The Sagan Signal and Evangelicals
NOTE: To this point there have been two known comprehensive, academic level investigations of the Sagan Signal. How many investigations conducted in secret is anyone’s guess, but, based on the large amount of attention this website is getting, I suspect that it’s substantial.
Two conversations ago, Molly and I discussed the 2017 investigation conducted by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry under the oversight of Executive Director, Barry Karr. In this conversation, Molly and I talk about the first investigation, conducted in 2007, at Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon, under the oversight of Dean of Theology, Gerry Breshears.
Let’s get started with a brief introduction:
PhD in Systematic Theology
Fuller Theological Seminary
Master of Divinity
Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Education
University of New Mexico
In 2007, Dr. Gerry Breshears, Dean of Theology at Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon, conducted a high-level investigation that concluded with his statement that what I now call the Sagan Signal is: “at the very least, a new hermeneutic.”
Having invested thirty years of private research into the data before Gerry began his investigation, I was confident of three things: one, that the Sagan Signal is not algorithmic, two, that it is not a random coincidence, and, three, that it is unique in all of human literature. Unless I had missed something along the way, and Gerry and his team found a new way to debunk my thesis, I was sure that the Sagan Signal would withstand any tests and critical scrutiny thrown at it.
Gerry’s conclusion that the Sagan Signal is a new hermeneutic was a milestone victory that ended the first phase of his investigation. The goal of the second phase was to put the Sagan Signal to work. What deep insights into Scripture might it reveal?
As the investigation continued, what was going through my mind was wondering how long it would take for Gerry to come to the realization that the Sagan Signal proves that JC is an ET.
The answer? About two months. It was during the summer session while attending Gerry’s General Theology course, a two hour class with a fifteen minute break in the middle when the truth came out. Towards the end of the first hour, while sitting in the front row, I asked Gerry a simple question that had nothing to do with my research, and he came totally unglued!
Gerry did something that I had never witnessed any instructor ever doing. For the next ten minutes he spewed out a torrent of emotionally charged invectives clearly meant to belittle me in front of my classmates, all who sat in stunned silence. It was at that moment when I knew Gerry had figured it out, that the Sagan Signal proves that JC is an ET, and I was thrilled!
As we went into break, a number of my fellow students came up to me to express their concern and offer comfort. After all, I had just gotten hosed by the Dean of Theology! They had no way of knowing why I had been so verbally abused, much less understand why I appeared so calm and collected. From that moment on I sat at the back of the classroom and kept my mouth shut.
Gerry was no doubt hoping his tirade would force me to quit, but it only got me more fired up. I knew that if I just kept on, there would come a point where he and I would have a personal confrontation. That moment eventually arrived, but not in the way I had hoped or expected.
In December, at the end of my first year, Gerry approached me in a crowded hallway and quietly informed me that I would not be allowed to write my master’s thesis on my research; that I would have to choose another topic. That was it! No private meeting, no consultation, no sharing of research, no critique of my work, no recommendations for further research – nothing.
So I left.
Afterwards, I asked Gerry to send me a copy of all research that he and his investigative team put into what I had referred to from the beginning as a “peer review.” Gerry’s cryptic response was: “There was no peer review!” He was telling me that there wasn’t anything to send me because a peer review never took place!
Gerry, of course, was playing word games with the definition of “peer.” With his PhD, he was a “peer,” while I, armed only with my humble bachelor’s degree, was a “non-peer.” Since, in theory, you can’t have a “peer review” between a peer and a non-peer, Gerry was claiming that a peer review never happened, even though no one, including Gerry, objected to my use of the term or advised me to call it something else. From the moment I first applied, for everyone involved, including Gerry, the terms “peer review” and “professional investigation” were synonymous. For Gerry to deny his investigation of the Sagan Signal under the pretense that there was no peer review was not only an act of extreme desperation, but a witness of the great historical significance of my discovery.
If this sounds familiar, it’s the same thing that happened ten years later between myself, Barry Karr, and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Both men, Gerry and Barry, found themselves backed into a corner with no way out. With the stakes unbelievably high, both men resorted to the same dark strategy: deny and suppress.
