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Story of Evolution, Evolution of Stories
Bryn Mawr College, Spring 2004
First Web Paper
On Serendip

A Search For An Excuse

orah minder

In Layman's terms the first and second laws of Thermodynamics state that there is a finite amount of energy in the universe and as this energy is always reorganizing itself a certain amount always becomes less organized. Therefore, the rate of disorganization is always greater than the rate of organization. The universe is constantly becoming less and less organized. At this rate the dissipation, the disorganization of all energy is inevitable. Though these laws ensure our bodily death the eternity of our energy is also guaranteed. But this guarantee does not comfort humans who crave the organization of matter. This obsession with organization originates in an obsession with a search for meaning. Humans tell stories of the end existence, as we know it, in an attempt to find a pattern of organization to the universe. Behind every story of existence is a desire to separate the human, to find the meaning of humanity.

It seems an innate quality of all forms of life to desire to maintain bodily life. For the conscious human mind this desire is translated into the desire for immortality. The only form of life that humans know is through contained energy: the physical body. So we cling to this body as if its death ensures the death of our whole being, energy included. But, as the first and second laws of thermodynamics teach, there is a certain amount of energy in the world that is always changing form, but never changing in quantity. This seems to ensure an existence after the body perishes. But still, humans dread death. This fear seems too great to be a result of a fear of the unknown. More deeply, this fear of death is a fear of disorganization: the dispersion of our selves, a lack of meaning to the self. In death, our conscious selves are not organized in a condensed, formed matter. It is near impossible to assign meaning to that which is dispersed, everywhere.

Humans think of meaning as a quality that one form has over another. To humans, something is meaningful if it is not ordinary. The problem with finding meaning in death is that if an essence is completely dispersed in death then it is in everything, and cannot be set aside, cannot be out of the ordinary, cannot embody something that is more qualitative than another something. The Random House Dictionary defines meaning as, " (1) what is intended to be expressed or indicated. (2) The end or purpose of something." The desire for meaning is, therefore, a desire for specification, a narrowing of possibilities, a pinpointing. This pinpointing is exactly what is disallowed in the dispersion of matter thus frustrating the human search for meaning.

Another problematic aspect of the act of pinpointing something is the essential act of containment in the pinpointing. In order to assign meaning something must be contained. Scientist today, search for theories about the way in which the universe will end. They try to contain this terrifying premonition in their minds by searching for this future event. On Tuesday February 12, 2004 the New York Times featured an article called, "From Space, A New View Of Doomsday: How Mysterious Dark Energy Might Blast the Universe Apart" by Dennis Overbye. The article talks about a new theory about the end of the universe called 'the Big Rip.' The article describes a mysterious force that, theorists say, will propel this 'big rip.' This force is referred to as 'dark energy.' The article states that, "it has a name, but that bellies the fact that nobody really knows what dark energy is." Scientists have attempted to contain this horrifying entity with the taming name: 'dark energy.' Despite the misleading act of assigning a name, this force is, as of now, far beyond the control of the human mind.

The article explains that dark energy is an antigravitational force that "has retarded the growth of conglomerations of matter like galaxies." Not only is this force slowing the expansion of the universe "but theorists have long known that certain energy fields would exert negative pressure that would in turn, according to Einstein's equations, produce negative gravity." The projected end of this theory is the ultimate dissipation of everything: even the smallest particles. As a result of this antigravitational force, referred to as 'dark energy,' "objects like atoms would be able to lose energy by speeding up." So, as the rate of the expansion of the universe is slowing, simultaneously, the particles of matter itself are coming apart.

This article seems to be suggesting that the actual energy in the world will not be lost (which would be a direct contradiction to the first law of thermodynamics), but rather, matter will become stagnant because of a lack of concentrated energy. This ultimate stillness is projected by some scientists to be the end of what we know as reality. But, dark energy is not only the force of utter destruction, but also the possible force that instigated the Big Bang. The article states, "Indeed, some kind of brief and violent antigravitational boost, called inflation, is thought by theorists to have fueled the Big Bang." This mysterious form of energy is both the great destroyer of worlds and the great creator of worlds.

This unknown entity, the ultimate force behind life and death, for which scientists are trying to find meaning is that for which all humanity seeks. Like the evolving story of 'the big rip,' people have written stories attempting to explain, find meaning, for that which is observed. People look back in an attempt to find a story about why the present is as it is. People look forward in an attempt to find a story about where reality is going. All people tell these stories in an attempt to give meaning, to contain, to control, to pinpoint, to organize the reality that we know. Fueling the inspiration to write these stories is the human desire to find the meaning of humanity. All stories attempt to answer the questions: why are we here? And where are we going? Behind these questions is the desperate hope that we are separate, possibly excused from the destruction of the big rip. In this unknown meaning of life lies the comfort of separateness that humanity craves.

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