Bible Codes Announcement
My other favorite publication, Jewish Action, just released its fall issue. It contains a revisiting of the Codes controversy, in the form of a Sarah Shapiro interview with Harold Gans. (I’ve been trying to lure Sarah to join CC as a regular. She is still welcome, even after taking the wrong side on this issue. We won’t hold it against her – especially since my friend Yaakov Menken is also on the other side!)
The interview attempts to update JA’s coverage, which last visited this issue nine years ago. The introduction implies that there are new developments in the story. The review also refers to “an Orthodox rabbi who is one of [the] critics [who] declined to be interviewed for an article that would lend credence to Torah Codes.”
Both of these are true. The refusenik, c’est moi. Part of the reason for my refusal is that much has happened in the last nine years. We understand the methodology of the experimenters much better. We’ve had an opportunity to subject the phenomenon to other tests, including one agreed upon in advance by both sides. We’ve seen some of the problems generated by people coming to believe that this is really a part of Torah. And most importantly, we’ve had an opportunity to sit at a more than friendly Melave Malka in my home with Prof. Rips and Prof. Haralick and talk openly and respectfully about our differences.
The way Prof. Barry Simon and I see it is that nine years ago we saw the Codes as probably without merit, and possibly dangerous.
Things have changed. Today we regard them as definitely without merit, and certainly dangerous to the Torah community.
The rest is perush, which will be available, BE”H, in the form of a FAQ that we will be releasing, but with the Yomim Tovim upon us, it is not likely to see the light of day till December. (We would have preferred a side-by-side presentation within the pages of JA, but apparently someone was not willing to do this unless the other side saw our presentation in advance. We were not willing to give them that advantage, since we had the last time, and it worked extraordinarily to our disadvantage. No problem. Putting our response on the web instead ain’t chopped liver.)
In the meantime, B”H most of the key players are friendly and civil to most of the opposing key players, which is why we can hazard this posting shortly before the Yemei Hadin. To the best of our knowledge, everyone is in this L’shem Shomayim.
When our FAQ is ready, we will get the word out, BE”H
“The editors and peer reviewers of scientific journals cannot always verify that a submitted paper’s results are true and honest; rather their main job is to check whether a paper’s methodology is sound, its reasoning cogent and its conclusions noteworthy. Disconfirmation can always follow publication.”
No, this wasn’t written by Dr. Barry Simon to refute the Aish Hatorah claim that publication of the Famous Rabbis experiment in Statistical Science in 1994 gives the findings credibility, and opponents just don’t like the conclusions. Although it echoes the contents of a conversation we had in Jerusalem a few months ago.
It is a quote from the editors of Scientific American, March 2006 issue, in an editorial called “Con Men in Lab Coats.” The subject was the vulnerability and the safety mechanisms that exist in the scientific community regarding deceitful papers published innocently in scientific journals (after Woo Suk Hwang, a fabricated findings on cloning of human embryonic stem cells).
While I have said many times that the integrity of the codes researchers should not be impinged upon in any way – and that needs to be said because there are those who do exactly that – their honesty and integrity isn’t the question. The methodology of their experiment and its ability – or inability – to be verified and replicated is the issue. And continuing to use the fact that SS published the original 1994 experiment as evidence of the experiment’s validity is misleading, at best.
So let’s make sure that discussions focus on the correct issues. Any claim of SCIENTIFIC validity to the findings of codes in the Bible must measure up to SCIENTIFIC standards and published peer review. We also need to clarify what subset of “science” we are operating in. Statistics? Mathematics? Pattern recognition?
And if what we find in the Bible codes is just “neat” and “wow,” let’s make sure, as I wrote a dozen years ago, when I was a proponent of the codes, that similar “neat” and “wow” things don’t exist in many other texts.
My feeling is that defenders of the Codes methodology need something to react to (such as the advance copy you denied them this time) because the methodology and its rationale(s) are pretty ad hoc in the first place.
This whole Codes business is sort of like prophecy in reverse. It never tells us anything we didn’t know already and in more detail.
I know what BE”H stands for, but, pardon my ignorance, what is FAQ?
Wahtever the abbreviation stands, I look forward to the article’s appearance. More substantively, I am troubled by Rabbi Adlerstein’s delicately phrased suggestion that the JA, instead of adopting a position of strict editorial neutrality on this issue, seems to be favoring the pro-Bible Codes side.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions. A list of questions about a topic and their answers.
Regarding Comment by Lawrence Kaplan — September 10, 2007 @ 10:24 am :
I wonder why JA would attempt to show Team A in this argument Team B’s cards, to help Team A create a more effective last word. If any members of JA’s management or editorial board are reading this, I ask them to explain themselves here.
If JA really is partial to the Codes, I would also like to know whether that is out of belief in their truth or out of belief in their utility.
A quick search of the Current Index to Statistics showed nothing since this article:
McKay, Brendan, Bar-Natan, Dror, Bar-Hillel, Maya and Kalai, Gil (1999)
Solving the Bible code puzzle
Statistical Science, 14, 150-173
Keywords: Equidistant letter sequences; ELS; Bible code; Torah code; data tuning; Data selection; Permutation test
A paper of Witztum, Rips and Rosenberg in this journal in 1994 made the extraordinary claim that the Hebrew text of the Book of Genesis encodes events which did not occur until millennia after the text was written. In reply, we argue that Witztum, Rips and Rosenberg’s case is fatally defective, indeed that their result merely reflects on the choices made in designing their experiment and collecting the data for it. We present extensive evidence in support of that conclusion. We also report on many new experiments of our own, all of which failed to detect the alleged phenomenon.
I was able to download the actual article here:
I have not looked at it since it first came out but I would be happy to discuss it with anyone who wishes to if you give me a chance to review it again.
While Rav Adlerstein describes my position as being the “other side,” I have for some time now been on the same side where it counts. Whether there is something genuinely wrong with the Bible Codes research and its methodology, or whether it is merely the combination of a successful FUD campaign on the part of critics, plus a series of “Bible Codes” books treating the topic with all the intellectual rigor of a circus side show, I think the damage is long since done as far as using Codes for Kiruv, for Jewish outreach.
This is the danger to which Rav Adlerstein alluded — that a young man or woman who comes to Torah in part due to a compelling presentation of the Torah Codes is now entirely too likely to later conclude that he or she has been sold a bill of goods.
I am not in the camp of the critics, because, when last I looked at the material over a decade ago, I found the arguments of the proponents remained more compelling than those of the critics. Much may indeed have happened in the last nine years, but I remain blissfully unaware of any of it (and haven’t yet seen the article in JA). But as far as Kiruv is concerned, and although those teaching Discovery seminars may strongly disagree, I believe the damage has been done and cannot be undone.
There are enough intellectual arguments for the truth of Torah that won’t be shaken by a teenage hacker with a Core Duo PC and too much spare time… so at this point, I think the Codes must remain an intellectual curiosity and fodder for dinner conversation among those able to examine the issue objectively. [Given the implication were the Codes verified conclusively, I don’t think anyone outside the observant community can be objective. But there are plenty of observant critics today.]
Torah Codes were first computerized in the late 1970’s by Professor Eliyahu Rips. Since 1996, it has been my great privilege to learn from him and other pioneers of the field, such as Harold Gans and Professor Robert M. Haralick. The site http://www.torahcodes.net presents the essence of our ongoing investigation. There are increasingly simpler and more compelling examples presented there, some as recently as last month. As researchers, we encourage readers to allow time for this 3000 year old mystery to unfold.
“There are enough intellectual arguments for the truth of Torah that won’t be shaken by a teenage hacker with a Core Duo PC and too much spare time…”
Please compile and list such arguments on your site. There are many people who would benefit from that.
I second Gershon Josephs request for some of these arguments myself. I know it would help me.
Amusing factoid. I just went to the JA website to print the article. If you say you want to Print This: you get the page http://www.ou.org/index.php/jewish_action/print/28299/.
The window title of that page (what appears in the window title is “Comics for Chinuch?”. It appears that behind the scences someone is making an editorial comment!
For te codes people which sifrei Torah do they use=Ashkenaz or Sfarad-different in aleph or heh in psulaei dakah-or Yeminite which I believe has 7 differences in malei and chaser-no meaning difference-but crucial for Biblical Code skipped differences.
Only crucial if the skip sequence happens to cross the difference, a rare occurrence since there are so few differences.
