What Happened to Gregg Braden?

— A critique of his latest work: The God Code
John Smith—03/2004
Gregg Braden is at the forefront of the New Age movement with his books, Awakening to Zero Point, The Isaiah Effect and Walking Between The Worlds. An ex-computer programmer, Braden presents himself as a scientist and modern-day prophet at the cutting edge of research into our collective destiny and the science of prayer. Here is a review from a lecture promoting his latest book, The God Code.

IHAVE JUST GOT BACK from a lecture at Alternatives in London given on the 29/3/04 by Gregg Braden, which covers the material of his new book, The God Code. I had been looking forward to this lecture for many months: I am a HUGE fan of Braden's work, and it is very rare to see him in this part of the world. So it was with absolute delight that I went to hear him speak… and ended up almost walking out.

This was the biggest load of pseudoscience I have heard for a long time, and it was delivered in a thoroughly patronizing manner (his target audience when preparing this material can only be imbecilic). I cannot understand this because none of this comes through in his previous work — although I have never heard him lecture before, I have read his previous books, some of which were fantastic and are recommended on this site. I have also listened to one radio interview, which was great.

Braden prides himself on being a scientist, and in his other material he presents the right balance between scientific fact and "spiritual" interpretation of those facts. But his latest work, The God Code, seems to be fantasy masquerading as science, and actually ends up discrediting his previous works. Throughout his lecture he keeps trying to reassure the audience with "this is proved scientifically" or "scientists do not doubt this", when in fact nobody with any scientific understanding could accept what he is claiming on the evidence that he presents. It just isn't science, period.

The crux of The God Code is that our DNA sequence, when read by assigning Hebrew characters to the base sequence, spells out the words of our Creator. His mystical justification for this comes from the Sefer Yetzirah (The Book of Creation) which is one of the central texts in the Kabala tradition. Braden gives us a quote from this mystical text which says, "Within the letter is a great, concealed mystical exalted secret… from which everything was created."

From this he looks at DNA and questions whether the DNA base sequence lettering could be the lettering referred to in the Sefer Yetzirah. Perhaps our DNA is the "great, concealed mystical exalted secret" because, after all he reasons, it also contains letters and it is universal to life. He then presents his theory that our DNA is a library of information (nothing new there… even orthodox scientists would agree with that), that each chromosome is a book (if you want to call it a book Gregg… that's fine) and that each gene-length is a sentence (yes… DNA is the language of our Biology so the analogy is obvious and has been made many times before). But his next step is to say that code is literally translatable into Hebrew! And he bases this grand hypothesis on just single and very dubious 4-letter correlation. (There is exciting new evidence suggesting that the 90% "junk DNA" in our cells actually has grammatical structure and so may well be a language of some sort, but this is a far cry from Braden's puerile reasoning.)

To justify this revolutionary claim, Braden appeals to numerology: he states that because the base molecules in our DNA — the language codes of thymine, adenine, cytosine and guanine — are made up of the elements hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and carbon, with respective "atomic masses" 1, 5, 6 and 3 [these are wrong], they actually correspond with the 1st, 5th, 6th and 3rd letters of the Hebrew Alphabet. Therefore, they spell YH VG which means "God/Eternal… Within the Body". Braden is blown away by this… although the audience seems less sure of the connection or have been bamboozled by his pseudoscience build up.

So this is the big secret that he has discovered (at least I presume it is his discovery): within each cell of our body is God's signature in Hebrew (and because Hebrew is a Semitic language, this supposedly works for Arabic as well). From this tiny numerological connection he bases his entire case and claims a whole new science. He tells the audience that it has taken ten years to translate this "introduction to the DNA" or "first level" but that subsequent translations should now be much faster. (Quite why such a basic numerological calculation would take 10 years is beyond me.) It is easy to play around to get just 4 letters to fit, but to then state that this implies the entire DNA is a library that will shortly be read in Hebrew with the right translation is absurd.

Just in case there are doubters in the audience thinking along these lines, Braden then makes the point that the chance of getting this by accident is 1 in 234,256… a figure calculated by "a statistician at the University of Los Angeles." But is this statistic really accurate? Braden repeatedly gives the audience the impression that this is bona fide science, that scientists are welcoming his work or at the very least cannot deny it, but anyone with scientific training knows immediately that this is not the case.

