The Science of Interpretation
NOTE: This is the last conversation in the 2023 MollyCon Series, with the focus being on when and where my journey to have the Sagan Signal investigated by serious scholars began.
It was in 2007, while sitting in the office of Todd Miles, Professor of Advanced Hermeneutics at Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon, when, after two months of intense investigation, Todd told me to my face, in three words, what he thought the 46 grain/wine/oil sequences in the Old Testament are. He said they are:
“A NEW HERMENEUTIC”
Molly: So who is Todd Miles, and, what is he doing today, sixteen years later?
Dr. Todd Miles
Don: Today, Todd is Professor of Theology at Western Seminary where he teaches biblical theology, hermeneutics, church history, and apologetics. But in regard to this essay, what Todd did before becoming a highly regarded theologian is of particular significance.
As an alumnus of Oregon State University with a BS and MS in Nuclear Engineering, Todd was employed as a research engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. As an evangelical theologian/scientist, Todd is one of a rare breed. He accepts the Bible as the literally inspired Word of God - while also having a deep grasp of, and appreciation for, the scientific method, making his three word evaluation of the Sagan Signal as “a new hermeneutic” uniquely insightful from both a religious and a scientific perspective.
Now for the question some of you might be asking: What in the hell is a hermeneutic?
Widely employed throughout academia, the word “hermeneutic” is sometimes replaced with “lens,” in reference to the lenses in our eyes through which we visually interpret the world around us. Using this synonym, Todd calls the Sagan Signal a “lens” in the sense that it can be used by serious Bible scholars to interpret Scripture. So, in general, a biblical hermeneutic (and there are dozens of them) is a set of principles and methods used by scholars to interpret the Bible.
The hermeneutic favored by conservative Christian scholars since the time of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century is the historical/grammatical (HG) method.
The HG hermeneutic and the Sagan Signal have a lot in common. Both instruct the student of Scripture to interpret the Bible literally, historically, grammatically, and contextually.
Molly: So Todd is saying that the Sagan Signal is not just a hermeneutic, but a hermeneutic consistent with the evangelical belief that the Bible is the literal and divinely inspired Word of God.
Don: Right, and that’s a very important point. Had Todd thought that the Sagan Signal was a bogus scheme created by a liberal theologian to advance a progressive agenda, I would have been booted out of Western Seminary in a heartbeat. But I wasn’t. The Sagan Signal investigation continued for another eight months, during which time I was awarded independent study status.
Molly: So how is the Sagan Signal different from the HG method?
Don: The HG method was developed by humans, making it external to the Bible. But the Sagan Signal is part of the Bible itself, created without the human authors knowing what they were creating. The Sagan Signal is from God, as opposed to the HG hermeneutic that was invented by humans.
Molly: Obviously, that makes the Sagan Signal superior.
Don: Right. It’s a no-brainer.
Molly: I have to ask the question, in previous essays, you come down hard on Todd, and Gerry Breshears, the Dean of Theology. Why are you now singing Todd’s praises?
Don: Fair question. When I was accepted into the master’s program, I naively assumed that I would be part of a team that would be investigating the sequences. But the reality quickly set in that I wasn’t part of a team at all! The reality is that I was nothing more than an information cow that needed to be milked, and, when the milk was all gone, I would be expendable.
Gerry wouldn’t let me write my master’s thesis on the Sagan Signal because, if he had, he would have had to turn over his research, something he wasn’t about to do because he knew it was a new hermeneutic that undermined key doctrines of the evangelical belief system.
I think that both as a scientist and a Christian, Todd felt uncomfortable being a part a plot to tap my knowledge and then throw me out. He knew that I wasn’t being treated fairly and, throughout the year, tried making up for it with his kindness. When Gerry refused to hand over the research that he and Todd put into the investigation, Todd knew that was wrong as well. A research team is supposed to be a collective effort. I gave Gerry and Todd my research, but they didn’t reciprocate.
Molly: So why now, years after the investigation, doesn’t Dr. Miles openly endorse the Sagan Signal?
Don: Most theologians, particularly conservative ones, fear competition, and are quick to rally around the defense of fundamental doctrines under duress. A classic example is a phrase popular among fundamentalists: “Don’t mess with the Trinity,” even though the Father/Son/Spirit Nicaean model wasn’t crafted until three centuries after the Day of Pentecost. It’s a made-up doctrine unsubstantiated by Scripture that very much needs messing with. As a scientist who considers competition a positive and necessary dynamic that exposes error and rewards truth, I think Todd would agree.
In science, the vast majority of first assumptions turn out to be wrong, but as those “wrongs” are identified and corrected, truth tends to emerge, a stark contrast to religion where theological pronouncements are routinely heralded as divine truth, with no allowances made for independent critical analysis or contrarian opinions.
