Over the years, I have considered the issue of entropy to provide one of the strongest arguments against evolution, both as it relates to chemical evolution (the origin of life) and to macroevolution (turning an amoeba into a man).  It seems obvious that random changes to organized systems tend to destroy existing order. A two-year-old child left to himself in a toy store will quickly turn it into a shambles. Multiple, random, blindfolded paint strokes on a Rembrandt painting will invariably destroy the quality of the painting, not improve upon it.

Yet, recently I have talked to a number of students on various university campuses who have taken issue with me, claiming that science has demonstrated that, in truth, nature tends to organize itself. To them, spontaneous self-organization, not decay, is the normal order of things. Evolution is the natural outworking of this principle. Their hero is Ilya Prigogine.

A prize-winning idea?

Ilya Prigogine received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977 for his work in the thermodynamics of systems significantly out of equilibrium. He claims that these systems tend to spontaneously organize themselves into what he calls “dissipative structures.” A dissipative structure is a self-organized, metastable structure. By definition a metastable structure is temporary in nature. It only has a limited probability of existence, not a certainty.1

Prigogine’s thesis is that in a system far from equilibrium, dissipative structures spontaneously form, representing initial degrees of self-organization. However, if the system continues out of equilibrium, a current dissipative structure becomes the starting point for a second, more organized one.  Each stage of this process is termed a “bifurcation.”2 As this process repeats, the resulting, accumulated level of organization continually increases….

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