The holes in his theory are very easy to spot and as wide as the Grand Canyon. Braden links the elements hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and carbon to the Hebrew Alphabet with "atomic mass". But the respective atomic masses of these elements, which he gives as 1, 5, 6 and 3, are actually 1, 14, 16 and 12. To make the evidence fit, he has resorted to a numerological trick: 14 becomes 1 + 4 = 5; 16 becomes… well 6 (it does have 6 valence electrons though!); and 12 becomes 1 + 2 = 3. Also, the 1st letter of the Hebrew Alphabet is actually alep. Yod, the Y in his YH VG translation, is Hebrew letter number 10. But Braden justifies calling 10 a 1 because 10 = 1 + 0 = 1.

The problem with this sort of fiddling, to get the evidence to fit the theory, is that it invalidates the "statistician's probability" above. If unscientifically adding numbers together is okay, which he has done with nearly all his "evidence", then the following must be valid: nitrogen, with atomic mass 14, could equally pertain to Hebrew letter 14 (1 + 4 =5), or even letter 15 by just getting rid of the 1 as he did with oxygen; oxygen, with atomic mass 16, could also be Hebrew letter 15 (5+1=6) or Hebrew letter 16; and carbon with atomic mass 12, could also be Hebrew letter 12 or even 21 (2 + 1 =3). The link between these "alphabets" now seems more tenuous, and the 1 in 234,256 statistic starts to look a bit optimistic.

But if the link is valid, as he says it is, then it must be valid both ways. So Y, the tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, could be relating to neon which has atomic mass 10 or manganese with atomic mass 55 (5+5) or silicon with atomic mass 28 (2+8) or fluoride with atomic mass 18 (1+8) or even radium with atomic mass 226 (2+2+6). And that is just one letter and just some of the transitional elements. Try doing it with the other three letters and you come up with loads of other elements. Also, why put the elements in the particular order to give YV VG? The "introduction to our genetic code" could just as well have been YG VH (which, as any linguist from Los Angeles will tell you, means "Yo, Gregg Vas Here"). There is HUGE room here to cook the facts, which is exactly what Braden seems to have done.

So his revelation is is just a clever numerological trick that is faintly entertaining. 4 letters? Big deal! But to base a whole scientific theory on such contrivance is pure fantasy. Braden may well be right in that the DNA is a message from our creator, and it is entirely possible it is related to ancient alphabets — who knows — but the way that he has tried to justify this with very selective and subjective "evidence" with just a 4 letter "fit" is nothing short of astonishing. And the fact that his book is selling so well is a testimony to the credulity and scientific illiteracy of the New Age community (although it has no doubt also sold on the strength of his previous work).

But how does he cover up the lack of scientific or logical justification for his assertion of DNA being a transcript of the Hebrew alphabet? It was simple: he continually played the "I don't have the time to go into all the science" card whilst rushing through a padded out explanation of his theory in 30 minutes. The truth is that one and a half hours was way too long for him to present his theory, let alone 30 minutes (5 minutes on a Post-It note would have sufficed - seriously). So what does he do to fill the time? He shows two "touchy feely" videos which, although great watching (no words, just music to pictures of people of different religions and pictures of people's faces), have little relevance to this sort of lecture except as a time filler and to trigger in his audience sentiments that he feels his theory deserves. Braden wasn't in a rush, he was actually desperate to fill up the time slot! His theory is so weakly supported that, although he was forced to pad it out ad nauseam to fill up time and to make it seem a substantial theory, he was also forced to rush through the little he had.

His actual lecture, outside the videos, is supported by a slick Power Point presentation, and mixes genuine science with pseudoscience in a way in which the authority of the former all too easily rubs off on the latter. This is deceptive to the non-scientific and, I am afraid, intellectually dishonest (if he is indeed a genuine scientist he must realize what he is doing). I had the distinct impression during this lecture that I was in the presence of a preacher, and not a scientist or even a spiritual teacher. "Am I going to fast?" he would continually ask, to which I would mentally reply, "Yes you are Gregg, but if you go any slower the audience will see how contrived and vacuous your theory really is."

So what has happened to Gregg Braden? Why is he now so firmly on the pseudoscience track? His sentiments are admirable: he wants the whole world to be as One and for humanity to forget its differences and live in peace. We all want this. But in his effort to get across this very valid message and goal, Braden tries to justify it with numerology (and even then the "evidence" doesn't quite fit), which he parades as frontier science. In the process of this scientific charade, he not only damages his own former works, but also the credibility of genuine frontier science so excellently reported by authors such as Lynne McTaggart, Rupert Sheldrake and Michael Talbot, who have a genuine understanding of what science is and what it can and cannot justify.

