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Grant number: FZ-250420-17

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Steven Horst
Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT 06459-3208)

Exorcizing Laplace's Demon

Examines the assertion made famous by French mathematical physicist Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827)  that a scientific view of the universe leaves no room for God, free will, or human dignity. Starting with LaPlace but leading the reader through the work of thinkers from Galileo and Newton to contemporary philosophers of science, the book considers how theism and humanism might be reconciled with science after all.

This project will produce a book for a general audience examining the widespread assumption that the sciences threaten our humanistic self-understanding because they imply a view of the world that is deterministic and reductionistic. I frame the discussion around Laplace's assertion, when asked the place of God in his physics, that "I have no need of that hypothesis", and the idea of "Laplace's Demon."  The book examines determinism and reductionism, and the challenges they face from quantum mechanics, chaos theory, and contemporary philosophy of science, arguing that a proper understanding of science poses no threat to human dignity, free will, theism, or the possibility of miracles, drawing upon previous works by the author written for scholarly audiences but presenting them in a form geared to the educated public.

Project fields:
History of Science; Philosophy of Science

Public Scholar Program

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2017 – 6/30/2018