Yesterday we looked at the First Law of Thermodynamics. I said that in my 41 years of teaching high school physics, the hardest part was getting students to see how the subject applied to their lives. If they understood that life is not possible without the laws of thermodynamics, they would realize the importance of the topic and find it easier to understand. As with the First Law, the Second Law of Thermodynamics is essential to our existence.
THE SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS: In Any Energy Conversion, Some Energy is Lost in the Form of Heat, Which Cannot be Recovered as Useful Energy.
This statement of the Second Law is known as the Clausius statement. What it describes is heat death. In any closed system, things tend to move toward a condition of disorder. We call that disorder “entropy.” The law does not say that energy is destroyed, because that would violate the First Law. It merely states that there is always some energy that cannot be recovered in any physical process. Things always move toward a condition of disorder.
To help students understand the Second Law, I would have a student put a spoon on the desk. While I was talking to the class, one end of the spoon would get hot and start to smoke. I would deny it was hot by picking it up at the other end and then putting it back right where I found it. There it would continue to get hotter and hotter on one end. The class would go ballistic, and I would ask them, “What’s the problem?” After a barrage of nutty answers (it’s haunted, it’s an illusion, etc.), I would point out that they had faith in the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
Common sense tells them that order (the cold end) cannot exist at the same time as disorder (the hot end). I had an induction coil under the desk-top that was heating the spoon, but we all know that one end cannot remain hot, and the other end cold. Gases diffuse, things fall apart, and people get old because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
My favorite example is a teenager’s room, which becomes more and more disordered with time in conformance to the Second Law. It is essential to understand that all of these examples assume that no one is improving the order from the outside. If Mother comes along and makes you clean up your room, then the room is no longer a closed system. Organizing energy is added from the outside. The Second Law applies to systems in which no external organizing energy is added to the system. The induction coil made the spoon an open system.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics has enormous implications for cosmology. It says that, like us, all stars and all galaxies will eventually die. The cosmos is not eternal. There had to be a specific point at which the cosmos had no unusable energy. At that point, there was no entropy. The biblical statement that there was a beginning is strongly attested to by the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
We must point out that it is incorrect to apply the Second Law to planet Earth or to anything on Earth. Some creationists have attempted to attack evolution based on the Second Law, but Earth is not a closed system. Photosynthesis works because the Sun is adding energy to the Earth. Biological systems can have energy added to them by any number of methods such as light, radiation, heat, or thermal vents. The added energy improves order, reducing entropy. Although the Second Law verifies many biblical statements, it is not a tool to attack evolution.
Tomorrow we will examine the Third Law of Thermodynamics.
We are pleased to see a report about Christian women in science. A typical attack against Christianity is the claim that it views women as second-class citizens. Critics use Scripture references such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15, which urges women to learn in silence and not to usurp the authority over men. Another passage they use is 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, which tells women to keep silent in the assembly and to ask their husbands at home if they want to learn anything. Atheists and skeptics have not only quoted these passages, but they have sometimes been used by males in the Church as control devices over women.
It is essential to consider to whom those instructions were written, why they were written, and what the circumstances were when they were written. The critics ignore the fact that Galatians 3:28 tells us that there was no such thing as male or female in the Church because we are all one in Jesus Christ. All of this misunderstanding has been catalyzed by what has taken place in the world as a whole. Women have been mistreated in every aspect of life, both in their secular roles and in the Church.
We recommend this information about Christian women in science, especially to young women and their parents. It is encouraging to see so many women of faith having success in the secular world of science.
Yesterday we gave a brief and simplified discussion of the electron, a particle which was speculated before the birth of Christ and discovered in 1897.The other fundamental particle in the cosmos is the proton. The date of discovery of the proton is 1919, and Ernest Rutherford gave the proton its name in 1920. Proton is the Greek word for first, and that name describes the fact that when it comes to understanding the elements in the creation, we begin with a proton starting point.
Along with neutrons, protons are called nucleons because they are present in the nucleus of the atom. Hydrogen contains one proton, and science believes it is the starting point for all of the chemical elements. The proton has a rest mass of 1.6726219 x 10-27 Kgs, which is about 1836 times the mass of an electron. Protons are incredibly stable and carry a positive charge. By contrast, neutrons will decay, producing a proton and an electron (beta particle).
