Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem

This is way off our usual topics, but I’ve been blown away by the philosophical/religious/scientific implications of a theorem I’d heard of but not really pondered. A self-contained system cannot explain everything: it cannot explain itself.

From the above link, here’s one explanation of the theorem, from Rucker’s Infinity and the Mind:

  1. Someone introduces Gödel to a UTM, a machine that is supposed to be a Universal Truth Machine, capable of correctly answering any question at all.
  2. Gödel asks for the program and the circuit design of the UTM. The program may be complicated, but it can only be finitely long. Call the program P(UTM) for Program of the Universal Truth Machine.
  3. Smiling a little, Gödel writes out the following sentence: “The machine constructed on the basis of the program P(UTM) will never say that this sentence is true.” Call this sentence G for Gödel. Note that G is equivalent to: “UTM will never say G is true.”
  4. Now Gödel laughs his high laugh and asks UTM whether G is true or not.
  5. If UTM says G is true, then “UTM will never say G is true” is false. If “UTM will never say G is true” is false, then G is false (since G = “UTM will never say G is true”). So if UTM says G is true, then G is in fact false, and UTM has made a false statement. So UTM will never say that G is true, since UTM makes only true statements.
  6. We have established that UTM will never say G is true. So “UTM will never say G is true” is in fact a true statement. So G is true (since G = “UTM will never say G is true”).
  7. “I know a truth that UTM can never utter,” Gödel says. “I know that G is true. UTM is not truly universal.”

OK, think about that for a while. It has profound implications on everything from math to evolutionary theory to sola scriptura.

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