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volume II: Synopsis

section I: Motivations and posibilities

page 6: Creation

Where did we come from? The traditional Christian answer is to be found in Genesis: 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. . . .' . Why did God create the world? A Catholic answer is to be found in the dogmatic constitution Dei Filius of the first Vatican Council, repeated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "The world was made for the glory of God". This means in effect that God made the world to show off to us, a rather anthropocentric view. Genesis 1:1-2, Holy See, Pope John Paul II

This Catholic account of our origins implies that the world pre-existed in God, and is therefore nothing new. It provides no real explanation for the world, since the Church holds that God and its ways are held to be mysterious, beyond human ken. The Church believe that God created the world 'out of nothing'. Here we would prefer to think that the Universe is created 'out of God' and is in fact identical to God. Aquinas 236

God made the Universe. But who (or what) made God? The traditional answer is that God is eternal. There never was a time when God did not exist and so the question is meaningless. Whatever we think about God, our existence is an indisputable fact, and insofar as God is the source of our existence, we accept the existence of God.

The modern story is a little more satisfying. Einstein's general theory of relativity models the large scale structure of spacetime. This theory and observation show us that spacetime is a growing structure whose roots may be traced to an initial point known as the initial singularity. Cosmology - Wikipedia, Hawking and Ellis, Misner, Thorne and Wheeler

This story no more tells us where the initial singularity came from that the traditional story tells us where God came from. We begin here with the hypothesis that the initial singularity corresponds to the classical picture of God developed by Aquinas. Following Aristotle, Aquinas first establishes that God is 'pure act' actus purus and then proceeds to deduce from this the classical properties of God, absolute simplicity, omnipotence, omniscience, eternity and so on. Aquinas 13

The Christian God is also a living God, where life is taken to mean 'self motion'. Mathematically, we model motion by mapping, and we can understand a self moving entity as one that maps onto itself. Mathematical fixed point theorems tell us that under certain circumstances, sets mapping onto themselves have fixed points, that it points which are not moved by the mapping even though they are part of the motion. Fixed point theorem - Wikipedia

With this point of view we can imagine creation (and its inverse, annihilation) as the appearance and disappearance of fixed points with the divine dynamics. We ourselves are such fixed points, enjoying a lifetime between our birth (creation) and death (annihilation) and the same is true for all other particles in the Universe.

The structure of spacetime is such that much of the past remains present to us. We can observe the 'cosmic background radiation' which gives us a picture of the Universe when it was only about 100 thousand years old. Astronomical telescopes enable us to look back billions of years into the past, so that we have been able to construct quite a detailed history of the Universe. Astronomy - Wikipedia, European Space Agency

This evolutionary process we can understand as the emergence of an increasing number of fixed point in the universal dynamics. Astrophysics is able to give a largely consistent account of the origins of matter in the Universe, and the formation of galaxies, stars and planets. Although the origins of life are quite obscured by time, physics, chemistry, molecular biology and the theory of evolution by natural selection provide us with a consistent and satisfying picture of the possible origins of life on earth and the evolution of ever more complex creatures.

Modern physics depends heavily on the notion of symmetry. Symmetry is closely related to indifference and equiprobability, a mathematical representation of 'nothing' or absence of structure. Since a perfect coin is symmetrical with respect to its two faces, we expect equal almost numbers of 'heads' and 'tails' when we toss a coin a large number of times. Similarly, the faces of a fair die all have the same probability of turning up on a throw, 1/6. If we observe that this is not the case, we suspect that the die of being 'loaded', giving one face a higher probability of appearance than the others.

The symmetries of the Universe are studied in quantum mechanics. Because of symmetry, that is a lack of determination, quantum mechanics cannot predict the exact outcome of an event, only the probabilities of different outcomes. Einstein and others who believe in a deterministic Universe have found this feature of quantum mechanics very perplexing, but a century of experience suggests that there is no way to avoid it. Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen, Albert Einstein

Symmetry and unpredictability are inherent features of our Universe, but we also find that symmetries can be broken. When a coin comes to rest on the surface of a table, we can say that the system is no longer symmetrical: one face is up and the other face is down. Now we have a definite outcome. The consequences of this outcome depend on the environment in which the coin is tossed. If someone has bet the farm on heads and the coin comes up tails, the farm is lost.