There have been new experiments and new statistical methodology in the Torah code area. Some of these were presented at the last International Conference on Pattern Recognition. For example, there are new experiments on the Israeli prime ministers and the American Presidents.
If there were interest in a friendly discussion on Torah codes to understand the truth, a discussion, not a debate or not an argument, I would take time to participate and explain the new methodology and some of the new experiments. Also I would add my thoughts to where I agree or disagree with the critics.
The main issue of such a discussion should be the truth driven not by belief or desire to believe or not believe. Rather such a discussion must be driven by the desire to get at the truth.
Moshe Dovid and Mycroft,
Actually, in the Rabbis experiment, it seems not to have much, if any, of an effect. And anti-intutively, THAT is a result of the weakness of the experimental design. The Rabbis experiment took an average of many occurences, so the small effect those few letters had was probably not even a rounding error. (Professor Simon will correct me if I am not presenting this accurately). And in all the other “codes” like the ones being shown on the site referenced by Art Levitt, the work isn’t really apriori, so if the text variations don’t produce “success” you just ignore those and move on to look for other interesting combinations. In connection with these kinds of codes, if you google “bible codes” you will quickly hit on X-tian sites that have equally compelling codes combinations that, unfortunately, don’t exactly spell out “ben yishai” being Mosiach, the way Art Levitt’s site does. 🙁
I seem to recall hearing that R’ Avigor Miller did not place too much stock in Bible codes. Hillel, if you’re out there and have time to log on to Cross-Currents before Rosh Hashanah, can you enlighten us?
“the integrity of the codes researchers should not be impinged upon in any way ”
I agree with that. The topic is a serious scientific problem in pattern recognition and the researchers are qualified to tackle it. (I should add that the math involved is very non-trivial; this is one of the most difficult problems I have ever encountered in my career.) The JA article pointed out that several papers were presented at a 2006 conference; a quick internet search showed that there were actually four papers presented there. However, for some reason they were not included in the conference proceedings (which in any case are not peer-reviewed for most conferences of this type; editors select the most interesting topics and not necessarily the most solid science). And while torahcodes.net does have links to several papers (you have to search to find them), I have been unable to find evidence that any have been published in peer-reviewed journals. So far, the 1999 Statistical Science paper by McKay et al still is the last word, indicating that the problems described there still have yet to be addressed to the satisfaction of the scientific community.
I should add that while this is of academic interest, it is indeed irrelevant to me as an observant, believing Jew. God can not be proven either by logic or empirical evidence — nor can God be disproven. Ditto for the Torah. If the Torah Codes advocates do manage to satisfy the scientific community, I will see it as a nice thing but it will not change my beliefs one iota. And ditto if the Torah Codes research proves in the end to be completely worthless. In a certain sense, attempts at empirical proof reduce HaShem to a human level, which is not what I have been taught as normative Judaism: HaShem is beyond human understanding, knowledge, logic, or observation.
See Dr. R. J. Aumann’s portion of this document released in July 2004 at http://ratio.huji.ac.il/dp/dp_365.pdf
This was his last point:
“11. We come finally to the bottom line: A priori, the thesis of the Codes research seems wildly improbable. Though the original work of Witztum, Rips, and Rosenberg, and that of Gans, established a prima facie case for the existence of the codes, this case was undermined by the work of the “opponents” (see Point 6 above). Research conducted under my own supervision failed to confirm the existence of the codes—though it also did not establish their non-existence. So I must return to my a priori estimate, that the Codes phenomenon is improbable.”
In terms of peer reviewed papers, the 1999 paper does seem to be the last word but in terms of papers posted by distinguished acadmeics, one should mention http://ratio.huji.ac.il/dp.php?itemID=386 which describes an experiment and http://ratio.huji.ac.il/dp.php?itemID=387 with analyses of this experiment.
I think it very significant that Bob Aumann (Nobel Prize in Economics) and Hillel Furstenberg (Wolf Prize in Mathematics) both of whom started the process essentially neutral and slightly pro ended by concluding that because of wiggle room it is essentially impossible make a valid test of the Torah Code hypothesis.
The full articles can be found at http://ratio.huji.ac.il/dp_files/dp364.pdf and http://ratio.huji.ac.il/dp_files/dp365.pdf.
To set the facts straight, there were seven papers presented and published at the 2006 ICPR conference. They were all in the proceedings given out at the conference, six in the main proceedings and one in the supplementary proceedings. The supplementary proceedings came about because of some omissions by the Computer Society press who corrected their omission error by the supplementary proceedings. There were perhaps about 10 papers in the supplementary proceedings. The conference itself had about 2000 people attending from all over the world.
Each Torah code paper was reviewed by at least four academic reviewers, and some by six reviewers, none of whom did work in Torah codes. Thus they were peer-reviewed. I do not remember exactly, but the paper acceptance rate was something just around or less than 50%. The acceptance rate in most academic journals ranges between about 25% and 60%. The evaluation of the short answer part of the reviews for each paper was done uniformly by algorithm decided upon by the program chairman. The track chairs asserted their judgement only in cases of papers on the borderline or with reviews that were opposite or where a researcher appealed a decision.
Regarding publishing in journals. I am all for that. However, there seems to be an editorial policy not to publish papers in this area because the area itself mixes statistics with religion, something that is not acceptable to many people. How do they say this in modern terms? Politically incorrect! Sometime before this year is out, I will post the letter I received from the editor of the Pattern Recognition journal detailing this.
This editorial policy itself is interesting for the journal publishing world is certainly where academic discussion should be taking place. This is its function.
I, for one, would very much appreciate a discussion amongst Professor Robert Haralick, Dr. Barry Simon and any other of the big hitters. Perhaps Cross-Currents coult let the thread run for a while after yom tov.
Barry Simon wrote:
“The window title of that page (what appears in the window title is “Comics for Chinuch?”. It appears that behind the scences someone is making an editorial comment!”
It’s probably just a remnant of a lazy copy from this article’s “template”:
Only crucial if the skip sequence happens to cross the difference, a rare occurrence since there are so few differences.”
Comment by Moshe David — September 11, 2007 @ 3:43 am
Your text must have a scribal error – a whole word was omitted!! If you go back to the times of bayit_sheni/mishna/gemara (as opposed to the last 1000 years) and add the differences up, you might want to add the word “hundred” or if you are really strict in your definition at least “dozen.” And besides if you can tolerate one or a few, why is 50 so bothersome??
I have one word to say about the Codes:
“Regarding publishing in journals… there seems to be an editorial policy not to publish papers in this area because the area itself mixes statistics with religion, something that is not acceptable to many people.”
That is absolutely untrue! You must have forgotten orthodox mathematics Prof. Aumann winning the 2005 *Nobel Prize* in Economics analyzing a game theory problem raised by the Talmud. If the Bible Codes had scientific/mathematical merit, you would receive the requisite recognition you seek.
Comment #25 goes too far.
I believe that one day we shall look back and understand what it was that aroused in some people such fearless, vehement willingness to speak out publicly, and authoritatively, about a deep and incredibly complex matter which requires years of study to begin to comprehend.
I think you missed the point. A mathematical problem, which has no religious implications but just happens to be expressed in a religious text, is fair game. If Newton would have been a cardinal, peer reviewed journals would still deal with his physics. The issue is scientific questions that have clear implications which are religious in nature.
k’siva v’chasima tova
I would like to comment on posting 15 which incorrectly says in reference to http://www.torahcodes.net – “the work isn’t really apriori, so if the text variations don’t produce “success” you just ignore those and move on to look for other interesting combinations.”
I invite readers to look at just one of these pages, typical of the whole site:
Toward the bottom, notice that there are three codes that all contain “waves of light” with “were created”. Two facts become clear with some careful thought.
First, the codes are completely a-priori (pre-established). The first of the three uses key words from prior codes (themselves remarkable on their own). The other two are exact copies of the first.
Second, put in the context of all other topics on the site, such as creation of the world, creation of humanity, Messiah, etc, one can understand that the success rate is actually unexplainably high, as follows:
(a) Consider whether the topics presented on the site contain a high concentration of high relevancy.
(b) Consider the success rate among the topics presented.
If it were necessary to search many topics before finding a success, it would not be the case that the successes would be focused in such high relevance areas.
We are finding the very opposite of a hidden failure rate. We are continually finding hidden successes built upon previously established codes.
