The Book of Genesis outlines material creation focused on the earth. Material creation is in stages with the final stage, the creation of man. A seventh stage, the Sabbath, is not creational. The Sabbath emphasizes the fact that material creation has ceased. The era of the Sabbath is post-creational, except for the continued spiritual creation of human souls.
Material change is not annihilation and creation. It is modification toward a goal. The condition of mutability in its persistence implies an ultimate, an immutable goal.
The paragraphs on creation in the Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasize the mutability of created material entities, identifying that mutability as a journey toward a final, immutable end (CCC, 302).
The Incompatibility of Human Knowledge Concurrent with Material Creation
Whatever we know, we know through what is or was present to us in this world in which we live. We know the result of what is happening now and the result of what we might do, because such results are within the scope of the things that presently exist. This would not be the case if material creation were contemporary with human existence.
Human knowledge can handle the change of a material entity in accord with its nature into something else of a comparable nature. However, creation of a material entity ex nihilo would bewilder us. A materially creative event is by definition inexplicable in terms of what now exists. Not only would a materially creative event be beyond our comprehension, it would subvert human knowledge.
We understand material change as fully explicable by the natures of existing material things. This would be false if change were due to material creation.
All of Material Creation Is Intelligible
The Catechism notes that all creation comes forth from the wisdom of God and as such is ordered, i.e. intelligible (CCC 299). This is in keeping with the foundational, self-evident principles of philosophy: (1) Things exist and (2) Things are inherently intelligible in their existence. To deny either of these is to deny the possibility of all human knowledge and communication.
Scripture asserts these principles as universally true, but in Wisdom 11:20, almost as if it was specifically affirming scientific knowledge attained through instrumental measurement, “You have disposed all things by measure, weight and number”.
Everything that exists is ordered by its form in its very existence. The inherently non-ordered is non-existent.
In paragraph 299, the Catechism uses the word, ordered not only in the sense of form, but also in the sense of final causality, i.e. ordered to a goal. Paragraph 314 states this specifically:
We believe that God is master of the world and of its history. But the ways of his providence are often unknown to us. Only at the end when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God face to face, will we fully know the ways by which ‒ even through the dramas of evil and sin ‒ God has guided his creation to that definitive Sabbath rest for which he created heaven and earth.
Not only are we as individuals on a journey through mutability to the fulfillment of our human nature in supernatural grace, but in our short lives we join the journey of all material creation toward its Sabbath rest. This journey of mutation is one of “hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8:21)
That Which Exists Is Ordered
The principle of sufficient reason affirms that everything that exists is inherently intelligible. This is a universal philosophical principle applying to all being, material and immaterial. When this principle is applied at the level of material change it is understood as affirming that every material change is explained by and in terms of the material which undergoes the change.
In its subjection to mutability, the present order of material reality is explained by the order from which it arises. This understanding requires that material creation is not contemporary to the process of human knowledge.
What about Randomness?
We can refer to a lack of information as randomness. This includes mathematical randomness.
However, we can also refer to randomness as material, but only hypothetically, because material randomness is a self-contradiction. A materially random event would be a material event that was inherently inexplicable. It would not be that we do not know the explanation, but rather no explanation exists. Material randomness posits the absence of any scientific explanation and of any philosophical explanation.
A materially random event is one which has no material explanation. This is the same as a materially creative event, which has no material explanation. They differ in that the creative event does have a philosophical explanation, whereas the materially random event has no explanation, whatsoever. This renders a materially random event a self-contradiction.
Typically when we refer to randomness, we are referring to a lack of specific information, while affirming generic knowledge. For example, I could refer to one hundred faces of people I might see in a shopping mall as random faces. I am ignoring the specificity of each face. In contrast, you would not refer to the same hundred faces as random if you recognized three of them as your close relatives. I am not denying their specificity by the generic label of randomness. In contrast, you cannot ignore the specificity of at least three members of the set.
In science, the mathematics of randomness and probability is useful where we possess only generic knowledge of the elements of a set or where it is apt to ignore the specific identification of the elements. Elsewhere I have discussed the relationships of randomness and probability in the context of continuous variables rather than in the context of sets of discrete elements.
What about Miracles?
Aren’t miracles material events inexplicable on the basis of the natures of material things? Doesn’t a miracle present the same destructive challenge to human knowledge that a materially creative event presents?
The same destructive challenge would obtain, if either miracles or materially creative events were commonplace. Given the nature of human knowledge in its dependence on sense knowledge, it would be unreasonable for the creator of man to place him in a world in which creative material events were occurring at all, let alone being commonplace.
Also, we know from revelation that material creation ceased with the creation of man. That cessation, which is a necessary condition for man to function, is affirmed in Genesis and is in accord with God’s revealed design in placing man in this world (CCC 307).
Miracles, in contrast to creation ex nihilo, are focused on existing things, which change in accord with their natures. In the case of a miracle, the change is beyond nature, or supernatural. However, a miracle is still in harmony with the normal acquisition of human knowledge through material experience. The knowledge is a message received by the senses in the normal way, but is accompanied by a sign. A miracle is a sign, in the sense of a signature, that the accompanying verbal message from God is authentic.
As a signed message from God — a miracle — of its nature must be rare or it could not be recognized as a miracle. Also, a miracle requires that man can understand the nature of things and thereby be capable of recognizing a miracle as miraculous, as supernatural.
Such a signed message is in keeping with the acquisition of human knowledge in this life in which we cannot know God directly. The message itself is “without external difference among common modes of thought” (Pensées 789, Pascal). Failure to recognize the accompanying material sign as a signature, eliminates the possibility of recognizing the information as a message from God.