No, I will not ignore them. They are prime examples of creationist quote mining, and they absolutely mandate a response. The use of such quotes is not fair debate; it is unethical and indefensibly shoddy scholarship.
Quote mining is defined as
...the use of a (usually short) passage, taken from the work of an authority in some field, which superficially appears to support one's position, but [from which] significant context is omitted and contrary evidence is conveniently ignored.Quote mining is so common in creationist propaganda as to be ubiquitous. There are dozens of sites that contain little content other than such disjointed, out-of-context quotes.
- The Quote Mine Project
Obviously, such quote mining is not ethical, reputable or tolerable scholarship. Why, then, do creationists do it?
There are three possible reasons that I see:
- Deliberate misrepresentation
The following is a discussion of each of the quotes Marcsana used. The "References on creationist websites" is how many hits I got on Google for the complete quotation. In many cases, other websites exist that use different versions of the quotation. In the "Actual Quote" section, text missing from Marcsana's quotes appears in blue. "Selective quotation" refers to whether only those portions favorable to a creationist viewpoint were quoted, thus distorting the quote.
Marcsana's quote: There is thus no justification for the view, often glibly repeated, that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is only statistically true, in the sense that microscopic violations repeatedly occur, but never violations of any serious magnitude. On the contrary, no evidence has ever been presented that the Second Law breaks down under any circumstances.
Purported to be from: A.B. Pippard, Elements of Chemical Thermodynamics for Advanced Students of Physics (1966), p. 100.
References on creationist websites: 3, example Institute for Creation Research
Actually from: The source is correct.
Actual quote: Although very few hypothetical experiments employing fluctuations have been analyzed in such detail, it appears most probable that they all fail to violate the second law on account of the necessary entropy generation by the observer who controls the process. There is thus no justification for the view, often glibly repeated, that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is only statistically true, in the sense that microscopic violations repeatedly occur, but never violations of any serious magnitude. On the contrary, no evidence has ever been presented that the Second Law breaks down under any circumstances, and even the entropy law appears to have an almost universal validity, except in such futile experiments as we have discussed above, the removal and reapplication of constraints.
Selective quotation: Yes. This quote is discussing an entirely different concept than the common, unspecific definition of "entropy," and, as it applies only to closed systems, is even more irrelevant to discussions of evolution.
Out-0f date: Yes. This is a quote from a textbook that is 50 years old- first published in 1957. Explanation: As is fairly obvious, this quote is from a physics textbook. The entire textbook is searchable online. The chapter it is in, titled "The Thermodynamic Inequalities," is specifically about the effects of entropy in closed systems, not open ones. In addition, this discussion is strictly about the strict physics definition of entropy as the unavailability of energy to do work. Nothing in this quote (or in this book) has any relevance to the probability of evolution. In fact, the word "evolution" appears nowhere in this book.
Marcsana's quote:No matter how carefully we examine the energetics of living systems we find no evidence of defeat of thermodynamic principles.
Purported to be from: Harold Blum, Time’s Arrow and Evolution (1962), p. 119.
References on creationist websites: 8. Example: Scientific Evidence for Creation
Actually from: The source is correct.
Actual quote: No matter how carefully we examine the energetics of living systems we find no evidence of defeat of thermodynamic principles, , but we do encounter a degree of complexity not witnessed in the nonliving world. As compared to the in vitro photochemical and autoxidative reactions with which the chemist is more familiar, the complexity of autotrophic processes seems obvious, as is also the complexity of the step reactions in biological oxidations compared to the direct combustion of the same substances. To be sure, it is altogether probable that as investigation continues a relatively simple theme will be found connecting all the more or less isolated facts regarding energy metabolism in living systems, and indeed we have already evidence of that theme. But it seems certain that, simple or not in a general sense, quite complex molecules are involved. To be convinced of this one need only recall the role of enzymes in both the expenditure and accumulation of free energy. Most of the steps in biological oxidation require these substances, and their presence is also obligatory for CO2 reduction, whether by photosynthesis or chemosynthesis. The enzymes themselves are highly complex molecules, the specificity of their action being apparently associated with this complexity. But such molecules, and the reproduction of their complex patterns, is a subject to be taken up in the next chapter.
