Entropy in the Old Creation

Is the Universe Running Down?



"There is none like thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.
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 King.
At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.
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."
(Jeremiah 10:6-13)



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. (See The Uniqueness of Creation Week).

Living Systems and Entropy

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 classical thermodynamics.

Natural and Spiritual Energy and Power

"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."

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."


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

p x > h

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 that question:

"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 11: 33-36)

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 102:25-27)

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, of course.

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 5:24-29).

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 characteristics).

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 show.

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 to come.

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 KJV).

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 their inheritance
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 destiny.

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 savable.

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 Hebrews:

"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" (Ephesians).

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 nothing:

"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 glory.

"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 mankind.

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 cases only.

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)



Notes:

1. With regard to what we commonly call the formation of "rust," i.e., formation of iron oxides, Larry Henling (lmh@xray.caltech.edu) 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 (dcavanau@ro.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),
dH=-196.5 KCal/mole,
dG=-177.1 KCal/mole

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 heat.

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 proceed.

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 and use.

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 of intangibles.

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


References:

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.



Lambert Dolphin
lambert@ldolphin.org
Library
Originated November 4, 1995. Revised August 14, 1996, December 22, 1996, August 19, 2002.