The spell is broken. I am awake. As discussed in yesterday’s post, Debunking Myself, I can now see, understand, and explain the psychological forces and cognitive errors that led to my false belief in the Bible Wheel. This leaves me with the informative and entertaining task of debunking all the outrageous claims I made during my years as a believer.
Today’s project is to debunk the Bible Wheel Challenge which I believed was invincible proof of my claims. Here is how I stated it:
THE BIBLE WHEEL CHALLENGE asserts that the Christian canon is truly perfect in the twofold sense that 1) no rearrangement of its books would improve upon the patterns discovered on the Bible Wheel, and 2) any rearrangement would cause an obvious degradation of existing patterns. The challenge is for the opponent to suggest a rearrangement and present arguments for why such a change would produce patterns equal to or superior to those presently seen in the Bible Wheel. This challenge simultaneously proves the invincibility of the Bible Wheel even as it demonstrates the vacuity of the skeptic’s canard that “patterns mean nothing because they can be found in anything.” It is an extremely powerful challenge because it can not be refuted without interacting with the data, and the data is the touchstone that proves the Bible Wheel.
This challenge went unanswered for over a decade. No one ever responded to it even though I actively challenged critics on various forums. I interpreted their lack of response as confirmation that it was invincible. It now seems more likely that they didn’t want to waste their time playing my game. Whatever the reason, it was a fallacy to think that a lack of response could be any kind of confirmation, especially since I never actually took the challenge myself! I never doubted my claims were true because I was mesmerized by the mountain of the cherry picked “evidence” I had collected.
As it turns out, I could not have met my own challenge even if I wanted to. The challenge is blatantly absurd because it would be literally impossible to review anything but the tiniest fraction of possible arrangements of the books. This is because the number of possible arrangements is beyond human comprehension. Simple combinatorics tells us that there are 39! x 27! = 2.2 x 1074 possible arrangements (assuming we don’t mix Old and New Testament books). If we considered all possible arrangements, the answer is even larger: 66! = 5.4 x 1092. To get a perspective on the size of these numbers, the number of seconds since the Big Bang is about 4.3 x 1016 and the number of atoms in the observable universe is on the order of 1080.
The essence of my error was a failure to appreciate the magnitude of the numbers involved. It is a textbook case of the Law of Truly Large Numbers, which is one of the five mathematical laws explained by David Hand in his excellent book The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day. Here is a brief summation of the law:
A set of mathematical laws that I call the Improbability Principle tells us that we should not be surprised by coincidences. In fact, we should expect coincidences to happen. One of the key strands of the principle is the law of truly large numbers. This law says that given enough opportunities, we should expect a specified event to happen, no matter how unlikely it may be at each opportunity. Sometimes, though, when there are really many opportunities, it can look as if there are only relatively few. This misperception leads us to grossly underestimate the probability of an event: we think something is incredibly unlikely, when it’s actually very likely, perhaps almost certain.
The Improbability Principle explains common errors people make when estimating probabilities which create the illusion of miracles and “supernatural patterns” like the Bible Wheel. A thorough understanding of his book is all that is needed to debunk most of my claims.
The Battle of the Bible Wheels
There is yet another refutation of my Bible Wheel Challenge that is perhaps the most compelling of all, since a picture is, as they say, worth a thousand words. For years, I believed that the Bible Wheel was proof of the Protestant Canon, as opposed to that of the Roman Catholic Church. I just “knew” that the deuterocanonical books would “ruin the pattern.” You couldn’t even make a Bible Wheel since there were too many books! Or so I thought. I never actually analysed the data at all.
Much to my surprise, it is very easy to make a Roman Catholic Bible Wheel. I simply followed the order of books as listed in the Vulgate (same as the Douay-Rheims version), and followed the tradition of counting Jeremiah and Lamentations as one to give a total of 72 books. These books can then be displayed on a wheel of 24 spokes, corresponding to the 24 Greek letters. Thus, the Catholics can claim their Bible is “sealed from Alpha to Omega” just as I claimed that that Protestant canon was “sealed from Aleph to Tav.” Only their claim has a much better ring to it, given that the Alpha and Omega are descriptions of the divine found within the text itself and are ubiquitous in ancient Christian art and literature as seen, for example, in the Chi Rho I placed in the center:
I now have a foil against which to test my claims about the Bible Wheel. How would I have responded when I was a believer? To answer this, I’ll create a dialog between “Me now” and “Me then.” Note: PBW = Protestant Bible Wheel and CBW = Catholic Bible Wheel.
Me now: The PBW is meaningless. I can create the same kind of pattern with the Catholic Bible and the Greek alphabet.
Me then: Yeah, but the CBW doesn’t have a Canon Wheel.
Me now: Score one for the PBW. But the PBW doesn’t match the words of the Bible which speak explicitly of the Alpha and Omega which also have played a very important role in Christian art and literature. And the 24 spokes of the CBW correspond to very significant uses of the numbers 24 and 24/2 = 12 in the Bible, like the 24 elders around the thrown of God and the 144,000 = 24 x 6,000, etc. The number 22 doesn’t play any role in the symbolic numbers of the Bible as far as I know.
Me then: Score one for the CBW. But the number 22 does play an important role in the alphabetic verses which follow the pattern of the 22 letters. There are no alphabetic verses designed upon the Greek alphabet, so you can’t have any alphabetic KeyLinks like I have found in the PBW.
Me now: KeyLinks? There’s been a development in that area. Your claims relating to the Alphabetic KeyLinks collapsed like a house of cards the moment I examined them objectively. I proved that in a series of five posts on our forum (here, here, here, here, and here).
Me then: Oh my. That’s embarrassing. Let’s move on to another question.
Me now: OK. What’s the best spoke on your Bible Wheel?
Me then: The first spoke! It’s totally amazing! It consists of Genesis, Isaiah, and Romans, which are the first books of the Law, the Prophets, and the New Testament Epistles! And there is a strong theme of “creation” that unites them. It’s the best spoke on the PBW. The evidence is very strong.
Me now: I agree that’s pretty impressive. But not nearly as impressive as the first spoke of the CBW which consists of Genesis, Wisdom of Solomon, and the Gospel of John. Take a look at these correlations:
- Genesis: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
- Wisdom: O God of my fathers, and Lord of mercy, who hast made all things with thy word, And ordained man through thy wisdom, that he should have dominion over the creatures which thou hast made,
- John: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Look at that! The Wisdom of Solomon explicitly refers to the Logos by whom all things were made. It coheres perfectly with Genesis and John. I could go on …
Me then: No need. I see your point. There is no limit to the “connections” that can be found no matter how the books are arranged, and more importantly, there is no way to judge between the two Bible Wheels. I know I would have been very impressed by the Catholic Bible Wheel if I were a Catholic looking for “patterns” that proved divine inspiration. And that’s nothing confirmation bias. Thanks for helping me see the error of my ways. I think I’ll be going now. Bye bye.
People are pattern seeking animals. The mere fact that I could display the Bible on a circular matrix surrounded by the alphabet created a powerful illusion of design. It’s very hypnotic. Such patterns obviously connect with some deep psychology since people have been making similar “symbolic circles” for millennia.
When I was a believer, I thought that the probability of the Bible Wheel happening by chance was negligible, and so demanded an explanation (which obviously was God). I continued in this false belief for three full years after debunking the Bible and quitting Christianity. That shows how powerful such illusions can be.