Mount lecture explores the scientific relevance of philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas

February 13, 2017

William Carroll, a theology faculty member of the University of Oxford, discussed how the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas remains relevant in modern science on Thursday, February 2 at Mount Saint Mary College.


William Carroll, a theology faculty member of the University of Oxford, discussed “The Philosophy of Nature and Contemporary Science: Why Thomas Aquinas Remains Relevant” on Thursday, February 2 at Mount Saint Mary College.

One might think that there’s no value for contemporary science in what the 13th century philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas claimed as principles for the philosophy of nature. Carroll, however, disagrees.

“Thomas does offer crucial insights about the world the empirical sciences describe, especially concerning what natural substances are, how they differ from machines, as well as the distinctions between living and non-living entities,” explained Carroll. “Thomas’ philosophy of nature does not replace the discoveries of the natural sciences, nor do these discoveries render obsolete this philosophy of nature.”

Carroll’s research and teaching concern the reception of Aristotelian science in mediaeval Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, and the development of the doctrine of creation; and the encounter between Galileo and the Inquisition. He has also written extensively on the ways in which mediaeval discussions of the relationship among the natural sciences, philosophy, and theology can be useful in contemporary questions arising from developments in biology and cosmology.

The author of “Creation and Science” (London, 2011) and several other books, Carroll has given lectures at the Jubilee Session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and at the Vatican Observatory’s Institute on Astrophysics. During the commemorations of the Darwin Year (2010), he was a speaker at conferences at the Lateran University in Rome, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Vienna. He also recently spoke at a conference on creation jointly organized in Moscow by the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church.

Carroll has a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

The lecture was sponsored by the Mount’s Catholic and Dominican Institute (CDI). CDI promotes the Mount’s heritage of St. Dominic; advances the Dominican charism of study and service; provides a forum for discussion of contemporary ethical issues; and enhances Catholic and Jewish dialogue. The Institute welcomes persons of varied faiths and acknowledges different religious traditions as essential to the college’s intellectual and spiritual life.