In the periodic chart, the atomic number of each element is the number of protons in the nucleus. Neutrons also exist in the nucleus, but it is the proton that determines what the element is. In the laboratory, we can produce heavier elements by fusing protons, which are essentially naked hydrogen atoms. Scientists believe that the heavier elements in the creation have been produced in the cores of giant stars using a proton starting point.
Science is now dissecting the proton to understand how it was created. We have learned that particles called quarks are the building blocks of protons. Two up quarks and a down quark make up the proton. We are beginning to understand electrical charges, but how a positive charge is produced is still under study.
The message of the proton and electron is the amazing complexity of creating the stuff of which everything is made. Everywhere we look, we see a wonder working-hand has gone before. It has taken science many centuries to begin to understand the basics of the beginning of creation. For most of us, all we need to know is, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” There may have been a proton starting point for the beginning of the chemistry of the physical world, but it is evident that much took place to produce that beginning.
Everyone has heard of something called an electron. As a science teacher, it always interested me to see how little my students understood about what electrons are, what they do, and how electrons affect our lives.
The story of the electron started early in human history when the ancient Greeks found that if they rubbed fur on amber, the amber attracted things. It wasn’t until the 1800s that people began to understand the electron as we know it today. It was only in 1897 that J.J. Thompson discovered the particle itself.
The design of the electron is amazing. Science is just beginning to understand what charge is, but it is easy to show that there are two kinds of charges. They are negative and positive, and when they are combined, they neutralize each other. The electron carries a negative charge. (The proton has a positive charge and has about 1836 times the mass of an electron, but we will look at protons tomorrow.)
The electron has spin properties and behaves like a tiny magnet due to the spin. In atoms, electrons are paired so that the north pole of one electron is matched with the south pole of another electron. This allows the reactions we know about in chemistry. When an electron is accelerated, it radiates or absorbs energy, depending on whether it is speeding up or slowing down. These factors are the basis of much of our modern world of technology and are the reason electrons affect our lives so much today.
Beta particles can be released in nuclear reactions. Beta particles can be either electrons or antielectrons known as positrons. If an electron beta particle collides with a positive antielectron beta particle, they annihilate each other. The result produces gamma rays – a high energy form of light.
Science is still trying to understand how these particles are created. We are beginning to understand what causes charge, but the answer to the origin questions is what the field of quantum mechanics is about. The normal laws of the physical world have to be discarded, and new rules understood to investigate the tiny world of nuclear physics. It is an exciting time to be alive as science opens up new horizons, and electrons affect our lives in new ways.
All of this reminds us of the intelligence and creative genius of God. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:3).
Those who maintain that all life is a product of chance have a new opponent on their hands. He is Dr. David Gelernter, professor of computer science at Yale University, chief scientist at Mirror Worlds Technologies, and a member of the National Council of the Arts. He says that we are not a product of chance.
One of Dr. Gelernter’s main arguments is the difficulty of producing a stable and functional protein by blind, mechanical chance. Proteins are the work-horses of life. Proteins called enzymes catalyze all sorts of reactions and drive cellular metabolism. Other proteins, such as collagen, give cells shape and structure. Proteins drive nerve function, muscle function, and photosynthesis. The question is whether mindless, random changes in molecules can create all the different proteins necessary for life to exist.
The argument starts with amino acids, which we know can be formed by natural processes in specific environments. Statisticians calculate that the odds of amino acids forming a stable protein are 1 in 1074. As Gelernter writes, “To say that your chances are 1 in 1074 is not different, in practice, from saying that they are zero.” For comparison, science tells us there are only 1080 atoms in the universe. Gelernter says, “The odds bury you. It can’t be done.”
It is essential to understand that we are not talking about the formation of life here. Gelernter is talking about making chance mutations in existing DNA that result in a useful new protein that could play a role in evolution. Macroevolution, or the creation of new species, would require new genes that could create a meaningful new protein. This is simply one small step in producing the materials necessary for life.
We are not a product of chance. There is growing evidence of the design and planning that has gone into the making of life and us. Dr. Gelernter says he has been attacked by some atheistic scientists, because, as he says, “I am attacking their religion.”