Evolution involves both symmetry and symmetry breaking. Symmetry allows for the random assortment of genes, and for the random variation of the circumstances of birth and life encountered by each organism. Broken symmetries determine the actual events of an individual life which determine whether than organisms will survive, grow and reproduce.

As we know for our own experience, life and reproduction are enormously complex and often difficult processes, subject to all sorts of random events, like meeting the right mate, finding suitable food and shelter and so on. For the moment we overlook all these details and say only that fit organisms are those which are able to interact profitably with their environment.

The general process of evolution is indifferent to complexity, so that there is no limit to the complexity of structures which may evolve. We incorporate molecular mechanisms that evolved billions of years ago in single celled organisms. These single celled organisms were subjected to the same evolutionary forces that have shaped all our ancestors and still work upon us. Although the concept of evolution originally arose in the context of biology, it also applies in the psychological and social realms, so that our ideas, technologies and societies are also subject to the same interplay of random and determinate events.

Since the environment of any organism is largely comprised of other organisms, also subject to evolution, we can see that the evolutionary process is recursive, it feeds on itself. This, in turn, accounts for the enormous variety of life, the diversity of organisms that have existed in the past, which exist now, and are to come.

Our species, in its current form, is only a few hundred thousand years old, the blink of an eye relative to the age of the Universe. As far as we can see, conditions on earth will be suitable for life as we know it for billions of years to come. Evolution at all levels has a long way to go. Klein

Symmetry lays the foundation for unpredictability and creativity but why do structures become more complex? Why didn't the structureless initial singularity simply stay as it was. Why doesn't annihilation keep pace with creation? To answer, we change our perspective. Instead of thinking of the Universe as body, let us look at it as mind or soul. This is not to say that body and soul are distinct entities, only that they are different ways of looking at the same reality.

(revised 28 March 2013)

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Further reading


Click on the "Amazon" link below each book entry to see details of a book (and possibly buy it!)

