Von Neumann's Blunder (was: Free Will vs Group Think)

Omega (omega@pacific.net)
Sun, 26 Jan 1997 01:31:29 -0800

John K Clark,

> First of all I want to make it clear that I'm not defending Von Neumann's
> proof, I'll grant you that it's wrong, I'll even grant you it's silly, but
> only because the axioms he used were silly. I quote from "The Cosmic Code"
> by the late great Heinz R Pagels page 166:
> "Von Neumann's proof was logically flawless, but as Bell first pointed out,
> one of the assumptions that went into Von Neumann's proof did not apply to
> quantum theory and therefore the proof was irrelevant."

Your depth of historical knowledge in this seems greater than mine so I'll
defer to your analysis of the historical context that lead to von Neumann's
flawed proof; his work, after all, did happen within the context of a subject
that seems to defy reasonableness. Still I have a couple of lingering
doubts in this area:

1. Supposedly the proof was shown to be flawed in 1935 by Grete Hermann on
purely mathematical grounds. After all, isn't the application of a set
average to the individual members of a set flawed on purely mathematical
grounds? This is my understanding of math, am I mistaken here?

2. You say that "There would be nothing illogical about a world that worked
that way" (referring to one that followed von Neumann's proof) but such
a world is one in which microcausality is hopelessly lost, which for me,
is about as illogical as we can get.

With the modern understanding that advanced-action can reduce all of the
puzzling phenomena of quantum physics down to one concise deterministic
explanation, I would say that it's all water under the bridge, except for
the fact that the Copenhagen interpretation (produced by Bohr and cast
in concrete ever since von Neumann produced his "proof") has spawned
immense quantities of reckless quantum mysticism within our culture;
something I see as a real and growing problem.

In the Ecstatic Service of Life -- Omega

P.S. I'll get back to the free-will subject tomorrow, as our definitions are definitely in conflict. My mention of political correctness in this case is nothing personal. On the contrary, I posit it as a further example of how endemic and hidden political correctness is within the human condition.