Second Law of Thermodynamics

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The Second Law of Thermodynamics is a fundamental truth about the tendency towards disorder in the absence of intelligent intervention. This principle correctly predicts that heat will never flow from a cold body to a warmer one, and that "[t]he universe is constantly getting more disorderly!"[1]

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the result of the intrinsic uncertainty in nature, manifest in quantum mechanics, which is overcome only by intelligent intervention.

This law makes it impossible to build a perpetual motion machine - the increase in entropy inevitably derails the system even if energy remains constant.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics disproves the atheistic Theory of Evolution and Theory of Relativity, both of which deny a fundamental uncertainty to the physical world that leads to increasing disorder.

Entropy and disorder

In this context "increasing disorder" means "that which happens if you let nature take its course." Imagine your old room at your parent's house. Remember how easy it was to let the room turn into a uniform mess (disorder) and remember how hard it was to clean it up until it fit a specific, non-uniform design (order). Not cleaning up would always result in an increase of entropy in your room!

Now, in nature there is no one to clean up the universe, only chances. The chance of something becoming orderly is a lot smaller than the chance of something becoming disorderly (since there are far more possible disorderly states to choose from).

Alternatively one could think of how difficult it is to construct a house of cards, while almost everything that happens in nature will result in its collapse.

On a universal scale a tidy room would be a universe which has pockets of above average concentrations of energy (if you - incorrectly - assume relativity E=mc² this includes matter as well.) A messy room would be a universe in which all energy is equally spread out.

The flow of energy (by heat exchange) to places with lower concentrations is called the "heat flow".

The often heard argument that this law disproves an eternal universe is true, since in that case maximum entropy would have been reached already. A counter-argument to this would be to suggest that the universe is still in the process of approaching maximum entropy.

Reversibility and Irreversibility

Reversibility is a theoretical concept related to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. A process is reversible if the net heat and work exchange between the system and the surroundings is zero for the process running forwards and in reverse. This means the process does not generate entropy. In reality, no process is completely reversible. Irreversibility is a quantity sometimes called "lost work" and is equal to the difference between a process' actual work and reversible work. Irreversibility is also equal to a process' entropy generation multiplied by a reference temperature.

Trend toward uniformity in the universe

The universe will always become increasingly uniform, that is: heat will spread until the entire universe has the temperature and energy level (in a closed system heat will always spread from a place where there is a lot of heat to a place where there is less until balance is achieved), forces will continue to work until a universal balance has been achieved.

In this final state the universe is one uniform space where nothing happens and no work (moving something) can be done since there are no above average concentrations of energy left. This state is called maximum entropy and is said to be in perfect disorder (although intuitively its uniformity would seem to be a state of perfect order) because it has become impossible to determine what happened in the past. i.e. There are an infinite number of ways (histories of the universe) maximum entropy could have been reached.

The types of systems governed by the Law

There is only one type of system that the Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to: an isolated system. An isolated system is one that does not exchange matter or energy with its surroundings.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics does not strictly apply to the following types of system:

  • Closed system - Exchanges energy, but not matter, with its surroundings
  • Open system - Exchanges both matter and energy with its surroundings

The boundary of any system can always be expanded to produce an isolated system.

Liberal abuse of the second law of thermodynamics

It has become common in recent years for environmentalists to claim that the second law of thermodynamics implies limits to economic growth. Their reasoning is that because free energy in resources such as oil decreases with time, then economic growth can only be finite. However, this simplistic liberal reasoning ignores the non-zero sum nature of free market economics, whereby improvements in technology deliver gains for all at no further cost. Indeed, one of the most vital economic goods, knowledge, or more generally information, can be said to be free from thermodynamic limitations entirely.[2] Liberals also vastly exaggerate the limitations that natural resources impose on human economies. Some estimate that the Earth can harbor 100 billion people. God Himself gives His explicit assurance that the Earth will be generous as long as the human race exists in Genesis: "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Gen. 1:28, KJV)

Creation Ministries International on the second law of thermodynamics and evolution

See also: Creation Ministries International on the second law of thermodynamics and evolution

Creation Ministries International has a great wealth of information on why the second law of thermodynamics is incompatible with the evolutionary paradigm.

Some of their key resources on this matter are:

Evolutionists and other scientists claim that these resources misrepresent the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

The 1st and 2nd law of thermodynamics and the universe having a beginning

See also: Atheism and the origin of the universe

According to Ohio State University professor Patrick Woodward, the First Law of Thermodynamics "simply states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed (conservation of energy)."[3]

The Christian apologetics website Why believe in God? declares about the Second Law of Thermodynamics:

The second law of thermodynamics, or the law of increased entropy, says that over time, everything breaks down and tends towards disorder - entropy! Entropy is the amount of UNusable energy in any systems; that system could be the earth's environment or the universe itself. The more entropy there is, the more disorganisation and chaos.

Therefore, if no outside force is adding energy to an isolated system to help renew it, it will eventually burn out (heat death). This can be applied to a sun as well as a cup of tea - left to themselves, both will grow cold. You can heat up a cold tea, you cannot heat up a cold sun. NOTE: when a hot tea in an air tight room goes cold (loses all it's energy) not only do we NOT expect the process to reverse by natural causes (ie. the tea will get hot again), but both room temp and tea temp will be equal. Keep that in mind as you read the next paragraph.

Look at it like this, because the energy in the universe is finite and no new energy is being added to it (1st law), and because the energy is being used up (2nd law), the universe cannot be infinite. If our universe was infinite but was using up a finite supply of energy, it would have suffered 'heat death' a long time ago! If the universe was infinite all radioactive atoms would have decayed and the universe would be the same temperature with no hot spots, no bright burning stars. Since this is not true, the universe must have begun a finite time ago.[4]

Thus, the First Law of Thermodynamics and the Second Law of Thermodynamics point to the universe having a beginning.[5]

The 1st and 2nd laws of thermodynamics, theism and the origins of the universe

In the articles below, theists point out that the First Law of Thermodynamics and the Second Law of Thermodynamics point to the universe having a divine origin:

See also

References

  1. The quotation is from Isaac Asimov, who continued to say "[v]iewed that way, we can see the second law all about us. We have to work hard to straighten a room, but left to itself it becomes a mess again very quickly and very easily. Even if we never enter it, it becomes dusty and musty. How difficult to maintain houses, and machinery, and our bodies in perfect working order: how easy to let them deteriorate. In fact, all we have to do is nothing, and everything deteriorates, collapses, breaks down, wears out, all by itself -- and that is what the second law is all about.” Isaac Asimov, Smithsonian Institute Journal, June 1970, p. 6. Put in physics terminology, the Second Law states that the entropy of an isolated or closed system never decreases.
  2. [1] Discovery Institute cofounder and futurist George F. Gilder put it eloquently as follows: Gone is the view of a thermodynamic world economy, dominated by "natural resources" being turned to entropy and waste by human extraction and use. Once seen as a physical system tending toward exhaustion and decline, the world economy has clearly emerged as an intellectual system driven by knowledge.
  3. 1st Law of Thermodynamics, Ohio State University, Professor Pat Woodward (teaches for the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry [2])
  4. Is the Universe Infinite? Past beliefs and implications, Why believe in God? website