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Volume 11, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2008

Paul Kabay
Pages 78-92
DOI: 10.5840/philo20081114

Explanatory Atheism
A Retrospective

Quentin Smith has recently explored and defended two different atheistic accounts of the origin of the universe. Both have been proposed as alternatives to the traditional theistic account. The first postulates that a zero-dimensional timeless point is the cause of the universe. The second postulates that the universe is self-caused, in the sense that each of its instantaneous parts is caused by some other instantaneous part, and the existence of the parts logically entails the existence of the whole. I offer a number of reasons why these attempts at explanatory atheism are not altogether satisfactory. In reply to the first I argue that it is implausible to think that a nomologically simple entity could cause something with the physical properties of the big bang. In reply to the second I argue that the existence of the parts of the universe does not logically entail the universe as a whole, and so we cannot understand the universe to be self-caused.