[Haskell-cafe] Do you trust Wikipedia?

Doug Quale quale1 at charter.net
Fri Oct 19 10:42:12 EDT 2007

Henning Thielemann <lemming at henning-thielemann.de> writes:

> Most proofs in mathematics use intuitive arguments, most proofs are not
> formalized enough in order to be checked by machines. Ok, this can be
> considered a deficiency of machine provers. But in the history there were
> famous "proofs" which turned out to be wrong. Remember the first "proof"
> of the four color theorem of Alfred Kempe (cited from, you guess it,
> wikipedia :-)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_color_theorem ) Or
> remember the first trial of Andrew Wile to prove the Taniyama-Shimura-Weil
> conjecture for Fermat's last theorem. It is generally hard to show that a
> proof is incorrect if the statement is correct.

You completely misunderstand the goal and nature of Wikipedia.  The
goal is not truth, but verifiability.  It is not Wikipedia's job to
determine whether a mathematical proof is correct, but merely if it is
accepted by the mathematical community.  Truth has absolutely nothing
to do with it.  Wikipedia is a source-based encyclopedia, and when
executed properly, its articles will reflect the biases of its
sources.  This should be mainstream, learned opinion in the field.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:V

Doug Quale

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