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?

Answer by SmartLX:
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.

13 thoughts on “Entropy 101”

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

    Clive Owen

  2. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Now please tell me how my logic is not sound, at least as much or more then the theory of evolution. You all brush off the subjects that you can not contest and make smoke so that others will not see that you don’t have the answers. But your own eyes defense is time will be your calvary. But it just makes more noise and fall short of proof. Now I am shocked that you don’t get the analogy. And also that you don’t see the irony of your hump haw. Man has been manipulating DNA and atoms for how long. And you just as your predecessors who thought it sin to believe that a black person could be just as valuable as a white, and then you doubt that other cultures could provide just as much richness as your own culture. And now you doubt that there could could be a being given who could do a better job at a molecular level then the scientist can preparing his sandwich. You really shallow, and hampered in your reasoning. Scientist push and push to go to the stars. You have to find that new life and yet you dismiss the possibility that a supernatural entity, was able to create life one this planet. You tell me what are the odds that man could be here? And what are the odds that a planet like ours could be here? Now tell me how likely that there are entities more intelligent than we? Are you willing to assume that we are the only ones in this universe? Are you willing to think that if there are others in this universe, that there is no way that they could be more advanced then we were? Then why adamantly believe with all,certainty that there diffinitely could be an intelligence that could have made life. Especially since our observation gives us a better than reasonable reason to accept the fact that only an intelligence makes or creates. All that we have we have only seen the end results. The atheist looks at the end results and declares that it happened inext such a way, and they approach each possible unearthed fact with their assumption in mind,colouring that logic,to look only for their slant of what happened. In fact since God can not be entirely rulled out. Since everything points to one simple fact that nothing and no one can be entirely rulled out. And since there are fellow evolutionists who have declared that the evidence points to an intelligent designer it is more likely that we run with that and include it in our possibilities as well. Especially since by our observations we know that life comes only from life. The other assumption is conjecture with no supporting evidence. We have never seen life come from nothing. We have never sent matter come from nothing. We have only seen that it takes some form, some level of intelligence, to make or create something. And the higher the level of intelligence, the more complex that what is made or created.

  4. Could you explain chlorophyll

    (I understand; it’s very complicated. :)) ),

    and the process of how it works.

    I read a short article, naming some different plant parts

    (That tried to explain, the process of chlorophyll; but I’m still left with questions);

    but I couldn’t differentiate between “camellia” & “lamelium”.

    Please go in-depth; as well as, a likely origin for plants & their

    Is there a logical theory, to follow through; from ??? “The Big Bang” ??? or whatever origin, to plants & animals etc. ?

    1. I’m not a botanist or a chemist so I can’t be any more detailed on the workings of chlorophyll than stuff you might read online. Start with the Wikipedia article, and the one specifically on its evolution since you’re seeking answers regarding that sort of thing.

      To approach it from a broad physics perspective, light energy enters the cells of a plant and is converted to chemical potential energy. Sunlight the plant can’t use is simply absorbed as heat energy. The energy has a clear source and clear effects once used (i.e. the plant grows and thrives) so the laws of conservation are not threatened by the idea.

      The same laws of physics, chemistry, etc. govern all developments at least since the Big Bang, you just need to think on different scales. On a cosmic scale, gravity brought together the dust from the Big Bang to form stars, and the remains of the stars that went nova contained the makings of planets. On at least one planet, the correct combination of chemicals was gathered by natural forces (wind, waves, tectonics) and simple life emerged (nope, we don’t know how but there are some good ideas). Once it existed, it was all in competition with each other, so any life with an advantageous difference got a leg up, and so natural selection began. The rest is history.

    2. Keisha,

      Please research the internet for articles and explanations for how chlorophyll works. There are many out there of varying degrees of complexity and detail. Basically chlorophyll takes CO2 and uses the energy from sunlight to split that molecule up. The oxygen (O) is released out and the carbon (C) is used by the plant to make plant structures and food (the food being sugar).

      Articles like this go into the evolution of chlorophyll. It appears that it came after the first life forms:

      In terms of the origin of life, just a few weeks ago a new scientific paper was released showing that early life forms were probably nothing more than self-replicating molecules encased in lipid membranes. These things weren’t “alive” as we think of the word today, but they had the ability to make copies of themselves (kinda like viruses, which are between life and non-life) and the double lipid membranes protected them from ions that would tear them apart. This is something I’ve been talking about for years on this website. This line of research seems to me to be on the correct path to determining how life started on this planet. The first life forms were probably these proto-cells which eventually encased more and more complex molecules that eventually gave rise to RNA. From RNA we got to DNA. The mystery of the origins of life is becoming less of a mystery every day. Here is the article:

      The Big Bang theory is a separate theory and has nothing to do with the start of life on Earth, other than the fact that the universe had to exist first. If life did not exist in the universe, the Big Bang theory would still be an accurate way to describe the history of the universe (obviously we wouldn’t be here to talk about it, but you get my drift).

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