FOM: misuse of G"odel's theorem

Martin Davis martind at
Mon Feb 15 16:42:32 EST 1999

At 02:28 PM 2/15/99 -0500, simpson at wrote:
>At the height of the late 1960's debate on the US-Russia ABM (=
>Anti-Ballistic Missile) treaty, Jerome Wiesner testified before the US
>Congress that ABM technology is and always will be impractical,
>because of G"odel's theorem. 

I'd appreciate a quote. 

I predict that what he said was something along the lines of:

   Not everything that is technologically desirable is technologically
possible.    There are a number of developments in twentieth century science
that underline    this: relativity theory (no faster than light
transportation), quantum    mechanics (uncertainty at the micro level),
G"odel's theorem (there are    mathematical questions that we know our best
present methods can't answer).
   We would love to have an effective anti-missle defense. However, in my
judgement this is not possible with existing technology and likely will
never be possible.

I wouldn't regard such a statement as a misuse of G"odel's theorem, and in
fact I agree with it.


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