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

From: Terry M. Gray <>
Date: Sat May 23 2009 - 15:26:07 EDT


I've been hoping to jump into this conversation and this seems like an
easy one to begin with.

I would give a resounding "yes" to all of your questions and this is
key to my own views of how God works in the world. It seems self-
evidence to me. If he can't then he's not omniscient.

Would this be a controversial notion?


On May 23, 2009, at 1:17 PM, Randy Isaac wrote:

> Are you implying that God's omniscience means he can distinguish
> between (i.e. identify) two water molecules? Or two protons? Or two
> quarks?
> Randy
> ----- 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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Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
Computer Support Scientist
Chemistry Department
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523
(o) 970-491-7003 (f) 970-491-1801

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Received on Sat May 23 15:26:27 2009

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