Is the Universe Running Down?
"There is none like thee, O
LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.
Entropy in the Old Creation
Who would not fear thee, O King of the nations?
For this is thy due; for among all the wise ones of the nations
and in all their kingdoms there is none like thee...
The LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting
At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his
Thus shall you say to them: 'The gods who did not make the heavens
and the earth
shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.'
It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the
world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
When he utters his voice there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightnings for the rain, and he brings forth the wind
from his storehouses."
A Damaged Creation
Biblical revelation adds to rather than detracts from our
knowledge of the physical universe, provided one takes the trouble
to search out hidden truths of scripture. The subject of this
discussion is the "Second Law of Thermodynamics." Here
science and the Bible are in close accord. This observed rule
of nature states that energy in the universe is becoming less
and less available as time moves forward towards the future. Stated
in another form the Second Law states that orderly systems tend---on
their own---to automatically become disorderly and chaotic. Processes
of decay and disintegration are an inherent, built-in characteristics
of the material world as we know it today.
While critics are quick to point out the Second Law applies to
what is known as closed systems, almost any discussion of the
applications of the Second Law can be considered by drawing a
sufficiently large boundary around the components being studied.
For instance, the earth by itself is not a closed system as far
as energy input is concerned, but the solar system is, for all
practical purposes, since little outside energy reaches the earth
except from the sun.
Many of us trained in science grow up trusting that the "laws
of physics" are immutable and trustworthy. Indeed, this is
the normal experience of the physical scientist or engineer. We
can confidently make many predictions based on theories that work
perfectly every time. If the laws of physics are broken or violated,
such things have escaped our notice thus far! It is true that
physical scientists usually suppose physics to be a more exact
science than biology. At least it seems easier to us to quantify
and measure the properties of the physical universe and to extrapolate
beyond the normal limits of the five senses when dealing with
non-living systems in comparison with the world of living organisms.
The Laws of Thermodynamics are discoveries, or observations, about
our physical world. They originated with the study of steam (heat)
engines in the last century and were formulated originally in
mathematical form. The First Law of Thermodynamics states that
energy and matter cannot be created or destroyed, but only converted
from one form to another. The Second Law describes the flow of
energy in the universe, which is always observed to be "downhill"---from
states of high availability to states of low availability. Both
observation and theory show that the universe is indeed running
down, like a clock spring gradually uncoiling as energy is dissipated
by the escapement mechanism. Ordinarily this means that heat flows
from high temperature "reservoirs" to low temperature
"sinks." To reverse the process, (so that heat flows
uphill from a cold reservoir to a hotter reservoir), one must
put in additional external energy to "pump" heat from
the low temperature reservoir into the warmer one. This is how
refrigerators and air-conditioners work. They are heat pumps which
require extra energy to do their job. In a local region heat pumps
remove heat from a colder reservoir and transport it to a hotter
reservoir. This is done at less than 100% efficiency and the overall
"entropy" of the universe is increased. Other engines
utilize heated fluid from a high temperature source which does
useful work, delivering the exhaust fluid to a lower temperature
sink. Again the efficiency is always less than 100% and the overall
"entropy" of the universe increases.
As time goes by, a quantity known as the total entropy of every
system increases. Entropy is the physicist's term. It is a measure
of the state of energy unavailability of an energy-containing
system. According to the Second Law, the physical universe will
one day suffer a so-called "heat-death"---all the high
energy (hot) reservoirs will have poured their energy into the
colder parts of the cosmos, and everything everywhere will be
at a completely uniform temperature. In such a state it would
be impossible to build any more heat engines that could do useful
work, and the universe would "die" or grind to a halt.
(Although this discussion has centered on heat energy, the same
rules apply for electrical energy, magnetic energy, gravitational
energy, mechanical energy, and so forth).
Order and Information Content
An equivalent way of stating the Second Law of Thermodynamics
has to do with order and complexity in the universe. Orderly systems
of molecules represent low entropy systems, and with the passage
of time the normal tendency of things is for such systems to become
disorderly, chaotic, and randomized. (Crystals are not low entropy
systems in general because the lattice structure of crystals can
be easily specified by a simple instruction code. In contrast
genetic codes found in living cells are very low entropy structures
because they possess a very large amount of information). To bring
order out of chaos, we must put in outside energy and also programming
information. The instructions, blueprints, programming instructions
contained in the genetic codes of living cells are a perfect example.
The process of utilizing energy is always less than 100% efficient.
Energy is wasted every time we build and operate an engine or
a machine to do useful work. "Entropy always increases"
is an axiom of physics which has been found to always be true.
In the physical world we never see any significant natural examples
of energy flow from cold reservoirs to hot, and only rarely do
we observe any small (and very temporary), slightly-more-orderly
arrangements of molecules coming into existence because of random
statistical fluctuations. The physical universe as we know it
is characterized by rust, increasing ruin, and decay. (See Note 1) Order comes out from chaos
only if someone makes it happen. Of course, man---being an intelligent
creature capable of organizing things---has built for himself
all sorts of heat pumps and engines and complex structures, constructing
orderly systems out of random parts. In doing so, however, extra
energy is required and the total entropy of the universe always
increases. The Second Law is not violated in any of these activities
undertaken by man.
The created universe most probably had its lowest entropy at the
end of the Sixth Day of creation. This should be the case because
God not only brought the raw material of the universe into existence
(these raw materials were space, time, matter and energy), He
then fashioned the universe from these "materials" according
to His own plan and design, lowering the entropy of everything
in the process, in a series of steps.
The Uniqueness of Creation Week
The Mystery of Time's Arrow
The Ruin of Creation
Can Order Come out of Chaos?
Thermodynamics and the Origin of Life
Living Systems and Entropy
"For God has made known to
us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according
to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the
fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven
and things on earth. In him, according to the purpose of him
who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will,
we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed
to live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, who have
heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have
believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which
is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession
of it, to the praise of his glory...[may] the God of our Lord
Jesus Christ, the Father of glory...give you a spirit of wisdom
and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of
your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to
which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious
inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness
of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his
great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him
from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly
places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,
and above every name that is named, not only in this age but
also in that which is to come; and he has put all things under
his feet..." (Ephesians 1:9-22)
In the last century certain scientists attempted to weigh the
human body immediately prior to death and then again afterwards
to see if the spirit and soul have weight---however no weight
loss at the moment of death was ever detected. Thus the difference
between a dead cell and a living cell or a corpse and a living
person is due to the absence or the presence of spiritual energy
from God. In the Bible Jesus is called "the Author of Life"
(Acts 3:15). This statement is yet another reminder that we can
not expect to understand ourselves or our world if we ignore the
spiritual dimension of life, and the information God has revealed
to us in the Bible which is given for our enlightenment---and our
salvation. Science does not know how to measure the interactions
between the spiritual and the physical worlds, yet the Bible insists
God is constantly interacting with His creation in "ways
past finding out."
When one considers living things there appears at first glance
to be an exception to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Living
cells are observed to build orderly systems out of simple molecules
assembled one by one according to inherited, self-contained genetic
(RNA/DNA) instructions. A single cell grows, divides, grows and
divides again, grows and differentiates and divides again, and
so on. Actually, living systems do not actually violate the Second
Law because all living things burn energy as fuel. The built-in
genetic codes that all living cells carry provide the intelligent
instructions for assembling orderly systems out of simple molecules.
Energy inputs from the physical universe are required to run biological
engines, therefore all living things live at the expense of raising
the total entropy of the physical universe. The intrinsic high
complexity of the genetic codes implies a Designing Intelligence
at the beginning of the universe. It was God who brought into
existence these original blueprints in the first place. The Second
Law disallows these codes having come into existence by accident.
