Does the universe have a direction?
And if evolution has a direction, so what? What difference does knowing this make in your life?
The answer to the first question is: Yes! The universe has a direction. This direction is called Evolution’s Arrow, Arrow of Time, or Entropic Time.
Check out Tim Blais’ musical description of Entropic Time:
Knowing that the universe has a direction has made a huge difference in the lives of many people.
“The emergence of organisms who are conscious of the direction of evolution is one of the most important steps in the evolution of life on any planet. Once organisms discover the direction of evolution, they can use it to guide their own evolution. If they know where evolution is going, they can work out what will produce success in the future, and use this to plan how they will evolve.”
~ John Stewart in Evolution’s Arrow
Toward Greater Complexity
Over billions of years, energy coalesced into matter, which in turn coalesced into stars and planets and into ever more complex molecules. On Earth, life evolves toward ever greater complexity of cells and organisms. Complex brains gave rise to greater consciousness and eventually ever greater compassion. Human culture, over thousands of years, has evolved ever more complex technologies.
One of the great achievements of scientific research was discovering the second law of thermodynamics. In a nutshell, this law tells us that energy flows. As energy flows, it gives rise to local pockets of order and complexity.
Energy flow is the basis of physical, biological and cultural evolution. Energy flow underlies the evolution of stars and galaxies as well as the evolution of microbes and men. Energy flow also underlies the evolution of art and culture. And most importantly for you, energy flow describes how you will evolve in your life.
For most of human existence, no one understood the physical laws supporting the direction of the universe. Then, beginning around 200 years ago, scientists began discovering properties of energy that led to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Basically, this law says that energy flows from areas of high energy to low energy.
More recently, Eric Chaisson has shown that the second law of thermodynamics applies to the whole Epic of Evolution.
Eric Chaisson is an astrophysicist and cosmologist who studies energy flow in evolution. He describes this in his 2001 book, Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature. Chaisson shows that all organized systems (ie a rock, your dog, an iPhone) have energy patterns that characterize their emergence, development, and evolution.
This may sound incredibly abstract, but it has huge implications for your life.
The biggest implication is that once you know that the universe has a direction, you can begin to use this information to guide your future.