Quentin Smith

Quentin Smith

[ Author Bio ]

[1952 - 2020]

Browse the Secular Web bookstore for books by Quentin Smith.

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Argument from Design

The Anthropic Coincidences, Evil and the Disconfirmation of Theism (1992)

"The anthropic principle or the associated anthropic coincidences have been used by philosophers such as John Leslie (1989), William Lane Craig (1988) and Richard Swinburne (1990) to support the thesis that God exists. In this paper I shall examine Swinburne's argument from the anthropic coincidences. I will show that Swinburne's premises, coupled with his principle of credulity and the failure of his theodicy in The Existence of God, disconfirms theism and confirms instead the hypothesis that there exists a malevolent creator of the universe."

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The Inefficient God: A Rebuttal of Quentin Smith's Atheistic Anthropic Argument (2002) (Off Site) by James F. Sennett

Sennett focuses on Smith's premise that it is much more probable on atheism than on theism that the universe would begin in a quantum singularity. Sennett explicates four problems with Smith's reasoning, any one of which Sennett considers to be sufficient to render the premise implausible.


Argument from Evil

An Atheological Argument from Evil Natural Laws (1991)

Quentin Smith 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.

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Smith argues that "There is evil" is logically incompatible with "God exists and is omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good." In other words, Smith defends a logical argument from evil. He argues that Plantinga's free will defense does not defeat this argument.


Atheistic Cosmological Argument

A Cosmological Argument for a Self-Caused Universe (Great Debate) (2008)

Quentin Smith challenges the view that naturalism leaves nature unexplained by arguing that the universe explains itself. Since space and time break down at the Big Bang singularity, there was no first instant--no earliest instant of time--of the finitely old time-series that makes up the universe. Each instantaneous state in any earliest interval is caused to exist and hence explained by earlier instantaneous states, leaving no logical space for God or any other external cause of the universe. Moreover, the contingency of the universe does not entail that there is no reason for its existence; every part of the universe has a reason in earlier parts, and the universe as a whole has a reason in the existence of its parts. Furthermore, there is a concrete sequence of causes and effects that actualized the possibility of a universe at least 15 billion years old and at least 13 billion light years in radius. This is why our universe exists rather than some other imaginable one.

Objections to Smith's Cosmological Argument (Great Debate) (2008) by Robin Collins

In his opening case Quentin Smith argues that the existence of the universe is self-explanatory because it is self-caused, and that this conclusion is inconsistent with theism. However, to be consistent with his principle that a causal explanation of each part of the universe logically explains the existence of the whole, and that the Big Bang caused the sequence of states following it, he must claim that the Big Bang provides an additional explanation of the sequence of states following it. But then the theist can claim that this is the sort of additional explanation that God provides for the existence of the universe, and that God is essential to providing a complete explanation of our universe, even though the universe contains no beginning point. Moreover, Smith's explanation of the existence of the universe may be fatally circular, or lead to an infinite regress where, no matter what part one starts with, the part of the universe doing the explaining is always further in need of an explanation--until one posits God to close the regress.

Collins on Cannons and Cosmology (Great Debate) (2008) by Paul Draper and Quentin Smith

In his opening argument, Quentin Smith argued that universe explains its own existence, without remainder, even if the universe has a finite age, for the state of the universe at any particular moment is sufficiently caused by all of its preceding states. Since this complete explanation makes no reference to God, Smith argued, insofar as God is by definition a part of any complete explanation of the universe, God does not exist. In his response, Robin Collins cited the flight of a cannonball as a counterexample to Smith's line of reasoning, but the counterexample is not analogous; unlike the universe, the flight of the cannonball does not have a historically complete explanation in terms of earlier parts of that flight. Being charitable to Collins, however, it is possible that although the universe has no first moment in physical time, it may in some metaphysical time series, allowing one to make room for God in a complete metaphysical explanation of the universe. Smith's argument, then, might not demonstrate the nonexistence of God, but it nevertheless provides a probabilistic argument against the existence of God. And on Collins' own "likelihood principle," the fact that our best scientific theory of the origin and evolution of the universe supports a self-caused universe is much more likely on naturalism than on theism, and thus provides very strong evidence for naturalism over theism.

Atheism, Theism, and Big Bang Cosmology (1991)

Smith argues that the Big Bang theory is incompatible with Christian theism and other theist perspectives.

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The thesis of this essay is that it is more likely that a timeless singularity causes spacetime to begin to exist than that a deity causes spacetime to begin to exist. This thesis implies that atheism is probably true, since it belongs to the essence of God to be the originating cause of spacetime if spacetime begins to exist. There is no possible world in which it is the case both that God exists and in which spacetime is caused to begin to exist by a timeless singular point. More important than this atheistic conclusion (a purely negative ontological conclusion, a conclusion that a certain entity==God==probably does not exist) is the positive conclusion that there is an atheistic causal explanation of the existence of spacetime. This counters traditional atheism as much as it counters theism.


