N.25 The recipe of life

Religious nuts, “creationists,” “intelligent designers,” or whatever they are calling themselves at the time you are reading this, call them CIDOWs for short, would like to believe that the universe was created literally like it says in the bible. The bible contains two creation stories, the Genesis story and the Adam and Eve story, and they conflict. At some time in the past they were put in together for simplicity, without ironing out their contradictions. CIDOWs feel that with two conflicting creation stories, surely at least one should be right? This is the bible, you know?

Now if you want to believe desperately enough, you are willing to accept anything that seems to reasonably support your point, without looking too hard at any opposing facts. (Critically examining facts is what a scientist would do, but you can reasonably pass yourself off as a scientist in the court system and popular press without worrying about it. You do have to pass yourself off as a scientist in the United States, since it is unconstitutional to force your religious beliefs upon the public education system unless you claim they are scientific instead of religious.) Now CIDOWs had a look at life, and it seemed to be quite nonmessy to them. So they felt its entropy was obviously low. (Actually, a human being may be a highly evolved form of life, but being largely water well above absolute zero temperature, its entropy is not particularly low.) Anyway, since the earth has been around for quite some time, they reasoned that the entropy of its surface must have been increasing for a long time, and nonmessy human beings could not possibly be true. Hence the conventional scientific explanation of the evolution of life violated the second law and could not be true. It followed that the universe just had to be created by God. The Christian God of course, don’t assume now that Allah or Buddha need apply.

Hello CIDOWs! The surface of the earth is hardly an adiabatic system. See that big fireball in the sky? What do you think all that plant life is doing with all those green leaves? Baierlein [4, pp. 128-130] works out some of the rough details. Since the surface of the sun is very hot, the photons of light that reach us from the sun are high energy ones. Despite the influx of solar energy, the surface of the earth does not turn into an oven because the earth emits about the same energy back into space as it receives from the sun. But since the surface of the earth is not by far as hot as that of the sun, the photons emitted by the earth are low energy ones. Baierlein estimates that the earth emits about 20 of these low energy photons for every high energy one it receives from the sun. Each photon carries one unit of entropy on average, (11.59). So the earth loses 20 units of messiness for every one it receives. So, evolution towards less messy systems is exactly what you would expect for the earth surface, based on the overall entropy picture. Talk about an argument blowing up in your face!