entropy: precarious life and big idea
My big idea was conceived in a shanty town in Chile in the 1990s.
Guayacan had been a thriving part of the north Chilean town of Coquimbo at one time. British people had gone there too in the 1890s. Guayacan was built around a copper foundry in the 19th century. The foundry owners lived in big houses built of high-quality mud-brick, while the workers of the foundry inhabited wattle and daub houses although with big gardens at the back. While the copper foundry furnace burned night and day, there was money. But when I went there a hundred years later the foundry was gone and only clinker on the beach remained as evidence of its former existence.
The little fishing port with its old houses was now a crumbling shanty part of town. Faded glory gave it quaintness, but each earth quake took its toll and many houses now leaned precariously. One big house had a preservation order on it, but the earth quakes had taken no notice of this – they had shaken the front off it. The house stood with no front so you could see into the rooms with their outdated wallpaper. It made you feel uncomfortable looking into the private space now exposed.
I spent a lot of time doing work on my old house that in the 19th century had been the post office. I liked living there, but as I observed the old houses, I came to realize that termites would eventually eat all the new beams I’d had put in, and all my renovation work would return to dust.
Of course doing up houses has an immediate benefit in providing a place to live, and places to rent out and so have an income. But ultimately the whole shanty town would be swept away by modernity, and be no more.
My efforts in the shanty town were destined to return to dust, and I would also return to dust maybe in the English cemetery close by. I expected to be immortalized as the ‘Gringa of Guayacan’ one day since I expected to remain living in Chile. What I realized, however, is that the written word has an efficacy that other creative efforts do not have. The written word is not swept away; it does not turn to dust. So it is that I started writing.
It was here in the shanty town that I conceived my big idea – the idea that would direct my life and become the fire of my soul. I started writing every day except Sundays. I’ve done this for 26 years now. Even while everything was collapsing around me, and earth tremors shook the house, I could still write.
I’ve expected to become famous since age five. Five decades have passed, that is half a century. I’m now on this side of the hill, not the other side, the slope going down bit. I’ve exchanged the pinkness of youth for increasing serenity. Though I’m still remarkably fit in many ways – but I put this down to poverty and having worked as a cleaner lady. I did this when I got back to England. Anyway aging was never going to happen to me, so this is quite surprising. It does not seem to be avoidable.
Instead of remaining the Gringa of Guayacan, I came back to England and became an office cleaner for Derby City Council. I fought dust and disorder in Derby’s offices for nine years, but every day I was writing. I regarded pushing a vacuum cleaner round an office as a work out, for which I was paid, rather than having to pay to keep fit. I always felt sorry for the people working in the offices, condemned to sit at desks and sort out other people’s (stupid) problems, while I only had my own problems to sort out. It was my job to smile as I went round emptying bins. My appearance in the office meant that the others could go home, so they looked happy too.
I finally found an empty office in Derby going cheap. I bought it, moved there, converted it back into a house and rented out rooms to lodgers. This allowed me to give up the cleaning job.
So I now live in the multicultural part of Derby and rent rooms to lodgers who come from all over the world – from crumbling shanty towns – young people who seek work in Britain since they have no work in their own countries.
I and my five lodgers share a back yard with the house next door where there are 13 rooms rented out. There’s also a cat with one ear that jumped over the back fence and moved in.
Our street has constant visits from the police and ambulances, and there are always beer cans thrown in the front garden. I’ve become Tess of the Wheelie Bins trying to cope with the neighbour’s inability to recycle and put their bins out on the right day.
I feel at home here, surrounded by people; it’s like living in a shanty town. I know a lot about disorder, nonsense and things that are run down.
Finally, my dream came true and my book The Steps of Creation was published in July 2016. No one has yet opened the book, except for two people. One got really excited and said it contained the most original ideas he’d ever read, but then forgot what they were. The other was still trying to read it last time I heard. I just keep on writing, when I’m not cleaning my own house occupied by six people or fixing things that break.
I think I’m nearly ready to present my big idea to the world. This is it:
That, in essence, evolution is based on increasing disorder, a running down. At the genetic level dysfunction increases over time. The reason for this is that mutations are errors in the replication of DNA. These errors cause genes to become switched off. This represents a loss of information carried by the genetic code.
However, and this is a very big however, switched-off genes can be useful in that they can give rise to modifications in traits that bring about adaptation to new environments. When switched-off genes are useful because the modifications they produce are beneficial, they are positively selected by natural selection.
There are hundreds of examples of plants and animals that have modifications such as reduction in structures and organs that are missing such as moles which have no eyes. All these examples are underpinned by mutation causing genes to cease to function. There are also all sorts of modifications that have led to the evolution of a great diversity of species.
This is the grand principle of evolution that sprang from the dust of a shanty town. Error causes loss of information in the genetic code and this is passed on.
I conceived this principle in my mind, but I had no name for it. Then, one day I read the appendix of a book that spoke of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I realized that the name for my principle was entropy. But this is not entropy involving the running down of energy, but the running down of information in a code that is a transmitted message. I now name this Error Entropy (this notion of entropy is different to Shannon Entropy). It gave the name to my theory: Entropic Evolution.
Here is the bigger idea: if Entropic Evolution in essence runs down, then there must a proceeding phase when it is ‘wound up’.
Increasing disorder shows that order was the initial state. Loss of function shows that function preceded dysfunction. Reduction in parts shows that wholeness came first. Entropic Evolution presupposes complexity in the basic kinds of life. These then evolved over time essentially in a downwards direction.
These scientific observations are attuned with the belief that God created life, and that He created complex life. God did not create every species, but a certain number of basic types or kinds. It is the complexity of the basic original types that has allowed them to evolve. Evolution has been free to take many different directions, bringing about a multitude of adaptations to many different environments for the various forms of life.
I have called this Nanocreation because it is the creation of life through creation of the DNA code. God conferred upon life the possibility of evolution by the operation of natural selection.
In the shanty town as I saw the houses around me visibly sink into the ground. I knew that these houses had once been newly built, maybe even luxury houses of the 19th century. The poverty-stricken shanty town had once been a thriving economic concern when the copper foundry was there. But 150 years later disintegration had set in, and the houses were clinging precariously onto verticality.
