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The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

Feedback for June 1996

Shown below are some of the letters received from readers of the Talk.Origins Archive in the month of June, 1996.

Is anyone out there willing to hazard a guess as to when advances in knowledge and technology may make possible the realization of a synthetic lifeform (say, a virus)?

Wouldn't such an event be comparable in importance, philosophically, to discovering life on Mars, or detecting an extraterrestial radio transmission?

Response from the editor:

The synthesis of life would certainly be an important scientific landmark. And it may not be that far off. Stuart Kauffman, biologist and complexity theorist, argues in his recent book At Home in the Universe (Oxford University Press, 1995) that "stunning developments in molecular biology now make it possible to imagine actually creating these self-reproducing molecular systems -- synthesized life. I believe that this will be accomplished within a decade or two." Of course, the synthesis of life is still fraught with difficulties, many of which are described in the archive's interim Abiogenesis FAQ, but if science has taught us anything, it is that obstacles to further understanding are temporary more often than not.

Thank you for presenting an extraordinarily interesting web site. It is obvious that I will be returning to it many times for new insights. I particularly enjoyed the Flood FAQ site. Thanks again!! Keep up the good work!

What will happen to you, after you die? -- are you sure?

Mike W.

Response from the editor:

This question doesn't seem particularly pertinent to the Creation/Evolution issue. After all, many who believe in an afterlife are evolutionists. See the God and Evolution FAQ.

Pertinence aside, however, the question's answer seems to depend on the person being asked. For instance, the ancient Sumerians believed that each individual remains as a ghost after death, roaming the underworld for eternity. Hindus believe they are reincarnated into other human beings or animals after they die. Many Bhuddists also believe in reincarnation, where each person repeatedly returns to the earth after death in an attempt to reach a state of ultimate self-detachment called Nirvana. Many Christians and Muslims believe their souls go to heaven or hell after death, with the destination being determined by the nature of the person's deeds or state of grace. Atheists do not accept the notion of life after death, believing instead that consciousness dies with the body. Jehovah's Witnesses also believe this, with an exception for true followers of Jehovah whose human bodies will be resurrected from the grave following global Armageddon.

So you see, there's no single answer to the question of what happens when you die. See the Ontario Centre for Religious Tolerance's page containing Descriptions of 36 Religions, Faith Groups & Ethical Systems for more information.

I know, I know. Your website has already refuted, in detail, all the creationists' appeals to the Second Law of Thermodynamics to disprove evolution. Yet their challenges on this topic still survive through shrewd, creative innovations. I'm quoting, verbatim, from Hank Hanegraaff's book "Christianity in Crisis" (1993, Harvest House Publishers, pp. 367-368 and 418). Mr. Hanegraaff is president of the Christian Research Institute (CRI), and daily hosts "The Bible Answer Man" broadcast on Christian radio in the United States and Canada. In his book, he "demonstrates the farce of evolution" by typical objections to "chance" and the fossil record, but his twist on the "entropy" argument is new to me. Specifically, how does the "law of conservation, and the law of cause-and-effect" disprove evolution? And how does "Shannon's Law and information entropy" refute evolution at the "genetic level?" Do you have a response to all this?

Mr. Hanegraaff states:

The second law of thermodynamics -- entropy -- militates against the theory of evolution. Evolution postulates that everything goes from randomness to complexity and from disorder to order. Entropy demonstrates that everything is going in exactly the opposite direction -- toward randomness and disorder. It should also be noted that evolution is a low-grade hypothesis, while entropy is a well-documented law of science. Entropy will serve to remind you of many other scientific laws that could be cited to refute the theory of evolution. Among the others are the law of conservation and the law of cause-and-effect.

Evolutionists typically raise two objections to the use of entropy as an argument against evolution.

  1. 'Entropy applies only in a closed system.' There are two main problems with this objection. First, the universe is a closed system; second, while the earth may be an open system, energy from the sun does not decrease entropy.
  2. 'The second law of thermodynamics (entropy) cannot be invoked because it merely deals with energy relationships of matter, and evolution deals with the issue of complex life-forms arising from simpler life-forms.' Entropy, however, is not limited to energy relationships of matter. Shannon's Law deals with information entropy and militates against evolution on a genetic level.

Daniel M.

Response from the editor:

There are so many flaws in Hanegraaff's understanding of the second law of thermodynamics that it's difficult to know where to start. First, he wrongly equates the second law of thermodynamics with the concept of entropy. The second law of thermodynamics is not entropy; it is a statement ABOUT the entropy, or disorder, of a system. The second law states that "in any thermodynamic process that proceeds from one equilibrium state to another, the entropy of the system+environment either remains unchanged or increases" (Fundamentals of Physics 3rd ed., Halliday & Resnick, 1988). Note that the second law does not require the entropy of a system apart from its environment to increase or remain the same. Entropy may therefore decrease locally on the Earth as long as the entropy of the Earth's environment (which includes the rest of the universe) increases by an equal or greater amount. This is in fact what happens, and it happens regularly. When a snowflake forms, its entropy is reduced at the expense of a greater increase in the entropy of its environment. None of this violates the second law of thermodynamics. As the FAQ on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Evolution and Probability clearly illustrates, the second law does not make evolution impossible.

