Thursday, January 24, 2008

Entropy, explained

Regular commenter, John the Scientist, has an excellent post up here.

A better explanation of the Second of Law of Thermodynamics I have never seen.

Compare John's explanation to the stock Creationist explanation which is buried in this pile of blatherings. Amazing what a different there is between a professional, and a jumped up amateur, isn't there?


  1. yep, John's made of teh Awesome.

    Maybe I'll form the JAS...

  2. Thanks for the shout out.

    I've been trying to figure out why that page makes me so angry, and coming home on the train today it hit me - this is a giant conspiracy theory.

    Evolutionists "run" from the Second Law? And no respectable physicist or chemist has called them on a logical fallacy that concerns our fields? Despite the ribbing we constantly give biologists for being mathematical babes in the woods?

    That a person with a B.Sc. has the courage to say something where the entire physics and chemistry community is silent means that we physical scientists are all Evil.

    The only other explanation is that a guy who can't do better than a C- in biology figured this out where the best minds in physical science didn't. That's beyond nuts. It's also the height of arrogance. But I don't think he thinks that. His language betrays his conviction that we recognize the "truth" and cover it up.

    To assume that someone who doesn't think exactly as you do must then be the kind of evil that would betray their professional calling like that is - what? I have no other word but Medieval.

  3. Well, see John, it could happen. Take L. Ron Hubbard, apparently he was a polymath - soldier, statesmen, friend to the working girl. And a better scientist that most scientists even though he didn't have formal training. His insights into...oh, fuck it. I can't keep a straight face. :O

    For what it's worth: I agree with you, but I think it goes further than that - I think it truly is a form of mental illness, or mental defect - maybe some bizarre form of asperger's or something - they seem to have a basic inability to understand the difference between fantasy and actual science, indeed fantasy seems more real to them than the real world, which is a major symptom of psychosis. Cults seem to attract these people, Scientology, Creationism, Westboro Baptist Church, etc.

    For the life of me I cannot understand how any reasoning person listen to the (pick your poison or your Xenu so to speak)and do anything other than laugh.

  4. I try not to take it personally, because these folks really are objects of pity - as Jim says, I think there's a fundamental flaw in their thinking.

    I also don't think it's a matter of education. I'll never be known as "Janiece the Scientist" - I don't have the education. But I can certainly recognize the logical flaws in their arguments, and appreciate an argument that stands on its own merits. Because being able to apply reason to an argument equates to the ability to think. An ability they appear to lack, based on their return, again and again, to logical fallacy to prove their point.

    I'm almost at the point where it's just not worth the effort to engage.

  5. Here's another example of this kind of "reasoning".

  6. John, I don't read Steven's blog, but I did hear him talk about this in the NESS "Skeptic's Guide to the Universe" podcast.

    A true example of wishful thinking and self-delusion. I wonder how much of it comes from the stress of having an autistic child and needing something (or someone) to blame?

  7. We're pattern-forming creatures, that is, our brains are wired to put information together. It was probably a useful trait in our pre-primate ancestors (who needed to be able to tell a branch from the leaves around it) and continued to be useful when more recent ancestors hit the ground (now you can tell the leaves from a leopard).

    What I'm getting at is that I think we're hardwired to dislike randomness: our neural meat starts putting things together before we know it's happening. It's why you get apophenia as a recurring phenomena, or why the brain is so good at creating false memories to connect mental data points. This tendency is great when you're talking about the arts and sciences, but it's also why we're susceptible to belief in conspiracies and other popular delusions.

    People want to believe thimerosol causes autism for much the same reason they want to believe JFK wasn't killed by a psychologically damaged screwup who got lucky with his third shot: because our brains are predisposed to make order out of chaos and to think that everything must have some cause or cosmic Reason.

    I hadn't quite thought of creationists as conspiranoiacs until I read John's post here, but it makes sense: it's hard to give up on a pattern once you've thoroughly embedded it in your worldview, even if it's a bogus one. It's hard to accept the idea that maybe existence just happened, or that humanity was a contingent event--and anyone who says these things must be a patsy or in on the scam. And that keeps the pattern intact and chaos at bay.

    Jim, thanks for linking to John's article. John, thanks for writing it.

  8. I like how James Taylor uses contradictory statements to prove his point. "All work processes tend toward disorder," and "Everything tends to disorder unless work is applied." In his own misunderstood explanation he contradicts himself.

    He graduated from Texas A&M. If you're not from Texas, you may not have heard of "Aggie jokes." Aggies are students or graduates of Texas A&M. Let me tell you an Aggie joke.

    "Did you hear about the Aggie who almost starved in the last power outage?"

    "No, what happened?"

    "He was trapped on the escalator when the power went out."

    Now I know for a fact that some people who went to A&M came out smarter than when they went in.

  9. Tom - that's sort of how we used to talk about Indiana State University.Every year students from all over Indiana come to study at ISU in Terre Haute. This raises both the average IQ of Terre Haute and the average IQ of the rest of Indiana.

  10. "For the life of me I cannot understand how any reasoning person listen to the (pick your poison or your Xenu so to speak)and do anything other than laugh."

    I'm reminded of hte Hienlein quote:

    "Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal."


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