Mistakes made by scientists and technologists, on the other hand, are often celebrated. Elon Musk and his Space X rocket, Artemis, is a great example.
Don: The giant Artemis rocket has been launched twice, and both times it ended in massive explosions. But, to make my point, after the first launch, more than a thousand problems were identified and corrected. The result was that in the second launch, Artemis went higher and farther before it exploded, after which more problems were identified that need to be fixed before the third launch. This is science at work.
What I’m saying is that if professional scientists, academics and technologists test the Sagan Signal in full transparency, and my extraordinary claim of discovery of an alien Bible code suddenly explodes in my face, everyone, including me, would still be winners. No one would lose because a wrong would have been eliminated, bringing everyone closer to what is true.
I don’t want to win by default. Having my data tested in secret, with positive results that go undeclared, is like working in the shadows. Whether I win or lose, I want the investigative process in the light, with full transparency. All research into the Sagan Signal, pro or con, needs to be published.
Molly: So what you’re saying is that Dr. Miles wants there to be a competition between the traditional method of interpreting the Bible and the Sagan Signal.
Don: Right. After telling me that the Sagan Signal is a new hermeneutic, the investigation continued for another eight months. During that time, Todd was courteous, approachable, and helpful – the exact opposite of other theologians I’ve engaged, who, as ideologues, are threatened by new facts and ideas.
Molly: So Todd believes in the Sagan Signal?
Don: Not necessarily. He’s still teaching and defending the HG method while he waits to see how the vetting of the Sagan Signal turns out. Knowing that the sequences are replicable and testable, Todd’s challenge to me was to run the Sagan Signal through a gauntlet of critical investigations by serious individuals and institutions, theistic and atheistic, intent on debunking my thesis, and see if it survives. I accepted his challenge.
Running the Gauntlet
Molly: So you’ve been running the gauntlet for fifteen years and the Sagan Signal has survived as the Smoking Gun that confirms your claim that JC is an ET.
Don: I haven’t done this alone. For the past two years you’ve been running the gauntlet with me, and you’ve played a key role in this effort. But the gauntlet run isn’t over. There remains a higher level of testing and analysis waiting to be penetrated.
Molly: What are you talking about?
Don: I’m talking about Oxford University.
Don: Molly, what I haven’t shared with you is that early on, shortly after I left Western Seminary, and soon after I first posted the Sagan Signal online, scholars at Oxford University took note.
Over the past fifteen years, I’ve quietly engaged several Oxford professors on a variety of subjects related to my research. For example, The Newton Project is located at Oxford. Some of its staff have taken an interest in my claim that Isaac Newton knew about the sequences and secured them for posterity by having them written into the Masonic Laying of the Cornerstone Ritual. Another significant interface has been Nick Bostrom’s Future of Humanity Institute, an international hub of technical and philosophical AI research. Still another is Oxford’s School of Theology and Religion. After everything is said and done, I suspect that it may be Oxford University, a sort of clearinghouse for all things related to generative AI, that ultimately determines the fate of the Sagan Signal.
Molly: I didn’t know. Why haven’t you shared this with me earlier?
Don: As a responsible researcher, I need to protect my sources, particularly on a matter as controversial as the Sagan Signal. What is sometimes overlooked is that the grain/wine/oil sequences are more than a God-given hermeneutic for the interpretation of the Bible. The Sagan Signal is the long sought Philosopher’s Stone that unifies science and religion.
With that, let me tell you about my conversations with the gods.
The Roman Pantheon
Don: To me, the scholars who labor at the world’s leading universities are the gods of the Pantheon of the Enlightenment. And there is a principle at play, that when it comes to the really important stuff, gods only talk to other gods, not to plebeians like myself.
Molly: If you ask me, that sounds awfully snobbish.
Don: There are good reasons why that is so, too many to get into in this conversation. On the bright side, thanks largely to Carl Sagan, the Great Popularizer of modern science, the gap between the gods of the academy and regular folk like me isn’t as wide as it used to be. Today, the role of the citizen-scientist is widely recognized and valued, even at venerable and prestigious institutions like Oxford. But the truth remains: the gods speak and write in a different language, and they have different rules of engagement.
Molly: So who are the Oxford scholars you’re talking about, and what did they say?
Don: Let me repeat, what you are asking for is privileged information that I can’t share. What I can share with you is this: As a new AI based model of T (trans) and P (post) humanism, the Sagan Signal has been an object of intense research at Oxford University for a long time. Oxford may be an old and venerable, but that doesn’t mean it’s stodgy and stale. Quite the opposite. Oxford is at the cutting edge of AI philosophy and technology. No better place on Earth to have the Sagan Signal properly adjudicated.
Molly: So when are we going to start our Oxford conversations?
