Creation, Thomistic Philosophy, and the Natural Sciences


#101

And God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day (Gen. 1: 6-8).

I just wanted rather quickly for now comment on this verse. First concerning the word ‘firmament’. The english word ‘firmament’ comes from the latin ‘firmamentum’ (I believe this is the latin word) which St Jerome translated if I’m not mistaken from the greek word ‘stereoma’ from the LXX or Septuagint. The greek ‘stereoma’ may connote a firm or solid like structure of sorts. What I really want to get to is the word from the hebrew Old Testament translated as firmament. This hebrew word is transliterated ‘raqia’. It occurs 17 times in the Old Testament. It is said to derive from the hebrew verb ‘raqa’ which occurs 11 times in the Old Testament.

From Strong’s Concordance, the verb ‘raqa’ is a primitive root meaning (1) to pound the earth (as a sign of passion); (2) by analogy, to expand (by hammering); (3) by implication, to overlay (with thin sheets of metal). In the KJV of the Bible, ‘raqa’ is translated to ‘spread’ (6x); stamp (2x); stretch (1x); beat (1x); made broad (1x). Other translations of the Bible may have slight variations such as the word ‘stretch’ being used more than 1x in place of ‘spread.’ For example, Job 37:18 reads ‘Can you, with Him, spread/stretch [raqa] out the heavens?’

A number of protestant bibles translate ‘raqia’ in Genesis 1 as ‘expanse,’ apparently taking from the root ‘raqa’ to expand, spread or stretch out (such as by hammering a sheet of metal or something of the sort used in some contexts in the Old Testament). This is quite interesting concerning the idea of the expansion of space in modern astronomy. If the expansion of the heavens or space is a real phenomenon, than it is possible it appears that the making of the raqia or firmament in verses 6-8 could be applied to this phenomenon. As far as the firmament separating the waters from the waters, I have already mentioned that I believe the earth and waters of verses 1 and 2 can represent the baryonic elements with the waters roughly representing the lighter non-solid like elements such as hydrogen and helium of which these two elements it is said make up about 98% of the observable elements in the universe with oxygen and carbon of the remaining elements making up the greater quantity of these. Hydrogen and oxygen are what water is formed out of.


#102

(continued)

If we combine the 2% of the elements with the 98% of hydrogen and helium, we essentially still have the ‘waters’ as it were with the bulk of this material being hydrogen, roughly 75%. Accordingly, assuming the expansion of the heavens is a real phenomenon, the firmament made on the second day could be interpreted as the expansion of the heavens separating waters from waters, i.e., galaxies from galaxies and maybe even stars from stars in galaxies. This stretching out of the heavens in this interpretation does not necessarily imply some sort created energy bestowed by God in the heavens that caused the expansion. I personally believe that it would have been done by God himself to some unknown point as the Psalmist says ‘…who has stretched out the heavens like a tent’ (104:2).

At the same time and in a more advanced stage and formation of creation, the waters of Gen. 1: 6-8 can be interpreted as real water covering the earth and God bringing some order and formation to those waters such as forming the earth’s atmosphere or the ‘air’ which is also called ‘heaven’ and in which the waters above the firmament are the waters collected in that part of the atmosphere that forms clouds which brings rain and snow to the earth.


#103

Yes please let us know about his take about St Thomas and Evolution since I believe the author supports the Theory of Evolution.


#104

Yes, this does appear to be the case. The author wrote another book titled ‘God and Evolution - Science Meets Faith’ (2012) and I was just going over the preview of this book in google books. He seems to believe that the theory of evolution and more specifically Darwinian biological evolution (not only microevolution but possibly also macroevolution) is something of a fact more or less proven by science. In the preview, there is one sentence in which he says “Yet, whether evolution occurred or not is an issue for the biological sciences to determine; and they have done so as we will see later on in this book.” Near the end of the preview, the author speaks about the fact of evolution. Nobody disputes limited variation within a particular species or what is sometimes called microevolution as, for example, the various races of human beings. But, it appears he also has a macroevolution interpretation of all living things and species. Without reading the rest of the book, I can’t say exactly where he is coming from but, again, from just reading the preview the author seems to be a macroevolutionist and he also appears to apply an evolutionary interpretation to Holy Scripture and particularly the Genesis 1 and 2 creation narratives or at least indicate that in his view this is a possible legitimate interpretation.

