Creation Ex Nihilo?

Perspectives on the Origins of the Universe in Science, Theology, and Philosophy

June 25th – June 29th
Collegium Institute
hosted at the University of Pennsylvania

The theme of our 2018 summer seminar will be “Cosmic Origins”.  The seminar will be structured around the question of the origin of the Universe, its stars and planetary systems, with a special focus on the contribution of Georges Lemaîte.  There will be scientists, philosophers and theologians speaking, offering differing perspectives on the question of origins, in  a way that support fruitful dialogue and human flourishing.

What does it mean to speak about the origin of our Universe? Why is there something rather than nothing?  Was the Universe created in time, or did time begin with the Big Bang?  What does it mean to speak of a Creator?  Why was Genesis 1 written?  Is it still relevant today?  How do Big Bang theory and the first chapter of Genesis fit together?  Can one believe in the modern physical description of the inflationary universe and also in God? 

This one-week residential Collegium Summer Seminar will address these questions, welcoming a small cohort of graduate students to Philadelphia, at the University of Pennsylvania,  for an intensive course led by eminent scholars across the disciplines.   Through a daily series of lectures, seminars, and small group discussions, students will examine both cutting edge research and foundational wisdom that enables them to evaluate descriptive models of the origins of the universe, the relationship of space and time, physics and metaphysics, nature and grace, the human and the divine in an exploration some of deepest questions about the origins of our Universe.  

Topics to Be Covered Include

  • The philosophical understanding of “origin”
  • The science of Big Bang theory and the inflationary universe.
  • Origins of our solar system and other planetary systems.
  • The contribution and works of Georges Lemaître
  • Creation in Genesis 1 in the ancient near eastern context.
  • The Theology of Creation
  • Ideas about the relationships between the physical, philosophical and theological views about the origin of the Universe.


Dr. William Carroll: Thomas Aquinas Fellow in Theology and Science, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford University

Prof. David Charbonneau: Professor, Harvard University

John William FarrellWriter and Media producer

Rev. Joseph LaracyAdjunct professor, Seton Hall University

Prof. Don Lincoln: Guest Professor, University of Notre Dame

Dr. Marisa March: Cosmologist, University of Pennsylvania

Prof. James Peebles: Professor Emeritus, Princeton University

Rev. James Platania: Assistant Professor, Seton Hall University

For more information on our speakers, visit:

To Attend

A limited number of 25 funded places are available to suitably qualified graduate students.   The funding will cover course fees, course materials, accommodation and food.  Students will be responsible for their own travel expenses.  Students who are successful in the application process will pay a small contribution of $50 towards course costs. Preference will be given to graduate students in the sciences, philosophy and theology.  For more information please email

First Selection Round Closes Monday, April 23rd

Downloadable PDF

Questions can be directed to