Monday, January 18, 2010

Granville Sewell discovers YouTube

Mathematician and creationist Granville Sewell mangles thermodynamics for the UncommonDescent crowd yet again in Can ANYTHING Happen in an Open System–Video. I really don't have time to respond at the moment, but attached the following to the UD page as a Sidewiki comment, simply because it annoyed the hell out of me that he did not allow comments. I'd appreciate "helpful" votes from those of you set up to use Google's Sidewiki.


Don't waste your time.

Believe it or not, the "unpolished" video is a sequence of still shots, mostly of text that Prof. Sewell is reading aloud. The only exceptions are images of 1) the cover of a book he reads from and 2) a computer motherboard. Sewell says nothing that he has not posted here on multiple occasions.

Professors who go to class unprepared and read from the textbook get fried in student evaluations. It amazes me that Prof. Sewell would do essentially that in a YouTube presentation. It should surprise no one that he allows comments neither at UncommonDescent nor at YouTube.

Ironically, Sewell's colleagues in the Evolutionary Informatics Lab, William A. Dembski and Robert J. Marks II, lionize a physicist and pioneer of information theory, Leon Brillouin, who answered Sewell more than 50 years ago in Science and Information Theory. Brillouin emphasized that large amounts of information can be gained through expenditure of small amounts of negentropy in physical observation, with overall increase in entropy of the physical system including the observer and the observed. He also emphasized that the negentropy costs of information processing would decline with advances in technology. There is no contradiction of thermodynamics in the growth of human knowledge and the attending advances in complexity of artifacts.


  1. Actually, Brillouin's analysis has be overturned by work by Rolf Landauer and Charles H. Bennett, which showed that information can be produced for free (at least thermodynamically), but that there's a thermodynamic cost for erasing information... which is even less supportive of Sewell's claims.
    For details, read "Maxwell's Demon 2: Entropy, Classical and Quantum Information, Computing", ed. by Harvey Leff and Andrew Rex (which reprints the relevant papers), or a summary I wrote a while ago at

  2. Gordon,

    Thanks for gently setting me straight. I've had Maxwell's Demon 2 on my reading list for some time -- obviously too long a time. Your TalkOrigins "post of the month" on Information and Thermo-Entropy is very helpful. However, physics wimps like me might want to start with Entropy, Disorder, and Life.