Two ways to prove atheism by Quentin Smith

Hi everyone! I’m new but I have been silent reader for years now and finally decided to join🙂
Lots of treads I wanted to join seems to be closed so decided to create my own.

https://infidels.org/library/modern/quentin_smith/atheism.html

I came across this and would like to hear from some actual physicists what’s their interpretation of this(especially @pevaquark @mitchellmckain and @heddle I always pay a lot of attention to what you guys have to say🙂I’m a big fan😉)

God bless and thank you for any response!

Marta

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Hi again! Just realised I should have been more specific. This is the part of the speech I’m most interested in

“But the more important point is this: not only is there no evidence for the theist’s case, there’s evidence against it. The claim that the beginning of our universe has a cause conflicts with current scientific theory. The scientific theory is called the wave function of the universe. It has been developed in the past ten years or so by Stephen Hawking, Andre Vilenkin, Alex Linde, and many others. Their theory is that there is a scientific law of nature called the Wave Function of the Universe that implies that it is highly probable that a universe with our characteristics will come into existence without a cause. Hawking’s theory is based on assigning numbers to all possible universes. All of the numbers cancel out except for a universe with features our universe possesses. For example, contains intelligent organisms such as humans. This remaining universe has a certain probability very high – near to a hundred percent – of coming into existence uncaused. Hawking’s theory is confirmed by observational evidence.(…)
So a scientific theory that is confirmed by observational evidence tells us that the universe began without being caused. So if you want to be a rational person and accepts the results of rational inquiry into nature, then we must accept the fact that God did not cause the universe to exist. The universe exists because of this wave-function law. Now Stephen Hawking’s theory dissolves any worries about how the universe could begin to exist uncaused.(…) Since it(universe) was timeless, it no more needs a cause than the timeless god of theism.(…)
Is it nonetheless possible that God could have caused this universe? No. For the wave function of the universe implies there is a 95% probability that the universe came into existence uncaused. If God created the universe, he would contradict this scientific law in two ways. First, the scientific law says that the universe would come into existence because of its natural, mathematical properties, not because of any supernatural forces. Second, the scientific law says the probability is only 95% that the universe would come into existence. But if God created the universe, the probability would be 100% that it would come into existence because God is all-powerful. If God wills the universe to come into existence, his will is guaranteed to be 100% effective. So in conclusion, contemporary scientific cosmology is not only not supported by any theistic theory, it is actually logically inconsistent with theism. So I think that is the strongest scientific argument there is against theism.”

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Glad you brought your question here, @marta!

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The page linked to is in two parts

  1. Criticism of a version of the cosmological argument for the existence of God.
  2. Rehash of the problem of evil.

My response:

  1. Agreed. The cosmological argument has no objective validity. But this hardly proved that God does not exist. The most that can be concluded when all the arguments for the existence of God are shown to be invalid is that believing that God does not exist is also a rational alternative to theism.
  2. This is the oldest and best argument against the existence of God (from Epicurus 300 BC). The answers to this are legion and clearly the argument hasn’t convinced believers in God for over 2 millennia. For myself in particular it is evolution in conjunction with other findings in science which deals the final death blow to this argument for the argument relies on the assumption that an all powerful God would be responsible for everything that exists and happens.
    A. Quantum Physics shows that physical determinism is no longer supportable, i.e. not all events have a cause within the scientific worldview.
    B. Chaotic dynamics shows that quantum indeterminacy alters the course of events on a macroscopic scale.
    C. Evolution shows that living organisms are not a product of design but are a product of self-organization and learning.

To be sure the conceptions of God as a Watchmaker are no longer supportable and theism must be altered to fit the facts just as much as atheism has been altered to fit the discovery that the universe had a beginning. These discoveries A-C underline the response to the problem of evil known as free will and shows that this is far deeper in the nature of the universe than previous ideas by theists that this was just some ability supernaturally added on to human beings alone. Instead it is part of not only the nature of life but has grounding in the nature of matter as well. But I certainly will claim that things have significantly changed since the time the problem of evil was introduced in 300 BC.

Don’t mistake me. I am certainly NOT claiming that matter has free will, only that matter is not chained to an absolute time-ordered causality. Nor am I dismissing or overlooking the serious philosophical difficulties with the concept of free will.

Correction. Science has suggested that it is certainly possible that not everything (universe included) necessarily has a cause. So your conclusion that it must be accepted that God did not cause the universe to exist does not follow. I know the existence of irrational theists makes it easy to dismiss all theists as irrational, but the fact is that there are also numerous atheists with arguments which are irrational and beliefs contrary to the objective evidence. So the existence of irrational theists hardly proves anything. Like I said above, the most that can be concluded is that atheism is an alternative belief which is no less rational than theism.