The more we learn about the human body, the more we see the complexity that defies any notion of mindless creation. The latest count of microscopic species that live in or on our bodies is over 10,000. The total number of single-cell microbes is over one-hundred trillion. These are not just hitchhikers that have come along for the ride. They are essential to the proper functioning of our bodies. Scientists have well studied most of these microbes, but the scientific literature continues to report on new roles for microbes that scientists previously thought to have no function. We marvel at the amazing complexity of being you.
This complexity is minor compared to DNA. The project to sequence the human genome formally began in 1990 and was completed in 2003. If you wonder why it took so long, consider the enormous size of the DNA molecule. Packed into every cell of your body is a DNA strand that, if you unwound it and stretched it out, would be about three meters long. Considering the number of cells in the human body, if you took the stretched-out DNA molecules from every cell and laid them end-to-end, they would reach from here to the Sun and back almost 70 times. A few years ago, the popular literature told us that 98% of our DNA was junk with no functional use. Since that time, science has learned that over 80% of human DNA has a function, and you don’t hear about “junk DNA” anymore.
The point of all these numbers is to show the amazing complexity of being you. The human body is an incredibly complicated machine with a blueprint that scientists are still not able to read. As we do read parts of that blueprint, we find that our assumptions about our bodies have led to unfortunate medical decisions. As a child, I can remember the polio epidemic and the pain and misery that it brought to some of my friends. It is incredible that I never contracted this virus because when I was very young, I had a lot of throat problems, and the doctor decided to remove my tonsils. We now know that the tonsils are the only area of the body that can synthesize antibodies to fight poliomyelitis. If you don’t have tonsils, your chances of developing polio increase significantly.
We hear promoters of the theory of human evolution glibly talk about the chance mutations of life that would lead to what humans are today. Assuming that the incredible complexity of the human body can come about by chance alone is to accept a faith that defies reason. The simple biblical statement that “God formed man of the dust of the Earth” ignores the intelligence and design that is required. The Psalmist had a glimpse of the amazing complexity of being you when he wrote, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14-15). Today we know far more about our creation than David did, and we can add our voice to that praise.
We have said many times before that science and faith are friends, not enemies. The conflict comes when we have bad science or bad theology, and there has been a lot of both. It becomes increasingly necessary in today’s polarized world to avoid fake science and false religious doctrines.
From the beginning of the Church, there have been preachers and teachers who were spreading false doctrines. (2 Corinthians 11:13, 1 Timothy 1:3). Today some scientists present falsified scientific research. Elisabeth Bik, a microbiology researcher, has spent the past few years searching out fraudulent science. She searched 20,000 reports of medical research and found that 800 of them (4%) contained manipulated images.
One of the fraudulent papers Bik found was the work of a Pfizer cancer lab researcher. The images had been edited to show results that were not true. After Bik alerted Pfizer, they fired the researcher, and then investigated her previous research on cancer therapeutics. They found more bogus papers that they had to retract. Scientists often use the work of their peers as a basis for further research. If they are basing their work on false information, the whole system becomes polluted, and lives may be endangered.
Publishing scientific work in prestigious academic journals can lead to respect by other scientists as well as career enhancement and increased income. That creates a “publish or perish” mentality. The temptation to falsify the data becomes strong, and sometimes scientists yield to temptation. That’s a good reason why faith in God is necessary for scientists. Furthermore, the science journals don’t have the staff or funds to catch mistakes, and they are reluctant to retract what they have printed.
There’s an amazing balance in the design of living things in this world. Many times humans throw the system out of balance. The rhinoceros is endangered not because of natural predators, but because of humans. Rhino horns can sell for thousands of dollars for their collectible value and their use in traditional Asian medicine, so poachers take advantage of that.
People are willing to pay a high price for the rhino horns for decorative or medicinal purposes. Killing these animals to use their horns for decorative trophies is shameful. Killing them for medicine is useless. Their horns consist of only keratin, which is the same as human hair or fingernails. In reality, the rhino horn is one really tough bundle of nose hairs glued together by material extruded from sebaceous glands in the animal’s nose. Superstitious beliefs have caused people to grind the rhino horns into powder and drink the powder in water or inhale it for supposed health benefits.
