Theists often reference the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics as “proof” that “God” does in fact exist. The premise being, because the 2nd law deems order from chaos an impossibility, the only way life on Earth could’ve come about is by the will of a higher power. This contention would be compelling if the theist understanding of the 2nd law were correct.

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, at its core, is a mathematical equation. Put into words it states: entropy of matter (or energy) in a closed system has a tendency to increase and entropy will never decrease. In an effort to simplify, or rather illustrate its base meaning, countless metaphors have been offered as real life examples of the 2nd law in action (e.g. a rotting corpse, an open container of alcohol, a burning match). The problem is, virtually all of these metaphors fail to account for variables outside of an open system. This is why scientists often apply the 2nd law to a “closed system”. This isn’t to say entropy only increases in a closed system. All matter is subject to the 2nd law. But the entropy increase of energy observed in a closed system is known to be unaffected by entropy outside of the system. This is not the case in a real world application.

The real world is not a closed system. As the entropy of one system increases, it will have a direct effect on everything around it and may cause the entropy of matter outside itself to decrease, although always to a lesser degree than its own entropy increase. This isn’t a violation of the 2nd law in any way. Entropy decreases locally, within a larger shared system (planet Earth), innumerable times at every instant. This occurs only because the entropy of other matter in an open system is increasing. When addressing the entropy decrease of matter, metaphors function much better. It’s far more logical to account for variables than to shrug them off because they violate a foregone conclusion. A common example (an appropriate metaphor for entropy decrease) would be the process of photosynthesis. As the entropy of The Sun increases, its energy disperses. Some of this energy is then synthesized (entropy decreases) by green plants and thus organized and converted to usable energy. Theists attempting to use the 2nd law as a means to prove the existence of “God” neglect the very real process of entropy decrease. Instead they try to explain entropy increase as an event only taking place in isolation, leaving no room for naturally occurring entropy decrease. Again, the real world is not a closed system.

How could theists possibly make such a blatant error? Their interpretation of The Second Law of Thermodynamics is incomplete. The theist take on the 2nd law goes something like this: “because matter moves towards maximum entropy the eventuality of chaos will never lead to order”. This is indeed true in a closed system, but the explanation doesn’t address the nature of the system. Put simply, the logic is applied to the wrong system. If the theist version of the 2nd law were an actuality, water would never freeze. Diamonds would never form. Flowers would never bloom. These are all examples of chaos leading to order due to localized decreases in entropy resulting from matter existing in an open system. The theist interpretation of The Second Law of Thermodynamics belies itself. If it were correct, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.