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Aquinas and Contemporary Cosmology: Creation and Beginnings

William E. Carroll
S & CB 24 (1)
April 2012

Abstract

Discussions in the Middle Ages about creation and the temporal beginning of the world involved sophisticated analyses in theology, metaphysics and natural philosophy. Medieval insights on this subject, especially Thomas Aquinas’s defence of the intelligibility of an eternal, created universe, can help to clarify reflections about the philosophical and theological implications of contemporary cosmological theories: from the ‘singularity’ of the Big Bang, to ‘quantum tunnelling from nothing’, to multiverse scenarios. This paper looks at different senses of ‘beginning’ and argues that creation, in its fundamental, philosophical meaning, tells us nothing about whether there is a temporal beginning to the universe. Multiverse models, like that recently proposed by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, may challenge certain views of a Grand Designer, but not of a Creator.

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