Creation, Thomistic Philosophy, and the Natural Sciences


The Aquinas and Science book I am reading addresses the ether question to a degree, making the case that St. Thomas would have supported the idea of something like a magnetic force existing (it is not nothing). I highlighted some of the chapter (it does not go into great detail) but later on I can provide some quotes.


Ok, thanks bob. It is said that magnetism is one aspect of the electromagnetic force. It is said to be produced from the charges of electrons and electric currents I believe. Magnetism is definitely something, one can feel the force of its attraction or repulsion with two magnets. In my view, the charges that electrons have from which derives magnetism and electromagnetism are natural accidental qualities or properties (forms) that God bestowed on electrons in creating them but which apparently from the present science they can also lose in various circumstances. It is also said that the movement or spin of electrons is also involved in magnetism. It seems that the movement and postulated spin of electrons is also a natural property that God created electrons with. That there is an external cause of an electron’s spin or movement or ‘orbit’ around an atom nucleus, I don’t know and I’m not sure if science knows or offers some kind of explanation. I’d say, again, the spin and sort of ‘self-movement’ (or rather being moved) of electrons at least around an atom nucleus is a natural property and movement God created electrons with. This is analogous to the natural motion Aristotle and St Thomas speak about concerning the elements and inanimate bodies.

The charges of electrons as accidental qualities which can also be called accidental powers or energies is analogous to the active and passive qualities of the four elements St Thomas speaks of. It is through these active and passive qualities in which at least some are powers or ‘energies’ that elements interact with each other or which we now understand produces magnetism or electromagnetism as well.


I am just about done with the evolution chapter. The last section of this chapter discusses intelligent design, which I have not read yet.

I will have to re-read this chapter. The author seems to strongly support (therefore suggesting St. Thomas would strongly support) micro-evolution and adaptation of species. The notion of species evolving into different species is considered in some areas of the chapter, but later it seems to be concluded that such a scenario does not work in Thomism.


Interesting. Yes, I don’t think St Thomas has any problem with the idea of micro-evolution. He even talks about the idea but in different terms in various places of his writings such as in the Summa Contra Gentiles I’m thinking about presently off the top of my head. In this place off the top of my head, he writes about the possibility of the disposition of matter being a cause of variation within a species. It’s an accidental difference within a species. He was well aware of the accidental differences between individuals in a species such as in humans themselves and the various races of humans.

Interesting about the macro-evolution and what you say ‘but later it seems to be concluded that such a scenario does not work in Thomism.’ If you don’t mind, keep us posted if it seems this is what the author seems to be concluding. Thanks.


No one knows why electrons do not run out of energy while orbiting an atomic core. Maintaining this angular momentum for millions of years or longer, if that is true, is currently not understood. Electricity and magnetism are related.


Yes we do- your thinking classical mechanics, not quantum mechanics.

At the level of the electron, energy (including angular momentum) is quantized into energy levels. At these scales electrons appear to spread out over a volume. We have been able to take pictures of this. The picture at the top of that article is a 2s orbital- energy level 2, no angular momentum. It only get weirder from there.

So why doesn’t it hit the nucleus? Oh boy… short answer is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

Longer answer (if you are interested- omit this paragraph if not)- the uncertainty principle states you can’t know location and momentum at the same time. The nucleus is small, so small uncertainty in location mean big uncertainty in momentum thus it won’t stay near the nucleus very long.

The uncertainty principle is more than just for measuring properties- it is inherent to the property of the object itself. If this doesn’t make sense your in good company- Niels Bohr said “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it”. I’ve been in a lecture where they have detected an electron in seven places at the same time.


Electricity and magnetism are linked- Maxwell’s equations go through exactly how.

An electric field is created from a flow of charge- can be electrons but not always (ions through a liquid, for example). A magnetic field is also formed from a flow of charge, or though electrons alignment within a material. The magnetic field is weaker than the electric field. Both are carried by the same particle- photons (light).

I don’t think it was accidental- I think it was a deliberate. Maybe scientists will figure out the underlying cause one day (string theory is the current lead contender, although I dislike that theory), and I’ll be happy to be proved wrong.


Are we made from star stuff? No, I don’t believe so. Are all the baryonic elements in the whole universe beyond hydrogen, helium, and trace amounts of lithium produced from the stars per the Big Bang theory? Again, no, I don’t believe so.

