Re: The Nature of Atheist - Christian dialogue

From: Iain Strachan (
Date: Fri May 02 2003 - 19:15:17 EDT

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    > Are you familiar with the code from the Torah. I had heard something of it
    > years ago, but thought it was hogwash. It's the work of Doron Witzum,
    > Eliyahu Rips, Yoav Rosenberg and confirmed by Harold Gans. Michael Drosnin
    > was also involved. Drosnin believes its proof of contact from aliens. I
    > don't know what to think.
    > Actually, I need to think about cables and transformers.
    > Drosnin wrote the book, The Bible Code in 1997.

    That's a very difficult one to assess properly. I read the original paper
    by Rips et al that was published in "Statistical Science", and it looked
    pretty convincing. But then I read a rebuttal by another Israeli
    mathematician, and I couldn't find much wrong with that on first reading.
    I'd have to study the subject in more depth to form a definitive opinion,
    but my initial reaction is pretty skeptical. Problems are:

    (1) There is a vast search space. To find an ELS (Equidistant Letter
    Sequence) one can specify the start position and the "skip interval". This
    produces a huge choice. People who research this have computer programs
    that can test huge skip intervals, e.g. in the 10,000's. Against this, the
    proponents state that they can find "clusters", where a "matrix" of ELS's
    for overlapping related words or phrases. However this again is subjective;
    how do you know if a word is related to another? Hard to see how you could
    do an objective test.

    (2) The Hebrew text does not have any vowels, only the consonants. Each
    consonant has markings (which were added by the Masoretic scholars) to
    indicate the intervening vowels, but these are not counted in the ELS
    evaluations. Hence there are more possibilities available because of this.

    (3) Because of the huge skip intervals, the ELS's can span huge sections of
    the OT, e.g. several books. I would have thought therefore that textual
    variations between editions would scupper the validity of what is found; how
    do you know what the right version is? By contrast, the gematriac analysis
    concentrates on small sections (e.g. one verse), which lessens the
    probability of a textual variant causing problems.

    (4) Skeptics say you can find such "clusters" in any text. Proponents (e.g.
    see ) say the bible produces much bigger clusters
    (and hence with much lower probabilities) than the skeptics have found in
    non-biblical texts. But again, I find it difficult to assess. They've
    found some truly long phrases, but many of them seem artificial in what they
    say. Maybe the skeptics haven't looked hard enough in the non-biblical
    texts & they could also produce large phrases if they spent long enough.

    (5) I think Drosnin's book has largely been discredited as a bit of
    sensationalism. In fact, Rips et al distanced themselves thoroughly from
    Drosnin, saying you couldn't use it to predict the future. Drosnin's
    clusters are rather small & therefore could be easily be reproduced in a
    secular text (I think the Hebrew version of "War and Peace" is often used.

    After five negative points, I wouldn't definitely write it off, but I think
    there are too many problems and obstacles to evaluating it on a proper
    scientific basis. Maybe there will also be obstacles in the gematria work
    of Vernon, but I at least have some ideas as to how it might be tackled &
    they sound tractable.

    Hope this gives some idea.

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