|Creation is not a one-time event|
but a continual holding in being
[Scientific explanation] would be moot if Biblical creation were found to be true ... why bother to find out what makes people sick if it would only take prayer to cure you? Why bother to discover what cause earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or other natural disasters if it the just punishment of a displeased God? There would be absolutley no need for any science if ... that's how God did it, is the answer to every question!
TOF is somewhat mystified by this contention, and for two reasons.
1. The first is that creation has nothing to do with people getting sick or with volcanic eruptions. Simil atque, science has nothing to say about creation. Creation is the joining of an essence to an act of existence; that is, it is to make something actually exist. Transformation, or "motion," is a change of something that actually exists into something else. These transformations are the proper object of natural science. To regards being-as-such as a creation need not inhibit someone from discovering the causes of its motions.
|What is the cause of the boiling?|
|Ah! Earl Grey decaff!|
When asked about the possibility of a Tea Maker, the physicist honestly replies, "Sire, I have no need of that hypothesis." And indeed, he does not. For in the physics of boiling water, the desire to drink tea is not an efficient cause, and so is methodologically irrelevant.
|Grasping "boiling water" does not|
mean grasping boiling water.
But notice: the fact that I may recognize a Higher Purpose behind the boiling of the water does not prevent me from investigating the physics of it. In fact, in my desire to drink tea, I may be spurred, nay indeed, impelled to study and grasp the mechanics by which the boiling is accomplished.
The medieval natural philosophers, recognizing that final causes were primary causes, knew that they stood "outside the physical process," so to speak. To make tea is why I boil the water. It is not part of how the water boils.
|The Thomian "pleat" manifold is|
an example of an attractor basin
"But, TOF," (I hear you say), "you said there were two reasons you were mystified by Mr. Cheese's contention! What pray tell is the second?"
Easily said. If believers in "Biblical creation" were satisfied with "Goddidit" and did not look for secondary, instrumental causes, then we should expect to find hard empirical evidence in history that this was the mainstream reaction of Christians, especially in the Middle Ages, oft called the Age of Faith because they were always demanding reasons for this or that. So what does the empirical evidence say?
2. The empirical facts of history say that the Christians did not agree with Mr. Cheese.
“In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power; we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass.”And in his De mineralibus, he writes:
"It is the task of natural science not simply to accept what we are told but to inquire into the causes of things."Or more directly, William of Conches in (iirc) the Dragmatikon:
"[They say] 'We do not know how this is, but we know that God can do it.' You poor fools! God can make a cow out of a tree, but has He ever done so? Therefore show some reason why a thing is so, or cease to hold that it is so."And Big Al, Billy Conches, Tommy Aquinas, Gus Hippo, and others were not marginal players. This was the mainstream position. Naturally, in every age we have Biblical literalists. They are especially common among atheists and fundamentalists. But literalism leads folks like Mr. Cheese to tie themselves into knots over what their theory says Christians ought to have thought, in opposition to what the Christians' own writings show that they did think. But that should be a clue that naive literalism is not an adequate reading protocol.
|God ordering the world by number,|
weight, and measure. Bible
Illumination c. 1252-70.
Cathedral Museum, Toledo, Spain.
We also find "Solomon" extolling natural science (Wis. 7: 17-22):
"For [God] gave me sound knowledge of what exists,This does not sound at all like urging the neglect of natural sciences or secondary causes. It sounds like they regarded the study of such things was a worthy occupation for grown-ups, another mental prerequisite.
that I might know
the structure of the universe and the force of its elements,
The beginning and the end and the midpoint of times,
the changes in the sun’s course and the variations of the seasons,
Cycles of years, positions of stars,
natures of living things, tempers of beasts,
Powers of the winds and thoughts of human beings,
uses of plants and virtues of roots—
Whatever is hidden or plain I learned, for Wisdom, the artisan of all, taught me."
The key was the doctrine of secondary causation, as expressed here by :
Augustine of Hippo:
"It is therefore, causally that Scripture has said that earth brought forth the crops and trees, in the sense that it received the power of bringing them forth. In the earth from the beginning, in what I might call the roots of time, God created what was to be in times to come."IOW, Gus thought that nature was "packed" with natural powers by which it would accomplish things. Like evolution or something.-- De genesi ad litteram, Book V Ch. 4:11
William of Conches:
“[God] is the author of all things, evil excepted. But the natures with which He endowed His creatures accomplish a whole scheme of operations, and these too turn to His glory since it is He who created these very natures.”Thomas Aquinas:
"Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship.
-- Commentary on Physics II.8, lecture 14, no. 268
Mr. Cheeze's concern was that Christianity be seen as an impediment or roadblock to the development of science, and so he confused belief in Christianity with a sort of paganism.
+ + +
What has all this to do with writing science fiction?
|Noble Queen dubs Brave Knight|
Mate in three moves.
Well, a lot of SF is populated by such stock figures. Fewer now than in days of yore. But one of the reasons for characters that "feel thin" is that the writer cannot get inside their skin and write them from the inside. This is especially true of those characters supposed to be "bad guys." More so even than the "hero" the bad guys have transparently wicked motives. Of course, the businessman will be an evil conspirator. Of course, the religious character is a rube or a hypocrite. Of course, the general's first impulse is to launch the nukes. Similar, of courses afflict the favored characters, but "the Other" is especially hard to draw with empathy.
So here's the lesson: the more mythological your understanding of the Other, the more of a stock cut-out your character will be. The discourse above featured a mythological understanding of how Christians engaged natural science; but it might be anyone that you grasp first as a Category rather than as a Person; and it might be in any walk of life.
And speaking of the chansons de geste..... But that is for another time.