How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 993

Does the creation of life and the theory of evolution violate the laws of thermodynamics? — BY, Liverpool, NY
While the laws of thermodynamics forbid an overall increase in the order of the universe and while life is an example of significant order, the laws of thermodynamics don't forbid some parts of the universe from becoming more orderly at the expense of other parts of the universe becoming less orderly. Living organisms are consumers of order and exporters of disorder—they derive their order by creating disorder elsewhere. You eat highly ordered chemicals in your food and you eliminate those chemicals in much more disordered forms latter on. You also emit heat, the most disordered form of energy. Thus thermodynamics has no problem with the ongoing existence of life; it simply requires that living organisms consume order and we are doing just that at a furious pace.

As for the creation of life, that could have been a random event and thermodynamics permits random events. Improbable events do occur—people win the lottery, lightning strikes twice, two snowflakes are occasionally alike—and the creation of life could have been one of those unlikely but not impossible events. Once the simplest organism had assembled itself by chance, it could then begin the process of consuming order and exporting disorder.


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