Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Politics of Batman: Chaos Part One

Chaos has always been an amorphous yet persistent idea. To this day, Chaos is difficult to define, because it's most basic definition depends on the definition of something else:  order. Chaos, we know, is the lack of order. But what is order?  Even order is difficult to define.

Chaos has been part of natural science since the mid 1800s as something called "entropy," a consequence of the second law of thermodynamics. Entropy itself has always been mysterious. Nobody really knows what it is. It is a phenomenological concept, meaning that it only exists as an empirical phenomenon, a measurement of something we know must be there but don't have any idea where it comes from. In fact, in the chemistry course I teach there are all sorts of values for entropy for specific chemical reactions.  In fact, entropy (S) is an important part of the Gibbs free energy (G), which is a quantity that will tell a chemist whether a specific reaction will occur spontaneously or not:
G = H - TS

If you ask a chemist why wood does not spontaneously burst into flames, he will tell you that the Gibbs free energy of the combustion reaction for wood and oxygen is positive. Why does wood burn then, one might ask. The chemist will reply confidently that increasing the temperature (T) will eventually turn the Gibbs free energy for the combustion reaction negative, making the reaction spontaneous. In fact we can even tell you for defined examples how much you would have to increase the temperature to make reactions happen. But if you ask a chemist what entropy is, he will have a difficult time answering. Is it a force? Is it a property? Is it just a confluence of several unknown factors? We simply don't know. All we know is that according to the second law of thermodynamics, entropy is always increasing. If we do burn that wood, the combustion reaction itself will increase the total entropy of the universe. Given enough time, it will increase to the point where all matter and energy are evenly distributed throughout the universe resulting in a completely uniform universe and a complete lack of order. This is a universe in which life cannot exist. Physicists refer to this as the "heat death" because the way entropy increases is understood as the escape of unusable heat energy when any work is done, such as combustion. 

Is entropy evil? Without knowing exactly what it is, it seems at first glance impossible to say. However we do know it is part of the laws of the universe, and God implemented those very laws. If entropy is itself evil that means God created evil. But now we must define evil.  Evil, in my view, is anything that goes against the will of God. If God created entropy, which I believe He did, than it cannot be evil because it is part of the will of God. It is possible that God put entropy into the world as a consequence of the Fall, but even if the pre-Fall universe existed without entropy, and entropy was introduced by God as a consequence for sin, then it still cannot be evil in and of itself. It is only a consequence of evil, and consequences for evil are not in themselves evil.  They are good and just. Even without reference to entropy, we know that God often issues negative consequences for evil, even upon people who are themselves innocent. Death itself was such a consequence. Is Death evil if God Himself instituted it? Even if He instituted it as a righteous and just punishment for evil? My sin did not cause Death to enter the world, even though I do sin, but I die because of Adam's sin. David's child with Bathsheba died because of David's sin, and there you have an example of an innocent life (if you reject original sin, which I do) being killed as a consequence of someone else's sin. Entropy, or chaos, is certainly not desirable to me (unless I want to start a fire), but I cannot bring myself to believe it is evil. I may, in certain instances, ask God for a stay of judgment for various reasons.  And He may grant my request, but it is not unjust if He doesn't, which also entails it is not just if He does. It is irrelevant to the broader concept of Justice for Him to direct consequences of sin to different parts of the timeline. We may wish him to do so, but that wish cannot be called "good" or "just." It is merely a desire which God is free to satisfy or not. And so I must believe that chaos in the sense described by entropy is irrelevant to the concepts of injustice and evil. 

The Batman movies suggest that Chaos is Evil.  Although this equivalence is not directly stated, it seems obvious that we are to interpret the Batman as the "good guy" and the Joker as the "bad guy." The Batman doesn't kill people; the Joker kills indiscriminately and seemingly for fun. That the Joker describes himself as "an agent of Chaos" when explaining his motivations therefore implies that Chaos, according to the Batman movies, is in fact evil. In this we have another example of a popular identification of something which is not evil portrayed as evil. Entropy might be a consequence of evil, but that doesn't make it actually evil itself. 

This view of entropy or chaos as evil helps only the progressive political viewpoint, because progressivism has always emphasized that traditional morality must be replaced by a new morality. Part of the war against traditional morality is the attempted mitigation or total erasure of the consequences for disobeying the old morality. This strategy of the enemy is as old as sin on earth. Hence the progressive obsession with abortion, despite the fact that in every other area they put on airs of defending the defenseless.  Hence the progressive obsession with HIV. Mitigating the consequences of some types of bad behavior is an important political goal of progressivism, and historically the introduction of the pill led to the sexual revolution and a massive culture-wide escape from traditional sexual mores. The scientific struggle to better our lives, end hunger and all sorts of other goals was an attempt to build a Tower of Babel that would reach to the skies of a utopia where no one would ever be in danger of anything undesirable ever happening to them again. The consequences of both individual sin and the sin of Adam would be eradicated. Poverty? Famine? War? Disease? All things which progressives believed could be eliminated entirely through the progress of science and government. All things that Jesus Christ said would continue to happen right up until the end of the world. Conservatives only regrouped after World War II, given to us by government, and the atomic bomb, given to us by science, finally put an end to all those lofty progressive utopian dreams. But even progressives never believed we could beat entropy. That didn't stop them from believing it to be evil rather than just punishment for a fallen world. Once again, the "agent of Chaos" is a vehicle for the progressive worldview.

Now that's whack.