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ursulav

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Frustrated at a Yerf thing that demonstrated the old misconception about evolution violating entropy (it doesn't) I was grumping to James.

Me: "It just doesn't apply to that sort of thing! If it did, we couldn't go from a fertilized cell to an adult human! Things get more complex all the time!"

James (sagely): "Like women."

I love that guy.


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For those of you out there tempted to demand "why not?", her's one of many reasons:

Entropic increase only applies to closed systems. A biosphere (or an organism) is an open system, with an energy flow passing through it. If you add energy to a system, it can produce localized reductions in entropy -- though in the larger supersystem, entorpy will still increase.

[Alopex] Thank you for relieving me of the duty of having to make the explanation myself. :)

Well, not exactly. The Universe can be taken as a closed system, but thinking of it as such, for most pratical purposes, is useless.

However, back to the topic of Mme. Vernon, Entropy is counteracted by Energy, Energy is what organisms are all about. Our very existance is a spit in the face of Entropy. Tho we do it at a cost. One adult organism, over the course of their lives, must cause the death of many adult organisms to survive and grow. This can be applied to evolution. Energy goes in and order(and poop) comes out. Life, taken as the sum total of all organisms, is a constant churn against entropy, powered by the sun.

So... Life is an counter-entropic effect powered by, ultimately, fusion of matter in the sun(An Entropic Effect). Evolution, however, is the alteration of life to become more energy efficient, or to become more successful at obtaining energy(ie. food). Food = Survival. Thus, Entropy drives evolution.

Exactly! I mean, put in a more simple form, entropy increased in the universe, but you can still increase order on a LOCAL level.

You can use a refrigerator to push heat to the outside (counter to thermodynamics, where heat flows to make a balance), but you have to expend even more energy to do it -- which is what shows up on your electric bill. The entropy of the entire system, including the power plant, has increased, but on a local level, your fridge, entropy is decreasing.

Life is the same, it increases entropy of the universe to make an ordered system on a small level.. It just takes sunlight to do it, which is where all the entropy is happening -- inside the sun.

Depending on what you mean by "expending" and "even more". You typically put in substantially less (electrical) energy than is being moved, making refrigerators very good heaters.

Apparently, the universe now has less entropy than the universe right after the big bang. I hate bad science.

Yes, that is what I meant. If you're removing X energy in the form of heat from the inside of the 'fridge, you're dumping X into the environment, plus Y heat that came from the electricity needed to run the thing. Y is much smaller than X, but my point was that Y is the energy cost of decreasing entropy, with a corresponding increase in entropy by burning fuel at the power plant.

Even if all your energy transfers were perfect -- which they are not -- you'd only be able to have 'no net change' in entropy. The decrease in entropy in the refrigerator would be exactly balanced by the increase in entropy to produce the electricity. And since all real systems have friction and so on, you end up always increasing your entropy.

Entropy is one of those things (Occam's razor is another, and the uncertainty principle still another) that has been popularly absorbed in a useless summary form. I shut my brain off whenever I hear anyone talking about them, because it's always going to be stupid unless they're standing next to a laser.

Short-form dismissals

I'm teaching philosophy to gifted high-schoolers right now, and I've developed two quick mnemonics for shutting people down who use the latter two theories. They're concise, and if you work them hard enough, you can eventually get them to sink in sometimes! (This, to the kids who really believed that quantum physics meant we couldn't study logic, because causality was no longer true.)

For Occam's Razor: "Occam's Razor only applies to theories that are equally powerful at explaining the evidence, and your theory [fails to account for this][proposes constant intervention by God at every moment][is incoherent]. You can't use Occam's Razor until your theory can do everything the accepted theory does."

For the uncertainty principle: "Are you talking about subatomic events? No? Then don't use theories you don't understand."

Repeated application for a three-day period has proven effective on sixteen-year-olds. Adult dosages may be larger.


Re: Short-form dismissals

Repeated application for a three-day period has proven effective on sixteen-year-olds. Adult dosages may be larger.

Have you tried delivery via fiberous planks for adults? It's quite effective, if they survive. ::snerk::

Re: Short-form dismissals

It's also correctly Ockham's. I blame Niven. Bah.

Kudos to him... I couldn't have supplied a better answer myself.

James is a very wise man indeed.

yep, life produces local eddies of order in the overall great entropic flow of the universe towards it's lowest possible energy state.

(er, the subject is just to pre-emptively end my particpation in the discussion)

I always love your rants on evolution. I learn so much, heh.

-m

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