the issues of decay and ‘bad’ things with natural processes like the breaking down of food. It would have been important for life to have the 2LT working right from the beginning and World Winding Down (which has been thoroughly checked and endorsed by a Ph.D. physical chemist and a physics professor, by the way) leads us through some of these ideas.
The author shows us how the 2LT’s effect on energy as a whole in the universe fits with the Bible’s description of a perfect creation followed by a Fall.
World Winding Down also looks forwards in time, to when, if God had not promised to intervene, the amount of usable energy would decrease to such an extent that we would reach the ‘heat death’ of the universe. Again a contrast is made, between the materialist view that this is all that there is, and the creation view that we can look forward to a new heaven and a new earth.
Overall, World Winding Down, with its catchy cartoon illustrations, is an encouragement that we do not have to be afraid of diving into physics. We don’t have to be afraid of falling short in our understanding, as the concepts are put within easy reach. We don’t have to be afraid of the logical consequences either. The science confirms and supports what the Bible has to say about where we came from and where we are going. The Second Law strikingly attests to the power and intelligence of our Creator.
CMI’s Lita Cosner, who first encouraged the author to write World Winding Down, adds her thoughts on the book:
Imagine you put a kettle on the stove, and instead of boiling, the water freezes, while the stove's element becomes so hot it melts. Though possible mathematically, that will never happen in the real world, which you instinctively know. But why? It’s because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
Another example: If I shuffle a deck, but then turn it over to find all the cards in order, you’ll know that I’ve pulled some trick, even though any other combination of cards is just as unlikely. You know that the cards didn’t just happen to be shuffled to create the perfect order—again, because of the principles behind the Second Law.
The Second Law is often used to prove creation, but it is easy to misuse and hard to understand sometimes, even for people who are heavily engaged in creation apologetics. In fact, I had problems understanding exactly what the Second Law was and whether it really was evidence for creation. So when Dr Carl Wieland gave a talk about ‘Understanding the Second Law’ at the 2012 Super Conference in Asheville (which is now available as a DVD or video download), I made sure to attend. I was so blown away by the understandability of his talk that I urged him to write it down in the form of a small book. And the result is World Winding Down.
To quote the book, the Second Law
… explains why things left to themselves naturally become more disordered with time. And why the energy available for work in any system just naturally and spontaneously decreases.
It also explains why certain processes go one way, and not the other; and why in the real world some things are possible and others not (p. 19).
Using example after example, Carl explains how you and I encounter the Second Law (or ‘Law of Decay’) every day. For example, the Law of Decay is why heat flows from hot to cold, why certain types of perpetual motion machines will never work, and much more. With humorous illustrations, Carl demonstrates why you can’t plug electronics into the ground (even though there’s lots of heat energy there), or why your bath will never boil at one end and freeze at the other.
Carl also corrects common misunderstandings regarding the Second Law … But the fact that the universe is inexorably winding down, with less and less energy available for work, points to a Creator who ‘wound up’ the universe to begin with. And this law does prevent evolution from molecules to man, though perhaps not in the way you expect it to.
An understandable resource
The Second Law is often explained with a lot of graphs and equations. But Carl has broken it down to only one graph and three simple equations, which are explained in layman’s language. Carl explains:
Something that I get excited about and aim for … is for as many as possible in the audience to reach what I call an ‘aha’ point. As in “Aha, I get it. Now I really get it”. In other words, not just giving some vague mental assent, or taking my word for it as some sort of authority figure.
This passion to transmit understanding in a straightforward way may be because I’ve always felt it important to be able not just to know what happens in the world around us, but also to understand why. And graphs and equations were never something that did that for me (p. 11).
But its simplicity and humour doesn’t mean that it is inaccurate: Dr John Hartnett, a Ph.D. physicist and cosmologist, says about World Winding Down:
A very clear, concise layperson-level description of the most powerful law of physics. The author provides strong arguments from this law why the universe demands a Creator.
If you have had difficulty understanding the Second Law or how it relates to the creation/evolution debate, you owe it to yourself to equip yourself with this new resource.