February 22, 2010

Super. Natural.

Posted in What's the Point? tagged , , , at 1:00 AM by E. M.

NERD ALERT!!  The following post discusses themes that fascinate science geeks such as myself, but may bore, annoy, anger, or give migraines to normal well-adjusted people. Proceed with caution.

We’ve established Causality as a cardinal governing force of existence.  Causality states that every effect has a cause, and that cause is independent of and greater than the effect. We also saw that a finite system like our universe had to have an initial cause that was itself “causeless”,  meaning it had no preceding event.

What can we know about the First Cause of the universe? There are essentially two options: either the First Cause is natural (conforming to the proven laws of nature), or it is supernatural (occurring by means that somehow go beyond or exist outside of the natural scientific laws of the universe).

[This is where the really geeky stuff starts.  Hang in there.  I’ll try to make it as painless as possible]

The tangible stuff in the universe consists of matter and energy.  I’m going to focus on energy, as recent discoveries in particle/quantum physics regarding the nature of matter, specifically on the subatomic scale show that at the most primary levels, matter is fundamentally less substantial and measurable than energy [feel free to get an aspirin if you need one].  In other words, matter is fundamentally less “real” than energy.  This point will become even more important in an upcoming post I’m planning for April.

Among the primary natural laws that govern the universe in regards to energy are the laws of Thermodynamics.  The first law of Thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed.  So if energy (and the matter it affects) cannot be created or destroyed in natural law, then one would have to conclude that the energy and matter in the universe have always existed and the universe in infinitely old.

The problem is that the second law of Thermodynamics essentially states that over time, the heat that energy produces dissipates throughout a system (this is called Entropy).  So then if the universe has always existed for infinity (which it must according to natural law) then entropy would be complete (all the heat energy would have dissipated) and the universe would all be the same temperature (cold).  This is called Heat Death.

This is obviously not the case.  So much so that scientists agree that our universe is finite and thus had a definitive beginning.  That brings us back to the original question about that nature of that beginning (cause) and presents a HUGE problem for proponents of the idea that the cause of the universe is a natural one.  At some point, matter, and energy did not exist, and then they came into being.

But the first law of thermodynamics tells us that it is IMPOSSIBLE for this to happen naturally.  But we know it did because…well we’re here aren’t we?  That leaves us with only one option.  However the universe came into existence; whatever the First (causeless) Cause was, it HAD to be supernatural (outside of established natural law).

Aside from being supernatural, what else can we say about the First Cause?  Stay tuned…

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