I lived a life in a place that may have had a profound subconscious influence on my writing. But I also had contact with the world of science via books and scientific journals. Molecular biology was advancing during the 1990s as my theory took shape. Many details about DNA were confirming my innovative concepts which were written on bits of paper.
Research into the origin of things also gave me an inner life. I have never got bored or given up hope. The well-spring of inspiration wells up each day and is always new. The God who created life gives life to the soul, and the soul, at least, never grows old.
One day people will listen. Maybe after I have returned to dust I will have my say. My words will live on.
Out of the precariousness of human life sprang an idea – if it is truth, it will outlast the vagaries of time. It will build up. These written words will not pass away as everything around us is lost. What is old will be renovated, and made new.
Clare Merry written in May 2018
an evolving creationist
On a bus between Coquimbo and La Serena in the north of Chile it came to me that the answer is genetics.
And the question? Well, it’s a long story, but I had come to believe both in evolution and creation. Most people would say these are totally contradictory beliefs; you opt for one or you opt for the other. In 1992 I found myself in the very confusing and awkward position of believing in both. So I had to sort it out, or I would no longer sleep at night.
Biology was my first love since as far back as I can remember. I was fascinated with trying to understand plants and animals since maybe the age of five or even two when I’m said to have kept on pulling the peony buds off the plant that grew in our garden to gleefully present to my mother.
When I went to university aged 19, it was to study biology (though I finally graduated in anthropology and sociology with a modular degree course). At this time in 1980 I became an Evangelical and this brought me into contact with Creationist books. Sometime later I became a Catholic, though I retained many Evangelical beliefs and contacts.
In Chile searching for a means to understand evolution and creation as both representing the truth, I remembered something that I had read in a Creationist book some 12 years earlier in 1980. I remembered the comment that the horse had ‘de-evolved’ not evolved. In effect, the primitive horse possessed four toes on the front legs and three toes on the back legs. Over time these had been reduced to one. The modern horse runs on one hoof on each leg i.e. one toe on each leg. This adapts it to fast running in grassland environments. (Incidentally the evolution of the horses’ teeth actually created these grasslands). This equine story is presented as a classic textbook proof of evolution. I’d stored this insight I’d read about in the back of my mind.
1992 Chile: Loss of parts – that rang a bell. I’d read The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin aged 14 and again aged 19. It was my favourite book. Darwin based much of his argument for Natural Selection on the observation of rudimentary organs. Many organisms have organs and parts that no longer serve a function, and yet are present in a very rudimentary way. When, in new circumstances an organ is not useful, it is reduced by Natural Selection until it is hardly present in some species, although fully developed in others.
Darwin commented that if species were created, then the presence of reduced, dysfunctional organs and parts makes no sense. Why would God create a form of life with dysfunctional parts? The God proclaimed by the church is a God of purpose. This is one of the most powerful arguments in favour of the operation of Natural Selection, and thus the belief that species have evolved from previous ancestors.
And yet, is this not the seed of its own destruction?
The actual evidence of actual plants and animals shows that Natural Selection, far from building up complexity, actually reduces it. Oh yes, Natural Selection most certainly brings about the adaptation of species to their environments; and modification in all sorts of directions. Some modifications even bring about new functions to existing organs when species migrate to places with new conditions.
But what is the actual essence of evolution? What is really happening? How does it work in the real world, when all the evolutionist propagandists have gone home?
The answer is genetics.
I knew in the mists of my mind from A level biology that mutation consists of random errors in the replication of DNA. Error? What do my errors achieve? Usually nothing good, unless I ‘land on my feet’. How many times have I done that? Many times. The horse landed on its feet – or hooves which are modified central toe bones.
Yes, of course – reduced forms and there are many – are underpinned by mutations to their DNA. These mutated genes have been selected by Natural Selection.
The genes in question, the mutated genes, are genes that have had their expression switched off by errors in the DNA code. I realised that these genes do not produce gene products anymore. The effect of non-expression in some genes can be genetic disease or it can be changes in development of the body.
I knew these genes existed – they are called pseudogenes. Pseudogenes are not transcribed because they have been disabled through mutations.
Do you remember the monk and his crinkly peas – Gregor Mendel? Why were his peas crinkly? Or would you say wrinkly? The wrinkly ones were the ones with recessive inheritance, the ones carrying two recessive genes. The peas were wrinkly because they lacked a structural element that would make them normal and smooth-looking.
And then it occurred to me – recessive genes are blanks. Mutation has made them into blanks by loss of function mutations that are errors in the code.
The material of evolution is genetic variation – this is the number of recessive genes in a gene pool that have evolved from wild type genes. I now knew that a modification or so-called new trait could be encoded by blankety blank for that gene locus (a gene locus is the position of a gene on a chromosome).
Biologists say that Natural Selection positively selects advantageous genes, while eliminating genes that would lower fitness. This sort of makes sense, but they have never stopped to reflect on what they actually mean by this, and what their words correspond to in real life.
I had seen the light, and I now knew that ‘advantageous’ is a qualification, not a thing. Biologists think that advantageous mutations establish function, and deleterious mutations cause dysfunction. They think in a good/bad dichotomy. What they have not realized is that both types of mutation have the same basis – both are mutations causing dysfunction at the level of the genome. A switched off gene can be advantageous in a new set of circumstances, and when this is the case, it is positively selected by Natural Selection.
Thus, it is manifestly clear that evolution does occur. Hundreds if not thousands of examples have been documented. But the operation of evolution, the way it works, actually indicates that complexity precedes loss of complexity; fully developed parts precede reduction of parts; and function precedes dysfunction. Biology has now reached the bedrock which is the genetic system itself and how it brings about development in different organisms. Examples of modification can be documented down to the last DNA detail, and what they show is that mutation has switched off certain genes or the regulatory elements that control them in each case.
The idea that was becoming clear in my mind was that evolution presupposes creation. The original basic types were created with fully functional genomes and whole functional organs. These basic types have evolved in many ways and to very high degrees. While evolution has produced a great diversity of species here on Earth, creation was at the origin of complex life.
The exploration of this subject became the fire of my soul.
As a Creationist, I evolved so much over 20 years that I eventually wrote a new theory of evolution that I now call Entropic Evolution. If Entropic Evolution is one side of the coin, then Nanocreation is the other side of the same coin.
In a nutshell the Theory of Nanocreation and Entropic Evolution is the view that God created matter and life at the microscopic nanoscale, and then allowed the macrostructures of the universe, including our own bodies, to evolve through natural processes.