The above two considerations – codes built on other codes, and the success rate among high relevance topics – imply a kind of structure to the codes that is utterly lacking in the Xtian “codes” and in the examples from critics using other texts such as “War and Peace”.
BTA, where can we find more info about Prof Aumann’s work and/or where in the Talmud can we find the game theory problem raised?
I would like to introduce some relevant facts to this forum. Some are corrections to comments made.
1. There were seven papers on Torah codes presented and published at the 18th International Conference on Pattern Recognition, which took place in August of 2006 in Hong Kong.
2. All of these papers were peer reviewed. (See more details on this in the comments of Prof. Robert Haralick).
3. One of the papers that I co-authored specifically addressed the validity of the original “Great Rabbis Experiment” reported in Statistical Science in 1994 as well as the conclusions of the Statistical Science article in 1999 by Mckay et al. presenting circumstantial evidence that the 1994 paper was fatally flawed. One of the explicit conclusions of my paper was that in spite of the evidence in McKay et al., the Great Rabbis Experiment was, in fact, valid. It is important to note that BOTH Statistical Science articles were referenced in my paper, as well as some of the critic’s web sites. Thus, the peer reviewers who passed my paper were well aware of the critic’s evidence and arguments and agreed with my conclusion.
4. The following comment was made by Rabbi Adlerstein: “We’ve had an opportunity to subject the phenomenon to other tests, including one agreed upon in advance by both sides”. This is true. But what was left out was that several people (including one person not on “our side”) on the committee strongly rejected the conclusions drawn by these “other tests” because the data that they prepared was riddled with errors. Both the report of the committee and the report by the dissenting committee members were referenced in my peer reviewed paper mentioned above. One of my explicit conclusions was that one cannot draw valid conclusions from this seriously flawed data. Since the peer reviewers had access to both the report of the committee as well as the dissenting opinions and passed my paper, it is evident that they agreed with my conclusion.
5. Rabbi Adlerstein has stated that teaching Torah codes is dangerous to the Jewish people. Rabbi Adlerstein is a highly respected rabbi, and certainly his view has merit. If he were my rabbi, I would undoubtedly follow what he says. But there are other highly respected rabbis who disagree with Rabbi Adlerstein. I personally consulted with Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky and Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, both of whome strongly supported teaching Torah codes. I am ceratinly not qualified to enter into this part of the debate. I follow Rabbi Heinemann, since he is my Rav. Perhaps it would be useful for Rabbi Adlerstein and Rabbi Heinemann to enter into discusion on this matter.
Harold Gans writes:
Thus, the peer reviewers who passed my paper were well aware of the critic’s evidence and arguments and agreed with my conclusion.
I would like to “protest” this last phrase. The fact that they let Mr. Gans present his papers in no way indicates that they agreed with his conclusions. This would be the case even if they HAD published the papers in the conference proceedings, which they didn’t. This kind of “sleight of hand” is, IMHO, an example of misleading statements made by codes proponents.
I have only had one brief conversation with Rabbi Heinemann on the codes a number of years ago. In that conversation we agreed that there was no more scientific validity to codes in the Torah than were were to Gematrias in the Torah. He didn’t view that as a problem, since Gematrias are meaningful. But you cetainly don’t use Gematrias to PROVE the Torah is Divine, or even to indicate that it is. I don’t know exactly what question R. Heinemann was answering, but I would second the recommendation of R. Adlerstein having a conversation with R. Heinemann.
As far as Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky is concerned, I wonder how long ago you had the last conversation with him. Just as mathematicians today, after much more research was done, have a different take on the codes than they did ten years ago, so do many Rabbis.
I would suggest the following experiment to Harold Gans:
Perform a variant of the “Great Rabbis Experiment”, with a list which has never been run through the Chumash. I would suggest the names and yartzheits of all gemara commentators who have been included in the Otzar Meforashei HaTalmud, using precisely the same spellings. Or better, let Barry Simon choose a list, but he cannot show it to you until it has first been used subject to an ELS analysis on 99 other Hebrew text fragments measuring 304,805 of known human authorship. No need to use biblical texts. Use novels by Amos Oz, Hebew translations of Melville, or Israel supreme court decisions. For that matter, use anti-Torah, haskala literature.
The crucial element is that the list of names and yartzeit’s cannot be one which is manipulated in any manner in order to enhance results in the Chumash before it is run in the other texts. (This is what it appears has been done with virtually all of the codes that I have been shown which are purported to demonstrate knowledge of future events.)
Will the Torah peform statistically differently than the other 99 texts. (My hunch is that it will NOT.)
Would this be a fair test?
As far as rabbis who approve of the codes being used for kiruv, I wonder if they were also told the following:
“Many statisticians, including frum ones, think the codes are total nonsense. Statisticians are publishing papers which attack the results of Rips and Witzum. Therefore it is highly plausible that a lay Jew who is shown the Rips/Witzum rsults as evidence for the Torah’s Divine authorship will later discover that there are many statisticians, perhaps a cosnensus, who refute these findings.”
I would like to point something else out to cross current readers. The website which was referred to in the Jewish Action article as a resource for further information (www.torahcodes.com) is very revealing of what is wrong with the Torah codes. One of the “Showcase Codes” which is featured deals with Moshiach and rebuilding of the 3rd temple.
They found the the following words and phrases in proximity: “Messiah”, “on Moriah”, “Temple” “this will comfort us” (which, for reasons I do not undersatnd, translate as “it will comfort us”), “son of David”, and “The Third.”
Now, let’s take a close look at these words and phrases which they found. Would “it will comfort us” (or “this will comfort us”) or “On Moriah” be the first words you’d associate with the Messiah? Would you expect to find “Temple” separate from “the Third”. Obviously the “discoverers” of this code have thrown into their computer every phrase that they can think of which is in some way related to Moshiach, and have reported the “best” of their lame, insignificant findings. By the way, they admit that they used various spellings for “Moriah” and that the differences in the spelling yielded different results. Yet they somehow turn this around to demonstrate that it is even greater proof of the significance of the codes.
Why choose those words. Why not the following: “ben Yishai”, “ben Partzi”, “bayit shlishi”, “ha-bayint ha-shlishi”, “hu yigaleinu”, “hu yish’enu”, “ge’ula”, “geula sheleima”, “ge’ule emitit”, “ba-yom ha-hu”, “ha-melekh”, ha-melekh ha-moshiach”, “go’el”, “go’el acharon”, etc. etc. Obviously, their words are no more meaningful than my words. Do they deny that they entered all of my words and thousands of others?
They say it is “difficult” to measure the statistical significance for this code. I disagree. It is very easy to measure it’s significance– It has NO significance.
It was not predicted. It was FOUND by after entering numerous phrases and words with several different spellings and finding out where they occured in ELS. It is, mathematically speaking, meaningless.
Harold Gans wrote:
Perhaps it would be useful for Rabbi Adlerstein and Rabbi Heinemann to enter into discusion on this matter.
I did, briefly, several years ago. He told me that he was not a supporter of the Codes. Perhaps he has changed his mind.
OTOH, Prof. Simon and I had a much longer conversation with R’ Shmuel Kamenetsky,after the letter of support for Doron Witztum was issued by the rabbonim in Israel. (I choose my words carefully. They supported Witztum against the charge that he had fraudulently manipulated data. None of those signatories had looked into the experimental and statistical issues.) We offered the Rosh Yeshiva to pull back from our public criticism. He encouraged us to go right on criticizing. (The fact that several other members of his family were also strong Codes critics may have helped.)
Now, for what several Torah figures who actually DID examine the issue had to say about the Codes, readers will have to wait till we prepare our FAQ. It wasn’t so gentle.
Let me provide some amplication of Rabbi Karlinsky’s response to the notion that the anonymous peer reviewers of Mr. Gans’ poster submission were judges of the arguments over the correctness of the WRR experiment.
For background of readers not familiar with large scientific conferences, the ICPR 2006 conference (see
http://www.comp.hkbu.edu.hk/~icpr06) had four levels of “speakers”. There are two kinds of invited speakers – plenary speakers of which ICPR 2006 had four. Invited papers of which ICPR had nine. These are chosen by a program committee. There are also two levels of submitted contributions, that is ones that are not specifically solicited but volunteered by the presenters themselves – a limited number of oral presentation slots and a non-limited number of poster submissions.
