The Laws of Thermodynamics
This argument for the existence of God is based in science, so it can be a point of discussion with atheists and agnostics who will only talk with you about the existence of God from science, reason and logic.
Thermodynamics (from the root words: thermo = heat … dynamic = power) is a branch of physics that deals with energy and work of a system – including fundamental physical quantities like temperature, energy, and entropy – it studies the efficiency of energy transfer and exchange.
There are four laws or principles of Thermodynamics:
- Zeroth Law – if two systems are in thermal equilibrium with a third system, they are also in thermal equilibrium with each other.
- First Law – The energy going into a system, minus the energy coming out of a system, equals the change in the energy stored in the system – energy can be transformed (changed from one form to another), but cannot be created nor destroyed – energy is conserved in all thermodynamic processes.
- Second Law – Heat will, of its own accord, flow only from a hot object to a cold object – in a closed system, heat cannot pass from a colder body to a warmer body by itself – it is impossible to finish any real physical process with as much useful energy as you had at the beginning – while many physical processes that satisfy the first law are possible, the only processes that occur in nature are those for which the entropy of the system either remains constant or increases.
- Third Law – the entropy of a perfect crystal approaches zero as the absolute temperature approaches zero – the entropy of a pure perfect crystal is zero (0) at zero Kelvin (0° K).
Entropy is an important word to understand as we talk about the scientific Laws of Thermodynamics. It is often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in a system – the gradual decline into disorder. The entropy of a substance increases whenever the energy it possess to do work decreases. It measures the spontaneous dispersal of energy at a specific temperature – how much energy is spread out and how widely it spreads. Entropy increases as usable energy decreases and unusable energy increases. That leads to an increase in disorganization, randomness and chaos.
The First Law of Thermodynamics is often called the Law of Conservation of Energy. Though energy can be transferred from one system to another in many forms (e.g. from solid to liquid to gas to plasma and back again), it cannot be created or destroyed. That means the total amount of energy available in the universe is constant.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics is often called the Law of Increased Entropy. The First Law states that while quantity remains the same, The Second Law states the quality of matter and energy deteriorates gradually over time. In the process of usable energy being used for growth and repair, it is converted into unusable energy. That means usable energy is irretrievably lost in the form of unusable energy.
British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington, who became Director of the Cambridge Observatory and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1914, was an expert on General Relativity. In fact, it was Eddington who discovered an error in Einstein’s theory (known as the “fudge factor” Einstein built into his theory to try to show that the universe was static and did not have a beginning – the so-called “cosmological constant”). Eddington’s understanding of General Relativity was later supported by Russian mathematician Alexander Friedmann, Dutch astronomer Willem de Sitter, and American astronomer Edwin Hubble. Here’s what Sir Eddington said in 1927 about the importance of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
“The law that entropy always increases-the second law of thermodynamics-holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations-then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation-well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.” Eddington, A.S., “The Nature of the Physical World,” , The Gifford Lectures 1927, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, 1933, reprint, pp.74-75. Emphasis original
So, what does this have to do with proving the existence of God? Many atheists still believe that the universe is eternal and infinite. They were dealt a blow by General Relativity, but some still hold to the old idea that the universe has been around forever and didn’t need a Cause (e.g. Creator). However, the Second Law of Thermodynamics states that energy deteriorates over time. If the universe was truly eternal, it would have already run out of energy and you and I wouldn’t exist. The fact that the universe is running out of energy every second but still has energy for heat and work, goes to prove that it had a beginning. Using the Law of Causality – that every material effect must have an adequate antecedent cause – we know that that the universe had a cause. That brings us back to the question – what “caused” the universe?
The Law of Thermodynamics does not prove that God exists, but it is strong proof that the universe had a beginning. Interestingly, the Bible starts with that very point – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) The fact that the heavens and the earth had a beginning is a powerful point of defense for the existence of God. If God did not Create the heavens and the earth, what did? What started everything? You may find that atheists who accept the scientific truth of the Second Law of Thermodynamics may agree to the idea of a “big bang” as the beginning of the universe, but what started the bang? What caused everything to come into existence?
Scientists are now able to describe some of the events of the beginning of the universe to the shortest fraction of a second. Here’s how science historian Owen Gingerich described the events of that first moment of time.
“At that point, at a second split so fine that no clock could measure it, the entire observable universe is compressed within the wavelike blur described by the uncertainty principle, so tiny and compact that it could pass through the eye of a needle. Not just this room, or the earth, or the solar system, but the entire universe squeezed into a dense dot of pure energy. And then comes the explosion.” Owen Gingerich – Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and of the History of Science at Harvard University and a senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
What could have the power necessary to compress enough energy into a space of time too small to calculate at temperatures greater than any heat known to exist now anywhere in the universe? God – “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3)
There is so much more we could say about this proof for the existence of God – and we will say it in weeks and months to come. These scientific laws support the belief in the existence of God – and are, therefore, a powerful defense of the Faith given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ –
“He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1:2-3
“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:16
In our next study about the existence of God – we will look at the Law of Morality.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
I’ve engaged in discussions with this argument in the past. The debate invariably turns to that of infinite causality: “Okay, so if everything has a cause, then what caused God? And what caused that? And what caused…?” This isn’t really a problem if you’re prepared for it, but I got taken by surprise the first time and it took a moment for me to regain my footing.