Creation, Thomistic Philosophy, and the Natural Sciences


#61

(continued) St Thomas continues:

Having laid down these principles we must observe that commentators have given to the opening chapter of Genesis various explanations, none of which is contrary to revealed truth: and as far as concerns the question in point they may be divided into two groups in respect of their twofold interpretation of the formless state of matter indicated at the beginning of Genesis by the words, The earth was void and empty. (RSV-CE: The earth was without form and void.) Some understood these words to mean that matter was formless in the sense that it actually had no form but that all forms were in it potentially. Now matter of this kind cannot exist in nature unless it receive formation from some form: since whatever exists in nature exists actually, and actual existence comes to a thing from its form which is its act, so that nature does not contain a thing without a form. Moreover, since nothing can be included in a genus that is not contained specifically in some division of the genus, matter cannot be a being unless it be determined to some specific mode of being, and this cannot be without a form. Consequently if formless matter be understood in this sense it could not possibly precede its formation in point of duration, but only by priority of nature, inasmuch as that from which something is made naturally precedes that which is made from it, even as night was created first. This was the view taken by Augustine. Others took the view that the formless state of matter does not denote absence of all form in matter, but the absence of natural finish and comeliness: in which sense it is quite possible that matter was in a formless state before it was formed. This would seem in keeping with the wise ordering of its Maker who in producing things out of nothing did not at once bring them from nothingness to the ultimate perfection of their nature, but at first gave them a kind of imperfect being, and afterwards perfected them: thus showing not only that they received their being from God so as to refute those who assert that matter is uncreated; but also that they derive their perfection from him, so as to refute those who ascribe the formation of this lower world to other causes. Such was the view of Basil the Great, Gregory and others who followed them. Since, however, neither opinion is in conflict with revealed truth, and since both are compatible with the context, while admitting that either may be held, we must now deal with the arguments advanced on both sides.


#62

It would be interesting to know what Thomas Aquinas would write now, given ~700 years of scientific advancements since his time.


#63

Well, Godspawned, the nature of the world has not changed since Aquinas’ time or since the time Moses wrote Genesis. Whatever scientific advancements since Aquinas’ time to the present have been made has no essential bearing on what he is saying. In his view, there are two irreducible principles from which the whole corporeal or material world and all its manifold variety of creatures are composed of, namely, matter and form. I live in the present time and I agree with him.

‘For your all-powerful hand, which created the world out of formless matter…’ (Wisdom 11:17).


#64

‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters’ (Gen. 1: 1-2).

As I’ve been saying here following Holy Scripture, the Church Fathers, and St Thomas Aquinas, the initial act of creation by God such as in the first two verses of Genesis above, was the production out of nothing of the entire angelic nine choirs of angels and the entire matter of the corporeal creation at least under elemental forms and the substance of the heavens.

Aquinas is committed to the Aristotlelian doctrine of hylemorphism and the Bible itself
from various texts can be interpreted it seems in an hylemorphic sense. For example, the text from Wisdom 11:17 which I quoted in my last post: ‘For your all-powerful hand, which created the world out of formless matter’. The text from Gen. 1:2 ‘The earth was without form and void;’ Gen. 2:7 ‘then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground’; Gen. 2: 19 ‘So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air’. St Paul in Philippians 2:6 concerning Christ says ‘Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.’ The ‘form of God’ here is obviously not a hylemorphic composite of form and matter but philosophically considered a ‘pure form’. The angels are also pure forms but composites of act and potency, substance and accidents. The ‘pure form’ of God is pure act.

Prime matter and either substantial or accidental forms of whatever kind are creations out of nothing from God. In this sense, whatever is or exists whether of matter or form outside of God is something created and caused by Him. Although matter and form are beings in a certain sense, they are more properly called incomplete beings or beings of a being because it is the individual composite of form and matter which is primarily a being and which exists. Neither a material form or prime matter exist separately from one another nor do they merge into one another. Since their creation by God, the material forms and matter in the works of nature are neither created or destroyed. In the first institution of the world, form and matter were concreated by God in the production of the various elements and possibly compounds of them and the substance of the heavens.