What a poster means is that the presenter puts a single large sheet up in an area and attendees walk around and look over those posters that seem interesting. In this case the guidelines say “The poster board’s orientation is vertical (portrait). It is 1 m (w) × 2 m (h). It is highly recommended to have a one-piece poster on the board. For easier viewing, the poster length should not exceed 1.2m.” 1.2 square meters is not a lot of room for information.
The submitted contributions were in 5 parallel sessions. Session 2 (which seems to have had all the Codes presentations) had 97 oral presentations and 270 poster presentations. Prof. Haralick gave two oral presentations. So far as I can tell all the others including Mr. Gans gave Posters.
I cannot speak of standards at Pattern Recognition Conferences but I do know about conferences in mathematics and physics. Subject to limitations on slots, a senior establish person like Prof. Haralick would be slotted for a talk almost no matter what their subject is.
The threshold for poster presentations is very low.
In this case there were three months between the deadline for submission of poster proposals and notification of acceptance. Given processing time by a central administration, I’d guess that referees had at most 10 weeks to look over submissions. Given the number of accepted submissions, I’d have to guess a typical referee had 3-10 items to look at. Referees are not paid specifically for their refereeing (at least not in math or physics) and are typically research scientists with lots of other responsibilities.
There is no reason to believe that the referees for such posters had any prior experience in the subject of Bible Codes but they had ten weeks to master what Sara Shapiro commented is “a deep and incredibly complex matter
which requires years of study to begin to comprehend.” In particular, it seems likely that the referees knew nothing about issues like the flexibility in possible name spellings for cities or Rabbis.
Paper referees can always ask for more time but for conference presentations there is an absolute deadline. Moreover, paper referees do feel some responsibility for the correctness of what they approve. I am not sure exactly what guidelines are for posters in pattern recognition but in the fields I know, they are not as high as for research papers and certainly do not require the referee to understand and accept all the conclusions in what is after all a VERY abbreviated presentation.
I think it is possible some of the referees of Mr. Gans poster saw his background in cryptology and recommended acceptance without looking at any further details. The idea that they carefully read the complex WRR and BBKM papers and absorbed them, let alone understood enough to agree with Mr. Gans conclusion in 10 weeks is absurd.
All along I have complained that the codes proponents abuse the public’s perception of what peer reviewing means especially given the fact that you really do need to know something about Jewish history to evaluate this kind of work.
Given the low standard on poster presentations, the latest iteration of this mistaken notion that peer reviewing is a certificate of Kashruth is even worse. The idea that some ten week referee with no prior knowledge can trump the opinions of BBKM and of Furstenberg and Aumann who had thought about this for many years is ludicrous.
Since I am correcting the record I must also take exception to Mr. Gans assertion that “But what was left out was that several people (including one person not on “our side”) on the committee strongly rejected the conclusions drawn..” The committee had five members: Aumann, Furstenbrg, Bar-Natan, Rips and Lapides. The first two explicitly reached the conclusion that the experiment while not perfect presented problems for someone who believes the codes can be scientifically proven. Bar-Natan never changed his mind about the codes but refused to sign the report because he thought it not negative enough. So your “several people” would seem to mean two: Rips and Lapides. My understanding is that Lapides (the only non-mathematician on the committee) was there explicitly at Rips’ invitation. Given that he was there at Rips suggestion, why should we think he is “not on (y)our side”?
If I remember corectly from when I saw the “codes” being presented, I was told that while the codes have a big “WOW” factor, they aren’t expected by themselves to make people want to be Torah observant.
Also, about 40 years ago when I was in 6th grade, my teacher said that EVERYONE is in the Torah but the letters aren’t nessaserily writen out one after the other. She said you had to know where to look for your name. When I saw the Torah codes presented, over 20 years later, I knew that this is what my teacher meant.
Just to add my two cents to Comment by Barry Simon — September 16, 2007 @ 8:22 pm :
I’ve been involved in the past with a number of conferences in my own field, thermal spray coatings, as an author/presenter, session chairman, and reviewer of submitted papers. I’ve also been an associate editor of the main journal in our field, and still review submissions to it from time to time.
The poster presentations at conferences are mainly to provide a window into the ongoing activities of graduate students and professors. The posters are supposed to have merit and often do, but they do not go through anything like the scrutiny given to papers to be published in the conference proceedings.
The cream of the crop, the papers selected for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, go through an even higher level of review. Some of the papers published in such journals start off as conference papers.
Conference papers and peer-reviewed journal papers may be published that do not represent the scholarly views of the reviewers or editors, as long as the authors made well-organized, reasonably well-supported cases for their findings.
As regards strictly oral presentations, these can be entertaining and informative, but the audience is often left to wonder why the author did not take the further step of reducing it to writing.
Dr. Barry Simon has indicated that the peer review process for the pattern recognition conference was not as strong as it would have been had the papers been published in a journal, and that the referees may not have had sufficient time before the deadline to analyze the papers thoroughly. This is correct.
Finding weaknesses in the peer review process, however, does not invalidate a paper’s conclusions. Such invalidation can occur only upon finding the purported flaws in the paper and demonstrating that as a result of these flaws, the conclusions are unwarranted. One must show that following a data preparation protocol no less strict than the one to which we adhered, one can produce similar but spurious results in texts other than Genesis.
I challenge Dr. Simon to do so, without a deadline.
Here is a further challenge: Seven papers were published (as acknowledged by Dr. Simon and contrary to Rabbi Karlinsky’s mistaken assumption,) of which six demonstrate Torah codes independenltly of the other five. The codes differ from each other in nature, and in some cases the methodology also differs. To prove that there is no evidence for codes, one must show a fatal flaw in each of the five.
2 Marcheshvan 5759
“It is known that a way exists to discover hints and matters from the Torah by reading letters at equidistant intervals. This method is found in the commentary of Rabeinu Bechai on the Torah and the works of Rav Moshe Cordovero. More recently, the tzadik, Rav Weissmandel, revealed wondrous things with this method. To my surprise, I have heard that opponents to this method have arisen claiming that various deceptions were performed by those who are involved in this method today. It is astonishing to me that they were not intimidated to state their claims after the Gaon Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach gave his clear agreement to the method of equidistant intervals, and after Rav Auerbach’s son, the Gaon Rav Shmuel, censured them. I am uncertain of these opponent’s intentions. Are they troubled that at seminars to make people religious, that these astonishing matters are sometimes taught, and their effect on the listeners is profound? Is this what is bothering them? Whatever the reason of those who oppose this method, it is certainly not a dispute for the sake of heaven, and we must strengthen those who are engaged in this method, for it is a totally honest endeavor. May they be encouraged and see blessed results to their deeds, and may they continue to increase the honor of our holy Torah and its influence on all who seek the Almighty’s closeness. May the Almighty help those who engage for the sake of heaven in this honest discipline of studying equidistant intervals.”
With the help of G-d, Erev Shabbos Kodesh, Parshas Chukas – Balak, 5759
“Two “Tzanteri D’dahava” (Aramaic; literally, “Golden vessels”, i.e., people of impeccable character), may they live long, came before me and set before me the allusions in the Torah by way of ELS in the Torah. Although I am not adept in the discipline of statistics, what has clearly emerged from their words, was that there was no trickery or dishonesty on the part of these who search for the Word of Hashem and whose will is only to uplift Torah and to exalt her.
The sources in the words of our antecedent sages that there is in fact this way to find allusions in the Torah is known. Thank G-d, we in our days have been privileged to the means to find many more [such allusions] for his Namesake.
“There surely are those that will falsify and misconstrue and about them the verse says, “the righteous shall go in [the ways of Hashem] and…” but this is no reason not to use the aforementioned allusions to open the blind eyes of many of our blinded Brethren of B’nei Yisroel….
“With blessings of success,
Shmuel Kamenetsky” (translated into English by Rabbi Sholom Kamenetsky
Though I disagree with his posting, I would like to thank Nachum Klafter (posting 33) for actually looking at some of the results – specifically http://www.torahcodes.net/new/pages/rebuilt.html . After so many comments about who said what, it is refreshing to see comments about the actual codes.
I now realize that I need to provide much more explanation, in order to answer many of his good questions and/or apparent misunderstandings, and to demonstrate our solid methodology.
