Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Science And Philosophy

Like Socrates, I value philosophical reflection, not empirical details. However, scientists have shown us that details matter. Poul Anderson quotes two expressions of the second law of thermodynamics in "Science and Creation" (NESFA Vol 2, pp. 456-457). I will try to summarize them:

heat cannot be converted into work without changing something;
heat cannot flow from a body of low temperature to one of high temperature.

The second law's wider applications include entropy which is describable with calculus: when an amount of heat Q is exchanged at temperature T, then the increase of entropy, or of disorder, is equal to the integral of dQ/T. Unfortunately, I have only ever studied the most basic level of school mathematics and have no understanding of calculus, of integrals or of the significance in this context of the symbol "d." I do understand the proof that there is no highest prime number although someone even more ignorant of mathematics than myself denounced this proof as "gobbledegook" merely because he did not understand it. Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.

Scientific creationists argue that the evolution of complex order would contradict the increase of disorder. However, the spatial diffusion of stellar energy generates a cosmic disorder that is far greater than any temporary order in galactic or biological systems. Anderson argues that, before the Big Bang, energy was not chaotic but concentrated and is now scattering. What preceded the concentration? Did anything?

The northernmost point is the North Pole. If we travel to that Pole and keep going, then we travel not further north but south although in a different hemisphere. Might the earliest moment be a "Past Pole" such that, if we traveled to it and kept going, then we would travel futureward although through a different volume of space? The question "What was before the earliest moment?" must be as contradictory as "What is north of the North Pole?" Maybe there was not anything before the singularity or random quantum fluctuation generating the space and energy that inflated to become the expanding universe?

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