New Mexicans for Science and Reason

On Bible Code Digest's Code Cluster Rating System, and the "George Harrison Cluster in War and Peace"

by Dave Thomas : (Help fight SPAM!  Please replace the AT with an @ )


Rick Sherman of Bible Code Digest (BCD) has been complaining that my search for Codes in a mere 2-page snippet of War and Peace was not anything like what he is doing at BCD. He was right! I was actually doing a much harder search over just a few thousand letters of text. That's because I naively believed Sherman when he made claims about "searching just two pages of text" for codes.

What Sherman is actually doing - searching the ENTIRE BIBLE for codes (over a million letters - 1,196,921 to be exact), and "counting" those that happen to touch down in a two-page section of the text, comprising a few thousand letters - is MUCH EASIER than what I was doing, which was restricting my entire searches to just the two pages worth of text.

When I employ the BCD method as it is used, finding codes is Easy. It's like playing T-Ball after trying to get hits from major league pitchers.

Ed Sherman plays "T-Ball" with the Bible Code!

Here are some of the truly amazing new "Harrison Cluster" codes I've recently found in War and Peace. These were found by searching two books of War and Peace (just under 400,000 letters worth), and counting those that touch down in the two-page section for the "Harrison Cluster" discussed below.

Ed Sherman is one of the more vigorous promoters of Bible Codes, and is the founder of Bible Code Digest (BCD), which offers "Stunning Proof of the Codes!" at its web site, Sherman's site is extensive, and he's got a book out too, the Bible Code Bombshell. Sherman claims to have found many clusters of long words in the Bible (for example, 89 matches of words 7 letters or more in length near Ezekiel 37, 55 more near Isaiah 53, etc.). He also claims to have found valid codes that are complete Hebrew sentences, grammatically correct, that extend for scores of letters. Both claims are plagued by severe problems.

In regard to the first claim, clusters of long words, Sherman has introduced the "Bible Code Digest (BCD) Code Cluster Rating System" on his web site. On his page titled "Comparing Apples and Oranges," Sherman writes "In order to further remove the evaluation of Bible codes from the realm of the subjective, we have been working to come up with a rating system for code clusters that will enable us to compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges. And we think we have hit on a way to do it. This system is based on the length of the ELSs in a cluster. How long a Bible code is makes all the difference in terms of how likely it is that it could just be due to chance. If the code has six or fewer letters, it is virtually certain that you will find it somewhere in the Bible, or even any Hebrew book. But then, if the code has 15 or more letters, the odds of finding it in any randomly selected, two-page-long section of text in the Hebrew Bible are virtually zero. Here is our simple, yet reasonably accurate, approach to comparing different code clusters in terms of their improbability. For each code with a skip of more than one letter, we subtract six from the number of letters it has, so that any code with six or fewer letters counts for zero points. We then add up all the points for all of the codes in the cluster. The more lengthy codes in a cluster, the higher the score. The higher the score, the more improbable the cluster... Clearly, the skeptics’ best example of a code cluster from a book other than the Bible is severely outclassed. ..."

When PAX TV asked me to debate Sherman for Faith Under Fire, I decided to take him up on his challenge to skeptics. Sherman claimed that skeptics had found only one 7-letter word in War and Peace, and another in Moby Dick, and that even Drosnin had only found two in the Torah. Now, I knew this was flat wrong - I'd already published finding 7-letter words like KENNEDY in War and Peace, TRINITY in a Supreme Court decision, and I'd even found 8-letter matches like HARRISON and 9-letter matches for GREGHINES in War and Peace. Thus, I began searching in earnest for Thematic Clusters in War and Peace. The Rules that I followed were taken directly from the BCD website:

o I used a two (2) Page section of War & Peace, a mere 8,968 characters

o I ONLY counted Matches with 7 or more letters;

o I assigned the Score for each match as (#Letters - 6)

o I avoided "Direct" Matches (from the actual text), and only used genuinely hidden matches;

I picked this particular 2-page section because I'd found HARRISON there previously. I picked the late Beatle George Harrison as my "theme," although I could have picked William Henry Harrison, or Harrison Ford, or Rex Harrison, and so on. Then, I ran my C++ Bible Code program, and searched for words, selecting those having some relevance to the theme. My results were: 254 Words (220 7-letter, 33 8-letter, 1 9-letter), for an official BCD Score of 289, good enough to rank right in the middle of Sherman's all-time best clusters (such as Isaiah 53 with a score of 396, or Psalm 22 with a score of 237).

