Cosmogony Essay, Research Paper
What is cosmogony? Cosmogony can be defined as a study of the physical universe in terms of its originating time and space. In other words, cosmogony is the study of the universe and its origins. The origin and the nature of the universe have been one of the most debated topics throughout history. Both the scientific and theological communities have yet to ascertain a common ground on how the universe came into being and whether it was an act of “God” or merely a spontaneous and random phenomenon. New discoveries in the scientific world provide new viewpoints on the creation of the universe and its relevance to a supreme intelligent “Creator.” Due to mankind’s constantly changing perspective of the world by scientific means, the argument on the origin of the universe is also forced to progress and develop itself. Through the analysis of the works by Thomas Aquinas, David Hume, and John Haught, the development of the theory on the originating cause of the universe, through the course of history, can be easily identified. A very early interpretation on the origin of the universe and the existence of a “Creator” can be found in Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. Thomas Aquinas, in Summa Theologica, indirectly offers his own views on the origin of the universe. The term indirectly is used because his arguments are found in his five proofs for the existence of God and are not directly targeted at establishing a viewpoint on the origin of the universe. Aquinas’ first implication on the origin of the universe can be found in his first proof. Aquinas states that “in the world some things are in motion.” Anything that is in motion, therefore, must have been placed in motion by something else. This chain of movement, however, can not go on to infinity for there would be no first or any intermediate movers. Therefore there exists a first unmoved mover that is the cause of all in motion (Aquinas, Q.2, art.3, “I answer”). Aquinas, in mentioning “the first unmoved mover,” is referring to God. Although Aquinas’ first proof can be read in a literal sense one must analyze it figuratively in order to deduce his viewpoint on cosmogony. The act of the first unmoved mover putting the first object into motion is symbolic of Aquinas’ belief that God created the universe. God, in putting the first object into motion, created the universe. Consequently, other objects were put into motion within that universe. This is the chain of motion discussed in Aquinas’ proof. In other words, to Aquinas, the existence of our universe in motion is a result of an act of God (the creator of the universe). Several observations can be made in examining Aquinas’ viewpoint on cosmogony. First of all, the argument takes a very linear path. The proof is too simple for such a large task as proving the existence of God. It does not take into account complex ideas that obviously declare this proof erroneous. For example, it is common knowledge today that all things are made of atoms and that all atoms are in constant motion. Therefore, there is no such thing as an inanimate object in existence. Another problems with Aquinas’ viewpoint is that it does not consider the possibility that motion, and not rest, is the natural order of things. For if everything is in motion, would it not make more sense to declare motion as the natural order? (Hume, VIII.4) Although a seemingly dysfunctional argument on Aquinas’ part, one must take into account the time period in which this proof was constructed. Aquinas lived and wrote in the 13th century, before the existence of atomic science and other scientific theories. In this, one could easily see how the lack of science and other “future knowledge” contribute to a very primitive insight on cosmogony. Furthermore, with the development of worldly knowledge, the argument on the originating cause of the universe is also forced to develop in order to accommodate such changes. David Hume, for example, in Dialogues and Natural History of Religion, discusses cosmogony in a modern 18th century light. In the text, Hume creates three characters each representing a different viewpoint of religious belief. Demea represents the orthodox believer, Cleanthes represents the modern 18th century deist, and Philo represents Hume’s position, the skeptic. By using the three characters, Hume is able to argue all sides of a certain issue, and through the character Philo, is able to voice his own views. Hume employs this method for the discussion of cosmogony as well. Hume voices the opinion of the deist empiricist on the origin of the universe through Cleanthes. “The order and arrangement of nature, the curious adjustment of final causes, the plain use and intention of every part and organ; all these bespeak in the clearest language an intelligent cause or author.” (Hume, IV.7) For the 18th century deist, the order of nature, the final causes produced in the universe, and the specific purpose of everything in existence, is enough evidence to assume an intelligent being created the universe. For example, the way in which the food chain maintains all of nature’s beings in balance or the way that every organ on our body has a specific and purposeful use. These accommodations could not possibly be a coincidence or accident. On the contrary, everything works out because the “Creator” meant it to work out. Cleanthes views the universe as a well oiled machine that was built by God with all the intentions present in nature. Hume/Philo, however, is reluctant to put any fine point on the origins of the universe. ” The discoveries by microscopes, as they open a new universe in miniature, are still objections, according to you (Cleanthes); arguments according to me. The farther we push our researches of this kind, we are still led to infer the universal cause of All to be vastly different from mankind, or from any object of human experience and observation.” (Hume, V.4) In this passage Hume displays his own viewpoint that mankind can not comprehend the power in which this universe was created by. He neither denies nor advocates the existence of an original being. Instead, he takes the agnostic position in that all we are capable of learning only leads us to more questions, and that by human experience it is impossible to comprehend the true divine power. The agnostic approach taken by Hume is characteristic of the 18th century Enlightenment. In contrast to Aquinas, Hume advocates an empiricist method in which all knowledge must be traced back to an original sense perception. The employment of the empiricist principle is the