by James Strauss
Without us…a universe alone…a coldness devoid of warmth or energy…the ultimate black hole…empty terrifying space. What would it all be without you and I? Without humankind? The word entropy is seldom used outside of advanced educational institutions specializing in physics, astronautics or chemical theory. But it should have real meaning for you and I, sentient creatures on this microdot of earth, fleeing from some unknowable center of an expanding universe, all headed for the same place. Entropy, in refined places of supposed higher thought, is discussed in terms of the number of specific realizations or micro-states that may realize a thermodynamic system in a defined state, specified by macroscopic variables.
To a lay person that means nothing. Interpreting what the great minds have concluded about the state of the universe around us, which is what the word is all about, is easier to understand. All matter flows. It never stands still. From the smallest particle, a trillion times smaller than a mote of dust, to the largest thing discovered, a sun one thousand times the size of our entire solar system, have the same thing in common. They are changing. Entropy is the word used to explain these dynamic changes. Everything moves from a current state (called order) to a less organized state (called disorder).
Nothing remains the same. Or almost nothing. Only humans can interfere with entropy and create things that don’t change, although humanity can only maintain these unchanging states for short periods of time. The change from order to disorder is called entropy, the process of that change is called causality. It is in interfering with the process that humans excel at, and it may be the only real part of any definition of intellect that remains peculiar to human beings.
The world’s cultures, societies and governments are changing all around us on planet earth. Fear of change, those occurring right now and those thought to be coming in the future, drive almost all human endeavor not devoted to the arts, philosophy and theology. The changes do not have to be real. But the fear is real. And human fear is unlimited in its scope, volume and potentially devastating effects.
In present day Great Britain has decided to vote favorably on a countrywide referendum requiring that it make application to leave the relatively new European Union (Brexit). The process of leaving that union, based upon agreements made when it entered, involves years of applications and meeting difficult requirements. But no matter. There are no limits, time or otherwise, that regulate the effects of fear. Based upon nothing but that single vote, most of the word’s economies rocked and reeled, as if struck by some huge earthquake or tsunami. Yet, only a vote was taken and the results published everywhere. The universe is changing, from order to disorder. Human fear knows this, right down to each and every humans’ genetic DNA.
Climbing out of the muck three and half million years ago, developing huge memories (probably to simply know where we were out on the savannah and how to get back to the tribe), and than the ability to assemble those memories into an organized communicating unity, became what we today call intellect. Two final additives occurred that made humans different from every other living being in the known (and possibly unknown) universe. The ability to vocalize inner communications, and a matching ability to use our hands and fingers to make things, sealed the deal.
And so humans, without knowing what it was, went to war with entropy. Wood would be hewn from trees to become shelters and fuel, rocks and stone were quarried and then used to create roads and walls, and metals were hammered and smelted to become tools and machines. Order was taken and redefined. Where order was once an existing state, still discussed in science, order was changed by humanity to mean what it had formed. Today, atoms are taken apart and reassembled, molecules broken and rebuilt to become something else, and even light photons and waves are bent, twisted or bound together to abide by mankind’s will, and create a new order. But humanity, with that innate genetic fear of entropy, continues to have its group and individual minds shot through with fear. It is almost as if fear swirls around in the liquid all human brains are afloat in, waiting until there’s the slightest opening anywhere inside the cranium for it to seep into.
With its robotic probes mankind is going beyond the solar system, going back to the moon, and Mars, and now beyond. Mankind is on the cusp of inventing machines that will make all work obsolete, keep humans ridiculously safe from harm, and continuously provide shelter, food, and medical attention for all. That’s the kind of entropic defeat the universe is suffering at human hands. But the fear that is burned into human genes, that lingering, low-lying, foundational dark beast of cranial fluid sloshing around next to our minds, still lurks, waiting. It’s waiting to take the existing state of affairs and matter (order) at any given second, and allow the process of causality to bring everything down (disorder).
Can this fear be conquered or at least held in abeyance long enough for humanity to use its intellect and assembled machinery to triumph over physics itself? It is required that humans fear some things: heights, snakes, intense cold, intense heat, hunger, loneliness and more, are things we must be afraid of or face almost instant and total disorder (death). This war against entropy mankind is fighting isn’t a war against fear. It’s a war against the unknown. We don’t know what to fear and what not to fear, so the safe path is to fear everything. And in fearing everything we do nothing, which then allows entropy, through causality, to do what it does.
Human beings got here, to this place called advanced civilization, by getting together to determine what things to react with fear toward, and what things to endure fear through. Fear is and will always be present. It is part of the genetic structure of what it means to be human, just as entropy will continue through the never-ending process of causality. But those things are subject to the decision making ability of applied human thought and consequent actions. Mankind has worked to control and shape the universe around it up to the present, and it can continue to do so into the future.
First, though, it has to demonstrate that desire by making informed intelligent decisions about what it is going to continue to be afraid of, and then how it is going to shape and use that fear. The one thing mankind cannot do is be paralyzed by it’s fear, or entropy and causality will certainly take over and do what those laws require.
~ James Strauss