Re: Numerics

From: Iain Strachan <>
Date: Sun Jun 05 2005 - 17:04:56 EDT


I can't give definitive answers to the many (and reasonable) questions you
raise, but I'll do my best to answer what I can. I trust that you appreciate
I am _not_ claiming that Vernon's patterns are "proof" of anything - just
coming at it as an observed phenomenon that could do with explaining. I
_certainly_ don't think it can be used as evidence to support the YEC
position (neither do AiG as far as I know).

My answers interleaved.

On 6/5/05, Glenn Morton <> wrote:
> OK, let me ask this. Which text should be used, the ancient one without
> any vowels, or the 9th century AD Massoretic text with vowels? The Dead
> Sea scrolls have two fragments of Gen. 1:1 with no differences from the
> Massoretic Text save the vowels(?) I presume.

Doesn't matter (in the case of Vernon's 2701 total). The vowels were never
ascribed numerical values as they were (as I understand) only added later as
pointing. The numerical values were always based on the 22 letter consonant

Actually, that's not strictly true - to be fair I should point out that
certain forms of gematria (sofit I think) ascribed extra values to the
end-forms of some of the consonants. Vernon's results are based on _not_
using the Sofit form. I suppose you could argue that an arbitrary choice was
made here and that it wouldn't produce anything interesting given the end
forms (it doesn't). The only answer to this is that the result comes from
using the more commonly used form of gematria (as far as I know), and
similarly the text chosen is the most commonly used one today. If Vernon's
hypothesis is true that God caused the patterns to arise then one would
expect them to have arisen in the most commonly used versions of text etc,
rather than an obscure one ( after all the claim might be dismissed out of
hand if patterns were found in a very obsure version of the text that wasn't
used very much).

Also, what do we do with the letter error rate? From Wilkopedia "For
> example, amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls<>and fragments found at other places in the Judean desert, there are some
> which differ from the Masoretic Text in only about 1 letter of each 1000
> letters. Of course, there are also fragments showing a much larger
> difference."

See answer above about the most common text. I know this is an incomplete
answer and have to ask you to bear with me on this one. The counter-question
is this. Should we dismiss it out of hand right at the start because we know
there are alternative texts? Is this a clear basis for saying that the
evidence (patterns) are not even worth looking at?

Given the interest in numerology by the Medieval kabbalists, is it possible
> that this interest is much older and that the original text was written in
> such a way as to contain those geometric objects—say, a Hebrew version of
> Pythagoreanism.? Grattann-Guinness may be right, but how would we tell?

Yes, that is a possible explanation. Again I only have a partial answer.
When I've seen examples of people doing this deliberately (it was very
popular in the 18th Century), what one got were extremely contrived examples
that were worthless as literature, and the only intrinsic interest was the
numerical constraint. Here's one of my favourite pieces of doggerel that I
saw in Martin Gardner's column in Sci. American, the number of letters in
each word giving the corresponding digit of pi:

Now I, even I would celebrate
In rhymes unapt the great
Immortal Syracusan rivaled nevermore
Who in his wondrous lore
Passed on before
Left men his guidance
How to circles mensurate.

I think you'd agree that it's drivel even if it gives 30 decimal places of
pi. Look at the ridiculous split infinitive at the end "To circles
mensurate", for instance.

If you as a mathematician, whom I respect and trust, tell me that the
> geometries are something interesting, then why should one automatically
> reject what Vernon is saying and go with a naturalistic explanation? Should
> our first reactions to these sorts of things always be that God can't
> possibly do anything miraculous and then rule that out by fiat?

Well, I agree. One should not rule out the miraculous! On the other hand one
shouldn't rule out immediately a naturalistic explanation. It *could* be
deliberate human contrivance - though I don't think it likely for the
reasons above. It *could* be coincidence - I don't personally think so but
the estimation of probabilities is a difficult thing to do, and there is the
danger of saying "this pattern has probability X which is very low" when
there could be many other interesting patterns and when all are taken into
account the probability of getting any interesting pattern is not that
spectacular. Again, no definitive answer to this, but the answer probably
lies in Kolmogorov complexity theory - compact representations of data and
so forth.

