Sunday, February 23, 2003

A Philosophical Digression

There hasn't been an event to link this to, but I just want to clear some of my famous backlog. I would like to discourse on the link between creation and destruction.

They are not, as many believe, diametrically opposed. That is, destruction is not the opposite of creation. Destruction is, in fact, a variant of creation. It's only a question of entropy.

Entropy is defined as "a measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system." In the universe, entropy tends to the maximum; that is, total disorder. But in subsystems within the universe, entropy can reverse; that is, tend to minimize. For example, melting ice is an example of increasing entropy -- water losing energy and moving to the fluid state. Growing children are an example of decreasing entropy; in this case, they become more and more complex, larger and larger.

Put another way, "everything falls apart." The eventual end state of the universe will be a vast, cold, unmoving fog of sub-atomic particles. That is the natural flow of entropy.

Creation, I think most would agree, can be simply described as taking one thing, or several things, and transforming them into something new. We tend to view this, however, in only one entropic direction -- in the reverse entropic direction of the growing child.

But look at destruction. It is taking something, say a plate of glass, and, by throwing a rock through it turning it into something else. But we see this increase in disorder, this entropy, not as a creative act. I would argue differently.

What is happening is a very human thing. Many folks take great pride, either intellectual, physical or emotional, in transforming many parts into a cohesive, functioning whole. That takes hard work, concentration and discipline. It takes a sustained effort. In physics terms, it requires a vast input of energy to reverse the flow of entropy.

A lot of folks don't have that ability for sustained effort. The reasons are many. Inarticulateness in the face of anger. Frustration at the possibility of failure. Impotence. Ignorance. Oppression. Ramp up the emotion and you get destruction. It is the ignorant, impotent man's act of creation. His way of saying, "I made this!" He is working with entropy; it is his friend and helpmate. It makes the job so much easier.

So, if we see creation and destruction as two ends of a spectrum, instead of two sides of a coin, we see that people can be moved from the destructive kind of entropy to the creative kind. It only takes an input of energy, an input of effort.

By recognising destruction as the creative urge minus the energy of intelligence, articulateness, opportunity, means and raw material, we now see that by transferring some of that energy from ourselves to others we can reverse the entropy gradient.

And suddenly, we see that many social problems are subject to relief. It's all in the entropy gradient.

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