Saturday, September 21, 2013



  1. Egnor has a silly post about life and entropy at ENV.

    Life doesn't "make low entropy," Michael, if by that you mean to say that living organisms reduce entropy. That they simply don't do. To the contrary, their overall impact is to increase entropy content overall.

    To make things simple, consider the following example. Someone called Michael Egnor takes randomly shuffled decks of cards and rearranges the cards in a deck in a particular order. 52 cards can be arranged in 52! ways, or 2^225, so he claims to reduce the entropy of the Universe by 225 bits every time he orders a deck. So if he manages to heroically reorder a million card decks a day, the Universe's entropy goes down by 225 megabits. Awesome.

    This, unfortunately, is not the only contribution to the entropy of the Universe Michael makes. He consumes low-entropy chemical energy in the form of food and outputs high-entropy energy in the form of dissipated heat. Technically speaking, this is a thermodynamically irreversible process: unlike a Carnot engine, Michael cannot intake heat and produce chemical energy.

    A simple estimate gives an idea how much entropy Michael produces per day. It is the amount of energy divided by absolute temperature: 2400 kCal/300 K = 33 kilojoules per kelvin. To convert this entropy to bits, divide the amount by the Boltzmann constant, 1.38 × 10^{–23} J/K. This yields 3.5 × 10^{27} bits. That entropy increase dwarfs the puny reduction of entropy (2.25× 10^{8} bits) he ekes out by reshuffling the decks.


    1. Life is low entropy. That the net final result of any process is an increase in the total entropy of a closed system is axiomatic.

      Life itself is a local low entropy state. Darwinian evolutionary theory has no acceptable explanation for such a state-- RM + NS is not law-like nor mind-like.

      Life evolves and develops along teleological lines, which are law-like and mind-like.

    2. "Life is low entropy."

      What exactly does this mean? Low compared to what? Can you work out an example, computing the entropy of an organism and then comparing it to the entropy of something else?

      I suspect not. Most likely you are just throwing around the term entropy. It sounds sciency, but really means nothing.


    3. Your casuistry is funny. You know exactly what is meant by "life is low entropy".

      Your problem is that you understand that your pet creation myth can't account for it, so you dance and spin.


    4. It's not casuistry on my part. It was you who characterized life as being "low-entropy." Low is a relative term, which indicates a quantitative comparison.

      So give us a quantitative account of life having low entropy. I submit that you can't.

      Note that this has nothing to do with what I believe or do not believe. You said "life is low entropy." Now prove it or admit that you are merely bullshitting.


    5. Okay let's think about this, now.

      Consciousness and consequent observation results in the collapse of particles from what is often described 'wave' state. That direction or revelation of physical/material potential is obviously decreased entropy. This effect is the direct result of conscious observation - of 'mind'.
      So then, a mind has reduced the various potentials of a basic particle, and mind is directly related (regardless of one's own views on causality) to life. This we will call a single 'micro' evidence to the argument that life reduces entropy.

      Then we could consider what we could call 'macro' examples, for the sake of this conversation and brevity.
      The macro would be far more obvious and would be seen in every leaf, in the fur, feathers, scales and flesh of every beast, in the petal of every bloom; seen when a spider weaves a web, or a beaver builds a dam, or a row of vegetables is planted by a grandmother. All would (and do!) seem to bring order from chaos.
      It is, further, blatantly obvious in our (read: human ∴ life form) application of immaterial abstract social structures like criminal and business law. The macro would be and is clearly seen in the pursuit of naturalistic knowledge via immaterial abstractions (means, algorithms, plans) such as the scientific method. The macro can been seen from high altitudes and orbit in the ancient lines our ancestors traced and the modern mazes of our mega cities.

      This mass ordering of chaos by living things is perhaps slightly more subtle, if even more pervasive, in the very script I am typing my thoughts and this very argument out with... and also in every written or spoken (or sung or screamed!) word and meaningful sound or symbol in the history of all life everywhere.