My discussion of design on this list a week ago was basically aimed at the
> concept that too many here believe that God can't engage in miracles and
> that God can't possibly affect the physical world and leave evidence of
> design. To me, what you write is an example of automatically rejecting any
> divine influence on the physical world. But, on the other hand, I am not
> going to accept just any evidence for design. I do not see biology as
> evidence of design like the ID folks do, and I don't see numerology as
> evidence of design like Vernon does. But, these geometries you speak of,
> might be interesting. But one needs to be sure that this isn't something
> that can be easily explained. I tried to use the first sentence of Pi in the
> Sky to do a square like someone did here with Gen 1:1, but it didn't work.
> However, I found his case unconvincing because of the number of times that
> one character appears in the sequence.

I think I'm pretty much in agreement with all that. Though maybe I'd say the
geometries are _evidence_ for design, but not _proof_ of it. Then it's a
question of saying how strong the evidence is.

Now, I reject the numerology based upon the fact that I can find such things
> in many books, by chance (Pi in the sky was the first book I picked out of
> my library). How does one quantify the probability that such geometries will
> arise by chance?
Work in progress (and I only get opportunities to work on it in dribs and
drabs do don't expect quick answers!). As I said, one can't just check the
probability of any one interesting pattern. I believe a similar approach to
that given in Schmidhuber's paper on "Low complexity art" at is likely to be the one
that is applicable.

Glenn, how is your wife now? I'll continue to pray.


> *From:* [] *On
> Behalf Of *Iain Strachan
> *Sent:* Saturday, June 04, 2005 6:21 PM
> *To:* Randy Isaac
> *Cc:*
> *Subject:* Re: Numerics
> I would like to point out that having taken the time to look in to
> Vernon's work on the numerics, it is my opinion that there is much more to
> it than either Glenn's parody, or much of Panin's work.
> No-one so far has responded to Vernon's comment about coordinated
> geometries. This is far more difficult IMO to write off as coincidence than
> the accumulation of many multiples of 7 (or 5 in Glenn's case).
> I realise that this may not be most peoples' cup of tea, and I have spent
> some time myself looking into it before coming to my conclusions. I think
> there may be principled scientific ways of explaining it (possibly using
> Kolmogorov complexity theory), but I can't give a definitive statement as
> yet.
> I will state here, as Vernon already knows, that I do _not_ accept that
> his discoveries in any way support a literal/historical interpretation of
> Genesis Ch 1. Nor do I say it "proves" Divine Inspiration of the Bible. That
> is one possible conclusion (that it's a watermark), but it could be a human
> contrivance ( mathematician Ivor Grattann-Guinness believes this to be the
> case).
> This would be easier to discuss if one could first ask the question as to
> whether it is deliberate design & then leave till later the nature of the
> designer (who might or might not have a capital D).
> Iain.
> On 6/4/05, *Randy Isaac* <> wrote:
> With the recent exchange between Glenn and Vernon fresh in my mind, I was
> intrigued when I read the following paragraphs in Alton Everest's history of
> the ASA. Peter Stoner is one of the five founders of the ASA. He was a
> mathematician and an astronomer.
> "Peter Stoner's background in mathematics caused him to be incensed at a
> book on Bible numerics he encountered. It was a popularization of Canadian
> Ivan Panin's work entitled "Astounding New Discoveries" written by Karl G.
> Sabiers. Stoner was able to confer with both Sabiers and his financial
> backer, chemist Albert Nobell in the Los Angeles area.
> "Panin's work claimed to prove the Bible inspired by assigning
> conventionally accepted numeric values to the letters in the original
> languages then demonstrating inspiration by an exceptional number of
> additive combinations divisible by 7. Each such number was called a
> "feature". Many combinations were considered: the number of words in a
> passage, number of letters in a word, the value of each individual letter in
> a word, etc. The number of features Panin found were far below the number
> that should exist if taken at random. Panin had not considered the random
> requirement.
> "Stoner's careful dealing with Sabiers and Nobell undoubtedly
> contributed to Sabiers work fading from the scene. Who can forget Stoner
> telling, with a twinkle in his eye, that by Panin's calculations he had
> computed that "The Prologue to Evangeline" is more inspired than Genesis!"
> The references cited are:
> Letter, Peter W. Stoner to H. Harold Hartzler, 7 June 1947
> Stoner, Peter W. "Dr. Ivan Panin's Work on Bible Numerics", Yearbook of
> the American Scientific Affiliation, 1947.
> Randy
> --
> -----------
> There are 3 types of people in the world.
> Those who can count and those who can't.
> -----------

There are 3 types of people in the world.
Those who can count and those who can't.
Received on Sun Jun 5 17:05:12 2005

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