Time plus chance always leads to chaos---not order! In fact, without
the intervention of outside intelligence complex systems do not
evolve out of simple systems, no matter how much energy is added
to a system.
No biologist can tell us how a living cell differs from a dead
one---except that the up building, growth process ceases, as does
repair, replacement of cells, and reproduction when death occur.
At death the once-orderly cell decays back into the elementary
molecules from which it was assembled. From Scripture we learn
that life is due to spiritual energy activating cells. For life
to exist, some form of energy supplied by God apparently flows
into our physical world from "outside the system" of
Natural and Spiritual Energy and Power
In the Bible life and light are often placed in close relationship
with one another; for example, in the Prologue of John's gospel:
"In him (the Word) was life, and the life was the light of
men." (John 1:4) Although this is a statement about spiritual
reality, as revealed in Scripture, there is little doubt that
the great Light, the Person Jesus Christ, is behind all forms
of ordinary light, and light in our physical world is always a
form of energy. Spiritual energy is actually the source of all
other forms of energy. Behind everything in our physical world
of shadows, stands the permanent, enduring reality of the spiritual.
Jesus is said to "uphold the universe by His mighty word
of power" (Heb. 1:1-4). The Bible speaks also of the "mighty
power" God the Father exercised when He raised Jesus from
the dead and brought him into heaven forty days later. No meter
or instrument or scientific recorder could have been placed in
the tomb of Jesus to "detect" and "quantify"
that "mighty power." Yet, the power of God, who is the
Source of all life and energy, is much more important than the
flow of energy in kilowatts or joules or horsepower studied in
the everyday world of physics.
In the moral sphere it is easy to see that the decay of civilization,
family, and culture is held back and inhibited by true spirituality,
by God's intervention in our world of death and decay. What this
means is that Christians are intended by God to be channels of
"light" and restraining spiritual "power"
against evil flooding into a "dark" world. In the spiritual
realm of soul and spirit, new life from Jesus does very definitely
affect human life and society. Such changes in human behavior
are not illusions, but are certainly impossible to measure in
terms familiar to even the sociologist or the psychologist. The
subjective measuring rods of the latter two disciplines are valuable
of course, but physics has to be content with the physically measurable,
and that limits one's perception of reality to a considerable
degree. Only the eyes of faith see things are they really are:
"By faith we understand that the world was created by the
word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which
do not appear." (Hebrews 11:3)
The Spiritual and Physical Worlds are Connected
Further evidence of a connection between the spiritual life of
man and the power flow from God into the universe can be found
in Genesis. As created, the universe was pronounced "good"
by God. This means a high degree of order originally existed.
Another way of saying the same thing is that the universe had
low initial entropy. However, creation proceeded in a series of
steps as revealed in the Bible---not in a single creative act,
which is what the "Big Bang" hypothesis suggests. When
God created the universe, a created invisible order (the heavens)
and a created visible, physical world were both brought into being
at the same time. From the beginning, these two realms were interlinked
one with the other in complex ways. Heaven is the permanent reality;
earth, the derived world of shadows and illustrations. Man has
access to both realms of creation through a relationship with
God, and it is largely through man that the physical created order
is linked to the invisible world of spirit.
Before the fall of man, it is quite likely that the energy reservoirs
of the physical world were all initially filled when the universe
was created. Perhaps God always kept them replenished, continually
renewed, until the fall of man, because the physical and the spiritual
were, until the fall, "close-coupled systems." It is
clear, however, from the Genesis account that the power flow of
spiritual energy into nature decreased abruptly after the fall---a
permanent change occurred. No longer was nature to produce bountifully
for man; extra work and toil would be required, and weeds and
pests would interfere. This curse upon the fecundity of nature
is described in Genesis 3:17-19.
Furthermore, death entered the human race through the man Adam,
as Paul wrote to the Romans. The entrance into our world of death,
dying, decaying, destroying processes affected not only man but
the physical, material universe as well. This thesis can be further
established by a well known passage in Romans 8:19-23:
"...the creation waits with eager
longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation
was subject to futility, not of its own will but by the will
of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself
will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious
liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation
has been groaning in travail (labor-pangs) together until now,
and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first
fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption
as sons, the redemption of our bodies."
p x > h
This scripture tells us that the old universe, what the Bible
calls the "old creation," is fading away, dying and
decaying-that is, the universe became subject to the Second Law
of Thermodynamics at the time of the fall of the angels and of
man. The Bible does tell us that God's renewing work in our present
lives involves the soul and the spirit, however the physical body
is not made new until the resurrection. Although the Holy Spirit
gives life to our mortal flesh also, healing and sustaining our
physical bodies as we walk with God, the dying of the outer man,
the "old Adam" is only delayed, not reversed, when we
become believers, "So you also must consider yourselves dead
to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." (Romans 6:11) God
may not be actively supplying any new energy into the physical
universe, the Old Creation, but rather allowing it to run down
according to the Second Law. Thus we say that it is "natural"
for the universe to be running down, that is the way things are.
But the creation when completed on the Sixth Day (Gen. 1:31) was
not running according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics as we
now observe it to be.
There is also the difficult question of miracles. Many miracles
in the Bible are simply examples of God's speeding up natural
processes (turning water into wine, for instance). As Lord of
Creation, Jesus has the power to intervene in the old order of
things; but the question is, does He do so by putting new outside
energy into the system, or does he simply alter the arrangement
of the old order in a small way whenever he performs a genuine
miracle? Is His creative energy input directed mainly towards
the building of a "New Creation" instead? To consider
such issues adequately, one needs to explore a discussion such
as that given to us by C. S. Lewis in his book Miracles.
Lewis offers many helpful comments on these difficult matters.
Few writers, secular or religious, discuss the interlinking of
spiritual and material realms of creation and the existence of
any "laws" governing the two realms taken together instead
of separately. There are spiritual laws just as there are physical
laws, but none of us seems to know how to "measure"
the mighty power God manifests in nature or in human affairs.
Probably we really do not know if some "miracles" are
violations of the laws of thermodynamics as we know them, or whether
God only directs the present universe (the Old Creation) by working
within the bounds of the existing laws of physics. To "override"
gravity by spiritual means, it is not necessarily to "violate"
the laws of physics, yet it may well be that many genuine miracles
do represent God's intervention in the old order of things for
His own specific purposes. The several types of miracles demonstrated
by Jesus are discussed and analyzed by Ray C. Stedman in his book,
God's Loving Word:
Exploring the Gospel of John (Discovery House, Grand Rapids,
MI 49501, 1993).
Hidden Variables and the "Laws" of Chance
For the interest of more technical-minded readers, one of the
great questions raised in the branch of modern physics known as
Quantum Mechanics is whether or not there are "hidden variables"
in physics operating in the "noise level" below the
range of sensitivity of our instruments. The existence of such
laws would allow our universe to be influenced without our seeing
how it was done. At the sub-atomic level, Quantum Mechanics has
shown that statistical fluctuations apparently govern all physical
phenomena. For this reason some men continue to believe that the
universe came into being solely out of the operation of time-plus-chance.
Electrons behave at times like particles and at other times like
waves. The presence of an observer disturbs the status quo so
that one cannot measure anything in the universe without at the
same time disturbing its state of being. If one chooses to measure
one parameter of physics with precision, another related parameter
automatically becomes proportionally fuzzy and indeterminate!
The meaning of the so-called "Uncertainty Principle"
is quantitatively expressed by such equations as
where x is the uncertainty
in the position of a particle in the x direction and p is the uncertainty in momentum,
p, (mass times velocity). Other pairs of variables besides p and
x may also be used. The two uncertainties are related to h, Planck's
constant. If the velocity of light has been decreasing since the
universe began, then Planck's constant has been increasing in
inverse proportion to c. In fact, the product hc seems to be a
true constant. (See Is the Velocity of
Light a Constant in Time?)
