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The Creator and the Casino
In Defense of the Faith
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Wendy Wippel

Baron C.P. Snow, English chemist and novelist, once wrote a book entitled The Two Cultures. In it, he sought to explain the wonders of science (specifically thermodynamics) to the non-scientific mind. He chose a gambling analogy. But in this game (like most casinos), the end was fixed from the beginning.

You may remember from junior- high science that the laws of thermodynamics explain the fundamental workings of our universe. Specifically, how energy and matter came to be, and how energy and matter interact.

This seemingly esoteric question actually became sort of a pressing issue in England right about the time that our founding fathers were hammering out the Constitution. That's because the late 1700s, in England, were considered the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution, if you've forgotten your junior- high history, is considered a major turning point in history, being a period of time marked by mankind's transition from hand production methods to machines which used water power, steam power, or power in the form of wood or coal to do the work that men had done before.

As those first machines were invented, their inventors began to understand the physics behind them. Work could produce energy, and energy, in turn, could be converted back into work. And then they had a "Eureka!" moment.  It should be possible to create a machine that could keep the cycle going. A machine that could create energy by doing work, and then use that energy to do more work. And so on, and so on. Forever. A perpetual motion machine. They believed it was possible.

But it wasn't that simple. Ultimately, no dice.

The consolation prize? They eventually figured out exactly why it wasn't possible, and that's why we have the laws of thermodynamics.

Three of them, to be exact:

First Law of Thermodynamics: Matter is neither created nor destroyed.

This law says that although matter and energy can be transferred back and forth between the two forms, all the energy and matter that ever existed is all that will ever exist. What we have now is all we’ll ever have. Done deal. All she wrote.

Or, more correctly, all He wrote. The God who created the universe embedded the first law of thermodynamics right in the book of Genesis:

God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 1:32-2:3 NKJV) 

God said that on the seventh day His work was done. Science says that all the energy (a product of work) the universe will ever have is already here. No more can be created. 

No more created. In the whole universe. In the entirety of existence.

Just like the Bible declares. God's work was done.

Second Law of Thermodynamics: Entropy always increases.

This law states that although work creates energy and energy, in turn can be used to do work, every conversion is less than 100% efficient. Some energy is always lost. And you cannot obtain more energy without more work. 

You don't have to be Einstein to figure out that this is a one way process. The universe is continually losing usable energy, and that energy cannot be brought back.  You'd have to input additional work to get it back, and the amount of work in the universe is irrevocably fixed. (See Law #1).  

Funny. The Bible actually gave us the second law of thermodynamics too:

The heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; they will all grow old like a garment.  (Hebrews 11:1)

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, And look on the earth beneath. ..The earth will grow old like a garment, And those who dwell in it will die in like manner; But My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not be abolished. (Isaiah 51:6)

Which is a pretty incredible insight, actually. Particles decay, mountains erode, the rotation of the earth is slowing down, stars go cold. The earth is wearing out like a garment because order deteriorates into disorder. Entropy is irrevocable. Loss is continual, and what's lost cannot be recovered. And nothing gets a pass.

As Homer Simpson observed, in one episode, "In this house we obey the second law of thermodynamics!" Order becomes disorder, without exception. We obey the 2nd law of thermodynamics in my house as well. Order deteriorates into disorder.

(I just realized that the implication. That in heaven the second law won't apply. Which means we won't have to clean! I guess that's why it's heaven!)

But I digress.

Law #3 is a little more difficult to conceptualize, so let's take advantage of D.P. Snow's gambling analogy:

1) First Law of Thermodynamics: Matter is neither created nor destroyed.

  • CP Snow's Gambling Analogy: "You can't win." (You can't ever end up with more than you started with.

2) Second Law of Thermodynamics: Order decays inevitably into disorder.

  • CP Snow's Gambling Analogy: "You can't even break even." What you have will inevitably slip away.

3) Third Law of Thermodynamics (according to C.P. Snow: "You can't get out of the game." Scientifically, although energy is continually being lost, you can't ever reach absolute zero (where all energy is gone). Absolute zero represents, essentially, annihilation.  

And why can't we get there?  One important factor has been left out of the equation.

The second law of thermodynamics basically describes a universe that resembles an old-fashioned clock. One that has to be wound up first, so that it can then wind down.

Which begs the question: who wound it up in the first place?

Even the famous agnostic physicist Robert Jastrow (now deceased) once observed (likening the Big Bang to a cosmic egg from which the universe "hatched") that a cosmic egg would have required a cosmic chicken.

Cosmologists all over the world have recognized that a universe with a beginning, by the laws of science, had to have had something that set that beginning in motion. A first cause. 

The Cosmic Chicken. The being that created the cosmic egg. A being outside of, and apart from, the universe created. And that's why you can't get out of the game. It's that being we have to answer to. 

Third Law of Thermodynamics: There's no getting out of the game.

I've decided to add my own interpretation of the three laws of thermodynamics, admittedly from the non-agnostic perspective. So here's goes.

Wendy's corollaries:

1) This is the only game in town.  "The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
And His kingdom rules over all."Psalm 103:19 )

2) But this game is fixed. “What is man, that he could be pure? And he who is born of a woman, that he could be righteous? (Job 15:14)

3) We all need an ace in the hole. "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

I've got an ace in the hole, and if you're reading this, you probably do too (the gambling idiom "ace in the hole" defined by the Free Online Dictionary as "an advantage that other people may not know about". And we all know there's a whole lot of people who don't.

It's the perfect season to change that. And anyone can be dealt a new hand.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. " (2 Corinthians 5:17) 

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: Mock of Ages

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