God created complexity while natural processes of evolution produced diversity in the living world.
My whole life has been dedicated to answering the question: How did God create life? And what part did evolution play in this? The journey has been a long journey compared to the short bus journey where it all started, but it has been absolutely amazing, and my life has been truly blessed.
Clare V. Merry 1st June 2018 1354 words
Calle Perez, Guayacan, Coquimbo, Chile 1990s, artist: Sonia Rivera
DEEP TIME AND THEORIES OF EVOLUTION
Article written by Clare Merry in 2017
Deep time as a concept only became known during the 19th century. The perspective of deep time was the condition allowing theories of evolution to take root and be considered and discussed. The idea of evolution transformed the way science is done. Not every idea nor every theory is a true representation of reality, but they were all attempts at understanding.
What is certainly true is that not only do the laws of physics lead to the conclusion that there is deep time, but elements themselves carry clocks measuring deep time often counted in millions of years. This is radiometric dating. Furthermore, cells themselves carry clocks that show relative measures of time that can be represented as a branching tree of life. These are molecular clocks that arise from mutation in DNA.
Most members of the churches have adopted belief in Theistic Evolution. This belief takes in more than one concept, and has changed over time. There is still much to be discussed concerning this belief and its link to deep time.
1. Physics and the Arrow of Time
Clanking Steam Engines
It was the march of new technology that brought a new awareness of time. A new awareness of the existence of time led to the dawn of the new scientific age of the 18th century. The steam engine played a key role in this. It was invented by improvements in 1712, 1733, and 1781.
Steam engines were used on farms for ploughing. This was done using a cable to pull a plough between two engines placed on either side of a field using winding machinery. They were also used as steam rollers in the making of roads due to their weight of about 10 tons. Steam ships and steam trains provided locomotion, while there were also steam engines for road haulage, though they never made it as carriages for people (due to a lot of smoke and blowing up).
A steam engine moving forward has large amounts of lateral movement, producing noisy clanking and a bone-shaking experience for the driver, steersman and passengers. How ever well a steam engine was designed, this clanking loss of energy for useful work or forward motion always occurred. This observation was raised to the level of a law of physics named the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
Thermodynamics and Entropy
In classical thermodynamics, the inevitable loss of heat in any transformation of energy involved in work is called entropy. In a closed system entropy always increases over time. Overall, entropy can never decrease once the heat loss has occurred. There are several very important scientific conclusions to be drawn from this regarding the universe considered as a whole closed system. The first conclusion was that there is an arrow of time. Time moves in one direction only; there is no cyclical time or reversals in time.
The arrow of time is broken by Dr Who, the ‘Time lord’ who can travel back to the past in his time-travelling police box, the Tardis. But this is science fiction. In science fiction people visit past eras and change things, but reality totally forbids this.
Heat Death ends the Universe
The second conclusion was the rather cheerless idea that the universe will eventually end in the Heat Death. Heat Death occurs when the heat in the universe becomes homogenous, neither hot nor cold. When the energy in the universe runs down in this way, nothing more can happen in the universe – its processes stop.
This assumed fate of our universe, an idea said to have come from Lord Kelvin sometime between the 1850s and 1860s, was applied to a universe thought to be small and static. At this time the universe was thought to consist only of stars and extend only as far as the outer reaches of our own galaxy. It was not known that there are thousands of millions of galaxies beyond our galaxy. The universe in the 19th century was thought to be fixed. As far as its age is concerned, Lord Kelvin calculated in 1862, by measuring the heat loss of the Earth that it must be up to 400 million years old. Previous to this the Earth was thought to be infinitely old. We now know the universe to be 13.7 billion years old.
The Universe had a Beginning
The more cheerful conclusion that arose from the notion of entropy is that the universe had a beginning. A beginning is deduced from the fact that nothing can run down forever, and the universe we live in has not yet run down. It is still very much in a state of disequilibrium, and very far from any final state. These 19th century reflections arising from investigations in thermodynamics would lead to ground-breaking 20th century scientific discoveries in physics.
2. Palaeontology, Rock Strata and Deep Time
The Dusts of Time
It is only with modern science that deep time was discovered. Deep time requires a flight of imagination using the evidence of artifacts or fossils buried deep beneath the surface of the Earth in the dusts of time. (The Earth continues to sweep clean its orbit around the Sun from debris and this dust falls to Earth at a rate of an estimated 100 tons a day, burying everything eventually).
Deep time is the domain of investigatoins by the archaeologist and palaeontologist who like detectives piece together the past, making reconstructions and proposing scenarios of past eras to present to the museum-going public.
Palaeontology presented strange creatures sometimes of giant size to an astounded world.
Scientific descriptions of dinosaurs, previously thought to be dragons, were first attempted in the 19th century.
Archaeology, the uncovering of human history by unearthing the artifacts of ancient civilizations at sites around the world became a 19th century European past time. Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Egypt brought Egyptology to France especially, as well as to the rest of Europe.
The geology of layers of sedimentary rocks laid down on ancient sea beds now folded or up-ended, and forming land, gave glimpses into the past of a planet very different from the one we see around us now.
The geological record of life on Earth is now known to go back 3.5 thousand million years to a time when Earth was inhabited only by bacteria. Formations called stromatolites represent mineralized communities of photosynthetic cyanobacteria living in warm shallow seas. The geological record of multicellular life dates from just before the Cambrian period of the Palaeozoic era 570 million years ago.
Billions of years
3.5 thousand million years is the same as 3.5 American billion years. An English billion used to be a million million, not a thousand million. People who went to school in the 1950s may still be confused about how many zeros there are in a billion. It is for this reason that I prefer to use the term ‘a thousand million’ instead of ‘a billion.’
There are people who think the universe is much older than it actually is due to a confusing number of zeros. What is certain is that, although the universe is vast, it is still finite both in size and age; for this reason it is measurable. Without measurement there is no science.
3. Radiometric Dating of Rocks, Fossils and ARTIFACTS
Igneous Rock Strata
The Earth’s crust is composed of layers of sedimentary rocks that sometimes contain fossils of prehistoric plants and animals, interspersed by igneous rocks of volcanic origin. These rock strata have been subjected to the geological processes of erosion, faulting, folding and mountain-building. Confirmation of deep time has come from the radiometric dating of volcanic rocks of the Earth’s crust.