#65

(continued)

In St Thomas’ time as well as among the Church Fathers and besides what was called the fifth element or quintessence of the heavens, there were considered to be the four elements of earth, water, air, and fire. Whether the ancient Israelites or Moses in writing the Genesis creation narratives had a concept of element such as the ancient greek philosophers, St Thomas, or we do, I don’t know and it is rather of minor consequence. The Genesis narrative from verse 1 to the work of the third day literally seems to be about major parts or bodies of the world as known to the people of that time such as the heavens, the earth, and the waters and seas. Still, as I quoted in a post yesterday from St Thomas, he says:

‘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.’

From modern discovery and science, it appears that all the things we see from the stars, to planets, the moon and the earth, the seas and plants and animals, are composed of elemental atoms and their parts of which there are about 90-98 natural elements known. Accordingly, the initial act of creation by God involved the production out of nothing of the entire matter of the corporeal universe under the elemental forms of neutrons, protons, electrons and the formation of the 90-98 individual natural elemental atoms of them and possibly compounds of elements such as minerals with the substance of the heavens. Apparently, most of the individual atoms God created are of hydrogen and helium.

Now, if one concedes to what I’m saying here concerning the creation of the elemental atoms and their parts but influenced by the Big Bang theory in some manner, they may consider whether God created only hydrogen and helium atoms and from God forming the stars, maybe the stars from fusion processes and the explosions of quasars or supernovae produced the rest of the elements. To this I answer, what is the point of this and how could it possibly be proven? Surely, if God can create and form hydrogen and helium atoms from neutrons, protons, and electrons, he could certainly form the rest of the natural elements at the same time.


#66

(continued)

Secondly, stellar nucleosynthesis is a theory and exactly what elements are being fused and produced in the core of a star over its lifetime is theoretical though I’m not saying that no elements are being fused and produced. It’s a substantial change of the elements. The elements heavier than iron are said to be produced by exploding stars such as quasars or supernovae. This idea is even more theoretical I believe than the fusion going on it is said in the star before the explosion. I’m not sure how much real evidence there is if any concerning the production of elements heavier than iron from exploding quasars or supernovae.

Neither Holy Scripture nor reason would appear to necessitate such a model as the elements beyond hydrogen or helium to have only been produced from stars. If we consider the Genesis seven day creation narrative literally, earth and waters are created before light on day one and the sun and stars aren’t mentioned until day 4. The earth is composed of many if not all of the natural elements on the periodic table and water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen. And not only this, there is not a star in the heavens that has been discovered that I know of that does not have some ‘metallicity’ to it. And even if some star was discovered that consisted of only hydrogen and helium, that isn’t going to prove anything according to the creation of the elements I’m proposing here.

In a word, if one accepts what I’m proposing here, the elements beyond hydrogen and helium found in the universe or on the earth, moon, planets, the earth’s atmosphere or the seas does not necessitate a reliable indicator of age. Very long life radioactive elements from which it appears according to the present science can determine with some estimation the ages of various things, can maybe be looked at in another post as well as the pros and cons of the accuracy of such dating methods.

Comments are welcome :smiley:


#67

The same. He learned by the foot of the cross.


#68

I could go into horrifying detail about big bang nucleosynthesis, stellar nucleosynthesis, receeding galaxies, variable stars and type 1a supernova, but I don’t think that will help the discussion:

This is where science and philosophy diverge. You have a philosophical model (sounds like a good one- fits the Bible, has self-consistency), and trying to fit the observations to it. Science works the opposite way around- start with the observations, and see what fits. This quote by Richard Feynman phrases it better than I can.
What you are doing is not wrong- it just starts on the opposite end of the spectrum from where a scientist would start, so naturally you draw different conclusions.

Ralph Alpher did the maths of calculating Big Bang nucleosynthesis reactions, by hand, which took his entire PhD. He really wanted to prove, as you do, that the Big Bang created all the elements. Turns out he was wrong. You can’t do it. The math doesn’t add up the way you (or he) wanted.

As an aside- scientists do often have a philosophy to push. This does not mean they should.


#69

Actually, science denies it can fit.


#70

I want to reply with more comments to your post here but it is getting a little late here so I’ll see if I can make some time tomorrow. But, I want to clear up for the time being in which you seem to say that I’ve been trying to prove that the Big Bang created all the elements. I have actually been saying the opposite in this whole thread so if I haven’t made that very clear, let me make it crystal clear what I’ve been saying in this thread, namely, God is the one who created the elements out of nothing, the whole composites of form and matter, immediately and directly. Neither the Big Bang nor stars created the elements.


