Mar 31, 2022
Scientific Questions Then and Now: Creation


Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Boltzmannstraße 22, 14195 Berlin, Germany
Zoom/Online Meeting Platform
Contact and Registration

The Lecture Series is open to all interested. If you would like to join a session please contact Anina Woischnig (awoischnig@mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de) by March 30, 2022. Please note that this event will be recorded and made accessible to the public. The Zoom links for each session will be circulated among all registered participants beforehand.

About This Series

How are scientific questions posed and answered by scientists, from premodern times until today? Despite radical changes in world views, the apparent persistence of certain recurrent questions in the history of science is striking: examples of such questions include “Where does the world come from?”, “What is it made of?”, “What is life?”, “What is consciousness?”, or “Is the world knowable?”
Our speakers’ series “Scientific Questions Then and Now” seeks to understand the extent to which such recurrent questions have in fact remained “the same”. One key goal of this series will therefore be to determine whether there is, or is not, any core notion of science that remains constant from premodern times to the present, a core notion that would allow for meaningful discussion and communication among representatives of different historic traditions of science.

We will bring together contemporary scientists with historians of premodern philosophy, to ask whether some of these recurrent questions may still be relevant to contemporary scientific research and practice. 

2022-03-31T15:30:00SAVE IN I-CAL 2022-03-31 15:30:00 2022-03-31 20:00:00 Scientific Questions Then and Now: Creation Abstracts Jean-Luc Lehners: The Big Bang and Quantum Gravity. Current Ideas about Ancient Times Link to video I will start by reviewing the observational evidence for the hot big bang model of the universe. The big bang itself however remains only partially understood and leads to many interesting questions, e.g. was it the beginning of spacetime and matter? Or was it a transition from a prior phase? And if so, would a creation event still be needed? Would such a creation event even be observable/testable? What we can infer about these issues depends largely on the nature of quantum gravity. For this reason, I will attempt to lay out current thoughts about these questions from the point of view of semi-classical gravity and string theory. Alberto Ross: God, Creation, and Causality in Ancient Philosophy Link to video The aim of this presentation is to offer an overview and a reconstruction of the most relevant arguments on the creation and the eternity of the world in Ancient Philosophy. I will concentrate my attention on the theory of the origin of the cosmos in Plato's Timaeus, the doctrine of the eternity of motion in Aristotle's Physics, and the reception of these positions in Late Antiquity. In particular, I will try to show that the Neoplatonic commentators of Aristotle made interesting proposals to harmonize the Platonic and Aristotelian points of view, which gave rise to new arguments and approaches to explain the existence of nature and heaven. Michael Chase: Creation and Continuity in Neoplatonism Link to video Pagan Neoplatonists such as Proclus and Simplicius argued that reality comes into existence as a result of a process of atemporal, continuous emanation of ontologically lower principles from higher ones. In contrast, Christian Neoplatonists such as John Philoponus argued that God creates reality instantaneously (Greek en tôi nun). At first glance, it is not easy to perceive the difference: for both parties, reality is produced atemporally. It is argued here that what distinguishes the two views is primarily the fact that for the pagans, “creation” is continuous, while for Philoponus it is discontinuous. Thus, the best criterion for the distinction is the following: assuming the world is brought into existence through the action of a divine principle, if the world can be said to have a first moment of its existence, we have to do with creation; if not, we have to do with emanation. Marina Cortés: Carving New Paths in Theoretical Physics Link to video Modern cosmology holds that the Universe is a dynamic evolving entity, that galaxies form and collide and grow, that stars and their planets are created and ultimately extinguished, for example in supernova explosions. All this is witnessed directly by the powerful telescopes that let us receive light from the distant past of the Universe’s history. Did the world come into existence? Yes. 4.5 billion years ago a collapsing dust cloud heated and ignited to form the Sun and the residues formed the planets. Did the Universe come into existence? Yes. No one knows how it began, but plentiful evidence shows that the Universe is 13.8 billion years old, that its beginnings were hot and dense. and that after some hundreds of millions of years the first galaxies and stars formed. We do not know when life began in the Universe (or in the portion of the Universe that we can study), but at least on Earth the fossil record shows it began early in the Earth’s lifespan and has been resilient enough to receive from five mass extinctions (and now yields a species apparently incapable of averting a sixth). The interesting new prospect in the debate of creation lies in an ongoing revolution in theoretical physics led by the ideas of Cortês, Kauffman, Liddle and Smolin, and formulated in the Biocosmology argument. The complete research programme argues that theoretical physics requires, for its self-preservation, to consider the introduction of new methods of scientific inquiry—not currently on offer in the pallet of tools of the discipline. We have shaped, and continue to shape, a new vision for theoretical physics that opens up new scientific fields. Simultaneously, this gets us, theoretical physicists, a seat at the table discussing fields which have until now lain unquestionably outside of the bounds of the discipline, for reasons that need almost be described as aesthetical taste and dogma. Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Boltzmannstraße 22, 14195 Berlin, Germany Zoom/Online Meeting Platform Europe/Berlin public