Here are a few of the 254 interesting matches I found for the "George Harrison Cluster in War and Peace":


Detail and Broad View of the Harrison Cluster in War and Peace

Most of these terms are obviously applicable to Beatle Harrison: Artiste, Dreamer, Goateed, Oneness, Compose, etc. Others take a bit more work to see the connection: Eleanor must be Eleanor Rigby, of course, but how about Francaise and Tourist? Well, George Harrison once spent a couple of days driving through France, chanting Hare Krisha, and not being able to read a word around him the whole trip. And what is Tsunami doing in there? Of course, George Harrison founded the institution known as the Rock Benefit Concert back in 1971, with his Concert for Bangladesh. Even though Harrison died three years before last winter's devastating tsunami, his legacy lived on in the many fund-raising Tsunami Relief concerts put on by Sting, Clapton, etc. Indeed, when you get to thinking about "Six Degrees of Freedom," it shouldn't be hard to rationalize almost any concept to George Harrison in some way. One can get caught up in such theme-building to the point where one thinks it is Real - and that's exactly what's happened with Sherman and the Bible. He thinks he's found real messages from God about 9-11, Iraq, and more.

Tolstoy never engineered a "Harrison Cluster" into War and Peace, but the Bible Code allows a determined analyst to create one out of whole cloth. It's the act of deciding what to search for that allows the tableau to unfold.

During the televised debate, I discussed the Harrison Cluster, and Sherman disputed it on the spot. He provided additional critical comments in e-mails sent around the time of filming.

Sherman's first objection was that "the Rules were Wrong." He wrote "Had I realized that some day an astute opponent like yourself would stretch the borderline situation of seven letter ELSs in the simplified rating system to produce a counter-example in the way that you have done, I definitely would have left out seven-letter ELSs from being worth anything."

He then added that I had looked for "Too Many Search Terms." When I responded to this claim, Sherman said "You stated that you could find no reference to a limit on the number of words allowed in a search in our web posting. Well, look at the last paragraph of the article. It says: 'One reason the Ezekiel 37 cluster far outdistances others is that it and the Ezekiel 7 clusters have been the major focus of our research since September 11. It may be that other clusters will catch up once we have had the time to research them further.' This paragraph clearly implies that the rating of a cluster will almost certainly increase with the number of terms for which a search is conducted. So, no, there is no limit on the allowed number of search terms, but the score is directly affected by the amount of searching."

Sherman also criticized my "Unrelated & Missing Matches." He wrote "I failed in several instances to see what connection many of your terms had to George Harrison in particular, so I'd suggest that you explain why you included the less obvious ones. I also felt that there were many seven or eight letter words I could quickly think of that were very strong candidates for George Harrison terms that weren't shown on your list - so the fact that these terms weren't there left me unimpressed with the notion that the whole thing was about him."

In other words, Sherman dismisses my example of significant clusters in mundane texts by making a host of subjective rule changes to his "Bible Code Digest (BCD) Code Cluster Rating System, " which was originally intended to "remove the evaluation of Bible codes from the realm of the subjective." I believe the proper description of this activity is "moving the goalposts."

The second major BCD claim involves 'Mega Codes' that are many tens of letters long. While the Bible Code can be used to find pairs of 7 or 8 letter words, the chances of finding exact ELS strings of tens of letters (50 or 70, say) are infinitesimal - they are as close to zero as one could wish for. But, Sherman declares that his very long skip sequences indeed spell out valid and grammatically correct Hebrew sentences, according to his Hebraic expert, Dr. Nathan Jacobi. When confronted with questions on the validity of these codes, Sherman just says Jacobi is an expert, and that's all there is to it. So, I consulted two respected Hebrew scholars in Albuquerque, Professor Shlomo Karni of UNM, and Rabbi Joseph Black of Congregation Albert. When I showed Prof. Karni some of Sherman's alleged "Codes in Good Hebrew," he retorted "Good? Not by any stretch of the imagination!" Rabbi Black also pointed out numerous problems, including Sherman's encoding of God's name with its modern euphemism - yod yod - which is used informally nowadays, but which was never used to refer to "God" in the Torah itself. Rabbi Black also pointed out several missing letters and grammatical problems. "These are not Hebrew sentences, archaic or not," he said, adding that numerous grammatical errors made the messages so convoluted that they don't mean anything.

But I didn't really need to go to the Rabbi to see how ridiculous Sherman's claims are. Sherman himself admits his codes contain errors. While he lists several "Codes in Good Hebrew" on his site (these are the ones my experts found incoherent), Sherman also lists more codes, in "Acceptable" and "Marginal" Hebrew. The very fact that Sherman feels the need to list "Marginal" sentences raises the question I asked him in the debate: "Do you really think that the God of Abraham and Moses needs a remedial Hebrew lesson?"

In conclusion, there are severe problems with Sherman's cluster rating methods, convoluted long codes, and overall results. Sherman's elaborate 7-letter+ clusters are indeed rivaled by those in War and Peace, and his long codes often resemble gibberish typed by a monkey. I hope that he updates his web page to compare the Harrison Cluster in War and Peace to his Bible Code clusters, and withdraws his grammatically incorrect long codes. I am certainly not compelled by BCD's so-called "empirical evidence that the Bible was written by an intelligence far beyond the abilities of mankind."


New Page - Details of the Harrison Cluster in War and Peace


RELATED NMSR PAGES: | The Bible Code (WRR, Drosnin) | Sabbath Patterns | Code 19 in the Quran |


NMSR Site Map