Re: [asa] Musing on entropy, chaos, and omniscience

From: Randy Isaac <>
Date: Sat May 23 2009 - 15:17:18 EDT

Are you implying that God's omniscience means he can distinguish between
(i.e. identify) two water molecules? Or two protons? Or two quarks?


----- Original Message -----
From: "Merv Bitikofer" <>
To: "asa" <>
Sent: Friday, May 22, 2009 9:07 PM
Subject: [asa] Musing on entropy, chaos, and omniscience

> If any of you have time for some light mental meandering, read this and
> tell me if I'm off my rocker. (Bernie, if you don't count this intro,
> three paragraphs will get you almost all of the way through this! ---long
> paragraphs are the key strategy for you!)
> Many of us will be familiar with the same types of stories and examples
> that teachers used to describe the concept of entropy: the shattered
> vase ---that can only appear to fly back together again if you play a
> movie backwards; or the messy bedroom that only gets elevated to a neater
> (or lower entropy) state by the input of work. And we’re told that this is
> one of those one-way temporal arrows of physics that, unlike momentum and
> collision scenarios ---this one won’t go backwards.
> Yet it is fun to attempt this little thought ‘experiment’ to see where it
> might lead. Take an ordinary collection of molecules --- say, the water in
> your drinking glass. And now in your mind, run the clock backward --not
> just moments, but hours and days. And we ‘see’ these molecules rushing
> back up the same pipe up into the same city water tower, and from there we
> witness what must look like ordinary diffusion. Various molecules bump
> into others, becoming more and more widely dispersed as they move farther
> back away from their joint trip down the pipe to join their buddies in
> your water glass. And as we follow their history back further down along
> the aquifers from which they were pumped, we might observe some that had
> been trapped underground for years, and others were relatively recent
> comers from a global whirlwind tour before they were rained into some
> river and seeped down to their appointment with your city well. We may
> wonder if some found one or two of their present buddies early on and
> managed to stay together all the way to your glass, but chaos theory makes
> this seem a virtual impossibility (short of temporary
> micro-crystallization) – but we’ll assume a chaotic liquid state here. So
> our historical molecules are bumping elbows with current companions that
> they will never see again –in your future drink or otherwise. I don’t
> imagine we would have to go too far back before your present glass of
> water is completely ‘atomized’ into individual molecules and quite widely,
> even globally dispersed.
> Now –with the omniscience of God Himself, we look in on all these
> molecules in their historical locations and we KNOW that they will ALL be
> keeping a future appointment in your drinking glass in the evening of May
> 22, 2009. This time, though, let’s watch the clock go forward. And as it
> plays we see something like the un-shattering vase flying together –and in
> ordinary forward time, no less! To the less omniscient inhabitants of our
> drama, it is totally unremarkable, indeed invisible. But to us, it looks
> like diffusion in perfect reverse. These not-so-omniscient, but otherwise
> savvy inhabitants would be quite amazed if we identified the disjoint
> pieces for them ahead of time and then let them observe as they came
> together, because they know the infinitesimal probability of such a thing
> happening. But for us, the probability of occurrence is 1 since we’ve seen
> its future state. (Of course our mere act of informing them & any
> interactions at all will have to have been part of the original history of
> your present thirst episode since the slightest modification throws
> everything off with chaotic amplification.) It must look all quite amazing
> from a “God’s eye” perspective. And contrary to our unidirectional
> arrow –there would seem to be a striking symmetry about these events; i.e.
> any temporary collection of molecules whether in a cloud, a drinking
> glass, or the molecule collective called ‘you.’ For after your ingestion
> of it, our drinking glass bunch all eventually go their separate ways
> again, never to be re-united. As they came, so they went. So the
> ‘asymmetry’ of such events may be in part only an asymmetry based on
> ignorance or due to a lack of prior specification.
> Tangentially, (speaking of the butterfly effect) it is rather sobering &
> simultaneously useless for us to ponder whether or not to suppress that
> next sneeze or just let’er rip – the outcome of this choice will, by next
> year, make a difference on the level of where a hurricane hits the U.S.
> coast, or whether it even forms at all.
> And now; who still wonders where the potential points of Divine influence
> can enter the causal chains in our reality? A more apt question might be:
> where aren’t they?
> --Merv Bitikofer
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Received on Sat May 23 15:17:26 2009

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