Cosmological Models: The Beginning and End of the Universe

Examining the second law of thermodynamics, and exploring the universal concept of entropy.

| January 2016

Space Dust

While physical systems may be subject to the second law and fall into inevitable decay, any system with consciousness can counteract the slide into entropy.

Photo by Fotolia/Paulista

We live in a world filled with clichés—convenient assumptions and unquestioned conclusions that many of us use without giving them a second thought. In Blindspots (Park Street Press, 2015), philosopher Christian de Quincey provokes and illuminates the dark side of jumping to conclusions, casting a skeptical eye on 21 beliefs that keep science, philosophy and spirituality in the dark. This excerpt, which explores cosmological structures and the beginning of the universe, is from Chapter 3, “The Universe.”

Quick question, probably not easy to answer: Are there good reasons to believe the universe is eternal? If so, what would those reasons be?

Actually, I think at least half of the answer is easy. If we substitute “cosmos” for “universe,” then it is impossible to even imagine a beginning to the cosmos. It must have always existed. As we’ve seen, it could not have emerged from nothing. Nothing comes from nothing.

Now, if someone prefers to say, “God created the cosmos,” my response would be, “Who or what created God?”

Of course the only meaningful answer is that God had no beginning. If God did have a beginning, what could have caused that sublime event? This line of thinking inevitably leads to an infinite regress; in other words: no beginning. But if we accept that God had no beginning, why not accept the alternative: that the cosmos had no beginning? For me, in any case, cosmos equals “God.

So that part is easy enough. But what about the other half? If the cosmos had no beginning, could it have an end?

2/5/2016 10:51:48 AM

Thomas Aquinas reasoned the first part better, with a different answer.

2/5/2016 8:38:17 AM

How is it certain the same laws found for this realm apply to what ever realm God would be found to be in? It is interesting to assume the argument that because order where we are, in this realm, where we can test, having at no time witnessed something coming from nothing or from another kind, allows us claim to deny the existence for something in a realm we have never tested, been to or ever seen. Is that science or denial?

1/29/2016 3:38:55 AM

The part played by entropy in our universe is in dire need of revision. What we in fact observe, wherever we look, is an increase in chemical and geometric intricacy with respect to time,driven by gravity. Because entropy is an inevitable by-product of this evolutionary process it, too, increases with time. For a long time now the prevailing wisdom of physics has had this arse about face. Entropy should properly be regarded as merely the "exhaust gas" of nature's evolutionary machinery! What is consistently not clearly identified, however, is the almost universal error of viewing evolution at an organism or species level. Indeed, this fallacious reasoning is apparent in the way the question is framed. Also in many of the answers. Organisms and species come and go, a necessary part of the evolutionary machinery, but the network observably survives and becomes ever more intricate, ever further from equilibrium. The evolutionary network as I underline in "The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry and Geometry Uphill", extends beyond biology. An evolutionary continuum that can be traced at least as far back as the formation of chemical elements in the stars. The oft-repeated myths invoking entropy just do not hold water. The old notions concerning the "heat-death of the universe" have been undermined. All our observations, including those of biology, now indicate a universe that is "winding up" rather than "running down" Firstly, there is the distinction to be between local and global entropy increases. A point raised by others here. Secondly, although an increase in entropy necessarily is associated with the work done in increasing chemical and geometric intricacy it should not be regarded in the context of causation. To aver, as is currently fashionable in some circles, that evolution is driven by entropy is comparable to saying that your car is driven by its exhaust gases. Thirdly, the second law of thermodynamics predicts an overall increase in entropy for spontaneous processes. The observed universal increase in intricacy is a DRIVEN process. Driven, to the best of our knowledge, by gravitation, the motivator of stellar nucleosynthesis . The process which generates nearly all chemistry and ultimately provides the molecular and energetic requirements for biology. In at least one instance :>) And, in the light of current astronomical studies.we can reasonably speculate many more. This together with closely related issues comprises the theme of my "The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry and Geometry Uphill". Stars, planets and biological entities are born and die. "Life", in the broader sense of a universal evolutionary network, goes on.