Numerology: science or Pseudoscienc

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Definition of pseudoscience

For the definition of pseudoscience in terms of Numerology, I would propose the following principle of demarcation:

The practitioners intend to provide inclusive prediction with inconclusive evidence. Meanwhile, the practitioner was no intention to verify the theory, but playing tactic with listener in order to reinforce the persuasiveness. The most important condition is that the theory is not falsifiable.

Brief Description of Numerology

Numerology was recognized as its existence in the field of architecture, visual and plastic arts, and music earlier than that in literature. It was categorized into alphabetic symbolism. Historians approached to the history of number symbolism and rediscovered the numerological element in Dante’s poetry. This entry is one of important evidence for that the numerical patterns in terms of literary structure and theological meaning has been recognized by readers in earlier ages. (Macqueen 1985, p. 3) this implies that conveying precise significances is initial purpose of incorporating numerical pattern in the composition. Numerology term does no exist in that time, the technique would rather be called numerical composition. The compositional principles were adopted and expanded to include Greek number. Pythagorean and Platonic played prominent role to formulate this compositional principle. Also, Greek sources and the multiple senses of Latin word have important influence on the later development of numerological theory and practice. (Macqueen 1985, p.4) According to John Macqueen, even though any arbitrarily chosen letters may have it corresponding numbers in expression, the relationship between the alphabetic symbol and numerical significance seems absent. On the other hand, Macqueen found a solution is “the extra layers of meaning” which was embodied in the relationship. However, this “extra layers of meaning”, he admitted, often contained the assumed supernatural qualities in the letters themselves. Here is what he told us where this“extra layers of meaning” idea come from:
In the Hellenistic period, the Greeks, who already used their alphabet to represent nunmberals, saw a mysterious correspondence between the fact that their alphabet possessed seven vowel signs ( α,є,η,Į,o,ν,ω) and the existence of the seven pre-Copernican planets whose influences were believed to dominated the entire sublunary world. Gilbet Murray worote: “ The vowels are the mystic signs of the planets; they have control over the planets. Hence strange prayers and magic formulae innumerable.” (Macqueen 1985, p. 5)
It implicitly indicated that the significance of the numbers was assumed on the basis of supernatural implications.
The modern numerology system was expanded from Pythagoras Number system by adding comprehensive numerological influence to the number that embodied in person’s name and date of birth for the purpose of interpreting personal life. The most recent well-known numerologist is Ms. Glynis McCants. She has been studying numerology for 21 years. She called herself as Pythagorean numerologist. She published her best-selling book Glynis Has your Number and her lastest book Love by the Numbers. She was hired as the Numerology expert for the movie The Numer I will use this McCants’s latest book, Lover by the Numbers, only to illustrate how the Numerology System works to be guidance of the life in favor of later defending my argument of that numerology is a pseudoscience.
In her latest book, Lover by the Numbers, she said that
“Pythagoras believed that when we are born, we enter this world
with very specific Vibrations. These Vibrations have a direct influence
on our character and what our life purpose will be. Pythagoras attached
a Number to each Vibration, using the Numbers 1 (new beginnings) through 9
(completion). If you have a person’s first and last name, and full date of birth,
you can discover exactly who they are by using the Pythagorean Number System.”

She introduced how numerology system works to help people discovery their soul mate. Basic steps are that first discovering person’s Numerology Blueprint--- according to McCants, the Numerology Blueprint consists of six Numbers: the Soul Number, Personality Number, Power Name Number, Birth Day Number, Life Path Number, and the Attitude Number. These Numbers are derived from a person’s first and last name and full date of birth. She explained that the purpose of studying your Numerology Blueprints with the person’s partner, you is to learn a whole new way to communicate with the partner, magically, your partner will actually hear what you are saying—perhaps for the first time.(McCants, P.4) Then, using the Pythagorean Number System to find your numbers , that is, break down the numbers in names, as it assigns a number to each letter of the alphabet.

Is Numerology a form of science?

In this paper I will argue that the numerology is a pseudoscience. I would respect the fact that numerology is an ancient skill with its splendid historical and cultural value. However, in the scientific point of view, the theory of that a set of number associates with person’s name and his/her birth day may explain this person’s personality and his/her fate is entirely not plausible to me. I will place three evidences in the following to defend my argument.
  1. 1. Coincidence and elusiveness

Someone found some very strange numerology coincidences surrounding 911...

