Laplace and the Divine

In a previous post I used the word “God” in quotes, when referring to Laplace’s view of determinism. This was done because Laplace himself did not believe in God, and I used the term as a convenience to represent a hypothetical all-knowing being. The clearest view of Laplace’s perspective comes from an interaction with Napoleon. After reading Laplace’s Mécanique céleste, Napoleon asked him about the lack of the reference to God anywhere in the work. Laplace responded that he had no need for that hypothesis.

In a strict way, this is an agnostic perspective. The description of the universe, as described by Laplace, does not need to use the concept of God in any way. This does not disprove the existence of God, or even deny God’s existence. It merely states that the concept of God is not needed. This is the pure vision of science, and why science does not necessarily conflict with religion. However, there could be certain claims from specific religions that conflict with science. The 6000 year old Earth, part of some fundamentalist Christian beliefs, is one example. The God as the mystery in the Universe is not something that can conflict with science.


About brianblais

I am a professor of Science and Technology at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI, and a research professor in the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems, Brown University. My research is in computational neuroscience and statistics. I teach physics, meteorology, astonomy, theoretical neuroscience, systems dynamics, artificial intelligence and robotics. My book, "Theory of Cortical Plasticity" (World Scientific, 2004), details a theory of learning and memory in the cortex, and presents the consequences and predictions of the theory. I am an avid python enthusiast, and a Bayesian (a la E. T. Jaynes), and love music.
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