Hermann Helmholtz Presents the Original Formulation of the First Law of Thermodynamics: The Law of Conservation of Energy

This means that the energy in a system, such as a roller coaster, at any time can be calculated by adding the kinetic and potential energy to get the total mechanical energy. Law of Conservation of Energy states: Energy cannot be created or destroyed. Total energy equals 50,000J at each point.

In 1847, a 26-year-old German medical doctor, Hermann Helmholtz, gave a presentation to the Physical Society of Berlin that would change the course of history. He presented the original formulation of what is now known as the First Law of Thermodynamics, beginning with the axiomatic statement that a Perpetual Motion Machine is impossible.

Heinrich von Helmholtz stated the law of conservation of energy:

Nothing is now coming into existence or going out of existence; matter and energy may be converted into one another, but there is no net increase in the combined total of what exists. The sum total of all matter will always remain the same.

Thus, energy cannot be created nor destroyed. This law refutes several aspects of evolutionary theory, as does the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Isaac Asimov says this concerning the first law of thermodynamics, or the conservation of energy:

“This law is considered the most powerful and most fundamental generalization about the universe that scientists have ever been able to make. No one knows why energy is conserved… All that anyone can say is that in over a century and a quarter of careful measurement scientists have never been able to point to a definite violation of energy conservation, either in the familiar everyday surroundings about us, or in the heavens above or in the atoms within.”

(*Isaac Asimov, “In the Game of Energy and Thermodynamics You Can’t Even Break Even,” Journal of Smithsonian Institute, June 1970, p. 6).

Understanding Thermodynamics

The essence of Classical Thermodynamics concerns itself with the relationship between:

  1. heat
  2. mechanical energy (or work-ready energy), and
  3. the conversion of either of these into the other

All matters of physics, chemistry, and biological processes known to man, are universally subject—without exception—to the first and second laws of thermodynamics —hereafter, simply “the first law” and “the second law”.

While the properties of heat and useable energy may not seem particularly significant in a debate concerning origins, the first and second laws (which govern those properties and their transformations) speak profoundly to the nature of matter, energy, and therefore the universe itself.  Within the realm of science, these are among the most immovable, universal laws of science, as the following scientific authorities testify:

“[A law] is more impressive the greater the simplicity of its premises, the more different are the kinds of things it relates, and the more extended its range of applicability.  Therefore, the deep impression which classical thermodynamics made on me.  It is the only physical theory of universal content which I am convinced, that within the framework of applicability of it basic concepts will never be overthrown.”
[Albert Einstein, quoted in M.J. Klein, “Thermodynamics in Einstein’s Universe”, in Science, 157 (1967), p. 509 and in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations, p. 76.]“No matter how carefully we examine the energetics of living systems we find no evidence of defeat of thermodynamic principles.”
[Harold Blum, Time’s Arrow and Evolution (1962), p. 119.]

“If your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics, I can give you no hope; there is nothing for [your theory] but to collapse in the deepest humiliation.”
[Arthur S. Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1930), p. 74.]

“The second law of thermodynamics not only is a principle of wide reaching scope and application, but also is one which has never failed to satisfy the severest test of experiment.  The numerous quantitative relations derived from this law have been subjected to more and more accurate experimental investigations without the detection of the slightest inaccuracy.”
[G.N. Lewis and M. Randall, Thermodynamics (1961), p. 87.]

“There is thus no justification for the view, often glibly repeated, that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is only statistically true, in the sense that microscopic violations repeatedly occur, but never violations of any serious magnitude.  On the contrary, no evidence has ever been presented that the Second Law breaks down under any circumstances.”
[A.B. Pippard, Elements of Chemical Thermodynamics for Advanced Students of Physics (1966), p. 100.]

“Although it is true that the amount of matter in the universe is perpetually changing, the change appears to be mainly in one direction—toward dissolution.  The sun is slowly but surely burning out, the stars are dying embers, and everywhere the cosmos heart is turning to cold; matter is dissolving into radiation, and energy is being dissipated into empty space.

“The universe is thus progressing toward an ultimate ‘heat death’ or, as it is technically defined, a condition of ‘maximum entropy’ . . And there is no way of avoiding this destiny.  For the fateful principle known as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which stands today as the principal pillar of classical physics left intact by the march of science, proclaims that the fundamental processes of nature are irreversible.  Nature moves only one way.”
[Lincoln Barnett, The Universe and Dr. Einstein (1957), pp. 102-103.]

“…there are no known violations of the second law of thermodynamics….”
[Dr. John Ross, Harvard scientist, Chemical and Engineering News, vol. 58, July 7, 1980, p. 40]

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