God and the Second Law of Thermodynamics
God and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

God and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

I just returned from a camping trip at Letchworth State Park in New York State, with Michael, my children, their spouses, and Michael’s boys.  Letchworth is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East”, and while this name may be a bit generous, it is a very beautiful park. We were eight adults in four tents, camping the way we like – “roughing it.”  Unfortunately, the trip started with two days of poor-quality air from the fires in Quebec, followed by a number of days of rain in campsites that turned out to be very, very muddy.  Turns out that roughing-it can be rough!  

This led to a number of thoughts and conversations about the weather…and about order and disorder.  Anyone who has tent-camped knows that it doesn’t take long for there to be chaos as it relates to where to find things.  The most common question during our camping trip was, “Who knows where the ____ is?” (The second most common question was, “Who knows what the weather will be for the next couple of hours?”)

This led me to think about the second law of thermodynamics.  The second law of thermodynamics talks about how nature moves from order to disorder.  Thermodynamics actually addresses the laws of heat, and how, without energy, things will cool down and get more disordered.  Think about a car that sits without being driven for months, then years.  Tires go flat, things begin to rust, fall off, and so on.  And as we think about the wildfires in Quebec, we know that new energy keeps coming in, which keeps the fires burning.

Renowned scientist Steven Pinker says, “The Second Law defines the ultimate purpose of life, mind, and human striving: to deploy energy and information to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order.”

I love this.  This reminds me of our purpose in fulfilling the Great Commitment of Genesis 1:28 and 2:15. It reminds me of our purpose to work.  Cultivation is all about bringing order (countering entropy) so that we might grow food. When we stop cultivating, vegetation joins the process of entropy, destroying the order that came about because of work (the added energy).

In camping, and in life, we strive to bring order.  When we stop striving, we can’t find where anything is!  The purpose of being commanded to “subdue the earth” in Genesis 1:28, is to help curb some of that disorder and bring creation under our will, which is subjected to God’s will, in order for people to flourish.

Sadly, the same is true of our faith.  Without the purposeful process of discipleship empowered by the God of order, our faith gradually diminishes as the process of entropy is not purposefully challenged.  Discipleship and the “church gathered” on Sundays help to keep entropy at bay, while we seek to actively and intentionally live out the call to work against entropy from Monday-Saturday as the “church scattered.”  We do our work as an act of worship.

Just some musings from this happy camper (who wasn’t really happy the whole time, to be honest!).  Oh…and a couple of other lessons from this past trip…avoid poison ivy, don’t put your tent on the spot where the water drains, and beware of popcorn that can crack teeth.  Just sayin’!

Disorder is all around us, people, and we need to be on guard! 🙂