Monday, September 24, 2012

Attention: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke

Dear Ben Bernanke-

Today is my birthday-  I bet you don't care.

My question is:  which is more important to you:

A) Your legacy as an Economist, and Teacher, or
B) Your legacy as a Central Banker?

It seems that, following the Fed's announcement of unlimited MBS purchases (characterized in the popular culture as QE3, QE-INfinity, or my personal favorite, QEternity), That BOTH of your legacies are presently standing on shaky ground, and that your actions as Chairman of the Fed (the role of the Central Banker) are running in stark conflict/contrast to the fundamental economic laws you espoused and supported as a Teacher and  Economist...

So, just out of curiosity, which of these legacies are more important to you, personally?

Inquiring minds want to know...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why the creation of the Universe was an act of GOOD - regardless of whether God was involved or not

Late last week, I stated in a post on some web forum:

Without the presence of heat, this Universe would chill to absolute zero (0 degrees Kelvin) and all electrons would stop moving. The Universe would literally come to a complete Quantum standstill. Our conscious beings would no longer exist - the neurons in our brains would cease to operate.
We simply can not exist in this Universe without the fundamental superiority of positivity over negativity.

Which drew the ire of some guy named Joe who replied:

What a load of clap trap...a wonderful "interpretation" of the laws of thermodynamics!!!
give all of a us a lesson in how your post really applies to the 2nd and 3rd laws of thermodynamics.....


- Now, I should just let this blow over,  but the gauntlet was thrown. This guy slapped my face with a white glove and extended a challenge.

So, here you go Joe, this one’s for you, buddy… The mother load of all clap-trap:

Nature abhors a vacuum... You might remember hearing that in 4th grade Science class.

Have you ever considered what it really means? Have you ever asked the question:
Why does Nature abhor a vacuum?”

Ok, no, you’ve probably never asked that question. I mean, why would you? That’s the kind of question only a truly spiritual (if not schizophrenic) spirtual zealot would waste any thought (or time) contemplating

And yes, I have tried to figure it out. My best “philosophical analysis” of how nature and creation work together follows below:

FAIR WARNING- Some of what you read below is empirical science- some is philosophical conjecture reflecting a personal viewpoint (mine). I tried to apply all the necessary caveats and pre-emptive disclaimers to prevent the “false premise” police from hauling me off to debate-jail.

In nature, most everything comes in pairs – Sir Isaac Newton taught us that for every force there must be an equal and opposite force, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every Yin, there is a Yang.

However, there is one aspect of the physical Universe (one set of “natural laws”) that operate with a different set of “rules and guidelines” – These are the laws of Thermodynamics.

The laws of Thermodynamics essentially provide for us the REASON that Nature abhors a vacuum.
Specifically, Thermodynamics says that you can’t “create” heat. Heat is just a by-product of matter changing states (or of matter and energy swapping places with each other)

The laws of Thermodynamics also state that entropy (the relationship of order versus chaos in any system) must always INCREASE (or favor chaos) over time. This is to say that as time passes, all orderly systems must deteriorate, and all well formed structures must disintegrate into less stable physical states- this is unavoidable, and the more orderly the system is, the higher the mathematical probability is that it will succumb to entropy. This concept is easy to see in old buildings that rust, collapse, and disintegrate into dust over time, and in fruit that gradually rots back into the soil, and in beautiful sand castles that degenerate into random, disordered mounds of sand grains.

So, if entropy is Newton’s “opposite” of stability, then they are not “equal and off-setting” as Newton surmised. In nature, entropy “wins” against stability over the long term, every time.

Wherever (and whenever) there is perceived stability, Nature identifies a “vacuum”, and she begins to “abhor” it, and she employs entropy to begin "changing" things and moving them toward a new state.

The law of entropy can’t be reversed- sand can’t be "un-weathered" back into the solid granite it came from, and nature does not randomly create sand castles by combining wind, water, and sand (although there is no physical law that says this is impossible- it is only very VERY unlikely).

Now, here’s where I finally come to the point of all this:

No matter where you came from, no matter what your personal faith leads you to believe, there is one constant that nobody has been able to dis-prove:

At some point, there was a beginning to time. Whether it was a random “Big Bang”, or whether it was the energetic intertwining of two cosmic strings resulting in a bubble bounded by an array of stable Higgs Bosons, or whether it was an omnipotent Deity or personality named God simply waving his/her figurative “hand” over the nothingness that came before…. In the beginning, God/Nature created the Heavens and Earth and said “Let there be light”, and God saw the light, and it was good. (Genesis- 1.4)

Did you catch that?

The light was GOOD – God said so. Hence, my original statement:

We simply can not exist in this Universe without the fundamental superiority of positivity over negativity.