No such probability has or can be calculated, and probabilities which cannot be calculated are nothing but empty rhetoric and personal feelings.

Let me extend my personal welcome. I always look forward to meeting more rational humble atheists like those I have met before, but if you prove to be neither of these then the example of the opposite is frankly also very much welcome here as well. LOL

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Thank you for lengthy reply! I will give you proper response tomorrow when I had a chance to analyse it but for now… I think you mistaken me for an atheist! The text was a quote from Quentin Smith speech he gave in 1996. So not my opinion at all! I’m sorry if I didn’t make it clear, as I said I’m new here and need to get the hang of it🙂 God bless

I stand corrected. Let me therefore amend my welcome…

Let me extend my personal welcome. I always look forward to meeting more rational humble theists like those I have met before, (if you prove to be neither of these then I think we all hope to be part of your journey to a greater humility and rationality).

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@mitchellmckain said
“… atheism has been altered to fit the discovery that the universe had a beginning…”

OK, but people keep saying universe is eternal or mention big crunch rather than big bang like it’s confirmed(???). Hawking for example claimed there was no boundary meaning there was beginning but it wasn’t a beginning, or that beginning itself was eternal(???). Another opinion from major cosmologist is that big bang marks the limit of our knowledge, doesn’t necessarily mean it is beginning because we cannot possibly tell ATM what was before. Same goes for universe being caused/uncaused… I just would like to know confirmed theories but there’s seems to be awful lot of ideas, opinions and sensationalist news. I’m not a scientist and find it all really confusing😕

“For the wave function of the universe implies there is a 95% probability that the universe came into existence uncaused…”

@mitchellmckain replied

“No such probability has or can be calculated, and probabilities which cannot be calculated are nothing but empty rhetoric and personal feelings”

I will stress again this is not my personal opinion but that of Quentin Smith that is supposed to be based on work done by Stephen Hawkins. I admit I found it strange because I have never heard about it before and if it was confirmed(???) then we would all heard about it. The only possible reference I found about it is this article

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=EfxNAAAAQBAJ&pg=PT24&lpg=PT24&dq=scientific+law+says+the+probability+is+only+95%+that+the+universe+would+come+into+existence.&source=bl&ots=6vmcs8ihBq&sig=ACfU3U0fH9xhzbiHb2Kgx4Ll4HxrwS5BPQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwijoKrnqaXlAhVOZlAKHSdsCwIQ6AEwDHoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=scientific%20law%20says%20the%20probability%20is%20only%2095%%20that%20the%20universe%20would%20come%20into%20existence.&f=false

I hope you can see the links, they’re not long.

Thank you for the welcome🙂 I would certainly consider myself a Christian and judging by some of your posts, I think we may have very similar opinions although I am a lot more confused about certain issues.

God bless🙂

Hi Marta and welcome to the forum. I agree with Mitchell that saying that the universe must be eternal or else be part of a larger process that might be eternal is probably putting it much too strongly. I confess I lean toward suspecting that is true myself. But I would never suggest it has been confirmed. Disclaimer: I am not a scientist myself and I am eager to hear how those who are will answer your question.

I do not believe in a creator myself but I entirely agree with Mitchell here that the case for insisting that is true has not been, and probably cannot be, made. Personally, even if it were true I don’t think that would mean there can be no place or role for God to play in your life. If you feel God’s presence and came to believe that presence were not linked to the creation of everything from nothing, I think God could still be a mysterious force in your life even if He turned out to be a product of consciousness rather than its creator. That would limit His power to intercede on your behalf of course but I think He might nonetheless have value as an ally, even if not an invincible one. Plus it would make sense of the experience some of us have of being inspired and supported inwardly.

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This is just an example of people choosing the speculations that they want to believe in, but the only thing confirmed is the big bang beyond which there is nothing measurable. Thus atheists were required to discard their belief in a steady state universe, either accepting the scientific result that the universe began 13.8 billion years ago, or discarding their commitment to restricting their beliefs to what is actually measurable, or discarding rationality altogether which is frankly something which is becoming increasing more common among the new atheists.

Only see one link. This contains philosophical/theological opinions only. All we have is a Lagrangian for the Standard Model in Quantum Field Theory and a Field Equation for General relativity (with guesses about what to put in for the stress energy tensor). These two equations are not only irreconcilable and demonstrably incomplete, but both have an infinity of solutions and are thus more like a theoretical framework with which the universe might be described if they were complete. We most certainly do not have a wave equation for the universe, let alone one from which probabilities can be calculated, let alone one which can include the possibilities of a divine creator in the calculation. This more like a pipe dream and wishful thinking than anything else.