Decay of Radioactive Elements: Uranium and Lead
In the early 20th century the men of science were joined by one woman: Marie Curie. She successfully isolated the first known radioactive elements, polonium and radium.
Radiometric dating is now used to determine the absolute age of rocks and hence of the fossils contained within them or in between them. This method for measuring time was first invented by Ernest Rutherford in 1905.
Time measurement is based on the fact that unstable radioactive elements decay into other more stable elements at a known, constant rate of decay. This means that if you measure the abundance of a radioactive isotope in a material and compare it with the abundance of its decay product elements, then you can estimate the age of the material.
The geological table with a timescale of hundreds of millions of years has been reconstructed using elements such as uranium and lead since the decay of uranium-235 into lead-207 has a half-life of 700 million years. The half life is when half of the uranium atoms have decayed into lead atoms.
Ancient archaeological artifacts have been dated since the 1940s using radiocarbon dating since carbon-14 has a half life of 5730 years, as it converts itself into carbon-12.
The exploration of deep time through the clues provided by archaeology, palaeontology and geology became a new frontier in the 19th century. Private collections of curious specimens allowed a flight of imagination to ancient landscapes inhabited by primitive creatures – for the naturalist sat comfortably in his armchair, in his study, beside the glowing coals of an open fire.
4. The Evolution of Ideas About Change
Change and Progress
The very possibility that there could be an evolution was only envisioned in the 19th century based on the concept of deep time. It is a notion of change, development and progress towards increasing diversity over time.
The vision of evolutionary progress may have arisen due to European engagement in empire building during the 19th century. It was certainly conceived within a society engaged in bringing about what was hoped to become a new global civilization. The British Empire under the reign of Queen Victoria became the largest empire in history, and it seems to have been the model of progress that gave rise to this new way of thinking in Britain.
The belief existed that the heights of development in society, technology and civilization could be reached by each person playing their role in service to the realm. The end point of the whole was greater than the individual contribution.
Collective History and Democracy
Ideas concerning democracy were also developing with a new industrial class of entrepreneurs overthrowing the aristocratic class of land-owners. In Britain voting rights for men were extended in 1884 and universal suffrage came in 1918. Voting rights for women came in 1918, expanded to all women over 21 in 1928. Democracy changed the whole way that history was written.
In past ages, the deeds and renown of the heroes of old were recounted as ‘once upon a time’ stories that did not have a time dimension. With democracy, history became the history of social development, liberation and nation-building. A collective history through time started to take shape, in which the whole became the story rather than the famous individual limited to their own lifetime.
Theories of Evolution
The new way of thinking about society brought a new perception of time. Various thinkers during the 19th century had a shot at explaining the differences and similarities between organisms in terms of an on-going evolution. These included Erasmus Darwin with Zoonomia (1794), Jean-Baptiste Lamarck with his Theory of Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics (1801), and Robert Chambers in Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844). But it was Charles Darwin who formulated the concept of natural selection and described it in On the Origin of Species published in 1859. It was this concept – natural selection – that was taken up in academic circles, becoming the explanation for biological evolution, and this concept that ‘rocked the world’.
Hard-headed Debate not Conflict
In 1860 Anglican Bishop Samuel Wilberforce confronted Thomas H. Huxley in a debate on evolution and Darwin’s book published seven months earlier. This debate gave rise to the notion today that the entire church opposed the new idea of evolution, an idea taken up by the first secular scientists led by Huxley. This is not the case.
It was not that Christians rejected the idea of evolution in the 19th century, and more that no one had heard of the idea before. It took some time for the public – the ones who actually care about intellectual things – to grasp the idea, and debate its meaning. (There is nothing unhealthy about putting forward different points of view). The church, apart from its religious ‘raison d’être’ has always been a debating forum throughout the ages, as it is today.
Darwin died in 1882 and was honoured by burial in Westminster Abbey by the Anglican Church which by this time had embraced Theistic Evolution. They viewed evolution as an instrument used by God to bring about the diversity of life on Earth and the progressive perfection of human beings as the pinnacle of evolution. They saw God as actively guiding evolution towards his own purposes. This allows the theological questions concerning meaning to be held in conjunction with a new means of how it happened.
It is to be noted that for many 19th century evolutionists the starting points were basic archetype forms that represented the main body plans found among animals and plants. This was the view of Richard Owen. In the 20th century mention of archetypes was totally done away with.
Variations in Christian Belief
Christians of all the different churches adopted a number of different beliefs concerning creation and evolution ranging from literal belief in the Bible and Genesis to various ways of explaining things scientifically, to just ignoring the question.
Catholic Church priests and laity embraced the notion of biological evolution by the end of the 19th century without notable argument. The Vatican published an encyclical on evolution in 1950 entitled Humani generis with cautious acceptance of evolution as an explanation for the biological origins of human life, but with the caveat that Catholic faith obliges Catholics to believe that human souls are individually created by God at the moment of conception.
Goal-Driven Cosmic Evolution
A French Catholic priest, Pierre Teillard de Chardin (1881-1955) embodied the Catholic acceptance of evolution. He worked as a palaeontologist taking part in the discovery of the bones of Peking Man. He is known for a philosophical-theological work entitled Le Phenomene Humain (1941) in which he speculates that the whole of humanity will be drawn upwards to a higher level. Teillard describes a goal-driven evolution towards the emergence of complexity and consciousness that culminates in the point of supreme consciousness – the Omega point. It was banned by Rome, but is widely cited by lay Catholics. This work gave impetus to the New Age Movement of the 1960s onwards.
A concept that explains everything, in fact, explains nothing
Increasingly through the 20th century and now 21st century evolution has become the watch-word of our age. Maybe we are approaching our ‘omega point’ with regard to this concept. Everything that exists is said to have evolved into being the way it is. In fact, living things are said to have evolved themselves into existence.
When asked why things are the way they are, it sounds scientific to say ‘because they evolved that way.’ Even people who want to sell things add the word ‘evolution’ to their publicity. The big idea is used for everything. I won’t labour the point. I only wish to say that something that explains absolutely everything is usually found, in the end, to explain nothing. Use of the term must be defined.
5. Biological Evolution and the History of Life on Earth
Biological evolution consists of a slow, imperceptible change in living organisms over time lasting more than one individual’s lifetime. It is measured over the course of many generations in a biological lineage.
