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CHAPTER XXXIV, XXXVIIReasons alleged for the Eternity of the World on the part of the Creative Process itself, with Answers to the same

ARG. 1. It is the common opinion of all philosophers, and therefore it must be true, that nothing is made of nothing (Aristotle, Physics, B. I, Chapp. VII, VIII). Whatever is made, then, must be made of something; and that again, if it is made at all, must be made of something else. But this process cannot go on to infinity; and therefore we must come to something that was not made. But every being that has not always been must have been made. Therefore that out of which all things are first made must be something everlasting. That cannot be God, because He cannot be 103the material of anything. Therefore there must be something eternal outside God, namely, primordial matter.262262Materia prima, see note, p. 86.

Reply (Chap. XXXVII). The common position of philosophers, that nothing is made of nothing, is true of the sort of making that they considered. For all our knowledge begins in sense, which is of singular objects; and human investigation has advanced from particular to general considerations. Hence, in studying the beginning of things, men gave their attention to the making of particular things in detail. The making of one sort of being out of another sort is the making of some particular being, inasmuch as it is ‘this being,’ not as it is ‘being’ generally: for some prior being there was that now is changed into ‘this being.’ But entering more deeply into the origin of things, philosophers came finally to consider the issuing of all created being from one first cause (Chapp. XV, XVI). In this origin of all created being from God, it is impossible to allow any making out of pre-existent material: for such making out of pre-existent material would not be a making of the whole being of the creature. This first making of the universe was not attained to in the thought of the early physicists, whose common opinion it was that nothing was made of nothing: or if any did attain to it, they considered that such a term as ‘making’ did not properly apply to it, since the name ‘making’ implies movement or change,263263The position supposed is this: ‘Nothing is made, manufactured, or concocted out of nothing: but something may be created out of nothing.’ I am not aware however of any of the ancients having any idea of creation out of nothing. There is no word in classical Greek for ‘creation’ in the theological sense. whereas in this origin of all being from one first being there can be no question of the transmutation of one being into another (Chap. XVII). Therefore it is not the concern of physical science to study this first origin of all things: that study belongs to the metaphysician, who deals with being in general and realities apart from motion.264264A professor of physical science, as such, does not arrive at the Creator. Motions, molar and molecular, — vibrations and transferences chemical, biological, mechanical or cosmic — are his subject-matter; but the Creator and the creative act are above motion. Atheist or theist, agnostic or Christian, a man may be equally proficient in physical science, as also he may be in cookery, engine-driving, or soap-boiling. Is this, the range of physical science is narrower and lower than that of literature. There is religious literature and divine poetry. When a physicist pronounces on a religious question, either for or against religion, he is sutor supra crepidam: he has overshot his subject. Of course he ought to overshoot his subject. A man should no more be a physicist and nothing else than he should be a tallow-chandler and nothing else. The misery is, when, not having been conversant with God in his laboratory, observatory, or dissecting. room, the physicist poses upon this non-experience to turn antitheologian. One might as well pose upon the limitations of the tallow vat. God is not evident in the melting of tallow, nor in the scientific infliction and curing of wounds. This liparo-physico-antitheological humour, as Aristophanes might have called it, is an exudation of the narrowest bigotry. Wherever physical science becomes the staple of education, to the setting aside of Latin and Greek, it will be found necessary in the interests of religion to insist upon a parallel course of metaphysics, psychology, and ethics. A popular course is all that will be possible or necessary. Otherwise, trained on physical science without literature or philosophy, the mind suffers atrophy of the religious faculties, a disease which some seem anxious to induce upon mankind, — a painful disease nevertheless, productive of much restlessness and irritability, as the life of Thomas Huxley shows. To repeat St Thomas’s words here: — “It is not the concern of physical science to study the first origin of all things: that study belongs to the metaphysician who deals with being in general and realities apart from motion.” All the more important is it for the physicist to imbibe some tincture of metaphysics, that he may not “wallow in a slough of barbarism’ (Plato, Rep. vii, 533d). This note is suggested by Sir Oliver Lodge’s article, Faith and Science, in the Hibbert Journal for October, 1902, a masterly exposition of the present conflict between the two, except for one mistake. Sir Oliver confounds the mysterious with the miraculous. The daily bread of the Christian is mystery, not miracle. Miracle is obvious to the senses; mystery lies beyond sense. We may however by a figure of speech apply the name of ‘making’ to creation, and speak of things as ‘made,’ whatsoever they are, the essence or nature whereof has its origin from other being.

Arg. 2. Everything that takes a new being is now otherwise than as it was before: that must come about by some movement or change: but all movement or change is in some subject: therefore before anything is made there must be some subject of motion.

104

Reply. The notion of motion or change is foisted in here to no purpose: for what nowise is, is not anywise, and affords no hold for the conclusion that, when it begins to be, it is otherwise than as it was before.

These then are the reasons which some hold to as demonstrative, and necessarily evincing that creatures have always existed, wherein they contradict the Catholic faith, which teaches that nothing but God has always existed, and that all else has had a beginning of being except the one eternal God. Thus then it evidently appears that there is nothing to traverse our assertion, that the world has not always existed. And this the Catholic faith teaches: In the beginning God created heaven and earth (Gen. i, 1): and, Before he made anything, from the beginning (Prov. viii, 22).


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