I have said in prior posts that the 90-98 natural elements on the periodic table were all or for the most part produced immediately by God in the initial act of creation such as Genesis 1:1. In this, I’m essentially following here in some measure St Thomas and the general opinion of the scholastic theologians, St Augustine and other Church fathers. In St Thomas’ time, they considered there were only the four simple elements of earth, water, air, fire, and for some a fifth element out of which the substance of the heavens and heavenly bodies such as stars were formed out of. It appears now from the discoveries of modern science, we have 90-98 natural elemental atoms themselves composed of yet simpler ‘elements’ such as the electrons, protons, and neutrons. Even these last it is said may be or are composed of yet simpler ‘elemental’ parts some of which it is believed can exist by themselves such as neutrinos.

Now, one could imagine in keeping with the Big Bang theory and following what I’m saying, that maybe God only produced hydrogen, helium, and trace amounts of lithium in this initial act of creation and stars produced the rest of the elements. But, this would not be in keeping with St Thomas’ among others teaching, nor seemingly the seven day creation narrative and other creation texts of the Bible, nor do I personally see any reason, purpose, or necessity for this on the part of God nor from any known astronomical observations.

In fact, the creation of the stars are not mentioned until day 4 of the Genesis 1 creation narrative and this in just five words “he made the stars also.” As wonderful and beautiful as the night sky is with the stars out, Moses seems to be downplaying their role as it were as well as the sun and moon which he calls the two great lights here. I have posted about this in prior posts in which various fathers of the Church have said that Moses was trying to keep the Israelites from worshipping the sun, moon, or stars as gods which the people in those days were prone to do. In some analogous sense, it seems we could interpret the same thing going on today with the theories of modern science or astronomy.



I’m not saying we have to interpret the creation and formation of stars literally on the fourth day in all respects as I have said elsewhere and St Thomas does too. I believe a further formation of stars and galaxies began on day one with the creation of light from a more unformed state in the beginning of creation. However, the fact remains in the biblical creation narrative that neither stars or our own sun or light itself are mentioned in the beginning. What is mentioned in the beginning are the heavens and the earth in verse 1 and waters and darkness in verse 2 and “and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters”. And the earth and waters can be applied to the planet earth and its waters or oceans in as yet some formless fashion as well as to the creation of the sum total of corporeal matter or the elements out of which God was going to fashion and form the various other creatures of the world. In sum, that the creation of light or stars are not mentioned from the beginning of the creation narrative may not only serve a theological purpose as mentioned above but I believe it involves the very truth of the matter concerning the creation of the world by God.

God created the stars in the night sky for man and for man’s admiration and I think we can reasonably conclude for some night ‘soft’ light and for comliness and beauty to the night sky, otherwise the night sky would be a foreboding complete darkness especially when the moon is not out.

The text of Genesis says “…and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years… to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness”. Sailors have used the stars in the night sky for thousands of years for navigation and the Star of Bethlehem foretold the birth of Jesus Christ. And we have the beautiful constellations. Again, Psalm 19 declares:

The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

And St Paul says:
‘For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made’ (Romans 1: 19-20).

If by contemplating the heavens, the stars, its vastness and wonderful beauty, especially the immensity of the vastness and the billions upon billions of galaxies and stars from what we have learned in the last century or so, if this does not raise our minds immediately to God and to his creative power and handiwork, then, in my opinion, there may be something wrong with our thinking.


I’ve studied Bohr and Heisenberg. All of this explains nothing. The mechanisms are still not understood. And even though atoms have been imaged and broken apart, sub-atomic particles are not the whole story.


Ok thanks Godspawned about the electricity and magnetism. By accidental, I don’t mean what I think your thinking. I’m using the word ‘accidental’ as meaning an accidental form in Thomistic metaphysics and by saying ‘are natural accidental qualities or properties that God bestowed on electrons’ means a natural form that generally goes with or follows the very nature of electrons. Yes, it was deliberate, God’s intention.


Photons do not enter into this. While in a specialized school for electronics, I watched our instructor pass a wire over a large magnet. The needle on the voltmeter jumped to one volt as it passed through the field. A shorted out circuit can generate heat and light. Computers need fans and heat sinks to dissipate the heat generated by electron flow. Ionized liquids are another story.

I don’t like string theory but have postulated the existence of an ‘electron pump’ which works in a similar way to tides and ocean currents, throughout the galaxy down to the atomic level.


Got it. I’m just about able to follow your understanding of the science. On the philosophy side I’m out of my depth (as I admitted way earlier). Philosophy is a side of God’s creation I don’t have an interest in.