Any decrease in the velocity of light since creation means that
h was a smaller number in the past than it is now. If h were smaller,
a number of atomic processes would be affected. Alpha particle
emission from heavy nuclei, for example, depends on "tunneling"
of the alpha particle under the curve of nuclear binding potential.
Such tunneling depends on "borrowing" extra energy
E for a short time
t, however subject
to E t > h. Thus alpha particle decay of atoms
could well have been more probable (and therefore more frequent)
in the past.
If h were zero, we could also say the universe was perfectly "determined"
and more "certain" or predictable than it is now. We
could then make perfectly precise measurements. In fact, with
h not equal to zero, the measurement process always disturbs the
system under study and makes precision determinations impossible.
Thus, if h were a smaller number in the past than it is today,
due to decreasing c, the universe would have been more orderly
in the past. We might say that this was due to "perfect coupling"
between the spiritual world, which is the source and the physical
world where we make measurements.
From a biblical point of view all events in the universe---whether
they appear to us to be random or orderly---are under God's full
control. The New Testament says that God, "works all things
according to the counsel of his own will." In a fallen world
God permits many things He does not desire, but He is still in
full control of all events---large and small.
The new science of Chaos has shown us that there is often a deeper
level of order in apparently random events. These new discoveries
have caused many to reconsider the possibility that there are
interrelationships in nature that escape our casual notice. The
issues of causality and determinism in nature have been frequently
debated during the history of science. In our time many of today's
scientists are seriously questioning Quantum theory and Einstein's
Relativity theory because of a belief in a deep underlying cause-and-effect
relationship between everything that goes on in the universe.
God Controls Everything
Actually Scripture has a lot to say in relation about such matters
as hidden variables and the laws of chance. Proverbs says, "The
lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is wholly from the
Lord." (Proverbs 16:33) This and similar passages show that
the physical universe is not actually governed by random, statistical
events. Rather, an Unseen Hand---working behind the scenes is
directing the affairs of men, nations, nature. In the Sermon on
the Mount Jesus assures the multitude that the hairs of our heads
are numbered, that God clothes the fields with grass and feeds
the birds of the air. Furthermore, although we search diligently
to find out how God does things, we cannot know the answers to
"O the depth of the riches and wisdom
and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and
inscrutable his ways! 'For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?' 'Or who has given a gift to
him that he might be repaid?' For from him and through him and
to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." (Romans
The 102nd Psalm also gives us further help in understanding
the present state of the created order of things,
"Of old thou didst lay the foundations
of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They
will perish, but thou dost endure; they will all wear out like
a garment. Thou changest them like raiment, and they pass away;
but thou art the same, and thy years have no end." (Psalm
What seems clear is that both the Bible and the Second Law
describe the known universe (that is, the "old creation")
as decaying, "wearing out," and coming to an end. If
God is intervening from time to time in the universe as we know
it, His present interventions are apparently limited to slowing
down or temporarily arresting the overall process of decay of
our physical world, not reversing it. The Bible teaches that God
has full control over all circumstances in life, such as hurricanes,
earthquakes, airplane crashes, and the activity of the stock market.
In fact, He has not abdicated his sovereignty in any way, He "...accomplishes
all things according to the counsel of his (own) will." (Ephesians
1:11) How He does this while still allowing man free will, how
he takes into account all the thoughts and actions of several
billion people including those yet unborn, is utterly amazing,
Unfortunately, in spite of God's grace and mercy, man is increasingly
suffering the disastrous consequences of his own bad moral choices.
As has been often said, man does not violate the law of gravity
by leaping off of a tall building; he merely illustrates it. It
is perfectly obvious in the moral, social sphere that life on
earth is not getting better and better, but worse and worse as
history moves along! This disintegration and decay extends into
our understanding of science, philosophy, history, art, and other
areas of human endeavor as well.
Temporary Energy Reversals Occur in Some Miracles
We may, as individuals, have life easy for a time, but death catches
us, each one, and the overall plight of mankind grows more perilous
day by day. God may heal us when we become ill, but our restored
good health lasts only for a season. We do not know from scientific
observation whether a local decrease in entropy such as we would
expect from a "healing miracle of God" represents an
input of new energy into the physical world, or simply a local
energy transfer that does not change the sum total of the energy
reserves of the Old Created Order. Lazarus was raised from the
dead by Jesus, but he later died like everyone else in his generation.
Did his temporary raising from the dead occur because new, outside
energy was introduced into our physical universe, or did Jesus
borrow the necessary energy from an existing energy reservoir
in the old creation? However Jesus did it, it was meant to give
us a picture in miniature of a greater and more permanent resurrection
in which those raised would never die. Lazarus is not now with
us, so the restoration of his life was temporary, the reversal
of his death did not prevail. Yet his fellow believers will see
Lazarus again in the great resurrection which is to come (John
Every spring time, in temperate latitudes, new life bursts forth
year after year after the winter snows have gone, leading many
peoples around the world to think of "Mother Nature"
as a living goddess who re-creates and renews the world seasonally
and periodically. But green grass, buds, blossoms, and fruit are
all brought into being by the energy of the sun acting on already-living
cells with their existing genetic blueprints ever-ready-to reproduce,
and grow, and mature given only favorable conditions. No force
or energy source from outside the closed thermodynamic system
of the present physical universe is necessary to explain how it
all happens every springtime.
Regrettably almost no one in science bothers to comment upon or
marvel at the mystery of life itself! Most of us acknowledge that
good physical health is in some way to living morally and righteously
and showing respect for natural laws of diet, exercise, and rest.
Conversely, when we violate moral law we know we can expect physical
suffering---though not all suffering comes from that kind of causal
source. It should be clear from God's revelation in nature, even
apart from scripture, that there are laws in the spiritual realm
that we do well to heed whether or not we know anything about
physical laws and principles.
Man Has Descended not Ascended
It is not difficult to see that neither the Bible nor the Second
Law of Thermodynamics adds any credibility to the popular myth
of the evolution of life---the theory that life as a result of
random processes---completely by time and by chance. The Second
Law implies that the universe once had lower entropy than it now
possesses, not the other way around. Not only is energy less and
less available, but disorder and chaos are increasing with the
passage of time. Judging from human behavior as we see it in our
world today, man has not ascended but quite obviously descended!
Animal species are passing into extinction every day. In the beginning
there were far more different species and varieties of living
things than there are now! Thus Adam was more advanced than we,
his great, great, great...great grandsons. "Civilization"
and "the progress of man" are illusions! Were it not
for God's intervention and divine restraint of evil, all men would
live more like beasts nowadays than ever in the past! As for "ape
men" and "cave men," we must see these aberrations
as branches of the human race, descended of Adam, who wandered
in the past far from God's grace the truth and become degenerate
and animal-like-because God gave them up to their own self-destructive
desires. (This is the argument the Apostle Paul forcefully makes
in Romans Chapter One).
"Primitive man" are not our predecessors in an evolutionary
chain, but sad and tragic side-branches of mankind that give evidence
of the severity of man's fall. (Any discussion about the fossils
of "early man" presented to us by the paleontologist
assumes that the fossil record has been interpreted correctly
in the first place! For example, careful creation scientists have
rightly questioned whether ancient man really differed from modern
man at all in such matters as brain size and fully human physical
An Old Creation and a New
The old creation as constructed by God over the six days of creation
week culminated in the creation of man as the highest of God's
creatures, a creature who bears the very image and likeness of
his Creator. The new creation leads down from Christ. The idea
of an old created order of things (described in the Bible) is
set in juxtaposition with the concept of a new creation now being
quietly constructed as a home for God's new humanity: "Therefore,
if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed
away, behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17). All
of us are born into the world as descendants of the First Adam,
who is fallen. We carry Adam's genes and we have inherited original
sin from Adam, therefore we sin and we are subject to death. When
we place our faith in Jesus we are transferred out of the First
Adam and immediately become the sons and daughters of the Second
Adam, Jesus. When this happens we are born into God's family by
spiritual rebirth (John 3), and we are also adopted as adult sons
in his household (Gal. 3:23-4:7). God's work in building a new
creation begins in the human spirit, but ends in the unveiling
of a great city, the New Jerusalem, and ultimately a "new
heavens and new earth."
