Entropy 101

Question from Jack (reproduced from a comment in the archive):
I’ve spent some time reading about evolution and creation. I’ve read several pages about entropy and I can’t seem to find one that makes sense. Can you explain entropy to a poor retard like myself?

It’s a difficult concept, and most of us have to make do with an approximation, so here’s mine.

Imagine the process by which objects with some physical order (structure, symmetry, smoothness, etc.) break down over time (decay, melt, crumble, evaporate, rot) into substances which do not have that initial order (powder, gases, liquids, mush). They’re moving from an ordered state towards a more and more unordered state. Entropy, as a quantity, is the extent to which this has already happened at any given time. About the closest thing to a synonym for it is “loss of order”.

If entropy increases, order has been lost. If it decreases, order has emerged or been created. The point of the Second Law of Thermodynamics is that entropy can’t decrease without increasing by at least as much in some connected object or area. In other words, it can’t decrease overall in a closed system.

The corrupted version of this law used by creationists is effectively that entropy can’t decrease at all without divine help. Alternatively they accept the law, but claim that the Earth is a closed system and any fresh order on it must be gods’ work. The response to the latter is to point out that the sun is part of any closed system which includes us. The thing runs on explosions, causing massive amounts of entropy. It sends some of the resulting energy our way as light, heat and radiation so that we might undo a tiny fraction of that entropy. That’s the connection.

A more general response is that if you think entropy is decreasing in a closed system, it’s likely that the system is not really closed.

10 thoughts on “Entropy 101”

1. clive owen says:

Congratulations for providing crystal clear, plain English explanations without resorting to jargon and fuzzy abstractions. This is an excellent site.

Clive Owen

2. Gerald McDonald says:

With all of your kind of logic you throw at the subject it still falls way short of being able to show that your assumptions are correct. Things are not breaking down into a state of disorder physically, they are returning to a before state.right down to a molecular level from whence the mind of God originally grabbed them and bid them to do His will. And that was after He brought them into existence for just what each one of them were made. Your attempt to to back track from the end result of what is doing leapfrog jumps with your eyes and logic closed off so that you miss the movie playing backwards, is forcing you to make assumptions that defy the laws of physics. You ignore the logic that you should be utilizing that would tell you that what you are assuming is beyond improbable and boarders on insanity. Logic speaks loudly telling you that life comes only from life. It comes not from nothing but from something that already has life. That is what has been happening for our eternity without any ti,E that could lead us to assume otherwise. You instead defy that logic and insanely choose to believe contrary to what has been observed many more time than we can calculate. And so you input false calculations into your brain, cancelling out the factors that point to the only logical conclusion that is left and probable. Not that some lucky piece of “whatever” disorderly arrived to be, but that a Being that can manipulate molecules and such on a level,ON A LEVEL, that man is yet able to conceive, but is doing so on a much smaller scale. Yet because God can do this better than man,you say His existence is impossible. How arrogant of man to use tools to manipulate molecules and DNA, in such a miniscule way, and yet fail to accept the possibility that a being is able to do much more without blinking an eyelash. He, God has built within us the ability to accomplish just a little of what He is able to do, yet man cringes to accept the fact that he is not the only being with the
intelligence enough to be able split the atom or snip and splice DNA. But as the factor out the GOD factor, they discount the fact that what is being done by man, what God has created, was performed by beings with intelligence. Not by uncontrolled, unguided accidental occurring events of time and matter.

1. Tim says:

Gerald – You are a frequent poster at this site, so I am confused as to why you continue to make unsubstantiated statements about things as if they are known fact, especially since this behavior has been pointed out to you previously as being illogical and irrational. Here is the latest list (from your post above) of speculative claims that you cannot prove:

– “they are returning to a before state.right down to a molecular level from whence the mind of God originally grabbed them and bid them to do His will”

– “And that was after He brought them into existence for just what each one of them were made.”

– “Logic speaks loudly telling you that life comes only from life.”

– “That is what has been happening for our eternity without any ti,E that could lead us to assume otherwise.”

– “a Being that can manipulate molecules and such on a level,ON A LEVEL, that man is yet able to conceive, but is doing so on a much smaller scale.”

– “He, God has built within us the ability to accomplish just a little of what He is able to do”

So forth and so on…

3. Tim says:

Let’s also note for the record, just in case some wandering mind comes into this particular thread, that your claim that “life can only come from life” is completely absurd. If life can only come from other life, there is no way for a first life form to exist. Even your god being, which is a life form, had to come from previous life according to what you state. Your argument is so obviously flawed logically, and this gets pointed out to you over and over, and yet you repeat it time and again. Please refrain from using this nonsense in the future…

1. James says:

Life coming from life is observed everywhere, I’d hardly say it’s absurd. There is a way, if you believe that some sort of infinite deity started life. Which is about as probable as abiogenesis. Abiogenesis isn’t observed, the opposite is. As far as a deity, science is having trouble proving religious and faith based things.

1. Tim says:

It’s absurd to make the claim that life “only” comes from life. Can he prove such a claim? No. He continually makes absolute statements that aren’t absolute. I’d say that is an absurd thing to do.

“Life coming from life is observed everywhere, I’d hardly say it’s absurd.”

Really. Explain how a virus reproduces then. They can’t on their own…

1. James says:

Aren’t we supposed to go by what is proven, rather then what we think should be true? Are you asking if he personally can prove that claim, or if that claim can be proven and while I don’t know about viruses, I have yet to hear of anything like life coming from non-life. Therefore until it is proven beyond reasonable doubt, life comes only from life.

2. Gerald McDonald says: