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The Logic of Miracles

László Méro
Yale University Press
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Joel Haack
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László Mérö’s The Logic of Miracles is an interesting, entertaining read at the intersection of psychology, economics, mathematics, and statistics, with an aim of uncovering the “miracles” that occur in life. Mérö is a research psychologist and popular science writer. He uses the term miracles to refer to “one-time, unpredictable and irreproducible events.” [p. 8]

Later in the book, Mérö refines his definition. First, pseudomiracles are those events that are rare, that “represent an enormous deviation from the mean.” These are not themselves miracles “because they occur in a statistically predictable way.” [p. 60] True miracles are those events that “deviate from the laws of nature as currently understood by science.” [p. 61, emphasis is the author’s] Finally, transcendent miracles are those caused by divine intervention; these are not discussed extensively in the book. Instead, Mérö’s interests are with pseudomiracles and true miracles.

To give a bit of the flavor of the book, the author labels as pseudomiracles the abilities of mathematicians such as von Neumann, Gauss, or Cauchy. True miracles include the collapse of the Soviet Union or the fall of the Berlin Wall. “[W]ith Gödel’s theorem under our belts, we can say that such miracles can occur at any moment.” [p.61]

Among the mathematical topics discussed in the book are Gödel’s theorems, chaos theory and fractals, the normal and the Cauchy probability distributions, nonstandard analysis, Lévy flight, and scale-free networking.

I enjoyed reading the book, and find, even a month after finishing it, that the ideas discussed in it continue to play around in my mind.

Joel Haack is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Northern Iowa.

The table of contents is not available.