Following, against this sordid backdrop, is a mock conversation between Molly and Gerry:
Molly: Hi, Gerry. I’m Molly, and I want to ask you about your 2007 investigation of what is now known as the Sagan Signal. Don was originally planning on submitting his claim and data to a seminary in Texas, but, as Dean of Theology at Western Seminary, you convinced him that your team was capable of conducting a professional evaluation of what is now known as the Sagan Signal. Am I right?
Gerry: Yes, I acted on the recommendation of Dr. Robert Cook, my predecessor, who happened to be a member of the church Don was attending in Bend, Oregon.
Molly: And before accepting Don as a student, you personally interviewed him and concluded that he was a serious man of faith.
Gerry: That is correct.
Molly: When Don began his tenure at Western, he turned in a few preliminary research papers on the biblical/historical background for his hypothesis, and when you returned his third paper, you wrote “Show me the data!” Is that right?
Gerry: Yes, I was convinced of the biblical/historical legitimacy of his hypothesis and I was ready to see the actual evidence, to see if the data matched his claim.
Molly: Acting on your request, Don gave you the Sagan Signal, and two months later, through your associate, Todd Miles, Don was told to his face that what he discovered was: “At the very least, a new hermeneutic.” You then encouraged him to apply for Independent Study Status, allowing him to conduct whatever research he wanted, for credit towards his master’s degree.
Gerry: That is correct.
Molly: That application needed approval from the president, so Don had to fill out an application form. In filling out that form, Don mentioned that his research might have something to do with the doctrine of the Trinity. When you saw this, you asked Don to redo the application and delete any mention of the Trinity. Why?
Gerry: Any research involving the Trinity, particularly if it’s based on new discovery evidence from the Bible, is unheard of. What Don was claiming, if it was true, was foundational theology that had somehow evaded the greatest theological minds in the world for two thousand years. Don only had an undergraduate degree in theology, so any mention of the Trinity on his application would have raised alarm bells that would have likely resulted in his application request being denied.
Molly: What you’re telling me is that, after your preliminary investigation, you had high confidence that Don had made one of the greatest biblical discoveries in history, a divinely encrypted code that promised to reveal deeper teachings of Scripture – and you didn’t want your continued investigation derailed by his mention of the Trinity.
Gerry: That’s right. I was convinced that our work on the Sagan Signal, once it was completed and released, would bring international attention and acclaim to myself, to my investigative team, and to Western Seminary. It was an opportunity that every theologian dreams about.
The Evangelical Theological Society is a global organization that bills itself as the largest theological deliberative organization in the world. As a past president of that august institution, Gerry is known and held in high respect by the world’s leading conservative theologians.
The purpose of the ETS, the reason for its existence, is that through the interactive process it created and maintains, a consensus of opinion on contentious issues it accepts for deliberation will emerge. For investigative theologians like Gerry, the ETS is an incredible asset. From Aaron to Zurishaddai, as long as a position is advanced in an academic format by an ETS member in good standing, nothing is off the table for transactional debate and analysis.
Unfortunately, Gerry chose not to avail himself of this resource. Rather than sharing news with his peers of the discovery of biblical content that he described as “at, the very least, a new hermeneutic,” he swept it under the rug. At the critical point when Gerry saw where the evidentiary trail was leading, the right thing for him to do, and what he should have done, was to write a paper on his research and submit it to the ETS for open analysis and discussion.
Would the Sagan Signal have been of interest to Gerry’s fellow ETS theologians? Does a bear shit in the woods?
Following is the index from the latest edition of the ETS Journal:
UNHOLY HATE: THE ESSENCE OF HUMAN EVIL IN THE THEOLOGY OF JONATHAN EDWARDS . . . BRUCE W. DAVIDSON
THE VISIBLE AND SPIRITUAL CHURCH: CYPRIAN'S PNEUMATOLOGY AMID PASTORAL CRISES . . . D. FORREST MILLS
SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR SOCIAL OUTLIERS IN ANCIENT ISRAEL, PART 2: PROVISION FOR WIDOWS, ORPHANS, AND RESIDENT ALIENS . . . MICHAEL A. HARBIN
THE NAME RITUAL: A MARK OF SIGNIFICANCE . . . C. JEFF FOSTER
THE MATTHEAN PETER: PETER AS ARCHETYPE AND ANTITYPE OF THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT . . . CHARLES NATHAN RIDLEHOOVER
MARKAN EPISTEMOLOGY AND THE PROBLEM OF INCOMPREHENSION . . . MATEUS F. DE CAMPOS
FAITH-LANGUAGE, JESUS'S DISCIPLES, AND NARRATIVE FULFILLMENT IN LUKE-ACTS . . . WILLIAM B. BOWES
THE VIABILITY OF PREMILLENNIALISM AND THE TEXT OF REVELATION . . . ECKHARD J. SCHNABEL
For normal people, these subjects are not only unfathomable, they are completely irrelevant. Which forces me to ask: Why aren’t these theological brainiacs writing about things that might actually make a difference in people’s lives?
