Science in Christian Perspective
Origins and Destiny-Reviews and Responses
ORIGINS AND DESTINY by Robert Gange. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1986. 193 pages, index.
First: A Review by Clarence Menninga
From: PSCF 41 (September 1989): 168-172.
While this book is "creationist" in many respects, Gange's concerns are not about age or geological history. Gange's view of the universe as "13 billion years old" and man "existing as man for 40 thousands years or so" would be unacceptable to young-Earth creationists.
The early chapters deal mostly with new perspectives of the world and its history derived from astrophysics and quantum mechanics. The next chapters present examples of design and complexity in living organisms, and Gange argues that such complexity implies an Intelligence-Designer. The last chapters deal with man's uniqueness relative to other animals, and with man as morally responsible, made in God's image.
Gange argues for a Designer-Creator on the basis of design in the universe. I think Gange is correct in his judgment that the universe was designed by an intelligent Designer-Creator, but I was already a believer in the Creator God of the Bible. A few nonchristian scientists have suggested that some Intelligence fine-tuned the universe, but such an inference hardly brings us to the personal God of Christianity. This new "Natural Theology" from astrophysics is not likely to serve us any better than the defunct Natural Theology which was popular in the 19th century.
Gange handles the Second Law of Thermodynamics with the same careless misunderstanding that is too common in other creationist literature. Gange says that the Second Law tells us that "on the average" the entropy of a system increases as physical processes occur in that system. In fact, the Second Law is not about what happens "on the average." The Second Law tells us that for an isolated (or closed) system, the entropy of the system increases as spontaneous processes occur in that system. The conditionals closed system and spontaneous place much tighter restrictions on applications on the Second Law than "on the average" indicates.
The Second Law applies to all systems, whether closed or open; closed systems may be considered by themselves, but consideration of the surroundings must be included when dealing with open systems. The entropy of a local, open system and its surroundings increases when spontaneous processes occur in that system. However, entropy may decrease in the local system itself. For example, the rusting of iron is obviously a spontaneous process. The chemical process "iron + oxygen - ferric oxide" results in a decrease in the entropy of the iron-oxygen system while the entropy of the surroundings increases, so the net entropy of the universe increases. Note that this spontaneous process produces a decrease in the entropy of the local system without contradicting the Second Law.
In the concept which Gange calls the New Generalized Second Law of Thermodynamics, he makes the doubtful claim that "uncertainty in information" is equivalent to "entropy" in the classical Second Law. For further discussion on the non-equivalence of entropy and "uncertainty in information," see "Entropy and Information" by Jeffrey S. Wicken, Philosophy of Science, 54 (1987) pp. 176-193. Even if we grant that "uncertainty in information" is equivalent to entropy in the classical sense, Gange is mistaken in claiming that spontaneous processes may result in a decrease in the entropy of local systems. If evolutionary development of living organisms occurred on Earth, it occurred in local, open systems where decreases in entropy (or "uncertainty in information") can occur without contradicting the Second Law.
Gange does draw one correct conclusion from the Second Law of Thermodynamics; i.e., that the universe did have a beginning.
Gange makes three all-too-common errors in claiming that it is "statistically impossible" (p. 72) for life to arise from non-living entities by spontaneous chemical reactions. First, he mistakenly equates small probability with impossibility; actually, if some event has probability greater than exactly zero, that event is possible. Second, he mistakenly assumes that an event with small probability will take a long time to occur; actually, if the probability is greater than exactly zero, it might occur on the first chance trial. Third, he mistakenly assumes equal probability of all possible arrangements of the components of a chemical system; every chemist knows that to be a false premise. As Christians, we affirm that God brought life into existence, but we dare not instruct God how to do that.
In discussing the history of man, Gange tries the usual anti-evolutionist stunt of discrediting paleoanthropologists by reminding us of the Piltdown hoax and the "Nebraska man" error. Pray tell, how was the Piltdown hoax found out, and who exposed it' The credibility of pateoanthropology is actually increased bv having access to techniques which can discover hoaxes and errors, and by having exercised the integrity to expose those hoaxes and errors.