Although the point of the web page is to focus on the follow-ups to Fig 1, I will start by showing in 4 steps how we arrive at the conclusion that Fig 1 itself is nonetheless a showcase example; and why this is true even though we can not at this time assign a probability to it:
Step 1: the concepts that appear in this table are intimately related. As the Rambam says in “Hilchot Melachim”, Chapter 11, the *Messiah* will build the *Third* *Temple*. The Temple is located *on Moriah*. The Messiah is most commonly referred to as *Son of David* (ben David).
Step 2: The meetings among the above 5 *boldfaced* terms are in a remarkably small table. For example, looking at only *on Moriah* near *Temple* gives a raw significance near 1 in 80,000. This is a conservative estimate which is derived by comparing the Torah behavior to that of close to one million control texts. It can be sanity checked with high school mathematics, as detailed on the site in its discussion of measurement techniques. In addition, the parallel configuration seen for all five key words is a spatial constraint that contributes to this and other impressive raw significances in this table.
Step 3: The above raw significances must be corrected by the number of
equally interesting alternatives. In the case of “on Moriah”, one spelling variation, one synonym (“Temple Mount”), and a few other variations such as “on [the] Temple Mount” might be used. [Note however that longer variations are less likely to appear (in Torah or in control texts used to measure the effect), and so they have a correspondingly lesser role to play in the significance calculation.]
Step 4: We quickly realize that the exact correction required in step 3 can not be easily pinned down. However, as additional points below will make clear, we see that those alternatives are few in number and the high raw significances more than counter-balance them.
At this point, in past years, we would tend to put the code on the shelf, unreported. We would decide that step 4 is a showstopper because anything that can not be pinned down can not be officially reported. We have very recently begun to formalize new logic that enables us to move beyond this step.
Here is a summary of that new logic:
Point 1: On the page in question, the Third Temple code (Fig 1) is the
foundation, out of which the following codes (Figs 2-5), logically arise. The collection of these 5 codes forms a *structure*.
Note 1: Each individual code table is built upon others, like interlocking bricks. As each new brick is added, the structure becomes stonger and the number of options for subsequent bricks decrease. We are almost forced into looking for this structure because it is one of the very few ways we have of producing codes that can be observed by others to be adequately confined.
Point 2: Even without addressing the significance of Fig 1, we can see that the *other* figures are unexplainably significant.
Note 2: Posting 33 critiques only the original code (Fig 1, the Third Temple code) which is only the first brick of the structure.
Point 3: Careful consideration clarifies that the options for codes arising from Fig 1 are very limited, especially given:
Point 4: We focus (for now) only on common alternatives for “mikdash” (“Temple”) and common alternatives for its location.
Quoting from the web page:
“To keep the process simple and limited, we will look at only those two aspects; we will not at this time delve into alternatives for the idea of redemption (i.e. the *Third* Temple and the *Messiah*).”
Point 5: We often highlight a related phrase near a code just as a point of interest – for example, the phrase “this will comfort us” (a better translation, I agree). Such phrases are not used in any claim about significance.
Note 3: Posting 33 misses points 4 and 5, because almost all of its suggestions for alternative key words deal with redemption (“hu yigaleinu”, “hu yish’enu”, “ge’ula”, “geula sheleima”, “ge’ule emitit”, “go’el”, “go’el acharon”, “ha-melekh”,
“ha-melekh ha-moshiach”, and some alternative words for Messiah), and many of these suggestions are in the style of point 5, which we would not use for any measurements. Certainly the aspect of redemption should be addressed, and another page, http://www.torahcodes.net/new/pages/messiah.html is a start in that direction. But let us stay for now with the defined focus.
In that context, I agree that the suggestion “bayit” (House) is an additional reasonable alternative (with and without the definite article).
In summary, we see that the best alternatives are few in number; and what has happened? These very alternative key words, which we thought should penalize our raw numbers in step 3, end up producing additional significant codes (figs 2-5).
We have now discussed two examples (my posting 28 and the current posting) out of many similar and even simpler examples on the site – of inter-locking codes which address the very issues that the critics have been repeatedly raising over the years: “too many options” and “unreported failure rate”. My two postings answer the first issue; and the hidden success rate discussed in posting 28 is again relevant here, answering the second issue.
To Sarah Shapiro:
Look at the approbations very carefully which you have quoted.
Rav Wolbe z”l says that this is a valid method to “discover hints and matters from the Torah” but he does not say that it is statistical evidence for the Divinity of the Torah.
Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky says, “The sources in the words of our antecedent sages that there is in fact this way to find allusions in the Torah is known.” But, again, he does not say that this is a method to prove the Torah’s Divine authorship.
In other words, Rabbis Wolbe and Kamenetsky have endorsed ELS as a method of Talmud Torah, but not as science. This distinction is not a case of being nit-picky. It makes all the difference in the world. The critics do not claim that ELS cannot be used to show interesting things. Rather, they claim that these interesting things have no mathematical or statistical significance.
Furthermore, Rav Wolbe’s endorsement does not at all address Rabbi Adlerstein’s concerns. Rav Wolbe asks, “Are they troubled that at seminars to make people religious, that these astonishing matters are sometimes taught, and their effect on the listeners is profound? Is this what is bothering them?”
The concern is not that these seminars will inspire people to be religious. The concern is that the seminars make claims about the codes being scientifically rigorous and meaningful while, in the opnion of most statisticians who have looked into this matter (and many of them are frum) this is false. What may occur is that people who go through a codes seminar will draw a conclusion, that Orthodox Jewish Rabbis and Rebbitzens are either making naive and misinformed claims about science; or, worse, that they are willing to be deceptive in order to persaude people to embrace Torah Judaism. (I am not claiming that the proponents of the codes are dishonest. Simply that this impression might be formed by people who attend seminars and do later research. I presume that codes proponents are acting le-shem shamayim.)
Therefore, I feel that it is wrong to state on Rabbi Adlerstein’s web column that “Whatever the reason of those who oppose this method, it is certainly not a dispute for the sake of heaven…” Had Rav Wolbe heard the concerns of Rabbi Adlerstein or Rabbi Karlinsky directly I do not believe he would have claimed that they do not act for the sake of Heaven. After all, they have devoted their entire lives to Torah education. Their concerns are that the codes will have a very negative effect and create a terrible chillul HaShem, ch”v
Finally, I would encourage you to retract, if possible, the reference in your article to http://www.torahcodes.com. This irresponsible website features many of the most preposterous codes which Howard Gans himself has rejected as meaningless. See my post above about this.
” To my surprise, I have heard that opponents to this method have arisen claiming that various deceptions were performed by those who are involved in this method today…Are they troubled that at seminars to make people religious, that these astonishing matters are sometimes taught, and their effect on the listeners is profound?”
Thanks to Sarah Shapiro for quoting the haskmaos(I’d be interested, BTW, in reading her articles in this forum as a regular or a guest poster).
I prefer learning Torah itself to Torah Codes as far as cultivating the conviction that it is by Divine design (see Michtav Meliyahu Vol III, pg 177, quoting Orchos Tzadikim’s version of the chazal about Elisha ben Avuya that “v’hadevarim m’eidim beinoseinu sh-mhar Sinia nitnu, u’metoch h’aeish netein”), but I understand that the presentations are for people who did not get to that stage yet. On the other hand, my personal ideal of a kiruv seminar would be a debate about the Torah Codes themselves(!), just as I would like to see a discussion of the “Camel, The Hare, and the Hyrax”, instead of just presenting the subject in a limited way(I was only at the “sample” Discovery Seminar for FFB following “Inspired Too”, so I do not know how the actual seminars are presented).
As far as questions, one will still need to deal with them directly even after presenting proofs; the Rambam probably would not have withdrawn Moreh Nevuchim because of the discovery of Torah Codes, whether that of Rav Weismandel Zt’l, or the ingenuity of Vilna Gaon’s insights to pesukim, or computer versions; unfortunately, we don’t have an updated Moreh Nevuchim written by someone of the Rambam’s caliber(the 19th century Haskalic book with a similar title obviously doesn’t count).
Even after inspiring people with Torah Codes, one obviously still needs to face whatever questions people might have, and perhaps give people a general framework to get “unstuck” from the questioning mode, instead of only providing specific resolutions, that in turn could be attacked by anti-kiruv organizations, or might crumble under a subsequent crisis of faith that the person themself might experience at a later date(this is a general point beyond Torah Codes).
