email - April 2003

Hot Email

Seriously, we really did receive this email from Ron, asking three questions. His third question had to do with Dr. David Baileyís comment about the second law of thermodynamics.

3rd Point:

"The creationist literature pretty well goes downhill from here. For example, they like to argue that evolution is impossible because it is contrary to the second law of thermodynamics [SLOT]. But the SLOT only applies to closed systems, not to the earth's biosphere, which is continually receiving prodigious amounts of energy from the sun. Using the creationists' SLOT argument, one could just as well conclude that snowflakes, convection currents in pots of hot water, as well as all other spontaneously organizing phenomena, are fundamentally impossible." [quoting an article by Dr. David Bailey]

I probably read and re-read your articles on thermodynamics 10 times or more. For someone reason, I found them fascinating, however, despite how well written they are, and how you tried to simplify, I was still a little lost. My big question here (and I talked to quite a few people), is that the 2nd law only applies to closed systems (like Dr. Bailey states). Is that true? I understood your line of reasoning with snowflakes, however I am a little confused. Is the fundamental argument whether or not organisms on the earth exist in an open system or not? It seems there is a lot of disagreement with what is an open system and what is a closed system. Do scientists think the earth is an open system and creationists think it is a closed system?

Thank you so much for your time in reading and answering my questions.


Dr. Bailey makes what we call, "The Stupid Snowflake Argument". We challenge anyone to produce any citation where a creationist has ever said that snowflakes violate the second law of thermodynamics. But, we have previously cited examples of evolutionists who say snowflakes are relevant to the argument. This shows that these evolutionists either think that snowflakes violate the second law, or they are intentionally misrepresenting the creationist position. In a previous essay we explained that snowflakes form naturally as heat flows from a hot place to a cold place, in accordance with the second law. We donít need to go over that ground again.

The interesting part of Ronís email asks about the issues of whether or not the second law applies to open systems, and whether or not the Earth is an open system. (An open system is one which exchanges heat with something which is not part of the system.)

Yes, it is possible to compute the change in entropy in an open system, but no, it generally isnít useful to do so. The entropy of an open system may increase or decrease, so computing the change doesnít tell you anything about how the system will perform. Thatís why engineers generally set up thermodynamic problems in terms of a closed system before doing the computation. Letís show how we can do the thermodynamic analysis of a cow (which is an open system) in terms of a closed system.

The Thermodynamic Cow

Evolutionists (falsely) claim that microevolution can continue without limit, resulting in macroevolution. Darwin used the example of breeding to increase the production of milk in cows. Creationists say that there is a limit to how much breeding can improve any given characteristic of a living thing. Who is right? If evolutionists are right, and there truly is no limit, then one can breed cows to increase a single cowís milk production to more than 1,000 gallons a second. Common sense tells us that this canít be true. Thermodynamics tells us what the real limit is.

In our June, 1999, essay (The Kentucky Derby Limit) we tried to estimate the maximum amount of milk a cow could produce. Briefly, we said that there are 2,400 calories in a gallon of milk. We estimated that a cow eats 15,000 calories a day. We concluded that if she is 100% efficient, a cow can produce 6.25 gallons of milk (which contain a total of 15,000 calories) a day on a 15,000 calorie diet. Of course a cow has to expend some calories to grow muscles and bones, and keep warm, etc., so she canít turn 100% of her input energy into milk. So, we estimated that the most milk a cow could produce is something less than 6.25 gallons a day. We later found a source that said, "The average dairy cow produces about 1,600 gallons of milk annually." That works out to almost 4.4 gallons per day, which is 70% efficiency, if our estimate of caloric intake is correct. That analysis used the first law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy). Letís see what else we can learn using the second law.

A cow is an open system. But, if we put the cow in a large insulated barn, with an ample supply of oxygen, food, and water, we can use the second law to analyze what happens to things inside the barn. Since our conceptual barn is perfectly insulated, no heat flows in or out of it, making the barn a closed system.

