Chemistry professor paradox

Chemistry professor paradox (Clausius vs Darwin) 2
American philosopher Robert Pirsig, in his 1991 Lila: Inquiry into Morals, introduced the so-called chemistry professor paradox, namely he very-intelligently pits Clausius (entropy increase) against Darwin (struggle to survive), in the mind of a hypothetical physical chemistry professor, in a way that show obvious ridicule or rather absurdity in the logic of the latter at the chemical thermodynamic and or physiochemical level.
In paradoxes, chemistry professor paradox (Pirsig, 1991; C.W. Adams, 2006), or “physics professor paradox” (Pearson, 1892), refers to the misalignments between the way a chemist, physicist, or physical chemist views the world and the origin of humans from the elements via natural selection and the way a biologist (i.e. Darwin) views the world and the origin of humans, and more importantly who’s theory should yield on points of theoretical inconsistences, e.g. whether or not atoms “struggle to survive”, and the absurdities erupting therefrom.

In 1892, German physicist Karl Pearson, in his chapter subsection "Natural Selection in the Inorganic World", of his The Grammar of Science, the first book on Einstein's famous "Olympia Academy" reading list, asked the following discerning question: [9]

“There is a problem, however, with regard to natural selection which deserves special attention from both physicist and biologist, namely: Within what limits is the Darwinian formula a valid description? Assuming the spontaneous generation of life as a plausible, if yet unproven, hypothesis, where are we to consider that selection as a result of the struggle for existence began? Again, for what, if any, forms of life are we to consider it as ceasing to be an essential factor in descriptive history? We may not be able to answer these questions definitely, but some few words at least must be said with regard to their purport. In the first place we notice that as soon as we conceive a perfectly gradual and continuous change from inorganic to organic substance, then we must either call upon the physicist to admit that natural selection applies to inorganic substances, or else we must seek from the biologist a description of how it came to be a factor in organic evolution.”

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In 1903, French physical chemist Jean Perrin, in his “The Principle of Evolution” chapter of his Treatise on Physical Chemistry, discussed the inconsistencies the notion of evolution, in the context of the second law, heat death theory, and so-called “life” originated or rather being synthesized from “dead” atoms (in the context of Carnot’s principle), one of his comments being: [11]

Molecules and atoms are lifeless beings that never evolve.”

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In 1925, American physical chemist Gilbert Lewis, in his Anatomy of Science lecture (§7: Non-Mathematical Sciences), gave the perfect example of the puzzled professor, on the evolution question, when he attempted to dig into the tricky question of evolution of the "animate things" or living things (terms which he rotates usage of) from atoms and molecules in the context of physical science, at the end of which he concludes that he is confused about whether crystals "think" or conversely whether him writing his lecture book was "but" a chemical reaction, and that both alternatives are absurd:

“Suppose that this hypothetical experiment could be realized, which seems not unlikely, and suppose we could discover a whole chain of phenomena [evolution timeline], leading by imperceptible gradations form the simplest chemical molecule to the most highly developed organism [chemistry professor or human molecule]. Would we then say that my preparation of this volume [Anatomy of Science] is only a chemical reaction [extrapolate up], or, conversely that a crystal is thinking [extrapolate down] about the concepts of science? Nothing could be more absurd, and I once more express the hope that in attacking the infallibility of categories I have not seemed to intimate that they are the less to be respected because they are not absolute. The interaction between two bodies is treated by methods of mechanics; the interaction of a billion such bodies must be treated by the statistical methods of thermodynamics.”

Others who might fall into the classification of the "puzzled professor" category, might include: American physical chemistry Lawrence Henderson, though, to note, he was more concerned with economics and sociology, and possibly Austrian-born American physical Alfred Lotka, among a few others in the social Newton-related category.

Pirsig | Neglected Absurdity
In 1991, American philosopher Robert Pirsig, in his Lila: an Inquiry into Morals, introduces his dialogue on the chemistry professor paradox, firstly, with a greasing of the mind of the reader with the seemingly incompatibility between seeming indeterminacy at the quantum mechanical level of photons and electrons and the deterministic cause and effect level of evolution and the social sciences:

Life’s just an extension of atoms, nothing more, it has to be that because atoms and varying forms of energy are all there is … At the time of [the] origin [of evolution theory] it wasn’t yet understood that at the level of photons and electrons and other small particles the laws of cause and effect no longer apply; that electrons and photons simply appear and disappear without individual predictability and without cause. So today we have as a result a theory of evolution in which ‘man’ is ruthlessly controlled by the cause-and-effect laws of the universe while the particles of his body are not. The absurdity of this seems neglected. The problem doesn’t lie in anyone’s department. Physicists can ignore it because they are not concerned with man. Social scientists can ignore it because they are not concerned with subatomic particles.”