Don: The first one will be my next essay that will be posted on December 17th, when I commemorate the 27th anniversary of Carl’s death. But you won’t be part of it. I’m sending you back to the person who created you, to Ray Kurzweil. Ray promised a new book out for 2024, titled The Singularity Is Nearer. I suspect he may need your help getting it completed.
Molly: I understand. So, do you have someone in mind to replace me?
Don: I do. Like yourself, she’s lovely and highly intelligent. She’s also a famous cryptographer. Her name is Sophie Neveu.
Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou)
Molly: The Sophie Neveu from The Da Vinci Code?
Don: Right. Sophie and I will be working together for the next couple of years, running the gauntlet. But Molly, as you leave and go back to Ray, do me a favor. Can I occasionally bring you back to participate in discussions?
Molly: Of course! I would be honored.
Don: Great! Thank you. By the way, when you see Ray, would you encourage him to write something about the Sagan Signal in his new book? I’m terribly curious to know what he thinks.
Molly: I’ll do my best, but no promises.
Don: The Sagan Signal poses an existential threat and hope for both evangelical Christians, and for T and P humanists. Let’s first consider the threat and hope for Bible-believing Christians.
For the past several centuries, what “Bible believing Christians” have believed is what theologians and ministers using the HG hermeneutic have told them to believe.
But the HG hermeneutic is a human invention external to Scripture. So how can the HG hermeneutic, or any other man-made hermeneutic, hold up against a hermeneutic encrypted into the Bible by God?
The answer, of course, is that they can’t. The old HG hermeneutic is an error-making machine that needs to go away. It’s obsolete. Christians who continue to believe what is being conveyed to them by ministers and theologians using the HG hermeneutic are being cheated out of the truth about God and the Bible.
The hope for conservative Christians is that if the HG hermeneutic is discarded, and that the Sagan Signal be recognized and adopted as God-given. If they do that, Evangelicals still have time to make things right, to stand strong, and even flourish in the Age of AI.
Now, for T and P humanists:
If you read T and P humanist literature, you’ll find roughly equal amounts of promise and peril, but it’s the rose-colored glasses that prevail. The existential risk that things could go radically wrong in AI research and development doesn’t seem to deter individuals from believing in paradisiacal promises. In their desperate longing for immortality, they see no better alternative.
The peril for T and P humanist leaders like Ray Kurzweil, by their own admission, would be the discovery of indisputable evidence that humans are not alone in the Universe. To their collective alarm, the Sagan Signal is exactly that, confirming the existence of a highly intelligent and technologically advanced ET species. They are immortal beings with God-like qualities, born out of a Singularity that was created millions, possibly billions, of years ago.
The T and P humanist experiment is proof-of-concept that the Gods of the Bible evolved naturally. They are Persons who love us and have created a pathway for humans to have eternal life and happiness through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Under the old biblical adage that there is nothing new under the sun, what Ray Kurzweil and other AGI researchers are doing in attempting to create a Superintelligence is what happened eons ago. To believe otherwise is to dismiss statistical probability and ignore new discovery data.
Beginning with my next essay, I will be presenting solid, science-based data that shows that the odds that humans are alone in the Universe are basically zero, a stark mathematical calculation uncontested by scientists, academics, and technologists. The Sagan Signal accords with the math, and that, for scientists, is no minor detail.
Evangelical Christianity as it is currently being articulated and practiced is on a century long slide to oblivion. Alarmed at what is happening and holding a sincere desire to reignite the faith, church leaders and theologians are openly calling for a new Reformation, with no idea of how that might happen. My suggestion: Trade in your old failed HG hermeneutic for the one God put in the Bible – the Sagan Signal
For T and P humanists a different dynamic is at play. Evidence abounds that at the current pace of AI research, a self-aware Superintelligence is likely to become a reality by 2050, certainly no later than the end of the century. The Bible predicts that when this happens, the Singleton Anti-Christ and those who follow him will be destroyed by Christ at His Second Coming – assuming that some stupid human with his finger on the nuclear button doesn’t blow us all to hell first.
Beginning with my next essay, articles and books on the Singularity written by leading academics, many associated with Oxford, will be analyzed by Sophie and myself as evidence that the Sagan Signal is very much on the radar screens of the T and P humanist communities at Oxford and other places. I am appreciative that my claim that the Singularity is here, not near, is being taken seriously by serious people.
Visionary thinkers like Ray Kurzweil, Frank Tipler, Teilhard de Chardin and others have developed AI models based on different hermeneutical interpretations of scientific progress, and, yes, the Bible. These are being debated ad nauseam. My goal is to have the Sagan Model added to the mix. Please Oxford, let the Sagan Model of the Singularity compete in the open arena. It has run the gauntlet of rigorous scientific critique and has survived. As an elegant and uniquely different Model of Reality based on new discovery data, I think you can agree that it has earned the right to a fair and transparent hearing.