McLean v. Arkansas Documentation Project

Testimony of Dr. Harold Morowitz, Professor of Biophysics, Yale University (Plaintiffs Witness) - transcript paragraph formatted version. 


MR. NOVIK: Your Honor, Plaintiffs call Doctor Harold Morowitz.



called on behalf of the plaintiffs herein, after having been first duly sworn or affirmed, was examined and testified as follows:



Q: Doctor Morowitz, would you please state your full name for the record?

A: Harold J. Morowitz.

Q: What is your occupation?

A: I'm professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University. I'm also professor of biology and Master at Pierson College.

Q: Doctor Morowitz, I show you this curriculum vitae (Handing same to witness). Is that yours?

A: Yes.

MR. NOVIK: Your Honor, plaintiffs move the admission of Plaintiffs' Exhibit Number 93 for identification, the curriculum vitae of Doctor Harold Morowitz.

THE COURT: It will be received.


MR. NOVIK: (Continuing)

Doctor Morowitz, what is your particular area of academic expertise?

A: I have been actively doing research in various areas of biophysics and biochemistry, with particular emphasis on the thermodynamic foundations of biology and the problems of the origins of life, or biogenesis.

MR. NOVIK: Your Honor, based on the qualifications of the witness as disclosed in his curriculum vitae and the description just now given by Doctor Morowitz of his area of academic interest and expertise, Plaintiffs move that Doctor Morowitz be accepted as an expert in biophysics and biochemistry, particularly with respect to the origin of life and the thermodynamic foundation of biology and the laws of thermodynamics.

MR. CHILDS: Your Honor, we would agree that Doctor Morowitz is sufficiently qualified to offer his opinions in these areas.

MR. NOVIK: (Continuing)

Q: Doctor Morowitz, let me show you a copy of Act 590 marked, I believe, Exhibit 29 in these proceedings. Had you read this Act before?

A: Yes, I have.

Q: Would you look at Section 4 of this statute, particularly Section 4 (a), purporting to define creation


Q: (Continuing) science. Do you see any reference in that section to the origin of life?

A: 4 (a) (1) refers to sudden creation of life from nothing.

Q: And is `sudden creation' a term that has scientific meaning to you?

A: No. To my knowledge it is not a term in scientific literature or in general use in the scientific community.

Q: Do you know the meaning of the words `sudden creation'?

A: `Sudden creation' assumes a creator, and, as such, implies the supernatural explanation, and, therefore, lies outside the bounds of normal science.

Q: Does the statute give you any indication that 4 (a) (1), `sudden creation' implies supernatural processes?

A: Yes. Because if one looks at 4 (b) (1) and the (a) and (b) sections are put into step by step opposition, 4 (b) (1) refers to emergence by naturalistic processes of several things, ending with "of life from nonlife". And so since (b) refers to emergence by naturalistic processes, (a) must assume under creation that is by supernatural processes.

Q: Are you familiar with creation science literature?

A: Yes, I am.

Q: What have you read?


A: I've read a number of works by Henry Morris, Scientific Creationism, Scientific Case for Creation, I've read the Kofahl and Segraves work on the creation explanation, I've read the Wysong work on the creation-evolution controversy, and a number of shorter works.

Q: Have you also engaged in the creation science debates?

A: Yes, on two occasions. On one occasion I debated with Doctor Duane Gish, and on another occasion I debated with Kelly Segraves.

Q: Now, based on your knowledge of creation science generally, from those debates and from your reading of creation science literature, is Act 590 consistent with the theory of creation science found in that literature?

A: Yes. The format as it's spelled out in Section 4 (a), (1) through (6) is similar, almost identical with the methods that the arguments are presented in creation science books.

Q: Would you now, please, look at the definition of evolution-science in Section 4 (b)?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you see any reference to the origin of life in that section?

A: Yes. The phrase, "Emergence by naturalistic


A: (Continuing) processes of life from nonlife."

Q: Now, as a scientist studying the origins of life, do you find it meaningful to include that study within the scope of evolution-science as defined in the statute?

A: Well, I don't find evolution-science a phrase that occurs normally in the scientific community. Section 4 (b) groups together in an ad hoc fashion a number of subjects which are normally not treated together under a single topic in the scientific literature. Therefore, I don't find evolution-science very meaningful.

These subjects are generally treated by very varying methods. And in addition, evolution theory, as it is normally used in science, is used in a much narrower context, dealing in the speciation and the development of species in higher taxa, rather than the rather broad array of subjects that are linked together in Section 4 (b).

Q: Does the theory of evolution as used by scientists include the study of the origins of life?

A: Normally that's treated as a separate subject in a technical sense.

Q: What is your understanding of the relationship between Sections 4 (a) (1) and 4 (b) (1) as they pertain to the origins of life on this planet?

A: Well, I think that's what normally is referred to in the creation-science literature as the dual model. And


A: (Continuing) the implication there is that there are only two possible explanations, either a creation explanation or an evolution explanation, and the reputation of one, therefore, forces the acceptance of the other.

I find that to be a rather distorted view, since there are many creation explanations, and there are also a variety of scientific explanations of the origin of life so that it is quite deceptive to just present it as a two-view model.

Q: Doctor Morowitz, in your professional opinion, is the dual model approach to the teaching of origins of life on this planet a scientific approach to that subject?

A: No.

Q: Why is that?

A: Because as I just stated, one of the explanations lies outside of science. It is a supernatural explanation, and, therefore, its investigation lies outside the bounds of science.

In addition, as I've also stated, the acceptance of owning two views is a totally inaccurate representation of the large multiplicity of views that are held on these issues.

Q: Doctor Morowitz, do you know how life was first formed on this planet?


A: We do not know in any precise way how life was formed. However, it is a very active field of research. There are a number of studies going on, and we are developing and continuing to develop within science a body of knowledge that is beginning to provide some enlightenment on this issue.

Q: Now, you have been explaining why the creation science dual model approach to the teaching of origins of life on this planet is unscientific. Is there any other aspect of the creation science treatment of the origins of life on this planet that is similarly unscientific?

A: Well, I find the use of probabilistic arguments to be somewhat deceptive.

Q: Would you explain what you mean?

A: In general in the creation science literature, they start out by assuming, by making statements about the complexity of living systems. These will generally be fairly accurate statements about the complexity of living systems.

They then proceed on the basis of probabilistic calculations to ask, what is the probability that such a complex system will come about by random. When you do that, you get a vanishingly small probability, and they then assert that therefore life by natural processes is impossible.


A: (Continuing) But the fact of the matter is, we do not know the processes by which life has come about in detail. To do the probabilistic calculations, we would have to know all the kinetic and mechanistic details by which the processes have come about, and, therefore, we would then be able to do the calculations. We are simply lacking the information to do the calculations now, so to present them on the basis of the random model is somewhat deceptive.

Q: Is it also in your view unscientific?

A: Since deception is unscientific, the answer to that is yes.

Q: Are there any other respects in which the creation science treatments of the origins of life on this planet is unscientific?

A: Well, they play rather fast and loose with the use

of the second law of thermodynamics to indicate that the natural origin of life would not be possible.

Q: And can you describe for us what about the creation-science treatment of the second law of thermodynamics is unscientific?

A: They state the second law in terms of the spontaneous movement of systems from an order to a disordered state, and then they argue that since evolution and the origin of life involve states going from a


A: (Continuing) disordered to more ordered states, that these transitions are inconsistent with the second law of thermodynamics.

What they totally leave out in the original statement of these arguments is that the second law of thermodynamics applies only to isolated systems. In the statement that they use as the second law of thermodynamics, it applies to isolated systems where the surface of the earth is, in fact, not an isolated system, but an open system, and therefore, not subject to the constraints that they place on it in the isolated systems statement.

Q: Doctor Morowitz, perhaps it would help if you explained the second law of thermodynamics a bit.

A: Although there are a large number of statements of the law, for our purposes we can state the second law as saying that in isolated systems there is a tendency of the system to go to a maximum degree of molecular disorder.

Q: And what is an isolated system?

A: An isolated system is one that is cut off from all matter or energy exchange with the rest of the universe.

Q: Is the earth an isolated system?

A: The earth is not an isolated system.

Q: Does the second law of thermodynamics imply that the surface of the earth is becoming disorganized?

A: That does not follow from the second law of


A: (Continuing) thermodynamics.

Q: And that's because the earth is an open system?

A: The earth is an open system because it has a flow of energy from the sun to the earth, and then there is a subsequent flow of energy from the earth to outer space, and so those two constitute it being an open system.

Q: Can you give us an example of how the second law would work in an isolated system, a system that is totally closed to influx of energy or matter?

A: If you had an isolated system and you had within that system a hot object and a cold object, which would be a certain degree or organization, the two of them being at different temperatures, if you put the two of those in contact with each other, heat would flow from the hotter body to the colder body and eventually, within the isolated system, they would come to the same temperature. That would be a more disordered state, because the state would be uniform and homogeneous throughout.

Or if I may take a biological example, if we were to take a laboratory mouse and put it in isolation; that is, we were to put it in a closed, sealed container through which there was no flow of matter or energy, then in a short time the mouse would die, the very ordered structure of all the molecules and cellular structures in the mouse would decay, and if we came back in a few hundred or two


A: (Continuing) thousand years, we would find just a puddle of liquid gases and a few residual crystals. That would be a movement from order to disorder in an isolated system.

