The Second Law Of Thermodynamics (SLOT) and its Application to Evolution

December 1999

(Updated June 2005, July 07 2005; July 24 2005)

Michael S. Shelton

Stafford, VA


Premise:  The Second Law of Thermodynamics (SLOT) is the Silver Bullet against the Theory of Evolution.  It is, indeed, a central stake through the philosophical heart of the atheist who must leave God out of the picture.



The physical universe can be explained in many ways using various mathematical relations, equations and laws.  We have developed a number of mathematical relationships to describe gravity, place objects in orbit, fly Martian explorations, and operate submarines.  We use thermodynamic laws and relationships to build steam turbines, gasoline internal combustion engines, and predict how much electrical current will be needed to cool a certain-sized building each day in summer.


The same thermodynamic laws can describe the operation of biological life.  Although the operation and life of a rabbit differs from a Ford V-8 engine, the foundational principles of the Zeroth, First, Second and Third Laws of Thermodynamics are the same.  These Laws are easily found and investigated by normal web search methods.  Of interest to us, however, are the First and Second Laws, particularly the Second Law.


To build a designed device (say, a refrigerator), energy input from the First Law must be manipulated correctly through the process of the Second Law (SLOT) to craft the device.  We need energy, a plan, information, a sense of project, and tools to build the device.  During the process, the overall disorder (entropy), or randomness, of the Universe increases, with a local decrease in entropy when the refrigerator is finally assembled.  In other words, the various raw materials and components are brought together from their random, haphazard locations and placed into a highly-specified order that gives us a useful device to store cold water, hamburger meat, and ice cream.  We have now gone through a complete thermodynamic cycle to harness the stored energy and raw materials.  Simply pouring / adding non-directed energy to the components with no manner of manipulating the process won’t produce a refrigerator, or whatever you have in mind.


As I stated in the immediately preceding paragraph, the overall disorder (entropy), or randomness, of the Universe has increased.  Although we have a finished product, the ancillary processes used to obtain the raw materials, cut the metal, mold the rubber trim, and charge the refrigerant are accompanied by frictional losses, noise, and waste.  Most of these processes result in losses that cannot and will never be regained in the form of stored energy to be used again.  This points directly to the idea that something / Someone had to have provided the Original Sources of potential, usable energy.  Next, the idea that a plan is needed to assemble a usable device points to a designer.  For biological life, this points to a Designer.  Raw, inorganic matter, regardless of how much it is irradiated with the sun or heat from a thermal vent, does nothing to cause autoorganization of the matter into the building blocks of life, and then, into the numerous proteins and cells that comprise a living being.


The Second Law is expressed mathematically as:

dS = dQ/T   Entropy change is denoted as ‘dS’ and is always 0.  ‘dQ’ is the incremental energy state change / increase



dSR = dQR/T, where the term ‘QR’ indicates application to a reversible process - reversible connotes we can do a process and return to the original state with no change in entropy to the system and/or surroundings.  Some parts of processes are reversible, but not the entire process.


1.       In a reversible and closed-cycle process, the entropy change is equal to the change in heat or energy transfer divided by the temperature of the system or process.  This temperature ‘T’ (“absolute temperature” in either degrees Rankine or Kelvin, as applicable) is usually the temperature of the environment that any process occurs in or exhausts into.  dQ = dE + dW, where ‘E’ represents thermal or kinetic energy and ‘W’ represents work.


2.       Entropy can be further broken down into dS = dSe + dSi, where subscript ‘e’ is the reversible component of the process, and subscript ‘i’ is the irreversible component and lost forever.  dSi represents irreversible effects (friction, internal hysteresis, sound waves, electromagnetic waves, etc.).


3.       An example is the exhaust energy radiated from the engine of a car and through its tailpipe.  Most of the combustion process is lost as unused heat transfer, not utilized in operating the mechanical components of the car.  It is permanent and irreversible.  Another example is heat generated by a human undergoing physical exercise.  The heat is radiated, convected or conducted away and lost forever.  To replenish the lost energy, the human must eat.  The car must be refueled


4.       Back to dS = dSe + dSi.  The dSe part we recover.  But it comes at a price, always accompanied by dSi.  Additionally, dSe nearly always requires an intelligent mechanism, a design, a plan, information, a code, to be accomplished.  dSi requires no code or design, such as the burning of a forest after a lightning strike, or the nuclear furnace of a star.  They simply transform potential energy into kinetic energy and exhaust / transfer directly into their surroundings randomly.  To further harness that wasted energy, a device intelligently planned and intelligently operated must be employed.