Personally, I disagree with the author’s seemingly macroevolutionary views and interpretation of the scientific evidence as well as his seemingly evolutionary interpretation of the Genesis creation narratives and other creation texts of the bible. Again, I say ‘seemingly’ because I haven’t read the rest of the book and I don’t know exactly how he is presenting his views as, for example, possible interpretations of reality, the scientific evidence, and Holy Scripture or something more as well as how he presents his views concerning microevolution and macroevolution. I don’t know what he says in the book ‘Aquinas and Modern Science: A New Synthesis of Faith and Reason’.


#105

I am just over 50% through the “Aquinas and Science” book. The current chapter focuses on applying the teachings of St. Thomas to both quantum mechanics and general relativity. Obviously, these theories were unknown in the 13th century. The book does a good job of showing how universal and timeless Thomistic philosophy is in explaining certain scientific phenomena, even today. The author provides examples of where some modern thinkers will claim that Thomism is outdated, but shows how they are misunderstanding its application to the topic at hand. Admittedly, I am by no means an expert in Thomism, so I am not always sure if his examples are stretching the limits of St. Thomas’s original intention. However, it is clear that the teachings themselves indeed can be applied to even recently proposed theories or discoveries.


#106

Interesting, thanks bob. I may have to get this book. I’m curious to know how the author is applying St Thomas’ teachings and metaphysics to current scientific theories such as quantum mechanics and to Einstein’s theory of general relativity. I’m especially curious to know if the author is applying Aquinas’ metaphysics and the hylemorphic structure of the corporeal/material things in the world to quantum mechanics in any way like those two authors I mentioned in one of my earlier posts on this thread, namely, Stanley F. Grove and Rev. William Wallace.


#107

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good (Gen. 1: 9-10).

These two verses of the creation narrative are definitely applicable to the planet earth and the waters and seas and oceans on and in the earth. The formlessness in some measure of the earth and waters in verses 1 and 2 are here in verses 9 and 10 on day 3 receiving further formation and organization from God’s creative activity.

St Thomas Aquinas calls the work of the first three days in the Genesis 1 creation narrative, the work of distinction. In day one, light is distinguished from darkness; on day 2, the waters are distinguished from those above the firmament from those below the firmament; on day 3, the dry land or earth is distinguished from the waters or seas and we also have on this day the creation of vegetation or plant life to beautify the earth as like a garment of clothing and which also is going to provide food for animals and mankind. Except for the plant life, the work of distinction in these days involves inanimate things.

Consequently, I think we can apply verses 9 and 10 on day 3 in some measure to God’s creative activity in creating the substantial and accidental forms of compounds of the elements such as water, minerals, rocks, cosmic dust, and forming the previously created natural elements into these compounds. These verses involve earth and waters analogous to the ‘unformed’ earth and waters of verses 1 and 2. I have previously applied the earth and waters of verses 1 and 2 to the creation of the natural elements on the periodic table. “Let the waters…be gathered together into one place” I think can be applied to those elements such as hydrogen and oxygen being formed into water or cosmic ice which is the creation of the substantial form of water and the accidents that go with the substance of water. “And let the dry land appear. And it was so. God called the dry land earth.” I believe this verse can be applied to the creation of the substantial and accidental forms and to the forming of ‘earth’ and solid like compounds of the elements such as minerals, rocks, soil, cosmic dust, as well as to large aggregates of these kinds of compounds such as the planet earth itself, the moon, the planet mars, asteroids, comets, and not to just our solar system but to every solar system in every galaxy in the universe

You see, hydrogen and oxygen isn’t going to automatically make water unless God creates the form of water and not just in the potentiality of the matter of the elements and educed by a natural process but, I believe, in act, i.e., the form of water actually existing produced and formed from the elements by the supernatural creative activity and efficient causality of God. As Aquinas says, the form is not for the matter but the matter is for the form. Matter is an indeterminate principle while form is a determining principle. Various compound substances have various matters or organization of the elements due to the various substantial forms of things


#108

(continued)

The substantial forms of compound substances determines what kind of elements and their organization is going to be in these kinds of substances. For example, a molecule of water is composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom because of the substantial form of water and its natural accidents. Ultimately, all forms whether substantial and accidental, elemental or compound, have been created and determined by God. Water is a compound substance composed of hydrogen and oxygen because that is what God determined it to be. Of course, God also created out of nothing prime matter as well as all forms substantial or accidental of any created being angelic or earthly.

