An essay donated by Susan Humphreys
Part 2 of three parts.
"The Power of WE"
Part One: The Power of WE (Continued):
There are problems with this line of reasoning (or understanding of Entropy). One problem is that what looks like disorder to an outsider may not actually be disorder. There might be an underlying order that we, looking in from the outside, simply don’t see. Entropy is not about moving from an ordered state to a disordered state (or what outsiders see as a disordered state), it is about the energy available to do the work of the system.
Did our Universe arise out of nothing from a disordered state to an ordered state, in defiance of this 2nd Law of Thermodynamics? I don’t think so, and I don’t think the Bible thinks so!
From Genesis 1 we read: "In the Beginning…the earth was a formless void." Many think that "void" means that nothing was there. All was chaos/no order. Actually, there would be a contradiction if nothing was there. There wouldn’t have been any chaos, nor order, no disorder; nothing is nothing)! BUT why use the word "formless", if nothing was there, the word is redundant.
There is a second meaning to the word "void", (worthless and without effect, as when we say a contract is null and void) and with this meaning the word "formless" makes sense.
In the Beginning what was there was without effect and worthless until it took form.
Bloom in his book makes the claim that there already was a mechanism in place. I firmly agree. He also comments about the Logos of John 1 (p. 161) being translated as "word" leads to misunderstanding of that to which Logos refers.
John 1: "In the Beginning was the Logos".
Logos has been often mistranslated as "Word". To the Greeks, it meant the processes that govern the Universe. From Physics we know the Universe is made up of energy. This raw energy was there at the beginning and the processes that govern energy (animate the universe) were already at work building forms (matter) so that energy could do its work. It was built into their DNA so to speak.
What this means to me is that The Big Bang may have looked like a wild jumble to an outsider, but it was a jumble with a purpose -- with a rule in place that brought about order.
Think about this example, a marching band in the endzone getting ready for a half time show. They look like a jumbled mess, each member is tuning his instrument, limbering up his body, they look like they are wandering around aimlessly. Then from some signal we the onlookers don’t catch, they suddenly move into formation. You don’t see musicians bumping into each other and knocking each other down which you would expect if there wasn’t some method behind their apparent madness,. Each musician moves quickly and efficiently into his/her assigned place, ready to move as one unit onto the field and do what the organism is supposed to do! Order was achieved from what looked like chaos to an outsider, but actually wasn’t.
I think this is what happened after the Big Bang. All the stuff (raw energy) that burst out of the Big Bang acted on a signal only it heard, because it was built inside each piece, forming order out of what looked to an outsider like chaos.
Let’s look at how Entropy manifests itself in five ways. This is where the ideas about disorder, information getting scrambled, and energy running out from the second definition, fit into the whole picture:
- Age, as things/systems get older their parts wear out and become less efficient, wasting energy. My car as I mentioned is a good example, but also human knees that wear out and don’t work as well as they used to. It takes more energy to climb stairs when your knees don’t work or when they cause you pain. More energy input is needed to accomplish a task that once took less energy. This takes energy away from other tasks (the work of the system). This isn’t about order or disorder, all the pieces are still in their right place, they just aren’t working as efficiently as they once did and energy for the work that needs to be done is wasted.
Inefficiency is not the same as disordered. An inefficient system can be highly organized, regimented, but there might be more efficient ways to accomplish the same task or to accomplish even more tasks with the same resources. There might be a better way to use the energy available to the system.
Offices, before the development of postage meters, had to purchase stamps and hand apply them to letters being mailed out. Many offices had a little tiny device that could wet the backs of the stamps and the envelopes. It worked quite efficiently. Postage machines that seal envelopes and print postage on each envelope are a more efficient use of man power although it costs energy to purchase and run the machine. One person with a postage machine can process more mail in a shorter amount of time than he/she could do with the old system. The old system wasn’t disordered, nor did it degenerate into disorder. The new system is simply more efficient, does more in less time. But even that new postage meter will eventually wear out!