Letís start with the air at a comfortable 70 degrees (F). The food and water will also be 70 degrees. Every day the cow eats 15,000 calories and produces 4.4 gallons of milk per day, which contain 10,560 calories. Where do the other 4,440 calories go? Some of the calories might be stored as fat. Some of them are certainly in the manure she produces. (Manure burns, so it must contain some calories, but for some reason, Weight Watchers doesnít say how many. ) Some of the calories are converted to free heat, which keeps the cow at the proper temperature, balancing the heat she loses to the 70 degree air. But, as heat goes into the air, the air temperature increases. If the air temperature gets as high as the cowís body temperature, no heat will be transferred from the cow to the air (according to the zeroth law of thermodynamics). Therefore, as more food is digested and its chemical energy is converted to heat, the body of the cow will warm up. Now that the cowís body is warmer, some heat can flow from the cow to the air. But eventually the cow will get so hot that she dies. The cowís body, the air, the food, the water, the milk, and the manure will all be the same temperature. The manure will continue to decompose, liberating more heat, warming the barn, and everything in it, some more. Eventually, all the manure, the milk, and the cowís body will all decompose, releasing all the heat that was initially stored in the food and the cow. Knowing the total number of calories in the food and the cow, and knowing the specific heat of air, one could calculate the final air temperature. All the energy would be evenly distributed, and, according to the second law of thermodynamics, no more heat would flow, so nothing else would happen.

So, we learn from this analysis that if you are going to keep cows alive, you have to have some way to cool them off. Therefore, cows can only exist in a closed system for a finite period of time. Since living cows will eventually die in a closed system, it is impossible for a dead cow to come to life in one.

Earth, Open or Closed

Ronís second question was, ďDo scientists think the earth is an open system and creationists think it is a closed system?Ē From the tone of the rest of his email we know that Ron didnít really mean to malign creationists, and we didnít take offense at it. But Ronís innocent Freudian slip indicates how successfully evolutionists have brainwashed the public. Evolutionists would like you to believe a person is either a scientist or a creationist. John R. Ranking, Andrew McIntosh, E. Theo Agard, Ker C. Thomson, John R. Baumgardner, Edmond W. Holroyd, Colin W. Mitchell, Stanley A. Mumma, Larry Vardiman, Geoff Downes, and Don B. DeYoung, are all scientists with excellent credentials. They have all put forth the thermodynamic argument against evolution. 1

Global Warming

We donít take a position on global warming, and normally we would not bring up the topic, except that it is fundamentally related to the issue of whether the Earth is an open or closed system or not.

It certainly is true that the Earth receives some energy from the Sun every day. It is also true that the Earth radiates energy into space every night. Those of us who live here in the desert appreciate how much heat is radiated from the Earth into space every night. If it is cloudy, we know it will stay warmer that night because the clouds reflect the heat back to the Earth. If it is clear, the temperature will drop significantly when the Sun goes down.

If the amount of heat received from the Sun exceeds the amount of heat radiated by the Earth, then the average temperature of the Earth will rise. If the amount of heat radiated by the Earth exceeds the amount of heat received from the Sun, the average temperature of the Earth will decrease.

The debate about global warming rages because the calculated global temperature depends upon a certain number of measured values all over the world. The calculated temperature change is approximately the same as one might expect from experimental error or statistical variation. Therefore, it is difficult to say whether or not the phenomenon is real. Furthermore, opinions differ as to what the environmental effect of global warming would be, how much change would be required for the effect to be significant, who or what is to blame for it, and how to stop it. Politics and emotions might obscure objectivity on both sides of the debate.

Fortunately, those are issues that are not relevant to our discussion, so we need not be distracted by them. All we need to establish is the fact that the amount of heat received from the Sun is approximately equal to the heat radiated from the Earth because the global temperature measurements arguably show little, if any, change in temperature. Therefore, the Earth can be considered to be a closed system for any thermodynamic calculation we might care to make because there is little, if any, net heat transfer. If the Earth could accurately be modeled as an open system ďwhich is continually receiving prodigious amounts of energy from the sun,Ē there would be no argument that global warming is happening.

