|email - August 2003|
We have been having an interesting, on-going discussion with Ron about the Second Law Of Thermodynamics (SLOT). In the April and May newsletters we tried to answer his questions about a web site by Dr. Bailey which claims that evolution does not violate the second law. He has written to us twice since then. Here is the first of these two emails.
After getting your response regarding my questions on SLOT (again, thanks for the attention you put to it), I decided to see if Dr. Bailey would be up to the challenge of responding to the questions you posed. I was able to get his email address, and to my surprise, he responded back in less than 12 hours. Basically, I asked him the challenges you submitted in the "More Hot email" essay.
"If he can propose some plausible mechanism by which natural heat flow will assemble simple molecules into a functioning organic system, then we will listen."
"If Dr. Bailey thinks there is a thermodynamically sound explanation for how undirected application of heat can cause simple molecules to organize themselves into an organic system, let him try to publish it in Science or Nature"
I did not use your name, nor your website reference. I also asked him in such a way as to he didn't think I was trying to argue with him, so I can get a more comfortable answer from him. I don't completely understand what he was trying to tell me. If you can provide analysis on what his comments, it would be greatly appreciated.
Dr. David Bailey's response.
Let's divide this into three questions:
1. Can undirected application of heat or other energy result in self-organized behavior of air or water molecules? The answer is most certainly yes Ė the convection currents obvious to anyone who has watched a pot of water boil are specifically the result of this phenomenon.
2. Can undirected application of heat or other energy result in the formation of organic systems? Here again, the answer is yes -- Since the 1950s, scientists have synthesized organic molecules by the application of heat, light, electricity, etc to nonorganic chemicals.
3. Can undirected application of heat or other energy result in the formation of living systems, or say of DNA? Here no one knows the answer.
The early optimism of the 1950 Miller-Urey experiment where amino acids were synthesized by bathing certain chemicals with heat, light and electric shocks, has faded. On the other hand, significant research continues to be done. One of the latest results is that sulphur appears to accelerate the formation of RNA-like molecules. Some are thus suggesting that the strange living organisms found near the base of underwater volcanic vents might have been precursors to life. This is supported by the fact that the bacteria found there ("extremophile") appear to be very ancient in the tree of life, based on DNA studies.
If you would like to read more about recent research on the origin of life, a good, readable source is Paul Davies, "The Fifth Miracle". It sells on Amazon for $11.20. Davies, as you probably know, is an accomplished scientist and semi-popular writer.
The point is, there does not appear to be any fundamental reason, from the second law of thermodynamics, why evolution can't happen, even biogenesis (origin of life). Indeed, the notion that "evolution can't happen" because of "second law of thermodynamics" is a ridiculous argument in an era when AIDS patients are dying, because ther AIDS virus within a single person mutates to the point that medicines that worked to contain the virus, just a year or two prior, now are ineffective.
The first answer is an answer to a question we didnít ask. We asked if organic systems could form, and he said convection currents could form. Convection currents are not organic systems. Actually, the convection current argument is fundamentally the same as the "stupid snowflake argument." Heat is concentrated (in chemical form) in natural gas. When the gas is ignited on the burner, the heat tries to disorganize itself by flowing from the hot flames to the cooler water. The water boils creating vapor which warms the whole kitchen. When all is said and done, heat is less organized because it flowed from a concentrated place to a distributed area, making everything the same temperature, just as the second law says it should. Formation of pockets of steam in boiling water is not an example of "organization of heat;" does not violate the second law; and has nothing to do with organic systems.
Dr. Baileyís second answer is also unsatisfactory. It is possible to manufacture plastic in a factory, but that doesnít mean plastic will form spontaneously in nature. It is possible to manufacture some simple organic molecules in the laboratory using conditions which never occur in nature, but that doesnít mean that complex organic molecules form spontaneously.