Gange suggests that the information content of man's DNA far exceeds that of anv other creature, making man unique in the capacity to receive, supply, and transmit information through time. This capacity for communication, Gange says, allows man to have fellowship with the Word who created the universe. and allows the Creator to hold man morally responsible from generation to generation. According to Gange. evil is a physical phenomenon which was introduced into the world by a perverse intelligence. Phenomena which I think of as'natural processes under God's direction, such as earthquakes. volcanic eruptions, and tornadoes are characterized bv Gange as "the residue of Satan's misuse of free will" (p. 153). Gange suggests that Adam's disobedience altered -the informational specifications of his DNA" (p. 149). Thus. in a very physical way, we are all sinners because "all people were procreated from genetically defective organic machines" (p. 150). 1 think that Gange's suggestions about man's spiritual being and his sin are much too phvsical to be thcok*caliv meaningful. Being made in God's image makes us qualitatively different from other creatures. rather than merelv providing greater information content in our DNA, If faulty DNA is the root of man's problem with sin. how can the death of Jesus provide salvation" Should we not rather seek a solution to our problem bv way of genetic engineering with recombinant DNA?
This book is an earnest attempt to apply recent scientific concepts to understanding man and history from Christian perspective. In several respects. however, the book is flawed to such an extent that it is likely to be misleading and confusing, rather than helping the reader to clearer thinking about such serious matters.
Professor of Geology
Grand Rapids. MI 49506
Then: Dr. Gange's Reply to Clarence Menninga
Ordinarily, publications are reviewed through a peer process that includes recognized authorities who are expert in the subject matter under evaluation. Yet Clarence Menninga, a professor of geology at Calvin College, appears to have circumvented the process. After appointing himself to review the book Origins and Destiny, he wrote to me saying: "I have written for the journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith.... I also plan to send copies of the review to the members of the Calvin College Board of Trustees [and] to submit the review for possible publication in Christian Scholars' Review." My inquiry, however, shows that neither the trustees nor the journals requested his review of the book.
Origins and Destiny deals with highly specialized disciplines that include cosmology, thermophysics, and information theory. These fields of study are not part of geology. They are also far removed from Menninga's background and experience. Why, then, does a geology professor want to invest time publishing comments on subject matter in which he has no expert knowledge? The answer, it seems, is that "Menninga's friendly rival of twenty years" thought so highly of the book that he distributed Origins and Destiny to the faculty and Trustees of Calvin College as a means of defending longstanding disagreements between the two. Menninga responded by: (i) badly misquoting the book's content; (ii) alleging errors in the book that do not exist; (iii) addressing concepts that lie well beyond his knowledge; and (iv) being personally involved in a way unfit for objective assessment.
Origins and Destiny is, to my knowledge, the only book of its kind every published to have bridged both the Christian and secular worlds. It is endorsed by the presidents of two major seminaries, and by a Nobel laureate and past colleague of Albert Einstein who, to my knowledge, is not a Christian. Menninga's allusion to the book as "other creationist literature" is, therefore, absurdly inept. Indeed, his remarks are not a "review," but a bombast. He chides me for misstatements that don't exist (e.g., all chemical arrangements have equal probability) and for ignoring truths that the book accents (e.g., entropy can decrease locally). On the first point, page 74 reads: "When scientists calculate probabilities a variety of factors must be considered, including residue probability ... codon degeneracy ... homologous protein lineage ... [and] synonymous amino acid residues." Current references are then provided from the scientific literature to support the probability numbers used. On the second point, Menninga alleges my ignorance of local entropy reduction (information increase) in local systems, repeating the bromidic theme that evolutionary development can occur in an open system. But is he unaware that the book summarizes this well-worn scenario in a simple illustration (p. 44) with the earth and sun as the closed and open systems? And is he oblivious to the quantification of information in biological structures that I cite (pp. 99-100) to discredit the very scenario that he alleges I ignore?
Ironically, Menninga evokes an example (iron oxidation) actually discussed in the book (pp. 52-54), and where the following quote appears with emphasis: when the total package is considered, more things must end up mixed [entropy increase] than unmixed [entropy decrease]." Indeed, page 54 reads: "We can produce information ... but only at the expense of information that exists elsewhere." Appendix 2 also contains several examples of local entropy decrease where it is observed that: "The notion of identifying a decrease of entropy with 'information' is hardly obvious and so unintuitive that even those who have spent a lifetime on the subject receive it with reluctance and resistance." Current references are then provided.
Menninga writes: "this book is 'creationist' in many respects . . . " yet I am neither a creationist (young earth patron) nor an evolutionist (mother nature devotee). Instead, I am a realist. Indeed, page 49 states: "while in principle biological evolution is not forbidden, this [New Generalized Second] law does impose severe constraints on how natural structures can change." Despite this, Menninga lumps me with "other antievolutionists," and puts words into my mouth that I do not say (e.g., spontaneous evolutionary development is "impossible"). He also charges me with pulling "the usual anti-evolutionist stunt of attempting to discredit paleoanthropologists." This is as untruthful as it is demeaning. One page of the entire book (p. II 7) cites paleoanthropological hoaxes. Seven modern sources document and I quote: "the very real tendency of workers in this area to claim knowledge beyond what the fossils actually warrant."