I mentioned that the substantial forms of inanimate compound substances such as water, minerals, various kinds of rocks were not just created by God in the potentiality of matter but in act, i.e., actually existing. For one thing, I firmly believe God himself created and formed our planet earth and the seas in which are found all or most of the elements on the periodic table and many compound substances such as in the nature of the whole earth itself and water too. The actor or efficient cause in the creation of the world and its variety and multitude of creatures, inanimate or animate, in the Genesis 1 and 2 creation narratives to its completion is God himself. This is how I interpret the creation narratives and particularly the seven day creation narrative. It appears that God created the world in a step-wise or gradual like fashion not because he had to or lacked the power to create the entire world complete at once. He chose and willed to do it this way according to the order of his wisdom and also signifying an order of nature and origin of things

For example, before making rocks or water, it makes sense to create the elements out of which rocks and water are made of though God could create both elemental and compound forms simultaneously. Or, before creating marine or land animals, there needs to be water and dry land or earth. This is what St Augustine and St Thomas mean by an order of nature but which does not necessarily imply an order of time which depends simply on God’s will. I think, in one sense, in the step-wise like seven day creation narrative of Genesis 1, God was accommodating himself in some analogous manner to how human beings make things. For example, it takes time for a human builder to build a house. He first lays the foundation, than builds the floor, than he builds the walls and than the roof. And God set an example for us in His work in the creation of the world to its first completion and from which he rested on the seventh day as Moses says:

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20: 8-11)


#109

They might have been bright but they are now a very long way away. The Hubble deep field picture took almost 6 days to expose enough light to get a color photo. None of the stuff in that image goes as far back as the first stars.

The earliest object we’ve photographed is (lovingly named) MACS0647-JD- estimated at only 400 million years after the Big Bang. The only way we were able to detect this was when a supercluster got in the way and bent much more of its light towards us.


#110

For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood forth (Psalm 33:9)


#111

The fact that gravitational lensing can occur should give us pause, along with the fact that galaxies with high redshift - supposedly farther away - have been found connected to galaxies with low redshift, and supposedly closer. Scientists still can’t figure out why some very large black holes got so large so fast. And even the most recent deep-field Hubble image shows faint galaxies in the background. Astronomers don’t know how big the universe is. And they don’t know where our galaxy is in relation to the center of the universe.


#112

As you probably know and if I’m not mistaken, dark matter was invented by the astrophysicists because they can’t get stars to form by the known laws of physics at least for the first stars in the Big Bang theory. It is also now postulated that this dark matter is somehow involved with the spiral arms of galaxies. If dark matter is interpreted to mean the indetectable matter of the substance of the heavens or space, then I could go along with the idea of it in some measure. But, whether or not the substance of the heavens and this ‘dark matter’ has anything to do with baryonic matter or gravity is another question. According to Einstein’s theory of gravity and the curvature of space, maybe so. Since I believe God made and formed all the stars and galaxies, dark matter is not necessary to be postulated to overcome the ‘Jeans limit’ and associated physics.

Astronomers also postulate a couple of other theories to get stars to form such as the shock waves of quasar explosions which they think could compress clouds of gas and dust past the ‘Jeans limit’ I suppose. And they also postulate some kind of natural ‘cooling process’ whereby the force of gravity can continue to compress a cloud of gas and dust against the outward and expansive force of heat caused by the compressional force of gravity itself.