      So, one on hand we must consider that the effect of a complex life form reduces the entropy creep via the level of potential and probability; it does so not simply on paper moment to moment, but continues in a breaking wave-like baroque display we call 'reality', or 'time-space'.
      Then on the other hand we can literally see the effects of our (life's) everyday experiences. We see it in an anthill or a highway intersection. We see it in our mathematics, scripts, and even arts.

    6. CNTD

      So what is the argument against life reducing entropy, again?
      It must be that entropy is somehow not a natural state that is predicted by the second law?
      No. I don't think that would make any sense.

      So how can it be that life increases entropy and is therefore a likely cause of it or at least accelerating entropy locally?
      Are we talking about AEUHD??!! (Anthropomorphic Entropic Universal Heat Death)
      That makes AGW look like tossing an apple core on a walk!

      Is the counter argument to purpose one of another, darker purpose? Perhaps not to the nihilist who imagines life 'emerging' from the effects of the great 'shit happening'. But to the rest of us. Are we supposed to imagine that what we see is all a deception, and that we should rely on the counter intuitive notion that the order we seek is chaos? That our presence in the universe hastens it's transformation into a waste?
      To what end?
      This whole counter argument seems silly to me. A waste of energy. The entire effort is to avoid a series of subsequent questions that arise from the clear observation that life reduces entropy.
      These questions are of an uncomfortable nature to the materialist and are consequently dismissed by dismissing the entire notion.
      What are these questions? That require a post in itself, and I have not even had the chance to read Dr Egnor's post on ENV as of yet (promise will do as soon as posted!) and do not want to rehash stuff he may have already hit on with far more eloquence than I am capable of.
      Sufficed to say these questions deal with the abstract and immaterial reality in which we live. They deal with meaning and long term patterns and even perhaps a means to mapping future trends.
      Very deep, and very cold water for an Eliminative Materialist.
      I am reminded of what a wise man once said to me (paraphrasing here]: "When a man divorces a woman he loses a lot of things. Among them,often times, he loses his dignity [he then advised against divorce and remarriage - and went on to say..]. When a man divorces meaning in life, purpose, God even...well, he loses his sense of direction. His common sense.
      He will do anything to justify his wants and anything to avoid the things he needs but does not like or does not want to face."

      I see this as true in such cases as this. To argue in an attempt to deny what we can see every day, all around us to avoid a simple metaphysical truth is doing so because the nature of the argument is divorced from purpose, meaning, God and hence truth itself.
      It begins and ends with nihilistic presumptions.

      Hope that made some sense to some one.
      Off to read Egnor's work on ENV, now ;)

    7. crus: "So what is the argument against life reducing entropy, again?"

      Before we consider a counter argument, let's see what the argument for life being "low-entropy" is. So far Egnor has not presented any argument, he has only made an assertion that life is low-entropy.

      If a physical quantity is low, one must specify with respect to what. Egnor has no idea how to quantify the entropy of an organism or even a single cell. What Egnor does is technically known as the cargo cult science. He simply misuses a scientific term.


  2. Let me help you. What's the entropy of a cell? Compare it to the entropy of the same volume of water. Now take that volume of water and freeze it. Compare the entropy of the cell to the entropy of the ice crystal.


    1. Compare the water to the cell and to ice.

      The water has the highest entropy of the three.

      The cell has less entropy, the ice even less.

      The physical reason the ice has less entropy is that its state is determined by physical laws (hydrogen bonds) at a temperature below 0 C that inherently give rise to low entropy states.

      The state of the cell is the product of millions of years of evolution-- according to you, RM + NS. Yet neither RM nor NS are law-like, in the way that the quantum mechanics of hydrogen bonds is law-like.

      The only other explanation for how evolution could have crafted a cell (aside from law-likeness) is mind-likeness. Minds can, by design, create low entropy states.

      RM + NS is inadequate as an explanation for the low entropy state of life.

      Teleology/design is necessary.

    2. "The cell has less entropy, the ice even less."


      I can tell exactly by how much the entropy of ice (at a given temperature) is lower than the entropy of water (at a given temperature). For 1 gram of water and ice at the freezing point, the entropy difference is 1.22 J/K. Converting it to bits gives 1.23 × 10^23 bits.