With regard to Hanegraaff's comment about the "laws of conservation and cause-and-effect" violating evolution, I'm having a hard time understanding what he means. I assume one of the laws he is talking about is the law of conservation of energy, but if so, it is not clear how evolution violates it. I am unaware of the other law Hanegraaff refers to, namely the law of "cause-and-effect," nor can I understand how such a law would be violated by evolution. Hanegraaff has not developed his arguments in the quoted passage.

As for the universe being a closed system, this may or may not be true. In any case, the idea that the entropy of the universe is increasing is hardly evidence against evolution, nor is it a particularly radical or contested notion.

Finally, Hanegraaff conflates informational and thermodynamic entropy. However, the connection between thermodynamic entropy and information is not fully understood. It is therefore too early to argue conclusively whether or how the second law applies here. Check out the Entropy on the World Wide Web page for more information.

To summarize, Hanegraaff seems to be throwing around a lot of fancy words without knowing what they mean. I suppose creationists are easily gulled by this kind of handwaving, but scientists are not.

Interesting sidenote: There is a web page on the alleged financial and ethical improprieties of Hank Hanegraaff. One of the accusations against him is that he had his hired staff write large portions of his book Christianity in Crisis without crediting or adequately compensating them. He is also alleged to have plagiarized writings by other well-known fundamentalist writers like D. James Kennedy. If any of this is true, the misunderstandings promulgated by Hanegraaff in the quoted passage may not even be his own.

Folks, ladies, guys... it's great to finally be in the archives! Yes.. this is my first visit since acquiring Internet. We are faced in the Internet a glorious vision of awe and dedicated curiosity much alike we sametimes occupy ourselves with sentience of Primary Endowment, or creation. Let's keep the facts straight, heh heh.

spotter, truk

Response from the editor:

If anyone is wondering what "truk" is all about, he/she/it is the result of an artificial intelligence program. This enigmatic individual occasionally posts incomprehensible articles to the newsgroup too.

I and a few of my friends feel like we're the only people out here who are Christian scientists or scientificly-minded. Where are these others we keep reading about? We need to be known to each other if for no other reason to demonstrate that we do exist!

J. O. M.

I am currently reading a book entitled "The Origin of Species Revisited, Part 1" by W.R. Bird. It contains a preface by a Dr. Gareth J. Nelson and Dr. Dean H. Kenyon. I was wondering, what are your comments on this book? He seems to make a lot of good points? Tks.


Response from the editor:

I haven't read it, but I'm familiar with two of the names. Wendell Bird is the creationist lawyer who argued the losing side of the Edwards v. Aguillard Supreme Court case. He is staff attorney at the Institute for Creation Research. Dean Kenyon is the author of the thinly veiled creationism textbook, Of Pandas and People, and I think he teaches biology at San Francisco State University. There is a web page containing a published review of Bird's book. Check it out.

First of all let me say that I am not an Creationist or an Evolutionist but belive in the theory of Guided Evolution. The question I am about to ask is a relativly simple one that Evolutionsit should think about. Evolutionist thinking states that in the beggining there was the big bang. Well obviously this is not true because energy and time don't just come out of the wild blue yonder but must be created at one point or another. I have asked some of the worlds most intelligent astrophysicists and Quantum physicists the question of what happened before the big bang and they could not answer it. The reason the couldn't is because there is only one possible answer:God. Think about that.

Response from the editor:

I don't know about God being the only possible answer, but the validity of the big bang model of cosmology has little or nothing to do with the existence of God. Sometimes "I don't know" really means "I don't know."

I am delighted to find this Web Site. I look forward to reading all your fine material. I am new at this Web Site and wish someone would tell me where I go to discuss these issues. For example, which icons do I push to enter into the discussions.

First, so that you can know me better, I will tell you a little bit about myself. I am not a scientist, but science is my avocation. I have been studying this debate for several years now, and find it quite intellectually stimulating. I am by trade a tax attorney (litigator). Between my days in Tax Court, I read science books. I hope all or some of you read the Tax Code in your spare time.

Be that as it may, I should describe my position on this issue. I agree with the thoughts expressed by prior attorneys on this issue: i.e., Norman MacBeth, W.R. Bird, and Phillip Johnson. That is, I find that Darwinism is a lot stronger as philosophy than it is as empirical science. Again, be that as it may, I thank you for your fine information on this subject.

George in Chantilly

P.S. Please tell me the icon or URL address that will get me to the debate site(s). Thanks.

Response from the editor:

To participate in debates on, you must have access to a Usenet newsfeed and a program that allows you to read Usenet news. Netscape is an example of a program that has news-reading functionality. Once you have access to a newsfeed and a news-reading program, subscribe to the newsgroup, read the posts for a while, and jump in. However, make sure you've read the relevant files in this archive first. There is nothing more annoying than a person who pops into and asks a question or poses a problem that is already dealt with in detail by one of the files in this archive. Also, you should read the Welcome to FAQ.