There is a very interesting article in the latest Jewish Observer about “Adults at Risk”(I thought I had coined the term) by Rabbi Mordechai Becher and Chanan Gordon, and it makes the point that there is common denominator between some(or many) FFB and BT’s as far as both facing the same intellectual issues–I think they termed it a “symbiotic relationship”– and it mentioned Discovery Seminars. Even if one will validate Torah Codes, it will only be a single tool in the tool chest of either FFB or BT, but hopefully, no one will base their entire faith on it.
Dr. Reb Nachum,
“In other words, Rabbis Wolbe and Kamenetsky have endorsed ELS… Rather, they claim that these interesting things have no mathematical or statistical significance.”
Lulei it was the eseres y’mei t’shuvah, I would say that you are not being honest. If you want to argue that the g’dolim that have endorsed the codes would retract in light of the criticisms, fine. But clearly at the time of the endorsments, those g’dolim were endorsing the codes as a valid kiruv tool because of their (apparent) statistical significance.
Furthermore, you publically called the work of a frum Jew “irresponsible” and “preposterous”. Vos epis?
The Torah Codes are trying to prove something that we already know to not be true, namely that we currently have a letter for letter record of what was given to Moshe Rabbeinu at Har Sinai.
Until the Torah Codes came along, no expert in the Massorah would have made such a claim.
A google to Menachem Cohen’s classic essay, “The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text” is recomended. Prof Tigay’s essay, also on the web, is recommended as well.
Even if the Codes research was mathematically sound, it proves nothing other than the fact that certain anomalies exist in the Torah text that don’t exist in texts that use consistent rules of spelling.
Perhaps the reason why the “Codes” are found in the Torah and nowhere else is because all other texts are consistent in their vowelled spelling, while the Torah is not. This inconsistency is attributable to many possible factors. In and of itself, it proves nothing other than the fact that the Torah text is inconsistent in its spellings, while other texts are not.
I appreciate Art Levitt’s respectul tone in his disagreement with my post.
Fortunately, Art writes very clearly. Now that he has explained his logic, I realize that my disagreement with him is even stronger than I had thought.
I still contend that one who searches for many words and phrases cannot ascribe any statistical significance to “finding” a few of them in ELS sequnces.
The fact that you have found “moshiach”, “on Moriah”, “Third”, “this will comfort us” and “Temple” in close range with one another is (1) mathematically meaningless, and (2) meaningless from the point of view of Torah study.
Art Levitt claims that davka these terms were searched for because of their presence in the Rambam’s Hilkhos Melachim Perek 11. This gives me an even stronger basis for my suspicion that the “discoverers” of this code have entered into their computers virtually every term related to Mosiach and the Third Temple they can possibly think of. (I have been debating Lubivitcher Messianists for so long now that I have committed Hilkhos Melachim 11:4 to memory, including 3 variant texts.)
The terms you have found in this code are very arbitrary and are not suggested by the Rambam. Why did you not search for any of the following?: “melekh”, “me-beit david”, “hogeh ba-torah”, “yilchom”, “milchamaot HaShem”, “yakof kol yisrael”, “lichazek bidkah”, “nitzach kol ha-umos she-be-sevivav”, “be-mekomo”, “yikabetz nidchei yisrael”. These are the criteria defined in Hilchot Melachim 11:4. I suspect that these terms WERE searched for, but were not found. Only the positive finds are displayed, which is why the entire pheomenon has no meaning.
“Shelishi” could be logical, though it is nowhere in text of the Rambam. “Zeh yinachamenu” is absolutely irrelevant. It is not in the Rambam. Moreover, no one would ever think of it had you not found it there accidentally. The inclusion of these two terms belies the claim that the searchers were guided by the Rambam Hilkhos melachim.
It is unacceptable to enter all kinds of words with variant spellings, find a few of them in ELS, and then claim retrospectively that the odds were 1:80,000 of finding these. Your inclusion of the possible alternate spellings or synonyms in your retrospective “analysis” does nothing to improve the validity of this approach. It is not an experiment.
It is actually no different that me meeting a girl named “Katie” and saying, “Wow, what are the odds that today of all days I would meet a girl with specifically THAT name.” But then I say, “Well, even if it were Kate, Kathryn, Cathy, Catherine, Cathryn, or Katherine, it would still be very, very unlikely for this to have occured by chance.” It is, absolutely, a case of painting the target around the arrow after it has landed.
The only meaningful experiment is to subject a signle list (with no changes in advance, which has never been run through the Chumash, and which no codes proponents have any prior knowledge of) to an anlysis in the Chumash and a large number of other Hebrew texts of the same length.
I accidentally deleted another important point from my post. Hilkhos Melachim 11:4, which gives the criteria for Moshiach, does not say “on Moriah”. It says “Yibaneh mikdash be-mekomo” along with all the other criteria in my post #45.
Therefore, “shelishi”, “be-moriah”, and “zeh yinachamenu” (3 out of the 5 words in this code) are not mentioned in the Melachim 11:4. How it be that this Rambam is the source for the search terms?
This is in response to Dr. Klafter’s latest postings (Sept 18, 1:57 PM and 6:20 PM).
I believe that this dialog is very useful. There are many more issues than meet the eye, but they can all be clarified, given enough time. Perhaps at least a few issues can be clarified in the current discussion.
*Part* *I* *of* *II*
We have been discussing the Temple codes on http://www.torahcodes.net/new/pages/rebuilt.html . Up to now, we have been discussing Fig 1. But really, Fig 1 can not be viewed in isolation – its relationship to Figs 2-5 is the crux of the matter, and here is why:
First and foremost, the issue of interest to critics and proponents alike is this: How can the choices available to an experimenter be limited, in a way that the observer can verify? Typically, the method used is to extract key words from a well-known source, such as a list in an encyclopedia.
But there is now a new, additional technique illustrated on the web site. It uses codes themselves as the source for other codes. That is, Fig 1 (considered to be like a foundation, or first “brick”) uses a certain set of key words. These key words are then themselves used as a source for the codes of Figs 2-5. All of these figures together act like five inter-locking bricks in an overall *structure* of codes.
There are other examples on the web site that demonstrate this kind of structure more directly. For example,
shows at the bottom two codes with key words *code* *of* *God* *(Hashem)* and *signs*, using two synonyms for *code*. I hope later to describe in detail how the code on the right (brick 2) arose from the code on the left (brick 1). [ To simplify life for the readers (and for this writer), I need to “pace” my postings; perhaps some of this will be added to the site rather than to this blog ]
After the above case is clarified, it will be much simpler to further discuss the Temple codes, which are based on the same principles.
We are not trying to assign a formal probability to the first brick at this point. So our disagreements about key word choices for that first brick can be noted (see Part II), but that discussion is secondary to the main issue just described. The real point is the structure created by all of the codes together (Figs 1-5).
To expand slightly on the new technique: what does it mean that a key word found in one code is used as a source for additional codes? It means that all of the most basic alternatives we might suggest for that key word – why not this particular synonym or this particluar spelling – are now used as alternatives when looking for additional codes. If those additional key words fail to find interesting codes, it shows that the possibilities for the original idea have been exhausted, and the significance of the original code should be reduced to account for those failures. On the other hand, if those additional key words succeed, it shows that the original code was not created after a string of failures. Just the opposite: the original code was the first of potentially many more hidden successes.
This fills in a few points about Fig 1, to answer Dr. Klafter. To clear one misunderstanding, Fig 1 is at least 10 years old, and the original method for finding it is not known. Nonetheless, it is possible to glean enough from it to recognize that it is a showcase example.
My reference to “Hilchot Melachim”, Chapter 11, was made only in order to emphasize that the concept of the Messiah is intimately connected to the concept of the rebuilding of the Temple. It is this event of rebuilding, anticpiated for centuries, that is reflected in the code.
We can analyze pairs of words in the code to show that it in fact displays some non-trivial effects. One of those pairs is *Temple* and *on Moriah* (the Temple and its location).
When I indicated 1:80,000 for the proximity of *Temple* to *on Moriah*, I explicitly labelled that as a raw number. I said that this number “must be corrected by the number of equally interesting alternatives. … We quickly realize that the exact correction required … can not be easily pinned down.” Where you might say it is impossible to pin down, I would say that an approximate set of reasonable alternatives can be compiled for the word *Temple* and a second set can be compiled for the Temple’s location, *Moriah*.
