I was part of a discussion a while back with my brother, which was memorable and life-tweaking, as any other discussion I can recall. My brother -- university-educated and a fan of science, math, and history, like me -- is quite capable of having a high-octane debate on a palette as big as the sky.
We were initially, as per usual, bemoaning the chaotic state of the world. About how having hope, while good in theory, seemed to too-often fail in actual practice. In short, what hope did humanity have in the long run, my brother posed to me as a final concluding thought, to his long laundry list of societal woes ...
Well, I said, have you ever heard of "entropy"? You know, that second law of thermal dynamics, that universal principle that tends to cause all physical systems to eventually move to a state of "disorder" -- Entropy gives me hope.
My brother, once he recovered from the initial shock of the idea, simply asked, How does the principle of Entropy give you hope? If anything, it makes me say, what's the use ... the Universe seems rigged against us ...
Well let's start with the definition of this natural law that characterizes physical systems of our planet, and indeed it would appear, the Universe too; Entropy, it's right up there with Newton's principle of 'equal and opposite reactions':
1: a measure of the unavailable energy in a closed thermodynamic system that is also usually considered to be a measure of the system's disorder, that is a property of the system's state, and that varies directly with any reversible change in heat in the system and inversely with the temperature of the system; broadly: the degree of disorder or uncertainty in a systemFor example, take a your typical sandcastle built with care, down by the shore.
[Or more simply put: ]
2 b: a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder
What happens to it in the long run. Entropy happens.
Or, take a your typical house, left to fend for itself in the elements.
What happens to it in the long run. Entropy extracts its toll. The House will eventually crumble if no one does any maintenance ... to counteract it.
My brother at this point goes, How does this give you hope? Seems pretty depressing to me.
Well, I ask, what is the only force we know about in the Universe, that is able to counteract Entropy? That is able to swim upstream against the forces of disorder?
Life. Life is the organizing principle that supersedes, and is even more powerful, than the principle of Entropy. Life survives by creating order, from the chaos.
My brother, now intrigued but puzzled, asserts, But Living things eventually die. How's that creating order? Entropy still eventually "wins."
Right, all individuals eventually go the way of all living things -- we all eventually die. BUT the structures we've built, the knowledge we've gathered, the lives we've influenced -- THAT all continues. Life's systems continue on. The state of order and stability we create, that leaves the blueprint for rebuilding, whenever the storms of chaos wash our ordered-state away.
[Ant Hill monuments]
Life is the antidote to Entropy. Life is why we see any order at all. And that gives me hope.
Life is stronger than Chaos, in the long run. It's why we are here.
It just takes lots of hard work, to prove it. Time and time again.
-------- -------- --------
PS. My brother has since gone on to build a homestead, with his own two hands, and tons of sweat equity.
I've gone on to build natural resources databases and applications, that help our Government
know better decide, which resources to protect, and which resources, to let harvesters stake their claims to.
Entropy, takes work, to keep at bay. But it's always there, prodding us on ...
If we want a "better world" -- we just might damn-well have to build it. With our own two hands. And with the sweat-equity of our neighbors too. Life will find a way. It's why were here.
To one day stop entropy from winning ... Intellects willing, and well-ordered and working cooperatively, of course. We can solve it.
The question is, as always, will we. Or will we simply throw our individual hands up in despair?
And bemoan, What's the use? ... The work we must do, is TOO hard.