#113

(continued)

All these are naturalistic theories of star formation. No star has been directly observed to form from a cloud of gas and especially from a cloud of gas and dust that has not yet been compressed beyond the ‘Jeans limit.’ It is postulated that it takes hundreds of thousands or millions of years for stars to form so it would take hundreds of thousands or millions of years of constant observation of a particular cloud of gas and dust and particularly one that has not yet gone beyond the ‘Jeans limit’ to actually see if stars can form by natural processes. I say 'one (a particular cloud of gas and dust) that has not gone beyond the ‘Jeans limit’ yet because God could have already formed the star beyond that limit in which this cloud of gas and dust is already substantially a star but which could take hundreds of thousands or millions of years before the star actually starts the fusion of hydrogen and thousands or millions or billions more years or so before the light actually leaves the star and reaches us. I read one article which said it takes about 50 million years for a star with a mass the size of our sun to form. Without going back to that article presently, I’m not sure from what ‘starting point’ they are taking this 50 million year figure.

If one goes to the various creation and creation science websites and articles on the internet, there are some interesting and objective articles concerning all these naturalistic theories of star formation and what is involved in them as postulated from the scientific community. The point is they are theories and nobody knows for sure if stars can form by natural processes of nature. The bottom line is that no star has ever been directly observed nor may it ever be directly observed to form from a cloud of gas or a cloud of gas and dust and especially one such cloud that has yet gone over the ‘Jeans limit.’


#114

Dark matter - is it the same as the ultra dense space foam, what they used to call the aether?


#115

Unknown. Some past discoveries, though published at the time, were simply not followed up for various reasons. Right now, dark matter might be cold or hot or warm, and it may consist of particles or zones with exotic properties. Some hard to explain phenomena have been observed during say, galactic collision, which indicates something else was involved. This ‘attempt to identify’ is still in its very early stages. But there are other mysteries out there. How can a super-massive black hole exist? Large objects like planets curve or distort space-time. So, super-massive black holes may do more than curve space. They may cause a massive ‘field/distortion effect’ that accounts for some other observed effects but it/the zone cannot be detected by current means.


#116

Well, I’m not sure why the light from these first stars would be a very long way away, at least not from all of them. I mean, the CMBR phenomenon is postulated to have happened before the formation of the first stars and yet this microwave phenomenon is supposedly pouring into our planet earth from all directions of the heavens. Secondly, it is postulated that the material for our own galaxy, any nearby galaxies, indeed all the billions of galaxies in the observable universe came from these first stars. And since all these galaxies are separated by hundreds of thousands, millions, and billions of light years from each other in all directions in the heavens, than it stands to reason from my viewpoint that the light and emission spectrum from many of these supposed first stars would be detected somewhere in the vast observable heavens. Otherwise, how did the material not only for our own galaxy and stars but also for every observable galaxy in the heavens get to where it is now scattered all over the heavens for, again, it is postulated that all this material in every observable galaxy in which is found elements heavier than hydrogen, helium, or lithium came from these first stars?

Again, it stands to reason from my viewpoint, that according to this Big Bang theory, there had to be a great number of these first stars already scattered across the heavens whatever size it is postulated to be at this time and from which it is also postulated I believe that these first massive stars were the beginnings of all the clumpy galaxies. I mean, if we have galaxies separated by 46 or 92 billion light years now, it seems to me that according to the Big Bang theory thinking, there must have been some of these first stars in the vicinity of these galaxies and, in fact, all the observable galaxies including the Milky Way.


#117

(continued)

It is also said that about 75% of all stars in the observable universe are of the red dwarf kind. These are stars it is said that can survive and continue to burn hydrogen billions upon hundreds of billions and even a trillion or trillions of years. Why none of these kinds of stars would have formed in the early universe according to the Big Bang model but only massive ones containing only hydrogen and helium is beyond me. But, I understand according to the story line of the Big Bang model why it is said that only massive stars formed first which upon explosion produced heavier elements because there is not observed a star in the heavens, red dwarf or otherwise, whose light emission spectrum doesn’t contain elements or ‘metals’ heavier than hydrogen and helium.


