Big Bang Cosmology Intelligent Design

Can a universe be both eternal and created?

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This image represents the evolution of the Universe, starting with the Big Bang. The red arrow marks the flow of time.
Big Bang/NASA

From Oxford’s William E. Carroll at Big Questions Online:

The use of cosmology either to deny or to affirm creation is often the result of confusions about what creation is and about the explanatory power of the natural sciences. Creation, as a metaphysical and theological notion, affirms that all that exists — in whatever way it does — depends upon God as a cause. The natural sciences have as their subject the world of changing things, from subatomic particles to acorns to galaxies. Whenever there is a change there must be something that changes. Whether these changes are biological or cosmological, without beginning or end, or temporally finite, they are still processes. Creation, on the other hand, is the radical causing of the whole existence of whatever exists. Creation is not a process or a change.

How can this be? To be the complete cause of something’s existence is not to produce a change in that thing; it is not to work on or with some preexisting material. When God’s creative act is said to be “out of nothing,” what is meant is that God does not use anything in creating the universe. So there is no change from a prior state (“nothingness”) to existence (“something”), since, prior to creation, there is nothing to undergo change.

Cosmology, like all the other natural sciences, offers accounts of change, but it does not address the metaphysical and theological questions of creation. The natural sciences do not speak to why there is something rather than nothing. So it is a mistake to use arguments in the natural sciences to deny creation — this is precisely the mistake that Stephen Hawking and others make — just as it is a mistake to appeal to cosmology as a confirmation of creation. Reason can lead to knowledge of the Creator, but the path to such knowledge is metaphysics, not the natural sciences. More.

Agree? Disagree? Science historian Michael Flannery writes to say,

This article by William E. Carroll makes an important point: namely, it is possible to argue for both an eternal and a created universe. As Carroll states, “This distinction between origin and beginning is crucial. It may very well be that the universe had a temporal beginning, but there is nothing contradictory about the notion of an eternal, created universe. Were the universe to have no beginning, it would still have an origin . . . .” I’m not arguing for that position personally, but neither do I think the “Big Bang” or the Kalam Cosmological argument is essential. It bears pointing out that Fred Hoyle and the UCLA philosopher John Elof Boodin both held to a steady-state cosmology, and BOTH were theists, Boodin, in fact, a rather conventional orthodox Christian. Everyone should pay attention: there’s a lot of clear-headed thinking coming from the Blackfriars. Aidan Nichols, OP, has contributed a very insightful essay that DOES include fine-tuning in “The New Atheism and Christian Cosmology,” in The Beauty of God’s House. I highly recommend this collection of essays.

See also: What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter?

2 Replies to “Can a universe be both eternal and created?

  1. 1
    tribune7 says:

    I thought Hoyle was an atheist when he was attacking The Big Bang.

  2. 2
    Flannery says:

    He was initially, but he changed his atheistic position while maintaining his support of steady-state cosmology. Hoyle coined the “Big Bang” in a popular BBC radio broadcast in 1949, but to see how far his views had changed one needs to read his book, _The Intelligent Universe_ (1983). A strong proponent of panspermia, Hoyle added, “Even after widening the stage of the origin of life from our tiny Earth to the Universe at large, we must still return to the same problem that opened this book–the vast unlikelihood that life, even on a cosmic scale, arose from non-living matter.”

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