Ian Stewart’s bestselling books include Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities, Professor Stewart’s Hoard of Mathematical Treasures and Mathematics of Life. He is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Warwick University where he maintains an active research program. He is well know for his ability to make mathematics popular, and in 2001 he was awarded the Royal Society’s Michael Faraday Medal for furthering the public understanding of science. He is a regular contributor to New Scientist. Ian’s latest book is17 Equations That Changed The World.

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David Roemer

April 24, 2012

I agree with your statement that the second law of thermodynamics does not apply to evolution. However, there is a sense in which it does. To understand the evolution of the primary structure of a protein in 3 billion years, biologists use the English sonnet as a model because every letter in a sonnet has to be in the right place. Biologists calculate how long it will take a computer to generate a sonnet with the random selection of words and letters. This is the same type of probability calculations that physicists perform in deriving the normal distribution, for example. This is why natural selection only explains the adaptation of species to their environment, not the increase in the complexity of life. Hence, creationists have a point when they say evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics.

You might be interested to know that the

American Journal of Physics(AJP) published an article (“Entropy and Evolution,” Nov. 2008) with an entropy equation using the Boltzmann constant proving that evolution does not violate the second law. The equation is nonsense. I’m in the process of trying to get the AJP to retract this example of pseudoscience. My correspondence with the AJP is herehttp://newevangelist.me/2012/02/23/american-association-of-physics-teachers/