The Atomists’ Purely Mechanical Universe
Published: January 8, 2010

Everyone knows that the universe is made of matter and that matter cannot be created or destroyed. This means that matter has existed from eternity and that the material universe has always existed and always will exist. As the American cosmologist Richard Tolman (1881-1948) wrote in 1934, “I see at present no evidence against the assumption that the material universe has always existed.”1

According to the natural philosophy of Atomism, all material things are made up of atoms in motion. The motion of atoms is eternal, just as are the atoms themselves. The self-moving atoms are the ultimate instruments of nature’s work. Nothing exists but atoms and the void; there is nothing else. Atoms are the only forces in nature. By their perpetual motion and innate power of gravity, they have produced every object in the universe. They move randomly, which shows that they are not controlled by a God or gods and that there is no God or gods controlling the universe. If fact, they have come together by chance to form and order the world. They have laid the foundation and structure of the entire universe.

As the Roman Atomist Lucretius explained, “Certainly the atoms did not post themselves purposefully in due order by an act of intelligence, nor did they stipulate what movements each should perform. But multitudinous atom, swept along in multitudinous courses through infinite time by mutual clashes and their own weight, have come together in every possible way and tested everything that could be formed by their combinations. So it comes about that a voyage of immense duration, in which they have experienced every variety of movement and conjunction, has at length brought together those whose sudden encounter often forms the starting- point of substantial fabrics.”2

If anyone still doubts that the universe is a purely mechanics system, let him study the motion of the molecules involved in chemical changes, the aggregates of atoms that make up all matter. He will find the molecules in motion in a constant and random way.


  1. Quoted in William C. Mitchell, BYE BYE BIG BANG HELLO REALITY (Carson City, Nevada: COSMIC SENSE BOOKS, 2002), p. 270.
  2. Luctretius, ON THE NATURE OF THE UNIVERSE, translated by R.E. Latham (London: Penquin Books, 1951), p. 139.