#71

It is unfortunate that this theory sounds so destructive. The term has connotations of a chance explosion just happening to coalesce into an ordered universe. Generally it is thought that it must have been an explosive type event since galaxies are still moving away from each other like so much shrapnel after a bomb blast.

I rather think of God’s initial act of Creation as unveiling his glory: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.”

Imagine being at the end of a gigantic pitch black warehouse. At the center is a source of great light housed in a cylinder which is shrouded by a perfectly opaque veil. Little by little, the veil is retracted, and the light inside begins reaching throughout the warehouse. In the same way, God unveiled His Creation.


#72

I have spent the last 15 years researching and writing about the science hidden in Scripture. I’ve written a couple of blogs virtually proving (in my biased opinion) that Adam and Eve were created pretty much exactly as it is described in Scripture. Both of the blogs I’m linking to are two-part blogs. Each contains a link to the second part. This is to the blog on mtEve, the science and the Bible: http://www.stossbooks.com/blog/index.php?11-24---mitochondrial-eve--should-christians-be-worried----part-i

This is the link to the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib: http://www.stossbooks.com/blog/index.php?8-17---woman--the-holy-spirit-of-the-family----part-i


#73

Thanks for the links, I’ve bookmarked them and will be reading through the posts. I appreciate it!


#74

Hope you find it a worthwhile read.


#75

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1)

This first verse of the Bible can mean many things at the same time. Firstly, it can mean the totality of creation both of the angelic world and the corporeal world such as in the first article in our professions of faith such as in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed we recite every Sunday at Mass or in the Apostles Creed ‘I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.’ Sometimes the Holy Scriptures themselves just mention ‘heaven and earth’ in various texts as meaning the totality of creation.

Secondly, ‘the heavens’ can mean the entire corporeal visible heavens above the earth as well as what the scholastic theologians called the empyrean heaven which refers to the invisible heaven above the visible heavens and the dwelling of the angels and human souls that have gone to heaven. ‘The earth’ can simply mean the planet earth.

Thirdly, ‘the earth’ can refer to the corporeal creation and more specifically to the creation of the elements. Indeed, all except for maybe just a few of the natural elements are found on planet earth. In the time of the Church Fathers and St Thomas’ time, the elements referred to here were earth, water, air, and fire. In our times, the natural elements are those on the periodic table as well as the parts of these elemental atoms such as the electrons, neutrons, and protons. It was generally agreed on among the scholastic theologians that the first verse of Genesis included what was called the four coevals, namely, the creation out of nothing of the empyrean heaven and the entire nine choirs of angels, the creation of time, and the creation of the entire elemental matter of the corporeal world under the elemental forms of earth, water, air, and fire. At least some of the theologians included here also the creation of the corporeal heavens with the creation of the empyrean heaven depending on their interpretation of the second day of creation and the making of the firmament which God also called heaven. Under ‘the heavens’ of Gen. 1:1, I’m going to follow the interpretation that both the empyrean and corporeal heavens were created simultaneously together and also include the creation of the darkness of verse 2. Whether darkness is simply the absence of light and thus sort of like a non-being then or whether darkness is a created creature and thus a being in some sense, I don’t want to get into presently. I’m presently going to understand it as a reality of some sort and so some sort of created creature.

Fourthly, as just mentioned, ‘the earth’ of Gen. 1:1 can represent the creation of the entire matter of the corporeal world under the elemental forms. But it is not just the earth that was initially created but the waters of verse 2 also. So, in the scripture account we have the distinction of the earth and the waters, two of the ancient four elements mentioned. The heavens and the darkness are also distinct creations.


#76

(continued)

St Thomas offers some reasons why Moses did not mention the elements of air and fire but he at least sees the darkness as including in some manner the element air. In a prior post, I made mention that the ancient Israelites may not have had a concept of ‘element’ as it later came to be understood though maybe Moses did when he wrote Genesis but it is of minor consequence anyhow to what we are considering here.

The earth and waters of Gen. 1: 1-2 represent then the creation of the natural elements distinct from one another we are now familiar with on the periodic table which I have spoken about quite a few times on this thread. The earth can represent the heavier or solid like elements on the periodic table while the waters can represent the lighter or more liquid or gaseous elements. Thus, we could imagine a state of affairs of the heavens and the earth as described in Gen. 1:2, namely either of (1) the waters covering the earth with darkness over the face of the deep or (2) a sort of mix of the earth and waters and the darkness over the face of this mix. The scripture says ‘The earth was without form and void’ and the same could be applied in some manner to the waters as some formation and order to the waters came about by God’s activity and word on the second day. The elements were created distinct from one another but awaiting as it were further formation into mixed bodies or compounds and other creatures through God’s creative activity in the six days work to follow.

