Sunday, January 31, 2010

Five Second ... Nibley

Hugh Nibley, "The Meaning of the Temple," Temple and Cosmos, Ch. 1:

One basic proposition receives particular attention ... the well-known second law of thermodynamics: everything runs down. ... Let us quote [Lyall] Watson, the biologist:
Left to itself, everything tends to become more and more disorderly, until the final and natural state of things is completely random distribution of matter. Any kind of order ... is unnatural and happens only by chance encounters. ... The further combination of molecules into anything as highly organized as a living organism is wildly improbable. Life is a rare and unreasonable thing ... infinitesimal.

There is no chance of us being here at all. ... The nuclear physicist P. T. Matthews asks:
Why is the proton stable... [with a lifespan of 50 minutes vs. 10 to the -8 seconds]? There is no obvious reason why it should not disintegrate into, say, a positive pion and neutrino... . By relentless operation of the Second Law, essentially every proton would by now have decayed into lighter particles. Clearly the opposite is the case, and there must be some very exact law which is preventing this from happening. ... A human being is at very best ... quite unimaginabl[y] improbabl[e].

So the physical scientists and the naturalists agree that if nature has anything to say about it, we wouldn't be here. This is the paradox which Professor Wald of Harvard says, "The spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible. ..." [Matthews continues]
If, after seeing a room in chaos, it is subsequently found in good order, the sensible inference is not that time is running backwards, but that some intelligent person has been in to tidy up. If you find the letters of the alphabet ordered on a piece of paper to form a beautiful sonnet, you do not deduce that teams of monkeys have been kept for millions of years strumming on typewriters, but rather that Shakespeare has passed this way.

It was the evolutionist who seriously put forth the claim that an ape strumming on a typewriter for a long enough time could produce, by mere chance, all the books in the British Museum, but did any religionist ever express such boundless faith? I don't know any religious person who ever had greater faith than that. ...

We are beginning to realize ... that when we speak of everything, we must consider what we are not aware of, along with what we are aware of ... The Egyptian word for everything is ntt fwtt: everything I know and everything I don't. [He cites physicists, linguistics, computer scientists, and others discussing problems that are impossible for them to solve.]

Two things stand out in all this. First is the awareness of an organizing, ordering force in the universe that is very active and runs counter to all we know of the laws of science. The second is the awareness of great gaps in our knowledge that may account for our failure to discover the source of that force.

1 comment:

  1. I have just added a Reference List to my economics blog with economic data series, history, bibliographies etc. for students & researchers.