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!