Bergson, Henri, and Arthur Mitchell (translator), Creative Evolution, Rowman & Littlefield 1983 Amazon Book Description: 'Creative Evolution, originally published in 1911 by Henry Holt and Company, is the work which catapulted Bergson from obscurity into world-wide fame. A study of the philosophical implications of biological evolutionary theory, the impact of this book reached far beyond biology and seemed to many to herald a new age in philosophy and the sciences.' 
Darwin, Charles, and Greg Suriano (editor), The Origin of Species, Gramercy 1998 Introduction: 'In considering the Origin of Species, it is quite conceivable that a naturalist, reflecting on the mutual affinities of organic beings, on their embryological relations, their geographical distribution, geological succession, and other such facts, might come to the conclusion that each species has not been independently created, but has descended, like varieties, from other species.' 
Dawkins, Richard, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design, Penguin/Pelican 1996 Preface: '[Darwinism] is, indeed a remarkably simple theory; ... In essence it amounts simply to the idea that non-random reproduction where there is hereditary variation, has consequences that are far reaching if there is time for them to be cumulative ... ' 
Hawking, Steven W, and G F R Ellis, The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time , Cambridge UP 1975 Preface: Einstein's General Theory of Relativity ... leads to two remarkable predictions about the universe: first that the final fate of massive stars is to collapse behind an event horizon to form a 'black hole' which will contain a singularity; and secondly that there is a singularity in our past which constitutes, in some sense, a beginning to our universe. Our discussion is principally aimed at developing these two results.' 
Klein, Richard G, The Human Career : Human Biological and Cultural Origins , University of Chicago Press 1999 Review: 'The Human Career describes one of the most spectacular changes to have occurred in our understanding of human evolution. The once-popular fresco showing a single file of marching hominids becoming ever more vertical, tall and hairless now appears to be a fiction. ... For most of the past four million years several species of hominids coexisted, sometimes in limited geographical areas. The eventual peopling of the planet with a single homogeneous species of hominid is shown to be exceptional on the geological timescale. ... If you could have only one book that deals with human evolution, this is definitely the one to choose. ' Jean-Jacques Hublins, Nature. 403:364 27 January 2000. 
Misner, Charles W, and Kip S Thorne, John Archibald Wheeler, Gravitation, Freeman 1973 Jacket: 'Einstein's description of gravitation as curvature of spacetime led directly to that greatest of all predictions of his theory, that the universe itself is dynamic. Physics still has far to go to come to terms with this amazing fact and what it means for man and his relation to the universe. John Archibald Wheeler. . . . this is a book on Einstein's theory of gravity. . . . ' 
Silk, Joseph, The Big Bang: The Creation and Evolution of the Universe, Freeman 1988 Jacket: 'Written for the non-specialist, The Big Bang describes the greatest contemporary puzzles and achievements in astronomy, cosmology and astrophysics, clearly recounting the history of the universe and examining current controversies from several points of view. The book concludes with a self contained appendix providing the basic mathematical framework for understanding modern cosmology." 
Stewart, Ian, Life's Other Secret: The new mathematics of the living world, Allen Lane 1998 Preface: 'There is more to life than genes. ... Life operates within the rich texture of the physical universe and its deep laws, patterns, forms, structures, processes and systems. ... Genes nudge the physical universe in specific directions ... . The mathematical control of the growing organism is the other secret ... . Without it we will never solve the deeper mysteries of the living world - for life is a partnership between genes and mathematics, and we must take proper account of the role of both partners.' (xi) 
Hairston Jr, Nelson G, et al, "Rapid evolution revealed by dormant eggs", Nature, 401, 6752 , 30 September 1999, page 446. 'Lake Constance, in central Europe experienced a period of eutrophication (the biological effects of an input of plant nutrients) during the 1960s-70s, which caused an increase in the abundance of nutritionally poor or even toxic cyanobacteria. By hatching long dormant eggs of Daphnia galeata found in lake sediments, we show that the mean resistance of Daphnia genotypes to dietary cyanobacteria increased significantly during the eutrophication". back
Nowak, Martin A, Joshua B Plotkin and Vincent A A Jansen, "The evolution of syntactic communication", Nature, 404, 6777, 30 March 2000, page 495-498. Letters to Nature: 'Animal communication is typically non-syntactic, which means that signals refer to whole situations. Human language is syntactic, and signals consist of discrete components that have their own meaning. Syntax is requisite for taking advantage of combinatorics, that is 'making infinite use of finite means'. ... Here we present a model for the population dynamics of language evolution, define the basic reproductive ratio of words and calculate the maximum size of a lexicon.'. back
Pagel, Mark, "Inferring the historical patterns of biological evolution", Nature, 401, 6756, 28 October 1999, page 877-884. Review: 'Phylogenetic trees describe the pattern of descent amongst groups of species. With the rapid accumulation of DNA sequence data, more and more phylogenies are being constructed based upon sequence comparisons. The combination of these phylogenies with powerful new statistical approaches for the analysis of biological evolution is challenging widely held beliefs about the history and evolution of life on earth. . back
Albert Einstein God does not play dice 'Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the "old one." I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice. Letter to Max Born (4 December 1926); The Born-Einstein Letters (translated by Irene Born) (Walker and Company, New York, 1971) ISBN 0-8027-0326-7. back
Aquinas 13 Summa: I 2 3: Whether God exists? I answer that the existence of God can be proved in five ways. The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. . . . The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. . . . The third way is taken from possibility and necessity . . . The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. . . . The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. back
Aquinas 236 I 44 3: Whether God is the exemplary cause of things, or there be other exemplars beside him 'I answer that, God is the first exemplar cause of all things. . . . it is manifest that things made by nature receive determinate forms. This determination of forms must be reduced to the divine wisdom as its first principle, for divine wisdom devised the order of the universe, which order consists in the variety of things. And therefore we must say that in the divine wisdom are the types of all things, which types we have called ideas--i.e. exemplar forms existing in the divine mind. . . . ' back