Someone had a lot of time on their hands to work this out.
  • New York City has 11 letters
  • Afghanistan has 11 letters.
  • Ramsin Yuseb (The terrorist who threatened to destroy the Twin Towers in 1993) has 11 letters.
  • George W Bush has 11 letters.
  • The two twin towers make an "11"
This could be a mere coincidence, but this gets more interesting:
  • New York is the 11th state.
  • The first plane crashing against the Twin Towers was flight number 11.
  • Flight 11 was carrying 92 passengers. 9 + 2 = 11
  • Flight 77 which also hit Twin Towers, was carrying 65 passengers. 6+5 = 11
  • The tragedy was on September 11, or 9/11 as it is now known. 9 + 1+ 1 = 11
  • The date is equal to the US emergency services telephone number 911. 9 + 1 + 1 = 11.
Sheer coincidence..?! Read on and make up your own mind:
  • The total number of victims inside all the hi-jacked planes was 254. 2 + 5 + 4 = 11.
  • September 11 is day number 254 of the calendar year. Again 2 + 5 + 4 = 11.
  • The Madrid bombing took place on 3/11/2004. 3 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 4 = 11.
  • The tragedy of Madrid happened 911 days after the Twin Towers incident.

Here is the list of aircraft disaster in 2013:

What would be the magical number function in these events?

Numerical coincidence abound. Also, such numerical coincidence usually has been regarded as elusive. Therefore, the number associates with coincidental events was entrusted with its magical function.

In addition to this odd 911, others odd events related to number 11, such as 11:11 phenomenon sort of thing that impressed people with mystery feeling and elusive moment. In point view of numerology, 11 called “a mater number”, thus, require special attention. In my question, there are many other extraordinary events and accidents have been taking place on our planet, such as, Tsunami, earthquake, aircraft disasters, road accidents, that risked people’s life very moment; however, it seems only those events relating to such specific number count as evidence of the power of that number.
Selective reporting may be properly explained my question. That is, people tend to devote their attention on anything that has already been placed in their mind so that they can only see those things; but easily being in entirely ignorance about the things is not in line with their mind. If this was the case reflecting on how we associated bad luck with power of specific number, I would argue that none of those events reported could be solid evidences to guide human’s life. Apparently, only those events has involved in number 11 were reported or lined-in as the afterthought.

  1. 2. Its meaning built upon biblical context
Characteristic of languages in Hebrew and Greek have their entire alphabet used to form numerical expressions. That is, every letter of every word in any sequence would be calculated with their numerical value by a variety of methods, most often applied to person’s name. (Macqueen 1985, p.6) Abram / Abraham saga gives an account of a form of numerical composition derived from alphabetical sources in Hebrew bible, Genesis. The name of Abraham is not the character’s original name. his original name is spelled as Abram. Two ideas were introduced to explain the significance of the change of name from Abram to Abraham in terms of its numerical value. One idea says that in the Abraham saga, the name of Abram’s steward ,Eliezer, was more noticeable to the readers because the sum of the consonants of Eliezer in its original Hebrew form is 318, which is considered to be a reason why Abram took 318 trained servants who born in his own house with him to defeat King of Elam. However, I found this explanation is quite interesting because it is merely an assumption upon reader’s imagination without any substantial evidence. Macqueen suggests that the number of Eliezer’s name, 318, played important role in shaping and developing the sage of the Abraham in the book. Though, he also mentioned that in fact, Eliezer’s name fist appears only in the succeeding chapter of the bible. I would argue that it might be a common narrative method under literature context, but this logic is not a proper way to apply to any real person’s life because real person’s life is not like character ‘life in the book that initially was written at writer’s will while different people read this book would have their own interpretation as to the storyline. Accordingly, it is not plausible to link any person’s name’s numeral value to other related person’s life’s development in real world. The other idea regarded to the power inherent in a particular number, in this case, the fifth. This idea was introduced by Sir Thomas Browne(1605-1682), the writer of the best known English treatise, especially on the concept of numerology. His book illustrates the meaning of the number 5 as a number signifying marriage thereby implying the character of Generation. In the case of Abraham, the letter He is the fifth in Hebrew language with Cabalistical accounts of Generation; also it is the fifth letter was added in it to form Abraham. Sir Thomas Browne argued that because of this grounds, Abraham had remained fruitless if he has not had add the fifth letter, H, into his name. (Macqueen 1985, p.7) before I say what is wrong with this argument, I want to first introduce Macqueen’s opinion on the literary developments of numerology. He suggests that in early ages, alphabetic and numerical symbolism contained the supernatural or the metaphysical that affected numerology development under the concept of literature. For example, according to numeral principle of Hebrew words, the number 5 represent the character of the archetypal feminine cosmic force, which implying the mother of life and fountain of sauls. This number is significant in Hebrew bible because Abram became Abraham and his wife Sarai became Sarah, as both contain letter H, that resulting the birth of their son, Isaac. Accordingly, this event marked the beginning of the chosen Hebrew people. Also, the number 666, best known “the number of beast” is the number of man. The similar ground applied to here because it is the number of Hebrew transliteration of the Greek name Neron Kaisar, Nero, the Roman emperor and persecutor of the Christians (Macqueen 1985, p.8) After I learned meaning of numerology of the history of the alphabetic symbolism, I had a little sense of numerology in Western tradition. I will argue for the view that Browned explained what happened in Abraham’s life through a cabbalistic method because this method of attaching meaning to numbers that extracted from names are entirely on the basis of assumption rather than expression. Therefore, it might be plausible in terms of literature; however, it is not plausible in scientific view because the evidence is personal and subjective.