Adaptation and Speciation
It is driven by adaptation to a changing environment by the mechanism of natural selection. This involves selection of genes that have genetic variations produced by mutation in DNA. Some genes become more prevalent in a population over many generations because they confer traits that lead to adaptation. These genes are then said to be fixed in a population. Over time the accumulation of genetic differences between populations living in different regions or in different ecological niches within the same region amounts to speciation: new species arise in the course of evolutionary time.
Five Mass Extinctions on Earth
So what of the story of the Earth and life on Earth?
The fossil record gives testimony to a series of catastrophes that have occurred in the past. There have been five major catastrophes bringing about mass extinctions of life on Earth. At least one catastrophe was caused by something from space hitting the Earth. I believe that the other catastrophes also had causes linked to events in the solar system beyond the Earth itself.
The succession of ecosystems on Earth allowed increasingly complex organisms to inhabit planet Earth. New classes of plants and animals could only find a suitable habitat when the eco-conditions allowed for this. New types of organisms appear suddenly in the fossil record with new anatomical body plans and higher levels of complexity.
Once a new type has appeared, it is seen to diversify into a range of different but related species. This is called adaptive radiation. The driving force for this diversification of species is adaptation to different ecological niches within an environment, and migration to new environments. The adaptive radiation of classes of organisms has occurred over periods of time counted in hundreds of thousands or millions of years.
The different types of mankind have also undergone adaptive radiation as they migrated into new environments around the world. The different prehistoric species of mankind show physical adaptation to the environment as animal species do. However, in the case of mankind, a succession of prehistoric cultures have also moulded the physique of humans as well as demonstrating a human level of intelligence.
Fossil remains provide a geological record that shows the succession of the different types of organisms that have inhabited the Earth. They often demonstrate increasing complexity and diversity through time.
6. Molecular Clocks, Mutations and DNA
Living cells also carry the evolutionary history of their lineages written in their DNA sequences. DNA is changed by mutation. Through the 1990s scientists working in genetics or molecular biology started to map the genomes of humans, certain animals and plants.
Mutation in DNA occurs both in the coding parts of DNA such as in genes, and in the noncoding parts of DNA at a constant statistical rate. Genes themselves also contain noncoding parts called introns. Changes to the noncoding parts of DNA simply accumulate over time since they do not influence gene expression, nor do they affect the survival of the organism. These mutations are not eliminated by purifying selection so they accumulate over time.
A Branching Tree of Life
Neutral mutations to the noncoding parts of DNA allow the construction of phylogenetic trees and molecular clocks. It suffices to count the number of differences in DNA sequences between species belonging to different, but related genera, families, and classes in a lineage to construct a branching tree of accumulated differences. The branching of the tree represents the evolutionary relationship between species. The molecular clock gives a relative measure of time. Molecular clocks are calibrated by fossils of known date using radiometric dating.
Thus, biology provides its own clock due to the statistical occurrence of mutation in DNA over time. The construction of phylogenetic trees based on neutral mutation shows the evolutionary pathways of life on Earth; there are biological lineages of related organisms that can be represented as branches of a tree.
From technology sprang science, and science discovered the clues to deep time. Steam engines led to laws of thermodynamics and this expanded the vision of the universe. Geologists brought awareness of the record of time displayed in rock strata. Palaeontologists unearthed the expanse of prehistory counted in fossils millions of years old.
Evolution takes place through time. It requires deep time. Change happens slowly, but achieves much; it is only seen when you look back in time.
Isn’t it astounding that radioactive elements embody their own clock? Time is written into the Earth’s crust. Isn’t it even more astounding that living cells also contain their own clock? Molecular clocks recount the pathways of the evolution of life on Earth. ‘It’s part of our DNA.’ We carry our history in the cells of our bodies.
Time becomes something when you can measure it, and this is what science does.
Folded rock strata of sedimentary rocks
The Science of Time and Space, and Belief in Eternity
Article written by Clare Merry in 2017
Key ideas: Clocks measure time through gravity; discovery that the universe is expanding and spacetime; time and the universe had a beginning; attempts to escape this fact / theories about the beginning of the universe; the permanency of matter; the gravimeter proves time dilation with decreasing gravity; time dilation also occurs with increasing velocity; light travelling at the speed of light experiences no time and no decay. What bearing do these scientific facts have on the belief in eternity?
1. Gravity and Time
Gravity allows time to be measured. The pendulum of the pendulum clock swings by the force of gravity in a regular way. In fact, the clocks of ancient civilizations also worked by gravity: the water clock had water flowing and emptying by gravity while the hourglass had sand flowing down through the neck of a two-bulbed vessel by gravity.
Mechanical gravity-driven clocks were only superceded in the 20th century by atomic clocks. Atomic clocks tick between two states of certain types of atoms, one second separating one isotope from the other isotope, and back again.
Gravity will be a theme revisited several times in this article; time is the theme threading the different aspects of the physics of spacetime together in this essay.
The Pendulum Clock
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was the first person to note the regularity of swinging back and forth of a chandelier in Pisa cathedral in 1581. He started doing experiments to see if it could be used as a timepiece. But it was the Dutchman Christiaan Huygens who actually invented the pendulum clock in 1656, and received a pension from the French King Louis XIV for this achievement. Galileo and Christiaan Huygens were living at a time of the stirrings of modern science.
The First Harmonic Oscillator
The pendulum clock is based on a swinging weight to keep time. The suspended weight oscillates due to gravity about the equilibrium position. A swing to the left and swing to the right equals the period of oscillation. Galileo found that the period is independent of the mass of the bob and proportional to the square root of the length of the pendulum.
The amplitude is the angle of the swing from the vertical. It was found that the period is independent of the amplitude – a property called isochronism – the successive swings of the pendulum, even if changing in amplitude, take the same amount of time.
The swing back and forth is ideally of constant amplitude, but in reality, friction and air-drag cause the swinging to decline. Thus, the clock has to be wound up regularly.
Shape of the Earth
It was by travellers taking their pendulum clocks with them that it was discovered that the Earth is not a sphere, but an oblate shape, slightly squashed in at the poles. Pendulum clocks work by the acceleration of gravity, and they showed that the force of gravity varies over the Earth’s surface by as much as 0.5 % at different locations. Gravity is stronger at the poles and it causes pendulum clocks to run faster at these high latitudes, than at the equator. Pendulum clocks also run faster at sea level than at the top of high mountains.
