Entropy and Intelligent Design 1

            Entropy is a concept that describes a phenomenon in the natural world that applies to everything that is physically material.

            One typical example used to define what is entropy is to describe the variations possible between the perfectly neat and organized bedroom of a teenager with everything in its place, contrasted with the near-infinity of possible disorganized arrangements of these same elements scattered all over the bedroom.

            This example applied to the natural world is suitable as an explanation we can understand, but is inaccurate in that it involves the human agency of a teenager as the cause of this disorder.

            But staying with this example, the condition of a perfectly neat, clean, and organized bedroom is called in physics a macro-state, having generally only one condition, iteration, or reality.  

            The enumerable conditions of possible disorder of the bedroom are called in physics micro-states

            Give the typical teenager autonomous control over the state of their bedroom and the usual result is for the organization of the bedroom to decay into harmless disorder, yet nevertheless annoying to the parents.  

            Physically material phenomena in the natural world that have the potential to disburse or expand into a large number of possible alternative combinations or conditions are said to have high entropy…the high capacity to change into other states.

            Physically material phenomena in the natural world that are fixed in their current state and are not amenable to changing from a singular macro-state to enumerable, alternative micro-states, are said to have low entropy.

            Physically material entities if left to themselves will morph from highly ordered and well-defined macro-states having low entropy toward randomly disordered micro-states displaying high entropy, sometimes observable and even measurable in action over time.

It is therefore said that our universe as a whole uniformly displays positive entropy, going from the low entropy of neat, ordered, and well-defined to the high entropy of scattered, diffused, and randomly disordered.

            Returning to the bedroom example, it takes the agency of the teenager to apply work to maintain the macro-state of a clean and organized bedroom with everything in its place, or the absence of work on the part of the teenager allowing the bedroom to naturally fall into disorder.

            This example of the macro and micro states of a teenager’s bedroom is easily understandable to us, but in a natural world left to operate on its own, human agency is not a factor influencing entropy.

            An example close-to-home that does not involve human agency is the sun in our solar system that is constantly changing hydrogen into helium, producing heat but also reducing the size of the sun.

            The sun can then be said to be engaged in the positive entropy of changing from the initial macro-state of decreasing quantities of less and less hydrogen atoms to the subsequent micro-state of increasing quantities of more and more helium atoms. 

            The beginning disparity between the larger number of hydrogen atoms compared to the lesser number of helium atoms is what enables atomic reactions to occur that produce the light and heat of stars throughout the cosmos.

This will eventually, over the span of a few more billion years, result in the “heat death” of an equilibrium parity between hydrogen and helium atoms inside our sun that can no longer generate atomic reactions…producing a state that is called maximum entropy having exhausted all of the possible micro-states available.

We do not currently understand what entropy is, and why it exists. 

We can observe its occurrence in a variety of examples in the natural world, such as tires on our automobiles that wear-out and need to be replaced, cavities in our teeth that require a trip to the dentist, and roofing on our houses that will only be guaranteed to last for 40 years.

One key point in trying to understand entropy in the natural world is that it applies only to physically material things.

Entropy does not apply to information…being an abstract, non-material reality.

Information can be refined, revised, and improved, but it is not susceptible to entropy in the same way that physically material entities are generally bound to the positive direction of low entropy states to the high entropy of randomly disordered states, in the process of change over time throughout the universe.

This process of change over time demonstrated through entropy is not an argument for Darwinian evolution, but is instead a compelling argument for the existence of an intelligent designing agent.

There are certain values within the mathematical equations that describe the physics of phenomena in the natural world that fall outside of the universal actions of entropy.

The numerical constants within the equations that describe the speed of light, the strength of gravity, the expansion rate of the universe, the carbon resonance inside supernova stars that create carbon and oxygen, and the atomic weights of the fundamental particles in the Periodic Table, for example, cannot be changed or altered through entropy.

These numerical constants within the equations that describe the laws of physics appear to be fixed and inviolable throughout the vast expanse of the universe.

This is an excerpt from my book Pondering Our World: Christian Essays on Science and Faith.

The Investigation of the Natural World is not the Same Thing as the Natural World Itself

            The ingenious methodologies of research by humans going in the positive direction from ignorance to a more truthful understanding of the phenomena in the natural world, cannot break through the impregnable barrier of the empiricism of matter and energy to unravel the greater ingenuity in the creative, abstract thinking coming from another direction, that resides within the intelligent agency that invented the thing being researched.

            We do not formally recognize that the data we obtain by studying falling objects though space using the modern scientific method, that reaches the laudable point of sophistication to be able to send men to the moon and back, that this factual database falls short of the imaginative creativity that brought into being a reality as amazing as the force of gravity that we investigate.

This issue of the glass ceiling of the empiricism of the scientific method is central to the God and science debate.

