Just Add Energy . . .

by on

Professor McIntosh is a co-director of Truth in Science, a committee of scientists and concerned laypeople, who, in September 2006, distributed packets to 5,600 secondary schools in the UK containing DVDs supporting the design argument. In late 2006 and early 2007, this action sparked headlines and hot debate in the British media, as well as in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. He is, in particular, responding to Richard Dawkins’ claim (commonly heard among evolutionists) that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is no problem for evolution because the earth is an “open system” and is receiving energy from the sun. McIntosh argues that the sunlight flooding the earth is no help at all unless machines are present which can harness the energy. Enjoy the discussion!

The reason of course why this subject of origins will not go away is that there is a scientific case, whether Oxford professor Richard Dawkins likes it or not, which is a challenge to the neo-Darwinian attempts to explain life in terms of common descent.

It is a straightforward case of testable science versus the modern evolutionary “just-so” story telling.

Scientists like me who believe design implies intelligence have no problem with natural selection. It is simply the natural equivalent of artificial selection. But natural selection has no power to create new functional structures. It does not increase information and does not build new types of machines (either as sub machines or in embryonic form).

The principles of thermodynamics, even in open systems, do not allow a new functional biological structure to be achieved without new machinery already being in place.

Let’s put a bit more detail in here. The laws of thermodynamics have one law in particular—the Second Law of Thermodynamics—which says that in a closed system the amount of energy that is no longer available for useful work is increasing. This is energy “lost” to the system per unit degree of temperature, and it is called the entropy of the system. The principle of energy loss for useful work still applies in an open system, since there is no benefit unless there is a machine to use the energy added. Boeing 777s cannot be made in a car factory by adding loads of sunlight or electricity unless the machinery is available to use that energy to build Boeing 777s. Similarly the human brain cannot be formed from simpler machines just by adding energy if there is no machinery available to do this. Spontaneously forming of such machinery will not happen.

What is a machine? A machine is a device for using energy to do work of some kind. Energy without machines just dissipates (the sun’s energy would be typical). But a machine harnesses energy to advantage: a solar cell turns the suns rays into electricity; a Rolls Royce Trent gas turbine turns chemical energy into thrust to power aircraft; the chlorophyll reaction in a plant leaf uses sunlight to enable the plant to grow and absorb carbon dioxide while emitting oxygen; the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) motor in living organisms transfers energy from food and respiration into useable energy to drive the cell machinery of DNA, ribosomes, amino acids and protein building, etc. In this sense all machines are entropy-lowering devices. But, unlike macro machines, chemical machinery at the molecular level involves setting up proteins of hundreds and usually thousands of polypeptide bonds linking a string of amino acids. And each of these bonds is in a raised energy state such that, left to itself, it would break down and not stay in that state. To suggest, as some are saying, that the raised energy state would be maintained while natural selection favored, over many generations, single random mutations, one by one, to finally bring together the full complement of necessary amino acids is, frankly, thermodynamically absurd. This is never observed and is contrary to all thermodynamic principles of energy transfer.

New machines are not made by simply adding energy to existing machines. Intelligence is needed. And this thesis is falsifiable. If anyone was to take an existing chemical machine and produce a different chemical machine which was not there before (either as a sub-part or latently coded for in the DNA template), then this argument would have been falsified. No one has ever achieved this.

In the excellent book by Wilder-Smith called The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution, on page 146, he summarizes the argument from Thermodynamics:

Today it is simply unscientific to claim that the fantastically reduced entropy of the human brain, of the dolphin's sound lens, and of the eye of a fossilised trilobite simply ‘happened’, for experimental experience has shown that such miracles just do not ‘happen’.

My position is to side with experimental science and not with “just-so” attempts to get around the clear evidence of design in nature. At the very least these matters should be critically considered in science teaching today.


Get the latest answers emailed to you.

I agree to the current Privacy Policy.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Learn more

  • Customer Service 800.778.3390