Pendulum Clocks Used for Science
For use in science, the pendulum clock was perfected in 1900 by using low temperature to prevent changes in rod length due to the heating of metal parts in hot weather. It was also placed in low air pressure to prevent air disturbances to the swinging pendulum. These clocks lost only one second a year. The pendulum clock had to be absolutely level to get ‘tick – tock – tick – tock’ regularly, since gravity must be equal on each side of it.
The Atomic Clock
Today atomic clocks with much greater accuracy are used in the place of mechanical clocks. They count time by monitoring oscillation between states of the atom. The first accurate atomic clock invented in 1955 used caesium.
A caesium clock is based on the frequency of transition between two states of the caesium atom – this is the measure of a second. The landing of space probes on planets, the synchronization of the internet, and GPS – the global positioning system – all rely on the accuracy of atomic clocks. All clocks today are calibrated on atomic clocks.
Spacetime is something that only became known in the 20th century. Its dimensions were perceived first in theory, but later its dynamics were confirmed by observation. Surprises were in store; some that appalled Atheists, while rejoicing the hearts of Theists. But facts are ultimately facts, whatever your bias.
Atheists of the 19th and early 20th century believed in Materialism – that matter has always existed as a brute fact. There was no need of a Creator to create matter. There was no beginning or end to time.
Albert Einstein proposed the Theory of General Relativity in 1915. This showed for the first time that the three dimensions of space and the 4th dimension of time are linked. In General Relativity, gravity is characterized as the curvature of spacetime in the presence of mass. This means that massive objects such as galaxies, stars and planets create gravity wells that draw matter in. Even light waves are bent by strong gravity fields causing gravitational lensing.
An Expanding Universe
Einstein introduced a cosmological constant into his equations to make them describe a static universe. However, Georges Lemaitre (1894-1966) a Belgian Catholic priest and cosmologist corrected Einstein telling him that his theory implied that the universe is expanding. Einstein thought, and it was generally thought at the time that the universe was static.
Observational evidence confirmed that the universe is indeed expanding. In the 1920s, American astronomer Edwin Hubble, using a more powerful telescope than had been used before, discovered galaxies beyond our galaxy, and that all of these galaxies were receding away from us and away from each other.
In 1931 Lemaitre summarized and published his ideas on the initial “creation-like” event and his “hypothesis of the primeval atom”.
Steady State Theory
Other cosmologists, while acknowledging universal expansion, were keen to maintain belief in a universe infinite in time and space. With this in mind, Fred Hoyle with H. Bondi and T. Gold put forward the Steady State Theory in 1948, after a similar idea had been proposed by James Jeans in the 1920s. This theory proposed the continuous creation of matter within an expanding universe such that matter always remains at the same density.
There was no beginning and no end to the Steady State universe. They invented the notion of the ‘Perfect Cosmological Principle’. This principle states that the universe is homogeneous spatially and throughout time. But this was not so, and in the end the Steady State Theory with its principle had to be dropped due to it not being supported by the facts.
At the rate the universe is expanding now, all the matter of the universe must have been amassed in one place, maybe the size of our solar system some 15 thousand million years ago. The concept that the universe had a beginning gave birth to modern cosmology with a bang as the beginning to our universe.
The universe has undergone a cosmic evolution through time. It was born, opened out and developed through stages, until it reached the way we observe it now. The universe has undergone cooling, expansion and the formation of large-scale structures such as galaxies and stars.
Observation is theory-driven
When looking very far out in the universe, it is necessary to formulate a hypothesis of what you expect to find, before finding it, in order to see it when you actually find it. Observation is, in fact, theory-driven. Particular ideas about the Big Bang, lead to particular ways of interpreting the observations made in support of these ideas.
Seeing the past happen now
The universe in its vast spatial dimensions has a strange property – to look out into intergalactic space at distant galaxies with the aid of a telescope is to look back in time. Far-away galaxies are seen as they were thousands of millions of years ago. This is because the light entering a telescope from these galaxies set out thousands of millions of years ago from stars in these galaxies, and has been travelling through intergalactic space at the speed of light ever since, until it entered the telescope. The outermost observable objects existed in the early universe and are thought to no longer exist now. Astronomers are blessed with the ability to look into and see the past happening now!
Measurements in light-years
Since distance in the universe is measured in light-years – the distance that light can travel in one year at the speed of light in a vacuum – the observation of very distant objects in the universe indicates that the universe is, at least, as old as these objects. With spacetime there is a link between size of the universe and age of the universe.
These scientific advances were embraced by the Christian Church since the Bible clearly states that there was a beginning to creation. Pope Pius XII pronounced in 1951 that science and religion are ‘heavenly sisters’. He encouraged further investigation into the possible compatibility of Georges Lemaitre’s idea of the explosive beginning to the universe and the primordial ‘Fiat Lux’ or ‘Let there be light’ opening to the book of Genesis.
Christians generally adopted the belief of seeing the Creator’s hand in the cosmological event that brought the universe into being thousands of millions of years ago.
3. Time is Created
Time came into being with the creation of matter – this cannot be disputed; it is a fundamental fact of the way things are.
Space Expanding Between Matter
The expansion of space created time. Space is created by matter in motion. Space is only what is in between clumps of matter that are galaxies and stars. There cannot be any space beyond the extension of matter since this is a non-sense. The space between stars is interstellar space, and the space between galaxies is intergalactic space. Before matter was created there was no motion, no light and no time.
Galaxies have been moving apart for over 13.7 thousand million years in a universal expansion. The stars within galaxies revolve around galactic centres as if caught up in eddies, and planets revolve around stars.
Years and Days
Each planet orbiting a star has its own length of year and length of day. The orbit of planet Earth around the Sun takes one Earth year of 365 days. The spinning of the Earth on its axis takes 24 hours – one Earth day. On Venus, one Venus year takes 225 days and is shorter than one Venus day that takes 243 Earth days. Thus, the time we experience comes from the motion of our planet in the solar system.
4. E = mc2
Expansion of the universe has been demonstrated not only theoretically, but also through observation using telescopes and calculating red shifts in light coming from distant stars. This means that the universe had a beginning. This has been calculated to have occurred 13.7 thousand million years ago.
