The Greatest Scientific Error - an Article

This article is about an error in science. Such errors happen every now and then, and with time they get corrected. For some reason this particular one needs to be addressed yet. This is really a leftover from the nineteenth century, when the scientists were braving the parts of science well established by now.

During the first part of the nineteenth century many physicists and engineers in Europe became involved in development of something called 'perpetum mobile'. It translates to 'permanently in motion', and the main idea behind it was to build a machine that would consume no energy but would perform some useful work. In fact it would be enough if the machine was constantly moving without consuming energy. Such construction would be 'permanently in motion'. At that time the problem must have been wildly known, and the possibility of building such machine expected by many. Certainly, general population would assume that such construction was theoretically possible, and the implementation of it was only a matter of time.

During those times Charles Darwin worked on his research projects. His interests were in biology, but it seems to me that he was also aware of the efforts undertaken by the physicists and the engineers in their respective areas of research. Darwin published his works in 1858 and in 1859, presenting the theory of the Natural Selection, and the development of living species within its' light. His works being related to the field of biology did not seem to overlap with the research performed by the physicists. However, the basic notions entertained by the optimistic physicists may have cropped into Darwin's work.

The theory of Natural Selection presented by Darwin, assumes that the species evolve into more advanced forms by adopting to the challenges presented by the environment. The strongest and the most advanced ones succeed in the evolutionary manner while the weakest die. There is a serious moral problem associated with such way of thinking, as it not only negates the existence of God, but it also assumes that if such a person was ever present then he or she would be of cruel nature.

Ignoring this point for a moment let us return to the scientific discussion of the theory. What Darwin assumed was a form of perpetum mobile. He took an isolated sample of objects (some species) and subjected it to derogatory pressure. Then he assumed that the species would better itself by some form of internal modification. The problem is that he assumed the sample would generate some energy (work) out of itself.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, after the works of Darwin had already been published, the physicists developed the theory of thermodynamics. As part of this theory the 'second law of thermodynamics' has been provided. This law introduces the notion of Entropy, which is a measure of randomness of a system. The second law of thermodynamics may be presented in many ways, some of them are:

"Any process within an isolated system results in the increase of entropy."


"In order to decrease the entropy of a system, an external agent needs to exert some work."


"The perpetum mobile is impossible to be built."

Basically what the law says is that everything left alone would deteriorate with time. If you would like to improve it in any manner then you need to do some work on it.

You may find examples of this law everywhere around you. Take for example the car you have bought few years ago, or any other object. They all rust, deteriorate and become broken with time. If you would like to keep it in good condition you need to provide some work restoring the object to its original perfection. As a matter of fact, things never get better just by themselves.

I imported a quotation taken from the Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia to explain better what the entropy is. This is what the encyclopedia says:

Entropy is the tendency for matter to become disordered. Nature requires the input of energy to maintain an ordered state—a bedroom will become messy if not periodically cleaned; a car will eventually fall into disrepair if not regularly serviced. Entropy is an important force in chemistry. If other factors influencing a reaction are held equal, a chemical reaction will proceed spontaneously if the products have higher entropy (are more disordered) than the reactants. This law explains why ozone (O3) gas can spontaneously decompose into molecular oxygen (O2): 2O3(g) 3O2(g). This reaction occurs because the molecular order is diminished, resulting in a higher level of entropy.
© 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

The law is general, and it may be applied to physics but also to chemistry or any other branch of knowledge. For some reason people forgot to apply it to biology.

The law says that things left to their own devises would always deteriorate. However, one may improve the state of the system if one provides some external work to it. The external agent which provides work does not need to be visible. To a physicist the fact that the entropy of the system decreased means that definitely an external agent is involved.

This bring us to the point which contradicts Darwin. To a physicist the fact that the animal world became perfected means that someone out there performed this perfecting work on it. Just as the fact that if you leave your home for work in the morning, and you see all that mess in the room left behind, and then you come back from work and everything is in the right places, you deduce the someone has cleaned the room. Even though you may not be able to see that person at the time of your return.

Seeing that there are two branches of science contradicting each other, you may ask about the physics now. Maybe the laws of thermodynamics are wrong and the biologists are right? If you do so, then please remember that this branch of physics has been successfully developed to its' limits in the nineteenth century and effectively closed. The fruits of the theories of thermodynamics have been passed on to the engineers who happily build the car engines based on those laws now. Every time you start your car's engine, and most importantly when you press the accelerator, and your car increases its' speed, your apply those laws in the practical manner. They are very well known by now.