Cosmogony What is cosmogony? Cosmogony can be defined as a study of the physical universe in terms of its originating time and space. In other words, cosmogony is the study of the universe and its origins. The origin and the nature of the universe have been one of the most debated topics throughout history. Both the scientific and theological communities have yet to ascertain a common ground on how the universe came into being and whether it was an act of “God” or merely a spontaneous and random phenomenon. New discoveries in the scientific world provide new viewpoints on the creation of the universe and its relevance to a supreme intelligent “Creator.” Due to mankind’s constantly changing perspective of the world by scientific means, the argument on the origin of the universe is also forced to progress and develop itself.
Through the analysis of the works by Thomas Aquinas, David Hume, and John Haught, the development of the theory on the originating cause of the universe, through the course of history, can be easily identified. A very early interpretation on the origin of the universe and the existence of a “Creator” can be found in Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. Thomas Aquinas, in Summa Theologica, indirectly offers his own views on the origin of the universe. The term indirectly is used because his arguments are found in his five proofs for the existence of God and are not directly targeted at establishing a viewpoint on the origin of the universe. Aquinas’ first implication on the origin of the universe can be found in his first proof.
Aquinas states that “in the world some things are in motion.” Anything that is in motion, therefore, must have been placed in motion by something else. This chain of movement, however, can not go on to infinity for there would be no first or any intermediate movers. Therefore there exists a first unmoved mover that is the cause of all in motion (Aquinas, Q.2, art.3, “I answer”). Aquinas, in mentioning “the first unmoved mover,” is referring to God. Although Aquinas’ first proof can be read in a literal sense one must analyze it figuratively in order to deduce his viewpoint on cosmogony.
The act of the first unmoved mover putting the first object into motion is symbolic of Aquinas’ belief that God created the universe. God, in putting the first object into motion, created the universe. Consequently, other objects were put into motion within that universe. This is the chain of motion discussed in Aquinas’ proof. In other words, to Aquinas, the existence of our universe in motion is a result of an act of God (the creator of the universe). Several observations can be made in examining Aquinas’ viewpoint on cosmogony. First of all, the argument takes a very linear path.
The proof is too simple for such a large task as proving the existence of God. It does not take into account complex ideas that obviously declare this proof erroneous. For example, it is common knowledge today that all things are made of atoms and that all atoms are in constant motion. Therefore, there is no such thing as an inanimate object in existence. Another problems with Aquinas’ viewpoint is that it does not consider the possibility that motion, and not rest, is the natural order of things.
For if everything is in motion, would it not make more sense to declare motion as the natural order? (Hume, VIII.4) Although a seemingly dysfunctional argument on Aquinas’ part, one must take into account the time period in which this proof was constructed. Aquinas lived and wrote in the 13th century, before the existence of atomic science and other scientific theories. In this, one could easily see how the lack of science and other “future knowledge” contribute to a very primitive insight on cosmogony. Furthermore, with the development of worldly knowledge, the argument on the originating cause of the universe is also forced to develop in order to accommodate such changes. David Hume, for example, in Dialogues and Natural History of Religion, discusses cosmogony in a modern 18th century light.
In the text, Hume creates three characters each representing a different viewpoint of religious belief. Demea represents the orthodox believer, Cleanthes represents the modern 18th century deist, and Philo represents Hume’s position, the skeptic. By using the three characters, Hume is able to argue all sides of a certain issue, and through the character Philo, is able to voice his own views. Hume employs this method for the discussion of cosmogony as well. Hume voices the opinion of the deist empiricist on the origin of the universe through Cleanthes. “The order and arrangement of nature, the curious adjustment of final causes, the plain use and intention of every part and organ; all these bespeak in the clearest language an intelligent cause or author.” (Hume, IV.7) For the 18th century deist, the order of nature, the final causes produced in the universe, and the specific purpose of everything in existence, is enough evidence to assume an intelligent being created the universe.
For example, the way in which the food chain maintains all of nature’s beings in balance or the way that every organ on our body has a specific and purposeful use. These accommodations could not possibly be a coincidence or accident. On the contrary, everything works out because the “Creator” meant it to work out. Cleanthes views the universe as a well oiled machine that was built by God with all the intentions present in nature. Hume/Philo, however, is reluctant to put any fine point on the origins of the universe. ” The discoveries by microscopes, as they open a new universe in miniature, are still objections, according to you (Cleanthes); arguments according to me.
The farther we push our researches of this kind, we are still led to infer the universal cause of All to be vastly different from mankind, or from any object of human experience and observation.” (Hume, V.4) In this passage Hume displays his own viewpoint that mankind can not comprehend the power in which this universe was created by. He neither denies nor advocates the existence of an original being. Instead, he takes the agnostic position in that all we are capable of learning only leads us to more questions, and that by human experience it is impossible to comprehend the true divine power. The agnostic approach taken by Hume is characteristic of the 18th century Enlightenment. In contrast to Aquinas, Hume advocates an empiricist method in which all knowledge must be traced back to an original sense perception. The employment of the empiricist principle is the prime reason we can n …