Oh… and I am very likely to agree with the majority of the contents of this book by Briggs. On the issue of morality I am far more in agreement with most atheists than with the majority of theists. Authoritarian morality upon which the argument from morality is based is utterly inadequate for mature responsible people in the modern world.

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I have come across atheists telling their opinions or ideas like they’re confirmed theories before so I suppose I should have known better.

Regarding the link- by accident I posted only one and I deleted my history(to save my sanity* lol) and don’t remember exact title of article or website! But don’t think it was relevant anyway as it didn’t mention the (in)famous 95% and it was basically some scientists commenting/challenging Stephen Hawking’s achievements in some online magazine I don’t think I heard of before.
*I decided not to worry about it anymore because there’s too much conflicting speculation, sensationalism in media**and if I’m honest I can hardly understand most of it anyway. Actual discoveries, like gravitational waves, make big news rather than being mentioned in obscure online magazines.
**once I saw a headline of an actual newspaper(as opposed to wacko website) proclaiming Big Bang been disproven by discovery of a black hole 15 billion years old I knew I reached my limit!
God bless

Thanks @marta. I’m not just getting a moment to respond. At first glance the entire premise is built on a false dichotomy that arguments like the Kalam help propagate. Essentially the options given by Smith are either there is a scientific explanation or its God. I don’t necessarily blame him as the Kalam argument as used by Christian apologists makes my blood pressure rise too. The main reason for my dislike of it is manifold and would have to be explained more in a future post.

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Yes, I’m agreeing and would like to see your thoughts on this sometime.

Hello Matthew!

I was actually thinking about that one but there doesn’t seem to be any reasonable content available, it’s extreme from either one side or the other. For example I keep seeing opinions that various laws of physics disprove it etc but since I’m not a scientist I really can’t tell😐

I’m interested to hear your views(especially what physics has to say on that, if anything)and it seems like I’m not the only one @Randy :slightly_smiling_face:

Best wishes, Marta

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Haha Matthew, I can imagine, I read the threads where you repeated your points over and over again when it comes to big bang cosmology and fine-tuning. But I want to give you a little puzzle, since there have been different sophisticated Kalam arguments which argue for the beginning without relying on science.
But I want to know, do you think that actual infinities are possible, or are they leading to a paradox? Hilberts Hotel is widely known, but have you ever heard of the Grim Reaper Paradox?

Whether he’s heard of it or not, others of us around here (okay - me, at least) might be curious. So what is the “Grim Reaper Paradox”?

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Hi @marta. Welcome to the forum. Thanks for starting such a thought provoking thread.

Perhaps I am rushing in where angels fear to tread Here, but I can’t help seeing what appears to be a contradiction here. I’m working on the assumption that a ‘scientific Law of Nature’ is a law that governs something within the material universe (gravity, relativity, etc.). If that is assumption is correct, then whether the universe itself is caused or not, everything in the universe has a cause (in an Aristotilean sense) in that everything exists by virtue of the universes existence. In that sense the universe is the natural efficient cause of all material things and the laws that govern them. So how can a Law of nature govern the existence of the universe before the universe that gives rise to the law has come into existence? How can effect come before cause?

Perhaps, ‘stuff’ enough to give rise to the wave-function law existed before our universe. But that has seems to have problems too, in that it would either require a creative definition of the nothing that preceded our universe or require the adoption of some kind of eternal pre-universe. Both implying there is something outside our material universe. Another option might be to suggest the wave-function law is in some way ‘supernatural’, But that seems to be a whopping violation of radical materialism.

I hope that makes sense. what do you (and others) think, to what extent is there a contradiction at work here?

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I agree. A function needs something to function on, a law is useless without its object and waves don’t exist without space.

Anyone who chooses to believe in a Universal Creator is standing on ground as solid as a scientist who denies Creative Purpose as First Cause. Because of the laws these same scientists have discovered, there is absolutely no way to tell what made it happen. Whatever you choose is an act of pure faith.” - Stephen Hawking

(That may be apocryphal, because I haven’t found it anywhere else, but still…)

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My thoughts exactly! Thanks for the succinct summary.

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Hi Liam!

I honestly don’t know and it doesn’t make any sense to me either although I have heard the idea of a time loop, which I believe was one of Quentin Smith proposals as well. But I have no idea how much basis there is for ideas like that, hence I’m here hoping to hear opinions from people who can differentiate between wild guessing and actual science.

Ohh and thanks for the welcome🙂

I’ve read them too @DoKo and very informative they were. @pevaquark must be a Saint explaining things with such a patience🙂 (here and FB, although I’ve quit the latter recently)

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