Thermodynamics and Evolution

I got suspicious when I found out that Harun Yahya was not a scientist. People who have not studied science can sometimes misinterpret scientific laws and ideas. Still, I was interested in reading his book “Darwinism Refuted”. After printing, I was perusing it when I found out that he thinks that the theory of evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics.

Now, as an engineer, I have studied thermodynamics and while it was not a popular course among us electrical engineers, I do understand the 2nd law. I might not know biology but this claim is one I can evaluate and there is no way anyone can convince me that evolution violates this law.

It turns out that this is part of the standard claim of creationists.

Kashmir

I am working on a few posts related to Kashmir. I can’t promise when they will be posted since I have to do a lot of research on the topic and am busy with my dissertation as well.

You might ask why I want to write about Kashmir, a place where I have never lived and have visited only a couple of times on the Pakistani side. There are two reasons, one of which is personal. My Dad was born in the city of Jammu (currently part of the Indian Kashmir) in 1937. My ancestors lived in Jammu for a few generations before migrating to Pakistan in the chaos that was partition in 1947. However, I am not an ethnic Kashmiri.

The other reason is my interest in international affairs and conflicts everywhere combined with the fact that most of the world sees Kashmir as a border dispute between two nuclear-armed countries. Recently, people have also taken an interest in the terorrist dimension of the conflict. Most Pakistanis and Indians see Kashmir as their property as if no humans lived there. Not many people are interested in the history of the region and its people.

Discussion about Kashmir among Indians and Pakistanis often gets very acrimonious with extremist viewpoints prevailing. I’ll try to be as impartial as I can be and hoepfully my readers will keep it civil and correct me when I am wrong or shrill.

Also, if I can convince my Dad to write his memoirs of his early life in Kashmir and his travails during the massacres in 1947, I’ll post them here.

Evolution Discussion Continued

My previous posts on the topic are here, here and here.

Aziz Poonawalla has now posted his own viewpoint on the topic. In broad details, we agree.

Aziz also points to an article on Evolution and the Quran at Talk Origins Archive. There are also some links to the Quranic verses related to creation in their creationism FAQ.

Andya Primanda, a Muslim biologist from Indonesia, has posted some refutations of Harun Yahya’s book “The Evolution Deceit” from the scientific point of view.

And finally, here are some must-read articles from the Talk Origins Archive:

Fox Loses “Fair and Balanced” Lawsuit

Good news.

A federal judge on Friday denied Fox News Channel’s request for an injunction to block liberal humorist Al Franken’s new book, whose title mocks the Fox slogan “fair and balanced.” U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said

Fox’s claim was “wholly without merit, both factually and legally.” The network had argued Franken’s book — “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right” — could trick some consumers into believing the book is associated with Fox.

I guess I can now go back to plain old “Procrastination.”

Evolution: Another Viewpoint

Following up on my critique of Muslims not accepting evolution and after finding out that Harun Yahya, one of the opponents of evolutionary theory, is not a scientist, I discovered a lecture by a Saudi geologist (specializing in micropalaeontology) Dr Zaghloul Al-Najjar that he gave at the University of New South Wales Islamic Society. He basically denies macroevolution and humans being related to animals.

Muslims have taken one of two stands regarding this issue. One is to completely reject it, and the other is that this is the result of scientific endeavour and we have to accept it fully. Both stands are completely wrong. In Islam we are taught not to accept theories dogmatically and at the same time, not to reject theories that have some evidence behind them.

The theory says that everything in this Universe was created gradually, created one step after another, which is true. We can find ample evidence that supports gradualism in Creator. This does not negate creation at all, and does not stand in the face in the limitless powers of the creation. So we believe in the gradualism of creation. Things were not created suddenly, but Allah has the power to say “Be” and it “is”.

The second part of the theory says that the simple forms led to more complex forms. This part must be considered more carefully and critically. How can a simple single-cell amoeba understand that in time it will develop into a human being, needing a backbone, and requiring particular dimensions for the skull and limbs, and certain organs to function? No man worth his salt would assume this. This assumption is beyond the scientific process itself. To assume that simple forms evolved to higher forms by themselves without any divine guidance is completely incorrect. It is unscientific. We know from life on Earth that this process is very slow, and neither subject to direct observation nor to direct experimentation. The shortest lifespan of a species is 500,000 years. Who would live for 500,000 years to observe that species A has slowly changed into species B? It is unscientific. It is a theoretical conclusion established on the background belief of whoever is expounding this theory. If you are a believer, you will frame this information in a completely different way from someone who has a disbelieving attitude.

In the area of evolution, Islam has no trouble at all accepting the concept of evolution, with three basic conditions:

  • We cannot believe that the earliest forms of life started spontaneously by the reaction of the sun with mud and water. One of our contemporaries wanted to estimate the probability of making a single protein molecule. Protein is composed of Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen and sometimes Phospohrous. To simply select these five would take a mass much greater than that of the known universe and an ange several time the age of the universe. Then each protein molecule consists of amino acids and these can be very complex. The probability of assembing the amino acids into useful proteins and to DNA in particular is extremely remote.
  • For creation to take place by itself is impossible. The early beginnings of life must be carefully planned, else they are doomed to failure. This creation by whatever means, is a miracle that is beyond the reaches of science. These simple forms of life can not evolve upwards by themselves, and if evolution did occur as suggested, it must have been encoded into the first cells themselves.
  • Man is not part of this general schema and was created separately and is not linked to the process itself.

This means that in Islam, it is perfectly acceptable to accept one of two theories. One of separate creation of each individual lifeform, or what we might call “evolutionary creation”, carefully planeed and set out, with each lifeform having its own period and stage.

Why can’t he simply accept evolution while maintaining that everything is created by God? Sort of like the pope.

Agricultural Subsidies

I am probably late in this, but it’s a blog and I never promised timely coverage.

As we all know, the agricultural subsidies given by US, EU and Japan to domestic interests hit the developing world hard. The New York Times has a series of op-eds on the topic from different countries. These op-eds do not add new information but are interesting to read and give you a flavor of agricultural trade issues from different developing countries. The series is titled “Harvesting Poverty”.

Vanity Googling

This weblog is now #5 on the Google search for Procrastination; #1 for Zack Ajmal; #4 for Zack; and #2 for Ajmal.

Also interestingly, I am the #10 search result for “fair and balanced”.