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Pseudo-mathematics

Mathematics - grounded in logic?

There is an interesting webpage (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Pseudomathematics) that states:

 

“Pseudo-mathematics is any work, study or activity which claims to be mathematical, but refuses to work within the standards of proof and rigour which mathematics is subject to … Unfortunately for practitioners of pseudo-mathematics, mathematics is an absolute science of black and white - everything is right or wrong. There is no often scope for debate or discussion, as only mathematical proof is relevant.”

 

If only everything was as black and white as that suggests. The reality is that there are numerous mathematical statements which are widely accepted as correct by the vast majority of mathematicians, in spite of there not actually being a rigorous proof of the statement. The fact is that a mathematician cannot possibly examine every proof, and that means that he often relies on what he perceives to be the commonly accepted belief. In most cases, the commonly accepted belief that there is a rigorous proof of a certain mathematical statement is correct, but that is not always the case.

 

There are well-documented instances where errors in mathematical proofs have not been discovered for several years after they were first published, including proofs that received widespread attention (see, for example, Kempe’s flawed proof and Tait’s flawed proof). And these were not proofs where one language makes statements about another language, and where there is a possibility of language confusion.

 

What is so curious about mathematicians is that you would expect that if someone points out that a proof is not sufficiently rigorous, or that it includes an inadmissible step, the mathematician would be grateful that that was brought to his attention. But what actually happens? When it is pointed out that certain proofs, such as various proofs of incompleteness, including Gödel’s original proof and many other proofs of incompleteness (see The flaw in Gödel’s incompleteness proof: here and Analysis of incompleteness proofs: here) are not actually as rigorous as a mathematical proof should be, mathematicians refuse to accept the facts. When it is pointed out that such a proof includes an unproven assumption instead of a rigorous logical argument, or when it is pointed out that a step in the proof relies on a step that is mathematically inadmissible, they seem to take it as an affront, as an insult to their self-perception as bastions of absolute correctness.

 

For more on why the use of term ‘mathematical proof’ can mean something quite different to a perfectly rigorous logically reasoned argument, see the page Mathematical Proof.

 

 

Pseudo-logic and pseudo-mathematics

So, we know that there must be proofs that are not in fact rigorous mathematical proofs, but which, for one reason or another, have been accepted as correct, in spite of failing to meet the criteria for a rigorous mathematical proof. Surely this is not acceptable? Preconceived notions about the correctness of proofs should be set aside, and proofs should be subjected to a logical critical analysis. If a proof fails the test that requires it to be a rigorous mathematical proof, then its result should not be accepted. This rooting out of pseudo-proofs should be just one step in an inevitable, if slow, step towards a more complete understanding of how language, logic and mathematics are interrelated. Mathematics and logic cannot be fully understood unless the role of language is taken in account. Confusions such as those that appear in Gödel’s proof of incompleteness (see The flaw in Gödel’s proof: here) and various other proofs of incompleteness (see Analysis of Incompleteness Proofs: here) masquerade as genuine logic and genuine mathematics, whereas in reality they are the antithesis of real logic and real mathematics.

 

 

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The Lighter Side

 

NEWS

There’s something about Gödel by Francesco Berto

There is a new addition to the page Yet another flawed incompleteness proof, where Berto’s proof of incompleteness in his book There’s something about Gödel comes under scrutiny.

 

 

Easy Footnotes

I found that making, adding or deleting footnotes in the traditional manner proved to be a major pain. So I developed a different system for footnotes which makes inserting or changing footnotes a doddle. You can check it out at Easy Footnotes for Web Pages (Accessibility friendly).

 

 

O’Connor’s “computer checked” proof

I have now added a new section to my paper on Russell O’Connor’s claim of a computer verified incompleteness proof. This shows that the flaw in the proof arises from a reliance on definitions that include unacceptable assumptions - assumptions that are not actually checked by the computer code. See also the new page Representability.

 

 

New page on Chaitin’s Constant

There is now a new page on Chaitin’s Constant (Chaitin’s Omega), which demonstrates that Chaitin has failed to prove that it is actually algorithmically irreducible.

 

 

Updated: Diagonal Lemma

Flawed proofs of the Diagonal Lemma by Panu Raatikainen and Vann McGee have been added to the Diagonal Lemma web page.

Previous Blog Posts  

 

16th Mar 2015 Bishops Dancing with Pixies?

 

23rd Feb 2015 Artificial Intelligence

 

31 Mar 2015 Cranks and Crackpots

 

30 Apr 2015 The Chinese Room

 

Links  

 

For convenience, there are now two pages on this site with links to various material relating to Gödel and the Incompleteness Theorem

 

– a page with general links:

Gödel Links

 

– and a page relating specifically to the Gödel mind-machine debate:

Gödel, Minds, and Machines

 

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