Wild rhinos numbered over half-a-million at the beginning of the twentieth century. Today there are fewer than 30,000. The International Rhino Foundation reports that three rhinos are killed each day by poachers just to obtain their horns. Trying to catch the poachers and stop them in the act is nearly impossible. Sawing off the rhino’s horn to make it unattractive to poachers is not a good solution. Science is looking for a better way.
Researchers from the University of Oxford have designed fake rhino horns that look and feel like the real thing. More than that, they have similar material properties to the real horns. They used hairs from the tails of horses (close relatives of rhinos) and cemented them together with a silk-protein based organic filler. Molding the structure into the shape of a rhino horn, you get a realistic imitation. Even examining the internal structure on cross-section reveals identical characteristics. It also handles grinding and high temperatures like the real deal.
These fake rhino horns can be manufactured rather economically, so the rhinoceros horn market could be flooded with them to disrupt the black market. Furthermore, when the horns are ground into powder for medicinal purposes, they will be just as effective real horns, meaning not effective at all.
Education doesn’t work as long as people have superstitious religious beliefs about the power of rhino horns. Perhaps the fake horns will help. The best answer to the problem of human abuse of this well-designed world is to realize that the Creator has given us the job of being caretakers of the creation. (Genesis 2:15) If we believe there is a Creator who holds us responsible, we have good reason to handle the Earth and the life on it with care.
How do you feed millions of humans and meet their nutritional needs without destroying the planet with greenhouse gases? The World Wildlife Federation has released data on one of the primary sources of food for more than six billion people worldwide – milk. The average person in the United States consumed 643 pounds (292 kg) of dairy products in 2017, including milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. Those foods came from 9.3 million dairy cows, but there are 278 million in the world. Milk production has grown by 30% from 2005 to 2015, and that comes to 909 million tons. India is the leading producer with 20% of the world’s supply. The U.S. has 12%.
The design of cattle that can produce that much milk was recognized in prehistoric times, and cattle were worshiped because they provided so much food for humans. Skeptics would respond that the environmental impact of cattle is so huge that it is a bad design. It does take 144 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk in the U.S., with over 93% of it involved in growing feed for the cattle. The average dairy cow will eat 100 pounds of feed, and 9% of American cropland is used to grow feed crops for dairy cows. A cow will produce 17 gallons of urine and manure, which can pollute rivers and lakes, and they generate greenhouse gases.
The fact is that only 2% of the total U.S. emission of greenhouse gases comes from milk production. The Northern Great Plains cover 180 million acres in Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. The land became rich in resources and healthy when grazing animals such as bison aerated and fertilized the soil. With the past numbers of those animals gone, scientists now say that something else must fill that niche or erosion will increase, and invasive plants will take over. Studies by the World Wildlife Federation show that cattle production areas in the Northern Great Plains have lower per acre emissions than row crop agriculture such as corn, soybeans, and wheat. The most recent study shows “done right, ranching can help conserve biodiversity while minimizing its own environmental footprint.”
Those of us who have an interest in creation have followed the work of Dr. James Peebles at Princeton University for some time. Since 1964, Peebles has been working to understand the scientific evidence of how the cosmos came into being. For his work, he has won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Dr. Peebles predicted cosmic microwave background radiation, which has been a major tool in understanding the beginning of the universe and in realizing that 95% of the matter/energy in the cosmos is unknown. The “big bang” model describing the universe fits well with understanding God’s role in the cosmos. Peebles has shown that the formation of space/time and matter/energy fits with all available observations, and he has discovered several new processes, such as the baryon model, to describe the physics of the early universe.
The Ostriker-Peebles criterion relating to the stability of galactic formation has helped us understand other galaxies besides our Milky Way. Observing the spin rates in those galaxies has led us to realize that the rapid speeds at which they move require a force that has not been identified to prevent them from flying apart. This realization is the starting point for speculating the existence of dark matter. There has to be a missing mass that is the glue of stable galaxies. Research continues to understand what dark matter is and how it works.
Dr. Frank Baxter once said, “the more we know about the creation, the closer we get to the creator.” The fact that James Peebles has been recognized for his work in cosmology is encouraging. Scientists now agree there was a beginning. The cause of that beginning and the properties of that cause are the next steps toward comprehending the creation of the cosmos.