As part of my degree we had to do extra modules. A student with me studying maths and physics picked a philosophy module and answered the questions as though it was a physics paper. He got 8% in that module. I’m not quite that bad, but not far off.


Are you saying according to the quantum theory, that there are energy level/s surrounding the nucleus of an atom that have some sort of distinct existence from the electron itself that is propelling the electron? And if so, is there an explanation or theory for the cause of these energy levels such as due to the electrical charges of the electrons and maybe protons themselves or possibly having to do with the phenomenon of electricity or electromagnetism itself or some other phenomenon entirely distinct from electrical charges, electricity, or electromagnetism?

I’ve also read here and there that electrons don’t orbit an atom at all and also sort of contrary to this idea that they move at close to the speed of light. I’m not sure what the prevailing opinion or theory is about this.


There are only observations but no precise details about the mechanisms involved.


I see, right. Could it be that the electron/s around the atom are not moving at all? Or, does it appear from observations that there is movement there?

I have sometimes considered to myself what is propelling the electrons around the atoms if, indeed, they are orbiting the atoms. As you say, it appears this is unknown presently. Just off the top of my head though and what I have mentioned previously, the motion of electrons around the nuclei of atoms could possibly be a natural motion or property God bestowed on electrons in creating them when they are around the nuclei of atoms and which does not necessarily involve an external physical source/force or cause except God keeping the electrons in existence and his intimate causality and interaction with every creature. A natural motion or property sort of like what may be considered the principle of inertia which I believe is Newton’s first law of motion or the natural motion of the elements per Aristotle and Aquinas. I’m not sure exactly what the philosophical implications of this might be concerning the electrons. They also say that the electrons have spin and, again, whether this is caused by some external source or force or it is a natural property God created electrons with, God only knows.

Are the movement of free electrons such as the phenomenon of electricity caused by an external force do you know? I think this at least might be or is caused by magnetism it is said if I’m not mistaken.

Analogously, we could consider what is keeping the earth moving in its orbit around the sun (not just its elliptical orbit caused by the gravity of the sun, but its own movement) or rotating on its axis? I suppose the principle of inertia is generally invoked here but the force of gravity may be involved as well as centrifugal or centripedal force or a combination of all of them.


The book “Mr. Tompkins” by George Gamow does a pretty good (non technical) explanation of quantum mechanics and relativity, if your interested.


Ok, thanks.


Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, I believe it is said that the force of gravity causes things to spin such as when a star is forming and condensing or as when an ice skater pulls in their arms and they spin faster.


The chapter on evolution discusses speciation and how even within a defined species, sometimes geographic or even physical separation can lead to new species. Taking wolves, for example, if the “Wolf ‘A’” species is large enough that it spread throughout an area, to the point where half the group becomes separated from the other by either mountains or just distance, then each half of the original group may introduce mutations that over time would actually divide the Wolves into “A” and “B” because some of the wolves in “B” group now have mutations which make them incompatible with reproducing with the “A” wolves. The author addresses this scenario in the section of evolution and material causes. (The author breaks down each chapter’s topic, say cosmology, genetics, or evolution, by applying Thomistic material, efficient, formal, final and exemplary causes to the modern theories he is addressing).

But later, when applying formal cause to evolution, the author states (without quoting too much of the book) “It is hard to see how a new species could be the mere outcome of natural selection. Whereas Darwinists think almost exclusively in terms of natural selection and adaptation - small adaptations adding up to new structures - it could be argued that future adaptations are instead dictated by existing structures, not the other way around.” He then goes on to say how taxonomists and paleontologists view classification differently that biologists and how “If their view is correct, species are not the mere result of natural selection, but instead they determine which modifications are possible for natural selection to work on.” In which case, he does have a point and brings up examples, such as, could mammals develop the ability to grow six legs like insects? Arguably it could be more advantageous for them, but does their structure even allow such a change? And other questions about advantages abound; could frogs eventually grow wings instead of hopping around everywhere? Will penguins lose their wings?

So my reading of this chapter sees the author supporting adaptation and micro-evolution to a degree, even to the point of some significant changes (an example is given of certain species which decided to live in caves and eventually lost their eyesight). But evolution, if seen as a more disciplined set of laws like the other physical sciences (I will never make an ice cube by heating water) indeed can act as a secondary cause allowing, within a defined and yet still not completely unveiled framework, changes allowing a species to flourish and adapt to its surroundings and environment. The ability of a species to evolve into something completely new does not have much support.

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