Astronomy - Wikipedia Astronomy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, comets, nebulae, star clusters and galaxies) and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth (such as the cosmic background radiation). It is concerned with the evolution, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and motion of celestial objects, as well as the formation and development of the universe.' back
Cosmology - Wikipedia Cosmology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'Cosmology is the discipline that deals with the nature of the Universe as a whole. Cosmologists seek to understand the origin, evolution, structure, and ultimate fate of the Universe at large, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order. Modern cosmology is dominated by the Big Bang theory, which brings together observational astronomy and particle physics.' back
Dei Filius - Wikipedia Dei Filius - Wikipedia, the fre encyclopedia 'Dei Filius is the incipit of the dogmatic constitution of the First Vatican Council on the Catholic faith, which was adopted unanimously on 24 April 1870. The constitution set forth the teaching of "the holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church" on God, revelation and faith' back
Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen Can the Quantum Mechanical Description of Physical Reality be Considered Complete?? A PDF of the classic paper. 'In a complete theory there is an element corresponding to each element of reality. A sufficient condition for the reality of a physical quantity is the possibility of predicting it with certainty, without disturbing the system. In quantum mechanics in the case of two physical quantities described by non-commuting operators, the knowledge of one precludes the knowledge of the other. Then either (1) the description of reality given by the wave function in quantum mechanics is not complete or (2) these two quantities cannot have simultaneous reality. Consideration of the problem of making predictions concerning a system on the basis of measurements made on another system that had previously interacted with it leads to the result that if (1) is false then (2) is also false, One is thus led to conclude that the description of reality given by the wave function is not complete.' back
European Space Agency Planck Published Papers 'The scientific findings of the mission are presented in a series of papers based on data from the first 15.5 months of Planck operations. These recent results are produced by the Planck Collaboration. The papers are available online, and links to each are provided below. If you use any of these results for presentations, please acknowledge the corresponding paper, ESA/Planck, and the Planck Collaboration. The Planck Legacy Archive (PLA) contains all public products originating from the Planck mission.' back
Fixed point theorem - Wikipedia Fixed point theorem - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'In mathematics, a fixed point theorem is a result saying that a function F will have at least one fixed point (a point x for which F(x) = x), under some conditions on F that can be stated in general terms. Results of this kind are amongst the most generally useful in mathematics. The Banach fixed point theorem gives a general criterion guaranteeing that, if it is satisfied, the procedure of iterating a function yields a fixed point. By contrast, the Brouwer fixed point theorem is a non-constructive result: it says that any continuous function from the closed unit ball in n-dimensional Euclidean space to itself must have a fixed point, but it doesn't describe how to find the fixed point (See also Sperner's lemma).' back
Genesis 1:1-2 Genesis 1 ESV '1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. back
Holy See Catechism of the Catholic Church, para 293 '293 Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: "The world was made for the glory of God." St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things "not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it", for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness: "Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand." The First Vatican Council explains: This one, true God, of his own goodness and "almighty power", not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel "and from the beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal. . ." [Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius] back
John Paull II Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum ''The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved June 25th last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion. May it serve the renewal to which the Holy Spirit ceaselessly calls the Church of God, the Body of Christ, on her pilgrimage to the undiminished light of the Kingdom!'' back
Oxford Evolutionary Biology Oxford Evolutionary Biology 'This is a site for various projects in evolutionary biology, molecular evolution and phylogenetic epidemiology being carried out by members of the research group headed by Paul Harvey in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford.' back
Pope John Paul II Catechism of the Catholic Church 293 Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: "The world was made for the glory of God." St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things "not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it",135 for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness: "Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand." The First Vatican Council explains: This one, true God, of his own goodness and "almighty power", not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel "and from the beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal. . .". back
Princeton University Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University 'We invite you to learn more about our research activities by exploring links to the faculty in each of our core areas—ecology, evolution and behavior.' back
Thomas de Aquino Thomas de Aquino, Summa Theologiae, Prima Pars qq 44-49 'Post considerationem divinarum personarum, considerandum restat de processione creaturarum a Deo. Erit autem haec consideratio tripartita, ut primo consideretur de productione creaturarum; secundo, de earum distinctione; tertio, de conservatione et gubernatione. Circa primum tria sunt consideranda, primo quidem, quae sit prima causa entium; secundo, de modo procedendi creaturarum a prima causa; tertio vero, de principio durationis rerum. Circa primum quaeruntur quatuor. Primo, utrum Deus sit causa efficiens omnium entium. Secundo, utrum materia prima sit creata a Deo, vel sit principium ex aequo coordinatum ei. Tertio, utrum Deus sit causa exemplaris rerum, vel sint alia exemplaria praeter ipsum. Quarto, utrum ipse sit causa finalis rerum.' back
University of California Museum of Paleontology Understanding Evolution Home 'Welcome to Understanding Evolution, an evolution website for teachers.' back is maintained by The Theology Company Proprietary Limited ACN 097 887 075 ABN 74 097 887 075 Copyright 2000-2018 © Jeffrey Nicholls