As indicated earlier, if I want to think religiously about the universe and my little place in it, I go to Brian Cox - who can easily use the word "beautiful" to describe what he sees and analyses.
What he said was time was demonstrated by the second law of thermodynamics, that is the tendency for entropy to increase on anything - it goes from order to disorder. He also said that the universe and time will simply end when every last small star has stopped burning, every black hole evaporated, and all matter has gone, and all left in the expanded universe in trillions upon trillions of years will be photons near absolute zero temperature. It will be a maximum state of disorder, and that is it. There is no escape. So the descendents of humans might go and park near the smaller start that will burn for longest without exploding and collapsing, but that is it.
Now I am an amateur in every respect, but here is my comment. First, of course, the irregularity in the explosion of the big bang allowed stars and planets etc. to form, gravity to do its work. So entropy at formation was decreasing - or perhaps it already was decreased.
However, chemistry and biology are such that lower entropy, and this can surely be proved. In the programme in the desert Brian Cox had a mould of a castle and with some water made a sandcastle. In other words, some of that sand went from higher entropy of a sandhill to a lower entropy of a wet sandcastle thanks to the biology that made Brian Cox and thanks to others who made the mould and the plastic spade. The wind would take his castle back to a hill shape - higher entropy/ more disorder - but for a time biological processes had resulted in technologies that allowed some sand to achieve lower entropy and more order.
Then there is another problem. There is nothing to stop a reverse entropy event, except that it is very unlikely [See the comments - even though Cox said a reverse event could happen]. But then the universe will last trillions upon trillions of years. That is a lot of time for a very low probability event to happen. After all, it may have happened to kick off our big bang. So his scientific prediction of the end and when itself must be subject to the rare possibility - but plenty of time for it to happen - that upsets the linear motion of the universe to its end.
Plus he said nothing about dark energy, nor about astro-physics and the physics of the very small not exactly adding up these days, nor was there reference to any other dimension or potential universe. For example, what is the condition of a universe that is expanded, cold and lifeless? Is there anything that might puncture such a universe that is expanded and presumably also conked out of dark matter and dark energy? If there are other dimensions and other universes, one might puncture the other. Just a thought. Because, in the end, so much of this is a perspective that is just looking for a revision to another, better perspective on how the whole thing works.
Not that humans or their descendents will escape. But then we don't really know about consciousness. What I do know is that the billions of years before my time I did not notice, nor the billions will I notice. If the meness of me comes along again, in another experienced experience (and why on planet earth?), I that will be another I won't have noticed the I that is growing older by the day. When I conk out, that is the end already. This puts transience into a very short timescale. Each of us contributes to the new histories of those who we will never see.
By the way, this is why I have less concern than some about climate change. We have had dramatic climate change in the past, and will in the future. We are apparently making it accelerate, in one direction, and need to turn the thermostat down - but in my way of thinking, that we have a thermostat at all is remarkable, whether we can turn it up or down. But the planet will be consumed by that bright thing that rises and falls in the sky whatever we do now. And we will also be no more, whether by death or disaster or simply by environmental change, and occupants of earth may be many and often in its lifetime. We only rent the place.
So the first religious task, if not the only one, is to come to terms with transience, and to live your life sufficiently unattached that the pain of living can be reduced, and you get more from what is good, including just staring at the vastness of it all, and that any of it or us are here at all.
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