Tag Archives: St. Thomas Aquinas

Why is there something rather than nothing?

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I remember, when I was a kid, I used to lie on my back and look at the night sky full of stars in awe and wonder. The vastness of it all has always captivated my imagination. Just thinking about it for a second. There are between 200 to 400 billion stars just in our galaxy and there are up to 200 billion galaxies in our universe. Some of these distant galaxies are so far away that it can take billions of years for their light to reach our eyes. And it the midst of it all there is our little blue planet dancing its way through space.

The vastness of the Universe begs the questions: why is there something rather than nothing? What caused the universe into existence? Why light instead of darkness? Why life instead of non-existence? I think these are profound questions that everyone should ask, especially those, who in all honesty, question the existence of God. These are important questions because their answers reveal much about who we are. Are we just a random cosmic accident manipulated by chemical reactions in our brains and doomed to non-existence when all is over? Or are we something more?

I believe that it is far more reasonable to believe that there is a Creator rather than to think that the Universe and life are the results of a “cosmic dance” of chance; that we were made for something more. We know from Aristotelian logic to Newtonian mechanics that for every effect there is a cause. Thus we also know that nothing cannot come out of nothing. It follows that every physical reality, most have a cause. The Universe could not have created itself out of nothing. So what caused the universe into existence? St. Thomas Aquinas, the great theologian of the Catholic Church, argued that it must be:

  1. Something that exists independent of space and time.
  2. Something that was not created, but is existence itself.

An uncaused cause, meaning something that is completely independent from any cause for its existence. Unlike our atoms that depend on the existence of protons, neutrons and electrons or space and time, which depends on the existence of matter and the rate upon which it changes, the uncaused cause simply exists. Alternative explanations must account for the creation of something out of nothing without invoking the principle of infinitive regression or violating the principle of parsimony.

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Fr. Robert Spitzer makes precisely this point in his book: New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contribution of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy. I highly recommend this well research and articulated book. He argues that evidence from contemporary physics points toward a universe that had a beginning and that was designed by a supreme being and discusses philosophical proofs for the existence of God. I hope to unpack some of those arguments that appear in his book in future posts.

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As Christians, we need to engage the culture through the vocation that God has given us. With the rise of new atheist and the aggressiveness that they pursue to change the culture, in their own image, we must be ready to do the best we can stand our ground. As St. Peter encourages in 1 Peter 3:15: “always be ready to give an answer to every man who ask you a reason for the hope that is in you”. This can seem daunting but it does not need to be. We really do not need a Ph.D. in physics or philosophy to make a defense of our belief, using science or philosophy against the arguments set forth by modern atheists but we cannot stand idle either and not do much to enrich our intellects. After all, the more we learn about the universe the more we learn about God.

God Bless!

About the Big Bang and Fundamentalists

The recent debate between Bill Nye, the Science Guy, and Ken Ham, a young earth creationist supporter, reminded me of something that St. Thomas Aquinas said:

“First, the truth of Scripture must be held inviolable. Secondly, when there are different ways of explaining a Scriptural text, no particular explanation should be held so rigidly that, if convincing arguments show it to be false, anyone dares to insist that it still is the definitive sense of the text. Otherwise unbelievers will scorn Sacred Scripture, and the way to faith will be closed to them.”

-St. Thomas Aquinas

In other words, some fundamentalist interpretation of scripture contradicts our observation of the universe and their staunch literalistic interpretation of the Bible may be a stumbling block for unbelievers, closing faith to them.

God is truth and cannot be deceived or deceive. As Sir Francis Bacon said: “God wrote two books. One is Holy Scripture and the other is nature”. They cannot contradict each other. One reveals how God created the Universe and the other reveals why God created the Universe. They do not oppose each other, but complement each other in reviling the beauty and power of our Creator. It is amazing that not a hundred years ago, scientists like Fred Hoyle mocked the primordial atom theory, the Big Bang Theory, first proposed by Fr. George Lemeitre, a Jesuit priest, as nothing but religious propaganda.

Einstein thought that Fr. Lemeitre’s theory was the most beautiful explanation of creation once he looked at the evidence that support Fr. Lemeitre theory.

The key here is openness to evidence. On one had it seems to me that staunch atheists refuse to look beyond their biases about religion and look closer to the cosmological and philosophical evidence for the existence of God on the other hand
Fundamentalists who hold a literalistic interpretation of the Bible refuse to see irrefutable evidence about the age of the universe. Making their faith look un-reasonable to non-believers and in the process alienating people who are searching for truth.

The result of such public debate between these opposing views is that it foments a caricatured notion that there is no place for reason in faith and no place for faith in reason. The history of science as it was developed in the West begs to disagree with such ill informed notion.

“But you have disposed all things by measure and number and weight.”

Wisdom 11:20

This verse from the book of Wisdom, often quoted by St. Augustine in the third century, greatly influenced many thinkers during the early and late Middle Ages. It reveals something about creation. The act of creation was not arbitrary but carefully designed “by measure and number and weight” and thus allowed for the investigation of the world because it argues that the world was created by reason and thereby can be understood by reason. This line of thinking led to the creation of the universities, the scientific method and many scientific fields by the Catholic Church, which ultimately led to the scientific revolution.

Fundamentalist creationists staunch advocacy in favor of young earth creation can be a stumbling block for many because it refuses to accept the evidence and change its position. Perhaps St. Thomas anticipated young creationist postures when he caution about rigid Bible interpretation.

Faith properly understood is reasonable and beautiful because it brings us closer to the good, the beautiful and the true.