I've always wanted to know. . .
Does God Exist ?
There’s a popular misconception out there that science shows that God doesn’t exist. This is false. In fact, scientific knowledge actually infers the opposite: the existence of God. If this subject interests you – keep reading! This article will provide crucial insights into this topic.
(Note: If you wish to bypass this summary and go straight to an easy detailed explanation, please click on the following web link. This link will take you to the well-received seven module series at CredibleCatholic.com)
Tools of Inquiry
Science and philosophy are two sources of knowledge that seek answers about the world around us. These two disciplines describe the world using two different methodologies and languages, but they both describe the same world. Philosophy is the study of reality (the world around us) using reason alone. Science, which herein will refer to physics and cosmology, studies the natural world using the method of observation, measurement, and hypothesis. Whereas science is restricted to studying the physical universe because its measurable, philosophy is equipped to comment on both this and things which can not be measured. Both disciplines are vital to our search because they provide knowledge from two different methods or approaches. If one discipline contradicts the other on the same point, one or both disciplines will need improvement to resolve the contradiction.
What Does Science Say?
Science gives important clues in our search. Let’s start with the Universe. According to science, the Universe originated with the “Big Bang” about 14 billion years ago. At its origin, the Universe was inconceivably small. It was also unimaginably hot and dense. In less than a billionth of a second after its origin, the Universe was much smaller than an atom. Within this bubble, there was no discernible matter as we know it, and the four known forces of nature didn’t exist but were subsumed as a single force. As the universe continued to cool within its first second of existence, this single force decayed into the four known forces of the Universe (gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force). After three minutes, the Universe had cooled to one billion degree Fahrenheit which was cool enough to allow for the formation of atomic nuclei and, subsequently, hydrogen atoms. It took another billion years before the first stars were formed from the elements of hydrogen and helium.
Science discovered something else in 1998. The expansion of the Universe was found to be accelerating: not decelerating. This means that the expansion of the Universe is not likely to slow through gravity, implode, and subsequently re-bang. Rather, the Big Bang was a singular event. This means that the Universe had its birth at the Big Bang.
So where did the Universe come from?
What Does Philosophy Say?
There are many philosophies. As with scientific theories, only the best philosophies survive the test of time. Aristotelian-Scholasticism is arguably the most successful and intellectually rigorous philosophy in history. It has its origins in Ancient Greece with the non-religious philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; was further advanced during the era of the Roman Empire; and was eventually honed to a very high precision by the Scholastic philosophers of the High Middle Ages, most notably St. Thomas Aquinas. It continues to be used effectively in the 21st century.
Scholastic philosophy states that everything we observe in the universe (plants, animals, stars, etc.) exists and evolves. Therefore, everything is comprised of both potency and act. “Act” is the state of something as it exists in the present and “potency” is the ability of a thing to change or to come into existence. Act is always prior to potency. For an existing thing, its potency is always grounded in its existence. For a non-existing thing, its potency to exist can only be actualized by something that already exists. In other words, something can’t come from nothing. Philosophy has also determined that everything that’s a combination of essence/existence and potency/act has a beginning.
As we know from both philosophy and science, the Universe had a beginning. Since only something already in act could bring the Universe into existence and since its creator couldn’t be a combination of potency and act or it, too, would have a beginning, the creator of the universe had to be pure act.
For a being to be pure, infinite act, it must be a simple unity. This means that it’s indivisible both physically and metaphysically (e.g. having no material parts or potency). Its essence is its existence. It’s further reasoned that such a being must also be unchanging, eternal, immeasurable, ubiquitous, and immaterial. This being is known as the Absolute or Necessary Being, and it’s what philosophers call God.
So are God's "fingerprints" in the Big Bang?
Recap and Synthesis
Science tells us that the Big Bang was a singular event. The Universe had a beginning which means that it didn’t always exist. Philosophy tells us that something can’t come from nothing but that something already in existence was necessary to bring the Universe into existence. Therefore, the being that created the universe was pure act, God.
As we said earlier, a being in pure act must have philosophical simplicity. It should be no surprise, therefore, that science describes a universe that, at its creation, was also remarkably simple. This is exactly what one would expect from the creative energy that ushered forth from God, a being whose very nature is a simple unity.
If you wish to see more evidence that provides an even stronger case for the existence of God, the following link at CredibleCatholic.com will take you to an in-depth seven module series that investigates this issue further.
For general information on faith and science, please visit the Magis Center by clicking the link at the right.
If you wish to see some common objections and rebuttals for the existence of God, please click on the following link. But first, there's one more thing . . .
One More Thing . . .
Centuries before the birth of philosophy in Greece and in a world where all the nations worshiped irrational, pagan gods, God revealed himself to Moses as “I Am Who I Am” (Exodus 3:14). These five words from divine revelation describe the one Absolute Being in nearly the same way that philosophy was to describe him centuries later: The one eternal being whose very nature is to exist.
Why did God create the universe? Has the one Absolute Being reached out to what he created? If you wish to learn more, please drop by and visit us at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament or call us at (916) 444-3071.
Photos provided courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Philosophy based on information from the following sources:
– “Scholastic Metaphysics” by Edward Feser, Ph.D., Editiones Scholasticae, 2014.
– “Scholastic Metaphysics: Being, Its Divisions and Causes” Part I, by John McCormick, S.J. Loyola University Press, 1928
– “Scholastic Metaphysics: Natural Theology” Part II, by John McCormick, S.J. Loyola University Press, 1931
– “God: His Existence and His Nature” Volume I, by Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange, O.P., B. Herder Books, 1939.
Cosmology based on information from “The Universe” Season One, “Beyond the Big Bang,” by the History Channel/A&E Network, 2007.