Fun With Numbers!

June 30, 2021

Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Numerology

While trawling conspiracy websites and videos, as I tend to do for fun, I stumbled across a recommendation for a local kiwi numerologist. But the recommendation said that, unlike the usual mystical nonsense, this particular numerologist uses science and maths to find real patterns that are actually useful.

Peter Vaughan (opens new window) is a modest man - modest enough to have named his technique after himself (the Vaughan Method). Peter writes of himself “He’s often thought of as having a ‘gift’ but say’s he’s no more gifted than any other person”.

Anyway, on to The Vaughan Method. Peter believes that the sounds within your name affect you as a baby:

emotions are directly connected to the sound of your name from infancy to about four years old. As a baby, you experienced a range of positive and negative emotions. As each emotional experience was experienced, it was always connected to the 'sound' of your name.

Having argued that the sounds in your name will be connected to emotions you had as a baby when you heard your name being said, he then says that the inverse is also true - knowing the sounds of your name is the key to knowing the emotions you would have had. This makes no sense! But, in Peter’s world, anything goes. Our next logical leap is that knowing your emotional states during your formative years allows him to figure out exactly what your personality is.

So, as a skeptic, how can we test this? Well, first I tried to get to the source code for the website, but unfortunately someone’s turned off access to PHP source files on the server.

Then I tried inputting different text to see what would happen. CAPS or lowercase? Same results each time. Spaces in a name? Breaks the website. A very long name? Works. Punctuation is ignored, giving the same result as without the punctuation. Numbers in a name are not ignored, producing a different result when numbers are added.

Well, what about names that sound the same but are spelled differently - homonyms? Sean and Shaun, Aiden and Aidan, Isabel and Isobel. It turns out that the generator produces totally different results for each spelling, despite the fact that they would sound the same to a baby, and presumably therefore trigger the same emotions. And of course all of this is ignoring that each baby will hear their name at different times, and with different accents, and many will be called by shortened names or nicknames at times. None of this idea makes any sense!

One of Peter Vaughan’s websites, numerology.org.nz, charges $75 for a full reading, but has a free name analyser that can tell you your personality from a first name alone. So I’ve put your first name - “Graeme” - into the analyser and have an accurate reading. It starts off:

You are in many ways gifted and capable and have an edge over others due to your ability to grasp things and understand them fairly quickly. You have a inclination to learn about real life matters and your knowledge and experience will continue to grow because of your willingness to engage your mind with whatever you become involved in.

You are often seen as a good communicator, a hands on person with great ideas, and a pleasure to be around as you have a bright manner and attitude and will add a breath of fresh air and fun with those you are around or whom you socialise with. You love to engage in a discussion or chat among friends, especially when a good idea or something that you find as an outstanding concept is being discussed. Inspirational films, great stories or interesting activities that have impact capture your interest. This is because you have a deep and emotional makeup under your surface appearance that others do not readily see and if you are hurt by others words or from a breach of trust, you will feel it strongly but try to remain poised, but you don't forget easily those who instigate un unfair comment.

You have a bright mind and are prepared to dress well for social occasions. You can be a conversationalist and well spoken when in a good frame of mind, but if things become pressured and you are challenged unfairly, you may react, possibly regretting what you said later when you have had time to think. You will benefit by doing outdoor activities as any work that confines you, can lead to laziness and a poor diet. Should you be subjected to continued stress, you may become introverted and silently suffer, this is why your being out and being active will do you the world of good and keep you fit. Have fun, stay healthy, eat wholesome food and balance your work, mentally and physically as a one sided work schedule will not give you the balance you need where you can express your best.

Now, to the uninitiated these may feel like hits - wow, they really feel like they describe us so well. But it turns out that we’re seeing nothing more exciting than a set of Barnum Statements - part of the Barnum, or Forer, Effect. This effect is named for both the circus showman who used to use these statements, and a psychologist called Bertram Forer who used these kinds of statements in a simple experiment to show that most people will rate them as a good fit for their personality.

Sadly it all gets weirder from there. Peter has invented a new technique called lettrology (opens new window), and for only $6,000 you can learn his secrets, which will allow you to read the “state of a Stock on the Market”, figure out “which party will win national elections” and “detect fraud”. Apparently the letter A “causes people to have major changes in their life at certain times”, knowing someone’s birth name and date of birth allows you to calculate their “Ultimate Destiny”, and “yellow”, “death”, “Jesus” and “covid 2019” all equal the number 2. What?

Peter’s YouTube channel (opens new window) includes testimonials from clients who are happy with his $75 readings, but I’m hoping nobody has been sucked in by the $6,000 course. Not only is it a waste of money, but it would mean there are more people out there perpetuating Peter’s method of fortune telling, and trying to take people’s money in return for a set of feel-good, but useless, platitudes. And let’s just hope that nobody’s making any investment decisions based on his stock market predictions (opens new window).