Selective quotation: Yes. This chapter was discussing some implications of the First Law of Thermodynamics (matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed) and how they related to energy production and storage in living systems. The chapter following this discusses how complex molecules are formed.
Out-0f date: Yes. This book was first published in 1951 and is now 56 years old. Explanation: This book, while now significantly outdated, was perhaps the first to attempt to explain how evolution was possible under the Second Law (the "Time's Arrow" of the title.) It went into quite a bit of detail on how complex molecules could form, for example. Here are some of the author's discussions on the Second Law.:
(page 204) The second law of thermodynamics says that left to itself any isolated system will tend toward an increase in its entropy or randomness. Yet we see living sytems developing and maintaining what appears to be high complexity and organization, out of what seem relatively random surroundings. Does this mean that they do not obey the second law of thermodynamics, which we take for granted applies to all nonliving things? It has been pointed out repeatedly in the foregoing chapter that such a question only arises if we fail to grasp what is implied in the term "isolated system" when used in a thermodynamic sense, that is, a system which is isolated from exchange of energy with its surroundings. [He then goes on to give the example of sugar crystals forming in a cooling saturated solution, where the orderliness of the crystals is set off by the increase in entropy as heat is lost from the reaction.]
(pages 5 and 6) Within our short span of life we are continually aware of the irrevocable passage of time- aware that the same events never exactly repeat themselves whether we wish or no. Viewed in perspective, evolution is characterized by the same one-wayness in time, occasional statements as to its reversibility notwithstanding. It would be useful to us, as evolutionists, if there were some measure of this one-wayness of events. Science offers only one widely general principle which seems applicable; the second law of thermodynamics. One way of stating this law is to say that all real processes tend to go toward a condition of greater probability. Sir Arthur Eddington showed insight into the bearing of this law upon our problem when he described it as "time's arrow." This implies that the second law of thermodynamics points the direction of all real events in time, although giving no indication of the speed with which they happen. It should be tempting, then, to explore the relationship between time's arrow and organic evolution. Few, if any, physical scientists would hesitate to apply the second law of thermodynamics to the evolution of the nonliving world; yet even here its applicability may be worth examining. For the second law is in a sense an empirical and pragmatic law which owes its acceptance to the fact that it has worked whenever it has been put to test. The second law can be tested by setting up a self-inclusive system, deducing the changes that should occur, and accurately measuring these changes to see if they agree with prediction. In a sense, we may be accused of rigging the data to obtain agreement, but the fact that we have never failed to obtain it encourages our belief that we deal with a universal principle. Before any claim of a failure of the second law of thermodynamics with regard to any aspect of the nonliving world could be taken seriously, there would have to be absolute assurance that the system involved had been properly set up for examination. There have been numerous successful applications of the second law of thermodynamics to different aspects of living systems; these encourage the belief that this principle also applies there in a more general sense. Nevertheless, there are from time to time assertions that living organisms manage in some way to violate this principle. In such instances it does not appear that the system has been set up in such a way that it would be possible to reach the conclusion implied, but such statements are likely, because of their dramatic character, to have unwarranted influence on general thought.In short, then, Blum explains yet again what has been detailed many, many times- evolution does not violate the Second Law.
Marcsana's quote: Another way of stating the second law then is: ‘The universe is constantly getting more disorderly!’ Viewed that way, we can see the second law all about us. We have to work hard to straighten a room, but left to itself it becomes a mess again very quickly and very easily. Even if we never enter it, it becomes dusty and musty. How difficult to maintain houses, and machinery, and our bodies in perfect working order: how easy to let them deteriorate. In fact, all we have to do is nothing, and everything deteriorates, collapses, breaks down, wears out, all by itself -- and that is what the second law is all about.
