Smith, Quentin

Quentin is University Distinguished Faculty Scholar and Professor of Philosophy at Western Michigan University. He works on the philosophy of time, philosophy of religion, naturalism and atheism, philosophy of Big Bang cosmology and quantum cosmology. In addition to over 120 scholarly articles, he has published books on the nature of time, atheism, philosophy of religion, cosmology, existentialism and phenomenology (the "metaphysics of feeling"), and philosophy of mind. Regarding questions about religion, God, naturalism, and atheism, Quentin argues that Big Bang cosmology and quantum cosmology are inconsistent with the existence of God. His position is that Big Bang cosmology and quantum cosmology confirm atheism or at least the belief that God probably does not exist. Actually, he is more interested in answering the question about why the universe exists than he is in the question, does God exist or is atheism true? And he regards the hypothesis that God created the Big Bang or a quantum universe merely as one of several hypotheses about the best way to understand Big Bang cosmology and quantum cosmology. His philosophy of time overlaps with his philosophy of language, for his main position is that the best explanation of why language has tenses is that pastness, presentness and future are objective features universe. Quentin often references the anthropic principle or the underlying fine-tuning coincidences since he knows that these have been taken by philosophers such as John Leslie, William Lane Craig and Richard Swinburne to support the thesis that God exists. Quentin argues that the failure of theodicies to explain the monstrous evils in the world disconfirms theism and confirms instead, if anything, the hypothesis that there exists a malevolent creator of the universe. He argues that the natural law that animals must savagely kill and devour each other in order to survive is an evil natural law and that the obtaining of this law is sufficient evidence that God does not exist (or, again, that the creator is evil). There are two traditional and familiar responses to the question, “Why does the universe exist?” One is that ‘God created it’ and the other is ‘for no reason—its existence is a brute fact’. Quentin proposes to explore this third alternative, that the reason for the universe’s existence lies within the universe itself. Because Big Bang cosmology is claimed by Christian and other theists since it represents the universe as beginning to exist ex nihilo about 14 billion years ago, Quentin counters that there is sufficient evidence at present to justify the belief that the universe began to exist without being caused to do so. This evidence includes the Hawking-Penrose singularity theorems that are based on Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and the Quantum Cosmological Models of the early universe. The singularity theorems lead to an explication of the beginning of the universe that involves the notion of a Big Bang singularity, and the Quantum Cosmological Models represent the beginning largely in terms of the notion of a vacuum fluctuation. Theories that represent the universe as infinitely old or as caused to begin are shown to be at odds with or at least unsupported by these and other current cosmological notions. Why does time exist? In the context of the “spacetime theories” of the special or general theory of relativity, this question should be more appropriately phrased as “Why does spacetime exist?” Quentin narrows the question further and adopts the results of contemporary general relativistic cosmology, namely, that spacetime began to exist about 14 billion years ago. Accordingly, his question is “Why did spacetime begin to exist?” He recognizes the two familiar responses. The theist says that the question has an answer and that this answer is that God caused spacetime to begin to exist. The standard response of the atheist is to say that there is no answer to this question; spacetime’s beginning to exist is a brute fact, which means that it has no explanation. This standard atheist response seems to give theism a prima facie superiority to atheism; theists offer a detailed explanatory hypothesis about why spacetime begins to exists, and standard atheists are content to leave spacetime’s beginning to exist unexplained. Quentin rejects standard or traditional atheism and on this issue sides with theism. A theory that includes an explanatory hypothesis about some observational evidence E, such as spacetime’s beginning to exist, is epistemically preferable to any theory of the observational evidence E that does not include such an explanatory hypothesis. No atheist has ever provided a proof that the existence of spacetime is a brute fact and, consequently, standard atheism remains, in this respect, an unjustified hypothesis. However, Quentin argues that the timeless, uncaused, simple, independent, necessary and transcendent being that causes spacetime’s beginning to exist is not God but a spatially zero-dimensional point. In summary, Quentin asserts that there are two ways to prove atheism: scientific cosmology and the existence of gratuitous evil.


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Can Religion Be Explained Without God?

Most people believe that God exists and religion is God’™s revelation. But some claim that religion needs nothing supernatural; that religion, without God, can flourish because personal psychology and group sociology drive religion.

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