Creation, Thomistic Philosophy, and the Natural Sciences


#41

I have no problem believing that there is life elsewhere in the Universe.

I believe there is microbial life and maybe even simple life forms elsewhere.

I do not believe however that there is any intelligent, physical life anywhere else in the Universe.

I believe in the rare-earth hypothesis.


#42

It is obvious they are oblivious to the latest science. They are still using data 50-100 years old.


#43

Your ideas disagree with observations. In order for a scientific theory to be accepted, it needs at least 2 pieces of proof:
1- fit observations that already exist. For the big bang, this was the redshift of galaxies.
2- fit observations that have not occured yet. This was the CMB, it’s distribution, monitoring galaxies at different ages, matter distribution, etc.

Your ideas would need to fit a lot of other data to be considered by the scientific community. Philosophical arguements would not be considered as they rely on very different thoughts and assumptions.

If you disagree with the big bang theory on philosophical grounds, this is fine. God can create the universe to look the way it is however he pleases. A scientist would follow the observations, not a philosophical starting point.


#44

Thank you for the reply and your previous post too, I appreciate it, but I don’t think my ideas disagree with the observations. I’m not disagreeing with the observations but offering an essentially theological explanation of the origin of the observations which is beyond the realm of an object of study for the natural sciences. God’s creative activity has to do with theology and philosophy, not the natural sciences. I’m not offering a natural science theory concerning the origin of things which I believe to be due to God’s creative activity when he first instituted the world. I’m essentially following the traditional order of the sciences in which sacred theology holds the highest place. Next comes philosophical metaphysics and then after this the natural sciences.

The natural sciences provide observations and theoretical explanations but these can be looked at and corrected if necessary in the light of Thomistic metaphysics which is a more universal science than the natural sciences. One can disagree with this as well as with Thomistic metaphysics but I suppose that is there business. Above all the human sciences stands sacred theology which is founded on divine revelation and which as St Thomas says ‘is wisdom [truth] above all human wisdom, not merely in any one order, but absolutely.’ In our modern age, the natural sciences especially physics is seen by many as the ultimate explanation of all reality which is very far from the truth and Thomistic metaphysics may be seen by many, if they have even heard of it, as simply a relic of an old science. But, nobody has proven this to be the case.


#45

I think the employment of the holy angels in the formation of the galaxies and stars in some manner may need to be taken in consideration too. Not that the angels create anything but after God created the elements in the initial act of creation, the angels may have been employed in gathering up like gardeners as it were the elemental atoms into some formation of the galaxies and stars according to the plan of God if God didn’t do that already in the initial act of creation. The angels know perfectly the nature of things in the corporeal world and how things work and maybe God gave them a little free rein in gathering up elements for things such as comets, asteroids and planets. St Thomas, St Augustine, and other fathers of the Church say that the angels preside and administer over the corporeal creation under God’s providence and the Bible is full of texts concerning their administration, employment, or ‘job tasks’ over the world.

Augustine says ‘Every visible thing in this world has an angelic power placed over it.’


#46

A Thomistic philosopher, an evolutionary biologist, and a Harvard astronomy professor walk into a bar.
Read More

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#47

Yes, thank you for the link. I’m aware of the symposiums that the newly formed Society of Catholic scientists and the Thomistic Institute have co-sponsored. I believe the first one was last year some time. So far I’ve not read anything coming from these symposiums concerning a creationist viewpoint of the origin of things but only of lectures about evolutionary theories and of how these theories it is said may be reconciled supposedly with philosophy, particularly Thomistic philosophy and theology, the catholic faith, and Holy Scripture. In my opinion, they ought to broaden their approach especially if they are going to look at the teaching and doctrine of St Thomas Aquinas who was not an evolutionist but rather a creationist.

There are Thomists who attempt to reconcile St Thomas’ theological and philosophical teaching with some sort of evolutionary theory. One question is to what extent can St Thomas’ teaching be reconciled with some sort of evolutionary theory, i.e., only microevolution or macroevolution as well? From his very writings, interpretation and understanding of Holy Scripture, it is quite clear St Thomas was neither a biological or cosmic macroevolutionist. For example, one can confer his treatise on the work of the six days of creation in the Summa Theologica, his commentary on the sentences of Peter Lombard, other works, his treatises in the Summa Theologica on the production of the first man’s soul and body, namely, Adam as well as the first woman, Eve.

