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Many creationists use the 2nd law of Thermodynamics "Progression is always downward, a law," to reject evolution. When did this misunderstanding of Thermodynamics start and how to refute it?

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  • $\begingroup$ This is not a misunderstanding: it's a deliberate misuse. $\endgroup$ Jun 2, 2020 at 11:21
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft It would be true in a static, closed Universe, but only globally even there. Creationists citing this "rule" see a static, closed Universe. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Jun 2, 2020 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ @peterh-ReinstateMonica Are you suggesting that "progressing is always downward" would be true in an isolated system, but since the earth is not in an isolated system (ie the sun is constantly pumping energy) then it is not true in the universe as a whole? $\endgroup$
    – Turk Hill
    Jun 2, 2020 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft I agree. $\endgroup$
    – Turk Hill
    Jun 2, 2020 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ @TurkHill Yes. Interesting side-fact: the energy what the Sun pumps to us, we also radiate away on the night side. If it would not be so, the temperature of the Earth would increase on the long-term. The main effect of the Sun is not really that it gives heat to us, but that it decreases our entropy. | The Universe look to be an open system, but I think no one knows it really. Instead of being more and more close to a highest entropy ("heath death"), we are more and more far away from it. But no one knows, how will it behave on the long-term. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Jun 2, 2020 at 20:02

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The general idea started probably around the 18th century, but some illustrious names in the 19th century like Sir William Thompson talked of the "heat death" of the universe, so originally it appears physicists did understand thermodynamics as a "downward progression".

At the same time, there has always been a competing view that energy is neither created nor destroyed, and that too has a long history of illustrious support.

The problem in the 19th century is that it wasn't particularly obvious how things like burned coal or exhausted stars were created or recycled. Even today these things are known to occur only on scales far greater than human civilisation, but the picture that emerges is less of "downward progression" but of energy merely moving and transforming around the universe.

Such cosmological questions are not yet settled in that they are not fully understood or modelled, but no physicist nowadays would assert in their scientific capacity that "downward progression" was a "law" - merely an opinion or a hypothesis held by some.

Therefore the 2nd law is nowadays stated in terms that both schools can agree with, that there is no upward progression (leaving it unstated whether there is an overall steady state or whether there is "downward progression").

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