The "new creation" as described in the Bible is intimately
tied to the resurrection out from among the dead of Jesus of Nazareth.
Paul gives us a great wealth of information on this subject:
"But in fact Christ has been raised
from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For as by a man (Adam) came death, by a man (Jesus) has come
also the resurrection of the dead. For as (those who are) in
Adam all die, so also (those who are) in Christ shall all be
made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits,
then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the
end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying
every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until
he puts all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be
destroyed is death. 'For God has put all things in subjection
under his feet (Psalm 8:6)' But when it says, 'All things are
put in subjection under him,' it is plain that he is excepted
who put all things under him. When all things are subjected to
him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put
all things under him, that God (the Father) may be everything
to everyone." (1 Corinthians 15:20-18)
This passage gives the additional insight that the "new
creation" is not totally separate and distinct from the old
since Jesus is reigning now over the old creation and will renew
it fully when He has destroyed out of it all his enemies. Furthermore,
life in the new creation is born out of seeds sown into the soil
of the old creation, figuratively speaking. The reference to "first
fruits" clearly relates to the sheaf of grain offered by
the Jews at the Feast of Unleavened Bread following the Passover,
the very day on which Jesus was raised from the dead to become
the Pioneer and Firstborn of the new creation.
God Maintains and Controls the Old Creation
Another important claim of scripture about the old creation is
that God is the present Sustainer of the universe. That is, He
is not uninvolved, remote, detached and impersonal, leaving things
to run by themselves by any means. Among secular scientists there
are many who acknowledge that God exists. But He is usually considered
as only a First Cause-the One who brought the universe into existence
and set it into motion. But most of these same scientists assume
God was not involved after the initial act of creation. This is
contrary to clear statements in the Bible that God is very much
involved in every event that takes place in the on-going history
of the entire universe:
In many separate revelations [each of which set forth a portion of the Truth]
and in different ways God spoke of old to [our] forefathers
in and by the prophets, [But] in the last of these
days He has spoken to us in [the person of a] Son, Whom
He appointed Heir and lawful Owner of all things, also
by and through Whom He created the worlds and the
reaches of space and the ages of time [He made, produced,
built, operated, and arranged them in order]. He is the sole
expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the out-raying
or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint
and very image of [God's] nature, upholding and
maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe
by His mighty word of power. When He had by offering Himself
accomplished our cleansing of sins and riddance
of guilt, He sat down at the right hand of the divine Majesty
on high, [Taking a place and rank by which] He Himself
became as much superior to angels as the glorious Name (title)
which He has inherited is different from and more excellent
than theirs. (Hebrews 1:2-4, Amplified Bible).
Again, the fact that Jesus is presently sustaining the universe
from the realm of the spiritual raises the question whether there
are inputs of spiritual energy into our physical world which ultimately
show up as energy added "from the outside" of our physical
world considered as a closed system. (See What
Holds the Universe Together?). It may be God sustains, directs,
and propels the universe by operating only within the framework
of the existing and known laws of physics we observe today. What
I think it is safe to claim for science is that no known violations
of the Second Law have been detected (and verified) thus far by
man. We have yet to learn whether miracles involve entropy changes
introduced from outside the known (physical) universe, or whether
UFO's are explainable entirely by presently understood rules of
physics, and so on. It is difficult for science to study rare
or one-of-a-kind events, and such things tend to be relegated
by default to the less reputable field of pseudoscience.
Angels are Involved in God's Government
A Hebrew Old Testament concept, confirmed in the last book of
the New Testament, the Book of the Revelation, is that angels
have control over the forces of nature as instruments of God.
The fact that angelic government and regulation of the sun, the
winds, the rivers, and other forces of nature is uniform and unvarying
means only that God and His servants are in perfect control, not
that impersonal forces and fixed laws are necessarily behind the
happenings of our physical world. Having set in motion the old
universe, God "rested on the seventh day," (Genesis
2:2) but that does not mean He withdrew from government of the
old created order, as the opening verses of the letter of Hebrews
The fact that angels now rule the forces of nature on behalf of
God is clearly implied by Hebrews 2:5 which states,
"For it was not to angels that God subjected the world
to come, of which we are speaking."
Ray Stedman comments on this verse as follows:
Still thinking of the supremacy of the Son over angels, our
author, in 2:5-9, approaches the theme from a different view.
In chapter 1 the deity of Jesus was primarily in the foreground;
in chapter 2 his perfect humanity means that he is the superior
of every angelic being. Verse 5 carries forward the subject of
verse 4, It is not to angels that he [God] has subjected the
world to come, about which we are speaking.
Some fascinating themes are introduced by this observation. It
raises immediately the question, What is meant by the world to
come? It can mean (1) life after death, (2) the future kingdom
of Christ on earth (the millennium) or (3) the new heavens and
the new earth. Since almost nothing is said in Hebrews about
life after death (9:27), (1) can be dismissed without further
development for it is obviously not what he refers to in the
phrase about which we are speaking. That limiting phrase probably
looks back to 1:11-12 which emphasizes the changes which the
material creation will experience. Paul, in Ephesians 2:7, speaks
of "coming ages," indicating that at least two more
ages lie ahead. The two which Scripture continually name are
the restored Davidic kingdom (the millennium) and the new heavens
and the new earth. In several places Scripture describes the
new heavens and earth as lasting forever, intimating it would
be the last age yet to come. But the word world (Gk: oikoumene)
in 2:5 refers not to the cosmos, but to the inhabited earth,
and this would strongly suggest the writer has in mind (2), the
kingdom of Christ on earth. Hughes calls the world to come, "the
age of the Messiah in which the messianic promises and prophecies
of old find their fulfillment" (1977:82). It is surely to
this that Jesus refers in Matthew 19:28, "Truly, I say to
you, in the new world [palingenesia, 'restoration'], when
the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have
followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve
tribes of Israel" (RSV). Several passages in Hebrews (6:5
and 12:22-24) suggest that this kingdom is in some sense already
available to those who live by faith. Perhaps, we should see
this new age to come as spiritually arrived, yet physically still
A reference to the new heavens and new earth seems unlikely in
view of the mention of judgment in Matthew 19:28, for sin will
have no place in the new creation. Also Israel will not play
a distinctive role among the nations, for then "the kingdoms
of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his
Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev 11:15
If, as the writer claims, the world to come has not been subjected
to angels, it raises the possibility that the present age is
subject to angelic governance. F. F. Bruce supports this view,
citing the LXX rendering of Deuteronomy 32:8:
When the Most High gave to the nations
When he separated the children of men,
He set the bounds of the peoples
According to the number of the angels of God.
He further quotes Daniel 10:20, which names angelic beings
as "the prince of Persia" and "the prince of Greece,"
and Daniel 10:21 and 12:1 speak of Michael as "the great
prince" who champions the people of Israel (1964:33). This
concept would explain why the fallen angel called Satan is referred
to as "the god of this world" and is permitted his
control until the Lord returns and the new age begins and the
curse is lifted from nature. Then, too, the devil will be bound
and cast into a bottomless pit for a thousand years (Rev 20:2-3).