  1. 3. Psychological technique reinforced the power of number so that the practitioners would be most likely to be convinced.

Cognitive scientists have demonstrated that our brains are hard-wired to look for meaningful patterns in the sensory data it collects from the world,' Alan Lenzi, professor of religious studies at University of the Pacific, told LiveScience.'Numbers that are already significant to us, such as calendar dates, that also coincidentally fall into an obvious pattern become doubly significant.' (Gayle, MailOnline, December 12,2012) these passages suggest that numerologists tend to exaggerate/emphasize the significance of the number on only that number was important in person’s mind to exert influence so that people could be more likely to believe their word.
Another psychological technique might be applied is self- fulfilling prophecy. The listener should be cautious about that numerologist sneakily played self-fullfilling prophecy concept when they are explaining person’s number. Self-fulfilling prophecy is a practice that presupposes what people wished will come true if people will act in positive way to achieve it. Here is an example in McCants’s latest book, Lover by the Numbers:
“A relationship works in Numerology when
each person is living on the Positive side of his or her Numbers. Doing
drugs, abusing alcohol, gambling or sexual addictions are certainly not
living on the Positive side of anything, especially life. It means you are
basically spending time with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, never knowing
which one you are going to get each day.”

My question is that in common sense, people live on the positive side of any aspects could result in a roll of healthy relationship. That means this principle will apply to any phenomenon, may include Numerology. Besides, in many cases, self-fulfilling prophecy will not work as it is stated in the theory. Otherwise, any one can be a winner in Olympics if he/she wished as long as he/she keeps working on it. So, when you really had a good sign in numerology, it does not guarantee you will be in that position.

Why Numerology is pseudoscience?

Why Numerology is pseudoscience? First reason why I considered the Numerology is Pseudoscience is that the origin of numerology contained supernatural qualities. In addition to the Seven Vowel Signs I mentioned in previous, all its meaning derived from biblical context. Also, the original numerology was formulated to compose a story or poetry, thereby attaching the meaning in numbers. As it is developed in biblical times, numerology method supposes to be mingled with mysticism.

In study of Boethius, Henry Chadwick comments:
To Nicomachus Pythagoreanism is not simply a mathematically based philosophy, it has the merit of offering a synthesis of science and religion, combining exact mathematical theory with a belief that the harmony apparent in the cosmos is the same that binds together soul and body in man. The four mathematical disciplines he calls methodoi, paths or methods of proceeding upwards in a steady progress towards higher knowledge. The standard Neopythagorean order is Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, Astronomy. (Macqueen 1985, p.4)

Because of this comments, the origin of numerology is relevant to the science subjects such as Arithmetic, Geometry etc. However, these qualities are irrelevant to the statement of modern Numerology System regarding as a system identifying key numerical influence in person’s name and birthday.

