A short comment by Yaneer Bar-Yam president of the New England Complex Systems Institute
Steven Pinker has recently written a brief piece on the importance of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics in interpretation of misfortune and fortune in human affairs [1,2]
However, macroscopic behaviors in non-equilibrium systems are not described by the 2nd law. The earth is not a closed system: We are in sunlight with emission of heat to space, and therefore the earth and human affairs are not described by the 2nd Law. The nature of things falling apart and coming together is described by multiscale concepts [3,4] and not by the 2nd law. To the extent there is a connection between the two it is not part of the second law, but part of a more general understanding of the space of possibilities: Order, disorder, information, construction, selection, destruction and degeneration. It is true that an increase in order at large scales is related to a decrease in entropy, but relating these to good and bad is unclear.
For example: The idea that a messy desk is a higher entropy state than an ordered one is wrong. That kind of disorder is not counted by entropy. It is the wrong scale. Also, what appears to be violation of the second law, disorder going to order, is possible. Such spontaneous “self-organization” happens in multiple ways, animate and inanimate. This is why stones can self-organize in circles , birds can self-organize in flocks, and people can self-organize in economic and social structures that can, at least in some cases (i.e. if they are done well and not poorly), contribute to our well being. Consider also the origin of life itself.