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Creation and Contemporary Science: The Legacy of Thomas Aquinas

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Developments in contemporary science, especially evolutionary biology and cosmology, have been used to support a kind of “totalizing naturalism” according to which the universe and the processes within it need no explanation beyond the categories of the natural sciences themselves. Whether one speaks of self-organizing principles in living things or of processes of emergence, the conclusion often reached is that nature is self-sufficient and that appeals to a creator are at best irrelevant. Theories in contemporary cosmology have been used both to affirm and to deny the existence of a creator. Thomas Aquinas’ analysis of what it means to create and of the relationship between creation and science offers a way to avoid much of the confusion in current claims about a universe which has no need of a creator. In particular, Thomas helps us to distinguish between creation understood philosophically (in metaphysics), with no reference to a temporal beginning, and creation understood theologically, which does affirm such a beginning. Thomas provides important insights for how one can affirm a robust notion of creation ex nihilo and the relative autonomy of natural processes such that, for example, one may embrace both the conclusions of evolutionary biology and the traditional understanding of God as the cause of all that is.

This talk is part of the The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion series.

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