Second, the explanation is very vague that can be interpreted in different ways. Meanwhile, the listeners may subjectively understand the meaning in certain ways depends on their personal experience. For example, the interpretation of people born in the 5 Birth Day number according to McCants’ Love by the Numbers :

If you are interested in someone born on the 5th, 14th, or the 23rd, you will experience a certain electricity when you first meet someone born on a 5 Day. There people have inquiring minds and they love to be in the know --- so if you have a secret, be advised: they will find out what it is. They are high energy, easily bored, and like to stay busy. It is not uncommon for them to have all kinds of hobbies, and travel is a big plus for them. it is actually best that the stay occupied, so make sure that‘s okay for your own needs before you pursue them.

Basically, it says this person is a very active person with all kinds of hobbies This solution is quite purposefully evasive in my opinion. Whether this person is right person or not is not directly tell you as it depends on your own needs. If the listener just known a person born in the 5 Birth Day, and this listener can pick up anything from there and match each components to that person depends on how this listener think of that person in his/her personal experience. Especially, those conditions are inclusive to describe a large range of personality.

Last, I will consider the application of the criteria of verifiability and falsifiability to Numerology. Briefly, Karl Popper (1992-1904) introduced falsifiable theory, which states that some definite predictions should be able to prove wrong in certain course of experience. That is if the predictions could not satisfy this condition, which means this predictions could be never wrong in any circumstance, this predictions is not falsifiable, that is, it can not be called as science. (Okasha 1995,Science and Pseudoscience) can Numerology System be falsifiabale? Answer is no. there is an example of how the Numerology System works:

“Love by the Numbers will cover Soul Mate relationships. The formula
for a Soul Mate Connection occurs when you share three of the Six
Main Numbers (not counting the Attitude Number). Surprisingly,
being Soul Mates with someone is not always good news. Sometimes
the connection is a difficult lesson, and the relationship is not a positive
experience. … A Soul Mate Connection, whether it is good or bad, never really
ends. So, if it is someone you broke up with long ago, it should make
you smile that he or she still pops up in your head because of the Soul
Mate Connection.(McCants, p.5)
In the formula of Soul Mate Connection, it indicated you shared three out of the six numbers with one, it would imply that the Soul Mate relationships was connected, if lesser than three, it would simply mean there is no connections. Two person were considered to have a soul mate relationship suppose to be in appearance of good relationship. However, the person you tested in the formula could be your enemy in reality while the results turned out opposite way. In this case, “being Soul Mates with someone is not always good news” is telling you that the relationship between you two is opposite to the outcome, this formula is still right and explainable. As this shows the method of Numerology will never be wrong, it is not falsifiable.
Did numerologist verify outcomes produced from the Numerology System? Verification is required in a scientific method, which is developed in various way depending on the natural of science, in order to proving the truth or modifying to close to the truth. Numerologist do not emphasize on statistic data of successful story verse unsuccessful story, though most likely only successful story was informed to the listener. They only focus on applying the name and date of birth into the established original numerology system to run the outcomes. What it says is just what it says as it is. Because numerologist will always give a proper explanation on the basis of outcomes, they do not bother to verify them as it will never be wrong.

Why Numerology is bad for people?

Despite the superficial quality has been involved into the origin of Numerology, many people today are still unconsciously believe ,or say, psychologically depend on lucky number sort of thing. Perhaps, in human nature, people desire to lock on somewhat imaginary materials in order to feel secured. On the positive side, it may comfort people for a while. However, our consciousness must overcome its bad influence on our life in order to recovery from the shadow. Believing power of personal number without self-consciousness will lead to loss oneself in the woods that felt drift on the currents of fate.

MacQueen, (1985). Numerology Theory and outline history of a literary mode. Edinburgh: Edinubrgh University Press
McCants (2009) Love by the numbers. Illinois: Sourcebooks Casablance
Okasha (2002) Philosophy of science: a very short introduction Oxford: Oxford University Press