Archive for March 2009

Entropy and the Glory of God

March 31, 2009
Department of Entropy

Department of Entropy

Last week my lecture on chemical thermodynamics touched on entropy and the second law of thermodynamics. Fortunately, I was free to add some thoughts of my own on implications of these subjects because the class is at Wheaton College. My remarks dealt with 1) whether or not the second law of thermodynamics can be used to support or refute evolution and 2) speculation on whether the second law pre-dated or resulted from the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.

1) The second law of thermodynamics states that for all spontaneous reactions the entropy of the physical universe increases.  Written in equation form it is:

ΔSuniverse = ΔSsystem + ΔSsurroundings > 0

The creationist looks at this and says that the development of more complex organisms is a decrease in entropy (i.e. increased order equals decreased entropy) and that the increase in the entropy of the surroundings is not sufficient to offset the decrease in the entropy of the system. The only way around the second law is the input of energy from outside the universe, (a creator God who exists outside the physical universe). The evolutionist looks at the effect man has had on the earth as an increase in entropy greater than the decrease in entropy resulting from evolution. Both these arguments are difficult to prove because quantifying the terms ΔSsystem and ΔSsurroundings for the biosphere is impossible.

2) Since entropy is related to the degree of “disorder” in a system, the argument can be made that the universal trend toward disorder is a result of the fall and was not the way creation was originally intended to operate. However, I do not think it is necessary to associate the second law with the introduction of sin into the world. Clearly God creates order out of chaos as is described in Genesis. I would like to argue that God’s creation is not diminished in glory if it has an inherent trend towards disorder. If the trend towards disorder was absent, creation would not be dependent upon God’s sustaining power and God would not be glorified to the same degree as if creation is inherently dependent upon Him.

Now, in the second law of thermodynamics . . .

"Now, in the second law of thermodynamics . . . "