St Thomas was a theologian and a man of faith above all, he is a canonized saint and the ‘common’ doctor of the Church. In studying St Thomas’ doctrine, one needs to see how he viewed the relationship between the sciences and faith. And here by sciences I’m not just talking about ‘science’ as it is understood today which essentially means the natural sciences. For St Thomas, there is an order of the sciences the queen of the sciences being sacred theology which is founded on divine revelation and being the sacred deposit of the faith Christ bequeathed to the Church, namely, God’s word in the form of the written word of Holy Scripture and the unwritten word of Sacred Tradition. As St Thomas says, ‘This doctrine [sacred theology] is wisdom [truth] above all human wisdom, and not merely in any one order, but absolutely’ (ST, Pt. I, Q. 1, art.6).


#48

(continued)

In this same article titled ‘Whether This Doctrine [Sacred Theology] Is the Same as Wisdom’, the second objection runs thus:

‘Further, it is a part of wisdom to prove the principles of other sciences. Hence it is called the chief of sciences, as is clear in Ethic. vi. But this doctrine does not prove the principles of other sciences. Therefore it is not the same as wisdom.’

To which St Thomas replies:

‘The principles of other sciences either are evident and cannot be proved, or are proved by natural reason through some other science. But the knowledge proper to this science comes through revelation and not through natural reason. Therefore it has no concern to prove the principles of other sciences, but only to judge of them. Whatsoever is found in other sciences contrary to any truth of this science must be condemned as false: “Destroying counsels and every height that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).’

Next in order after the science of Sacred Theology comes the sciences of philosophy the first of which is ‘first philosophy’ or metaphysics. After this comes mathematics and the natural sciences.

So, I believe a Thomist especially one who attempts to reconcile Thomism with macroevolutionary theory obviously needs to try and understand why St Thomas teaches what he in fact does teach. For example, St Thomas teaches that God himself immediately created and formed the bodies of Adam and Eve. From the questions and articles in the ST concerning this, his reply begins with quotations from scripture such as ‘God created man out of the earth’ (Sirach 17:1) and ‘God made man of the slime/clay of the earth’ (Gen. 2:7). St Thomas understands this literally. In the body of the replies, he uses philosophical arguments to support the scripture.

In fact, in general, throughout the ST and his other works, he generally uses philosophical and metaphysical arguments to back up his thesis or scripture and the catholic faith. As a theologian, a man of the catholic faith, and as I mentioned above concerning the science or truth of sacred theology as the queen of the sciences founded as it is upon God’s revealed word, St Thomas was surely not going to contradict Holy Scripture. At least two problems confront a Thomist macroevolutionary or cosmic theorist, namely, (1) the interpretation of Holy Scripture and (2) St Thomas’ philosophy and metaphysics and if his philosophical metaphysics is really compatible with biological or cosmic macroevolutionary theory and it what sense it may or probably have to be adjusted to fit the theory.


#49

(continued)

On the other hand, from his writings, we do know what he actually taught and believed although that is not to say we might understand or comprehend as he did his own teaching. Aquinas was a genius and a great synthesizer of thought and ideas, God gifted him with a very penetrating intellect and not all of us have such a gift. Aquinas specifically addresses the question in the ST ‘Whether the Multitude and Distinction of Things Come from God?’ (Pt. I, Q. 47, art. 1). Here he answers in the affirmative and in his work the Summa Contra Gentiles he addresses this question quite in detail covering a number of chapters and answering with many philosophical arguments. At one point in this work he says:

It is therefore absurd to say that the formation of things is the work of anything other than God the Creator of all. So it is that in order to cast out this error, Moses, after saying that God “in the beginning created heaven and earth” (Gen. 1:1), went on to explain how God distinguished all things by forming them in their proper species. And St Paul says that " in Christ were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible" (Col. 1:16) - (SCG, Book Two, chapter 43, 9-10).

So, again, for the Thomist biological macroevolutionary or Big Bang theorist, it appears that at least one question would be how does he/she reconcile St Thomas’ metaphysics and philosophy, if possible or what adjustments would be necessary, with what he appears to conclude from his own philosophical arguments, namely, ‘It is therefore absurd to say that the formation of things is the work of anything other than God the Creator of all.’


#50

It seems like a questionable premise to enter into any Catholic debate on Creation, Thomistic or not, with an already preconceived notion and presupposed acceptance of evolution as espoused in popular science and media, i.e. blind natural changes morphing into ever-more complex beings, creation stumbling about through the ages with no direction from a creator, etc. It seems some Catholic philosophers and theologians accept evolution whole cloth, and then try to back-fit Catholic teachings into it, instead of the other way around. There is great debate and variety within the scientific study of evolution to begin with, so even on the secular, scientific academic level there is not complete agreement of the theory.

