TITLE: "I Had No Need Of That Hypothesis" AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: April 27, 2016 4:35 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Joshua Brown closes his blog Simple vs Complex with this delightful little story:
1802: Emperor Napoleon sits in state at the Chateau de Malmaison, ready to receive the the mathematical physicist Pierre Laplace and his just completed Celestial Mechanics. In this book, Laplace has explained the formation of the solar system for the first time and has modeled exactly how the planets and stars work. For all his brutality and battlefield expedience, Napoleon is a sophisticate and an enthusiast of the arts and sciences. He is intellectually curious.
"Tell me, Monsieur Laplace, how did the solar system come about?"

"A chain of natural causes would account for the construction and preservation of the celestial system," Laplace explains.

"But you don't mention God or his intervention even once, as Newton did?"

"I had no need of that hypothesis."
One hundred years earlier, Sir Isaac Newton had created a celestial model of his own. In it, he surmised that the planetary orbits were out of control and not stable, and that a God was needed to explain their course. Laplace went further than Newton, showing "it works without that, too."
Whatever one's position on faith in a supernatural deity, Laplace models precisely the attitude that scientists must bring to their work. Let's explain every phenomenon with the fewest and simplest hypotheses. -----