Human beings observe the remains of animals that can't be observed, and ask: Where did the remains come from? Scientists invented the theory of evolution: Life evolved from bacteria to mammals over a period of 3.5 billion years.
The author marshals the evidence for theory of evolution (carbon dating, fossils, geological observations), and discusses the evidence put forth by creationists to show the Earth is only 6,000 years old. Menninga respects creationism because it is based on an interpretation of the Bible, however, he feels knowledge of our salvation history is compromised by the rejection of the scientific history of our planet.
Menninga rejects the idea that evolution is a fact. He is quite right because there is another theory, related to the Bible and religious faith, that many scientists believe is true. It is the theory that free will is an illusion. There is very little evidence for this theory, which arises from the question: What is the relationship between myself and my body? The answer to this question supported by evidence is that free will is a mystery and humans are embodied spirits. This is why it is important to distinguish between observations and theories.
One of the arguments advanced by creationists is that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics, and Menninga addresses this question. Unfortunately, he shows a lack of understanding of thermodynamics and of evolutionary biology.
Fact or theory, evolution gives rise to the question of what caused it. The only theories that even attempt to explain evolution are creationism and the theory of intelligent design (ID). Forgetting about orthogenesis, the other theory is natural selection, but natural selection only explains the adaptation of species to the environment. It does not explain the increase in the complexity of living organisms as the evolved from bacteria to mammals.
Evolutionary biologists always speak of "adaptive evolution." The old model for evolution is a tornado hitting a junkyard and producing a Boeing 747 in flight. The new model is a computer generating an English sonnet by the random selection of letters. This model is an attempt to understand the evolution of the primary structure of a protein, which is a chain of hundreds of amino acids. The benefit of the new model is that you can calculate how long it would take a computer to do this. No one has done this calculation because nobody cares. No evolutionary biologist thinks natural selection explains the complexity of life. I refer skeptical readers to an award-winning book by professors of biology at Harvard and Berkeley The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin's Dilemma. Another reference from mainstream biologists is Biology's First Law: The Tendency for Diversity and Complexity to Increase in Evolutionary Systems.
According to the second law of thermodynamics, a gas will fill up the entire container it is in. This is the most probable distribution of molecules because the molecules do not interact. Their location is determined by random chance. When the molecules are spread out there is less knowledge of the location of each molecule and more disorder than if the molecules are huddled in one section of the container. When you compress a gas, you increase your knowledge of the location of the molecules and decrease the amount of disorder.
The second law does not apply to the evolution of stars. In outer space when there are large numbers of hydrogen atoms, the gravitational attraction is not negligible and the molecules go from disorder to order. The second law of thermodynamics only applies only to non-interacting entities. Thinking that the evolution of stars violates the second law is incorrect. Nothing can violate the second law because it is absolutely true. It is like saying the chance of getting head when you flip a coin is 50%. Likewise, the second law of thermodynamics does not apply to biological evolution. The only connection between evolution and the second law of thermodynamics is that biologists calculate the probability of a protein arising from an imaginary bin of amino acids by random chance. Physicists perform similar probability calculations in statistical mechanics, which is related to thermodynamics.
Nevertheless, there are many science articles and books saying, like Menninga, that evolution does not violate the second law. This is a more erroneous than saying evolution violates the second law because these articles give a ridiculous reason. The reason given is that the Earth is not a closed system. What must be going on in their addled brains is that heat from the Sun causes the amino acids to jump around in a way that produces new proteins. Heating things up causes disorder, not order.
In an appendix, Menniga provides some absurd equations in thermodynamics to prove evolution does not violate the second law. He could have cited an article published in the American Journal of Physics in 2008 ("Entropy and evolution") which performs such a calculation. Even though it is a peer-reviewed article, the equations in the AJP article are more absurd than Menniga's equations.
The AJP article is absurd because thermodynamics does not apply to evolution, as I explained. What is more, the key equation in the article is so nonsensical that even someone who did not take physics in high school should be able to understand why the equation is absurd.
The primary concept in thermodynamics is temperature, which is the feeling of hot and cold. It is measured with a thermometer and is called a variable with the symbol T because it changes in time. A Boeing 747 in flight does not have a temperature because it is made up of many different parts. Likewise, a living organism does not have a temperature. When we put a thermometer in our mouths, we are only measuring the temperature of saliva.
The variable heat (Q) is what causes the temperature to change, and there is an equation connecting the two variables. Entropy (S) is another variable that can be defined in terms of Q and T. The equations connecting S with Q and T is too complex to explain, as is the concept of entropy itself. Just as it is meaningless to talk about the temperature of a living organism, it is meaningless to talk about its entropy.
What causes a gas to have a temperature is the motion of the molecules in the gas. The faster the molecules are moving, the higher the temperature. Temperature is considered to be a macroscopic variable and the kinetic energy of an object is considered to be a microscopic variable. There is an equation in physics that connects the microscopic and the macroscopic: KE = 3/2 k T.
KE stands for the kinetic energy of the individual molecules, and k is the Boltzmann constant, which is a very small number because molecules are very small. It is determined experimentally by measuring the KE of gas molecules.There is a similar equation for entropy: S = k log W.
While the variable entropy (S) on the macroscopic level is difficult to understand, the variable W is not. W is called thermodynamic probability. If a container of gas contains N molecules, physicists will break up the container into N imaginary sub-containers, one for each molecule. The most probable distribution of molecules is one molecule in each sub-container. The least probable is all of the molecules in one particular sub-container. The probability of this happening is 1: N!= NX(N-1)X(N-2)..... But now, we can understand the macroscopic concept of entropy. Entropy is a measure of the amount of disorder. We can now say that a gas fills up the entire container because that arrangement maximizes entropy.
The equation for entropy only applies to a system of molecules. You can calculate the probability of many things. For example, the chance of shuffling a deck of cards and getting them back into the original factory order is 1: 52!. But you can't plug this number into the equation for entropy.
Believe it or not, this is just what the AJP article does. It estimates that during evolution the biosphere became 1000 times less probable. This number was plugged into the equation for entropy to argue that the evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics. What unbelievable nonsense!