Even aside from the field of biological evolution and creation, these Catholic scientists and theologians should understand that the philosophy of evolution, viz. the belief that things of great complexity always and necessarily “evolve” from something of a lesser complexity, is destructive to other areas of the faith aside from Creation. Evolutionary thinking is what reduced the New Testament to mere legends which grew out of the merely “historical Jesus” and in no way recount actual events or history. Rather, the beliefs and theology surrounding Jesus “evolved” into what eventually became the Gospels. Evolutionary thinking is why certain groups of Catholics continue to push for women’s ordination to the priesthood or the acceptance of homosexual marriage, because the rest of humanity has “evolved” into accepting such things. The word is used in secular society to connote the inevitable development of humanity into something “better.” And even in this manner, evolutionary thinking affects the field of eschatology which in Catholic Tradition includes a great apostasy; but in secular atheistic evolution, “man is god” and as the summit of creation, how can man apostatize from himself?

It seems that some theologians, academics,etc. feel they would have no credence if they dare to question even some accepted thoughts common to secular evolution, and carrying out their studies in this manner can be detrimental to what they think they are synthesizing.


#51

@richca I have posted before that the Scriptural evidence is clear and consistent throughout both the Old and New Testaments that Adam and Eve were directly and immediately created by God. In my view, Scripture does not clearly leave open another interpretation: The Assumption supports the miraculous creation of Adam and Eve, body and soul


#52

Ok, thanks bob for the interesting link and post you made. I hadn’t thought about connecting the Virgin Mary’s assumption body and soul into heaven in some manner with the immediate and miraculous creation of the body and soul of Adam and Eve before, but I see your point.

St. Ireneaus (140-202 A.D.) makes an interesting analogy with the miraculous conception of Christ’s body or incarnation of the eternal Son of God, the second Adam, in the virginal womb of Mary and the miraculous creation and formation of the first Adam’s body. I made a post about that here which I think you’ll find interesting too:

https://forums.catholic.com/t/any-young-earth-creationists-out-there/482871/1496


#53

Ok thanks but as I mentioned in the opening post the main theme of the thread presumes a model or faith of creation theology called ‘progressive creationism’ which in involving the teaching and doctrine of St Thomas Aquinas can be called Thomistic creationism. For those interested in a presumed model or belief in some sort of Thomistic evolutionary creation theology, they can go over to the thomisticevolution website.

Incidentally, Fr. Michael Chaberek, O.P. has recently (2017) written quite an interesting book titled ‘Aquinas and Evolution - Why St. Thomas’ Teaching on the Origins is Incompatible with Evolutionary Theory’.


#54

My point is not so much that an obvious connection exists between the Assumption and the creation of Adam, but rather that we are required to believe in the Assumption strictly on theological grounds and extrapolation from Scripture and Tradition. There is absolutely no clear, direct description of the Assumption in the New Testament, yet it is required belief. However, the creation of Adam immediately from the slime of the earth is mentioned several times in Scripture but for some reason there is still a lot of head-scratching in the Church strictly because people elevate science and reason over faith. Well, we believe in the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception on faith alone. We believe in the miracles of Moses and Jesus, including the Resurrection of our Lord, because of faith and Holy Scripture.

And there are other comparisons to make. “Science presents evidence that the first humans evolved from [insert theory here].” Science also says that virgins do not become pregnant and that dead men do not rise from the grave in glorified bodies. Yet we believe these articles of faith because of the teachings of the Church. So to me it is inconsistent to claim belief in these two teachings, for example, but somehow there is still a big question mark over the creation of Adam. Compared to other beliefs we are bound to hold, the direct creation of Adam is not very far-fetched, but somehow there seems to be an embarrassment to admit this event as a dogma. As if someone would really be on the fence about becoming Catholic, saying they believe in the Incarnation, the Resurrection, etc., but they wouldn’t be able to fully commit because we also believe in the immediate creation of Adam.


#55

What your saying here bob is how I understood at least generally your prior post about this. As catholics, there is nothing preventing us from believing in the immediate creation of Adam and Eve, body and soul. I mean we can if we want too and I do. This belief was also the traditional belief of the Church throughout the greater part of its history, we can even find it in magisterial documents, until essentially the advent of Charles Darwin and the publication of his books which greatly influenced very quickly the scientific community almost worldwide which in turn had an impact on various catholic theologians which influenced traditional catholic beliefs and little by little the magisterium itself causing some doubt as it were in the Church’s traditional beliefs.

