Creationist Wisdom #958: Utah Genius

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Deseret News of Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah. The letter is titled Nothing improves on its own, and the newspaper has a comments section.

Because the writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote her by using her full name. Her first name is Lynn. Excerpts from her letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, some bold font for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]. Here we go!

Thomas Parmley, a well-known physicist and former University of Utah professor, recognized in 1996 as the U’s “Centennial Professor,” explained to a class that the biggest argument against evolution is that nothing improves on its own.

Thomas J. Parmley died in 1997, but he seems to have been a highly regarded physics professor. Was he really lecturing on biological evolution? And in doing so, did he really attack it by invoking what sounds like the Second law of thermodynamics? We have our doubts. Anyway, the Talk Origins Index to Creationist Claims has a few entries on that creationist clunker — see, e.g.: The second law of thermodynamics says that everything tends toward disorder, making evolutionary development impossible.

Lynn isn’t doing very well so far, but things may improve. She says:

A barn left unattended will eventually deteriorate and fall down, a fence ignored over time will fall apart, a garden will die and weeds will overtake the ground. Even people deteriorate if effort is not made to keep them healthy.

We were wrong. She’s still arguing about the second law. She even turns it into a doctrine of social science:

A society will fall into ignorance and become depraved if the written language is destroyed and “improvements” are not allowed to occur.

That’s a good warning, so we’ll try not to let the written language be destroyed. We don’t know what Lynn means by forbidden “improvements,” and she never gets around to telling us. We’re near the end of her letter now. She says:

The evolution of mankind is a theory, not a fact [Gasp!] and if taught in the school science classes, it should only be taught as a theory.

Ooooooooooooh! It’s only a theory. That’s good to know. And now we come to the end:

Other theories, such as creationism, should also be included in the curriculum [Hee hee!] so students can evaluate the different theories.

We assume she also favors teaching the theory of the Cosmic Aardvark. Why not? Let the children decide! Brilliant advice, Lynn!

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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13 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #958: Utah Genius

  1. Parmley was right. Nothing improves on its own. But I wonder what he really said, and in what context

  2. Michael Fugate

    The classic argument from authority. So what if a physics professor said something – that in and of itself doesn’t make it correct.

  3. One should be careful in using this “2nd Law ofThermodynamics”, lest one is led to arguing that humanity is doomed to degeneration except for the practice of eugenics.
    Fortunately, evolution does not speak of “improvement”. That concept has been removed from science in general, and is foreign to modern evolutionary biology. It is reminscent of the old bestiaries, or the Scala Naturae.

    May I be permitted … I was thinking of the “bravery of the lion”. Pfui. If one is as powerful as a lion, it takes no bravery to kill for one’s meal. If there is such a thing as bravery in animals, I saw it displayed when I was watching some ducks on a pond. A dog showed up. Of course, all of the drakes immediately flew away. But a mother duck was with her ducklings, and she faced the dog and started quacking. The dog was startled, and backed away. Of course, the mother duck wouldn’t stand a chance if the dog went after the ducklings.
    But she won. (The dog’s owner, of course, quickly intervened.)

  4. Let me ask a little question. What’s more likely?
    1. TJ Parmley not recognizing that the energy of our Sun is more than enough to enable evolution or
    2. Lynn not understanding what Parmley talked about.

  5. Michael Fugate

    Most of the comments are critical, but then there is this one:
    I’m no fan of evolution – it violates the laws of thermodynamics, information theory, and probability, among others – but I’m also not a fan of teaching creationism. Creationism isn’t science.

    The proper thing to teach in a science class is what we know about how living organisms work. Leave out evolution. Because that’s all we know.

  6. Life (supposedly) violates those laws of nature, yet we are also told that the universe is fine-tuned for life on Earth.

  7. If life violates those laws of nature, why do we think that those are laws of nature? Th evidence (i.e. life) is against those laws.

    If life violates those laws of nature, and life is designed, and the laws of nature are designed, doesn’t this tell us that there is more than one designer? Or is it that designers change their minds? (If you’re thinking of the effect of the Fall of Adam, remember that life, including human life, was created before the Fall.)

  8. “… nothing improves on its own.”

    Which explains exactly why a fertilized egg could never develop into anything more complex like an adult form. Lynn is apparently just a babbling egg.

  9. @Zetopan
    Thank you.
    IMHO it often is worthwhile to call attention to reproduction and development.

  10. Steve Gerrard

    Even people deteriorate if effort is not made to keep them healthy.

    News for Lynn: people deteriorate even if you do make an effort to keep them healthy. It just takes longer. Fortunately there is reproduction, so life gets a fresh start over and over again. See Zetopan above.

  11. Folks, folks, calm down. Have you forgotten? Anything goes, as long as the conclusion is that evolution is false and creationists can feel special.

  12. Eric Lipps

    When will creationists stop trying to hijack the Second Law of Thermodynamics? When, for that matter, will they learn to understand it? (I’m assuming they’re arguing in good, er, faith, which may not be a safe assumption.)

    If their interpretation of the Second Law were correct, living things couldn’t grow, never mind evolve.

  13. @Eric Lipps
    Yes, indeed.
    I think that it is an important point that so many of the anti-evolutionist arguments are applicable to arguments against reproduction and and development.
    So much so, that many of the same arguments were actually, seriously, used in the 18th century against reproduction. Including, for example, “Irreducible Complexity”, and even – before the formulaton of thermodynamics! – an argument based on the impossibility of a perpetual motion machine (by, of all people, Cotton Mather).
    Major differences being that
    1) in the 18th century, there was a real alternative theory, preformationism. Today, of course, there is no alternative to evolution.
    2) in the 18th century, the students of nature who were preformationists were not committing the fallacies of division and composition.