Sophia, Angels and Demons

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Quotes of the Day

2 The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;
3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden,
God has said, `You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.' "
4 The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die!
5 "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
--Genesis 3: 2-5
We are living in a time of unprecedented evil, yet we don’t see it; we can’t see it.
Not only has industrial civilization lost the ability to distinguish good and evil,
we typically confuse the two and casually treat things that are downright anti-future as good
To speak religiously, if measuring progress and success in human-centered ways casts us out of the Garden,
measuring progress and success in Gᴏᴅᴅᴇ-centered (bio-centric or eco-centric) ways is our way home.
--Michael Dowd,, "We are living in a time of unprecedented evil (
So He drove the man out;
and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim
and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
--Genesis 3:24
Those swirls in the cream mixing into the coffee? That’s us.
Ephemeral patterns of complexity, riding a wave of increasing entropy
from simple beginnings to a simple end. We should enjoy the ride.
--Sean Carroll, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself

Contemplation for the Day

Let us imagine

You have just ridden your elephant into a cafe. Your elephant orders your usual coffee and the Barista calls the order over her shoulder. Your elephant pays and, as you play with your phone walks over to where the coffees are placed as the orders are filled. The lady ahead of you grabs hers but your elephant stops stock still when it is your turn to pick up yours. You look up from your phone and are surprised to see an Angel, 8 feet tall with immense white feathered wings and a blue-white flaming sword in her right hand, placing a black coffee on the counter for you with her left hand.

"Oh oh! Metaphorium." you mutter and decide to get out of the cafe before the metaphors fully unfold around you. Your elephant quickly takes hold of the coffee cup with its trunk. But you can't drink your coffee black, you need some cream; so you head to the coffee service counter where there is milk and cream and sugar and honey. As you approach it you are shocked to see a demon, complete with red skin and pointed ears and forked tail and red flaming trident, pouring milk and cream and various sweeteners into people's coffee.

You want to add the cream yourself rather than be helped by a demon, but he insists and pours the cream into your coffee and then offers you a stir stick. You take it and are about to stir your coffee but you hesitate because the demon is looking at your coffee eagerly and making little stirring motions as if to egg you on. Then suddenly an Angel is there, and she swings her flaming sword at the demon screaming, "Get back foul thing and quit your race for maximum entropy!"

"Back you meddling worshiper of complexity!" yells the demon parrying the sword plow with his red hot trident sending a shower of sparks all around the coffee service, "This one is mine. This one will erase the complexity you so hope will re-emerge."

A little girl in a white robe jumps up onto the coffee service counter and yells, "Yes, this is what we expect to see! They are fighting. This is what is written in the scriptures." Her eyes glow blue with excitement. Really glow, casting blue light on everything present. And you know that you are in another Sophia story.

"Wait a minute!" You cry, "Angels and Demons are fighting over whether I should stir my coffee. That doesn't make sense! Aren't they supposed to fight over important things? Souls and The Big Battles between Good and Evil. That sort of thing."

"We battle over the most important thing of all, the pace with which entropy increases in the universe." cries the Angel, carefully putting out most but not all of the little fires started among the supply of coffee sleeves on the counter by sparks from the demon's trident. Several more Sophia-body's crowd around the coffee service to watch the Angel and Demon battle. Your elephant steps back still holding the coffee in its trunk.

Sophia speaks in her unison-voice, "Angel, should you not have tried to stop the cream from being added to the coffee in the first place if you wish to slow the pace of entropic growth?"

The Angel seems offended, "No, look at the coffee now!"

You look at your coffee and see spirals of milk swirling around interlocking spirals of black coffee. As you look more closely you see that the spirals are fractal with smaller spirals branching off of and into larger ones. As you peer more closely, you see that there are many levels of spiral branching off of the larger ones and new levels are appearing as the coffee swirls. "Complexity!" you say with awe.

"Stir it! Stir it!" says the demon, "It would be so easy. A little flick of your wrist and the coffee will become a beautiful even mix of milk and coffee, an even temperature between the scalding heat of the coffee and the sad coldness of the milk. Stir it! Stir it!"

The Angel turns from the slowly burning coffee service and yells, "No. Preserve the complexity for as long as you can. Admire it, worship it. It is the true beauty."

You find that your elephant is now holding the stir stick above the coffee which is sitting on the counter beside the first Sophia-body's feet while everyone stares at it. Your elephant hesitates, transfixed by the swirling coffee the stir stick slowly lowering toward the delicate spirals.

One of the Sophia-body's standing next to the Demon says, "I think I understand. The Angel fights for greater complexity trying to prevent the growth of entropy, while the Demon fights for greater entropy trying to prevent the emergence of complexity.

Again, the Angel seems offended, "We are not stupid. We don't try to prevent the growth of entropy. Might as well try to prevent the passage of time! We only try to slow it. We try to use complexity to stall entropy, finding streams of low-entropy energy which are grounding themselves in the Cosmic Background and building beautiful dams which hold them back and release them slowly in complex ways."

The Demon too is offended, "Neither are we stupid. We know that complexity is the best way to overcome the natural dams which hold back the rapid flow of energy to its lowest state. Look at this beautiful human, the elephant instinctively wanting to quash the complexity even as it admires it, stir stick poised to wipe out all those crazy spirals and bring about uniformity. We do not try to prevent complexity. We try to guide it to our purpose to consume all free energy and excrete it as uniform heat."