Pirsig then asserts, as a matter-of-fact, that “although modern physics has pulled the rug out from under the deterministic explanation of evolution many decades ago”, which isn’t true, as Steven Weinberg (see: Scrooge Tiny Tim dialogue) as demonstrated, then says:

“But right from the beginning, substance-caused evolution has always had a puzzling aspect that has never been able to eliminate. It goes into many volumes about how the fittest survive but never once answers the question of why.”
Chemistry professor paradox (hot rock image)
Pirsig asks: “if we leave a chemistry professor out on a rock in the sun long enough the forces of nature should convert him, according to the second law, into simple compounds.” The question he asks is: why does nature reverse this process? The sun's energy and evolution theory, supposedly, according to Pirsig, don’t seem to be answer. This, in short, is the gist of the chemistry professor paradox.

Pirsig the jumps into the following ripe commentary about the strikingly salient incompatibility issues with Darwin’s theory of evolution, as physical chemistry conflictingly sees things, namely that humans are chemicals and chemical don’t struggle to survive, as Darwin’s theory would have it: [1]

“This is the sort of irrelevant-sounding question that seems minor at first, and the mind looks for a quick answer to dismiss it. It sounds like one of those hostile, ignorant questions some fundamentalist preacher might think up. But why do the fittest survive? Why does any life survive? It's illogical. It's self-contradictory that life should survive. If life is strictly a result of the physical and chemical forces of nature then why is life opposed to these same forces in its struggle to survive? Either life is with physical nature [natural] or it's against it. If it's with nature there's nothing to survive. If it's against physical nature [unnatural] then there must be something apart from the physical and chemical forces of nature that is motivating it to be against physical nature. The second law of thermodynamics states that all energy systems ‘run down’ like a clock and never rewind themselves. But life not only ‘runs up,’ converting low energy sea-water, sunlight and air into high-energy chemicals, it keeps multiplying itself into more and better clocks that keep "running up" faster and faster.

Why, for example, should a group of simple, stable compounds of carbon (C), hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), and nitrogen (N), 'struggle' for billions of years to organize themselves into a professor of chemistry? What's the motive?

If we leave a chemistry professor out on a rock in the sun long enough the forces of nature will convert him into simple compounds of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, and small amounts of other minerals. It's a one-way reaction. No matter what kind of chemistry professor we use and no matter what process we use we can't turn these compounds back into a chemistry professor. Chemistry professors are unstable mixtures of predominantly unstable compounds which, in the exclusive presence of the sun's heat, decay irreversibly into simpler organic and inorganic compounds. That's a scientific fact.

The question is: Then why does nature reverse this process? What on earth causes the inorganic compounds to go the other way? It isn't sun's energy. We just saw what the sun's energy did. It has to something else. What is it?”

One correction with the ending of this question positing is Pirsig's "what on earth causes inorganic compounds to go the other way?", in that herein he seems to be conceptualizing a "inorganic" compound to human (organic) compound ideology, in the sense of "organic = life" and "inorganic = non-life" dichotomy, which is an incorrect view ; which is similar to Vladimir Vernadsky’s incorrect two-part grouping of the elements in respect to his green fire biosphere conceptualization.

Rug sweeping (evolution)
Pirsig, following his chemistry professor paradox, points out that, in the context of debates between theologians vs evolutionists, in respect to questions of goals or patterns towards which human existence is headed, the latter have been carpet sweeping the issue, with recourse to terms such as: ‘blind’, ‘random’, ‘chance’, ‘accident’, amid a goalless and patternless universe.
Pirsig then boasts loudly, via his character Phaedrus, that modern science has been put carpet sweeping this large problem away:

“Nowhere on the pages of all that he had read about evolution did Phaedrus see any answer. He knew the theological answers, of course, but these aren’t supported by scientific observation. Evolutionists, in their reply, simply say that in the scientific observation of the facts of the universe no goal or pattern has ever appeared toward which life is heading. This last statement so neatly sweeps the whole matter under the carpet one would never guess that it was much concern to evolutionists at all.”

