Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Numerology Falacy

July 7, 2007 -- 07/07/07. The 7-7-7 date of the 21st century. The 21st century being the product of 7 X 7 X 7. The newspapers are filled with stories of weddings being heavily booked for this day. Stock market analysts are recommending online wedding planner, The Knot, Inc. (KNOT). At least one metaphysical website is discussing the magical energies released by the mystical 7-7-7 date. And there's the Live Earth concerts kicking off today.

News analysts are hearkening to the two year anniversary of the infamous attacks in London on this day. Numerologically, 07/07/2005 was also a 7-7-7 date. Will this 7-7-7 bring some new world-altering event? We experienced the 6-6-6 date on June 6, 2006, and nothing extraordinarily evil happened on that date. What makes these dates so significant?

It's my contention that numerology, magic numbers and so forth are self-perpetuating artifacts of human culture. They have such truth to them only because people believe in them, pay attention to the supporting evidence, and disregard contrary evidence.

Numbers, as we know them are represented by the symbolism of numerals. A visual mnemonic that is associated with a specific quantity. The evidence is obvious that the arabic numeral system, and for that matter the Roman numeral system, is based on the fact that human beings have ten fingers. I propose that when primitave cultures invented numeral systems, they began by counting on their fingers, and created symbols to represent the quantities.

Imagine, if you will, an alien race from the planet Zork. These beings have three hands, with four fingers on each hand. Counting on their fingers, they would have to "carry the one" and start over when they reach the quantity that we call twelve. They would have a base twelve number system. A race with seven fingers on each of two hands would have a base fourteen number system. A quadruped race that counted with four fingers on each of their four limbs would have a base 16 (hexadecimal) system.

When our hexadecimal digited counterparts encountered us, they would have to make some numeric conversions. I have a calculator that does just that, designed for computer programmers. Not to say that computer programmers are hexadecimal digited. It's just that hexadecimal is the most convenient conversion for the binary (base two) system that is indigenous to the design of digital computers.

But getting back to the numerology thing, the symbolism doesn't translate across number systems. The common practice in numerology is to reduce numbers by repeatedly summing the digits until a single digit is obtained, and then describing the mystical symbolism of that digit. Thus 43 becomes 7; 88 becomes 16, which becomes 7, etc. But when you convert number systems and do this, the sums of digits doesn't translate. 43 (base 10) becomes 2B (hexadecimal), which then becomes D, which is 13 (base 10). Anything that reduces to a digit above 9 in hexadecimal doesn't convert to a single base 10 numeral, let alone the same value. In binary, every number reduces to the digit 1. The numerology of reduction doesn't translate across different base number systems.

Dates have a problem in translation too. The date 07/07/07 is based on the Gregorian calendar. The year in this calendar system is inaccurately based on the birth of Jesus. If Pope Gregory XIII had used some other year as the traditional birth of Jesus, this would be some year other than 2007. And what about the months? The number of days in the months appears to be somewhat arbitrary. If a month is supposed to approximate one lunation, then the seven day week could be derived as one fourth of a 27 day, 7 hour lunation. But the periodicity of the lunar cycle is peculiar to our own moon of Earth. And the length of our year is peculiar to the sideareal orbital period of our planet.

If our alien counterparts were from Mars, their year would be 687 days, their day would be 37 minutes longer than ours. Who knows what historic event would be the basis for their year zero. And what about months? With two moons, they could have a month system based on one moon or the other, both, their conjunction, or a double overlapping month system.

The result of this analysis is that number and date systems are both a result of our human experience on this planet. While numeric quantities are universal, number systems are dependent on our expression of our symbolic numeral system. Numerology is not a universal truth, but an expression of particular human beliefs, culture and history. The assertion that there is some mystical power to magical numbers and dates such as 7-7-7 and 6-6-6 is simply misleading.

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