Braden seems confused on this issue, but believing him to be sincere, I can only conclude that he can't really be a scientist. It would be better for him to keep entirely away from science and just speak about prayer, which he is excellent at, as evidenced by his book, The Isaiah Effect. But Braden seems caught up in the role of a scientific New Age prophet, and he is now compelled to dredge up pseudoscience if no real science is there to back up his claims. In The God Code, I feel he has jumped on the "Bible Code" bandwagon, and in the process has morphed from scientist to preacher.

 

Footnotes:

Update 05 Aug 08: Thanks to Alex Acavalos for pointing out two scientific bloomers in The God Code book. On page 46 Braden states that Noah's Arc has been conclusively been discovered on mount Ararat, which is not the case (yet); and on page 16 Braden states that Pioneer 10 is 11 light years away and therefore a signal takes 11 hours to reach it. This is complete scientific nonsense, something any high school science student would know.

Author's Note 31/07/07: I have received a few emails over the years which mistakenly think that by criticising Braden I am criticising the idea that we are in important "end-times" etc. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let me illustrate this by copying you in on part of a recent email that I sent out in response to this sort of criticism:

"Braden lectures as a scientist. He uses scientific vocabulary and name drops scientific theories. He uses phrases like "scientists do not doubt this". He even presents himself as a scientist who used to work for the aerospace industries (I subsequently found out he was only a computer programmer). Given the context in which he presents himself and his ideas, it is very obvious that his basic message is: "What I am presenting is scientific."

"If someone presents themselves and their ideas in this way, then they have given us the framework by which to assess what they are saying. For example, if you say that the world is going to end in 2012, I cannot argue with you. I may privately believe you are deluded but there is nothing I can really say about this statement per se because the only framework by which to judge that statement is the credibility of the person who said it. There is almost no context in which to assess it. But if you said to me that it is a scientific fact that the world is going to end in 2012 because the Earth will align with the galactic core which will destroy it, then you have presented me with a context or framework by which I can assess whether what you are saying is consistent with your justification for it. And this assessment is valid whether I personally accept the scientific paradigm or not. It does not matter -- I am only looking for inconsistencies, not absolute truth. If it turns out that your statement about 2012 IS consistent with science, I still am not certain it will happen because science can be wrong. But you gain more credibility in my eyes because your justification holds water, and if I happen to believe strongly in the veracity of science, then it gains even more credibility. But if it is not consistent with science, then what I can be certain about is that you are putting out BS. (You may be lucky with your prediction, but your justification for it is pure baloney.)

"Braden presents us with the framework to see whether what he is saying is consistent or not. That framework is scientific, and he appears to be using that framework to glean credibility for his work. (Saying something is a scientific fact gets people's attention and automatically convinces non-scientists.) So I have every justification to assess his beliefs from a scientific point of view, WHETHER I HAPPEN TO BELIEVE IN THE SCIENTIFIC PARADIGM MYSELF OR NOT.

"This is an important point: just because I judge him by the scientific paradigm does NOT imply that this paradigm represents truth for me, or that I am holding up the scientific paradigm as some objective framework by which all things can be judged. I am NOT saying that science is the arbiter of all things, but I am saying that in this case it can certainly show up inconsistencies in Braden's work as he is presenting it as scientific.

"Another important point (this was briefly made in my criticisms of him) is that just because his justifications are fallacious does not mean that his ideas are. But they do lose him personal credibility. I personally share many of Braden's ideas, they are hardly new, but I dismiss the way in which Braden tries to justify them, a way that uses science but uses it so badly that he actually ends up losing credibility and damaging the very ideas he is trying to promote."

Note: Based on the strength of this lecture, I declined to go to his talk the next day at CPS, for which I had actually bough 5 tickets months in advance. However, from friends who went, I understand he stuck to prayer and so the talk was much better. God's code was barely mentioned and there were no time-wasting videos. So why did he dumb down at Alternatives? However, if you read some of the feedback below you might realize that even on the subject of prayer and Biblical manuscripts, Braden may not be the expert that he presents himself as.

25 Jun 08. Thank you Jeff for sending me a link to your own excellent review of Braden's work. Please visit: http://god-is-pink.blogspot.com/. We share many of the same observations.

12 Jan 05. Thank you Richard Rockley for the feedback. Richard could not understand why I would be "a HUGE fan" of Braden's work when so much of it is pseudo-science. I had to admit to him that it was because I actually like the guy and have an emotional attachment in his message. Richard wrote an excellent scientific critique of Gregg's book Awakening to Zero Point which is worth a read because it clearly shows the shortcomings of the "science" Gregg is basing his work on.