In fact, if we could get a consensus of many opinions, then among the most simple, direct and popular words for Temple we would cetainly have “mikdash”, and likewise “Moriah” for the location (some of this can be verified with statistics from Google-in-Hebrew searches). Even if there are 10 better choices for each, the 80,000 would be reduced by a factor of 10 x 10, which would still give a probability of 1:800 for this word pair appearing in such close proximity.
By the way, we do agree at least on this: the phrase “this will comfort us” is not statistically interesting. To repeat from my earlier post:
“Point 5: We often highlight a related phrase near a code just as a point of interest – for example, the phrase “this will comfort us” (a better translation, I agree). Such phrases are not used in any claim about significance.”
Even if we continue to disagree about most of Part II, the important point follows:
*The* *point* *of* *all* *of* *this*:
Part II is defending Fig 1. But that defense is made only in order to support our opinion that Fig. 1 is “eminently qualified” to serve as a starting point (first brick) in the larger structure.
It is this larger structure (Figs 1 to 5 together, from http://www.torahcodes.net/new/pages/rebuilt.html) that I hope can be addressed in later posts, after we look at the simpler case, the bottom picture of:
Thank you for your lengthy and thoughtful response.
You are attempting to demonstrate that the ELS phenomena you observe are “unexpected”, but I stand by my rejection this methodology entirely and do not believe that there are any mathematics which can be meaningfully applied to it. You cannot statistically analyze your “finds” after the fact. I will not find such pheonomena to be interesting unless it can be clearly demonstrated that no other Hebrew texts generate similar results.
However, I WOULD be interested to see if you can repeatedly demonstrate that such ELS phenomena are restricted to the Torah.
In other words, I am stuck with the following null hypothesis–that the ELS codes are entirely insignificant and will occur similarly any other Hebrew text of the same length. It is just that we are much more interested in the Chumash. It has now been subject to hudreds of thousands or pehrpaps millions of searches for hidden codes, whereas no one is devoting equal effort to search for hidden codes in a Hebrew translation of the Physicians Desk Reference, or one year of Ha-Aretz issues, or random sets of 304,805 Hebrew characters.
Again, I would be impressed by an experiment which is run simultaneously on many Hebrew texts.
A long long list of outstanding Rabbinic figures with their yartzheits AND with pre-determined spellings would be fine by me. Again, I suggest all gemara commentators included in the Otzar Meforashei Ha-Talmud, with the precise spellings used in publication, or which are used in Otzar Roshei Teivos. The point is that the list MUST be objectively defined in advance and free of any spelling alterations or any other manipulations in response to prior search attempts in the Chumash. Analyze the Torah and 99 other Hebrew text fragments of equal length with the same list and according to identical search procedures. We will see if the Torah yields results which are significantly different from the other texts. THAT would be a meaningful experiment.
I wonder what Barry Simons and Howard Gans make of my suggestion for this experiment. Would it be interesting to you? Would this be meaningful? If not, why? How many names would be required on the list in order to generate enough statistical power?
To Art Levitt:
I was pleased to see your exchange with Dr. Klafter.
I invite you to respond as well to the points I raised in comment #44.
For te codes people which sifrei Torah do they use=Ashkenaz or Sfarad-different in aleph or heh in psulaei dakah-or Yeminite which I believe has 7 differences in malei and chaser-no meaning difference-but crucial for Biblical Code skipped differences.
For the first and second Great Rabbis experiments, the P ranks (which represents the probability that the results occurred by chance) consistently increased when MBBK used alternate Torah texts (such as the Yemenite Torah text) instead of the Koren Torah text. However, the P ranks still remained quite low for each of these experiments. For more details, see page 29 of MBBK’s paper:
The critic Professor Maya Bar Hillel, a co-writer with Professor Brendan McKay of the paper to which a link is provided in Comment #50, believes that since there is no possibility that the Torah is Divine, and thus no possibility, obviously, that a Divine G-d encoded anything in it, the challenge is only to discover the “trick” responsible for the illusion.
In her essay, “Madness in the Method,” she writes:
“Creative magicians love to amaze and baffle their peers with a new trick they’ve invented, challenging them to figure out the secret of the trick on their own. An important psychological element in this task is strict adherence to what you know with certainty to be impossible. Suppose you see a magician cutting the pretty lady in two, separating her smiling face, upper torso and all, from her twitching toes, long-booted legs and all, and then putting them together again. It is wrong to ask: ‘How can the lady be cut in half and glued back together again?’, because the obvious answer to that question is: She cannot! But you are on your way if you ask: ‘How can one appear to be cutting the lady in half and then putting her together again?'”.
“The codes research raises the obvious question: ‘How could the names of rabbis and their dates of death have been encoded in a text written millenia before the rabbis were even born?’ For the skeptic, this is the wrong question. Compelling evidence that such a code truly exists is the stuff of The X-Files. A committed skeptic does not ask how the Codes got into the Torah, but rather how did they appear to get there. Interestingly, this should be the question even for those who literally believe that the Torah was dictated by God letter for letter on Mt. Sinai, because there is little disagreement among biblical scholars that the many different texts of the Torah that we have today differ much more from the original text of antiquity than they do from each other — which is by quite a lot. Witztum and Rips ignore the problem of conducting research on an artificial publisher’s version called the Koren edition, which is known to be hundreds if not thousands of letters different than the original of antiquity. Drosnin falsely claims that ‘every Hebrew Bible that now exists is the same letter for letter’, and that the text used for the codes research ‘has not changed in at least a thousand years’ (p. 38). In any case, it had two thousand years to change before this millenium. And it did.”
To Sarah Shapiro:
The textual argument (and evidence) brought by Prof Hillel is brought as well by individuals who believe in Torah min HaShamayim and are knowledgeable about the Massorah.
Simply saying that you don’t like (or trust) one of its messengers will not make this argument go away.
After many years of following the Torah Codes controversy, I am still waiting to hear a substantive response to the textual problem.
(I brought it up as well (in comment #44)).
Regarding Comment by Sarah Shapiro — September 21, 2007 @ 9:59 am
The fact that some critics of these codes object to religion in general says nothing about the codes themselves.
As a start to catching up with recent posts, here is my reply to Dovid Shlomo, who asked for my opinion on his posting #44.
I think that we cannot draw any conclusion from Torah Codes regarding whether we currently have: (1) a letter for letter record of what was originally received by Moses, or (2) less than perfect accuracy.
The existence of Torah Codes in the text of the Torah that we currently possess is logically consistent with both possibilities.
The consistency with the first possibility is obvious. So I will explain how the existence of Torah Codes is logically consistent with the second possibility.
[Notice that I am not even discussing in this post the plausibility of Torah Codes or the merits of the evidence. Instead, the argument is purely logical.]
The existence of deliberately encoded Torah Codes with details of events of the distant future implies advance knowledge of this future.
If someone truly had the ability to see these details, this could certainly include details of what will happen in the future with the received text itself.
Given this advance knowledge, what makes more sense – to insert codes in a text that will eventually change and therefore see the codes be degraded or destroyed (fully or partially, depending of the scale of the changes), or to produce the text in such a way that the encoding will appear in the modified text that will be available in this distant future when the codes are discovered?
What would YOU prefer is a similar situation? Obviously, the second alternative.
People often have diffculties when performing logical operations with hypothetical ideas, especially if they consider the contents of those ideas to be highly implausible. In reality, the rules of logic allow such reasoning.
For example, as is well known from classical logic, the validity of the *implication* A => B does not depend on the validity of A. The *implication* is not valid only if it can be shown that A’s hypothetical validity would invalidate B.
Therefore the validity of the above reasoning should be acceptable to one who allows or denies the possibility of Torah Codes, as well as to one who has (any) particular opinion about the accuracy of the current text.
As a result, Torah Codes are logically consistent with either a changed or a constant text, and we can draw no conclusions from their existence as to whether or not we now possess a letter by letter record of the original received Torah.
Dr. Klafter’s remarks continue to address the key issues. What I have been trying to show (and hope to continue in appropriate forums) is that I agree completely with the essence of the questions, but there are also several very good answers (old and new).
This posting and my next one give some of those answers.
Dr. Klafter writes: “You cannot statistically analyze your ‘finds’ after the fact. I will not find such pheonomena to be interesting unless it can be clearly demonstrated that no other Hebrew texts generate similar results.”
I have two different reactions to this, depending on the situation. Situation 1: Starting codes (first bricks) such as Fig 1 of the Temple codes. My reaction in this situation is that one can do a limited analysis to guage whether the code is noteworthy, and one can even go beyond that in some cases. But extreme care is required, and I certainly understand (and in many cases I would even strongly agree) with Dr. Klafter’s comment when applied to situation 1.