A Big Bang Cosmological Argument For God's Nonexistence (1992)

Smith argues that it is unreasonable to believe that God created the big bang.

Can Everything Come to Be Without a Cause? (1994)

A refutation of T. D. Sullivan's claim that it is impossible for the universe to come to be without a cause. In the course of arguing that it is possible that the universe came to be causelessly, Smith outlines an argument that it is necessary that the universe began with a big-bang singularity if it began causelessly.

Causation and the Logical Impossibility of a Divine Cause (1996)

"Virtually all contemporary theists, agnostics and atheists ... [have] assumed that the sentence, 'God is the originating cause of the universe,' does not express a logical contradiction . . . . I believe the prevalence of this assumption is due to the fact that philosophers have not undertaken the requisite sort of metaphysical investigation into the nature of causation. This investigation is the purpose of this paper; specifically, I shall argue that the thesis that the universe has an originating divine cause is logically inconsistent with all extant definitions of causality and with a logical requirement upon these and all possible valid definitions or theories of causality. I will conclude that the cosmological and teleological arguments for a cause of the universe may have some force but that these arguments, traditionally understood as arguments for the existence of God, are in fact arguments for the nonexistence of God."

Concerning the Metaphysical Necessity of the Universe Beginning Uncaused: A Reply to George Nakhnikian (2000)

In George Nakhnikian's interesting and stimulating paper, "Quantum Cosmology, Theistic Philosophical Cosmology, and the Existence Question" [Philo 2000 vol. 3, no. 1] he addresses the fundamental issue of whether it is metaphysically possible or justifiable to believe that our universe began to exist without a cause, divine or otherwise. His conclusion is negative, and he argues that, contrary to my views, quantum cosmology is consistence with theism. In this paper, I shall evaluate Nakhnikian's arguments.

Infinity and the Past (1987)

Several contemporary philosophers, like G. J. Whitrow, argue that it is logically impossible for the past to be infinite, and offer several arguments in support of this thesis. I believe their arguments are unsuccessful and aim to refute six of them in the six sections of the paper. One of my main criticisms concerns their supposition that an infinite series of past events must contain some events separated from the present event by an infinite number of intermediate events, and consequently that from one of these infinitely distant past events the present could never have been reached. I introduce several considerations to show that an infinite series of past events need not contain any events separated from the present event by an infinite number of intermediate events.

Internal and External Causal Explanations of the Universe (1995)

Citing both philosophical considerations and modern day physics, Smith argues that "it is nomologically necessary that a beginningless universe has an internal causal explanation (be it deterministic or probabilistic) but no external causal explanation."

Quantum Cosmology's Implication of Atheism (1997)

Smith argues that quantum cosmology implies atheism.

Simplicity and Why the Universe Exists (1997)

Smith defends his atheistic cosmological argument which claims that big bang cosmology is evidence for atheism over theism.

Stephen Hawking's Cosmology and Theism (1994)

"Stephen Hawking has recently argued that there is 'no place for a creator,' that God does not exist. Yet theists have jumped all over this statement, claiming it blatantly fails as an argument for God's nonexistence. Specifically, they have argued that even if Hawking's physical laws are true, that fact does not entail that the God of classical theism does not exist or even disconfirm the classical theistic hypothesis. It seems to me that a case can be made that Hawking's physical laws are inconsistent with classical theism. I shall develop an argument to this effect in the present paper. Although this argument is not explicit in Hawking's writings, it is arguably implicit in or based upon his theory. I shall argue that that the proposition, 'Hawking's wave function law obtains,' entails the proposition that 'God does not exist.'"

Swinburne's Explanation of the Universe (1998)

Smith reviews Swinburne's book, Is There a God?.

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There are two familiar responses to the question, "Why does the universe exist?" One is that "God created it." The other is, "For no reason==its existence is a brute fact." In this essay, Smith explores a third alternative, that the reason for the the existence of the universe lies within the universe itself.


The Uncaused Beginning of the Universe (1988)

"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 recently introduced 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."

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Smith agrees with theism that there is a cause of spacetime's beginning to exist and that this cause is a timeless, uncaused, simple, independent, necessary and transcendent being. Smith argues, however, that this being is not God but a spatially zero-dimensional point.


Why Stephen Hawking's Cosmology Precludes a Creator (1998)

Atheists have tacitly conceded the field to theists in the area of philosophical cosmology, specifically, in the enterprise of explaining why the universe exists. The theistic hypothesis is that the reason the universe exists lies in God's creative choice, but atheists have not proposed any reason why the universe exists. I argue that quantum cosmology proposes such an atheistic reason, namely, that the universe exists because it has an unconditional probability of existing based on a functional law of nature. This law of nature ("the wave function of the universe") is inconsistent with theism and implies that God does not exist. I criticize the claims of Alston, Craig, Deltete and Guy, Oppy and Plantinga that theism is consistent with quantum cosmology.