Purported to be from: Smithsonian Institute Journal, June 1970, p. 6
References on creationist websites: 7. Example: ChristianAnswers
Actually from: Isaac Asimov, "In the Game of Energy and Thermodynamics, You Can't Break Even" Smithsonian, August, 1970
Actual quote: Another way of stating the second law then is: ‘The universe is constantly getting more disorderly!’
Viewed that way, we can see the second law all about us. We have to work hard to straighten a room, but left to itself it becomes a mess again very quickly and very easily. Even if we never enter it, it becomes dusty and musty. How difficult to maintain houses, and machinery, and our bodies in perfect working order: how easy to let them deteriorate.
In fact, all we have to do is nothing, and everything deteriorates, collapses, breaks down, wears out, all by itself -- and that is what the second law is all about.
You can argue, of course, that the phenomenon of life may be an exception. Life on earth has steadily grown more complex, more versatile, more elaborate, more orderly, over the billions of years of the planet's existence. From no life at all, living molecules were developed, then living cells, then living conglomerates of cells, then worms, vertebrates, mammals, finally man. And in man is a three-pound brain which, as far as we know, is the most complex and orderly arrangement of matter in the Universe. How could the human brain develop out of the primeval slime? How could that vast increase in order (and therefore that vast decrease in entropy) have taken place? The answer is it could not have taken place without a tremendous source of energy constantly bathing the Earth, for it is on that energy that life subsists. Remove the Sun and the human brain would not have developed-or the primeval slime, either. And in the billions of years that it took for the human brain to develop, the increase in entropy that took place in the Sun was far greater- far, far greater- than the decrease represented by the evolution of the brain.
Authority of authors: Asimov is extremely well-known and wrote many books on science for the layman. He was a professor of biochemistry.
Selective quotation: Yes- very much so! As can be seen, all of the text following the quote is extremely relevant, but was omitted in its entirety.
Out-0f date: Yes, but still relevant - published 37 years ago, but on some fairly basic facts about thermodynamics.
Explanation: This one is pretty clear, It's an extremely egregious selective quotation. In addition, the source citer is obviously wrong, as there is no such thing as the " Smithsonian Institute Journal" and few sites even attribute the quote properly to Asimov.
Marcsana's quote: The point is that in a non-isolated [open] system there exists a possibility for formation of ordered, low-entropy structures at sufficiently low temperatures. This ordering principle is responsible for the appearance of ordered structures such as crystals as well as for the phenomena of phase transitions. Unfortunately this principle cannot explain the formation of biological structures.
Purported to be from: I. Prigogine, G. Nicolis and A. Babloyants, Physics Today 25(11):23 (1972)
References on creationist websites: 6. Example: Darwinism Refuted
Actually from: I. Prigogine, G. Nicolis and A. Babloyants, "Thermodynamics of Evolution (I)" Physics Today 25(11):23 (1972)
Selective quotation: Yes; note how carefully the creationists left out the actual title of the journal article! This two-article series, as detailed below, is actually an explanation of how evolution does not violate the Second law; part of the body of work that earned Ilya Prigogine the 1977 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In addition, this quote is simply a prologue to Prigogine's explanation of how evolution is possible with non-equilibrium thermodynamics.
The point is that in a non-isolated [open] system there exists a possibility for formation of ordered, low-entropy structures at sufficiently low temperatures. This ordering principle is responsible for the appearance of ordered structures such as crystals as well as for the phenomena of phase transitions.
Unfortunately this principle cannot explain the formation of biological structures.
The probability that at ordinary temperatures a macroscopic number of molecules is assembled to give rise to the highly ordered structures and to the coordinated functions characterizing living organisms is vanishingly small. The idea of spontaneous genesis of life in its present form is therefore highly improbable, even on the scale of the billions of years during which prebiotic evolution occurred.
The conclusion to be drawn from this analysis is that the apparent contradiction between biological order and the laws of physics--in particular the second law of thermodynamics--cannot be resolved as long as we try to understand living systems by the methods of the familiar equilibrium statistical mechanics and equally familiar thermodynamics.