- Introduction of Disease and Injury. This in living organisms goes hand in hand with old age. I live in an area where Oak and Hickory forests are predominant along the bluffs of our water courses. Oak and hickory trees have a limited life span, and it is disease and injury that brings about their decline and death. Often what happens is an injury to a tree, a limb breaks off in a wind storm, and disease organisms move into the injured area before the tree can seal off that effected/infected area. The infection disrupts the flow of nutrients through the tree shutting down part of the tree making it unable to do the work of the tree, which is to produce more growth, more matter.
- Explosion of parts, the more parts there are in a system, the greater the chaos (disorder). This is about order and disorder. The more parts in a system, the greater the trend to Entropy, because energy is spent organizing, coordinating, communicating (to correct information that gets scrambled) between the parts and less energy is spent on the job of the system. Think about a school teacher in a classroom. If she/he has only one student they can get a lot done (the work of the school system imparting knowledge from teacher to student), quite efficiently, with little wastage of energy. The more students added to the classroom the more chaotic it becomes. She/he has to spend (waste) energy keeping order, maintaining discipline and has less energy to spend on teaching, she/he gets less work done. Entropy at work.
- Specialization. Specialists require extra care and feeding. Energy is spent in the care of the Specialists and less is spent on the job of the system. AND Specialists can’t work alone. They require the help of others to get the jobs that need doing done and all those others also require energy to keep themselves going. Specialists aren’t disordered (although I admit some Scientists act this way!), they can do their particular job quite efficiently, though their job is only one aspect of the entire project (work at hand).
Here is another way to look at Specialization. In Biology we know that a single celled organism is highly efficient, very little energy is wasted. It takes in nourishment, processes it to energize the system, eliminates any waste products, does whatever it is there to do, reproduces and dies.
Multi celled organisms on the other hand, have cells that are differentiated and specialized. Each cell is no longer able to do all the things that the one celled organism can do. A Reproductive cell can’t take in nourishment from outside, it is dependent upon being "fed" by other cells. Other cells, use energy but have to spend it shuttling nutrients to those lazy reproductive cells. Entropy occurs because energy to do what ever the organism/system is supposed to do gets wasted or taken away from the job at hand with communicating between cells, shuttling nutrients between cells, regulating body temperature (cold lizards don’t do much work) etc. This doesn’t mean the multi celled system is disorganized, it simply means the multi celled system uses energy to keep it organized, taking energy away from whatever it is there to do.
The higher the specialization in a system, the more energy has to be used (wasted) maintaining the specialists, communicating between the specialists, coordinating the work of the specialists. etc. Less energy is available to do the work of the organism. More energy input is required to get the job that needs to be done, done!
This is the clincher, the paradox and what I call the Yin and Yang reality of life (the good in the bad). In a multi-celled organism/organization, each cell/person actually does less than what the single celled organism could do. BUT all of those cells/people are able to do more work when they work together than the single celled organism was able to do by its self! One person can’t raise a big barn or build a cathedral or a giant pyramid, but a whole bunch of people, working together can accomplish great things.
- No more energy in (usable energy runs out), energy gets used up and maximum Entropy occurs. All living things die. Death is maximum entropy for a living organism/system. Dying stars are another example here. I don’t think you can call Death a disordered state, it is simply a new state or change in status. Once death occurs in a living organism, new processes go to work, in a very ordered fashion, breaking down tissues, recycling matter, so that the energy in the dead matter can be released and reused somewhere else.
Part Two: Measures to counteract Entropy:
BUT all is not lost. Our Universe has several counter measures, to at least slow down the movement towards maximum entropy. Planetary bodies try to latch onto whatever they can, to keep adding energy to their system. After the Big Bang all of those energy bits latched on to other bits to start forming matter, adding more energy to their systems.
Life (this great diversity and specialization that we see) is a survival mechanism, to slow down the trend towards entropy. Cells multiply and diversify and specialize. If something happens to an amoeba, it gets stomped upon, it is maximum Entropy. The more cells you have, if something happens to one, the others are able to compensate and life goes on.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
These two descriptions are slightly revised from what I originally wrote.
- Howard Bloom, "The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates," Prometheus Books; New edition (2016). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. Available in Kindle Format for U.S. $7.56, Paperback for $18.52 plus postage, or Hardcover for $20.89 as of early 2016.
How you may have arrived here:
Original posting: 2016-MAR-18
Latest update : 2016-MAR-18
Author: Susan Humpreys