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Maybe It's All a Big Joke

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Maybe It's All a Big Joke

If humans are Life's most evolved product, then the meaning of Life might be just that: to produce us. But to what end? To maximize the continuation of Life, and consequently all of Nature on this planet? Or is life's purpose to self-destruct, and take much of nature along for the ride even before the sun evaporates it in 5 billion years? The relevance of this question seems less counter-intuitive with each passing decade. In my dotage I delude myself into imagining a way to embrace, if not answer it.

Inasmuch as enthalpy (when it has a positive value) indicates an endothermic process, absorbing Gibbs free energy in some ordered sort of way, I allow myself to imagine that it purposely defies the great destroyer, entropy. Entropy eats away at anything trying to be something, trying to attain order and growth and direction and self-actualization. Even a rock eventually loses its ability to remain unobtrusively itself and falls apart into randomness. Evolved life, resulting in human society, arguably nature's greatest enthalpic achievement, seems destined to undo itself so grandiosely as to nourish entropy more than if it had never occurred. Still, life itself might be called creative enthalpy. It sucks up sunlight and converts it into matter. It also eats matter, releasing bound-up energy that enthalpy can put productively to work in a myriad of ways, such as to maintain heart and lungs and roots and stems and evolve new species; but also capable of flying off every which way, which of course is entropy's intention for it. If life in general thwarts entropy somewhat, maybe intelligent life does this best of all. Maybe humanity's destruction of the planetary bio-sphere can be if not halted, at least slowed down.

This would require work, of course, and entropy, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, ensures that no work-process, of any kind, not even photosynthesis can avoid friction. Friction produces radiation that can never be recaptured and forced into labor. Perpetual motion machines are illegal, according to the Second Law, and in the final analysis chaos always trumps order. But this empirical certainty doesn't stop intelligent Life from irrationally yearning for immortality. Briefly, the existence of black holes, apparently in blatant defiance of entropy seeming to suck in and condense radiation from every source, reinforced this hope, for some observers. Sadly, black holes turned out to be super hot just entropy the chameleon having a last laugh.

Still, when enthalpy produces an atom and then a star and then a planet and then an organism and finally sapiens capable of deducing how to avoid an upcoming extinction event, such as impact with a large asteroid any day now, this would seem to slow entropy for awhile, at least on a local scale. Therefore, the evolution of big brained sapiens, self-regulating and kind, thus capable of altruistic collaboration on a planetary scale, able to strategize against chaos, might be the meaning of life at least from an enthalpomorphic point of view. Without kindness, however, humans will surely bring down chaos, and quickly, and perhaps this is Life's entropomorphic purpose. Thus, a non-religious way of looking at good and evil.

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David Weiner received his doctorate in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1964 and subsequently taught at SUNY/Buffalo and The University of Houston, where he received a Teaching Award. He currently teaches community college (more...)

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