Laws of Thermodynamics in Creation

The word ‘thermodynamics’ comes from the combination of two Greek words. The first word is ‘therme’ which is a reference to heat. The second word is ‘dunamis’ which is a reference to power (think of the English word dynamic). The scientific field of thermodynamics examines ‘heat power’ in regards to an ability to do work and the conversion of heat to other forms of energy. The laws and mathematical formulas of thermodynamics are as fundamental and absolute as science is able to produce. All things in the observable universe follow these laws including the weather on Earth driven by the heat of the sun, plants producing food using solar energy, and biological functions in the cells of the body which use heat stored in molecules.

Thermodynamics in Creation and Evolution Models

Evolution Model

The laws of thermodynamics present a difficult problem for evolutionists. In particular, the second law of thermodynamics implies that evolution cannot happen. The contradiction comes in that thermodynamics state that things must become increasingly disorderly while evolution states the opposite happens as things become increasingly complex and orderly. Therefore, many attempts and arguments have been made to overcome this barrier, but as far as this author knows, none have been successful. Here are a few of the more common arguments.

Creation Model

The creation model states that when Elohim made the heavens and the earth it was complete and that everything was good. Things would not be able to get better but they certainly could get worse and would be expected to do so. This physical deterioration of our world and in the universe is what we observe. Things move from high energy and complexity to disorder and simplicity.

Introduction to Heat, Power, and Work

Thermodynamics Defined

The word ‘thermodynamics’ comes from the combination of two Greek words. The first word is ‘thermo’ which is a reference to heat. The second word is ‘dunamis’ which is a reference to power (think of the English word dynamic). The scientific field of thermodynamics examines ‘heat power’ in regards to an ability to do work and the conversion of heat to other forms of energy. The laws and mathematical formulas of thermodynamics are as fundamental and absolute as science is able to produce. All things in the observable universe follow these laws including the weather on Earth driven by the heat of the sun, plants producing food using solar energy, and biological functions in the cells of the body which use heat stored in molecules.

Converting Heat to Power

The study of the relationship between heat, energy, and work came shortly after the invention of the steam engine. Engineers needed a way to determine how much work could be done with any given engine with a certain amount of fuel. A steam engine, like the steam train at the right, is still one of the best ways to describe how thermodynamics and the related concepts function. In the steam train to the right, coal is placed in the firebox to burn (flames shown in red), which heats the water in the boiler tubes (shown in blue), causing the water to first turn to steam and then build pressure (shown in grey), and finally push the piston and drive shaft (shown in brown) to turn the wheels. The heat from the flames has been captured and then transformed into power for mechanical motion.

Using Heat and Power to do Work

The steam train pulling a load above is an excellent example of how the concept of thermodynamics function in regard to work. The train engine represents a thermodynamic system. The train engine is able to do work but it requires heat to make this happen. The larger the engine the more work that can be accomplished at one time. The coal car represents the available amount of heat. The more coal available, the longer the work can continue. The cargo box represents the work being done. The more cargo boxes being pulled, the more work that is being done. This is almost identical to a thermodynamic system. The system needs heat to operate and the larger the system (imagine one person versus an army) the more work that can be accomplished. The available heat (imagine a battery versus the sun) determines how long the work can be done. To total work that can be accomplished is measured in the amount of heat that is available minus the energy used up by the system itself in doing the work.

Process of Heat Transfer

At the base of thermodynamic studies is the ability of heat to be moved or transferred from one place to another. There are three ways to move heat which are conduction, convection, and radiation. All three of these forms can be examined in the process of cooking food over a campfire pictured below.

Conduction

Conduction is the primary method of heat transfer within a solid. This method uses the high kinetic energy of vibrating atoms and free electrons to transfer energy. This is similar to how electricity moves and therefore conductors and insulators for electricity tend to be the same for heat conduction. Therefore, metal objects with many free electrons conduct heat quickly while plastics with few free electrons do not. Thus, when stirring a hot pot of soup a metal spoon quickly becomes hot while wooden or plastic spoons remain relatively cool to the touch. Generally, gases and liquids are poor conductors.

Convection

Convection is the primary method of heat transfer within gases and liquids. The works because these mediums can move and allow the circulation of heat by a flowing motion. This generally works because substances become less dense as their temperature increases and so they rise. Interestingly, this process will not work without gravity. Smoke rising from a fire or thermal updrafts used by birds are examples of convection currents. Within the oceans, deep water currents move large amounts of water as the water near the equator is heated, rises, and pulls in water from the poles. This typically does not occur in solids since the material cannot move.

Radiation

Radiation is heat (or energy) traveling by infrared rays which requires no medium to travel through. This allows the heat from the Sun to travel through space to the Earth. Infrared radiation is given off by every object (above absolute zero) with hotter objects emitting more. Radiated heat can be felt by those sitting or standing around the fire.

Laws of Thermodynamics

Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics

The zeroth law of thermodynamics considers the interactions of two or more systems that come into contact with each other. Specifically that they will tend to become equal in heat value. “If two thermodynamic systems are each in thermal equilibrium with a third, then they are in thermal equilibrium with each other.” The zeroth law of thermodynamics became necessary after the other three laws were established which explains the unusual name. This law basically states that objects which come into contact in such a way as to be able to exchange heat and/ energy will do so until they become equal. An example of this is placing an ice cube into a hot beverage and waiting until it is all the same temperature.

