The Three Amigos

The goal of the Sagan Project is to garner independent testimony from credible scholars that supports my contention that the Sagan Signal is a code. The Project began on December 20, 2020 with one email sent to a prominent cryptographer, another to a distinguished linguist whose specialty is the Hebrew Old Testament, and a third to a gifted mathematician.


Somewhat to my amazement, all three men responded with deeply probative analyses. In retrospect, I think it may have been the Center for Inquiry’s well-known and highly regarded scientific rigor that it applies to all of its investigations that got their attention. Upon learning that the CFI was unable to falsify my hypothesis, the three academics, who I call the three Amigos, perhaps thought that there might be something about my extraordinary claim that was worth looking into.


Following are their responses and my follow-up analyses. Because all three took a professional risk in responding to my request, I am not revealing their names. The cryptographer is Amigo C, the mathematician, Amigo M, and the linguist, Amigo L.


From Amigo C, the cryptographer


Amigo C. a prominent cryptographer, sent me the following:


“You found that some words have higher tendency to appear earlier in verses than others. Anyone can check this fact for themselves. What exactly do you hope that an academic can verify? No academic can confirm a "non-predictive, non-algorithmic code" because those words are meaningless.


What exactly do you mean by "non-algorithmic"? How could something be demonstrated to be "non-algorithmic"? What is an example of an algorithmic/non-algorithmic feature in a text? Same with "non-predictive".


What you have discovered is an "apparent pattern" or even a "trend". Calling it a "code" implies (to me) an intent to transmit information. What could possibly serve as evidence of this?


> exhibit the necessary metrics and attributes to qualify as a code


What are these metrics & attributes? "Not having all the characteristics of completely random data" doesn't make something a code -- especially when we're considering natural language, which we know is not completely random data.


You should know that modern academic cryptography is not the study of hidden messages in ancient texts. Even pre-modern cryptography was about (among other things) cracking codes that were known to be codes. Finding hidden messages in text, when it's not even clear that hidden messages even exist, is a recipe for confirmation bias and anomaly hunting.


Your pattern is fundamentally about word order in natural language, so a linguist (maybe with expertise in mathematical/computational aspects) would be better equipped than a cryptographer to tell you whether your pattern is actually an anomaly or explainable by known linguistic mechanisms. In other words, you need a better null hypothesis about the relative order of words -- as I said above, relative word order being totally random is not a good null hypothesis.”





In his response, Amigo C challenges my use of the term “non-algorithmic.” Without an identifiable algorithm, he says, the sequences can’t be a code, period.


If we’re limiting the “code” to human attribution, I would agree, but what I intentionally left out of my email is my belief that the Sagan Signal is an alien artifact, not a human product. In other words, the algorithm that created the Sagan Signal isn’t a software program, it’s an advanced extraterrestrial from another world, who, by remote inducement, guided, or "inspired" the writers of the Old Testament in their selection of the words and sequences that comprise the Sagan Signal.


In fleshing out his rebuttal, Amigo C, speculates that the Sagan Signal is most likely either a random event that can be explained by a mathematician, or a literary “pattern” or “trend” that can best be explained by a linguist.


I found it reassuring that Amigo C’s analysis was nearly identical to the findings of the unnamed cryptographers who participated in the Center for Inquiry investigation. Unable to accept my claim that the Sagan Signal was written into the original biblical text by human authors under alien influence, they insisted that it had to be either a transpositional or substitutional cipher, in other words, algorithmic. With additional research they finally gave up, conceding that the Sagan Signal is different from other Bible code claims in that there is no identifiable algorithm.


I’ll get back to Amigo C and his comments on the null hypothesis shortly. For now, let’s turn to the analysis of Amigo M, the mathematician.



From Amigo M, the mathematician


Thanks to the Rule Equation, Center for Inquiry investigators never advanced random coincidence as a viable explanation. Neither has any other skeptic, which makes Amigo C’s recommendation that I seek the help of a professional mathematician seem a bit odd. Nevertheless, I followed his advice. I emailed Amigo M, and he responded.


Amigo M and I had a flurry of brief exchanges. Following is a summary:


Based on the thought experiment it addresses, we both agree that the math in the Rule Equation is academically unassailable. So, to create nuance, I asked him if there was any way that the 28 modulated sequences, with their generically related words, could affect or change the one in ten billion trillion odds set by the Rule Equation?


Amigo M’s answer is that it might be possible, but only if the symmetry of a statistically significant percentage of the variant words that make up the modulated sequences are under dispute. If not, the Rule Equation stands.


There is unanimity of opinion on this point. Over the fifteen years the Sagan Signal has been publically vetted, a process that has involved hundreds of scholars and skeptics, no one, not even the cleverest and most determined critic, has ever issued a challenge based on uncertain symmetry. All agree that the modulated words in the grain column clearly relate to grain, all words in the wine column clearly relate to wine, and all words in the oil column clearly relate to olive oil.


Amigo M then gave me the same recommendation as Amigo C: seek the help of a professional linguist.


Time for Amigo L to weigh in.