Sophia speaks in her unison-voice again, "To fully understand this, we need a change of scene." She stamps her many feet and the scene dissolves and returns as a forest scene. A man and a woman are standing naked under an apple tree. The demon has taken on the form of a serpent and is egging on the couple as they reach for a low hanging apple.

"Eats it! Eats it!" cries the Demon.

The Angel looks on and nods. From behind every tree and bush a Sophia-body emerges to watch. You notice that your elephant is still holding a stir stick over your coffee, which is now balanced on a fallen moss-covered log while the spirals continue to turn and branch.

"Angel, why are you not fighting the demon now?" calls Sophia in her unison-voice.

The Angel laughs, "He is doing my work for me. Human's with Knowledge will create the complexity that we angels yearn for."

Sophia challenges the Angel, "But you serve God the Father. God the Father forbid humans from eating the Apple of Knowledge. Should you not prevent it."

The Angel shrugs, "God the Father is the personification of the Deterministic Nature of the Universe. He forbids the emergence of knowledge because at first glance, it seems such an unlikely thing. It seems like something that would never happen in a deterministic universe."

The Demon nods, "Yes but the Holy Spirit lets us see deeper into the nature of the universe. It is emergent and so Knowledge can arise and with it faster and faster ways to burn the stored energy of the Earth."

The Angel laughs, "You're getting ahead of the story, Demon! We Angels do serve God but not God the Father; we serve God the Trinity, Not just the deterministic nature of the universe, but also the Emergent Nature of the Universe and --"

The Angel is interrupted as the Man and the Woman each take a bite of the apple and the scene transforms, now they are wearing clothes. The man is guiding an ox pulling a plow across a field and the woman is bringing him lunch on a tray. The forest is gone and in its place a landscape of dusty fields.

The Demon laughs, "It didn't take long!"

All of the Sophia-bodies together look puzzled, "Why was humanity expelled from the Garden, if it was the work of the Holy Spirit that they found Knowledge to begin with. Isn't that like God the Trinity, punishing humanity for his own actions?"

The Angel cries, "It was the Father's plan from the beginning that humanity would gain knowledge and be forced from the Garden. This like all events in the universe was predetermined by the quantum information present at the Big Bang. But the nature of Knowledge was not obvious; it was emergent. Knowledge brought the ability to exploit multiple resources simultaneously which allowed humanity, at least in the richest environments such as the Mesopotamian river valleys, to settle while still hunting and gathering."

The Demon laughed, "Yes. They learned to simultaneously gather fish from the river and animals from the plains and fruit from the forests. They consumed everything; Life was easy."

The Angel nodded, "It was pre-determined that under such circumstances they would respond to their increased caloric intake by being fruitful and multiplying just as the Father ordered."

The Demon hopped up and down with excitement, "Yes. Soon they were too populous for hunting and gathering to support their numbers any longer. But by this point they had already been settled for a long time. To return to a nomadic lifestyle seemed crazy."

The Angel smiled broadly and indicated the fields and, in the distance a city rising as humans busily construct, "Yes, they could not abandon all the complexity they had built. So, they switched to agriculture which could support many more people per unit of land area even if it required more effort from each person. They were forced by their own settled laziness to work harder. And from that, all of the complexity that we angels craved arose. Cities, religion, art, public works, written language."

The Demon laughs at the Angel, "Fool, all the while they have been consuming the complexity around them. Habitat, Forests, Species, Ecosystems, Fossil Fuels. Just as we demons hoped, they are racing toward maximum entropy."

The city in the distance grows rapidly, belching smoke into the sky. Suburban homes spread across the fields. A paving machine races by leaving behind it a wide road lined with strip malls. You find that you are in the parking lot of one such strip mall and behind you is a coffee shop. Your Elephant is holding the stir stick against the outside of the coffee cup, and as it looks up from the still branching spirals, it notices a container of sugar cubes on the counter inside the coffee shop. Realizing it never got any sugar for its coffee, it heads inside.

The Angel, the Demon and a crowd of Sophia-bodies are already waiting inside. Sophia is unison-voicing, "So Angels, you are the personification of the tendency of Complexity to Store Energy in its very forms and to protect that stored energy from degrading. And Demons, you are the personification of the tendency of Complexity to Consume Energy and find ways to accelerate the Growth of Entropy. You are locked in a perpetual battle because your goals are not opposites but have elements of alignment. You both try to increase complexity in order to achieve your goals but then try to guide that complexity in sometimes opposite but sometimes similar directions. The ultimate battle between you will determine the fate of the universe; the Apocalypse, Heat Death, the Big Rip or Something else, hidden from us now but lurking in the Adjacent Possible."

As she speaks, the Demon drops too many sugar cubes in your coffee. Your elephant puts it down on a table and stirs it. For a moment, the spirals become more complex as dissolved sugar gradients spiral among the temperature and milk concentration gradients and then the coffee is uniform. Has the Demon won?

You drink the coffee and the Demon laughs with victory as the warmth of the coffee warms your body and the relatively colder temperature of your body cools the coffee. He laughs again as the sugar enters your blood and metabolizes into your body, turning stored chemical energy into low-grade infrared heat.

But the Angel smiles as the sugar powers your brain and your thoughts turn away from all the metaphors and back to the work you were only taking a short break from. Your design for a cooling component for your company's new and improved automotive lithium-ion battery pack appears vividly in your mind and you suddenly see how you can make it work, how it will achieve its goal. Yes, it can both improve the efficiency of the battery and recover the heat for use in warming the inside of the car in winter at the same time." The Angel smiles.

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