prime reason we can not know anything about God or the creation of the universe. The acknowledgement of different religious viewpoints, the establishment of the agnostic position, and the use of the empiricist principle, are new ideas used in the argument for the origin of the universe. The 18th century Enlightenment values are highly evident in Hume’s text. It is obvious how the 13th century argument presented by Aquinas has changed in order to accommodate the new viewpoints available in the 18th century. Through the analysis of Hume’s work, and put in comparison with earlier views, the development of the argument for the origin of the universe is easily identifiable. John F. Haught in Science and Religion: From Conflict to Conversation, further develops the cosmogonical argument. In the text, Haught discusses to great extent, the relationship between the scientific and the theological communities. Similarly to David Hume’s dialogue approach, Haught employs four different viewpoints in which science and religion can be related. These can be identified as Conflict, Contrast, Contact, and Confirmation. “Conflict- the conviction that science and religion are fundamentally irreconcilable; Contrast- the claim that there can be no genuine conflict since religion and science are each responding to radically different questions Contact- an approach that looks for dialogue, interaction, and possible “consonance” between Science and religion Confirmation- the ways in which religion supports and nourishes the entire scientific enterprises. (Haught, p.9) Employing these four viewpoints, Haught discusses our current 20th century views on cosmogony. Perhaps the largest part of Haught’s argument comes from the “Big Bang Theory.” The big bang is hypothesized to be the cosmic explosion that marked the origin of the universe and the beginning of time. Haught acknowledges the big bang as a possible cause of the universe and moves even further to state that the big bang would justify the biblical idea of divine creation as depicted in Genesis. (Haught, p.101) However, similarly to Hume, Haught also acknowledges the possibility that the universe may not have come into existence at all. He states, “Perhaps the universe always was and always will be.” (Haught, p.101) This point of view would seriously challenge large portions of Christian doctrine. Haught employs the four relations in order to clarify and mediate between the two extreme views of cosmogony. The conflict argument states that “it is not at all self-evident that just because the universe had a beginning it also had to have a creator?Ethe cosmos may have had a beginning, but it could have burst into existence spontaneously, without any cause.” (Haught, p.106) Haught brings up the possibility of nothing having existed prior to the big bang. The idea of a spontaneous explosion creating the universe is not characteristic of either Aquinas’ or Hume’s eras. Furthermore, Haught’s explanation puts the purpose of our existence into question. If the universe is a product of a Creator than we exist for the purpose of carrying out the Creators expectations. This is similar to how a clock maker puts every single gear and spring into a specific position in order for the clock to run. However, if we are merely a result of a random cosmic explosion than we are all products of a gigantic cosmic accident. Haught concludes the Conflict position by stating that although the big bang theory seems to smooth over religious/scientific conflicts, the constant changing nature of science discredits the validity of the relation. (Haught, p.109) Again it is obvious that 20th century science and observations has contributed in the development of the cosmogonical argument. Haught, in demonstrating the Contrast relationship, brings up the idea that the “big bang physics provides no new ammunition for theology.” (Haught, p.109) He goes on further to say that “creation is not about chronological beginnings so much as it is about the world’s being grounded continuously in the graciousness of God.” (Haught, p.111) Haught discusses the idea that the big bang actually has no basis for a theological proof and that it has entirely nothing to do with creation itself. Instead, we exist in a universe that is solely dependent on God and that above the importance of creation itself we should show gratitude for our existence. Without the knowledge of the big bang or other scientific evidences, this idea on the nature of the universe could not be conceived. Thus we can say that Haught’s Contrast relationship is a product of 20th century thinking and that it further puts the argument of cosmogony into development. Haught’s Contact relationship, however, differs slightly from that of the Contrast and Conflict relationships. The Contact relationship states that “Although we do not wish to base our faith directly on the scientific ideas, our reserve does not mean that the big bang cosmology is theologically irrelevant.” (Haught, p.114) Haught states here that the big bang, although not the sole aspect of creation, is still a large piece of the cosmogonical puzzle. He also brings up the idea that according to scientist the “big bang is not over and done with. It is still happening.” (Haught, p.117) It is the idea that the universe is in constant creation by God, and that although the big bang may have been the beginning, it can not be defined as creation itself. This is yet another demonstration of a scientific bullet in a theological gun. Once again, this development of the cosmogonical argument accurately reflects the time period it was conceived in. Thomas Aquinas, David Hume, and John Haught all posses their own ideas and beliefs on the origination of the universe. Their arguments reflect the knowledge and logic of each person’s era. The cosmogonical argument is constantly in development as the world changes in terms of the knowledge at hand. With Aquinas we see a linear and logical argument, with an absence of scientific foundation. Hume develops three different arguments with the empiricist principle at hand. Haught, similarly to Hume, uses different viewpoints in order to convey his opinions on the originating cause of the universe. He incorporates the big bang theory with the theological argument of Genesis. As history progresses, our knowledge of the world progresses, and thus our views on cosmogony progress. This development of the cosmogonical argument can be easily traced through the works of Aquinas, Hume, and Haught. Undoubtedly, new discoveries in our near future will lead us to new insights on the origin of the universe.