On a television channel dedicated to religious topics, a clip of Daily Spec contributor Larry Williams appeared within a segment on Bible Codes. Larry, a journalism graduate, dug up information about Moses and wrote a whole book on the material he found. I was surprised to learn of Larry in this context, since he is best known for other marvelous achievements.

The Bible, according to cryptographers, is replete with predictions written centuries ago and found to be accurate by the events unfolding in our time.

Kudos to Larry for investing his time and expertise, his flair for language, in this remarkable project.

Nigel Davies writes:

This is highly analogous to searching for Codes within the markets, with many of the same problems applying. I understand that one of the bones of contention is the asking of the questions and that sceptics have found apparently similar Codes in Moby Dick and elsewhere.

One of my acquaintances ended up becoming ultra-religious on the strength of Bible Codes. I guess he might have wanted them to be there or he'd have tried to falsify them before donning the black hat.

Such proof would also contradict one of the major philosophical ideas of Judeo-Christianity in that any 'struggle with G-d' would essentially be over once 'proof' were discovered. I guess they figured it was more important to get bums on seats.

Adi Schnytzer replies:

There have been (unsuccessful) attempts by statisticians (but what would they know, right?) to refute the Codes, but I don't want to spoil Nigel's day with facts. If he really cared about this beyond heaping contumely on it, a little Googling would go a long way. 

Gordon Haave responds:

Please! Let's not get into fantasy. Numerous statisticians have shown what a fraud the Bible Code is. But, even if you want to go back and forth between competing websites, all you need to know is that there have been no "predictions" at all. After certain things happen, the Bible Coders go back and data-mine the bible to see if the event was predicted. When they predict something unlikely in advance (not a vague "there will be trouble between Israel and Palestine") then get back to me. 

Adi Schnytzer retorts:

Well, I guess I'm going to have to blind you with facts! The paper that studied the Codes was written by Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips, and Yoav Rosenberg and is entitled Equidistant Letter Sequences in the Book of Genesis. It was published in the very respectable journal Statistical Science in 1994. An attempted rebuttal was published by Brendan McKay, Dror Bar-Natan, Maya Bar-Hillel, and Gil Kalai in 1999. See Ralph Greenberg's site for links. For myself, this will do:

"The present work, represents serious research carried out by serious investigators. Since the interpretation of the phenomenon in question is enigmatic and controversial, one may want to demand a level of statistical significance beyond what would he demanded for more routine conclusions… The results obtained are sufficiently striking to deserve a wider audience and to encourage further study."

H. Furstenberg, the Hebrew University
I. Piatetski-Shapiro, Yale University
D. Kazhdan, Harvard University
J. Bernstein, Harvard University"

Laurent Glazier remarks:

I am not sure what this particular example might mean, but because a Canadian academic has succeeded in finding similar patterns in the text of Moby Dick it has been widely assumed that this invalidates all Bible Code findings. Similarly the artificial construction of small scale crop circles in England has led people to conclude that all such formations, including those on a huge scale, are artificial. These conclusions are appealing, and may be true, but are not logical.

The Bible Code discovery I found most intruiging was that the encoded occurrences of the Hebrew names for tree species are nearly all found hidden in the verses describing the Garden of Eden. Designing statistical tests to prove the likelihood or otherwise of such patterns, found in context, has caused great difficulty in the past to fine minds, largely because preconceptions can interfere in setting up the tests.

Testing for geometric patterns in star formations is another matter, especially Mark Vidler's unpublished discovery of the clustering of bright stars at multiples of 10 degrees from Regulas, as seen from Earth. Another issue entirely would be looking for a cause of any established patterns.

Kim Zussman adds:

 The movie "Pi" (3.14159…) is about a mathematician who suffers from severe migraine and mental illness, and is deciphering hidden numerical codes like Fibonacci series in The Kabbalah. He is pursued by a rabbi who is also a mathematician.

G-d's commandment is to index: shouldering the risk of capitalism while not attempting to gamble or covet other people's wives is written in the WSJ between the mutual fund quotes.


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