Essay:Quantifying Order

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In the beginning was perfect order, and this perfection was with God, and this perfection was God.

This is a tantalizing translation of John 1:1,[1] and it suggests that insight into the universe may be best understood by examining order, and its converse of disorder (entropy). Interestingly, the etymological meaning of the word "Devil" is synonymous with disorder.

Consider this: have atheists moved the study of physics away from an inquiry into "order" and "perfection" because they are synonymous with God?

Viewing science in terms of ordering and disordering provides unifying insights into otherwise disparate phenomenon. Aging, for example, ostensibly seems unrelated to the Second Law of Thermodynamics as biology and physics are currently taught. Yet both can be understood clearly and simply as an action of disorder.

Focusing on order and disorder as the defining principles for nature has additional benefits. It provides a way for looking at the world that is helpful rather than hurtful. Daily, or even hourly, disorder causes frustration and anger, which can then be turned against others or even God. But recognizing disorder as being caused by the Devil and easily overcome with faith is helpful. Moreover, some activities by their very nature enhance order, such as marriage.

New Testament miracles that ostensibly appear to be an unrelated collection of violations of physical laws, can be more easily understood as natural signs when viewed as a triumph of order over disorder.


Biblical "miracles" -- the better translation is "signs" because they reflect an underlying reality rather than a departure from it -- present enigmas from a scientific perspective. They may well reflect a misunderstanding of science.

Miracles in the Bible that entail action at a distance, such as Jesus curing the centurion's son, are no problem when viewed from a physical perspective of order rather than, for example, field theories or assumptions against the possibility of traveling faster than the speed of light.

The miracle of walking on water is more fully understood under a physical theory based on order/disorder than a traditional view of gravity. If order is established based on human consciousness or faith, as in quantum mechanics (see below), and if what is common described as gravity is simply disorder, then consciousness or faith can physically trump the disorder or chaos of falling. Note that in the biblical description of Peter's walking on water it is disorder of the wind and waves that cause him to fall, not the tugging of a gravitation pull.

The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, which is the only miracle to appear in every Gospel (and twice in Mark), can be understood as a triumph of order over the disorder of a food shortage. Likewise, the changing of water into wine, the first miracle in the Gospel of John, is almost identical from this perspective: order triumphing over the disorder of an unexpected shortage.

The transfiguration of Christ (Mt 17:2, Mk 9:2) can be understood simply as a manifestation as light of Christ's perfect order. Similarly, bodily death and decay is disorder, which the Resurrection is the triumph of order over such disorder.

The curing medical ailments is also more easily understood under an order/disorder theory. Cancer cells are notoriously disordered and chaotic in their growth, for example. Curing them is a restoration of order. Similarly, restoring sight to the blind is a tremendous preservation of a highly ordered process. Those deeds might be understood simply as restoring greater order.

Most of the objections to Noah's Ark are based on modern notions of disorder; perfect order would facilitate that monumental task and overcome most, if not all, objections.

Benefits of teaching about order/disorder

Teaching students about the fundamental roles of order and disorder has benefits. It would cause increased awareness about the need to affirmatively avoid accidents. It would illustrate the importance of mental "order" or clarity, and the need to recognize and defend against mental disorders.

Quantifying Order

No one has ever quantified order, and it is a difficult challenge. It helps to make some initial observations:

  • precise locations are more ordered than imprecise ones; spatial proximity to other objects is more ordered than distant proximity
  • fast, predictable motion is more ordered than slow or unpredictable motion
  • sharp delineation is more ordered than diffusion
  • transmission of information is more ordered if there is less error
  • the human eye is more ordered than other human organs
  • in thinking, faith is more ordered than mental instability or disease

Query: is it a mistake to quantify order based on position or motion? Are spatial considerations even relevant to relative amounts of ordering?

The challenge is to devise a metric for quantifying order, which can apply across all forms of ordering.

