Let My People Think

Origins and entropy

The principle of entropy (attested to by the 2nd law of thermodynamics, for instance) says that every process occurring in nature occurs in such a way that the sum of the entropies of all bodies taking part in the process is increased.

dna

A necessary corollary of this that it’s impossible for the universe to be

  1. infinitely old, and
  2. entropy to be operational all throughout that time,

since that would mean entropy would have had to run infinitely long by now, which would in turn mean that the universe would be in complete chaos by now, and there would be no me or you or us.

That means that age of the universe is finite. Modern astrophysics also admits that, theorizing the beginning of the universe to be the “Big Bang”. However, that still leaves unanswered the question of what existed before the big bang, and what caused it to happen. And also what existed before that precursor to the big bang. And so forth. So the real issue of origins simply gets pushed back a step, and is still unanswered.

Now we come to the question of the duration of the process of entropy in the universe. The logical way for the entropy to work and still be observable in this still-functional world is to have started with a high order / high organization (that includes the logical possibility of full perfection in order), and then to introduce an ongoing process of dismantling that order, or entropy, into the system.

If the system wasn’t ordered to begin with, there could be no concept of entropy, chaos, corruption, or destruction, since by definition:

  • Entropy is something that introduces disorder into order
  • Chaos takes an organized system and moves it toward disorganization
  • Corruption takes something that’s whole and corrupts that
  • Disintegration takes something integral and moves it toward a disintegrated state

For entropy to exist, order should have existed first. For chaos / corruption / disintegration processes to exist and be describable, organization / wholeness / integration must exist first. Without the initial state of order, not only disorder would not be possible practically, but even logically you wouldn’t even be able to conceptualize it, since the very concept of dis-order is predicated upon the initial existence of order.

So, entropy has to be a later addition to an ordered system. If we hypothesize that the universe self-organized over long periods of time, our hypothesis is predicated upon the ever-increasing order and complexity of information in the universe, which would require the process opposite to what entropy is to exist, to make that possible. That process is currently not observable, yet it had to have existed until every highly organized form (including self-procreating organic life forms) came into being.

Based on the above, I believe that the Biblical account of creation and of introduction of entropy into the world (a.k.a. “the fall”) gives a solid platform for producing a coherent set of answers to those fundamental questions that the modern science poses.

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Comments on: "Origins and entropy" (4)

  1. Your claim that entropy always increases and the universe cannot be infinitely old fails because there is no reason why not, given sufficient time, a system at maximum entropy cannot fluctuate to a state of lower entropy. In fact, given infinite time, it can do this time and time again without limit.

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    • J’aime le nom de ton blog – badinage. Très chic!

      I appreciate your comment. Well, with this particular issue time is actually the enemy. If we take entropy to mean the measure of disorder (as I do in this blog post), and if it increases with every exchange within the system, then in time a given system will achieve a state of maximum entropy and inertia, in which no further exchanges would be possible.

      In order to fluctuate to a system with a lower measure of disorder without limit, logically speaking we would need these 3 things:

      1. inflows of energy from the outside,
      2. mechanisms to convert and utilize the energy to build higher order in a given area of the system, and
      3. mechanisms to sustain that newly achieved higher order, and prevent it from slipping back into disorder

      Inflows of energy (No. 1) can happen in a non-isolated system where energy utilization and conversion mechanisms (No. 2) already exist, and that could provide a temporary relief. However, that still leaves the question of what happens when that outside energy source is exhausted. So we are just postponing answering the question one layer forward, so to speak, and when we’ve gone through all the layers, we will still hit a limit.

      In order for such fluctuations that would lower entropy to happen without limit, we need No. 3, which currently doesn’t exist.

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  2. Please don’t take my word for it, I offer another source.

    “The unexpected consequence of Boltzmann’s microscopic definition of entropy is that the Second Law is not iron-clad — it only holds statistically. In a box filled with uniformly-distributed air molecules, random motions will occasionally (although very rarely) bring them all to one side of the box…”

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2006/08/01/boltzmanns-anthropic-brain/#.U40UIXJdVA0

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    • That’s an interesting read. Here’s my take on it.

      If you take the number of ways that of all the elements in a closed system arranging themselves in a unique way (i.e., you take every possible permutation of those states) the amount of disordered states are a lot more than the amount of ordered ones. No argument there. At the same time, the probabilities for ordered states are much smaller than for disordered ones. The more complex the system, the less the probability for ordered states (such that, for instance, would afford conditions sufficient for organic life forms to develop and exist).

      This is what the Sean Carroll points out in his article (underlines are mine):
      “If all pasts consistent with our current macrostate are equally likely, there are many more in which the past was a chaotic mess, in which a vast conspiracy gave rise to our false impression that the past was orderly. In other words, if we ask “What kind of early universe tends to naturally evolve into what we see?”, the answer is the ordinary smooth and low-entropy Big Bang. But here we are asking “What do most of the states that could possibly evolve into our current universe look like?”, and the answer there is a chaotic high-entropy mess.

      Of course, nobody in their right minds believes that we really did pop out of a chaotic mess into a finely-tuned state […]”

      In other words, a logical possibility is not at all the same as a pragmatic probability. The fact that there a lot more possible disordered states raises, and not lowers, the difficulty level of the issue at hand.

      So now we should ask ourselves this question: why do we observe such a high degree of order at our present time, given the principle of entropy? Remember, a scientific method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence. And empirically, we observe the Universe running down, we are completely justified in stating that at any time in the past (starting all the way back from its beginning – if we posit an absolute beginning, which modern astrophysics as a whole is pretty much settled on), it was more ordered that it is now.

      Now, about the model that would allow for a possibility of us living in a temporary fluctuation from higher entropy to higher order. There are many issues with that. One is the impossibly infinitesimal precision of the initial fine-tuning of the initial conditions required for such model (also, if the universe had no absolute beginning, at what point would you set the initial conditions? Minus infinity?) Another difficulty is the statistically impossible probabilities of the amount of order required for such finely tuned universe as ours coming about as a result of a temporary random downtick in overall entropy. And lastly, even in these oscillating models, entropy is still largely preserved from one cycle to the next (you just can’t produce the physics that would completely reverse universal entropy), which will have the effect of making each successive cycle much less probable and shorter-lived – meaning that the thermodynamic properties of such models still imply the beginning and the end that such models are trying hard to avoid.

      As a footnote – wrapping cosmological models in outer layers (like the author proposes at the end of the article) simply postpone addressing the issues of origins that many layers away, which is really a sidestep. To be sure, the author himself assesses his own idea to that effect as “shall we say, a mite speculative”.

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