Thursday, December 04, 2008

Faculty Publication: Dan Styer on Entropy and Evolution

Daniel F. Styer, John and Marianne Schiffer Professor of Physics and Astronomy, has published an article that brings together biology, thermodynamics and physics teaching.

Entropy and evolution. American Journal of Physics, Volume 76, issue 11 (November 2008), p. 1031-1033

Author's abstract: Quantitative estimates of the entropy involved in biological evolution demonstrate that there is no conflict between evolution and the second law of thermodynamics. The calculations are elementary and could be used to enliven the thermodynamics portion of a high school or introductory college physics course.

The article is accessible to all OhioLINK affiliates at the OhioLINK Electronic Journal Center.

Interested in seeing current articles from other Oberlin science faculty? ISI Web of Science (also known as Science Citation Index) provides a quick way to search across all science disiciplines. Search "Oberlin Coll" as an address phrase, limit to 2008, and you'll find 40 papers in seconds.

3 comments:

Connie said...

A popular online debate about Daniel Styer's 2008 AJP "Entropy and evolution" attracted the attention of Prof. Styer who graciously joined the fray and commented in the Discussion Thread in the grandstands! The debate is at http://www.theologyonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=53199 .

Goriller said...

Alison, I appreciate Prof. Styer's paper, but I am concerned that evolutionists are confusing different kinds of entropy, and assuming his paper on thermodynamics resolves evolution's information entropy issues. Of course, that is not the case. Professor Styer did join in on the debate on this topic referenced above, and he wrote: "Bob Enyart speaks long and hard about the difference between 'heat entropy' and 'information entropy'. It is quite clear from context that BY ENTROPY I MEAN 'THERMODYNAMIC/STATISTICAL MECHANICAL ENTROPY.' A simple glance at the equations in my paper would have made that abundantly clear." (emphasis mine) We creationists appreciate Prof. Styer making this explicit.

Dan Styer said...

Goriller writes...

"I am concerned that evolutionists are confusing different kinds of entropy, and assuming his paper on thermodynamics resolves evolution's information entropy issues."

In fact, evolution has no issues whatsoever with information entropy. Whereas the thermodynamic entropy of the universe is certain to increase (that's the second law), there is no such constraint on the change of information entropy.

Every article published in Physical Review Letters, every entry in a laboratory notebook, every receipt printed or scribbled, decreases the information entropy in the universe.

Sometimes evolution, as well, decreases the information entropy in the universe. This violates no physical law. In summary, evolution has no issues whatsoever with information entropy.