phenomena, from which all causal disturbances having been removed, the law remains as a conspicuous residue. And this can only be done by observations so numerous as to eliminate the disturbances.”17
Much of Buckle’s philosophy echoes Quetelet, including similar slams against the idea of unfettered free will. Occasionally someone makes what appears to be a free and even surprising choice, but only because you don’t know enough about the person’s circumstances, Buckle observed. “If, however, I were capable of correct reasoning, and if, at the same time, I had a complete knowledge both of his disposition and of all the events by which he was surrounded, I should be able to foresee the line of conduct which, in consequence of those events, he would adopt,” Buckle pointed out.18 Read retrospectively, Buckle’s comment sounds very much like what a game theorist would say today. Game theory is, in fact, all about understanding what choice would (or should) be made if all the relevant information influencing the outcome of the decision is known.
Buckle realized that choices emerge not merely from external factors, though, but from the inner workings of the mind as well. Since sorting out the nuances of all the influences exceeds science’s powers, the nature of human behavior must be described instead by the mathematics of statistics. “All the changes of which history is full, all the vicissitudes of the human race, their progress or their decay, their happiness or their misery, must be the fruit of a double action; an action of external phenomena upon the mind, and another action of the mind upon the phenomena,” wrote Buckle. “The most comprehensive inferences respecting the actions of men are derived from this or from analogous sources: they rest on statistical evidence, and are expressed in mathematical language.”19
It’s not hard to imagine Maxwell reading these words and seeing in them a solution to the complexities confounding the description of gases. Though Maxwell found Buckle’s book “bumptious,” he recognized it as a source of original ideas, and the statistical reasoning that Buckle applied to society seemed just the thing that Maxwell needed to deal with molecular motion. “The