      Now you tell me by how much the entropy of a cell is less than the entropy of water (same volume).


    3. Hoo:

      "Look-- Rabbit!" is an ineffective rhetorical technique. Quantification of the entropy of ice is of no relevance to the argument at hand. It is the only argument you have, so I understand your desperation. But it won't work.

      The evolution of life is the evolution of low entropy states. Two processes, and only two processes, are known to produce low entropy states: law-like processes and mind-like processes.

      Darwinian evolution is neither.

      Therefore, Darwinian evolution does not explain life.


    4. So we can reasonably conclude that Michael Egnor cannot in fact compare the entropy of a cell against the entropy of water. He simply asserts that the entropy of the former is lower than the entropy of the latter, but he cannot back it up with numbers. He simply knows, somehow, that a cell must have a lower entropy. How does he know it? He won't tell. He just knows.



    5. Is the process by which evolution produces low entropy states (life) law-like or mind-like?

    6. Before I answer that question, you have to show me that "life is low-entropy," whatever that means.

      You have asserted that life is low-entropy. Where is the argument that establishes that?


    7. @Dr Egnor,

      Read the ENV post. Good stuff! Always good to see your stuff on there, Mike.

      It seems that Novella at least concedes that life is low entropy, but he is naturally (pun intended) at a loss to explain this in terms of RM & NS. He has encountered the walls of his philosophical prison.
      He should organize a break. Instead he argues the question of their presence with 'the walls are high because they go way up'.

      Consider this as an answer The organization of chaos required for these following ideas to and be related by a coded, understood script, the various technologies involved in the connection of the signals etc in this very discourse should suffice as experiential / revelatory evidence of mind/life reducing chaos for at least yourself.
      You have not received a hovering golden rutabaga in response to your question, you have received an organized response of ideas via an extremely complex system of immaterial abstractions applied in various physical means to deliver and render those ideas to you.
      All this massive ordering of the entropy was done by and for living minds and their agencies.
      How would this reduction be measured?
      Well...How many particles were collapsed? How much energy and force tapped and redirected? How much attention of these shaping minds spent to direct this event from beginning to present - is more mental energy wasted or generated by organizing?
      How much of the economy directed to this? Laws created to govern these means and tools? Etiquette for our interactions?
      It's a regular Mandelbrot set of factors - both immaterial and physical - that could be measured by various means.

    8. crus,

      In case it escaped you, low entropy means S is less than some other S_0. In order to make the argument, you have to (1) figure out what S is and (2) compare the number to S_0.

      Not only did not Egnor presented the number S, he did not even specify what value S_0 he is comparing it to.

      He can waive hands if he wants, but let's not pretend that he can establish that life is "low-entropy."


    9. crus: "All this massive ordering of the entropy..."

      LOL. This is about as coherent as "all this crushing compression of pressure." You are using scientific terms very loosely. That's fine, but let's not pretend that this is a serious argument. It's bullshitting.


    10. To those who are following this little discourse (it's not a debate, because a debate has two sides), but who are not acquainted with the concept of entropy, I point out that the fact that life represents a low-entropy state is agreed upon by all. There is no debate. The low entropy nature of life was the central argument of Schrodinger in "What is Life", and has been reasserted by every scientist who has written on entropy and life. No one claims that life is a high entropy state, and no one claims that entropy is irrelevant to life.

      The point that natural selection cannot create a low entropy state is irrefutable, hence dishonest commentors like Hoo, bach et al desperately try to redirect the conversation to irrelevancies, like the quantification of entropy in living things (which has never been done, due to the complexities of biological systems).

      Life is low entropy, and Darwinism can't account for it.

    11. Egnor: "I point out that the fact that life represents a low-entropy state is agreed upon by all. There is no debate."

      LOL. There is no debate indeed because you have only made an assertion and failed to support it. If the entropy of life is indeed small, what is it small with respect to? What is the scale you are comparing it to?

