Entropy and peace

By Mary Patterson

If you listen closely between KCUR and KLJC you can hear it. In the faint static you can hear the beginnings of time. 13.7 billion years ago the matter of the entire universe was tightly packed into the space of an atom. Then in a singular titanic event a burst of energy exploded the universe outwards at millions of miles per hour. This burst of energy is what we can still hear echoing about space as static on the FM.

The Big Bang* began what Stephen Hawking calls “the arrow of time.” In this grand universe the direction of time can be determined by an increase in entropy. Entropy is randomness or chaos. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that everything in our cosmos becomes more chaotic by the minute. As the universe expands, chaos increases. Actually, everything in our lives becomes more chaotic by the minute, unless there is an input of energy into the system. In the universe chaos is inevitable, but, in our civilized world, chaos can be reversed with planning and energy.

Oh, how hard I work to clean my daughter’s room before a sleepover! Yet, 5 minutes after the girls arrive all is chaos again. It takes a morning to restore order. In one motion a toddler dumps legos (a definite increase in entropy) and we must input energy restoring the legos to their bucket. The direction of time can easily be determined by following the increase in entropy. It takes planning and energy to build a beautiful sand castle. The direction of natural time can be deduced by watching if the sand castle is being swept away by the tide or if it is miraculously becoming more complex and beautiful when left alone. If we watched a movie of the sand castle becoming more complex and beautiful, we would suspect that the movie is playing in reverse.

Peace is a decrease in entropy, it is ordered living in the absence of physical conflict. Peace is working against the increasing chaos of the cosmos. Leave 5 toddlers alone in a room full of toys to witness that peace is not the natural course. It took two years of careful planning to devise the Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of Germany. Planes flew into Berlin day and night like clockwork. After World War II tremendous efforts were made to secure peace in Europe (the creation of the Euro still amazes me). Careful planning and effort has succeeded in preventing European war for the past 60 years. This has not come easily or without heated debate.

While the Marshall Plan took 2 years to devise, we only spent 60 days planning the reconstruction of Iraq. There seemed to be some magical thinking that Iraq would not obey the laws of entropy, that democracy, electricity, clean water, and security would fall into place, as if a bucket of legos ceremoniously dumped would arrange themselves into a castle upon hitting the floor. The chaos that followed the fall of Saddam Hussein will take years to restore. Many Iraqis believe it will be 10-30 years before their country is livable again.

War is an increase in chaos. It takes relatively little planning to bomb a city, to destroy buildings, or to destroy infrastructure. What we are seeing in Iraq is an ever increasing wildness and the breakdown of carefully constructed barriers to ethnic hatred. To reverse this breakdown and bring peace will take tremendous effort and intelligent planning. At this moment, our military leaders are laying down the tracks to yet another US-led war. After World War II it would have been unthinkable to even propose the idea of war. Yet, here we are a mere few years after 2 major military conflicts and it seems chaos has flooded the Pentagon into an oblivion of endless wars.

The Iraq conflict has been in motion for 6 years now. Peacelovers in Kansas City have been faithfully speaking, writing and standing in the cold as a witness to peace. My point is this- we cannot give up now. Peace is going upstream. It will take the daily effort of thousands to prevent yet another war. It will take our voices holding the government accountable for Iraqi children who need water, electricity, and healthcare. It will take emails and letters demanding aid for Iraqi refugees here in the U.S.

How badly do we want peace? Do we believe that a peaceful civilized world is possible? The New York Philharmonic played in North Korea, a testament that peace efforts can have beautiful results. Let’s take a deep breath, and continue the work of peace. It may feel like walking upstream, or picking up those legos again and again, but, it is worth it. If one child is saved the horrors of war, if one family remains together because of our efforts, then we won’t mind building the sand castle again.

Which direction is this video going?

* The Big Bang theory was first proposed by a Catholic Priest. Russian scientists initially rejected it, claiming it was too creationist. The Vatican embraced it, and the American scientific community doubted it, until the evidence supporting it became overwhelming. Even Albert Einstein did not believe it until later in his life.


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