When science assumes that there are only material bodies in the universe, or put more generally, only matter, it forgets something fundamental: matter (if we take the pure concept of matter) cannot evolve. Science wants to reduce every transformation to a causal relationship, that is, to an action of a previously given material body on another body.
For example, if ancient philosophers considered water as one of the four eternally existing natural elements, nowadays, science considers water as the product, the result of the combination between two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. In this combination, the hydrogen atoms start being glued to the oxygen atom.
Water is thus, for us, not an element existing for eternity but the product of the combination – which happened initially, certainly accidentally – between atoms of hydrogen and atoms of oxygen. Likewise, everything in the universe can be reduced to an accidental combination of its elements, a combination that led to the existence of the entity in question.
Apparently, this type of explanation explains everything. Accordingly, even life and, all the more, (human) ‘spirit’ are nothing else than results of combinations of material elements existing previously.
The model of the scientific approach to the world is very well illustrated by the alleged dialogue between the French scientist Laplace and the French Emperor Napoleon: ‘Where is God in your explanation about the development of the universe?’ asked Napoleon of Laplace when the latter presented his recently published book. ‘I did not need that hypothesis,’ answered Laplace.
Now let’s see if this can be true. Let’s see how water emerges from the combination of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. To clarify our intention, suppose you have only isolated hydrogen and oxygen atoms without any combination of them.
Then, you could study the hydrogen atom, on the one hand, and the oxygen atom, on the other hand, until the next coming of Jesus on Earth, without ever getting the idea of water. Water is posited as reality only if you know about it through experience and not a priori.
You can know that water is the combination between hydrogen atoms and oxygen atoms only if you, once having the water, analyze it, and separate it into the two types of atoms.
What does this imply? It implies that the two types of atoms, hydrogen and oxygen, can interact with each other and give birth to something new that did not exist previously. Let’s also suppose that we combine the two types of atoms in a myriad of different laboratory conditions. I suppose, you will agree that depending on those conditions, the combination could lead to other new substances different from water.
And, in fact, such an attempt has already been made, leading to the discovery of ‘hydrogen polyoxides,’ which are chemical compounds consisting exclusively of hydrogen and oxygen atoms but in various proportions. Water is a compound having two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. But other hydrogen polyoxides contain two atoms of hydrogen and four of oxygen, or two atoms of hydrogen and two of oxygen. And so forth.
Of course, when you have different numbers of atoms of hydrogen and oxygen in a chemical compound, you also get different substances than water. And they are not beneficial for humans in the same way as water.
Now, can science answer the question of why the combination of a different number of the same atoms leads to different compounds? Of course not. Science only observes and makes predictions related to what it observes, not related to what it has never observed before. In other words, no science can ever know a priori the result of the combinations of any atoms or, more generally, of any material elements.
But science makes a presupposition that it also blatantly overlooks: namely that all those elements have the capacity to interact, to combine with each other. And the question is then: what does it mean to have the capacity to interact, to combine? This question is a philosophical one, and science deliberately ignores it. But this question also shows that science is deliberately blind to certain aspects of reality, like the issue of ‘capacity.’
What is capacity? The dictionary says that it is the ability or power to do something. And we read in the Merriam-Webster dictionary: ‘ability’ is ‘the quality or state of being able.’ Capacity can also be an aptitude. As an aptitude, a capacity is an ‘inclination’ or ‘tendency’ to do something. For example, if you have an aptitude for learning new languages, you have an inclination or a tendency to learn them.
Thus, having the capacity to do something means ‘being able’ to do this. You are not yet doing this, but you are ‘able’ to do that. Now, we cannot know what something is able to do until we see concretely what it does.
Ability is one of the many words related to the concept of ‘possibility.’ When you say that hydrogen combined at the beginning of the universe’s existence with other elements, you are forced to say that, before that combination, it already had the capacity, the ability to do that.
And this is what happens with everything on earth and in the heavens: everything has the capacity (or consists of elements capable) to combine with something else. Possibility, in this sense, is a necessary feature of reality. I mean necessary because we cannot understand reality without assuming that that possibility exists.
But then again, possibility can have different meanings. Related to the word ‘capacity,’ possibility has rather the meaning of potentiality, that is to say, of a state that does not exist yet, but will actualize or is in the process of becoming real in the future starting from a sort of invisible seed. How and when exactly – this is another question.
If something has the capacity to combine with another element, then it owns the property potentially to interact with that element. But we cannot know that property before putting the element near the other element and seeing how it interacts with the latter.
When science explains how new substances emerge from the combination of pre-existing elements, it necessarily ignores the idea that those elements have inside the potential to interact with other elements.
This concept of potentiality does not fall under the framework of the causal view of science. Or, rather, it does not fall under the denotation proper to the concept of efficient causation that science retained from Aristotle. Instead, it falls under the ‘intension’ of another concept of cause, also present in Aristotle, that of the teleological cause or teleological causation.
Teleological causation means that something has within itself the tendency to become something else. For example, the seed is endowed with teleological causation because it has the tendency to transform into a future plant.
Or, differently explained and related to the word teleology: the future plant is the end, the goal – which acts like a cause – present already within the seed. It is a goal that, once the seed is put into the ground, starts acting and gathering around itself all the substances that will build together at the end of the process the shape of the future plant.
The same ‘tendency’ is present within every element or atom of the universe. In the same way in which you cannot know beforehand what plant will emerge from the seed, but only when you see concretely how from the seed that plant emerges, you cannot know beforehand what ‘tendencies’ lie inside an element, allowing it to interact with another element and create a new substance.
The previous part of this article can be read here.