From Amigo L, the linguist  


Amigo L is a distinguished linguist whose specialty is the Hebrew Old Testament. Following is what he had to say:


“The idea of a "literary convention" is extremely broad. What I would chalk this up to is somewhere between literary, cultural, and linguistic conventions. People in a community (however defined) tend to group certain common things together, and in doing so they often tend to refer to them in the same order—not 100% of the time, but regularly. I recognize that many of your examples contain other items/words as well. Given that these are texts, with their own conventions of language use (entailing a mash of linguistic, literary, and cultural conventions), even where there are other intervening terms that would not necessarily negate the impact of the typical order for how one would refer to the items.


I'm trying to think of compelling analogues from modern English language use, but none are perfect matches. I don't know if one could replicate similar data from another set of words in the Hebrew Bible, but I imagine it's possible.”





The key word in his analysis is “analogues.” To prove literary convention, even in its most expansive definition, there must be analogues – and there are none. To say that one can imagine that they exist is not the same as proving that they exist. I’m convinced that the Sagan Signal is unique in all of human literature: ancient, modern, and everything in-between. Skeptic leader Jason Colavito tried and failed to find analogues. It sounds simple enough, until one starts looking.


In 2018, when the Center for Inquiry accepted the Sagan Signal for investigation, I was asked: “What is your null hypothesis? What would it take to falsify your claim? My answer then, and remains today, the same as that offered by Amigo L – find triadic word sequences in other Ancient Near Eastern literature, or, for that matter, in any literature, that, in quantity and in quality, are analogous to the Sagan Signal.


If someone can find such analogues, they should be able to be put on a chart, like I did with the Sagan Signal, and, without commentary, one should immediately be able to see the symmetry. It would be simple, obvious, and in their totality, compelling. Show me such analogues and I’ll happily concede that my alien Bible code hypothesis has been debunked.


With all other possible explanations scientifically eliminated, it boils down to this: In advancing my hypothesis, I met my burden of proof by presenting direct evidence that is replicable and testable. The burden of proof then shifted to the skeptics. They proceeded to test the data, with the goal of coming up with an explanation that didn’t involve aliens. After considering and then eliminating a number of debunking strategies, the only hope that remains is to find analogues that prove literary convention. But, to date, none have been found, at least not in the quantity and quality needed to falsify my claim. As things stand, the null hypothesis, literary convention, along with every other debunking strategy, has been falsified, leaving my alien Bible code claim provisionally sustained.


Software exists that allows high speed computers to scan vast amounts of literature in seconds, searching for patterns like the Sagan Signal. I suspect, but can’t prove, that this technology has already been deployed, with no results to report. Regardless, I encourage skeptics to keep trying, using whatever research tools they have at their disposal, because the more they try and the more they fail, the stronger my alien Bible code claim becomes, and the more that Carl Sagan, with his life-long belief that ET’s exist and have been to Earth, will be vindicated.



My interactions with the three amigos reminds me of the game of hot potato. The mathematician can’t argue that the Sagan Signal is random, the numbers don’t support that conclusion, so he tosses the problem to the linguist.

The linguist, unable to find any analogous examples that would suggest that the symmetry of the Sagan Signal is the result of historical, cultural, linguistic or religious influences, tosses the problem over to the cryptographer.

The cryptographer, unable to identify an algorithm that might account for the symmetry, pitches the potato back to the mathematician. And so it goes.

I asked for an explanation for the Sagan Signal from these gentlemen that was intellectually viable and scientifically defensible – and didn’t get it. Instead, what I got were a handful of vague and unfounded speculations, each with little or no chance of success.

Tossing this hot potato around from one academic to another, hoping against hope to find either a natural or an anthropocentric solution, seems to me like a lousy “keep banging your head against the wall” way of doing science. At some point there needs to be an epiphany of the imagination that breaks the gridlock of status quo thinking.

I suggest that it’s time to consider the possibility that Carl Sagan was right, that extraterrestrials were on Earth during the time that the Old Testament was being written, and that with their advanced technology they remotely and subconsciously induced the authors to record the sequences as they appear in the most reliable texts.

My recommendation? Allow an ET explanation into the discussion. Put Carl Sagan’s Direct Contact paper (see left tab) on the table and let it compete against all other ideas. Let Carl Sagan have his day in court.

The observations of the three amigos were probative, to the point where I’m not sure how much is left to ferret out. Amigo M identified a potential vulnerability to the Rule Equation that needed to be addressed, and there was a resolution. Amigo C questioned my use of the term “non-algorithmic” and pointedly asked about my null hypothesis, and I offered explanations. Amigo L focused on an expanded understanding of the term “literary convention,” creating what appears to be the only falsification strategy that has any hope of success. Though the issues raised by these three scholars merit further consideration, none of them in any way shake my confidence that the Sagan Signal is real.

The bottom line is that the Sagan Signal is falsifiable, and that after years of testing and analysis by a variety of skeptics, including the Center for Inquiry, it stands today stronger than ever as direct evidence that we are not alone.

Thanks to three talented individuals with whom I’ve had the honor of exchanging emails with in recent weeks, whose names I will not disclose without their written consent, the Sagan Signal, as empirical evidence that we are a visited planet, has, in my opinion, been significantly elevated in credibility. The three amigos served me well and I thank them for their respective contributions.


Don Zygutis


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