Thursday, 7 July 2011

Order from chaos

I love to get comments on my blog posts!  In an anonymous comment on a post a few days ago, I recognise a number of the standard tired old pseudo-scientific creationist arguments.  Shall I dissect the comment into its components?  The italic text is what was written by my anonymous but concerned friend.

God is a spirit, you cannot see a spirit. 

First demonstrate to me any evidence at all that there is such a thing as a spirit.  Then we can talk about the visibility.

But just because I cannot physically see God does not mean He does not exist. 

True.  Nobody can disagree with this although I have to point out that the balance of probability strongly suggests his absence, or at least his indifference. I suggest that there is actually no evidence that he does exist.  (The evidence of the heart doesn't count as evidence.  The evidence of scripture is too recursive to be any help either.)  Go on - show me your real evidence.  Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and you are the one claiming the existence of an extraordinary being.

The complexity of information contained in biological systems is incredible. 

It is truly amazing and wonderful.  You personally might find it incredible, but many of us do not have such a problem.  In this day and age you can go to places called libraries where they have books explaining how the diversity of life has arisen.  Personally I would recommend 'The Greatest Show on Earth' by Richard Dawkins as a clear and informative description of the fact of evolution.  If you choose to remain ignorant of the evidence that is available to anyone who can read, then it is your own choice.

Order does not come from nothing. Chance occurrences lead to entropy not ordered systems. 

The old ones are the best!  So you have read somewhere that the 2nd law of thermodynamics describes the progression from order to chaos, and you have drawn a pseudo-scientific (not scientific) conclusion from your incomplete understanding of physics.  Yes indeed, entropy increases when you consider the whole universe, but that is actually not the same as the inevitable universal chaos that your argument seeks to invoke.  You see it is perfectly possible to generate order from chaos and for entropy to decrease locally without breaking the 2nd law.  Try dissolving some salt in water and leaving it on a windowsill in the sun for a few days.  The salt solution is surely chaotic, but the crystals that emerge from it are rather obviously orderly.   Explain that if you can.  The bonus is that the laws of physics remain entirely unscathed.

Give yourself the opportunity to believe. 

Well, there are several aspects to this.  First of all, I spent 45 years doing that.  But now I have escaped from feeling a need to try to believe in an invisible but omni-malevolent being, my first question is to ask why you think I should believe in your particular deity.  Is it the Christian God, the Jewish God (who is different), Allah (who the Koran claims to be the same as the previous two), Thor, Ra or Ba'al?  The list is endless.  Why yours?

Interestingly the comment was on a post which didn't touch on evolution or entropy at all.  Does anyone have anything to add to my response?

Small and frivolous note:  Incidentally, whisky is a spirit and I can see that.


Luke Scientiae said...

Regarding "invisible spirits", I'd like to promote a passage from Carl Sagan's wonderful book The Demon-Haunted World". This is from p.160, chapter called "The Dragon in My Garage":

A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage.'

Suppose (I'm following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you'd want to check it out, see for yourself. There have
been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

'Show me,' you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle - but no dragon.

'Where's the dragon?' you ask.

'Oh, she's right here,' I reply, waving vaguely.

'I neglected to mention that she's an invisible dragon.'

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon's footprints.

'Good idea,' I say, 'but this dragon floats in the air.'

Then you'll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

'Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless.'

You'll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

'Good idea, except she's an incorporeal dragon and the paint won't stick.'

An so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won't work. Now, what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all?

If there's no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true.

Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever
value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I'm asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so.

RosaRubicondior said...

I love the way personal incredulity based on carefully maintained ignorance is used to support any evidence-free superstition, and how those who use it have no hesitation in declaring all the other identical claims for other gods too preposterous to be taken seriously.

Anonymous said...

No, order does not come from nothing. We have a nearby star to fuel as much order as we need on this planet. For now.