Having said all that, we must point out that whether or not the Earth is an open system now is irrelevant. What matters is whether or not the Earth was an open system with a significant net influx of energy at the time when life supposedly evolved from non-life. According to the evolutionary myth, the Earth was a very warm planet before life existed. After life evolved, there were ice ages (a few thousand years ago). The evolutionists who accept the ďsnowball earthĒ hypothesis believe that there was an even larger ice age about the time of their so-called Cambrian period (about 600 million years ago). If you accept their argument, then the Earth was an open system that was losing heat rapidly at the time when life supposedly evolved. From the evolutionary point of view, that makes conditions worse than a closed system.

Not an Open or Shut Case

There is more to the issue than whether or not the Earth is closed or open. Even if we consider the Earth to be a closed system, there are still places where heat unnaturally flows from a cold place to a hot place. One of those places is your house. You most likely have a refrigerator pumping heat out of cold food into your warmer kitchen. But it takes energy to do that. That energy is produced by even more heat flowing from a hot spot to a cold spot someplace else on Earth, so the entropy of the Earth increases as a result.

All manufactured items, refrigerators, automobiles, television sets, corn flakes, etc., are the result of heat flowing in an unnatural direction. But that unnatural heat flow is powered by even more heat flowing in the natural direction someplace else. Furthermore, that natural heat flow has been consciously harnessed to produce the desired effect. Thatís why nearly every manufactured item is evidence of human activity; but there are some manufactured items that are not made by man. Bird nests, beaver dams, ant hills, and spider webs, are not of human origin. Even so, these things were all consciously designed by non-human intelligence.

When you find a nest, you know instinctively that it was produced intentionally by a living thing. Bird nests donít happen accidentally. Some bird had to have gathered the material, carried it to that place, and arranged it so that it would stick together. You know that even if you never saw the bird. The second law of thermodynamics does not prevent this from happening. The bird has stored a little bit of energy in this arrangement of twigs, but it expended more energy to do it, in accordance with the second law (treating the bird and its environment as a closed system). When the bird abandons the nest, the second law of thermodynamics will destroy it because the bird is no longer there to supply the energy required to keep it together.

The same thing is true of everything man has manufactured. Cars rust, and clothes wear out. If there isnít a continuous, conscious effort to maintain a manufactured item, the second law will eventually destroy it. Often the second law will use energy to disorganize some energy. Regardless of whether you say a house burns up, or a house burns down, the result is the same. The heat stored in the organization of the house is liberated by the fire, and heat becomes more evenly distributed.

Since something as simple as a nest cannot occur by chance, why would one think that the bird that created it happened by chance? A bird is far more complicated than its nest. Heat flowing from a hot place to a cold place had to have been harnessed to make many pieces come together to form the bird. Eventually the bird will die, and the second law will disassemble what was previously assembled. The stored heat will become more disorganized.

Kindergarten Thermodynamics

Scientists like to know why things happen. In kindergarten, budding scientists take apart their toys to see how they work. Sometimes, they can even put them back together again before their parents find out. Older scientists have discovered that the laws of thermodynamics explain why things happen. These laws also explain why some things canít happen. They explain why you canít keep a cow alive in a barn if you donít exhaust the heat. These laws also explain why organic tissues naturally break down into proteins, sugars, amino acids, water, and various gasses. They explain why proteins, sugars, amino acids, water, and various gasses donít assemble themselves into organic tissues.

You donít really need to understand how many calories are in a bale of hay and a gallon of milk to appreciate the second law of thermodynamics. All you really need to know, you really did learn in kindergarten. When you found a ball on the playground, you knew that someone had played with it, and left it there. If the ball was dirty, flat, and partially deteriorated, you knew that it had been left alone for a long time.

The natural order of things is to wax old, wear out, and decay. It is only through conscious intention that complex systems are created and maintained. Wrist watches, mouse traps, and bird nests donít happen by accident. Everything that is made, is made on purpose. Everything that is made, requires some maintenance. That is a scientific truth, established by countless experiments. It is confirmed by every drop of sweat you have ever produced while making something. It is confirmed every time you throw out something that is broken. To believe otherwise, you have to reject your entire life experience. You have seen the second law of thermodynamics at work all your life.

Ron later responded with a follow-up question.

Quick links to
Science Against Evolution
Home Page
Back issues of
(our newsletter)
Web Site
of the Month
Topical Index


1 Ashton, In Six Days, 1999, New Holland Publishers (Cr+)