When I was working on my book Celebrating Time, someone gave me a huge book called The Secret Language of Birthdays. At first I thought it was right up my alley: it has a page for every date of the year, with the astrological sign, associated planets, a list of people who were born on that day, a description of what all those people are supposedly like, and a little soupçon of advice.
I was hoping for, very unrealistically, something deductive: given the alignment of everything on this date, all the things that make it different from every other date, here’s what to expect, what people born on this date tend to have in common, etc. (I know that’s crazy.)
And so we come to today. They call it “the day of precognition.” Why? Well, we look over at the list of people born on this date and guess what? Both Emmanuel Swedenborg and Jules Verne were born on February 8. Now Jules Verne is the science fiction writer who predicted all kinds of things, like cars and rockets and air conditioning and television; and Swedenborg is the guy who saw a fire in Stockholm when he was over 200 miles away; learning, two days later, that there really had been a fire in Stockholm.
But this is inductive reasoning, working up to a generalization from particulars (not to mention all the perfectly ordinary people they ignored who were also born on this date). My birthday, to provide another example, is called “the day of emotional stimulation.” Now does this have something to do with Henry VIII, born on that date? All those wives? That’s pretty funny, especially given the advice they provide: “Work on your destructive side.”
Okay, I’m giving up on this book, which I should have done long ago. But just to throw a bone to Swedenborg, who wrote long dissertations about how the soul is separate from the body, here’s an update on Sam Parnia, who’s doing that experiment to see if people who have near death experiences can see things while they’re dead.