DID YOU KNOW?

This week’s DYK was written by a prominent professor with long-term sobriety: We could study a tree for the rest of our life-time and never know everything about it, but what about the ground it grows in? The ground is something totally different from the tree. Yet a tree can only sprout and grow after its seed is planted in the ground, and the tree will continue to grow only if it remains firmly planted in that ground. This enables us to make an important observation about science and the universe. If the physical universe which we study in the natural sciences is like a tree, then the ground from which it sprang into being—which is a different kind of reality—is what we can call “the ground of being.”

 

Modern physicists tell us that the world of nature in which we live had a beginning in time, around 13.7 billion years ago. It burst into existence in what they call the Big Bang, where all the matter and energy in the physical universe–along with time and space itself—came exploding simultaneously into being. But what was there before the Big Bang? That was the ground of being, that infinite Mystery which has always existed, continues to exist as that which keeps our present day universe in existence, and will always exist, for it exists by necessity.

The ground of being—whatever it was which existed before the Big Bang—cannot be analyzed by the same scientific laws and methodologies which we use for investigating the universe which it created. Everything in the created universe, for example, is compelled to follow the laws of thermodynamics. These laws were first worked out when James Watt and others began designing new and improved steam engines during the 1760s. Proof of the validity of these newly discovered laws of physics appeared when they were able to use these principles to engineer steam engines which were efficient enough to power railroad locomotives and paddlewheel steamboats. The first internal combustion engines (which were later to enable us to build the first airplanes and efficient automobiles) also came out of their experiments and their discoveries about the laws of thermodynamics.

One of these laws of thermodynamics which Watt and his co-workers discovered was the law of entropy, which states that all energy sources eventually run down. When we use flashlights to find our way around after dark, the battery progressively runs down, until finally the light dims and fades away. When we burn fossil fuels like oil, gasoline, or coal for energy, even if we attempt to save all the ashes and gases which are the combustion products, we cannot reuse these materials to run our automobiles another few miles or produce another few kilowatts of electricity from our generators. Eventually even the sun in the sky will use up all its nuclear fuel and cease emitting light and heat, and finally everything in our universe will collapse into random movement of particles which have expended all the useful energy, so that nothing meaningful will ever be able to happen again.

Nothing in the physical universe is immune form the laws of entropy, nothing at all. Our universe came into being 13.7 billion years ago, and in another few billion years it will have run down. Nothing within our physical universe can escape this fate. And yet the law of entropy cannot apply to the ground of being, because this ground had to have existed from all eternity. If this ground of being could run down and run out of energy, it would already have done so at some point in the infinite past, long before the Big Bang which created our universe. To be continued…

The Waynedale News Staff

The Waynedale News Staff

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