Origins and Meanings overview

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ORIGINS AND MEANINGS

The creation of the world

Catholics believe the universe was created by God out of nothing – 'creation ex nihilo'. Only God can create from nothing because he is omnipotent. St Augustine explored this in Confessions XII, 7. He also suggests that God is transcendent. All Christians and Jews support this view. 'From nothing, then, you created heaven and earth'. Catholics accept the creation stories in Genesis as myths with underlying theological truths and answers the question of 'why' not 'how' God created the world. They believe that Literalists and Creationists who believe the story word for word make a category mistake and that those particular stories are of a different literary form and should not be read literally.

Orthodox Jews have a creationist viewpoint: 'Blessed be He who spoke and the world existed'. Most Reform Jews share the Catholic view.

The Big Bang theory

This theory became widely accepted in the 1960s but it was originally put forward by a Catholic priest Fr Georges Lemaitre but it was popularised by Stephen Hawking. The explanation is that all the matter that makes up the world was once compacted but was so dense and hot that it could no longer keep itself together which is what Hawking called the 'moment of singularity' which started the big bang and is the point at which space and time were created. This theory suggests that there is no need for a Creator and that things just happened by themselves.

The Catholic Church has no reason to question the evidence that scientists present for the origins of the universe. Science and theology seem to be answering two different questions: science is how, and Genesis answers why. The conclusion for Catholics therefore is that if the Big Bang theory is correct that is how God chose to create the world.

Evolution

The process of mutation and natural selection which leads to changes in species over time to suit particular environments. Charles Darwin provided a scientific explanation for how new species have developed in 1859. 'On the Origin of the Species by means Natural Selection' explored what he find when working on HMS Beagle and studying the animals and birds on the Galapagos Islands and noticed differences particularly in the finches. He also noted how these differences where best suited to their particular environment known as 'natural selection' and 'survival of the fittest'. The theory of evolution is supported by fossil records which show how huge amounts of species before us haven't survived, and by how DNA research shows similarities between many species.

Richard Dawkins believes that the theory of natural selection and evolution is a much better explanation of origins than that of a creator God. Dawkins therefore suggests that the creation of humans was just a lucky genetic mutation, humans are merely a slightly advanced form of animals, and that humans are of no greater importance than other animals on this earth.

Catholics agree with evolution but disagree that it means humans

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