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Watch Out for Apophenia
Andy Bustanoby
(C) April 30, 2007

You've probably never heard of it, and I couldn't find the word in my dictionary--English or Greek. But it could become a terrible affliction of the creative mind that provokes the mind's endless misuse.

A good friend of mine put me on to this when we were discussing biblical numerology. The good old "Google" on my computer got me to digging. Here's where I came up with "apophenia" at . The term was coined in 1958 by Klaus Conrad who defined it as the "unmotivated seeing of connections" accompanied by a "specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness."

Originally, Conrad related this to distortion of reality in psychosis. But now it is more widely used to describe healthy individuals who do this.

What provoked my friend was the recent death of 33 souls (including the murderer) at Virginia Tech, right next door to us here in Maryland. This came on top of a report of a bombing in Algeria that killed 33.

Then something bizarre (my friend's words) happened to him. His present address is number 1258, just one number off his previous address,1208. He was given a lockbox for the key to his unit. The combination to it was 1208.

Then he got to thinking that his birthdate is 1958, again, just one number off. Hey, what's going on?

After reading the Wikipedia piece, I began to understand and get the feeling that apophenia can give you. Just for fun, I "googled" my friend's home address and e-mail number,1258.

Guess what? I came up with 80 reference pages listing this number. On each page there were about 8 listings for the significance of the number 1258. That means that there were about 640 listings (so isn't "about" close enough for fun?).

Then apophenia grabbed me! I thought, Wow! I bet I could have fun explaining my friend's past or prophecying about his future with all these references!

Even now, though I am resisting, my mind is going. Is there any significance in 80 plus 8 or 88 (80 reference pages with 8 references each). Hey, is there any significance to the number 88?

So I googled the number 88. Look here! There are 89 reference pages to the number 88! Look at that! Significance? Sure--88 is the next to the last number to 89. Wow! Is my friend facing a dangerous, next to the last situation?

Well, after reading Wikipedia again, I was assured that it was just my creative mind going beserk. The article said, "In statistics, apophenia would be classed as a Type I error (false positive, false alarm, caused by an excess in sensitivity). Apophenia is often used as an explanation of some paranormal and religious claims. It has been suggested that apophenia is a link between psychosis and creativity.

Well, I'm not psychotic, but I am creative. Biblical numerology is valid, and we must be careful not to add to biblical data. But it may be that Satan is attempting to confuse us by wasting our thinking on meaningless data.

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