This background serves to give special meaning to the quotation
from Psalm 8 which the writer of Hebrews now invokes. His vague
reference to his source (Gk: "Someone somewhere has testified")
is not due to uncertainty but to a desire to stress Scripture
as speaking, not a mere human author (Bruce, Kistemaker and Hughes).
David's psalm is a wondering reaction to the majesty of the night
sky as it reveals the power and wisdom of God and forces the
question, What part do puny human beings play in such a universe?
The answer is that we were made a little lower than the angels,
but then crowned with glory and honor, and everything has been
put under our feet. This is a direct reference to Genesis 1:26:
Then God said, "Let us make man in
our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of
the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all
the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
Here is glory and honor (made in the image and likeness of
God) and authority and power (ruling over all the earth). Some
commentators take the made a little lower than the angels in
a temporal sense, "made for a little while," to imply
that human existence in this space-time continuum is only for
a brief lifetime, and then we are freed to live the life of eternity.
Whichever way the phrase is read, it is clear that our intended
destiny was one of power and authority over all the conditions
and life of earth. If this was our commission from the moment
of creation, what light it sheds on our responsibility to care
for this planet and its creatures! We were not given dominion
so the earth and the animals should serve us; rather, we are
given authority to develop them to the fullest extent intended
by the fruitful mind of the Creator. We are to serve them by
thorough knowledge and loving care, in the form of servant-leadership
which the Lord himself manifested when he came.
Yet, says this writer in what must be the understatement of the
ages, we do not see everything subject to him. No, there are
many things fallen humans cannot control: the weather, the seasons,
the instincts of animals, the tides, our own passions, international
events, natural disasters, and on and on. The increasing pollution
of the planet, the spread of famines and wars, the toll taken
by drugs, accidents and disease, all tell the story of a lost
But almost with a shout the author cries, But we see Jesus! He
is the last hope of a dying race. And that hope lies both in
his deity and his humanity. He alone, as a human being, managed
to fulfill what was intended for us from the beginning. When
we read the Gospels, we are forced to ask, Who is this man who
stills the winds and the waves with a single word; who multiplies
food at will; who walks on the waves; who summons fish to bring
up coins at his command; who dismisses disease with a touch;
and calls the dead back to life? Who is he? He is the Last Adam,
living and acting as God intended us to act when he made us in
the beginning. It was the First Adam who plunged the race into
bondage and limitation; it is the Last who sets us free in soul
and spirit, so that we may now learn how to live in the ages
to come when the resurrection gives us back a body fit for the
conditions of that life.
The writer traces in terse phrases the steps Jesus took to solve
forever the problem of human sin. (1) He was made a little lower
than the angels. There is the whole wonder of the Incarnation;
in John's phrasing, "the Word became flesh and lived for
a while among us." Then (2) because he suffered death, he
was (3) crowned with glory and honor and thus he achieved as
a human being the position intended for us in the beginning:
the being who was to be closest to God, higher than any angel,
and in authority over all things! Then, lest we should forget
the cost, the writer adds (4) so that by the grace of God he
might taste death for everyone. To taste death does not simply
mean to die, but to experience death in its full horror and humiliation.
He comes under the penalty of sin in order that he might remove
it. The emphasis here is that what Jesus did through his death
and exaltation was for everyone. Salvation is now open to all;
no one who comes to Jesus will ever be refused. His death was
for everyone in the sense that everyone was thereby rendered
Ever since the death of Jesus the way to glory has always Included
a death which leads to life. Some forms of media-evangelism have
presented the Christian life as the way to fulfillment of great
possibilities without also making clear that it includes a death
to self-indulgence and learning obedience. We dare not extol
the incredible benefits of the Christian life without reminding
ourselves that they will also lead us to a cross.
To whom, then, is the world to come subject? Not to angels, that
is clear. It is to be subject to the human race---to the human
race as God intended us to be, redeemed and restored through
sharing the life of the Man in glory, seated at the right hand
of God. This is the theme of verses 10-13. (Commentary
on Hebrews, IVP)
Since God gave Adam "dominion" over the original creation,
one might well ask if God intended all of the "power flow"
into nature (that is from the spiritual world into the physical)
to come "through" man. One has only to look a little
in the Bible to see that God governs and empowers nature (a) directly,
(b) through natural forces, (c) through angels, (d) through men,
and (4) supremely through His Son, who is the Lord of Creation.
The Book of Jonah contains several good illustrations of God's
ability to directly command (and get an immediate response) from
the winds (for example) so as to produce a great storm when needed.
He also speaks to, and gets an immediate response from, a fish,
a plant, and a worm. Man's response to God is sluggish and imperfect
in comparison to nature's responses! While He walked the earth,
Jesus had the power to directly command the forces of nature as
well as demons and angels, as presented frequently in the Four
Gospels. Man's central role in God's purposes in creating the
universe does come forth in the New Testament as well as the Old,
supporting what modern secular cosmologists have come to consider
the Anthropic Cosmological Principle. The Biblical concept, however,
is not that God is anthropomorphic but that man is theomorphic.
The Apostle Peter says that men have been made, through redemption,
"...partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4)
Is Man the Center of the Universe?
It is a curious fact that man lies approximately midway between
the size of the smallest atomic particle and the largest dimensions
of the universe itself. It seems we have been placed squarely
in the center! Man is a spirit who inhabits a body. The spirit
gives man life and consciousness, and the physical body allows
that spirit to have access to the physical world on the outside.
As the spirit interacts with the body, the soul results. (The
soul is the seat of the personality, emotions, the mind, the will,
the memory, and so forth.)
Prior to coming into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
and experiencing spiritual regeneration, man is spoken of as "spiritually
dead." "Spiritually dead" does not mean that some
men have no spirits, for that state of affairs is synonymous with
the death of the body. To be spiritually dead means to have a
broken link, a missing connection with one's Creator-He alone
has Life. Man in his "natural" state is spiritually
dead and is motivated by "soulish" life and energy.
Thus Paul writes concerning spiritual regeneration:
"And you he made alive, when you were
dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked,
following the course of this world, following the prince of the
power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons
of disobedience. Among these we all once lived in the passions
of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so
we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which
he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made
us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly
places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show
the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in
Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith;
and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God---not because
of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared
beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:1-10)
Whatever power and right man originally had been given to exercise
control over creation was largely lost at the fall. Only a partial
restoration occurred when God called Adam and Eve back to Himself
and made new provisions for their lives and for the creation.
In giving their lives to the Evil One, our first parents abdicated,
as it were, the title deed of the earth. At the fall, the alien,
destructive power of Satan began to take control of man, devastating
both people and nature. One of the aspects of Christ's work on
the Cross was to ransom mankind and buy back from Satan any claims
he may have had to dominion, territory or power in the universe.
God's sovereign control over all creation-all the angels and all
men-has, of course, never been diminished in the slightest or
threatened by the presence of evil in the universe or by "plots
against the throne." (I believe in the doctrine of "unlimited
atonement" which states that Christ died for the sins of
all mankind, not just for the sins of those who accept him as
Lord of their lives. However, I am not a universalist. Universalists
believe that all men will ultimately be saved and none lost).
That our Creator originally intended man to have the central place
in creation is clearly states by the writer of the letter to the
"For it was not to angels that God
subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has
been testified somewhere, 'What is man that thou art mindful
of him, or the son of man, that thou carest for him? Thou didst
make him (man) for a little while lower than the angels, thou
hast crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in
subjection under his feet.' Now in putting everything in subjection
to him, he left nothing outside his control. As it is, we do
not yet see everything in subjection to him.