Q: Now, I believe you testified that creation science misstates the second law of thermodynamics. Is that so?

A: Yes.

Q: Can you give an example of the way they do that?

A: Yes. In Morris' book Scientific Creationism, and if I can look at a copy of that book, I can give you more exact references.

MR. NOVIK: Your Honor, the witness is referring to the public school edition of Scientific Creationism, which has previously been identified by plaintiffs as Exhibit 75 and admitted into evidence.

THE COURT: All right.

A: If we look at page 23 of this book-I should state at the outset that this book is by Henry M. Morris, who is the director of the Institute for Creation Research. This is a very well accepted book within the creationism community and among the scientific creationists. In this book, Morris, on page 22, states that law of energy decay, the second law of thermodynamics, tells us that energy continually perceives to lower levels of utility.


A: (Continuing) He continues in that vein in discussing the second law, he picks up again on this discussion on page 38. On page 38 he quotes a number of people, a number of rather well known physicists, with such statements as, "In any physical change that takes place by itself, the entropy always increases-

Q: Excuse me. You're reading at the very bottom of that page, is that right?

A: The bottom of page 38. And I should point out that entropy is the measure of the molecular disorder of a system. It's a mathematical measure of that disorder. In another quotation he states. "As far as we know, all changes are in the direction of increasing entropy, of increasing disorder, of increasing randomness of running down."

In that entire discussion, the entire original discussion of the second law of thermodynamics as applied to living systems, the limitation of the second law to closed systems is not made, nor is it pointed out that the surface of the earth where life arose is not a closed system, but an open system.

Q: Does the book ever recognize the distinction between an open and an isolated system?

A: Yes. On page 40, the statement occurs that the


A: (Continuing) second law, speaking about ordering, he says, "The second law says this will not happen in any natural process unless external factors enter to make it happen." And by `external factors', I assume there he is recognizing that the system is then open. `External factors' means opening a system to the flow of matter and energy.

And under these conditions, Morris admits that organization can take place.

Q: Does he continue that discussion of open systems?

A: Yes. He then picks up again somewhat later in the book on open systems, and he does that under a very strange device.

He starts that discussion by saying, "When pressed, however, for a means of reconciling of the entropy principle with evolution, one of the following answers is usually given," and then he gives a list of five answers, the fifth of which is that the second law of thermo- the second law does not apply to open systems.

So he finally admits to the fact that the second law does not require that an open system like the earth go from an ordered to a disordered state, but he does it in a way by sneaking it in as a fifth item on the list of the excuses that evolutionists give when pressed.

Q: Is the limitation of the second law of


Q: (Continuing) thermodynamics to isolate its systems an evolutionist excuse?

A: No. It is fundamental to the structure of thermodynamics of an open system. It is fundamental to an entire body of knowledge, which we will call the study itself organizing systems, which is most relevant to this problem of abiogenesis.

Q: Doctor Morowitz, you've been referring thus far only to the book Scientific Creationism. In your opinion and based on your reading of creation science literature generally, is that misapplication or misstatement of the second law typical in that creation science literature?

A: The views that Morris presents are very similar throughout the rest of the literature that I am familiar with.

Q: Doctor Morowitz, I believe you testified that in addition to misstating the second law of thermodynamics, creation science literature also misapplies the second law of thermodynamics to conclude that evolution is not possible on earth. Is that accurate?

A: That is true.

Q: In what ways do they do that? What arguments do they use?

A: Well, again, the primary arguments are ignoring the fact that the earth is an open system, and that for open


A: (Continuing) systems under the flow of energy, rather than being disordered, the systems, in fact, go from less ordered to more ordered states, so that evolution, rather than being contrary to the laws of thermodynamics, is part of the unfolding of the laws of thermodynamics.

Q: Can you give us an example of the ordering effect of energy flow in an open system?

A: Yes. If we took the case we discussed before, where we had two objects at different temperatures and we placed them in contact and there was a flow of heat in which they went to the same temperature, and we discussed the reasons why that was a disordering phenomenon, if we now take a sample of a substance that's at a uniform temperature and we place it in contact with a radiator and a refrigerator, there will be a flow of energy through that system from the hot source to the cold sink, that will give rise to a temperature gradient within the system which is an ordering of that system

Q: In the system, in the earth's biosphere system, what is the energy source?

A: For the surface of the earth, the principal energy source is the electromagnetic energy which flows from the sun.

Q: What is the energy sink, to use your word?