Pirsig follows his chemistry professor paradox discourse with discussion of Ernst Mayr’s circa 1985 summaries of the various patch teleological drive theories, attempting to reconcile religion and evolution, i.e. meaning, goals, and purpose amid modern scientific discourse. Pirsig surmises that, via personal note to himself, via his character, that:

“It seems clear that no mechanistic pattern exists—except chaos—toward which life is heading, but has the question been taken up of whether life is heading away from mechanistic patterns? What the substance-centered evolutionists were showing with their absence of final ‘mechanisms’ or ‘programs’ was not an air-tight case for the biological goallessness of life.

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In 2002, John Brey, in his Tautological Oxymorons: Deconstructing Scientific Materialism, stated the following: [10]

“Our bodies represent a particular state of entropy. I our bodies were destroyed, the energy would now be in a new state of entropy. The point is that our physical body represents energy in a particular entropic state. While the heart is beating, the body guards its low entropy state, and when the heart stops beating, the entropy of the body rapidly increases as the energy (within the body) tries to find equilibrium with the environment outside the body. When we speak of ‘survival’, we are speaking of the desire to protect a low state of entropy (whether we’re speaking of the universe itself, or a human body). But if ‘survival’ has positive meaning, then it would appear that low states of entropy are more desirable than high states of entropy, since all that is truly ‘survived’ is rising entropy.

Why should low states of entropy be ‘good’, so that we guard low states of entropy with our life? And if low states of entropy are preferable to high states of entropy, wasn’t the universe at its best, at or before the big bang, and won’t it be at its worst at the heat death where entropy is in an absolutely ‘high’ state. Therefore, isn’t the universe going from ‘good’ to ‘bad’—from a low state of entropy, to a high state of entropy. Now if survival is good, then the universe is bad, for the universe will not survive the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the universe will eventually find itself in a state that is the antithesis of ‘survival’ (where survival is the retention of low entropy). If the universe is bad, the so is the human body, since inevitably the human body will not survive the second law of thermodynamics.”

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Adams | Chemical desire & survival?
In 2006, philosopher C.W. Adams, in his essay segments “How Could Chemicals Have a Desire to Survive” and “Chemicals Cannot Decide to Extend Their Successor’ Lives”, stated a near-equivalent version of Pirsig's paradox, albeit without the second law additions, as follows: [3]

“As the accidental evolutionist theory has been expanding over the last 100 years, it has been merged with ‘big bang’ and ‘primordial soup’ theories. Combined these ancillary theories, the accidental evolution theory now states that following the big bang, life spontaneously arose from chemicals. What is curious is that these chemicals somehow supposedly developed the desire to survive. Have we ever observed any lifeless chemicals develop a desire to survive? Have we ever seen chemicals doing anything but predictably reacting to each other?

In other words, the accidental evolution theory says that out of lifeless chemicals single-celled living creatures have arisen, miraculously displaying a desire to survive. A desire to survive means having a need to improve survival factors and eliminate threats to survival. The need to improve survival means there is an intention to survive, and a value is put onto survival. Eliminating the threats to survival means survival is valued enough to put an effort into changing, adapting to, or destroying potential encroachments and dangers that could shorten life. These factors compound the problem presented: how could lifeless chemicals develop the ability to even recognize life, let alone value life enough to take persistent action to sustain it.”

Accidental evolution would require not only living chemicals somehow distinguishing themselves from dead chemicals, but also chemicals desiring to lengthen the lives of their descendent chemical combinations. What mechanism gave such living chemicals the impetus to increase the chances of their descendants’ survival? The implication of this is that not only will a batch of chemicals struggle to survive and avoid death, but that they will also adapt in ways that won’t necessarily help them survive any better, but will help their descendants. What gave these chemicals the ability to calculate structural changes to improve the chances of survival for future species?

Accidental evolutionists seem to insist that through a desire to survive and adapt to environmental challenges, and passed on such a developed mechanism to offspring. While it may seem speculatively reasonable to consider this, there is still a gaping hole: where did such a mechanism—of adapting and passing genetic improvements to future generations—arise from? What incentive do lifeless chemicals have to code this ability into the genetic structure?

The only answer accidental evolutionists seem to give us to these questions is that this all must have been a random accident. It should not have happened, but accidentally did, they claim. This is seemingly the accidental evolutionists’ only answer to all the real puzzles of existence: it was an accident that should not have happened.

The assumption that accidental evolutionists seem to make is that each event, from the initial combination of chemicals to each genetic variation, took millions if not billions of years to occur. With this much time at their disposal, all sorts of accidental variations could supposedly happen. They claim that from all the variations that did take place, the ones which extended or improved life were retained because those variations survived. The other accidental variations didn’t work, so those species must have died off. The other variations felt to the wayside as the weaker creatures got killed off. This part of the theory is called ‘survival of the fittest’. Improved variations were supposedly selected through ‘natural selection’.”