"But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower
than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of his
suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste
death for every one. For it was fitting that he, for whom and
by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should
make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself
likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might
destroy him who has the power of death, that is the devil, and
deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong
bondage." (Hebrews 2:5-10; 14-15)
Man, the Dwelling-Place of God
The New Testament takes care to refer to the body of the believer
as the temple of God and to the church as a whole as a building
of living stones built upon Christ the Cornerstone. Thus, the
tabernacle of Moses in the wilderness and the two Jewish temples
that followed in Jerusalem were pictures of man. The tabernacle
had an outer court, a holy place, and a most holy place, each
with specific items of furniture depicting man's approach to God
through suitable sacrifice, confession of sin, purification from
sin, enlightenment into correct knowledge, and prayer. The fact
that the Bible describes man as the dwelling place of God is emphasized
in a number of passages in the Bible, but most people imagine
that---if there is a God---He lives outside the known universe
and rules as a detached observer intervening only rarely in the
affairs of the world. The Biblical picture is that God indwelt
man in the Garden of Eden and empowered man. The fall was man's
abdication of his exalted position as God's steward over all He
had made. Jesus, however, the Son of man, is the faithful steward
and rightful heir of all things. Those who be-long to Christ Jesus
are indwelt once again by Him, by the Holy Spirit, and this places
man back at the center of things as God's temple, God's dwelling
place. These two great truths are emphasized in the New Testament:
"Christ is in us" (Colossians) and "We are in Christ"
In his Second Epistle Peter tells us more about God's present
"energetic" participation in the old created order:
"But the day of the Lord will come
like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud
noise, and the elements will be dissolved (unloosed) with fire,
and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up."
(2 Peter 3:10)
This passage suggests that the active power of God is responsible
for such things as the nuclear binding energy, the "strong
force," in every atom---without which the atomic nucleus
would fly apart. The popular gospel chorus which assures us that
"He's got the whole, wide world in His hands" is perfectly
correct theologically. Scripture assures us (if I may reiterate)
that volcanoes do not erupt, tornadoes do not wreak their havoc,
and sparrows do not fall to the ground outside of God's control-regardless
of the intermediate mechanisms by which He regulates these activities
and happenings of the physical world. Though it may appear so
to us, there are really no accidents in a universe where a living
God pays perfect attention to every detail and loses sight of
"O LORD, how manifold are thy works!
In wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy creatures.
Yonder is the sea, great and wide, which teems with things innumerable,
living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan
which thou didst form to sport in it. These all look to thee,
to give them their food in due season. When thou givest to them,
they gather it up; when thou openest thy hand, they are filled
with good things. When thou hidest thy face, they are dismayed;
when thou takest away their breath, they die and return to their
dust. When thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created; and
thou renewest the face of the ground." (Psalm 104:24-30).
A clear distinction is made in Holy Writ between the Creator
and the created thing. By contrast, pantheistic religious views
such as Hinduism, hold that the sum total of all things is God.
The God of the Bible stands apart from His creation. But He is
also actively involved in the sustenance of his creatures and
the establishment of an invisible kingdom which is quietly being
prepared for public unveiling at the end of our age.
A Coming New Creation
Clues to the nature of the "New Creation" are given
in the remaining portions of the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians:
"But some one will ask, 'How are the
dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?' You foolish
man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what
you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps
of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he
has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all
flesh is alike, but there is one kind for men, another for animals,
another for birds, and another for fish. There are celestial
bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the
celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon,
and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in
"So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown
is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in
dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is
raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual
body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual
body. Thus it is written, 'The first man Adam become a living
being'; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
"But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical,
and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man
of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust,
so are those who are of dust; and as is the man of heaven, so
are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image
of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of
heaven. I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit
the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall
all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the
last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead will
be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable
nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must
put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable,
and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the
saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.' 'O
death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?'"
(1 Corinthians 15:35-55)
In this passage we see evidence that the universe is more open-ended
than we might otherwise suppose. There are several "levels"
to creation, and not all living beings are "creatures made
of dust" as we are. The angels are made entirely of spirit
for instance, as far as I know. To move into the new creation,
one must die. The body is planted like a seed, but the new life
which springs forth is altogether different from the seed, though
derived from the seed. God allows us to die, as he allows the
old creation to "run down," but he then brings forth
a new kind of body to clothe the redeemed of earth (those previously
made new in their souls and spirits). Accompanying the resurrection
is a renewal of creation and a releasing of nature from its bondage
to decay. Second Corinthians 5:1-5 indicates the new resurrection
bodies are already in existence waiting to be stepped into on
the day of resurrection, or at the hour of one's death.
Jesus told his disciples He was going to prepare a place for them
to live, which is now already in existence. Hebrews, Chapter 12,
describes believers coming to New Jerusalem, which is the heavenly
city now ready, and Revelation 21 describes that city in detail,
like an orbiting space station of awesome beauty made of rare
and costly materials prepared as a dwelling place for the new
God Uses Natural Forces to Control Many Events
That God should use "natural" processes to feed and
provide for us in this life as we live out our lives in the old
creation makes Him no less personal. As discussed, if God intervenes
now in the old creation by perturbing the "laws of nature"
or introducing new energy from outside, He apparently does so
in modest ways. God does however fully control human events, "...accomplishes
all things according to the counsel of his will." (Ephesians
1:11) In the New Creation the processes of death and decay now
operative in our world will be undone and turned around. Disorder
and disharmony will be reversed and a whole new order of things
will permeate the old. Thus, (it seems to me) that the so-called
immutable laws of physics are really only applicable to a certain
time frame of God's dealings with men and also to a particular
limited realm of the Old Creation. They do not necessarily describe
the entire time period since creation, but perhaps are special
The Bible claims that our Creator will intervene on earth one
day soon, destroying the old creation and its works and completing
the new creation which has already begun with the transformation
of the lives of believers.
Jerusalem, The Center of the New Creation
"For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in that which
I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her
people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and be glad in my
people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and
the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that
lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his
days, for the child shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner
a hundred years old shall be accursed.
"They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant
their vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and
another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like
the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen
shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
"They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and
their children with them. Before they call I will answer, while
they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall
feed to-gether, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust
shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in
all my holy mountain, says the LORD." (Isaiah 65:17-25)
1. With regard to what we commonly
call the formation of "rust," i.e., formation of iron
oxides, Larry Henling (firstname.lastname@example.org)
comments, "For what it is worth, the process of rusting (iron
plus air plus water to hydrous iron oxides) actually leads to a
product, rust, which has less entropy than the reactants,
not more." (12/18/96) Henling raises a good point.
David Cavanaugh (email@example.com)
adds the following elaboration: "There are chemical and
physical changes which are driven by a Thermodynamical system
assuming a minimum energy state, which represent a loss of Entropy
for the system because the system has lost statistical degrees
of freedom due to the loss of possible energy states in the system.
If the surroundings to which the particular Thermodynamical system
inhabits are tightly coupled from an energy or mass transfer point
of view, one might conceptually define a larger inhomogeneous
Thermodynamical system for which the Entropy increase will be
greater than or equal to the Entropy loss of the sub-system undergoing
the physical/chemical change - this being the Second law statement.
To fully appreciate Larry Helling's criticism, one must look
at this issue from the point of view of the Third law and Third
law Entropies. These Entropies are calculated by integrating the
heat capacity (a function of temperature) of a substance (at constant
pressure) times the differential of temperature divided by temperature
from absolute zero to the ambient temperature. By Boltzmann's
law the Entropy of a perfect crystal at absolute zero is zero
because there is only one system energy state. The Second law
definition of the change of Entropy (dS = dQ / T) for a reversible
process (which temperature is) is extended via the definition
of heat capacity (Cp = dQ / dT) for the purposes of the integration.
