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Dear Catholic.com visitor: Summer is here, and you may be thinking about a well-deserved vacation, family get-togethers, BBQs with neighborhood friends. More than likely, making a donation to Catholic Answers is not on your radar right now. But this is exactly the time we most need your help. The “summer slowdown” in donations is upon us, but the work of spreading the gospel and explaining and defending the Faith never takes a break. Your gift today will change lives and save souls for Christ this summer! The reward is eternal. Thank you and God bless.

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So Aliens Created Humanity in a Lab?

One well credentialed scientist gets a little closer to figuring out who created humanity—but he's overlooking a lot of obvious evidence

Recently, Scientific American published an opinion piece by Dr. Avi Loeb, former chair (2011-2020) of the astronomy department at Harvard University, the chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies, and a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. In his essay, he asks, “Was Our Universe Created in a Laboratory?” Loeb says it is possible that an advanced technological civilization created our universe in its laboratory—a “baby universe” out of nothing—because these advanced life forms, unlike us, have learned how to control quantum tunneling.

Loeb posits that lab creators, having a better understanding of quantum mechanics, could have designed our universe, and unknowable other baby universes, from a technological womb. He suggests that our universe was created to advance itself and go on to create other baby universes when humans come to understand how our own universe was created. In this sense, we would be a self-replicating universe—a much better proposition than a barren universe unable to reproduce. It is possible, he says, that Darwinian evolution was instilled in our universe to produce scientists able to master quantum field theory . . . and that we might be messing up our opportunity because of climate change. He thinks this origin story would unify “the religious notion of a creator with the secular notion of quantum gravity.” We can hope, he suggests, that humanity will figure out the cosmic conditions that led to our existence, and then we too can create baby universes.

To Catholic ears, this theory is both frustrating and, admittedly, encouraging. It is good that a respected astronomer recognizes that science points beyond itself to an intelligent designer, but Catholics have accepted and defended the theology of creation for millennia with a long intellectual tradition.

For the entire duration of the Catholic Church’s history and even going back to the ancient biblical cultures, believers have professed in the Creed, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” It’s right there in Genesis 1:1. Catholics have a great respect for science as the study of the handiwork of God. The discovery of everything in physics, chemistry, and biology simply tells us more about the mind of God.

In antiquity, this view of the universe as creation stood out as unique among myths. The ancient Babylonians told the story of revenge in the Enuma Elish about how the great god Marduk led a deadly war against the mother Tiamat and split her corpse with his arrow into the heavens and the earth. Various ancient Greek creation myths, such as the account by Hesiod in Theogony, tell of the world emerging from chaos and bloody battles as Gaea (Mother Earth) gives birth to Uranus (Heaven) and Pontus (Sea), among others, and how Zeus triumphs to become the chief god of the pantheon.

In contrast, the Catholic worldview throughout the Bible is naturalistic. Isaiah 40:12 asks, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?” When the Israelites in captivity in Babylon hoped for freedom, Jeremiah (33:20-26) reminded the people that the same God who orders the day and night promises heirs to David’s throne as vast as the stars in heaven and the sands of the sea. Proverbs 8:23 says, “Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.” In Psalm 102:26 we read, “Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth.”

The book of Wisdom was written in Alexandria around the first century before Christ, when Jewish thinkers engaged Hellenistic learning. There was a cultural refinement between the polytheistic nature worship of the Greeks and the creation ex nihilo of the people of the Covenant. In Wisdom 7:17-22, we find a beautiful appreciation for science.

For it is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists,
to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements;
the beginning and end and middle of times,
the alternations of the solstices and the changes of the seasons,
the cycles of the year and the constellations of the stars,
the natures of animals and the tempers of wild beasts,
the powers of spirits and the reasonings of men,
the varieties of plants and the virtues of roots;
I learned both what is secret and what is manifest,
for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me.

In the New Testament, St. Paul begins the letter to the Romans admonishing idolaters for not recognizing God in creation: “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (1:20). The Gospel of John unites the revelation of Christ with Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him.” There is rationality in creation.

We can continue with the early Church Fathers. St. Justin Martyr (c. A.D. 100-165) wrote in his First Apology that “philosophers called Stoics teach that even God himself shall be resolved into fire, and they say that the world is to be formed anew by this revolution; but we understand that God, the Creator of all things, is superior to the things that are to be changed.”

The second-century apologist St. Athenagoras (ca. A.D. 133-190), taught that Christians “distinguished God from matter” and that it is not “reasonable that matter should be older than God; for the efficient cause must of necessity exist before the things that are made.”

In his Exhortation to the Greeks, Clement of Alexandria (d. 215) exclaimed, “How great is the power of God! His mere will is creation; for God alone created, since he alone is truly God. By a bare wish his work is done, and the world’s existence follows upon a single act of his will.”

In the early Middle Ages, the list continues. The role of the Creator was in the forefront of Robert Grosseteste’s (1168-1253) thinking, evidenced in his treatises, the “Hexaemeron” and “De universitatis machina.” St. Albert the Great (1193-1280) began his encyclopedia of philosophical disciplines based on the Aristotelian texts on natural sciences saying, “We have undertaken this work first to the praise of Almighty God, who is the fountain of wisdom and the creator, ordered and governor of nature.”

In the 1600s, Galileo made use of the metaphor “book of nature” to suggest that we can read God in nature similarly to how we meet God in the book of Scripture, and the metaphor has been echoed by modern popes, especially Pope St. John Paul II in Fides et ratio (19) just before he, like Paul, says, “If human beings with their intelligence fail to recognize God as Creator of all, it is not because they lack the means to do so, but because their free will and their sinfulness place an impediment in the way.” And in 1927, physicist and priest Msgr. Georges Lemaître solved Albert Einstein’s equations of general relativity to yield a model of an expanding universe that assumes an originating single point, which Fred Hoyle called the Big Bang.

St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out in the 1300s that an actual beginning in time or creation out of nothing is an article of faith and, thus, cannot be proved demonstratively, as Hebrews 11:1 says. Faith is “the conviction of things not seen.” Nevertheless, scientists, unsure how to deal with a beginning in time and creation out of nothing, have proposed new ideas.

One idea from the 1970s is that the universe emerged from a quantum fluctuation, in which there was a spontaneous emergence of particles from a vacuum, something accepted in the uncertainty principle of quantum field theory. A more recent theory describes a cyclic universe of repeated intervals of expansion and contraction called a bounce, the Big Bang perhaps being one of those bounces. String theory, likewise, describes the universe arising from a finely tuned set of constants on an infinite multiverse landscape of possible hypothetical vacuum states, most of which are unstable, where everything possible happens infinitely . . . which brings us back to Loeb’s idea about creation in a laboratory. (Whew!)

So what does Loeb’s idea about lab creators amount to? Really, it’s a throwback to ancient myths, with a modern-day quantum twist. It still runs into the old question, “Who created the laboratory and the designer?”, which was long ago answered by Aristotle and his deduction of a prime mover and first cause. There can only be one God, and Christ, the Word incarnate, revealed that God is not the universe itself or a created superhero, but the creator of all, triune and incarnational.

I am reminded of another agnostic American astronomer and futurist, Robert Jastrow, who famously concluded his 1978 book, God and the Astronomers: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

That superhuman intelligent scientist who created everthing, directing quantum fluctuations and holding the universe in existence?

It’s God. And no, we’ll never be that smart.

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