Napoleon says, "François, you wrote this whole book on astronomy, and you didn't once mention God." Laplace replies, "I had no need of that hypothesis." Hilarity ensues.
And so it came to pass—in the centuries to follow—that among the elite of the elite of the scientific community, the universe, the Laplacian universe
, that is to say, was Godless. The universe of the lay public, the so-called moral universe
, however, remained a different story and is the story we intend to address herein.
Napoleon, to note, in the decades to follow, during his various debates
with others on religion
, would frequently refer back to these early conversations with Laplace, Lagrange, and the other faculty members of the École Polytechnique
, about their convictions that there is no God, as sorts of anchor points to get his own bearings, right up until his last years. In one debate with his personal assistant General Baron Gaspard Gourgaud, during the years 1812-1816, on the subject of Gourgaud’s opinion that staring up at the starry heavens leads one to an amazement and wonder in the greatness of God, Napoleon replied: 
“How comes it, then, that Laplace was an atheist? At the Institute neither he nor Monge, nor Berthollet, nor Lagrange believed in God. But they do not like to say so.”
This statement, made about the great leading scientists of Napoleon’s day is more or less a verbatim description of the views held by the leading scientists of our day—nearly all do not believe in God, but do not like to say so. This issue will be a central focal point of this book. In other words, although scientists no longer believe in God, considering divine intervention as being an unneeded hypothesis
, what exactly scientists do believe remains a bit of an obscure picture.
|A truncated synopsis of the Napoleon Laplace anecdote from American economist Paul Samuelson’s 1965 “Causality and Teleology in Economics.” |