At this stage of creation (the description of Gen. 1:2 after the initial act of creation), we could conceive of the natural elements on the periodic table, represented by the earth and waters of the Genesis account, arranged in two ways I think analogous to the earth and waters of 1 and 2 above. (1) The heavier or more solid like elements represented by the earth covered as it were by the lighter elements represented by the waters and more specifically the elements of hydrogen, helium, and oxygen, the three most abundant elements in the universe it is said. In fact, it is said that hydrogen atoms amount to about 75% of the atoms in the universe, helium atoms amount to about 23%, and the rest of the elements make up the remaining 2% with oxygen being the most abundant of these. Now, water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom and so, indeed, we can conceive here in some sense the ‘waters’ covering the ‘earth’ and “darkness was upon the face of the deep.” The ‘deep’ here is very deep if we take the percentage of the elements of hydrogen, helium, and oxygen to the rest of the elements which amounts to about 98% plus of the elements.


#77

(continued)

Similar to this first way of conceiving the order as it were of the natural elements on the periodic table at the stage or description of creation from Gen. 1:2, is the following second way analogous to #2 in the last post of the second paragraph. The 2% +/- of the elements are mixed or rather arranged in with the 98% plus of the hydrogen, helium, and oxygen elements and thus we still have in some sense “and darkness was over the face of the deep.” The elements can be conceived as in a shape of a spherical ball as it were of either a lesser or greater density in the midst of the heavens and the heavens and the darkness over and surrounding it.

“And the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). St Thomas says here following St Augustine in the latter’s work I believe of ‘The Literal Interpretation of Genesis’, the ‘Spirit of God’ means here the 'Holy Spirit Who is said to “move over the face of the waters,” not, indeed, in bodily shape, but as the craftsman’s will may be said to move over the material to which he intends to give a form.’

To be continued with the work of day one and the creation of light.


#78

And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day’ (Gen. 1: 3-5).

Here we have God creating and bestowing on the world the phenomenon of light, a marvelous phenomenon. From a literal chronological rendering of the Genesis seven day creation narrative, it seems that God created light apart from what we normally observe as the natural sources of light such as our sun and stars since the creation narrative doesn’t mention God making the sun, moon, and stars until day 4. Quite a mysterious passage is this creation of light in verse 3. St Basil the Great commenting on this verse says that God creating light before the sun and stars, or Moses writing the creation narrative in this manner, was to impress upon us and particularly the ancient Israelites who were the immediate audience of the creation narrative, that God is the Father and Creator of light and not the sun, stars, or moon. Ancient cultures in this age were prone to worship and view the sun, moon, and stars as gods.

And so Moses does not mention the creation of the sun and moon in the beginning of the creation narrative which he even avoids calling them the sun and moon because if I’m not mistaken the words for sun and moon in the Hebrew language were derived from other cultures in which these words were the names of their gods as these other cultures viewed the sun and moon. Instead Moses calls them the two great lights and places their making on day 4 and not from the beginning of the narrative to further impress on the Israelites that the sun, moon, and stars are not gods but creations of the God of the Israelites. Moses even places the creation of plants on day 3 before the making of the sun on day 4 so that the people would understand that the sun is not the creator of plants but rather God. St Augustine interpreted the creation of light in verse 3 as the creation of the angels.

The phenomenon of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) that astronomers have observed in the heavens appears to literally confirm in some sense verse 3 and the creation of light by God. The present prevalent scientific understanding of the CMBR from astronomers associate the CMBR with the Big Bang theory. I think only God knows the source of the CMBR phenomenon and how he produced it but we can incorporate the phenomenon into our creation model of the Genesis narrative and verse 3 of the narrative does literally say ‘And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.’ So for those people who do not take the seven day creation narrative seriously or literally in any way whatsoever, they might want to think again about it as it appears we may have a literal confirmation of verse 3 from the discovery of the CMBR phenomenon.


