Does God Exist? Quentin Smith's Second Rebuttal

Quentin Smith

Well, I don't think I like Bill's doughnuts. In particular, because they don't have the same shape as my theory. His doughnuts are circular and he concludes from that that I am committed to a theory of circular causation.



















→ -2

→ -1

→ 0

→ 1

→ 2

→ 3...

Fig. 1.

Where this causes that, that causes that, that causes that and that causes that again, which is circular. But, if I look at that line up there, unless I am going blind, that's not a circle. Isn't that a straight line? So if we have a culinary comparison, this is more like a very long hot dog, the first state of the universe. So what we have instead of like a circle, if it were a circle then it would be this causing that, that causing that and that causing that and that causing that. And that of course would be a circular causation, but that's exactly the opposite of what I'm saying. What I'm saying is there is an indefinitely or an infinitely long line of events at the first state of the universe. So there's no circle at all. This goes on indefinitely in this direction, it never wounds up and ends up in a glazed doughnut, or anything like that. What happens is that each event - this is caused by that - and that never happens in a circular way or this ends up causing that. That causes that, that causes that, that causes that, that causes that and so on, indefinitely or infinitely. So there is no circular causation at all. So there is no problem with the causality at the first time.

And Bill also asked, “what do I mean by the first time?” Well, I'm using a Bohmian cosmology, not Hartle's and Hawking's cosmology. And on Bohmian cosmology - just to briefly get into a couple scientific sentences. On their cosmology, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle is merely epistemic, it's a limitation in our knowledge and doesn't correspond to reality. So whereas the Heisenberg principle of quantum mechanics would say that the shortest possible time is 10-43 seconds, the Bohmian cosmology that I am using says- no, that's just the shortest possible time that we can measure. The shortest time is the zero duration instant. But that really doesn't matter, because I suppose that none of these are zero duration instants. But they are all discrete times, as Heisenberg would say in quantum mechanics. So each of these events, they last 10-43 seconds. The shortest possible time of any time.

And Bill also - he wondered what these causes were. Well, what they are is they are the elementary particles of the universe as they exist at time t0. And the two most predominant examples of elementary particles are electrons and quarks. So this might be an electron as it exists at t0. And what it causes is a later state of that same electron as it exists at time t1. But then there is another theory, called super-gravity, which is purely speculative and unproven, is that at the earliest times, the particles were not differentiated. That's based on what Bill is talking about - his fine-tuning argument. And that claims the supergravity 8 - let's name the theory - says well, at first there were particles called superparticles - that was the only kind of particle. And there was only one force, the superforce. And that differentiated into the strong electro-weak force and then the gravitational force. Then those divided into the electro-weak force, the strong force and the gravitational force. Then those divided into our current 4 forces: the strong force, weak force, electromagnetic force and gravitational force.

But that theory is speculative, there is no experimental evidence that it's true and many, such as Hawking, in fact, deny that it is true. In fact, Hawking's 1982 article explicitly denies that that's true. He says that all elementary particles like electrons and quarks should emerge simultaneously at the beginning of the universe. Of course that issue would not be devastating to anything you said. But other things are though, I think.

OK, you had said a lot about my ethics. Well I think - you made statements that were out of context. Like you said I'm committed to saying that a serial killer is intrinsically good to satisfy his or her desire to kill. Well what I was saying was - satisfaction of desire is intrinsically good. But whether it is overall good depends on what the desire is for. If the desire is for killing people then extrinsic matters, like the death of other people, make that desire overall bad. And I think that it is fairly obvious for any ethical theory that satisfaction of desire is something that is intrinsically good. And if satisfaction of desire and pleasure is not intrinsically good, then it's hard to know what is intrinsically good. But of course most cases of desire satisfaction are extrinsically not good because if you desire the wrong thing then a lot of bad consequences happen.

And he says that my ethical theory implies that knowledge and love are not intrinsically good. I'm not sure where you got that from. He said that if a person has a - he said I claimed that if a person has a talent as a chemist then they ought to be a chemist. Well, that's out of context. The person ought to be a chemist only if it's not overridden by other considerations. Let's say the person's whole family would die of starvation unless the person feeds them, instead of being a chemist. Then the person ought to feed them.

And as for saying that the best person is an intellectual person, like myself. Kind of a self-congratulatory claim that I am the best kind of person. Of course I didn't say that at all. I just distinguished about numerous different senses of the best type of moral person. And on one sense, someone like Martin Luther King might be the best possible person. And in a different sense, the person who was kindest to their family would be best person. Who contributed to the most happiness of others would be the best type of person. And so on.

And also his long critique of my ethical theory ends up not being relevant to my atheistic argument because as I said in my original presentation that even apart from my atheistic argument which is about morals being objective in the strongest sense that if morals are merely inter-subjectively valid then that is sufficient for morals to be valid, like in Rawls’ theory. So morals would be ephemeral in that sense because humans might eventually die out, but it's irrelevant. All that matters is that they are valid.

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