The Third law then is stating that Entropy is a state variable
of a system that is conserved for systems that have passed from
one system state to another system state. In the case of a chemical
reaction, the Entropy change is the sum of 3rd law Entropies of
the reactants subtracted from the sum of the 3rd law Entropies
of the products; assuming we look at the system before and after
the reaction at the same constant ambient temperature. For the
example that Larry has cited (viz. oxidation of Iron), the relation
dG = dH -T dS, 25 deg C and 1 atm pressure we see:
4Fe + 3O2- -> Fe2O3
O2: S = 3*+49.003 cal/(mol-deg)
Fe: S= 4*+06.49 cal/(mol-deg)
Fe2O3: S= 2*+21.5 cal/(mol-deg)
Change: dS=--129.97 cal/(mol-deg),
Solid state entropy increases from 29.96 to 43, again not
enough to offset the total negative change of entropy due to
entropy loss from the gas phase.
You will notice that this is an exothermic (looses heat) reaction,
which is why it proceeds to completion and the minimum energy
state of the system. In the process, the system has lost Entropy
representing a loss of statistical degrees of freedom or the number
of available energy states. The free energy (dG) available to
do work is less than the Enthalpy change because every process
involving the conversion of energy must pay it's dues in terms
of less than 100% efficiency in the conversion due to lost/wasted
What does all of this mean ? Maybe we need to define a 4th
and 5th law of Thermodynamics representing the propensity of systems
to assume the minimum energy configuration and state and the inevitable
loss of complexity as defined by the Entropy of Information theory.
We also need to address the processes by which Entropy and disorder
An attempt at this was in my standard Entropy file. I fear
that maybe we are trying to put too many concepts into the 2nd
law, when we should be building an incremental set of Thermodynamical
laws that plug and play together. In the case of the Iron, it
does loose configurational complexity (coherent) order (Informational
Entropy) and usefulness, going from Steel to rust.
A close inspection of the Entropy numbers actually shows that
the reason for the loss of Entropy has to due with the gas (Oxygen)
assuming a solid state, hence quite a loss of molecular/atomic
degrees of freedom for movement. If you look at the Thermodynamical
Entropy change for just the solids, you will see a net increase
in Entropy, but not enough to offset the loss of Entropy because
of the Gas going to a solid state." (12/19/96)
A further point regarding iron is that it constitutes about
4.7% of the earth's crust, but appears in nature mostly as hematite
(Fe2O3), magnetite (Fe3O4), siderite (FeCO3) and in hydrated
forms such as 2Fe2O3,3H2). Great amounts of energy are required
to produce pig iron and steel from the ores. (How the iron got
there in nature in the first place is another matter).
Consider the construction of an automobile. It requires not
only the energy-intensive preparation of the materials, but the
organizational work of fabrication and assembly into a working,
functioning machine. The building of an automobile in the first
place (energy plus intelligent design) increases the overall entropy
of the universe. If the automobile is now left in a garage untouched
and unused, it will fall apart, deteriorate, rust and disintegrate.
The overall natural tendency is towards unavailable energy and
disorder rather than order.
2. Informational Entropy
There has been significant activity in the literature in recent
years regarding the use of Informational Entropy in the definition
in the Second Law to be more able to treat irreversible and non-equilibrium
processes. I have strong philosophical disagreements with this
because the original intent of the Second Law tends to be lost,
which is an important definition. It helps us to understand why
there are no perpetual motion machines and why heat pumps are
efficient, only requiring the makeup energy of the entropy change
(plus some for the inefficiency - entropy - of the electric motor
and piston). There are some very salutary reasons for the use
of informational content and entropy, thus I think that Informational
Entropy deserves it's own "law."
The 3 conventional Thermodynamics laws don't really call for
systems to move to the minimum energy state and specifically call
this out as a driving force in nature. The Gibbs free energy determines
the direction chemical reactions will go. When the delta Enthalpy
term is larger than the delta Entropy term (or if the Entropy
delta re-enforces the delta Enthalpy), then the reaction goes
that away. Therefore if the delta Enthalpy is large and negative,
then the reaction proceeds to the the right. Annealing is another
excellent example of a system assuming a minimum energy state
at a temperature high enough to allow the necessary molecular
rearrangements to take place. Many other examples of this principal
could be stated, but I'm sure this is enough to make the point.
One reference that I can heartily recommend as being both comprehensive
and accessible is "An Introduction to Information Theory:
Symbols, Signals and Noise," second revised edition,
John R. Pierce, Dover press 1980. Dr Pierce has an excellent section
tying the classical Thermodynamical ideas together with Information
theory. Information/Communication theory also has a long, hoary
tradition from the 1940's; being the brain child of Claude Shannon.
This subject is primarily an engineering subject, one that has
been both extensively verified and enjoyed widespread acceptance
Informational entropy is related to classical Thermodynamical
entropy, but one is sort of the flip side of the other; Thermodynamical
entropy providing a measure of system propensity for disorder
and Informational entropy providing a measure of system order
and complexity. Both quantities are related to the size of the
system state space.
Informational entropy has a rigorous mathematical definition.
It is a way of making the measurement of information content mathematically
measurable and tractable. It is a mathematical formalism which
relates to semantics and meaning without really treating the actual
implementation of Intelligence. Informational entropy is a state
function, whose value relates to the size of the system state
space, much like Boltzmann's law does. The informational entropy
can treat both order and complexity, hence one of it's profound
values. I use the notion of state space here in place of phase
space, to emphasize the quantized, discrete nature of reality after
the insight of Quantum Mechanics.
This latter face of Entropy is available to the empirical observation
of the common man: bread goes stale and moldy, tools rust, rubber
tends to crystallize (non-vulcanized particularly), complex business
systems degrade when the founder leaves the area, the house gets
dirty and dusty ... These examples are legion and must be treated
by a entropic concept that deals with complexity, simpleness,
randomness and order. (added January 20, 1997)
3. The Laws of Thermodynamics (Reference)
The name thermodynamics is a blunderbuss term originally
denoting the study of heat, but now extended to include the study
of the transformations of energy in all its forms. It is based
on a few statements that constitute succinct summaries of people's
experiences with the way that energy behaves in the course of
its transformations. These summaries are the Laws of thermodynamics.
Although we shall be primarily concerned with just one of these
laws, it will be useful to have at least a passing familiarity
with them all.
There are four Laws. The third of them, the Second
Law, was recognized first; the first, the Zeroth Law,
was formulated last; the First Law, was second; the
Third Law might not even be a law in the same sense as the
others. Happily, the content of the laws is simpler than their
chronology, which represents the difficulty of establishing properties
The Zeroth Law was a kind of logical afterthought. Formulated
by about 1931, it deals with the possibility of defining the temperature
of things. Temperature is one of the deepest concepts of thermodynamics,
and I hope this book will sharpen your insight into its elusive
nature. As time is the central variable in the field of physics
called dynamics, so temperature is the central variable in thermodynamics.
Indeed, there are several amusing analogies between time and temperature
that go deeper than the accidents that they both begin with and
are represented by the same letter. For now, however, we shall
regard temperature as a refinement and quantitative expression
of the everyday notion of "hotness,"
The First Law, is popularly stated as "Energy is
conserved," That it is energy which is conserved,
not heat, was the key realization of the 1850s, and the one that
Kelvin and Clausius presented to the world. Indeed, the emergence
of energy as a unifying concept was a major achievement of nineteenth-century
science: here was a truly abstract concept coming into a dominant
place in physics. Energy displaced from centrality the apparently
more tangible concept of "force," which had been regarded
as the unifying concept ever since Newton had shown how to handle
it mathematically a century and a half previously.