EXAMPLE 1:  A tank of water is on a mountain peak (for the moment, let’s ignore how the water got there).  The tank bursts and the water runs down to the valley below.  At the bottom, the water remains there.  If this water was not employed to run turbines or other devices, then the process is a pure conversion from potential energy to kinetic energy.  Once all the sloshing at the bottom of the hill ceases, the potential energy of the water is zero.  We still have the water, it has not been removed from the system, but it has achieved a useless state.  Under these conditions, maximum entropy (randomness) has been achieved, and will remain thus unless acted upon from outside the system.  We could construct a mechanism to fully funnel the water down a tube or chute to the bottom of the mountain, then transport back to the top via pumps or buckets.  However, this will require an intelligently designed and employed mechanism to do so.  In this case we could have dS = dSe + dSi, where dSe represents the entire water supply restored to the tank (miraculously repaired somehow) and dSi is the energy lost from sloshing and friction down the mountainside, replaced by the outside energy needed to move the water back up to the tank.


EXAMPLE 2:  A small animal loses its food supply.  It remains alone in a very large room (large enough that suffocation is not an issue, say a building of 150x150x1 miles, i.e., 22,500 cubic miles) sealed from the outside and adiabatically perfect.  The animal naturally roams around, looking for food (there is none).  As it starves, all its fat reserves are consumed by the normal biomolecular mechanisms of life.  Heat is generated and is radiated away from the body.  As the animal finally dies from the lack of nutrition sources usable by its body cells, causing organ shutdown and finally brain death, entropy will continue to increase because the cells break down and deteriorate from decay.  Any parasite life will now work in the decay process until they, too, die from lack of nutrition.  At some point in the future, under the carefully controlled conditions of this large room, maximum entropy will be obtained and remain static until something from outside the system acts upon it.




·         The earth is not a closed system.  Thermodynamic processes are used to explain ordinary physical laws.  We can choose isolated cases to study closed systems.


·         Reasonably, our solar system can be treated as a closed system for most ordinary thermodynamic studies.  Arbitrarily, we could put the spherical “closed” boundary of our solar system at a two or three light-year radius (two light years is 11.7 trillion miles (11.7 x1012)).  In other words, there is no known power source of sufficient strength, other than our sun, to add value to our solar system’s energy resources.


·         There is no scientific literature that I am aware of that indicates violation of any known laws of thermodynamics.  In fact, atheists / evolutionists themselves state this.  (ref That Their Words May Be Used Against Them by Henry Morris).


R. B. Lindsay says: “The most careful examination of all naturally occurring processes (i.e., those in which external influences are not allowed to intervene) has only served to confirm our confidence in the inexorable over-all increase in the entropy of the universe” (“Entropy Consumption and Values in Physical Science,” American Scientist, Vol. 47, September 1959, p. 379)


·         Within a closed system, there are subsystems that can gain complexity spontaneously, provided there is a greater loss of complexity in another interlocking system.  The overall change is then a complexity loss in line with the dictates of the second law.  Beyond the Cosmos” by Dr. Hugh Ross, using Einstein’s relativity equations, string theory, the hot Big Bang theory model, shows that our universe by necessity is a closed system (the reader will note that until recently I was neutral in the debate of Young Earth vs Old Earth Creationists – citing “Beyond the Cosmos” is not necessarily an endorsement of Old Earth Creation research and conclusions.  But after years of struggling / searching for the best approach, either Old Earth or Young Earth Creation, I have finally concluded that the proper Biblical and Scientific agreement and approach is that of Young Earth Creation.  This includes the notion that the Hot Big-Bang Model is not congruent with the Creation account cited in the Book of Genesis).  Our universe, and neither our solar system, is not receiving any additional energy from without.  The COBE satellite in 1993 detected a uniform background radiation signature of the universe, with a temp of about 3 degrees R, which was extremely close to predictions.  So, it seems we safely can call the universe closed (at least for now).


“….in any isolated system (that is, a system from which all external sources of energy are shut off), the energy of the system is conserved in quantity but is continually being degraded in quality as long as any energy change is taking place in the system. Some of the available energy is always dissipated in nonrecoverable friction or heat energy. Since all activities of nature (including biological activities) involve such energy transfers, there must be an ever-decreasing supply of usable energy for maintaining all natural processes in the universe as a whole.”  [Science And The Bible,” ‘Chapter 1 Science in the Bible, The Basic Laws of Science’ by Henry M. Morris, revised and updated, (MOODY PRESS, Chicago),  “That Their Words May Be Used Against Them,” hardback and CD-ROM]  {Note:  Dr. Henry M. Morris is founder and President Emeritus of the Institute for Creation Research, an engineer, and former Department Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Virginia Tech - MSS} (again, the reader will note that in the debate of Young Earth vs Old Earth Creationists, I now very firmly side with the Young Earth Creationists camp – citing “Science And The Bible” and “That Their Words May Be Used Against Them” is not necessarily an endorsement of all Young Earth Creation research and conclusions, for there are some disagreements and incomplete models)


·         We have a battle primarily of theological ideologies:

“Science doesn’t “prove facts,” it only offers reasonable explanations that fit with the evidence.”  Ariex, a former debate opponent

“The heart cannot embrace what the mind cannot comprehend.”  Hank Hanegraaff

“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:14, NIV)

Commentary on Dr. Allan Harvey's Second Law of Thermo