Change is Impossible or is it?

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

  • Hebrews 13:8

Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.

  • Ecclesiastes 1:4-8

“The ideas put forward by Parmenides mark a key turning point in Greek philosophy.  Influenced by the logical, scientific thinking of Pythagoras, Parmenides employs deductive reasoning in an attempt to uncover the true physical nature of the world.  His investigations lead him to take the opposite view to that of Heraclitus.
“From the premise that something exists (‘It is’), Parmenides deduces that it cannot also not exist (‘It is not’), as this would involve a logical contradiction.  It follows therefore that a state of nothing existing is impossible – there can be no void.  Something cannot then come from nothing, and so must always have existed in some form.  This permanent form cannot change, because something that is permanent cannot change into something else without it ceasing to be permanent.  Fundamental change is therefore impossible.”

  • Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained

All you believers in evolution and the Big Bang (that is from the void) and millions of years, that second paragraph is powerful.

As for the views of Heraclitus, I wrote about that in my first Tuesday morning Heavy Topics essay, A Missed High School Reunion.  Thales of Miletus (624-546BC) said that all was water, as in the ancient four elements of earth, wind, fire, and water.  Heraclitus (535-475BC) said that all was fire and that the change caused by fire meant that all was change.  Thus, Parmenides (515-445BC) takes the opposite view to Heraclitus in saying that fundamental change is impossible.  Parmenides goes on to say things that point to our senses might be deceiving us, but I can attest that some change is possible.  When I have gone on an ice cream binge in the not-too-distant past, I change, gaining weight.  When I go to the grocery store and buy food, like more ice cream, the bank balance changes.  Those kinds of change do happen.

But the concept that we cannot get something from nothing is foundational in chemistry and physics.  The first law of Thermodynamics is that heat cannot be created or destroyed.  Indeed, the matter that contains the heat cannot change in elemental state, except in a nuclear reaction.  And then, within the basic subatomic particles of neutrons, protons, and electrons, those particles go somewhere.  Nothing is created or destroyed.

To illustrate a basic chemical reaction, you can have hydrogen gas and oxygen gas in a mixture.  When a spark, or a catalyst, is applied to initiate the chemical reaction, the hydrogen and oxygen burn to form water and a great amount of heat.  The heat was contained within the hydrogen and oxygen molecules, released when combustion occurred.  To take the water and convert it into hydrogen and oxygen, we must take an external heat source and apply that heat under controlled circumstances.  We have not “changed” anything; we have just shuffled the deck of cards.

To illustrate a basic nuclear reaction, if you have a fission (a splitting apart) of a uranium atom’s nucleus, it will usually split into two main parts.  One of these parts will be about twice as big as the other part, give or take a few atomic weight units, usually.  A curve of the fission results when plotting the atomic weight of the fission products along the x-axis and the amount of those atoms along the y-axis, you get what used to be called the “Mae West curve,” two equally sized smooth round humps.  When I worked in the industry, the name was changed to the “Dolly Parton curve.”  I have no idea what they call it now.  Sometimes, there is a third basic particle and that is almost always tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen.  The point is that the two, and sometimes three, particles can account for every proton, neutron, or electron in the original uranium atom (plus the one neutron that set off the fission), with the exception of 1-2 neutrons.  Those neutrons fly off into the space around that fission and are eventually absorbed into something.  Nuclear criticality (a perfectly controlled fission reaction) is the point when that one fission produces one, and only one, more fission from the escaping neutrons.  Of course, nuclear reactors are trying to get hundreds or thousands of fissions to occur simultaneously, but only increasing in number when increasing the power generation, and when changing power levels, always under control.  In the end, nothing has been created or destroyed; we just shuffled the deck of cards a bit to release heat that was already there.

There is only one exception when something everything was created.  God, outside time and space, created time, space, and the matter that contains the heat.  God cranked up the entropy clock that has been winding down ever since, always changing entropy in the same direction.  The only logical conclusion to the conservation of matter and energy is that if we are not infinite, and that cannot be if only looking at the change of entropy, then only God could have created all this.

While Parmenides lived a few centuries before Jesus, he did not get everything right.  He could not see that the creation of the world could only come from a God that he had never heard of.  Yet, he formulated the foundational principles in much of the true science of today, long before any of it was proven with scientific experimentation.  It was simply the only logical result from his investigation.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

3 Comments

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  1. This is very interesting, Mark. Somehow I kept up – you enjoy teaching and taught well. Do you miss being a professional scientist?

    Liked by 1 person

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