“I Have No Need of that Hypothesis”

Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace, one of the m...
Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace, one of the main early developers of Bayesian statistics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1814, Pierre-Simon Laplace, a French mathematician, developed a theory of the universe which he presented to Napoleon. As the story goes, Napoleon asked Laplace why the theory contained no mention of God. Laplace is said to have replied, “Je n’avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là. (“I had no need of that hypothesis.”). Some have taken this as evidence that Laplace did not believe in God; however, others believe that Laplace meant that he saw no need for God in the role of a creator of the universe.

Modern science has come up with string theory and probability that likewise allows it to say it has no need for a hypothesis as to the creation of the universe that includes God. But as we’ve seen string theory can lead to a conclusion that there is some sort of intelligent design involved in the creation of the universe; it’s just not the same form of intelligent design that Judeo-Christian theology presents.

As I mentioned a few posts back, string theory presents us with three choices: The universe is just a fluke, a random happening; this universe is a result of the probability of huge numbers; or there was some form of intelligent design involved in the creation of the universe. We chose (actually I chose because, after all, this is my blog) to follow the third possibility because it offered more room for speculation.

Now we face another choice: what form do we want our intelligent designer to take? Do we want to believe we are just simulations in a seventh-grader’s science project? Do we want to believe Earth was seeded by a more advanced society millions of years ago? Think the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Of course, this latter view begs the question, where did the more advanced society come from? Or do we want to take a more traditional view that we are uniquely created by a benevolent Supreme Being whom we refer to as God? Personally, I’m egotistical enough to reject the notion that I’m nothing more than a holographic image projected in someone’s basement or dorm room. Once again the third option offers more fertile ground for speculation.

Postulating God in this form raises all sorts of interesting questions. What was God doing before He created the universe? Was God doing anything since if He was doing something, was that not some sort of creating? In that case, it couldn’t have been “before” the creation. Can there be God if there was no “before” the creation, since both time and space began at the moment of creation? If there was no “before” where was God?

God the Father 16
God the Father 16 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

So with foreknowledge that one should never discuss sex, religion or politics in order to remain on good terms with all involved, I will throw caution to the wind and dive headlong into a discussion of the nature of God.  To make is a bit more manageable, this God will be the traditional Judeo-Christian God of the Bible. And, in view of the fact that I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), I’ll make use of its doctrine as well.

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2 thoughts on ““I Have No Need of that Hypothesis”

  1. Laplace: one of my favourite quotes. One thing I have often wondered—which you will probably tackle later—is why God waited so long to let people know about His/Her/It’s presence. If you have to know about God to be ‘saved’ this omission rather condemned early civilisations to the outer darkness.

  2. Jane, I’m not sure we’ll get to that, as I have no clear direction in my mind. I’m letting this blog take me where it will. So I’ll attempt an answer here and if you want to email me we can discuss it further offline, so to speak.
    God created Adam and Eve and they walked with Him in the Garden of Eden. They were aware of Him. After they both ate of the forbidden fruit and were cast out, Adam and Eve and their children worshipped God. Some, like Cain, went astray, but all were taught about God. So from the beginning God let His people know about His presence.
    Now this answer is not entirely satisfactory today. There are billions of people in China and India, among other places, who do not know about God. What can be done for them?
    The same problem existed in New Testament times. At that time there was baptism for the dead so that those who died without knowledge of God could be saved. See 1 Cor. 15:29. The ordinance gradually disappeared but the Mormons do baptisms for the dead today. Our view is that anyone who did not have the opportunity to learn about God while on the earth will have that opportunity in the afterlife. No one who wants to be saved will be excluded.

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