Is Menninga unaware that anthropologists disregarded reports of the Piltdown fraud as early as 1916?1 And does he not know that for the next forty years literally hundreds of thousands paid homage to the hoax at the British Museum of Natural History? Menninga asks: "Pray tell, how was the Piltdown hoax found out?" The answer is a fluorine test in 1953. And, but for that test the deception might still be with us today. When the ruse was uncovered, Gros Clark of the British Museum remarked: ". . . so obvious did they [file marks on the teeth] seem it may well be asked, How was it they escaped notice before?2 The answer is that forty years of preconceived ideas outweighed the "techniques" referred to by Menninga.
Menninga's other remarks are likewise poor. He misunderstands "statistical impossibility" to be "physical impossibility"; he misapprehends "communication" to be "language";3 he seems ignorant of the constraints that limit first trial outcomes;4 he misconstrues: "Man's flesh is an ally and vehicle of sin" (p. 149) to mean "evil is a physical phenomenon"; he infers "natural theology" unintended by nonChristian scientists and then faults it for not delivering a personal God; he miscomprehends altered DNA to be a sufficient condition for sin; and he pontificates "we dare not instruct God," implying that Origins and Destiny actually contains such foolish nonsense.
At times I get the feeling that Menninga skimmed a different book. His kindergarten cliche regarding the second law and closed systems is a case in point. Page 53 is but one of an entire chapter on entropy; it reads: "These considerations apply to the entire system, and, when applied to the closed system...... In fact, Appendix 3 gives a detailed discussion of generalized entropy, concluding with: "These last two relations constitute the New Generalized Second Law of Thermodynamics for closed systems."
Menninga's confused rhetoric notwithstanding, there are abundant errors throughout his bravado that underscore thermodynamic obsolescence too rash to ignore. Central among these is his complaint of my use of the term: "on average" in describing the New Generalized Second Law. Menninga wrongly believes that the Second Law is not about what happens "on the average." This conceptual error was accepted fifty years ago because at that time thermodynamics comprised experimental laws. However today they are deducible from the laws of mechanics. These laws show that the traditional "second law of thermodynamics" has nothing to do with dynamics. Instead, it is a law of statics and constitutes the zeroth law of modern thermophysics.5 The New Generalized Second Law of Thermodynamics (NGSL) is the first law of thermophysics. Unlike the older law, the NGSL is not constrained to thermodynamic variables, but instead is valid for any observable and in nonequilibrium situations; i.e., it applies at each instant of time.6
Pioneering experts in thermophysics include Jaynes (Brandeis lecturer)7, Mori (Japan),8 Scalapine (Stanford University), 9 Zubarev (Soviet Union),10 and Schwegier (Germany)11.If Baldwin Robertson has also contributed to significant works on the topic, 12 as well as Levine and Tribus, who edited a definitive work.13 Wolfgang Yourgrau and Alwyn Merwe (University of Denver), and Gough Raw (St. Louis University) wrote an excellent primer outlining the deficiencies of the standard thermodynamic ideas.14 Another excellent treatise dealing with related matters is Robertson's 15Application Of Maximum Entropy To Nonequilibrium Statistical Mechanics."However, despite much excellent recent work in generalized thermodynamics, Arthur Hobson's "Statistical Mechanics" still remains one of the clearest renderings.16 In discussing the second law, Hobson writes:
Both the ordinary second law and the generalized second are statistical laws; that is, they refer only to the predicted or expected values of the observables and not necessarily the experimentally measured data. The ordinary second law is a relation between the initial thermodynamic data and the expected asymptotic values of the thermodynamic observables.... Similarly, the generalized second law refers only to the expected values.
Whereas Menninga believes that: "the Second Law is not about what happens 'on the average'," in fact, it is a law that only speaks to expectations values.17 Entropy is a statistical concept, and a property of the probability distribution of which it is a function. Indeed, each probability distribution has an entropy.18
Entropy was once thought to be an addictive equilibrium function of state that never decreased in a thermally isolated system. The Clausius statement of the traditional second law implied that heat cannot flow spontaneously from a colder to a hotter body. But of course we know today that the process is not mechanically impossible.19 Instead, for large systems the chance of our ever seeing a measurable heat flow from colder to hotter, even when the temperature difference is small, is so minute that we may, as a practical matter, ignore it. But the word "chance" emphasizes the statistical character of modern thermophysics. Indeed, entropy is not a function of what the system is actually doing, but a function of how much we know of what the system is doing. Furthermore, by taking a very large number of measurements, it would be possible to decrease the total entropy of a closed system.20 in the case of a gas this involves measuring the positions and velocities of vast numbers of colliding molecules. These collisions give the system access to numerous "microstates," each subject to thermal fluctuations. Since the measured value of an observable depends on the microstate of the system, it too is subject to thermal fluctuations.21 A definite thermodynamic state means that the probabilities of the various microstates are known with sufficient accuracy to make good predictions of the observables when they are averaged over their fluctuations." if averages are not taken, the observables have no definite values and the state is indeterminate. Nonequilibr'um entropy also fluctuates and, as Hobson notes: "needn't be a monotonically increasing functions of time."6 However, its average value rises because disorder "is highly likely" as time passes.