An Analysis of Holiness (1988)

This inquiry is motivated by the question: if atheism is true, is it nevertheless the case that holiness or sacredness is exemplified? I believe the answer to this question is affirmative, and that the path to its affirmation lies in the rejection of the traditional assumption that holiness is a single and simple property of a divinity that eludes analysis. The opposite view, that there are several complex properties comprising holiness, makes it manifest that there are holy beings, even a holy 'supreme being,' even if there is no God and no gods.

The Conceptualist Argument for God's Existence (1994)

The familiar types of argument for God's existence include the cosmological, teleological and ontological arguments. The aim of this paper is to introduce a new type of argument, the conceptualist argument. The argument is that the conjunction of actualism and conceptualism entails Anselmian theism, that God exists in every possible world. According to actualism, possibilities are propositions, and according to conceptualism, propositions are effects of mental causes. The addition of other premises enables the conclusion to be deduced that in every possible world, every true proposition is a mental effect of the same mind, the divine mind. This article also discusses intimations of the conceptualist argument in Leibniz and in contemporary philosophers such as Plantinga. I conclude that the conceptualist argument may be rationally acceptable, but is not rationally compelling.

A Formal Logic Proof of Atheism (2000)

Smith formulates a formal logic proof of atheism.

The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism (2001)

The metaphilosophy of naturalism is about the nature and goals of naturalist philosophy. A real or hypothetical person who knows the nature, goals and consequences of naturalist philosophy may be called an "informed naturalist." An informed naturalist is justified in drawing certain conclusions about the current state of naturalism and the research program that naturalist philosophers ought to undertake. One conclusion is that the great majority of naturalist philosophers have an unjustified belief that naturalism is true and an unjustified belief that theism (or supernaturalism) is false. I explain this epistemic situation in this paper. I also articulate the goals an informed naturalist would recommend to remedy this situation. These goals, for the most part, have as their consequence the restoring of naturalism to its original state (approximately, to a certain degree, given the great difference in the specific theories), which is the state it possessed in Greco-Roman philosophy before naturalism was "overwhelmed" in the Middle Ages, beginning with Augustine (naturalism had critics as far back as Xenophanes, sixth century B.C.E., but it was not "overwhelmed" until much later). Contemporary naturalists still accept, unwittingly, the redefinition of naturalism that began to be constructed by theists in the fifth century C.E. and that underpins our basic world-view today.

<!-- Moral Realism and Infinite Spacetime Imply Moral Nihilism (2003) (Off Site)

Smith argues that if the future is infinite, as contemporary astronomers believe it is, then moral nihilism is true if both moral realism and aggregative value theory is true. He then argues that this conclusion implies that God does not exist. Thus, Smith's argument may be reasonably classified as a logical argument from moral nihilism to atheism.


A Natural Explanation of the Existence and Laws of Our Universe (1990)

"The standard view of philosophers is that the existence of particular events within our universe is capable of being explained in terms of initial conditions and natural laws, but that the existence of our universe itself is a 'brute given' that is incapable of naturalistic explanation ... I believe these standard views are unduly conservative and that a naturalistic explanation of the existence and basic laws of our universe is possible."

Problems with John Earman's Attempt to Reconcile Theism with General Relativity (2000)

Discussions of the intersection of general relativity and the philosophy of religion rarely take place on the technical level that involves the details of the mathematical physics of general relativity. John Earman's discussion of theism and general relativity in his recent book on spacetime singularities is an exception to this tendency. By virtue of his technical expertise, Earman is able to introduce novel arguments into the debate between theists and atheists. In this paper, I state and examine Earman's arguments that it is rationally acceptable to believe that theism and general relativity form a mutually consistent or even mutually supportive pair. I conclude that each of his arguments is unsound.

Two Ways of Proving Atheism (1996)

This is the transcript of a speech given before the 1996 Atheist Alliance Convention. Smith discusses two ways to prove atheism: scientific cosmology and gratuitous evil.

Why Cognitive Scientists Cannot Ignore Quantum Mechanics (2002)

Quantum cognitive science is still undergoing its birth pangs and the most pertinent conclusion I can draw at this stage is that the ideas in this paper should either stimulate more philosophers of mind or cognitive scientists to pursue further the various avenues of thought suggested in this essay or else to refute my arguments in an attempt to justify philosophers' continued reliance on nonquantum cognitive science for their understanding of consciousness and its relation to the brain.


Quentin Smith has published five books by Oxford University Press and Yale University Press and has published over 100 articles in professional journals. He is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Western Michigan. He debates theists on college campuses.


See Quentin Smith's author page in the Secular Web Library.