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April 14, 2012 Spring Thomistic Circles: "Creation and Modern Science."

Spring Thomistic Circles 2012:

Creation and Modern Science

On Saturday, April 14, 2012, the Thomistic Institute hosted its Spring Thomistic circles conference.  This conference focused on issues concerning the intersection between modern science and theological accounts of creation.  Speakers included William E. Carroll (Blackfriars, Oxford), Nicanor Austriaco, O.P. (Providence College) and Edward Feser (Pasadena City College)

The following synopsis of the conference was composed by Bro. Raymund Synder, O.P.

"On Saturday, April 14th the Thomistic institute hosted a conference on "Creation and Modern Science".  The three speakers both clarified the terms of and entered into some of the hottest topics of debate concerning physics, creation, evolution, human origins, original sin, human thought and neuroscience.

William Carroll delivered an enlightening paper that offered a Thomistic response to the contemporary debates concerning physics and creation.  Carroll argued that since the natural sciences are only concerned with change, it is the concern of metaphysics to indicate the necessity of a creator.  Cosmology can point to the need for an origin of motion, but one can only arrive at a radical foundation for existence (i.e. creation) through arguments that are properly metaphysical.  He proposed that it is a mistake to use arguments from the natural sciences to deny creation (as do Stephen Hawking and Lawrence Krauss) but it is also a mistake to use arguments from the natural sciences to argue for creation (as do Robert Spitzer and William Craig).

Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P. gave a lively presentation that attempted to show the harmony of magisterial teaching and recent developments in human genomics.   All human beings may have descended from a small population in Africa that survived after the eruption of a supervolcano in Indonesia.  Fr. Austriaco argued that it is not inconsistent with faith to suppose that God directly infused such a group with rational souls and grace but that this same population quickly fell into sin.

Edward Feser offered an informative paper outlining several different arguments to show that human thought is not explainable simply in terms of material processes.  He opened with some arguments from neo-scholastic authors but focused on an argument from Sir David Ross based on the determinacy of formal thinking.  Feser was careful to note that thought has both material and immaterial aspects.  To acknowledge the material aspects of thought (e.g. the use of a mental image as formed by the brain) is not a desperate concession to modern science, but an unsurprising consequence of hylomorphism."

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