We have written about the Miller experiment on several occasions, most recently in the May newsletter (because it was the 50th anniversary of the experiment). The Miller experiment not only shows that life cannot arise spontaneously, it shows that the reason why it canít arise is because of the second law. Miller had to build a machine, including a trap, that would organize low-energy molecules into higher-energy molecules and then isolate them before they would naturally break down. Sugars, proteins, and amino acids naturally break down. They donít naturally form because it would violate the second law.
Even if you can get the molecules to form, you still have the problem of getting them to operate as a functional organic system. If this could be done, then doctors could get the organic molecules in any dead body to function again, bringing the patient back to life. If doctors could do that, no doubt we would have heard about it on the news.
Baileyís third answer, "no one knows the answer" is not really accurate. The real answer is, "No, it canít."
We sent much shorter versions of the responses above to Ron, and he replied.
Thanks for your quick response. I have taken some of what you have said, and responded back to Dr. Bailey. Please, Mr. Jones, I am only guessing that you find this dialog as interesting as it is for me. I realize you have probably had these types of discussions with evolutionist[s] (with credentials) before, but this is the first contact I have had with an evolutionist (his PhD is actually in mathematics).
Basically, it seems as if he skirts around the direct question regarding SLOT. I have asked him twice for a specific published reference for any evidence of undirected application of heat or other energy which can result in the formation of an organic system. He has responded again within 12 hrs, however, again he doesn't provide any references. I feel strongly that if he writes these "papers", and claims its science --he'd better be prepared to back it up. Anyone can write anything.
This was his response when I asked him (again!) "I am still not aware of any published (even recent) evidence of undirected application of heat or other energy which can result in the formation of an organic system."
Dr. Bailey's response.
"Yes this is the well-known Miller-Urey experiment. Since then numerous other experiments have been done. RNA-like molecules have been formed. Many chemical pathways have been explored. There is an extensive literature here. However, there is no fundamental reason why "undirected" application of heat and energy cannot form an organic molecule, or an organic system. Why paint one's self into a corner here?"
My guess is that the said Miller-Urey experiment was the best he had (or why did he mention it the first time I asked him). I am not sure why HE painted himself into a corner either? That was his complete answer. I was expecting a reference. I didn't get one.
In his paper, he specifically brings up the "stupid snowflake argument". Researching this actually brought me to your organization (for which I am glad). However, I wanted to get his perspective on how snowflakes can be formed WITHOUT violating the SLOT.
I basically used the terrific article on your website. He said nothing about it in return. However, he did refer me to another paper of his (which I have attached for you). I guess he studied probability at Stanford. It has a lot of math, so I figured this may be something of interest to you. He basically tells everyone how "probable" evolution is. There is a section in there also about snowflakes, which is probably (no pun intended) why he referred me to it.
Out of curiosity, I asked him why he brought up AIDS, since this had nothing to do with thermodynamics. This was his response.
What I meant was this: Claims by creationists that "evolution can't happen" because it "violates the second law of thermodynamics" are refuted not only in the larger biological ward, but can be seen even in the experience of individual AIDS patients. After their first exposure to HIV, "cocktails" of anti-HIV drugs are often quite effective. But then after a year or two their effectiveness wanes. Why? Because the HIV virus mutates and evolves (within a single human individual!) to become resistant to the "cocktail" of anit-HIV drugs.
I never brought anything up other than thermodynamics, and I get this?! I know this is a clear example of micro-evolution, which everyone agrees can happen. I am starting to feel if his AIDS example is so convincing to him of evolution; perhaps I am wasting my time.
Thanks again for your time.
There isnít much we can add to Ronís last email.
Is Ron wasting his time? He is, if his goal is to get Dr. Bailey to agree with him. That would be an exercise in futility.
Ron is NOT wasting his time if his goal is to hear both sides of the issue, and gain more understanding. We think Ron has benefited greatly from his correspondence with Dr. Bailey and us. It has not been a waste of time at all.
Now, however, we are probably reaching the point of diminishing returns. Both sides have made their cases, and all that remains is to repeat the same arguments, but shout louder while doing it. That IS a waste of time. So, unless something new turns up, this will probably conclude our dialog on this subject.
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