Out-0f date: No. Although quite old, this research is still a valid explanation of how evolution does not contradict the Second Law.
Explanation: The above quote explains how it is difficult to reconcile standard thermodynamic theory and evolution. Therefore, a different way of looking at the problem is needed. Prigogine proposed that "nonequilibrium thermodynamics describes how such systems come to terms with entropy." He described the theory of "dissipative structures" which are systems that lose (dissipate) heat while increasing order. Thus, in a non-equilibrium (open) system, such systems can be examples of increasing order, as they produce more entropy (heat dissipation) than the order that they gain, even as they become more orderly. As some examples, he gives patterns of convection in heated liquids and generation of light by lasers. There is much more to the theory than this, but it explains it in a nutshell without becoming too technical.
In specific regards to evolution, he states:
What is the thermodynamic meaning of prebiological evolution? Darwin's principle of "survival of the fittest" through natural selection can only apply once pre biological evolution has led to the formation of some primitive living beings. A new evolutionary principle, proposed recently by Manfred Eigen, would replace Darwin's idea in the context of prebiotic evolution. It amounts to optimizing a quantity measuring the faithfulness, or quality, of the macromolecules in reproducing themselves via template action. We here propose an alternative description of prebiological evolution. The main idea is the possibility that a prebiological system may evolve through a whole succession of transitions leading to a hierarchy of more and more complex and organized states. Such transitions can only arise in nonlinear systems that are maintained far from equilibrium; that is, beyond a certain critical threshold the steady-state regime becomes unstable and the system evolves to a new configuration. As a result, if the system is to be able to evolve through successive instabilities, a mechanism must be developed whereby each new transition favors further evolution by increasing the nonlinearity and the distance from equilibrium. One obvious mechanism is that each transition enables the system to increase the entropy production.
Marcsana's quote: As ice forms, energy (80 calories/gm) is liberated to the surroundings... The entropy change is negative because the thermal configuration entropy (or disorder) of water is greater than that of ice, which is a highly ordered crystal... It has often been argued by analogy to water crystallizing to ice that simple monomers may polymerize into complex molecules such as protein and DNA. The analogy is clearly inappropriate, however... The atomic bonding forces draw water molecules into an orderly crystalline array when the thermal agitation (or entropy driving force) is made sufficiently small by lowering the temperature. Organic monomers such as amino acids resist combining at all at any temperature, however, much less in some orderly arrangement.
Purported to be from: C.B. Thaxton, W.L. Bradley, and R.L. Olsen, The Mystery of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories, Philosophical Library, New York, 1984, pp. 119-120.
References on creationist websites: 1. Example: True Origins
Actually from: Source is correct
Actual quote: Presumably the same.
Authority of authors: Authors are advocates of creationism/intelligent design. From the review mentioned below-"The authors are listed on the cover as PhDs in chemistry, materials science, or geochemistry. Not one is listed in American Men and Women of Science, 14th edition."
Selective quotation: Unknown.
Out-0f date: Yes; book was published 23 years ago.
Explanation: This is the one book I was unable to find; however, I found plenty of information about it. This quote is not from a scientific text. The quoted book was written by creationists.It received scathing reviews from scientists due to its extensive quote mining rather than presentation of any original work. As Dr. Sidney Fox, a professor at the Institute for Molecular and Cellular Evolution at the University of Miami, wrote in the journal The Quarterly Review of Biology:
Many of the negative criticisms consist of citing one "origin-of-lifer" vs. another; such literature is of course abundant in scientific journals in a frontier field. Although the presentation of such objections is thorough, a number of published rebuttals of statements conforming to the authors' thesis are not cited. For many readers the frequency of such omissions will raise thoughts about the ethics of such asymmetric scholarship.So, in closing, in just these five quotes we have seen a wealth of selective quotation and misrepresentation. The prevalence of such shoddy scholarship in creationist works truly casts a very poor light on their efforts.