We present the new Michael Drosnin book for sale in our online store, and have offered it as a premium in a recent fundraising e-mail, because we recognize the author’s stature and the impact his book will have on Bible code awareness. This does not mean we agree with everything he presents in the book, as indicated in the following reviews that were posted on our web site in early December.
Bible Code II The Countdown
Viking: 292 pp., $26.95
By R. Edwin Sherman
Director, Bible Code Digest
Michael Drosnin’s sequel is bound to kick the debate over codes in the Bible back to life—a regular cat fight among scientists that started with the publication of his best-selling first book, The Bible Code (Simon & Schuster, 1997).
Bible Code II The Countdown (Viking) offers new mini-clusters that “prove” Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election. They “show” that life on earth began when aliens delivered DNA during a visit to planet Earth. His findings predict the 9/11 terrorist attacks, world war in 2006, an atomic holocaust in Israel and several other attention-grabbing themes.
There is plenty to fault in this new book by both sides of the argument. Code proponents will say that the world and Bible code research have both moved on dramatically since his first book, but that Drosnin hasn’t noticed.
They will no doubt despise the paltry code examples Drosnin cites as proof of his theories, his best shots being a couple of six-code clusters, and his longest non-literal code being eleven letters long. Serious code researchers have found equidistant letter sequences 61 letters long, in clusters with hundreds of related codes beneath surface text that relates to the theme of the cluster.
Finally, most researchers will condemn Drosnin’s attempt to use codes to foretell future events. As code pioneer Doron Witztum said, “It is scientifically impossible to make any predictions with codes.”
Skeptics, on the other hand, will say the same things they said of the first best-seller—that similar codes can be found in any book. These critics issued sharp criticisms of The Bible Code in particular and of all codes in general. Cal Tech math guru Barry Simon posted his critique and even circulated an e-petition excoriating Bible codes. It was eventually “signed” by several dozen science educators. Another leading critic, Australian computer professor Brendan McKay, also posted his objections.
Bible code adherents concur with the validity of some of the key assertions made by Simon and McKay, while taking strong exception to their blanket dismissal of all Bible codes. Specifically, Simon and McKay rightly claim that sketchy code clusters, such as those presented in Drosnin’s books, are such that comparable examples could be extracted from any book. Credible code researchers tend to agree with that specific assertion.
All that said, however, Drosnin’s book makes for very interesting reading and is sure to stir up the interest of many more people in Bible codes. He has become a bona fide icon among Bible code aficionados for his first book, which introduced the world to the Bible code phenomenon. Any new offering by him is almost certain to be considered a major event.
We are saddened, though, that its substance pales in comparison with that of the findings of many code researchers. It does not even provide readers with the details of the codes presented. If only it could be said that Drosnin’s work even began to weigh reasonably against that of numerous Jewish code researchers, such as those that gather annually for the International Torah Code Society (ITCS) meetings in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Instead, many of Drosnin’s examples appear more extensive that they really are because he presents phrases from the literal text of the Bible as if they were codes.
How are these codes researched, you may be asking. Bible-code-breakers use the same basic probability formulae that National Security Agency and CIA cryptanalysts use on enemy codes. There are several commercial software programs that allow them to search the Hebrew Old Testament for words or phrases with equal numbers of letters (called skips) between those of the term being searched. Intimate knowledge of Hebrew is necessary to work with longer codes.
The longer the code in number of letters and the shorter the skip between letters, the greater the odds against its appearing by chance—the test of a code’s authenticity. When several codes are found together in a cluster, they can then be analyzed for their collective authenticity. The most extensive clusters in Drosnin’s first book do not begin to compare with those discovered in the past few years. The clusters in his new book fare no better on this basis.
From his two books it is evident that Drosnin is content to present as final results code clusters that serious researchers would only regard as embryonic or highly speculative in nature. He is also comfortable interpreting and asserting his sketchy findings with a sense of conviction that has no solid justification on the basis of the evidence he presents.
Drosnin makes frequent mention of his contacts with Dr. Eliyahu Rips, an Israeli mathematician who co-authored a key paper on code research in the professional journal, Statistical Science. He also references his use of a program created by Rips and co-author Yoav Rotenberg as the basis for his estimation of the improbability of various clusters he has found.
One key question in this regard is whether or not Dr. Rips needs to retract his public repudiation of Drosnin’s work. Or, alternatively, we are left to wonder how accurate Drosnin’s characterizations of his reliance on Rips are.
We were also disappointed to find that the documentation of his findings is not as thorough as in his first book. In the latter, Drosnin disclosed the specific location (i.e., book, chapter and verse) and skip size of each of the codes he presented. Here he often only mentions the book where the code appears. This makes the task of attempting to reproduce his findings much more difficult and cumbersome, and that in turn makes the task of mathematically evaluating the improbability of his various examples much more time consuming.
In a nutshell, the codes that Drosnin presents are much too short to be truly improbable and his clusters present too few codes to amount to a finding more extensive than what could be extracted readily from any book. Nevertheless, it’s a great read, especially for anyone new to Bible codes.
Another Point of Review
on Bible Code II The Countdown
By Dave Swaney
You have to give Michael Drosnin credit.
The author of Bible Code II The Countdown believed in his code findings so strongly that he made a nudnik of himself with high public officials in Israel and the U.S.
And he has probably written a second best seller about his experiences.
Yet his findings are not only very questionable in terms of their validity as authentic Bible codes, some are off the chart in fantasyland.
Drosnin’s new book on codes, Bible Code II The Countdown, describes his frenetic attempts to see Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Ariel Sharon and Yassir Arafat with his codes about the necessity of peace in the Middle East to avoid a nuclear holocaust.
Well and good. Bravura, even.
But his use of the codes to predict future events is not only futile, but violates Judeo-Christian beliefs. And when they show him that aliens are responsible for life on earth, well . . . maybe Art Bell would be interested, but serious code researchers won’t.
Drosnin is convinced that codes can be prophetic. His experience with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, which he believes he saw in codes some time before it happened in 1995, dogs him.
He was unable to convince the late Israeli prime minister to take his warnings seriously, and that is no doubt why he is obsessed with a responsibility to tell the world when his misguided research shows him terrible expected events.
Apparently, Drosnin was motivated to write this second book on codes after watching the World Trade Center come down a few blocks from his apartment building in downtown Manhattan.
His first book, of course, was the beginning of worldwide interest in Bible codes for those outside the limited world of mathematics and statistics. For that we must also give him well-deserved credit.
But this one goes too far.
While book one reported mostly on the code findings of others—mostly those of Eliyahu Rips and Doron Witztum—this one is based primarily on the author’s own research.
The codes he presents really don’t amount to much from a probabilistic point of view. His largest cluster amounts to five or six codes, plus a couple of them that use the actual surface text of the Bible.
Truly valid clusters can include hundreds of codes on one theme. Usually, they are connected contextually to the surface text where they appear.
For instance, the Isaiah 53 cluster on the last days of Christ includes more than 1,400 codes centered in a famous passage foretelling the Messiah.
Or the 911 cluster in Ezekiel 37, where impossibly long codes intertwine in text about the rebirth of the nation of Israel.
But worse, as Drosnin looks for a key to unlock the deeper meanings of the codes, he blunders into a few insignificant ELSs that he believes suggest that life on earth began when the original DNA was delivered in “a vehicle” by aliens.
These theories would be laughable if they weren’t in a best-selling book.
We can credit Drosnin for a lot, like telling the world about Bible codes, and hammering for peace in the Middle East.
But we have to criticize him for overreaching with this new book—using insignificant codes to try to see into the future, and presenting bad science that misleads and unnecessarily frightens people.