#79

(continued)

As I mentioned in my last posts of a day or two ago, the earth and waters of verses 1 and 2 from the beginning of Genesis can be understood literally as the planet earth and the substance of water and at the same time as the creation of the elements we are familiar with today on the periodic table. For the planet earth and water are made out of the elements. In the last post, I mentioned how in some rough sense the waters of Gen. 1:2 as well as the waters and their separation involved in the work of day 2 could represent the lighter or less dense or greater rarity, fluid and gaseous like, elements on the periodic table especially of hydrogen and helium which it is said makes up about 98% of the elemental matter in the observable universe. We could include here oxygen and carbon which it is also said are the most abundant elements of the remaining 2% of elements. The earth could roughly represent the heavier, dense and solid or rock like elements of the remaining 2% of the elements.

Now, I think in the initial act of creation in which God produced the elemental atoms and their parts such as the electrons, protons, and neutrons, God did not produce these elements without any order whatsoever. I believe he created all these elements already ordered in some ‘formless’ manner into all the galaxies he was going to form from them, all the stars in the galaxies, the planets associated with various stars, the moons with planets, asteroids, comets, etc. The atoms were so arranged that compounds of the elements such as minerals, rocks, and water were already present but not entirely formed. Also, at this time, I’m postulating that God had not yet bestowed on the individual atoms or the electrons, protons, or neutrons their accidental forms such as their electrical charges, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and gravity. Aquinas makes mention of the creation of the substance of the elements without their accidents in his commentary on the sentences of Peter Lombard. It is by their active and passive qualities, or powers or forces, that elemental atoms can interact with one another and form compounds and such.

I had initially thought that it would make sense that God in the initial act of creation in creating the substance of the heavens and the elements that he would place the elemental matter organized and formed in some sense as I said just above and particularly the forms of the galaxies in as yet a cloud and dust like manner scattered over the heavens sort of like in a static universe. But this idea would entail some other explanation for the CMBR blackbody phenomenon as well as the redshift phenomenon of galaxies. Presently, the prevailing explanation of the redshift phenomenon is the expansion of space. At the same time, its not like we have to try and offer a natural explanation for every observable phenomenon in nature as if we think we are ever going to completely understand it. Also, we are dealing here with the Genesis seven day creation narrative which essentially involves in various ways not the operations of the natural world but the creation of the natural world and God’s supernatural creative activity.


#80

(continued)

To account for what it is said the blackbody phenomenon of the CMBR as well as the redshift phenomenonon of distant galaxies and taking the redshift phenomenon as due to either the expansion of space or the Doppler effect, although it is possible the redshift phenomenon is due to some unknown as yet cause as well as the CMBR, we can conceive that God created the entire matter of the corporeal world under the elemental forms ordered and arranged as I mentioned above but all together in some manner like a giant sort of gas cloud. This giant cloud could actually be separated into all the clouds of the billions of galaxies and stars that were going to be formed from them and as far from each other as still would produce the blackbody CMBR phenomenon. Since I’m postulating that God had not yet bestowed on the elements their natural properties, this gas sort of cloud I’m calling it probably can’t really even be called a sort of gas cloud at all.

‘And God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light.’ So, God produced here the CMBR phenomenon which I have talked about previously on this thread and I don’t want to get into the metaphysics of light presently but will just simply say for now and for the sake of simplicity that God excited various numbers of electrons (or photons assuming they were created with the elements) and they omitted photons of light. Simultaneously with this God either (1) himself moved and separated the clouds of the galaxies out into the heavens and in this process produced the accidents of the atoms, i.e., the electrical charges of the protons and electrons, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and gravity too which for the sake of simplicity presently I’ll say is an accidental form and natural property of bodies. According to the various densities God organized the elemental atoms in each galaxy and the stars and God working together with the natural accidents including gravity bestowed on the atoms, the galaxies, stars, planets, moons, ect., began to form and give off light according to various times. This model produces the Doppler effect without the expansion of space.

Or (2), God himself stretches the heavens out (expansion of space) and the galaxies go with it, star is stretched from star, planet from star, moon from planet, and God works with the elements as mentioned in (1) and producing their accidents. The expansion doesn’t go on forever for it seems there is a boundary to the corporeal heavens as it is written:

‘But thou hast arranged all things by measure and number and weight’ (Wisdom 11: 20).

And,

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance? (Isaiah 40: 12).

This model could take literally the stretching out of the heavens such as in Psalm 104:2:
‘…who has stretched out the heavens like a tent.’
And in Isaiah 40:22:
‘…who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in.’


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