Also, if you really want to learn about the current state of science, you are not likely to get a full or accurate account from lawyers, especially creationist ones like Phillip Johnson and Wendell Bird. I recommend reading science books by active scientists. See the Recommended Reading List.

After spending several hours linking my way through your site, reading both the Talk.Origins ideas as well as your detractors i.e. Ted Holden, I have noticed one glaring constant. Logic. If I didn't know whose ideas I was reading, it soon became painfully obvious. The one that made sense, the one that used logic, intelligence and critical thinking was that of When I was grossly unable to understand what message was trying to be conveyed, it was that of Ted Holden.

I am a junior in Anthropology, and as such, I often get the "so, you must not believe in God." blanket statement. I just ask them if they have ever had to switch bug spray. I usually get a blank stare and leave it at that. However, I am reminded of my first anthropology professor (and ordained minister) who told us "If I was god, I would have thought of evolution, it is the best thing going."

Why must we discount our minds (our greatest tool) in order to believe in God? I can not believe that God buried fake bones in order to test my faith. Is He really that bored?

Anyway, thank you for filling a few of my hours so meaningfully. I would like to say I found this page because a friend of mine is dating a woman who emphatically believes we were made from dust and insists on a literal biblical translation. He isn't quite as certain about her as he once was.


P.S. It is refreshing to know that someone out there is thinking.

I'm an evolutionist who is currently investigating the creationist claims. While I find the information on the site very useful it does seem a little unbalanced. It seems that there are many creationists on could some of their arguments be put on the site in their words?

This would really help me to have the evolutionist and creationist literature side by side with each sides rebuttals of the other there too.


Response from the editor:

The archive is not a debate forum; it is a collection of articles written and reviewed by readers with knowledge or expertise in the relevant areas. For other points of view, feel free to visit the Other Links Page of the archive.

I have been searching for as much information as I can find on the authenticity of a purported 'fossilized human finger' which I have seen recently on NBC`s "The Mysterious Origins of Man" and on a fundamentalist Christian TV show broadcast on a religious cable network. The man proclaiming the 'finger' (I can't remember his name) stated that it belonged to a young girl and had been CAT scanned to reveal bone, joints, and fingernail. The object looked a little too perfectly preserved to me, which made me wonder why the rest of the girl's body hadn't been so remarkably preserved as well? I look forward to a response.

Tony W.

Response from the editor:

See the Feedback from May 1996. Some links are provided for web pages that describe and/or debunk the claims being made about Baugh's "fossil finger."

Previously, someone made an inquiry about a question asked by creationist friends. Perhaps, what these friends meant was: how do we know that the half-lives have remained constant? Has the half life of Uranium 238 always been 4.5 billion years? If the half lives have not remained constant, are our dating methods reliable?

Response from the editor:

Isochron dating techniques would not work if the rates of radioactive decay were not constant. See the Isochron Dating FAQ. Also, if the rates of decay have changed, radiometric dating techniques using several different isotopes should not agree on the same age for a single rock sample. See the Age of the Earth FAQ for examples of rocks dated with multiple, independent radiometric techniques.

In my home town there has been a heated debate in the forum of our local newpaper. Our town is devided on the Evolution vs. Creationism issue. Some people have gone to propagandish lengths to discredit the theory of evolution. Could this be a from of denial of the obvious?

P.S. I'm happy to see that there are Web sights such as this where empircally minded persons can chat. Thanks. - A.J.M

Response from the editor:

Make sure and visit the newsgroup too.

An extremely useful site which have given creationists trouble whenever discussing with them. However, it would be very nice if you put the titles/credentials/education of your contributors. Just in case a creationist claims that " is made up of people with suspicious credentials..." Greetings from the midnight sun and a student of rocks and dead animals (have been dead very long...)

Karsten in Norway

Response from the editor:

The archive takes the position that the credentials of the author are irrelevant to the quality of the author's argument. For example, a number of creationists have outstanding credentials, but their arguments against evolution or the antiquity of the earth are generally poor. So the archive neither lists nor requests the credentials of its articles' authors.

I have spent the last two days browsing the Archive and have found lots of interesting things. I have a few questions: First, what dose the abriviation "FAQ" stand for? I understand it to be a sort of "fact sheet." Is my understanding a correct one? Secondly, I see many references to debate forums but can't seem to find a place where I can chat with people. I realize that t.o isn't an everyday on -- line chat forum, but I would like to have dialoge with someone, or at least observe a debate that is underway.

Response from the editor:

FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Question. As for chat forums, you might try the #creation or #evolution channels on Internet Relay Chat (IRC). You should also check out the Usenet newsgroup

I love your site, but I'm curious about something. The access statistic charts say that the requests of FAQs represent only about 15 percent of everything transfered from your site. But it seems that almost everything on your site are FAQs. Am I missing something that is on your site that I haven't found yet. People seem very interested in it (based on the number of transferes)so i'd like to know what it is so I can check it out.

Response from the editor:

The access statistics count the total number of pages and images requested by each visitor. Examples of items included in the total access count but excluded from the FAQ count are: title pages, graphic images, other links, feedback pages, archive searches, and fossil images. Basically, only those archive requests that result in the download of a FAQ are considered FAQ accesses.

May 1996
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