      Egnor: "The low entropy nature of life was the central argument of Schrodinger in "What is Life", and has been reasserted by every scientist who has written on entropy and life."

      Ah, here we have an argument from authority! Another fallacy. Would you care to recapitulate the argument and, most importantly, provide the numbers presumably supplied by these great scientists?

      Egnor: "Life is low entropy, and Darwinism can't account for it."

      Once again, a bare assertion with no support for it. You are a hilarious crackpot, Mike!


    12. Hoo,

      Oh dear.
      Well, I guess that means you disagree passionately.

      I certainly hope some of the other readers can take something more out of my comment.
      I will concede I could have worded the (above quoted) idea better.
      Perhaps 'reordering of what was once inclined toward a state of entropy or positioned as a raw potentiality' would have been more precise and accurate to the direction of my thoughts.
      Dismiss it all out of hand if you like, Hoo.
      That much is all up to you.
      History is full of such haughty dismissals by people in high towers.
      But you asked in this forum where I understand my input is welcome, and so I gave my two pennies.
      That's not what I would call 'bullshitting'.
      Sorry if it's not worth anything up there on Olympus.
      It's good, honest currency in my neck of the woods.

    13. Michael,

      You're lying again. I have never made any reference to Life being low entropy or not. Whenever I comment on evolution, it's to point out that your hypothesis of teleological evolution is absolute nonsense, and reduces to 'surviving species survive'. A taulogy without mechanism.

  3. Let me try another tack. How much information is there in a cell, Michael? Gigabytes? Terabytes? Petabytes? Tell us.

    Oh, I know the answer. A LOT!


    1. This is not idle curiosity, Mike. You have claimed that a cell has less entropy than water (at the same volume). This could, in fact, be wrong. You see, my friend, a cell contains, aside from water, some ions, e.g., potassium. Configurational entropy of potassium ions increases the entropy relative to pure water. This extra entropy can be quantified just like the entropy difference between water and ice. And the difference will be quite large if you express it in bits.

      So you are facing an uphill battle with this example.

      And of course, I do not expect that you will provide any answers. You have no idea what the entropy of a cell is. You just have faith that it was made by a designer with a capital d. All these claims about low entropy of life are just pure, unadulterated demagoguery.


    2. Your failure to address the actual issue here is an admission that you have no answer.

      There is obvious teleology in life, and the second law argument is a powerful and conclusive argument against undirected Darwinian evolution.

      Throwing up chaff won't work. It's evidence for your desperation.

    3. Egnor: "There is obvious teleology in life, and the second law argument is a powerful and conclusive argument against undirected Darwinian evolution."

      You forgot to explain how you determined that "life is low-entropy." I am eagerly awaiting that beautifully crafted argument.


  4. Michael,

    Your pet 'theory' of teleological evolution just doesn't work, because it's not what we actually see in the fossil record.

    If you can describe natural selection as 'survivors survive' then I'm entitled to describe teleological evolution as 'God did something somewhere somewhen for unknown reasons and by unknown mechanisms to endow a species with an adaptation to meet some future condition, not presently existing, unless God, again for unknown reasons, decides not to do so, and the species goes extinct'.

    Extremely tautological. Doesn't make any predictions. A species adapts, unless it doesn't, in which case it goes extinct. Surviving species survive. How? Why? Mechanism please.

    What we actually see in the fossil record is actually mostly extinction. At least 99.9% of species go extinct, including all the trilobites. Your teleological evolution isn't a new hypothesis. The 19th century American paleontologist Henry Osborn had the same idea of directed evolution with an eventual target 'in mind'. Having the idea of a 'target' in evolution opens a person to the temptation of eugenics, as happened to Osborn.

  5. The chemistry of life follows the same laws of physics as everything else and is just as law like. Like many other complex emergent properties we shouldn't be surprised that we use concepts beyond basic physics to describe what is going on with life, but in the end it's all the same laws.


    1. @KW:

      "Emergent" means properties that one would not have expected based on the basic physical laws underlying the process.

      "Emergence" depends on an observer.

      During the first several billion years of life on earth, who was it who was "not expecting" life to be what it was?