“The Laws of Thermodynamics Don't Apply to the Universe!”
Many in the atheistic community have realized various problems with their theories in light of what we know about the laws of thermodynamics. In order for atheism to be a plausible explanation for the origin of the Universe, matter must either be eternal or have the capability of creating itself (i.e., spontaneous generation). Yet the Second Law of Thermodynamics implies that the first option is impossible, and the First Law implies that the second option is impossible (see Miller, 2007 for a more in depth discussion of the laws of thermodynamics and their application to the origin of the Universe). Upon grudgingly coming to this conclusion, but being unwilling to yield to the obvious alternative (i.e., Someone outside of the Universe put matter here), some have tried to find loopholes in the laws that will allow for their flawed atheistic ideologies to survive.
A common assertion being raised today by some is that the laws of thermodynamics do not apply to the Universe as a whole, and therefore cannot be used to prove that God played a role in the origin of the Universe. More specifically, some question whether our Universe can be considered an “isolated system” (i.e., a system in which mass and energy are not allowed to cross the system boundary; Cengel and Boles, 2002, p. 9). In their well-known thermodynamics textbook, Fundamentals of Classical Thermodynamics, Van Wylen and Sonntag note concerning the Second Law of Thermodynamics: “[W]e of course do not know if the universe can be considered as an isolated system” (1985, p. 233). Dr. Robert Alberty, author of Thermodynamics of Biochemical Reactions, is quoted as saying, “I do not agree that the universe is an isolated system in the thermodynamic sense” (as quoted in Holloway, 2010).
What if the Universe is not an isolated system? How would that fact impact the creation/evolution controversy? First of all, the creationist has always argued that the Universe is not an isolated system, or at least has not always been one. According to the creationist, in the beginning, God created the Universe’s system barrier, then crossed it and placed energy and matter within the system—thus making the Universe non-isolated. So, recognizing that the Universe is, in fact, not an isolated system would really mean that some evolutionists are starting to move in the right direction in their understanding of the Universe! Acquiescence of this truth by atheists in no way disproves the existence of God. In fact, quite the contrary is true. Admission that the Universe is not isolated does not help the case for atheism, but rather tacitly acknowledges a creator of sorts. [More on this point later.]
What this admission would do, however, is make some of the creationists’ arguments against atheism less applicable to the discussion about the existence of God—specifically some of the uses of the laws of thermodynamics and their application to the Universe as a whole. For instance, if the Universe is not an isolated system, it means that something or someone outside of the Universe can open the proverbial box that encloses the Universe and put matter and energy into it. Therefore, the Universe could be eternal, as long as something/someone is putting more usable energy into the box to compensate for the energy loss and counter entropy. Thus, the argument against the eternality of matter by way of the Second Law of Thermodynamics could potentially be null and void. Also, with a non-isolated system, it could be argued that the original, imaginary pre-Big Bang ball (which never actually existed—since the Big Bang is flawed [see May, et al., 2003) was not eternal in its existence. Further, it could be contended that it did not have to spontaneously generate in order to explain its existence. Rather, energy and matter could have been put here from a source outside of this Universe other than God.
From a purely scientific perspective, one of the problems with claiming that the Universe is not isolated is that such an assertion presupposes the existence of physical sources outside of this Universe (e.g., multiple universes outside of our own). And yet, how can such a claim be made scientifically, since there is no verifiable evidence to support such a contention? Stephen Hawking has advanced such an idea, but he, himself, recognizes the idea to be merely theoretical (Shukman, 2010). Speculation, conjecture, assertion—not evidence. As Gregory Benford wrote: “This ‘multiverse’ view represents the failure of our grand agenda and seems to me contrary to the prescribed simplicity of Occam’s Razor, solving our lack of understanding by multiplying unseen entities into infinity” (Benford, 2006, p. 226). Belief in the multiverse model is like proclaiming the existence of fairies just because you can imagine one. But such speculation is hardly scientific evidence—and that is the problem.
What does the scientific evidence actually convey today? We live in the only known Universe, and it had to come from somewhere. That is a fact. If the Big Bang occurred, and all matter and energy in the Universe—everything that exists—was initially in that little imaginary sphere the size of the period at the end of this sentence (or much smaller, depending on which “expert” cosmologist you ask), by implication, the evolutionist admits that the Universe is of a finite size. That is a fact. A finite Universe is an isolated system. Since the Universe as a whole is the only true isolated system, the laws of thermodynamics apply perfectly. That is why some reputable scientists examine the evidence, draw reasonable conclusions, and articulate statements in reputable textbooks like the following:
“Isolated system: It is the system which exchange [sic] neither matter nor energy with the surroundings. For such a system, the matter and energy remain constant. There is no such perfectly isolated system, but our universe can be considered as an isolated system since by definition it does not have any surroundings” (Senapati, 2006, p. 64, emp. added).
“A spontaneous process in an isolated system increases the system’s entropy. Because the universe—our entire surroundings—is in contact with no other system, we say that irreversible processes increase the entropy of the universe” (Fishbane, et.al., 1996, p. 551, italics in original).
