Friday, September 09, 2005


Here's my personal favourite anecdote about god, involving the famous mathematicians Lagrange and Laplace, and their emperor Napoleon:

When Laplace wrote his magisterial and famous work on celestial mechanics, he submitted a copy to Napoleon. Napoleon liked it but asked Laplace why he had not mentioned god even once in the work, especially since the work was one of astronomy. Laplace's simple answer which I find fantastic:

"Because, sire, I had no need of that hypothesis"

Later, Napoleon told this incident to Lagrange. Lagrange's answer was even more revealing of our attitudes:

"Hmmm...that is a very nice hypothesis; it would explain many things"


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