Let’s analyze this issue in more detail.

In the making of Italian spaghetti sauce, a favorite topic in this book, there are at least three main realities.

The first is the cookbook recipe of sequential steps.

The second is the taste-test reaction from the spaghetti eaters.

The third is the breaking-down of the various ingredients into their individual chemical components using the scientific method in a laboratory by trained scientists. 

Similarly, artistic oil painting, water-color painting, and ink drawing can be divided into at minimum three main realities.

The first is the sequential steps of mechanically producing a work of art.

The second is the opinionated viewing by the public of this artwork in a museum.

The third, again, is the breaking-down of the painting ingredients into their chemical components via the scientific method in the controlled environment of a laboratory by scientific researchers.

Another easily understood example might be the construction of a new house, which again can be divided into at least three main realities.

The first is the sequential steps of the assembly of the house from the ground up, following a well-established pattern common to all new housing construction.

The second might be the “curb-appeal” of the front elevation of the house as viewed from the street, or the utility of the floor plan for optimal living.

But the third reality once again can go into the highly technical aspects of what is called materials science, which studies the structural strengths of materials, resistance to fire, waterproofing qualities, insulating between heat and cold, and sound insulation.

In these examples, it would be the height of arrogant hubris to insist that the scientifically empirical perspective was the only one that mattered.

In each of the realities given in the three examples above, it was the Scientific Revolution that added the new, third approach of discovering empirical, fact-based evidence at this level of detail.

But the scientific method is the new kid on the block.

Long before Newton’s equations described gravity, people could throw a small rock four feet above themselves and observe the repetitive laws of physics that the rock always comes down to the ground, without being able to describe this reality mathematically.

Long before the scientific field of modern chemistry, a mother would explain the sequential steps of dressing and seasoning the meat from an elk killed by the hunter/gatherer husband, to her daughter in preparation for cooking, before these steps were ever recorded in a cookbook or analyzed chemically in a laboratory for its nutritional value in terms of sodium, sugar, calories, and fat content, or the features of heat in cooking.

The sequential steps for doing all manner of things, and the theorizing and conceptualization of the good or bad, right or wrong, and best practices compared to poor practices, were a part of the human experience long before the scientific method of research was invented in the 1500’s.

Scientific materialists cannot dogmatically insist that mankind has been wrong all this time by placing faith, confidence, and value in the first two realities in each of the three simple examples given above, and in countless other examples commonly observed and perceived in ordinary life.

Most people can detect the intelligence of design in good Italian spaghetti, world-class paintings in a museum, and pleasing architecture in buildings.

Most people can detect the presence of design in the natural world.  The question then becomes the plausibility of competing explanations for its source.

The recognition of intelligence that infers design occurs in the middle, second reality of the three examples given above.

It is not up to scientific materialists to tell us that methodological materialism defines the entirely of reality.

It is not the job of scientists to tell us about the limits of reality.

We are capable of making that determination ourselves.

It seems to me that the arguments made by scientific materialists that only natural causations and explanations are allowed in science, makes reasonable sense only until we reach the near end-point of the investigation of a particular area of research…when most or enough of the data is in.

Once we confidently reach the nearly complete, end-points of research projects that generate sufficient data to begin drawing final conclusions, then broader interpretations and the consequences of the evidence must be allowed that fall outside of the domain of materialistic explanations.

This is what happened in the example of the discovery by Edwin Hubble of an expanding universe that led to the theory of the Big Bang, which has definite theistic implications.

This is what we see in the fine-tuned constants of physics in the universe, that are too precise to be the product of blind chance.

This is what we see in the information content in DNA and in the nanotechnology at work in living cells that defies a materialistic explanation through a blind and undirected process.

            When and if the brilliant scientific method of research in the future discovers a complete matter-and-energy explanation of precisely how the creation of the universe occurred in terms of purely naturalistic causations…then the complexity, specificity, and coherently integrated systems of this information would be so magnificent in its scope and breadth as to be fantastically beyond any atheistic explanation.

            This is the dilemma for modern science today, in that the atheism of scientific materialism is incapable of recognizing the fundamental dichotomy of perception in the scientific method that when most of the factual data is in, this leads to valid inferences to the best explanations that go beyond the limited domain of materialism.

The more we learn about the information required to produce function and fit within living and non-living systems, the more difficult it is to make a plausible argument that the empirical, fact-based evidence derived through the scientific method can exclude agency from the theorizing and conceptualization drawn from this evidence.

This is based upon the reasonable, modern recognition that human scientific research is going in the positive direction towards the discovery of truth regarding the workings in the natural world, using our human thinking skills, while the realities we study deserve the same recognition and appreciation of the cognitive, analytical thinking skills that come from another direction in producing these phenomena, in the first place. 

This is an excerpt from my book Pondering Our World: Christian Essays on Science and Faith.

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