First Law of Thermodynamics

The first law of thermodynamics, like the coal car above, considers the quantity of heat in a system. “In any process, energy can be changed from one form to another (including heat and work), but it is never created or destroyed” by Rudolf Clausius. The first law of thermodynamics is also known as the law of conservation of energy. This law describes the quantity of energy in a system. Although the heat power / energy of the system can change forms, the amount of energy contained in the system is always the same. When the quantity of something does not change, it is said to be conserved. This is summed up in the mathematical formula of the internal energy of the system is equal to the heat added to the system minus the work done by the system. This equation is an energy balance equation which tells us where the energy in the system is located.

Second Law of Thermodynamics

The second law of thermodynamics, like the train engine above, considers the quality of the heat in a system and how much is lost to excess motion or to the surrounding environment. “The entropy of a system not in equilibrium will increase over time.” The second law of thermodynamics examines the quality of the heat power / energy in a system. The quality is here defined as the ability to do work. This law details that over time a system will have less and less usable energy available for work. This is typically measured in terms of entropy which is the measure of energy in a system that cannot be changed into work (or also commonly referred to as the amount of disorder in a system). The mathematical formula for this is that entropy is equal to the heat added to a system divided by the absolute temperature.

Third Law of Thermodynamics

The third law of thermodynamics considers what happens to a system as it reaches absolute zero temperature. “As a system approaches absolute zero, all processes cease and the entropy of the system approaches a minimum value.” The third law of thermodynamics considers the idea of perfect order represented by zero entropy. This can only be achieved at a temperature of absolute zero since any increase in temperature also increases entropy.

Types of Thermodynamic Systems

Defining a System

A system is a set of objects that are capable of interacting with each other. Examples of a system include atoms, cells, a community, the solar system, and the universe. Within thermodynamics there are three types of systems. These systems differ from each other by how much the heat and matter are able to move in and out of the system in regards to its environment. Generally speaking, there is only one complete system which is the entire universe. Thus it is often easier to view smaller sections as sub-systems. For example, the Earth is considered a subsystem within the Universe. When conducting a study, a boundary must be made to define the system or sub-system. Where this boundary is made depends heavily on what is being studied and can make the study simpler or more complex. For example, a fish in a fish tank in the lab can be considered a simple closed system while a fish in a river would be considered a more complex open system.

Isolated System

An isolated system does not react with its environment. Neither heat nor matter move from the system to the surroundings or back. Although there is no perfectly insulated object, the inside of a thermos keeping a beverage hot or cold is a good example of an isolated system.

Closed System

A closed system allows heat to enter or leave the system while not allowing matter to enter or leave. Machines are often a closed system since energy enters and leaves but the physical machine does not change.

Open System

An open system allows both heat and matter to enter or leave the system. Some open systems need to interact with the environment to maintain their existence. An example of an open system is the ocean in which energy comes from the sun to warm the water while energy goes away in the form of radiated heat. Matter enters the ocean in the form of rain (as well as water and sediment from rivers) and leaves the ocean in the form of evaporation.

The Earth as a Thermodynamic System

The Earth as a System

Technically, the Earth is an open system. Energy enters the Earth from the sun, moon, and other stars while energy leaves the Earth primarily through radiation. Matter enters the Earth through meteorites and leaves the Earth by escaping the pull of gravity. However, the amount of matter entering and leaving the Earth is minute and generally is disregarded so that the Earth is effectively treated mathematically as a closed system.

The Open System Debate

Classical thermodynamics have dealt with closed systems (meaning nothing enters or leaves the system). Because of this, evolutionists are quick to declare the second law of thermodynamics does not apply to the earth because it is an open system which constantly gains energy from the sun. However, there is no reason to think that laws concerning heat flow would not work in an open system and indeed the second law of thermodynamics has been found to be equally valid in both open and closed systems. Furthermore, it is self-evident that the laws of thermodynamics will function in an open earth system since that is where they were discovered, tested, and found to be true.

John Ross

Speaking of the general applicability of the second law to both closed and open systems in general, Harvard scientist Dr. John Ross (not a creationist) affirms: “…there are no known violations of the second law of thermodynamics. Ordinarily the second law is stated for isolated [closed] systems, but the second law applies equally well to open systems … there is somehow associated with the field of far-from equilibrium phenomena the notion that the second law of thermodynamics fails for such systems. It is important to make sure that this error does not perpetuate itself.” [Dr. John Ross, Harvard scientist (evolutionist), Chemical and Engineering News, vol. 58, July 7, 1980, p. 40] So, what is it that makes life possible within the earth’s biosphere, appearing to “violate” the second law of thermodynamics?

Weather as a Thermodynamic System

Weather

The weather patterns we see are a good example of thermodynamics in action on a global scale. It starts with the sunlight that comes to the earth – essentially acting as a heat source. The heat comes in unevenly as we see more heat reaching the equator than at the north and south poles. It also has a daily cycle of the earth heating up during the daytime hours and cooling off during the nighttime hours. This uneven heating of the earth’s land, water, and atmosphere causes our weather patterns in the form of cold and warm fronts which move and redistribute the heat more evenly throughout the earth.

Weather Systems

On smaller scales, we can visibly witness a lowering of the temperature such as when a cold front comes through an area. This brings with it a decrease in entropy. However this decrease is only a in reference to the order found at the new equilibrium. simple geometric patterns are low entropy and non-functional with no information capabilities. This is very different from biological systems with complexity and information storage.

XXA. Last Updated: 02/01/2016
Todd Elder

Todd Elder

Todd Elder has a deep desire to understand and experience Creation. As a Baraminologist, his current research includes developing the Katagenos Species Concept, the Natanzera Classification System, and the Floral Formula Method of determining Plant Kinds. As an author and speaker, his books and seminar materials are designed to encourage a growing relationship with the Creator.
Todd Elder

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