The current theory to explain this is the Big Bang Model in which matter condenses out of a fireball of energy. This matter, mainly hydrogen, forms the galaxies and stars of the universe.
The equation E = mc2 shows the equivalence between energy (E) and mass (m) times (c) the speed of light.
Physics, as it exists in this universe now, shows that energy does indeed come out of matter (mass) – this energy fires up the universe – but there is no energy powerful enough now to create matter. i.e. scientists can split the atom, but they cannot create an atom. The atom bomb can blow matter apart, it cannot set it in place.
It is my belief that God created matter, and energy comes from matter.
5. Singularity and the Multiverse
Secular physicists and cosmologists were quick to veer away from a beginning to the universe. Speculations started up on what happened before the beginning. They also veered away from what seemed to be creation by speculation on how to derive a universe out of pure energy or even out of nothing by natural processes.
Black holes and Singularity
Working on the theorem that black holes undergo gravitational collapse until they reach zero volume, Stephen Hawking realized that if this idea were reversed from collapse to expansion, that this presented a new picture of the origin of the universe. He proposed in 1965 that the universe had expanded from a region of zero volume and infinite density that he called a Singularity. Singularity is where the laws of physics break down because science does not deal with infinities.
In the 1970s it became generally accepted that the universe began as a Big Bang Singularity. The ‘break down’ in laws of physics has now become a ‘thing’, to derive a universe from. This is a modified form of the previous Big Bang theory. It is also to be noted that real ‘black holes’ are stellar corpses that measure at least 3 km across – they do not have zero volume.
Universe the Size of a Proton?
It is now claimed that the universe started out the size of a proton. The Standard Big Bang Model proposes what happened to this universe in the first second of its existence. Time is taken back to ‘ten to the minus 43 second’ (10-43) which equals the Planck time. Beyond this equations cannot go. At this point the tiny universe is purported to have a temperature of 1033 degrees C, that is ten thousand million, million, million, million, million degrees, and to consist only of photons or energy.
An Infinity of Universes?
Before this Big Bang explosion thought to have given rise to our universe, it is fashionable to believe that there could have been an infinite number of previous universes existing chronologically, or that our universe is only one among an infinity of coexisting parallel universes that have popped up like bubbles.
The many theories that have popped up involving multiple universes now come under the heading Multiverse. Belief in the Multiverse is not based on any scientific fact, any experiment or any observation. By definition we can only observe what exists in this universe. Belief in the Multiverse is simply belief. However, it is coupled to science because it springs from the currently popular Philosophy of Naturalism which dominates the sciences today.
The Philosophy of Naturalism admits only natural explanations for all phenomena. It asserts that there is no God, and therefore God cannot be the explanation of anything.
I suggest that this scientifico-philosophical speculation – the Multiverse – is an impasse and ultimately will prove only to be a waste of time.
The total quantity of matter in the universe was set very precisely such that the universe would have duration through time. A tiny universe exists for a flash. A bigger universe expands and then collapses back onto itself, and ceases to exist.
It is now not thought that our universe will undergo a ‘Big Crunch’ collapsing back onto itself, but continue to expand for a long time yet. There is time for it to continue to develop.
Maybe God is the guarantor of time by the way the universe was set up in the first place – as the total mass in the universe is linked to its duration. It was made to last.
Fine-tuning is a popular phrase amongst Christians. All the constants of physics have been set very precisely to allow this universe to exist. I believe that this created universe may be the only universe possible.
Harmony of the universe
The pendulum clock ticks regularly by the universal harmony of gravity. This simple harmonic motion didn’t have to be this way. But in an ordered universe it is this way.
This indicates that matter was set in place; it did not explode its way into place randomly. Accidental explosions tend to be messy. But expansion in this case seems to have been precisely set.
6. Questions of Infinity
Time in the universe has existed for a long time, and will continue to exist for a long time, but this is not forever. So far, time has been running for an estimated 13.7 000 million years universally. Globally, Earth time has been running for about 4000 million years.
Our universe is finite in the sense of having a beginning. But could the universe be infinite in the sense of future extension?
The stars will go out
I think that the answer is that the universe cannot last indefinitely, at least not in its present state. There is no perpetual motion. The processes of this universe cannot go on forever. The law of entropy shows that the universe must run down.
Stars are born, they light up as thermonuclear furnaces, and they burn out and explode in nova or supernova explosions, leaving dark stellar corpses that cool down emitting no further light. The galaxy will eventually become littered with stellar corpses, the black hole remains of stars. When this happens, the stars shining in the night sky will go out. Our Sun has now lived half its life and is 4.6 000 million years old.
When processes stop and motion stops, time will stop. However, that is not to say that matter will cease to exist. The matter may be cold and dark, but it will still be there.
No proton has ever decayed
Neutrons may decay into protons and electrons emitting anti-neutrinos, but nobody has ever seen a proton decay. Even the hydrogen protons accelerated and blasted into each other in the Large Hadron Collider by CERN are split apart for split seconds (between 10-8 to 10-22 second) and then recombine as Up and Down quarks back into protons again.
Permanency of matter
Positively charged protons made from Up and Down quarks, and negatively charged electrons are fundamental subatomic particles that are not permanently divisible and not destructible. Hydrogen atoms made of one proton and one electron form a stable universe. This points in the direction of the permanency of matter, and a future destiny to matter that we will reflect upon in the next section.
There is no infinity in the extent of the universe, even though the universe is vast. There is no infinity in the length of time the universe has existed or will exist in its present form, even though it is very old.
But infinity can be conceived abstractly.
Modern science is based on the investigation of what exists in the world, and the establishing of agreed facts. One of the main instruments of science is mathematics – to quantify, measure, and calculate is to know. Modern science is underpinned by mathematics.
There is a theoretical, abstract infinity of numbers. The mind can conceive of infinity by a projection of thought using pure rational logic. Yes, you could keep counting forever in theory. But this rational thought is not embodied within the universe. Even the number of atoms in the universe is finite, and known to physicists.
There is something divine about mathematics, just as there is something divine about order and logic. The Gospel of John claims that the whole creation took place via logic, the logos or the Word of God.
The human mind can, with much application, understand something of this logic, and capture something of what infinity is, as if approaching the divine. The mind fathoming the mysteries of nature, often feels a mystical closeness to God. It’s as if by seeking to understand the creation of this world, the mind touches the other realm – the unseen, that which is beyond all time.