Modern science in some sense has replaced the Bible and is itself the Bible of truth. This is backwards, all human wisdom and sciences must be brought to conform to the truth of the Holy Scriptures
in one way or another as it is God’s revealed word. As I mentioned in a prior post quoting St Thomas Aquinas “Whatsoever is found in other sciences contrary to any truth of this science [sacred theology or God’s revealed word] must be condemned as false.”

The Church’s official reaction to Darwinism was initially negative. Fr. Michael Chaberk, O.P. has very recently wrote an excellent book titled ‘Catholicism and Evolution - A History from Darwin to Pope Francis’ which I believe I’ve told you about before. One can consider in this era the decrees of the Pontifical Biblical Commission in the early 20th century too which are authoritative magisterial teachings. Little by little though Darwinism seemed to gain ground or influence various catholic theologians. During this time and even up to the present, the official magisterium of the Church has been cautious it appears from issuing any definitive dogmatic statements. Considering the Galileo affair and the immense knowledge gained from the modern sciences concerning the natural world, archaeology, etc., whether this knowledge is interpreted correctly is another question, I think this cautiousness from the Church has been okay. As I said, it’s not like we can’t believe as catholics in the immediate creation of the body and soul of Adam and Eve which appears to be what God’s word literally says. I personally believe this and the Church may eventually inspired by the Holy Spirit come out with a definitive dogmatic statement in this regard to settle the question once and for all.

We have had 150+ years of Darwinism and still nothing to prove it except limited variation among particular species or microevolution. The fossil record hasn’t gotten any better for Darwinism but continues to show the abrupt appearance and stasis of fully formed species of things. The extreme complexity, genetics, and order found in organisms and plants has in my opinion only made the case for Darwinism worse. To date the only experimental evidence available concerns very limited variation among particular species of things or microevolution.


#56

I don’t mean to sound like some sort of jerk or bigot here. But instead of getting into an endless discussion revolving around creationism and evolutionism which has been going on in various threads on this forum, I thought we could primarily focus, discuss for those interested, and present the creationist model (I’m personally a believer in creationism) which in some sense involves a literal interpretation of the Bible particularly the Genesis 1 and 2 creation narratives. And whoever reads this thread can make their own decisions. I also thought that in discussing Thomistic philosophy and metaphysics, principles of being, created being, of nature, and how St Thomas conforms this to Holy Scripture, what sort of view or conception of reality and the created world emerges from this? Is it the same world as modern physics presents to us which for some is nothing more than things of ‘matter’ and energy and bodies in motion? I believe that with St Thomas there is more to created reality than just physics, created reality is far richer than this.

As Aristotle said, metaphysics is the science of being as being. The beauty of Thomistic metaphysics to me is that it encompasses the entirety of reality even God who is Being itself, the first Being, and so the whole of reality, God and creatures, forms a unity, a unity of being, the one uncreated and all others created participators of various grades of being. Depending on how this thread progresses if it does at all, some posts may involve or mention evolution and some people may even discuss it at some length here which I obviously can’t prevent nor will I try too. However, I may not personally get involved in it except maybe for a few passing remarks.


#57

(continued)

I know one of the difficulties of this thread probably for many people involves Thomistic metaphysics itself. Unless one has some background in the history of philosophy, metaphysics, and the concepts involved, it can be difficult to understand but I believe it is something very worthwhile studying for those interested. Time permitting, and as long as I keep posting on this thread though at times it may seem like I’m talking to myself, that doesn’t bother me, I’m kind of writing down the thoughts in my mind, I’ll try to present St Thomas’ philosophy and metaphysics when I do in as clear as a fashion as possible from my understanding of it. And please don’t think I’m preaching here to who ever reads my posts, I’m not at all. As I said, I’m essentially writing down and organizing my own thoughts in my mind and I just happen to be doing it here on this forum presently. I have no academic degrees in Thomistic theology or philosophy. I’m virtually a nobody.

But I have long had an interest in philosophy and theology and trying to understand what St Thomas Aquinas teaches in his writings and I have pretty much self studied and learned to some limited extent Aquinas’ metaphysics through reading his works and asking various persons questions. Again, anybody reading my posts can view me as a nobody and that is fine with me. However, most of what I say here concerning either St Thomas’ theology or philosophy comes directly from his own writings as well as what I’ve learned from various books I’ve read from various authors concerning St Thomas’ teaching and the history of philosophy.