Situation 2: A code that is an outgrowth of former codes (bricks 2 plus). My reaction in this case is that we are completely out of the class of problems that can be labelled as “after the fact”, so that Dr. Klafter’s comment does not apply. Figs 2-5 of the Temple codes are situation 2. These codes really need to be addressed, in order to have a real picture of what http://www.torahcodes.net is trying to say.
For now, let’s look at the simpler case, the codes about codes – let’s look at the bottom picture on http://www.torahcodes.net/new/pages/codes_on_codes.html
The code on the left is situation 1 and the code on the right is an outgrowth of it, i.e. situation 2. The code on the left is simply “Code of Hashem” in the same column as “signs” (with the same spelling, and perhaps the same meaning, as this word in Isaiah 41:23, 44:7 and 45:11). On its own, the code on the left is actually interesting to me. It is like meeting Katie on the street, as in Dr. Klafter’s former example, but in my version of the analogy there are additional circumstances:
Bill is carrying his favorite book, called “The Hints of God”. He meets someone new named Katie, who is carrying her favorite book, called “Divine Signs”. Both books are rare editions, out of print, and both books have page 124 highlighted in green and are missing page 125. This is all situation 1, yet most people understand that it is interesting because it contains some very unusual coincidences that do not happen every day.
Now we move to situation 2. The next day, Jack, a friend of Bill who is reading a book with a slightly different title, “The Secrets of God”, takes a walk and meets someone new named Catherine. When she tells him her name, he says, “this is a funny coincidence” and relates the story of Bill and Katie. Wide-eyed, she pulls out of her book bag a different copy of the same rare book that Katie had, “Divine Signs”. The fact that Katie and Catherine have similar names adds to the incredibe series of coincidences on day 2, but the similar names served only one purpose – to trigger in Jack’s mind the story that Bill told him yesterday – i.e. the impetus to search for further extraordinary details. Situation 2’s main event (revealing the book hidden in Catherine’s book bag) is absolutely “a-priori” (i.e. the event is so surprising because it was suggested by the pre-established events of day 1). One can therefore determine how often a random individual carries a copy of this particular book in order to quantify the probability of day 2’s main event. This kind of quantification is not valid on day 1 for Katie (situation 1) but it is valid on day 2 for Catherine (situation 2).
Returning to the web page, one might object that the picture on the right uses a different synonym for “code” than the picture on the left. But that is no different than Jack having a different titled book than Bill. They were sufficiently similar to each other so that the natural a-priori question for Catherine is whether she by any wild coincidence was carrying a book called “Divine Signs”. This chain of events is essentially the same as the events leading to discovery of the web page’s code on the right. The natural question for the code on the right, after finding “code of Hashem” in that picture, was whether by some wild coincidence we would see “signs” in the same column.
Dr. Klafter says:
“However, I WOULD be interested to see if you can repeatedly demonstrate that such ELS phenomena are restricted to the Torah.”
What happens when we ask 1,000,000 other people (texts) the same question we had for Catherine (she is the Torah text in our analogy). We find out that only 10 of these people are carrying the same title with them. Again the analogy is very fitting. Whenever we identify a code that fits situation 2 (an outgrowth of a previous, *noteworthy* code) we do in fact carry out a comparison with thousands of other texts in order to determine the probability of that outgrowth code appearing in the Torah.
Continuing from my previous posting:
Dr. Klafter wrote: “[The Torah] has now been subject to hudreds of thousands or perhaps millions of searches for hidden codes, whereas no one is devoting equal effort to search for hidden codes in [other texts]”
This is another very well-taken point, though I believe it is a large over-estimate. (I personally spend a great deal of time developing techniques and ideas, and a small fraction of my time doing actual searches). At any rate, the point is addressed by the idea of restricting our examples to high-relevance topics. I mentioned this in posting 28, in regards to the idea of “hidden failures”, but it relates to the current idea of “effort applied to the Torah” as well.
By limiting to high-relevance topics, there are a limited number of situation 1’s (initial bricks) that can be set up. For example, the Twin Towers attack (in a recent poll the most striking news event in the lives of a majority of people surveyed), was the first topic for which we identified codes that are built from other codes. That formal study,
was the prototype for the even simpler codes built from codes that we have found recently, in several other high-relevance areas. For the Twin Towers, we accepted only certain “foundational” codes to be used as our starting bricks – such as the two codes containing interesting extensions of a “bin Laden” ELS (forming long phrases). In virtually all cases of codes built from codes, we only deal with very strong and compelling starting bricks.
Here there is a potential communication problem in this discussion, because the reasons that a code is compelling are sometimes difficult for more experienced code searchers to convey to typical observers. In the analogy of meeting Katie on the street, a person experienced with books knows that the coincidences on pages 124 and 125 are highly unusual and compelling. A person who has only encountered a few books in his life may not have that insight.
Dr. Klafter suggests a simplification of the original Rabbis experiment (WRR). But in fact all of the research that has followed WRR has been a simplification and/or a reinforcement of WRR. The whole methodology of codes built upon other codes is only one example; Harold Gans’ work was a precursor and partly an inspiration for this methodolgy, as it was an “experiment built upon (the WRR) experiment”.
Among several other types of experiments not even mentioned yet on this blog, codes that echo Torah verses provide more examples of simplification. A systematic study of verse echoing, by Nachum Bombach, is described here:
And some newer, also simple, and individually striking, examples of verse echoing are illustrated on these pages: http://www.torahcodes.net/new/pages/create_world.html, http://www.torahcodes.net/new/pages/humanity.html, http://www.torahcodes.net/new/pages/create_light.html (top two figures).
Regarding Dr. Klafter’s suggestion of comparing the Torah simultaneously to other texts, we have been following this approach from the beginning, to derive our probability measurements: part and parcel of the Torah result is the rank of that result among a competing population – as advocated and advanced for years now by Professor Haralick. This population can consist of real texts when this technique is applicable, and/or randomly permuted texts, and/or randomly shifted locations of the key words’ ELSs, for example. In most cases, especially when we are dealing with individual code tables, these various populations yield results that are highly consistent with each other.
I increasingly favor these single, strong and visible code tables (as opposed to summations of many milder ELS meetings spread throughout the text). For this kind of single table, it is often possible for an experienced searcher’s intuition (and/or high school mathematics) to approximate and thereby reinforce the above results of computer-driven comparisons. If such simple tables are built from other codes, or if they are built from verses from the Torah, the task of agreeing on key words is also greatly simplified.
Some recent Torah Codes experiments combine transparent data collection and a clear visual effect. One such experiment was reported in a joint paper with Art Levitt
E. Rips, and A. Levitt, The Twin Towers Cluster in Torah Codes, 18th International Conference on Pattern Recognition, 2006, vol.3, 408-411, see also
At the location http://www.torahcodes.net/visual_20070926.doc the reader will find a short eplanatory note including a link to a PP presentation that visualizes the Torah Codes effect studied in this paper.
I just have two questions for those that are supporters of the bible codes . . .
1. If the codes are true, then what do you do about the Christian codes that have proofs for Jesus?
2. How do you explain Dr. Simon finding codes in a hebrew version of War & Peace? Was Tolstoy devinely inspired to write that book?
This is a reply to Solomon’s two questions from September 27, 2007 – getting to the heart of the matter. He asks about Christian “codes” and War & Peace “codes”. These two questions have the same answer – both are completely insignificant because they do not follow valid protocols. The following analogy is one illustation.
Two ELSs meeting in a text are like two people crossing paths on a street. Suppose you happen to see your old friend George Aiken on the street, after 20 years. This is interesting, but something similar happens to a great many people sometime in their life. So the odds are insignificant, perhaps 1 in 2 or 3. This is very much the kind of insignificance I just referred to.
Now let’s change it slightly – but really drastically – by adding a protocol. Your protocol is that you wake up that morning and announce that you think you will run into George Aiken today. Some hours later, it happens. Now the significance is astronomical.
So everything depends on protocol. In many codes conversations, for example in my exchanges with Dr. Klafter, we are really just discussing protocol (I have more to add to that conversation, which may end up here, or on http://www.torahcodes.net). The Torah Codes protocols are trending toward increasing transparency, allowing simpler verification by any observer.