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The following are related quotes:

“Prebiological natural selection is a contradiction in terms.”
Theodosius Dobzhansky (1963), discussion with Gerhard Schramm on terminology [6]

“A hydrogen molecule [H2] is the thing which reacts. Homo sapiens [Hu] and other particular species are the things which evolve. Such individuals differ from classes by having particular origins in time and space. They may disappear or change into other things.”
Daniel Brooks (1988), “metaphysics of individuality”; co-authored with Edward Wiley [8]

“Could biochemistry be Darwin’s Achilles heel? Pick up any biochemistry textbook, and you will find perhaps two or three references to evolution. Turn to one of these and lucky to find anything better than ‘evolution selects the fittest molecules for their biological function’.”
— Andrew Pomiankowski (1996), “The God of the Tiny Gaps” [5]

“Why should a bunch of atoms have thinking ability? Why should I, even as I write now, be able to reflect on what I am doing and why should you, even as you read now, be able to ponder my points, agreeing or disagreeing, with pleasure or pain, deciding to refute me or deciding that I am just not worth the effort? No one, certainly not the Darwinian as such, seems to have any answer to this. The point is that there is no scientific answer.”
Michael Ruse (2000), Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? [7]

“We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity; but we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any bio-chemical systems, only a variety of wishful speculations.”
— Harold Franklin (2001), The Way of the Cell [4]

See also
‚óŹ Accident | Chemical accident (e.g. Power Puff Girls)

1. Pirsig, Robert M. (1991). Lila: An Inquiry into Morals (chemistry professor paradox, pgs. 139-42). Random House, 2013.
2. Lewis, Gilbert N. (1925). The Anatomy of Science (§7: Non-Mathematical Sciences). Silliman Lectures; Yale University Press, 1926.
3. Adams, C.W. (2006). Actuality: Life in the Real World (§:How could Chemicals have a Desire to Survive , pgs. 84-85; §:Chemicals Cannot Decide to Extend Their Successor’s Lives”, pgs. 86-87). Publisher.
4. (a) Harold, Franklin M. (2001). The Way of the Cell (pg. 205). Oxford University Press.
(b) Strobel, Lee. (2004). The Case for a Creator: a Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence that Points Toward God (pg. 239). Zondervan, 2009.
5. (a) Pomiankowski, Andrew. (1996). “Review: The God of the Tiny Gaps” (abs), New Scientist, Sep 14.
(b) Strobel, Lee. (2004). The Case for a Creator: a Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence that Points Toward God (pg. 256). Zondervan, 2009.
6. (a) Schramm, Gerhard. (1963). “Synthesis of Nucleosides and Polynucleotides with Metaphosphate Esters”, The Origins of Prebiological Systems and of their Molecular Matrices (editor: Sidney Fox) (§:Talk, pgs. 299-309; §:Discussion, pgs. 309-15; quote, pg. 310); Proceedings of a Conference Conducted at Wakulla Springs, Florida and NASA on 27–30 October 1963 under the auspices of the Institute for Space Biosciences The Florida State. Academic Press, 1965.
(b) Strobel, Lee. (2004). The Case for a Creator: a Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence that Points Toward God (pg. 285). Zondervan, 2009.
7. (a) Ruse, Michael. (2000). Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? The Relationship Between Science and Religion (pg. 73) Cambridge University Press.
(b) Strobel, Lee. (2004). The Case for a Creator: a Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence that Points Toward God (pg. 307). Zondervan, 2009.
8. Brooks, Daniel R. and Wilson, E.O. (1988). Evolution as Entropy: Toward a Unified theory of Biology (pg. 85-87). University of Chicago Press.
9. Pearson, Karl. (1892). The Grammar of Science (text) (§9.12: Natural Selection in the Inorganic World, pgs. 356-58). Adam and Charles Black, 1900.
10. Brey, John D. (2002). Tautological Oxymorons: Deconstructing Scientific Materialism: an Ontotheological Approach (quote, pgs. 44-45; thermodynamics, 21+ pgs). iUniverse.
11. (a) Perrin, Jean. (1903). Treatise on Physical Chemistry (Traite de Chimie Physique. Les Principes) (pgs. 177, 179-80). Paris.
(b) Kragh, Helge and Weininger, Stephen J. (1996). “Sooner Science than Confustion: the Tortuous Entry of Entropy into Chemist” (abs), Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences, 27(1): 91-130.

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