#58

As I’ve been mulling over all this stuff, and as I’m neither a believer in the Big Bang theory origin of creatures especially as that theory is understood according to modern physics and astrophysics nor a believer in Darwinian biological macroevolution, I submit that the only reliable and true source concerning the origin of the world and its manifold variety of creatures is the Bible, God’s word, and particularly the Genesis 1 and 2 creation narratives. From the Genesis seven day creation narrative, we read that it is through God’s word, indeed the eternal Word of God (John 1), that the manifold variety of creatures are created or made. God is the actor in the seven day creation narrative and it is through his supernatural creative activity I believe that the origin of the various creatures described in the six days work came about. God’s supernatural creative activity is essentially a matter of faith for us as this activity of God is not something that can be directly verified experimentally or scientifically but only indirectly as it were. And we certainly weren’t around to observe directly what was going on.

Consequently, I hold that all human sciences must conform to the truth of the Genesis 1 and 2 supernatural creation narratives and to the many other creation texts of the Bible within reason and contrary theories rejected. Within reason I mean, for example, that God himself did indeed create and form our sun, moon, and either all or the vast majority of the stars in the heavens but not necessarily only or on day 4 as it is related in the Genesis 1 creation narrative. The sequence and times of the appearances of the various creatures described in the creation narrative are accidental to the substance of the truth that they were created and formed by God. I believe that to hold that modern physics or chemistry can explain the origins of the manifold variety of creatures in this world is like using physics or chemistry to explain the origin of angels.

St Thomas believes that it cannot be demonstrated by any human science or philosophy that either the world is eternal or temporal. As catholics he says, we believe on faith alone that the world had a beginning according to God’s revealed word ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Gen. 1:1). Likewise, it is by faith in God’s revealed word also such as the Genesis seven day creation narrative that the origins of the manifold variety of creatures came about through God’s supernatural creative activity.


#59

You may be doing this already, but are you writing down these thoughts on a Word document and then copying an pasting them here in the forum? If not, I would suggest doing so, that way you can have all of your posts in one place, and perhaps can even divide them into categories, chapters, etc.


#60

The following is from Aquinas’ QUAESTIONES DISPUTATAE
DE POTENTIA DEI - On The Power of God. Question 4 - The Creation of Formless Matter, Article 1 - Did the Creation of Formless Matter Precede in Duration the Creation of Things?

In the body of the reply to this question, St Thomas first says the following concerning the interpretation of Holy Scripture. This is pertinent as the interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 from the Fathers of the Church can be roughly divided into two groups concerning the question at hand. First St Thomas says:

I answer that as Augustine says (Conf. xii) this question admits of a twofold discussion, one regards the true answer to the question itself, the other regards the sense of the text in which Moses inspired by God tells the story of the world’s beginning.

As to the first discussion two things are to be avoided one is the making of false statements especially such as are contrary to revealed truth, the other is the assertion that what we think to be true is an article of faith, for as Augustine says (Confess. x), when a man thinks his false opinions to be the teaching of godliness, and dares obstinately to dogmatise about matters of which he is ignorant, he becomes a stumbling block to others. The reason why he says that such an one is a stumbling block is because the faith is made ridiculous to the unbeliever when a simple-minded believer asserts as an article of faith that which is demonstrably false, as again Augustine says in his commentary (Gen. ad lit. i). As regards the other discussion two things also are to be avoided. One is to give to the words of Scripture an interpretation manifestly false: since falsehood cannot underlie the divine Scriptures which we have received from the Holy Spirit, as neither can there be error in the faith that is taught by the Scriptures. The other is not to force such an interpretation on Scripture as to exclude any other interpretations that are actually or possibly true: since it, is part of the dignity of Holy Writ that under the one literal sense many others are contained. It is thus that the sacred text not only adapts itself to man’s various intelligence, so that each one marvels to find his thoughts expressed in the words of Holy Writ; but also is all the more easily defended against unbelievers in that when one finds his own interpretation of Scripture to be false he can fall back upon some other. Hence it is not inconceivable that Moses and the other authors of the Holy Books were given to know the various truths that men would discover in the text, and that they expressed them under one literary style, so that each truth is the sense intended by the author. And then even if commentators adapt certain truths to the sacred text that were not understood by the author, without doubt the Holy Spirit understood them, since he is the principal author of Holy Scripture. Consequently every truth that can be adapted to the sacred text without prejudice to the literal sense, is the sense of Holy Scripture.


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