The truth is, if one is unwilling to accept the existence of God, yet desires to accept the laws of science, one must conjure up other options for how the Universal box could have been legally opened and its contents altered. Envision several atheists sitting around a table speculating options, no matter how wild, in order to avoid conceding the existence of God, and you will have a clear picture of how many in the scientific community operate today. “Okay, people. How did we get here? Think!” “Other universes?” “Maybe.” “Nothing put us here?” “Not bad.” “Aliens?” “Why not?” “The God of the Bible?” “Shut your mouth. You are unscientific. Leave the room.” How can evolutionists like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking safely postulate the existence of alien creators without being laughed out of the spotlight, while creationists get expelled from the scientific community for recognizing the reasonable answer to the matter of origins (Stein and Miller, 2008; BBC News, 2010)?
Ironically, when the atheistic community asserts alleged creative agents outside the Universe, they tacitly acknowledge a creator of some sort. What is the difference between these concessions and the true Creator? Why not accept the God of the Bible? The answer is obvious. Their brand of designer comes packaged without the demands and expectations that come with belief in God. Very convenient—but sad and most certainly unscientific.
Note also that accepting the possibility of alternative creative causes leaves atheists with the same problem with which they started. They claim to use the laws of physics to arrive at the multiverse conclusion (Shukman, 2010). But if the laws of physics apply to their conclusion about multiple universes, why would the laws of physics not apply to those universes? If the laws of science apply to those hypothetical universes (and it would be reasonable to conclude that they would since, according to atheists, the universes interact), then the matter of origins has merely shifted to those other universes. How did they come into being? There are still only three options—they always existed (in violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics); they created themselves (in violation of the First Law of Thermodynamics); or they were created. The laws of thermodynamics still echo the truth from the remotest parts of the created order: “You cannot explain it all without God in the equation!”
The truth is, the scientific evidence leads unbiased truth-seekers to the conclusion that there simply must be a Creator. How do we know that the laws of thermodynamics are true on Earth? No one has ever been able to document an exception to them (except when divine miracles have occurred). They always hold true. Why does the same principle not hold when observing the rest of the Universe? As Borgnakke and Sonntag articulate in Fundamentals of Thermodynamics concerning the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics:
The basis of every law of nature is experimental evidence, and this is true also of the first law of thermodynamics. Many different experiments have been conducted on the first law, and every one thus far has verified it either directly or indirectly. The first law has never been disproved.... [W]e can say that the second law of thermodynamics (like every other law of nature) rests on experimental evidence. Every relevant experiment that has been conducted, either directly or indirectly, verifies the second law, and no experiment has ever been conducted that contradicts the second law. The basis of the second law is therefore experimental evidence (2009, p. 116-220, emp. added).
There has been no verifiable evidence that the laws of thermodynamics have been violated throughout the Universe. Sure, there has been speculation, conjecture, and theory that it “could” happen. Yet, through it all, the laws still stand unscathed. Granted, atheists may cloud the air when they blow forth their unreasonable, unproven, jargon-filled, imaginary fairy-dust theories, but when the fairy-dust settles, the laws of thermodynamics still declare the truth to all who will listen (Psalm 19:1). The scientific evidence shows that there is unmistakable order and design in the Universe. Design implies a Designer. The God of the Bible. Now that’s scientific.
BBC News (2010), “Hawking Warns Over Alien Beings,” April 25, http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/8642558.stm.
Benford, Gregory (2006), What We Believe But Cannot Prove, ed. John Brockman (New York: Harper Perennial).
Borgnakke, Claus and Richard E. Sonntag (2009), Fundamentals of Thermodynamics (Asia: John Wiley and Sons), seventh edition.
Cengel, Yunus A. and Michael A. Boles (2002), Thermodynamics: An Engineering Approach (New York: McGraw-Hill), fourth edition.
Fishbane, Paul M., Stephen Gasiorowicz, and Stephen T. Thornton (1996), Physics for Scientists and Engineers (New Jersey: Prentice Hall), second edition.
Holloway, Robert (2010), “Experts on Thermodynamics Refute Creationist Claims,” http://www.ntanet.net/Thermo-Internet.htm.
May, Branyon, et al. (2003), “The Big Bang Theory—A Scientific Critique,” Reason & Revelation, 23:32-34,36-47, May, http://apologeticspress.org/articles/2635.
Miller, Jeff (2007), “God and the Laws of Thermodynamics: A Mechanical Engineer’s Perspective,” Reason & Revelation, 27:25-31, April, http://apologeticspress.org/articles/3293.
Senapati, M.R. (2006), Advanced Engineering Chemistry (New Delhi: Laxmi Publications), second edition.
Shukman, David (2010), “Professor Stephen Hawking Says No God Created Universe,” BBC News, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11172158.
Stein, Ben and Kevin Miller (2008), Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Premise Media).
Van Wylen, Gordon J. and Richard Sonntag (1985), Fundamentals of Classical Thermodynamics (New York: John Wiley and Sons), third edition.