Energy is a word so familiar to us today that we can hardly
grasp either the intellectual Everest it represents or the conceptual
difficulty we face in saving exactly what it means. (We face the
same difficulty with "charge" and "spin" and
other fundamental familiarities of everyday language.) For now,
we shall assume the concept of energy is intuitively obvious,
and is conveyed adequately by its definition as "the capacity
to do work." The shift in the primacy of energy can be dated
fairly accurately. In 1846 Kelvin was arguing that physics was
the science of force. In 1847 he met and listened to Joule. In
1851 he adopted the view that, after all, physics was the science
of energy. Although forces could come and go, energy was here
to stay. This concept appealed deeply to Kelvin's religious inclinations:
God, he could now argue, endowed the world at the creation with
a store of energy, and that divine gift would persist for eternity,
while the ephemeral forces danced to the music of time and spun
the transitory phenomena of the world.
Kelvin hoped to raise the concept of energy beyond what it
was becoming in the hands of the mid-nineteenth-century physicists,
a mere constraint on the changes that a collection of particles
could undergo without injection of more energy from outside. He
hoped to establish a physics based solely on energy, one free
of allusions to underlying models, He had a vision that all phenomena
could be explained in terms of the transformations of energy,
and that atoms and other notions were to be regarded merely as
manifestations of energy. To some extent modern physics appears
to be confirming his views, but it is doing so in its typical
slippery way: without doing away with atoms!
The Second Law recognizes that there is a fundamental
asymmetry in Nature: the rest of this book is focused on that
asymmetry, and so we shall say little of it here. All around
us, though, are aspects of the asymmetry: hot objects cool,
but cool objects do not spontaneously become hot; a bouncing ball
comes to rest, but a stationary ball does not spontaneously begin
to bounce. Here is the feature of Nature that both Kelvin and
Clausius disentangled from the conservation of energy: although
the total quantity of energy must be conserved in
any process (which is their revised version of what Carnot had
taken to be the conservation of the quantity of caloric), the
distribution of that energy changes in an irreversible
manner. The Second Law is concerned with the natural direction
of change of the distribution of energy, something that is quite
independent of its total quantity .
The Third Law of thermodynamics deals with the properties
of matter at very low temperatures. It states that we cannot bring
matter to a temperature of absolute zero in a finite number of
steps. As I said earlier, the Third Law might not be a true Law
of thermodynamics, because it seems to assume that matter is atomic,
whereas the other Laws are summaries of direct experience and
are independent of any such assumption. There is thus a difference
of kind between this Law and the others, and even its logical
implications seem less securely founded than theirs. (from pp.
8-10, P.W. Atkins, The 2nd Law, Energy, Chaos, and Form,
Scientific American Library, ).1994
Entropy Reversal in the New Creation
Physicists Have Successfully Connected Two Large Objects in Quantum Entanglement
We stride through our Universe with the confidence of a giant, giving little thought to the fact that reality bubbles with uncertainty.
But physicists have just served up a sharp reminder that even our macroscopic world is subject to the laws of quantum physics - by successfully entangling a millimetre-sized drum with a large cloud of atoms.
The researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen conducted the experiment using a 13 nanometre-thick, millimetres-long silicon nitride membrane (or drum) that buzzed lightly when struck with photons.
Those photons, or particles of light, came courtesy of a thin fog of a billion caesium atoms spinning inside the confines of a small, cold cell.
Despite being two very different objects, the millimetres-long drum and the fog of atoms represent an entangled system - and they push the limits of quantum mechanics.
"The bigger the objects, the further apart they are, the more disparate they are, the more interesting entanglement becomes from both fundamental and applied perspectives," says senior researcher Eugene Polzik.
"With the new result, entanglement between very different objects has become possible".
Entanglement is one of those concepts that feels far more mystical than intuitive, describing a connection between objects that exists independently of time and space.
No matter how far apart, or how many years have passed, a change to one part of an entangled system prompts an immediate adjustment to the rest.
More than once, Einstein referred to the concept as a 'spooky action at a distance', believing it had more to do with a shortfall in our knowledge than anything truly bizarre.
A century on, our understanding of quantum physics not only leaves plenty of room for such spookiness, it is forming the basis of amazing new fields of innovation, from super strong encryption to new kinds of radar.
"Quantum mechanics is like a double-edged sword," says quantum physicist Michał Parniak from the Niels Bohr Institute.
"It gives us wonderful new technologies, but also limits precision of measurements which would seem just easy from a classical point of view."
In isolation, a single particle's properties are an anxious mess of possibility represented by the rise and fall of a wave. It moves in all directions at once. Spins in two directions at the same time. It's all and it's nothing.
As the particle interacts with other objects, its uncertainty doesn't immediately vanish, but combines in complex ways we can model mathematically.
It's these very predictable computations that make up the backbone of quantum computers. Yet such tech relies on the spin of a small number of relatively identical particles.
That's why this latest breakthrough is so important - a visible drum wobbling in a breeze of photons wafting from a cloud of atoms is a whole other ballgame for physicists.
Being able to observe entanglement on a larger scale, one that involves a diversity of materials, is like studying a language that could be applied to quantum conversations.
This would be incredibly useful for 'listening' in on tools that require incredibly fine precision. Knowing how their quantum probabilities combine is a critical step in knowing how to sift out meaning in what otherwise seems like chaos.
Take the enormous array or lasers making up the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), for example. Though immense, the heart of the device lines up light waves with such precision that the very hum of uncertainty in an empty vacuum risks making a mess of it.
Entangling macroscopic systems like LIGO's mirrors could – in theory – allow researchers to better account for a degree of quantum uncertainty.
A millimetre wide drum is admittedly a tiny step by comparison. But for giants like us, it's a crucial opportunity for listening carefully to the way reality shakes beneath our feet.
This research was published in Nature.
1. Charles B. Thaxton, Walter L. Bradley and Roger L. Olsen, in
The Mystery of Life's Origin (Philosophical Library; New
York, 1984) discuss the Second Law
of Thermodynamics as related to living systems. With their
permission the most relevant three chapters are online. See also
Ruminations on Entropy and Related Topics,
by David Cavanaugh.
2. R. L. Wysong's The Creation-Evolution Controversy (Inquiry
Press; 4925 Jefferson Ave.; Midland, Michigan 48640; 1976), and
Michael Pitman, Adam and Evolution (Rider and Company;
London, 1984). These books concern the genetic-coding mechanisms
in living things and the impossibility of self-assembly of such
complex structures by a combination of time plus chance. Because
statistics are so overwhelmingly against the spontaneous self-assembly
of complex organic molecules--let alone living cells--the idea
that life originated in outer space and came here via meteor or
comet (the "panspermia" theory) has gained popularity
in recent years. Of course, the panspermia theory begs the question
as to how life began in outer space where the same laws of physics
prevail. See Fred Hoyle,The Intelligent Universe (Holt,
Rinehart, and Winston; New York, 1980), for this view.
2. The Bible indicates there are various levels of life possessed
by plants, by animals, by men and by angels, ("For not all
flesh is alike, but there is one kind for men, another for animals,
another for birds, and another for fish.There are celestial bodies
and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial
is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is
one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another
glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory."
1 Corinthians 15:39-41). This is fairly obvious to us in everyday
life. Trees and plants are simpler forms of life than birds and
insects. There are very great differences between the highest
animals and man. Man and angels differ in a number of major ways,
etc. Angels for instance are "spirit beings" while the
body of man was made from the dust of the earth, though man is
also a created spirit.
3. James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science, (Penguin
Books, New York 1987) is a good introduction to recent discoveries
of hidden order in nature.
Originated November 4, 1995. Revised
August 14, 1996, December 22, 1996, August 19, 2002. October 3, 2020