June 22, 2005

Discussions With Engineers

Somedays, you just can't win...

Today, for some reason, I got into a discussion with a group of people from work about Scientology and the Bible code. The consensus of everyone else was that I should be a little more respectful of Scientology, and should consider the Bible Code as a possibility. These are engineers and technical designers, all of whom have gone to engineering schools or worked with science for years. Extremely smart groups of people.

So, when I explained that Scientology is, in my opinion, not exactly an upright religion, the consensus at the meal was that I was being intolerant. I explained that Scientology has the basic belief that we're all aliens trapped in human bodies, and that we need to be corrected in our emotions, which only the church can do. Which is, in my opinion, a little wacky. And, combining that with a very controversial past, a somewhat odd past that L. Ron Hubbard, the founder, had with both authority, and statements by L. Ron like "the only way to make money at science fiction is to invent a religion", it's not likely that Scientology is the most upright religion ever.

Now, maybe I should have stressed that Scientology has as much right in the US to exist as any other church. Freedom of religion is built into the constitution. But that does not mean I cannot say anything bad about a religion. That's also in the Constitution, and keeps religions honest by giving critics a voice. Tolerance of a goofy religion, great. Silence about a goofy reigion, bad. Big difference.

And then, the Bible Code came up...

You'd think basic mathematical concepts like how random distributions work would be a basic point in classes. If that weren't the case, some basic history of the bible might indicate some of the problems with this concept. But not really; somehow, I was being told that the Bible contained secret codes of information about the future.

So here goes: the modern bible is a very, very heavily translated and edited book. There's at least 5 major versions in English today; that's not counting the hundreds of revisions prior to that through Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German and English, all of which were sources for the modern English versions. So "codes" inside of the book would have gotten lost unless every version was rewritten both to make sense and keep the code in place -- a very unlikely task, almost to the point of impossibility.

But in any random distribution of numbers, patterns will occur naturally. Somewhere in the digits of pi -- I forget where -- there are seven sevens in a row. This doesn't have meaning beyond what we place on it. And it's a much simpler explanation of why certain names would occur in the Bible with significance.

Eventually, this came down to me stating a lie: "Well, I guess you never know."

Actually, sometimes you do know. You just don't want to hurt other people.

Posted by Ted Stevko at June 22, 2005 04:54 AM | TrackBack