Entropy and the arrow of time

Curiously enough, after writing about entropy and the human race, I found a very nice article, recently published also, about entropy in Scientific American.

You can check the whole text here. I hope you enjoy it

Entropy and the fate of the human race

This is not an upbeat posting, so if you are trying to cheer up go look somewhere else.

It is not that I am depressed or that I am a pessimist, which I don't think I am but lately I have started to think of the very few chances of success humanity has at the moment. With the latest sharp increases in the price of oil and the scarcity of some food supplies, people in the poorest countries, like Haiti, have started to rebel.

Hunger will make that to you. Especially if it is not only you but your children who are hungry.

A consequence of the second law of thermodynamics is the continuous increase in entropy. Entropy could be defined (loosely) as a measure of disorganization, randomness.

You might say that humanity is increasing in entropy. Disorganization is increasing - randomness is sure to follow and with it, lawlessness.

I believe that the root cause of our economic problems is that there are too many people. Humanity has reached a point where it infests the Earth like a cancer or a fungus that will just not quit. Cancer is very successful at reproducing - and then when the host is killed, cancer cells die as well. Humanity's success as a species may very well be its undoing.

I am not saying that humanity is a cancer infesting the earth, just making an analogy. But the problem in reality is the tremendous amount of people. As more and more bodies compete for the available resources, trouble is sure to follow. And resources are definitely limited, as the current crisis is clearly demonstrating.

I was telling a friend that the only logical outcome and the best solution is a little (or a large) simplification. In chess, when you start playing, you have too many pieces on the board and, eventually, if you want to be able to really play your opponent, you have to engage in a little give-and-take, a quid-pro-quo that will move some of the pieces (both your adversary's and yours) off the board, offering a relief from congestion. We, as a species, surely need some relief from congestion. Imagine how much better the world would be if population were half, a third, a tenth of what it is now...

Successful players can limit the give and take and keep it balanced. My only hope is that as humanity engages in this simplification, which I think is inevitable, some of us will manage to remain and show their descendants how to be better men and women that what we are today. Hopefully the survivors will learn from the experience and avoid future disasters.

And that is an optimistic wish.

Pangea Day is a success and Cameron Diaz is in it!

Pangea day, May 10th. A big success and a star studded event. Cameron Díaz (picture above) and other celebrities participated and the event was held in the spirit of brotherhood, that what happens in one corner of the Earth affects us all.
The Los Angeles Times has an excellent article here. I recommend you check it out.
The main activity leading to Pangea Day (check my previous posting on the subject) was the production of a number of videos and movies. These can be watched at the Pangea Day website. Highly recommended.

Free will and religion

This week I listened to Dr. Ginger Campbell's episode of her "Books and ideas" podcast on free will. In it she refers to a book on the subject of free will and makes some interesting reflections, such as the fact that we may do what we want but we cannot will what we want - meaning that while we may act on our desires and impulses, such desires may not be under our control.

As an example, some months ago I was discussing with a colleague if she had gotten married of her own free will and she responded she did, no one forced her. I then questioned why she had gotten married. She said because she fell in love. I kept asking her why until she really got upset but my point was, she got married because she fell in love and because once you are in love you are supposed to get married. That is really an expectation set by your upbringing, society, whatever. I questioned her on why do you have to get married. That really upset her and I abandoned my line of questioning but the episode clearly illustrates what Dr. Campbell was mentioning: while my friend did willingly get married, getting married was not a decision she took, she was compelled by tradition or social convention to do so.

So what does religion have to do with all this? Very simple, religion is thrust upon us most of the time. We do not chose our religion, most of us are born in it. And then moving away from it is a really difficult process, that many people just never undertake. Of those who stay in the religion of their parents, many are not really deeply convinced believers, even if they think they are. They go through the motions and attend church because that is what they are supposed to do; they believe in God and have faith and pray, because that is what you do, what your parents did and your grandparents before them.

My contention is that many people just do not have any choice but to be religious and "believe". Most people never question religiosity, they just practice their "faith" and never apply any critical thinking to their "beliefs" which should rather be called "traditions".

That is the reason why Dr. Richard Dawkins says that forcing religion on children amounts to child abuse. Children have really no way to defend themselves from this imposition and they grow up in the tradition of going to church and "believing". And then, they may be hooked for life.

Never for one moment do these people get an opportunity to exercise "free will" and apply their critical thinking skills to the subject of faith and religion. They think they want to believe, they think they want to have faith but the whole thing has been thrust onto them.

Having been in the grips of religion for over 40 years, I understand how difficult it is to say "I will not believe anymore" and how this can bring you into serious problem with your loved ones, who are still in the tradition and dare not think about not believing.

But you can. And how liberating it is.