We have (finally) stumbled upon an argument/viewpoint that I will NOT argue. I take God’s word for it, unconditionally, that light is GOOD.

So, we live in a Universe where light is good, but where order relents to chaos over time. So, the question that follows must be: Is chaos therefore “good”, or “bad”? (This is a rhetorical question that can’t be answered with any degree of precision- it is merely presented as a thinking point).

In the studies of religion, and of human behavior and psychology, the tendency toward chaos is typically classified as a negative attribute – words like “disorder”, “anarchy”, “turbulence”, “destruction”, “pandemonium”, “riot” are often attributed to the presence or influence of other negative words like “evil”, “Satan”, “psychosis”, “civil unrest”, “mental illness”, etc…

Disorder creates confusion, and confusion/uncertainty makes people uncomfortable. Therefore, we are “trained” from early in our lives that confusion (and discomfort) should be avoided. We are trained to avoid, and to dislike, the natural force of entropy and to gravitate toward “order” and “certainty”.

In fact- we are taught that people who gravitate toward chaos are “unruly”, “dangerous”, or “evil”; and society even creates elaborate archetypes for us to loathe like “Skinheads”, “Nazi’s”, “Black Panthers”, “Siccarios”, “Boogey Men” and “Terrorists”.

Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't identify (or even loathe) some of them for being dangerous, but I am questioning why we loathe them in general for being "different" due to their affinity toward chaos and disorder...?

I mean, it's not unheard of to read about the occasional episode where some buttoned-down Sunday school teacher "snaps" and blows away his entire family, but because his actions do not align with his archetype, we have a more empathetic reaction than we do when we read about the people that Che Guevara killed during his "anarchistic" rampages...

We EXPECTED Che to kill people - he was a chaotic psychopath, after all, right?

The Hindus actually have a God (Siva) who characterizes entropy pretty well; and, in the Western religions, destruction, chaos, and disorder are typically more often equated with Lucifer/Satan (evil) than with God (good)

And so, many of us are taught that God loves us, and as long as we live in reverence of that fact, then no matter what kind of “bad stuff” happens to us, we will all win in the end.

Well…. Entropy says you can’t win. Entropy says that the moment you begin “ordering” things to reduce confusion or discomfort, you begin increasing complexity, and setting your new order up for its inevitable (if eventual) collapse.

Anyway - If we apply the “rules” of Thermodynamics to the total existence of the Universe, a person can relate (if they choose) the existence of “The Light” that God brought forth as the entropy that “shattered the stability” of the ephemeral darkness/cold/void/vacuum/whatever that came before it. (notice the term"whatever- I am not declaring that I know what came before the creation of everything - I simply have faith in the "something" that makes up "nothing")

Likewise, when the Universe "exploded" into being, the inverse of Thermodynamics was necessary- from the "stability" and cold of nothing, came the "chaos" and heat of a living, changing Universe.

When God “saw” the light, God added the “heat” to the Universe.


Again, the words conjure up certain behavioral responses and reactions.

Out of nothing… came everything; including an “unbreakable” physical law that says nothing else can be added or taken away- it can only change states, and which also says that things must steadily graduate toward chaos (disorder) over the long term.

What any of this has to do with people is for YOU to decide, but, the LIGHT (and its associated physical laws) came from God (or from randomness); and the light is good since it brought with it heat/warmth/love (unless you choose not to believe in God, or in good, or in heat/warmth or love).

And so, the entropy (chaos) that the light brought with it can’t be all bad, now can it…?

If entropy resulted via the original creation act of God, then the chaos associated with entropy should not be feared- it is simply something to be aware of, and to live your life around… Right?

Personal commentary:

In societal terms, I believe Mexico is superior to the US in this regard- Mexican society has much more disorder (entropy) than US society, and yet the people seem better adjusted to living in more natural harmony with the ever-changing state of things. Nobody likes the Drug Lords, but they don’t let the constant threat of danger stop them from living their lives as they would choose. Meanwhile, in the US, we barricade ourselves behind concrete block walls within gated communities as we try to keep nature “outside the gate”.

Personal choice – it is up to the individual – we can choose to embrace the light, heat, warmth, love of a dynamic, changing Universe (a metaphor for society); or we can embrace the vacuum, cold, and void that “stability” brings about (a metaphor for a stale, boring existence within your sterile, gated community).

Just remember that the natural laws say that embracing the cold nature of stability is just setting yourself up for impending chaos and disorder as entropy steps in to shred your stability (and complacency) into a billion little pieces…

Ok, I’m crawling back under my rock to do some real work now…

If you want to know more about my personal relationship with God, then go read this: