INFINITY #2: Purpose and Order in the Universe.

by Daniel H. Harris, Ph.D.


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I. The Questions.

            When you are long gone, will anyone care what you did on planet earth?  In the distant future, when all the stars have burned out and the galaxy is dark, and the human race has perished, will anyone be remembered?  Is there ultimate significance in what we do?  This INFINITY answers these foundational questions.


II. Rule by Natural Law.

            If our universe is ruled only by natural law, then many millions of years in the future, the sun will expand until the Earth is vaporized; and after more millions of years the sun will use up all its fuel and burn out, becoming a cold dark cinder; and then after many more billions of years the entire universe will die, either when all the stars are burned out or when the universe collapses, becoming a giant black hole.  Then, when there are no more humans, and the universe itself is dead; all will be forgotten.  That is what natural law says.

            If everything, including the universe ends in death, with no consciousness thereafter; then the end of mankind is the same as the end of a heard of cattle, or the end of a swarm of mosquitoes; then there is no significance, and no ultimate purpose in anything.

            If there is nothing outside of ordinary space and time, nothing supernatural; then existence has no meaning, and there is no ultimate purpose to anything.  When the universe is long dead, then both Shakespeare and Einstein will be forgotten; and all the presidents, all the dictators, all the kings, all the rich and all the poor, will be forgotten.


III. Rule by God.

            But some have faith that there is a God who rules the universe, and that God is a rewarder of them who diligently seek Him.  Some know that there will be an eternity, either with God, or far from God in outer darkness.


IV. Two Contrary Possibilities!

            These two possibilities are totally contrary one to the other.  Either natural law rules or it doesn't.  Therefore, only one of these two opposite possibilities can be true.

            1) If natural law rules, then natural law says there is no ultimate purpose in anything, and there is no eternity. 

   On the other hand:

            2) If God rules both within and beyond ordinary space time, then there will be an eternity, and what we do does matter.


V. An Orderly Universe Running Down.

            To discover which of these two contrary possibilities is true, to see whether there is ultimate purpose and ultimate significance; this INFINITY is focused on order in the universe.


  PRINCIPLE 1)  The Universe is Full of Order.  For example:

            a) There is order in the law of gravity and motion of the stars through our galaxy, in the orbits of the planets, and in the orbits of planetary satellites.  Earth's Moon traces out a path that can be followed to an accuracy of less than a foot, and  predicted into the indefinite future;

            b) There is order in the behavior of electricity, in magnetism, and in light and other electromagnetic phenomena;

            c) There is order in the chemical behavior of all substances;

            d) Nuclear and atomic processes follow precise laws which hold the atoms of all matter together, to make ordinary substances;

            e) Fluids like air and water show order in their predictable motions;

            f) Living things, in amazing variety, are all orderly, complex, and apparently purposeful.  Each living cell is incredibly complex, and ordered, with numerous interdependent systems all necessary for life;

            g) And all the laws of nature, which make each of these various systems work, are exactly what they should be in order for there to be life on planet Earth.  All these laws of nature act harmoniously within the universe, like perfectly designed parts of a well oiled machine.

            So we see a universe filled with a staggering variety of complex, ordered and evidently purposeful systems.  But we should note another important principle;


   PRINCIPLE 2): The Universe is Running Down.  

   Order is decreasing, disorder is increasing.  For example:

            a) Machines wear out, rust out, break down or fall apart; or they become obsolete;

            b) Houses and buildings rot away, burn down, or fall down;

            c) Living things experience disease, starvation, or are eaten, or they just grow old, and die;

            d) Even knowledge and information become outdated, either being overturned as wrong, or just replaced by the latest fad;

            e) Geologic processes regularly destroy everything on the Earth's surface, even mountains are worn away and carried to the sea, or subducted below the Earth's crust;

            f) Even the stars die when they exhaust their fuel supply; 

            g) And the universe as a whole is running down.

            Everywhere we look in the universe we see order giving way to disorder.  Order is always decreasing over all.  So we see that:

            Order in the universe is running down.


VI. Disordering is the Heart of the SECOND LAW of THERMODYNAMICS.


            DON'T PANIC, it's not that hard.  Just read on.

            Scientists describe the increasing disorder in the universe as a general law of nature known as the SECOND LAW of THERMODYNAMICS,  where, thermo means heat, and dynamics is the study of movement.  So thermodynamics is the study of heat movement.  This particular law was the  second law of heat movement recognized, therefore it is now called the SECOND LAW of THERMODYNAMICS (SLoT).


   A. The SECOND LAW of THERMODYNAMICS Simply Explained.

            A simple way of stating the SECOND LAW of THERMODYNAMICS (SLoT) says:  Heat naturally goes from hot things to cool things. We have all noted that heat naturally goes from hot things, which cool down; into cool things, which warm up.  For example, your cup of hot coffee, doesn't stay hot, it looses heat into the surroundings.  If your holding it, your hands will warm up as the coffee cup cools down.  That's the SLoT.

            Consider a thermally insulated box containing two bodies, one hot body, the other cold, separated by heat insulation.  To begin with, the two bodies can be recognized as different because they have different temperatures; that's order.  But when we remove the insulation between them, and put the bodies in thermal contact, then heat is transferred, and they soon reach the same temperature; and then the bodies can no longer be distinguished by their temperatures, that's disorder.  The SLoT says that heat naturally goes from hot things to cool things, never the reverse.


   B. Examples of the SLoT.

            Another way of saying this is to say that hot things have more concentrated available heat energy, which is order.  For example, an automobile engine, uses concentrated heat energy in the form of gasoline.  The engine burns gasoline, making a hot gas, a form of concentrated available heat energy.  Some of this heat energy goes into work moving the car.  But most of the heat energy goes away into the surroundings.  When the gasoline is gone, and the car has come to a stop; then all the gasoline has been converted into heat energy which has gone into heating the car and its surroundings.  This spread out heat energy is of no use to the engine.  Thus we see that heat energy goes from being concentrated and available; to being spread out and unavailable.  When the energy is available (hot and concentrated) that's order, when it's unavailable (cold and spread out) that's disorder.

            Consider another example.  We have a tank of high pressure gas and an empty tank, with a valve connecting them.  We open the valve and the gas goes from the high pressure tank into the low pressure tank, until both pressures are equal.  The system was more orderly when the gas was only in one tank at high pressure.  After the gas has filled both tanks, the system has reduced order.


   C. Spontaneous Ordering is Never Seen.

            We never see the reverse process.  We never see gas moving from the general volume of a tank toward a small hole, organizing its motion and building its pressure to go back through a hole and back through a valve to build the pressure in a high pressure tank.  We never see gas, all by itself, going from low pressure to high pressure.  We never see spontaneous ordering. 

            No one has ever observed heat energy spontaneously leaving a cold body to go into a warmer body, to raise its temperature.  There are no reported examples of spread out low temperature heat coming together and concentrating into a hot body to elevate its temperature.  Such spontaneous ordering is never seen.  And the SLoT is a statement that spontaneous ordering doesn't happen.

            The SLoT is one of the most firmly established laws of science, it has been repeatedly tested, and there are no recognized examples of it being violated.

            Using large telescopes it is now possible to see light coming from the most distant galaxies, and see those galaxies taking concentrated heat energy and radiating that energy away into cold space.  Even at the edge of the visible universe, the SLoT is visibly working. 


VII. The SLoT Applied to the Whole Universe.


   A. The SLoT Applies Only to Closed Systems.

            The SLoT, strictly speaking, only applies to events and processes within isolated-closed systems.  A closed system is a system where energy and/or order are not coming into or going out of the system.  If energy or order is going into or out of the system, then the system is not closed, and the SLoT doesn't apply.  Refrigerators and air conditioners are examples of systems that are not closed.  These systems cool things by using energy from an outside source, usually electricity.


   B. The Universe As A Closed System.

            Is the universe a closed system where the SLoT should apply?

If natural law is all there is, if there is nothing transcendent, then the universe is all there is (that's all there is folks).  In that case the SLoT should apply to the whole universe, for in that case the universe is surely a closed system.  So natural law says:


   PRINCIPLE 3): The Universe is a Closed System.

            [Even if the accessible universe is only part of a much larger universe, that larger universe according to natural law should be all there is.  That larger universe is then the whole universe and that universe is a closed system, with nothing beyond.  And all the present argument applies to that larger universe.]


VIII. Applying Three Critical Natural Law Principles.

   So, if natural law rules the universe, then these three natural law principles apply:

            1) The universe is orderly;

            2) The universe is moving from order toward disorder, using up its order, using up its available (concentrated) energy; and

            3) The universe as an isolated closed system. 

            Now let's see the inevitable consequences of these three natural law principles.


   A. A Leaking Water Bucket.

            To simplify this, let's pretend that the order we see today in the universe is like water in a bucket.  The bucket (universe) has a hole in its side near the bottom, the bucket (universe) is loosing its water (order). 

            Now the bucket (universe) doesn't make water (order).  Instead, the bucket (universe) keeps loosing water (order).  And although the bucket (universe) is very large it does have a limited capacity (for order), so the bucket (universe) has a limited supply of water (order). 

            [When the order level is high, then there are lots of places with concentrated available heat energy.  When the order level is low, then the hot objects have mostly cooled off.]


   B. When All the Order is Gone.

            If we wait long enough, [a very long time] the water level (amount of concentrated heat energy in the universe) will keep dropping, until the water level (order level) reaches the level of the hole in the side of the bucket, the water (order) will then reach a minimum.  All the water (order) will have poured out.  At that point all the available concentrated heat energy will be all used up, spread out, and unavailable.


Continue to IX. The Universe Will Burn Out!  The Universe Will Die!