25 May 05. Thank you to D.F. for your feedback. D.F. is a Bible scholar and academic who has written the following:

I sat in on part of his lecture on The God Code, but had to leave because I couldn't control my laughter. He claimed (as he does not in his book) that the name of God (Yod, He, Vav, He) had been removed from the Bible (cf. Ex. 3:14,15 — "is that a name?") and he, Gregg Braden, has rediscovered it and (with permission of Rabbi So-and-so) can give it to you now. Letter by letter, ha, ha! This whole business went on for about 15 minutes, culminated by the "discovery" of the secret name of God on a tiny fragment excavated at Qumran "just last year," and which he has "permission" of the Israel Antiquities Authority, ha, ha! to reveal to you now. This fragment is presented differently in his book. The name of God (יהוה) was never removed from the Hebrew Bible. It is found throughout the Bible, in the Prophets, the Psalms, Genesis, etc., and of course thousands of times in the Qumran manuscripts.

D.F. goes on to question why I praised Braden's book, The Isaiah Effect, in this article:

Gregg Braden refers to a "new" translation of the Isaiah Scroll, as if it might reveal some previously unknown secrets. Such a translation does not exist. The text of the Great Isaiah Scroll from Qumran is very close to the Masoretic text. There is an excellent, parsed translation online at www.ao.net/~fmoeller with commentary. Moreover, all of his citations of the Book of Isaiah are from standard versions of English translations of the Bible (all based on Masoretic), not from this "new translation," which is nowhere cited, since it does not exist. Read the footnotes. He frequently quotes Edmond Bordeaux Szekley's "The Essene Gospel of Peace." Whenever Szekley is quoted, a sentence immediately follows referring to the Dead Sea Scrolls — falsely implying the quote came from DSS and/or Book of Isaiah. Szekley's works were published between 1932 and 1937, several years before the discovery of DSS. Szekley claimed he discovered his writings in secret archives of the Vatican, but you may be sure that if such manuscripts existed scholars would have jumped all over them. So The Isaiah Effect is Braden's imagination based on Szekley's imagination.

So it appears that Braden is not only using spurious science to justify his position, but also spurious Biblical research. Read our new Greg Braden research exposé by clicking here.

28 Nov 06: Thank you to Gwen Ceylon for the following email in which she tries a few different methods to extract Braden's conclusion from our DNA's encoded chemical makeup:

"I too like how he decided to use 15 as the atomic mass of Oxygen when it is really 15.9994. Anyone "scientific" would have rounded up the number to 16 and using numerology reduction would have come up with 7 — not 6.

In and around page 83, he does explain the order and how he derived alchemy's Fire, Air, Water, Earth to equate to Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, and Carbon, respectively. But I do not believe this to be accurate either. Without Oxygen combining with other elements there would be no combustion, so Oxygen is vital to Fire. Nitrogen is the most abundant element in our atmosphere so clearly it represents Air. And Hydrogen's name itself is derived from the ancient Greek word "hydro' meaning water, so it clearly represents Water. I somewhat agree that Carbon represents Earth, but it can also exist in gaseous form, which Braden fails to mention. And he never mentions Phosphorus which in the form of Phosphate (PO4) forms the backbone of DNA. Phosphorus is the only element of the five that make up DNS that can only exist in solid form, so in my opinion it truly represents Earth.

So if you want to take the original order of the elements as they are listed in the Sepher Yetzirah it would be air, water, fire and then, I presume, earth follows. Then using the real atomic masses and reducing them appropriately using numerology and adding the forgotten Phosphorus you get:

Air Fire Water Earth Earth
         
N O H C P
         
5 7 1 3 4

 

This would come up with the Hebrew letters:

Hey, Zayin, Alef, Gimel, Dalet

Or, if you wanted to use his trick of making H 1 expanded to 10 and use Yod it would be:

H, Z, Y, G, D

As far as I know, neither of these combinations mean anything. The closest I can get using my Hebrew/English dictionary, omiting Carbon and using only Phosphorus as Earth in the second, is "willful act", a term that could be appropriate for Braden's work. However, using the first and omiting Carbon again, you get the word "caution". Maybe that should be the message to Braden's readers."

Video Debunk of Gregg Braden

I found it a bit sad watching this video as I really want to believe some of Braden's message. But he just seems to be one big scientific charlatan :-(