There are several examples of highly ordered systems from diverse corners of physics:

  • a wave function collapsed by observation
  • a high concentration of mass
  • a tightly wound orbit, such as Mercury's
  • the transmission of light
  • the transmission of electromagnetic waves
  • transmission of highly complex information without error or loss

A perpetual ordered system, or a perpetual motion machine, is thought to be impossible by virtue of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Tightly Wound Orbit

The orbit of Mercury provides nature's closest example, both conceptually and spatially, of a highly ordered, nearly perpetual motion machine. The orbit will not last forever, and it is enlightening to observe and understand signs of degradation in the orbit.

The advance (or precession[2]) of the perihelion of Mercury is observed but not predicted by an elementary application of Newtonian mechanics to Mercury and the sun alone. This provided one of the great mysteries of physics around the turn of the century. A planet's "perihelion" is the point in its path of orbit that comes closest to the sun. For Mercury, that point of closest proximity is shifting with each revolution.

The theory of relativity developed a contributing factor of 42.98 (±0.04) arc-seconds per century to explain the then-observed shift in Mercury's perihelion of 5600.0. Subsequently, however, more accurate measurements with more sophisticated technology have determined a precise value of this precession (5599.7 arc-seconds per century), and the number provided by relativity no longer fits the data within the margin of error. Professor Clifford Will, a leading advocate for General Relativity, omits this test entirely from his paper summarizing experimental evidence for relativity.[3]

Wave Functions

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle describes an inherent disorder in subatomic particles such as electrons. Their position is uncertain until observed, for example. The act of observing brings a type of order to the system which does not otherwise exist.

This disorder may be what underlies an interpretation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or the impossibility perpetual motion machines. The disorder is not well-quantified.

Proximity of Objects

A close proximity of objects is more ordered than distant scattering.

Specifically, order could be quantified as being roughly proportional to the inverse of the surface area of the smallest sphere that encloses the objects. This fits well with the estimate of entropy -- the inverse of order -- as being proportional to surface area or radius squared.[4]

A precise correlation between a quantified order and the inverse-square of distance would not be expected, particularly as distances vastly increase. Stated another way, order may not diminish as quickly as the surface area expands for large distances, because spatial ordering can still occur at great distances between the objects.

The theories of General Relativity and Newtonian gravity are contradicted by the "Pioneer anomaly." That anomaly or effect consists of the Pioneer slowing down more than expected as it left the solar system. "Dubbed the Pioneer Anomaly, the unexplained force appears to be acting against NASA’s identical Pioneer 10 and 11 probes, holding them back as they head away from the Sun."[5] Of course, it begs the question to describe the cause as an "unknown force," as the relativity and Newtonian models may be fundamentally incorrect views of nature.

Relativity and Newtonian gravity have also failed to explain anomalies in spacecraft that have flown by Earth ("flybys").[6]

Entropy or disorder has been modeled as proportion to the distance squared, which is consisted with a modeling of order as roughly proportional to the inverse of distance squared.

The disorder (entropy) of a hypothetical high-density black hole is controversial.[7] Consistent with the above, one view is that the entropy of a black hole is proportional to its surface area rather than to its volume.

Transmission of Light

The transmission of light is extremely fast with predictable motion, and thus is highly ordered. But even light has diffusion (except in a vacuum[8]), so it typically is not perfectly ordered.[9]

Action at Distance

An order-based physical description has no problem with action at a distance. Field theories typically deny action at a distance (and predict never-found particles like gravitons).

Entropy and Thermodynamics

The Second Law of Thermodynamics holds that entropy never decreases. If it remains constant during a process, then the process can be reversed without a loss in energy. More typically, such as the popping of a balloon, entropy increases and the process is not reversible.

Physicists provide a rudimentary equation for infinitesimal entropy as follows:

where S is entropy, Q is heat or energy, and T is temperature.


  1. See the Conservative Bible Project for an ongoing effort to bring forth the best rendition in English of the original intent of the Bible.
  2. A "precession" is a slow gyration of an axis of rotation such that it traces a cone.
  3. The confrontation between general relativity and experiment
  4. See, e.g.,
  8. Light can travel in vacuum; sound cannot.
  9. 1930 Physics Nobel Prize presentation discussing diffusion of light