1Lyne, C. Proc. Roy. Soc. Med. (1916) 9:33.
2Millar, H. The Piltdown Men (St. Albans, U.K.: Paladin, 1974), p. 204.
3Practically all members of the animal kingdom are genetically preprogrammed to communicate @pp. 125-132), but only humans have language capability; i.e., the "word" (pp. 137-145).
4See Statistical interference, pp. 50-5l (also pp. 85-87).
5Yourgrau, W. et. al. Treatise on Irreversible Statistical Thermodonamics (New York: Dover Publishing Co. 1982), pp. 1-54.
6Hobson, A. Concepts In Statistical Mechanics (New York: Gordon & Breach, 1971), pp. 140-143.
7Jaynes, E. Statistical Physics, 1962 Brandeis Lectures, Ford K. (ed.), (New York: W. Benjamin, 1962); Am. Journal of Phys. (1965) 33:391.
8Mori, H. Jour. Phy. Sci. Soc. Japan (1956) 1:1029,
9Zubarev, D. Doklady (1962) 6:776.
10Scalapine, D. Irreversible Statistical Mechanics and the Principle of Maximum Entropy, PhD Dissertation, Stanford University, 1961.
11 Schwegler, Z. Naturforst (1965)20a:1542.
12Robertson, B. Phys. Rev. (1966)144:151 (1967) 160:175.
13 Levine, R. (ed.) The Maximum Entropy Formalism (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1961).
14Yourgrau, E. et. al. op. cit.
15 Levine, R. op. cit. pp 289-320.
16 Hobson, A. op. cit., pp. 131-155.
17If a quantum operator does not commute with the Hamiltonian, the pararneter involved may assume one of several values when measured with the system in a given eriergy state. However, the statistical distribution of these values can be calculated. The average value of the distribution is called the expectation value.
18Shannon, C. The Mathematical Theory of Communication (Urbana, IL: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1948); Khinchin, A. Mathemtical Foundations of Information Theory. (NY: Dover, 1957).
19J. Am. J. Phys. (1957), 25(510)
20 Waldram, J. The Theory of Thermodynamics (1985), p. 307.
21 Fluctations in space or phase space arise no only from collisions, but from dissociation in chemical reactions, decay in radioactive isotopes, and even in diffusion processes. The latter is commonly viewed as deterministic, but is actually the average of a random process. Moreover these considerations apply to equilibrium states, and time-dependent situations, both in linear and non-linear situations. A good discussion occurs in: van Kampen, N. "Fluctuatior Systems," AIP Conf. Proc. No. 27, edited by R. Piccirelli (New York, Am. Inst. Phys., 1976).
Director, Genesis Foundation, Princeton, NJ
President, Regional Seminary of the Northeast, Millington, NJ
A review of the Gange book submitted by Robert Grange at the request of ASA book review editor, Richard Ruble).
If the formation of proteins in aqueous solution is thermodynamically nonspontaneous, how can natural processes initiate life? Just when the unbounded ingenuity of purely materialistic philosophers seems to have provided semisatisfactory answers to questions like this, along comes a book which adds several new dimensions to the problem of origins. The author, a research physicist and in particular an information theorist, poses some penetrating questions based on recent findings in science: In view of the generalized Second Law of thermodynamics, how can the informational complexity of even the simplest life form arise? How can so many optimized structures in the biosphere be accounted for? Given the interaction of wave functions and observers, how does a handful of inanimate earth eventually make a conscious decision to grab a handful of itself from the moon?
The book attacks these problems in detail and from many interesting angles and concludes that scenarios dealing with life's origins must include more than a series of senseless molecular accidents. Nor is a surfeit of time the answer. Time, the treacherous ally of materialism, can only act as an inexorable order or archenemy of information. Can any purely molecular scenario compete with the thesis that intelligence is required to beget intelligence? If so, would not such a scenario be historical dogma rather than science? Materialists who wish to refute the claims of this book please step forward! But please, no innuendos about creationists. Specific and logical arguments are requested.
The simplicity of exposition tends to hide the fact that the author has produced a unique sourcebook which will be of value to any interested person, regardless of world view. The book concludes with eleven pages of annotated appendices and fifteen pages of chapter notes with references to many research journals such as Physical Review, Nature and The Journal of Theoretical Biology. More than one hundred advanced science monographs are cited. Rather than being primarily an attack on the many vulnerabilities of atheistic, stochastic mechanisms, this is a science book which is refreshingly positive in the support of its own views.
The book contains some unusual features: a novel essay on cosmological origins; readable discussions of information and quantum theories which should be of value to both laymen and scientists; a profusion of epistemological morsels and brain-teasing puzzles; and a surprising view of the vast chasm between man and ape that is downplayed so fiercely by some anthropologists. Perhaps most importantly, the book clearly indicts preconceived world views as obstacles to true scientific inquiry. It strikes this reviewer that perhaps it is time to consider intelligent creation and the loss of information in progeny in evolutionary research proposals. Perhaps there is also a warning here for biotechnologists who deal so lightheartedly with a cellular complexity that they cannot fully comprehend.
The last chapter turns to the biblical stories of Supreme Intelligence and man as a moral creature with the power of choice. As J.R.R. Tolkien has written: "There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits." The author is apparently one of these skeptical men, but one who is trying very hard to make the choice easier for others. The plain message is that if we find our miracles only in mindless atoms and reject creation by intelligence, we "do so for reasons of philosophy and not science." We are free to "slide into a mudhole from which we did not come" or we can lay claim to a glorious destiny.
Professor of Chemistry
University of North Carolina at Wilmington
Wilmington, North Carolina
Finally: A Chemist Reviews Origins and Destiny
This review, by ASA member Jack Haas, dates to the book's pre-publication proofs in 1986. At the time, JASA did not print the following due to the negative review of the book. We publish it here now as, perhaps, another view in this small controversy.
Engineer Gange seeks to counter a materialistic world view of the origin of the cosmos, lower life and man within a biblical perspective buttressed by the evidence of modern science. The early chapters argue that the universe has a beginning. Here the existence of background microwave radiation, the discovery of hydrogen and deuterium in outer space at concentrations markedly different from our solar system and the new Generalized Second Law of Thermodynamics are seen as supporting an origin in time as opposed to "steady state" or "oscillating" models. The author joins this conclusion with the First Law of Thermodynamics (which he sees as teaching "that a NATURAL process cannot bring into existence something out of nothing") to argue the notion that the natural world came from an UNNATURAL process. Finally, the "New Inflationary Theory" suggests that the universe came into existence "ex nihilo"-an idea found in Scripture.
Chapter five provides ten concepts (time, pleasure and pain, individuality, life, consciousness, etc.) which cannot be explained in mechanistic terms. Later chapters argue for an "intended" over an "accidental" arrangement of nature-design toward a useful end. The Second Law of Thermodynamics speaks to the necessary loss of information with the passage of time. Since natural processes produce patterns with only modest amounts of information compared to that found in the cell it is impossible for the cell to develop from natural causes. The suitability of the earth for life, the harmony and coherence of nature, information theory, and the lack of natural machinery to systematically increase the complexity of biological structures with the passage of time argue for a "creator god"-to be identified as the God of Scripture. For author Gange:
The very young believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. But what are we who are not so young to believe? The materialistic myths of a prior century? Or the modern indications that an Intelligence has made itself known? (P. 101)
Gange fleshes out his arguments with an eclectic range of scientific illustrations which effectively speak to the diversity and complexity of nature. The closing chapters draw the reader to the biblical perspective of man as made in the image of God and present the themes of creation, the Fall and the redemption in Christ.
The author has brought together many of the serious problems that confront the case for a non-supernatural perspective on life. Whether he has fairly presented the arguments of the other side or allowed any room for new information to appear in the course of time is another matter. I feel that it is inappropriate to argue for the existence of God on the basis of scientific models whose lifetime may be short. Nature surely bears witness to the Creator. However, the models by which man explains nature seem more inclined to expose man's limitations than God's attributes.
Unfortunately, Origins and Destiny is seriously flawed by its grammar and syntax. The wordiness, over-repetition of ideas, redundant use of questions, lack of continuity, swings in style from comic strip folk talk to sublime metaphor, etc., will soon lose the reader from exhaustion, confusion, or frustration. A tighter editorial hand should have been exercised.
J.W. HAAS, JR.
Professor & Chairman
of Dept. of Chemistry
Wenham, MA 01984