#118

Well, that is one way to look at it and what I suggested. But, whether this ‘aether’ has any interaction with baryonic matter, light and electromagnetism, or the phenomenon of gravity is another question. I tend to think not and in my view it is not necessary for some kind of natural gravitational attraction to get beyond the ‘Jeans limit’ for star formation as I believe the stars and all galaxies were made and formed by God himself. It seems the dark matter idea as the substance or matter/aether of the heavens could work with Einstein’s theory in some manner as the substance of the heavens or space. Whether or not Einstein’s theory of gravity involving the substance of space and it being pliable as it were is correct or not who knows. I personally have not thought about his theory much or read much about it nor about his idea of linking time with space in which according to this theory there may be some kind of intrinsic connection between space and time. Off the top of my head, I’m not sure how kosher I am with this idea of space/time but, again, I don’t really know presently how Einstein presents this idea and connection. I have read some about his theories of general and special relativity in time past but I have kind of forgot about what it essentially entails.

For one thing, we measure days, hours, minutes, and seconds by the rotation and movement of the earth on its axis and years by the movement of the earth in its orbit around the sun. What this measure of time has to do with ‘space/time’, I don’t know except that the earth is moving through space or the heavens in its orbit about the sun at the same time it is rotating on its axis.


#119

Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of thy hands.
They will perish, but thou dost endure;
they will all wear out like a garment
Thou changest them like raiment, and they pass away;
but thou art the same, and thy years have no end (Psalm 102: 25-27).

According to this scripture and others like it such as Hebrews 1:10-12, Isaiah 51:6, and Romans 8:12, the heavens and the earth are or will be wearing out like a garment. This is similar to the idea of entropy and entropy in connection with the second law of thermodynamics. In some measure, I think God’s creation of the corporeal world since its first completion, i.e., since God rested on the seventh day ‘from all the work he had done in creation’, is more or less wearing out like a garment.


#120

I have mentioned this before in prior posts but it has come to my mind again about the placement in the heavens of the elemental atoms with their parts such as the electrons, protons, and neutrons upon their creation by God. What I mean here is the placement of the atoms according to various densities or rarities. It could be hypothetically conceived that God placed the atoms upon their creation uniformly in the heavens, bestowed upon them their accidents such as the charges of the electrons and protons, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and also bestowed upon the world the phenomenon of gravity which here I will just say is also an accidental property of bodies. But, it could be hypothetically conceived that the atoms are placed far enough from each other that they won’t be able to interact with each other nor would gravity have any condensing effect on them. In this situation, we would have a world of individual and invisible elemental atoms and nothing more. No stars, no compounds of the elements such as cosmic dust, rocks, minerals, water, the earth, plants, animals, or man.

Obviously, in one sense, for anything to form at all involving a multitude of individual elemental atoms depends on God’s placement of all the atoms in the heavens upon their creation or sometime after. God could have created the hypothetical situation I described above in which nothing is going to form even by any natural process. In this situation, God would have to move the atoms to condense into, for example, stars and galaxies and whatever other creature, animate or inanimate, he would form from the elemental atoms. As one can see here, no natural process of nature such as the effect of gravity which of course is a phenomenon of nature God created is going to effect anything among individual elemental atoms unless God places such individual elemental atoms close enough together that gravity can have an effect such as in the formation of any star. In other words, the formation of anything from individual elemental atoms no matter what kind of ‘natural process’ one might or could invoke ultimately depends on God’s placement of the atoms in a greater or lesser degree of density in the entire universe upon their creation or God’s movement of them sometime after their creation.

I think it seems most fitting that God created the elemental atoms already organized and placed in the heavens in a greater or lesser degree of density and according to all the galaxies and stars and associated inanimate objects he was going to form from them. From here, it was a matter of turning on as it were or bestowing the natural processes of various already condensed stars and galaxies according to various times or by some movement of the atoms by God. Some of the material in galaxies He left uncondensed as interstellar medium. In fact, it is now postulated I believe that roughly 90% of the baryonic elemental matter in the observable universe is in intergalactic space and only about 10% of it in the galaxies. The density of intergalactic space is said to be roughly or on average one atom per cubic meter and the density of interstellar space one atom per cubic centimeter.


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