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An Evaluation of a Challenge That Isn't
Mr. Elmendorf's challenge is a fair illustration of the scientific level of typical creationist thinking. Before any readers go overboard planning what to do with the $5,000, let me make a few comments as one who has spent a year corresponding with Mr. Elmendorf in pursuit of his money.
To begin with, the challenge is not to evolution as accepted science. This is made evident by the italicized statement on the second page. Since evolution does require "prior and higher energy," Mr. Elmendorf is challenging a strawman of his own manufacture. On this point, I managed to extract a concession from him: "Oh, all right. We'll debate 'Evolution-From-There,' meaning you start with a limitless supply of matter and energy and evolve something having higher structure and intelligence." I didn't ask for a "limitless supply"; though, I can't guarantee that other challengers will be given even a limited one.
Also on the second page, we find the "Creative Trinity," which I deal with at some length in my article that appears elsewhere in this issue. The difficulty inherent in any attempt to convince Mr. Elmendorf that, on this matter at least, we should all be Unitarians ought to be apparent from the following quote from one of his letters: "The entropy defined in statistical mechanics is not the same thing as the entropy defined in classical (energy) thermodynamics, even though they are spelled the same...."
Any attempt to beat this challenge constitutes a Catch-22 situation, since Mr. Elmendorf is the sole judge. If he really knows what he is talking about, he will win the argument and keep the money. If he doesn't know what he is talking about, he will judge the outcome of any debate incorrectly and still keep the money.
Even so, the reader may wish to determine which of these two represents the actual state of affairs. If Mr. Elmendorf's statement concerning entropy was not sufficient to settle this matter, perhaps a few more quotes from his letters will be helpful: "Running water will not freeze" (On viewing a picture of a frozen waterwheel that I had sent him, he clarified this statement by saying, "It is true enough that running water will freeze, but it must first stop running in order to achieve the quiescent condition necessary for crystallization.") "On a comparative basis, it would seem that gases would have the most complex structure, liquids a less complex structure, and solids the least complex or 'simplest' structure." . . the arbitrary introduction of temperature into the classical definition of entropy . . ." (italics mine). "Although I have never looked into an atom, the Second Law would predict that it is 'running down.' ..." "... the appeal of Prigogine with his 'dissipative structures' and so forth is the same as the appeal of relativity. Both represent a fundamental abandonment of reality, and both are buried in a fog of mathematics...."
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"You are no doubt aware that Relativity is in serious trouble in scientific circles." (Both quotes refer to special relativity.) "I accept the 'old' version of the Second Law, because I do not accept the indeterminite [sic] concept of statistical mechanics." "I view the Second Law simply as a statement of how the universe operates—in short, how it is. Statistical? Phooie!"
In case I have discouraged any reader from picking up the gauntlet on this one, Mr. Elmendorf has another challenge: for $1,000, prove that the earth moves! I don't know why the reward is smaller for a more difficult task.
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.