A: The energy sink is the cold of outer space. That is to say, energy comes in from the sun, it would by and large convert it to heat energy, that heat energy is reradiated to outer space.

Q: Is the ordering effect of the flow of energy through the earth's system what caused the formation of life on this planet?

A: Yes. Although the exact processes are not known, the primary driving force was certainly the flow of energy through the system.

Q: Do you know how life was formed, precisely?

A: Again, not in precise detail, although as I pointed out, it is an active area of scientific research, and at the moment one, as an enthusiastic scientist always feels, that we're getting close.

Q: Does creation science literature take account of the ordering effect of the flow of energy?

A: No. Other than mentioning it in terms of an excuse when pressed, they then go on to say, although the flow of energy is capable of ordering the system, it does not do. so because such ordering requires, and to use their terminology on page 43 and 44, that "such ordering," according to the creation literature, "requires a program to direct the growth and a power converter to energize the growth."


Q: Of those requirements of a program to direct growth and a power converter, are those requirements recognized elements of the second law of thermodynamics?

A: Those are not part of the second law of thermodynamics. However, I should point out that there is nothing at all supernatural about an energy converter or a program to direct growth.

Energy conversion occurs, let's say, in photochemical conversion or electrochemical conversion. It's part of the ordinary physics and chemistry of all systems. Likewise, a program to direct growth can well be encompassed under the laws of nature, the laws of quantum mechanics, the laws of thermodynamics, the periodic table, and the laws of nature, which are, indeed, a program to direct the ordering of the universe.

Q: Doctor Morowitz, is the scientific literature regarding the ordering effect of the flow of energy well known?

A: Yes. It's certainly well known to all thermodynamicists.

Q: Is there a considerable amount of such literature?

A: There are a number of books, scientific books, there are a large number of journal articles on the subject. And it's even found its way into the popular press in the sense that in 1977 Ilya Prigogine was awarded


A: (Continuing) the Nobel Prize in chemistry, cited in part because of the results of his theory on the ordering effect in biological systems, so that the matters we're talking about are extremely well known.

Q: Do you know whether there is any indication that the creation-scientists who have written the literature that you have read are familiar with this science literature about the ordering effect of energy flow?

A: Well, very frequently they quote the authors who have written on the subject of the ordering effect of energy flow, ut they rarely quote them in the exact areas which are stressing that ordering effect.

Q: Do they quote you?

A: Yes, they do.

Q: And you've written about the ordering effect of energy flow, is that right?

A: Yes, I have.

Q: Doctor Morowitz, looking back at the book Scientific Creationism, what is your assessment of the rest of the section that you were referring to, through page 46, I believe.

A: Well it then goes on to what I would consider a good deal of rambling, rather unscientific rambling. Unscientific in the sense that wherever an open question arises, it's referred back to an act of creation, whereas


A: (Continuing) the scientific approach to an open question would be to go into the laboratory and try to do the experiments or to set up a theory or to do the hard work, the enthusiastic science of going ahead and trying to solve the problem.

And in the approach there, the unsolved problems are always referred back to the supernatural, rather than the scientific approach of `how do we go about solving them'.

Q: Doctor Morowitz, you're a scientist studying the origins of life. How do you approach that subject in terms of your science?

A: Well, I have certain reasonably detailed hypotheses about now the energy flows in the early pre-biotic system led to the chemical orderings in that system. And what I do is to set up experiments in the laboratory, where we actually introduce those flows into the system and then we conduct various kinds of chemical and physical investigations of the systems that are subject to these energy flows to see now they organize under those flows.

Q: Do you then publish your work as it proceeds?

A: Yes.

Q: Doctor Morowitz, do you know of any creation science experimentation regarding the origins of life?

A: I am not aware of any creation science experiments in this area.


Q: Are you aware of any creation science literature- I'm sorry. Are you aware of any creation science publication of his theory of the origins of life in any reputable scientific journal?

A: I'm not aware of it in any of the journals that I read.

Q: Doctor Morowitz, we have been speaking mostly about the book, Scientific Creationism. What is your opinion about the other creation-science literature you have read, with respect to its attributes as science?

A: Well, I think it's all very comparable. I think this is a paradigm example, and insofar as this is not science, the rest of the literature also is not science.

Q: Doctor Morowitz, in your professional opinion, does the creation-science treatment of abiogenesis, the origins of life from non-life, have the attributes of science?

A: No.

Q: In your professional opinion, does the creation science treatment of the second law of thermodynamics have the attributes of science?

A: No.

MR. NOVIK: Your Honor, I have no further questions.

MR. CHILDS: We will reserve our cross examination until after Doctor Gould's direct and cross.

THE COURT: All right. Fine. 

Continue to Stephen Jay Gould's testimony

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