Saturday, December 19, 2020

Quentin Smith

I just learned that Quentin Smith passed away last month. He was an atheist philosopher that I respected greatly, despite his controversial claims about Kripke. Smith fully accepted Big Bang cosmology, but argued that the best explanation of it is that the universe just popped into existence without any kind of cause. In case this sounds like the theistic doctrine of creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing), the difference is that theism maintains that the universe has a cause -- God, in case you were wondering -- but that there was not some pre-existent "stuff" that the universe was made out of. That is, God didn't create the universe out of something else that was already there, he created the stuff itself. So the difference is in saying the universe has an efficient cause but no material cause (theism) and saying that it has neither (Smith). I find this implausible in the extreme, but Smith gave as good a defense of this as can be done. It's impressive. Adolf Gr├╝nbaum, a more famous philosopher of science, argued the same thing, but much less convincingly. Smith and William Lane Craig debated a few times (and were apparently friends) and they published a book together highlighting their disagreements, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology.

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