For example, what’s wrong with asking and addressing a very simple question: Is Jesus Christ the Singleton? If the Sagan Signal is what I claim: irrefutable proof that JC is an ET, it would likely end centuries of conflict by unifying science and religion, making the Gospel intellectually palatable to nonbelievers.
After leaving the ministry I had the great privilege of teaching four-year olds for several years, and they taught me two incredibly valuable lessons: One, stay curious, and, two, have the freedom and confidence to think creatively, without worrying what others may think.
Johnny: Is Jesus an extraterrestrial?
How many four-year olds would be open to the possibility of JC being an ET? Based on my experience, it would be hard to find one who wasn’t.
Four-year olds are natural scientists, open to impossible possibilities that extend beyond the boundaries of contemporary thinking. These loveable little rug-rats are insanely free to delve, with absolutely no sense of guilt, into Harry Potter-like scenarios that their de-mystified elders, the ten year olds, are prone to shy away from out of fear of being laughed at by their peers and frowned upon by their teachers.
My answer to Johnny is that the Sagan Signal is a revelation from the inspired Word of God that Carl Sagan was right when he exclaimed:
“Jesus Christ is extraterrestrial!”
In 2007, Gerry investigated 46 grain/wine/oil sequences in the Old Testament and arrived at the firmly stated but provisional conclusion that they are a divinely encrypted code – but then, after his year-long investigation was completed, he openly denied that an investigation ever took place and refused to disseminate research information related to his investigation!
Rather than standing tall, Gerry caved. Like a brainwashed ten-year old, Gerry gave in to fear, and by doing so, may have put himself in eternal jeopardy:
Jesus to Pharisees
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on land and sea to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” Matthew 23:13&14
Molly: You know, Don, this is going to really piss Gerry off.
Don: I know, that’s the whole point, and I’m not done yet.
Barry and Gerry
Barry and Gerry live on opposite sides of the philosophic universe, but they have a lot of common. Consider: both men investigated the Sagan Signal, both men concluded that it’s a non-human generated code, and, when it came time to make a public announcement of discovery, both men bailed.
But the similarities don’t end there. Determined not to disseminate news of this historic discovery, both men engaged in a cover-up by suppressing research, even denying that their investigations took place! Now, both men have been found out.
Barry and Gerry: Where are you guys? Please, come out from under your beds. I’m not a monster, I don’t bite. I just want a conversation. Let’s pretend that we’re all four-year olds who can talk about anything and everything – and still be friends. That’s all I’m asking for. If you think I’m full of shit, come out and say so, and explain yourselves, not with smears, but with science and logic. Send me your rebuttals and I’ll post them, I promise. And, if you kick my ass, I’ll get down on my knees and beg your forgiveness!
Barry and Gerry are living testaments to how weird a species we humans are. Gerry the theist is thinking is that if he openly concedes that JC is an ET, it will give ammunition to the enemy, those damned atheists. At the same time, Barry the atheist is thinking that if he concedes that JC is an ET, it will empower the people he hates, those damned evangelicals.
But what if Barry and Gerry represent two sides of the same coin? Wouldn’t that be a hoot! Building on that novel concept, what if Barry and Gerry were to come together and make a joint appeal for more advanced research into the Sagan Signal by specialists, irrespective of personal philosophy? Such a unified gesture on their part would be a powerful declaration that there are still adults around who embody the inquisitive spirit of four-year old Johnny.
That would be a win for humans, the species to which we all belong.
“The climax of our current race toward AI may be either the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity . . .” from: Life 3.0
“See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.” Matthew 24:4&5