Hence God Exists
The quantification of risk began in the late nineteenth century, and until the middle of the twentieth century it was cautiously developed by scholars well aware of the limitations of the approach. But beginning in the 1930s, the process took a perverse turn, and by the 1950s a culture had emerged in economics and finance in which mathematics was no longer a functional tool but had become an end in itself. One’s status was determined by one’s computational skills, regardless of their practical efficacy. No one challenged the questionable underlying assumption that the financial world worked the same as the physical world and was subject to similar immutable, mathematical laws. In the financial world, it’s time to acknowledge the quite reasonable ineffectiveness of mathematics. Our equations are not expressions of laws; they are metaphors. They express useful truths, but they are not themselves the truth.
Invited by Catherine the Great to visit her Court, Diderot earned his keep by
trying to convert the courtiers to atheism. Fed up, Catherine commissioned
Euler to muzzle the windy philosopher. This was easy because all mathemat-
ics was Chinese to Diderot. De Morgan tells us what happened: “Diderot was
informed that a learned mathematician was in possession of an algebraical
Parts of this chapter have been previously published as McGoun (1995a), McGoun (1995b), and
McGoun and Zielonka (2006).