Infinity is a quality of God
Time is not infinite. Abstract infinity in numbers is possible, and yet it does not exist in the world we know.
God alone is eternal. He is known as ‘The Eternal’ in Judaism. Infinity is a trait of God, not shared by his creatures. God is outside time, and not contained by space. God can enter time and space, but he is not bound by it.
7. Time Dilation and Eternity
A gravimeter is similar to a pendulum clock. It is used to measure local gravity. The variation in local gravity with elevation is shown when a pendulum clock is moved from sea level to mountains 1200 metres (or 4000 feet) high. The clock loses 16 seconds a day due to lower gravity at altitude. On the other hand, closer to the Earth’s core, gravity is stronger. A pendulum clock has an increased pendulum oscillation rate with increased gravity at sea level. An atomic clock, on the other hand, is not affected in this way, but will run very slightly slower close to a large mass such as a planet.
These strange facts are explained by Einstein’s first great theory:
Albert Einstein presented the Theory of Special Relativity in 1905. Special Relativity states that no wave or particle can travel faster than the speed of light. Having this speed as an absolute that cannot be added to by moving at speed towards a light source or slowed down by moving away from the light source, means that the fabric of space behaves in odd ways and time becomes relative.
The relativity of time is shown by a thought experiment in which there is a difference of elapsed time between two events as measured by two observers moving relative to each other at a speed close to the speed of light. Each sees the other’s watch as running slower. The effect arises from the nature of spacetime. It cannot be known which observer is right, and which observer is accelerating away from the other, because it is all relative.
Time Dilation due to Velocity
High velocity causes time dilation. According to the Theory of Special Relativity, time dilation occurs when something moves at over one tenth the speed of light; thus it starts at around 30 000 km/second since light travels at 300 000 km/second. Time dilation is intrinsic to spacetime; it is not to do with clocks not functioning properly.
High velocity causes time to pass slower. It may cause processes in the body to happen slower, as they do in atomic clocks. It has been said that International Space Station astronauts may stay younger than if they had stayed on Earth due to their acceleration. They would return to Earth 0.007 seconds younger for every six months spent in space!
Time Dilation due to Decreasing Gravity
Strong gravity close to a large mass causes time to pass quicker due to the acceleration of gravity. The gravity well even of a small planet causes time to run quicker. Time dilation associated with weaker gravity and time dilation associated with higher velocity work oppositely. However, at a certain orbital distance from the Earth there is no time dilation. This is due to gravity and motion cancelling each other out.
GPS satellite orbits
The GPS satellite flying above this orbit is proof of velocity and gravitational time dilation. These effects have to be taken into account and adjustments made, in order to coordinate with GPS systems on Earth.
Photons do not decay
Time slows down as you approach the speed of light. This sounds like a good formula for staying young; however, the energy that would be required to cause matter to move this fast no longer exists in the universe.
Light, however, moves at the speed of light. The implication of Special Relativity, in my estimation, is that photons, which are energy packages called quanta, do not experience time and so they never decay.
The non-aging and non-decay of photons gives rise to the phenomenon already mentioned – that to look far out into space with a telescope is to see the past. Ancient light from distant galaxies only stops travelling when it hits an atom and is absorbed by it – in this case the telescope collecting light from stars or your eye.
Eternity: What implications does time dilation have for continued existence?
The continuing existence of matter
If time slows down in the presence of large amounts of matter or mass, then if all of the matter of the universe were present, time would run so slowly that it would stop. Is this what God experiences when he beholds the whole of creation? God sees all of time at once.
The slowing of time in the presence of matter would mean, in my estimation, that once created, matter would remain in existence forever.
The idea that the matter of this universe will become the matter of the realm of life after death was first suggested by the theoretical physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne.
The light that never dies
Secondly, time dilation with high velocity means that light which travels at the speed of light never decays, but travels on. This implies, in contradiction to the prediction of the Heat Death of the universe, that the universe will never return to the darkness before the beginning. Light has a perpetual quality. When light came into the world, it lit up the world forever.
The ‘new heaven and the new earth’ promised in the Bible is a place of perpetual light. Everlasting life in this place we call heaven is a release from death and decay, and maybe from time. Our minds bound by time, cannot even imagine what this place would be like. We hold to this belief without understanding it at all.
The relationship between space and time long known to ancient astronomers, perceived by Galileo in his contribution to the invention of the pendulum clock by Christiaan Huygens in 1656, finally became scientific theory in the mind of Albert Einstein. Einstein’s famous theories of Special Relativity and General Relativity were written in 1905 and 1915 respectively.
The universe was thought to be infinite in size and infinitely old. Science proves this to be false: infinity exists as a concept in the imagination and in mathematics, but not in the real world. The universe is vast, but it is finite – for this reason it is measurable.
Time had a beginning. This is when this sciency stuff starts to sound like Christian stuff. The Bible proclaims that creation had a beginning. It started, and at this point time started. Before this point, God existed for eternity.
The laws of physics and the properties of spacetime are not always what you would expect.
We now know, post-Einstein, that time is relative. Scientific measurements, and the present-day experiment of launching satellites into orbit around the Earth show that time slows down at very high velocity approaching the speed of light and speeds up in the presence of large lumps of mass such as stars and planets.
Time dilation is an intrinsic property of spacetime. Thus, time can be counter-intuitive.
We now have telescopes so powerful that they can capture light from galaxies billions of light years away from us. The objects we observe far out in the universe – within our Earth time – are objects that existed in the past. We see the light from these galaxies because photons travelling at the speed of light do not experience time, and so they never decay; they only stop travelling when they hit an atom and are absorbed by it, for example, when entering your eye. With powerful scientific instruments we can observe the past in real time.
The non-decay of photons has implications for eternal life. The light created in this universe, even with physics as it is now, never dies. Light has a perpetual quality to it.
These reflections on the science of spacetime open up glimpses into another realm – that of eternity – which while being totally different to this realm, would also be ordered by knowable laws of physics.
Wikipedia: Albert Einstein; Atomic clock; General relativity / Special relativity; Gravimeter; Harmonic oscillator; Georges Lemaitre; Pendulum clock; Steady State Theory; Theology of Pope Pius XII; Time dilation