Rebuttal : Lincoln and Kennedy: Bound by coincidence 

Avijit Roy


In response to : 

[Shayon is a 11 year old school kid, the youngest participant in this forum]

Dear Sayon,

I welcome you in MM for coming out with such an interesting post. However, I think you are still quite young and very enthusiastic and like other cute little children you got astonished while you found some  miraculous coincidence between Lincoln and John Kennedy in your library books. But I know,  When you will grow older and will develop  your skeptical mind, you will definitely perceive that  Most improbable coincidences likely result from play of random events. The very nature of randomness assures that combing random data will yield some pattern.

Let us now take a look on Abraham Lincoln and Kennedy's miraculous coincidence through a  skeptic's eye : 

Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy

It is always possible to comb random data to find some regularities. A well-known qualitative example is the comparison of coincidences in the lives of Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy, two presidents with seven letters in their last names, and elected to office 100 years apart, 1860 and 1960. Both were assassinated on Friday in the presence of their wives, Lincoln in Ford's theater and Kennedy in an automobile made by the Ford motor company. Both assassins went by three names: John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald, with fifteen letters in each complete name. Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and fled to a theater, and Booth shot Lincoln in a theater and fled to a barn (a kind of warehouse). Both succeeding vice-presidents were southern Democrats and former senators named Johnson (Andrew and Lyndon), with thirteen letters in their names and born 100 years apart, 1808 and 1908.

But if we compare other relevant attributes we fail to find coincidences. Lincoln and Kennedy were born and died in different months, dates, and states, and neither date is 100 years apart. Their ages at death were different, as were the names of their wives. Of course, had any of these features corresponded for the two presidents, it would have been included in the list of "mysterious" coincidences. For any two people with reasonably eventful lives it is possible to find coincidences between them. Two people meeting at a party often find some striking coincidence between them, but what it is -- birthdate, hometown, etc. -- is not predicted in advance. 

Here are some comments made by Kevin T. Kilty from rational point of view on  some miraculous cosmological "co-incidence" between Lincoln and Kennedy ( ). 



















Now you see Shayon, most of the miraculous co-incidences are actually not miraculous. They are wide-spread lies and just wishful exaggeration. Then again question comes why do actually people spread lies and exaggeration ? It is clearly  explained by Prabir Ghosh in his famous book "Olukik noy, Loukik" (Nothing supernatural: Part-1):


Now, as  a rational being, let us try to open our mind. Let us try to be more skeptic, let us try to be more logical. Let us try to be a real "Mukto-mona" by taking the following oath :

You will certainly do it from now on, right Shayon ?  :-)

A warm regards to you..


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Re: Kennedy's and Lincoln's strange connection

By Sherry Holmes

In response to


It is very easy to convince others of bizzare coincidences by using a logical flaw called "back-calculating the probability". It is used frequently by creationists in the evolution v. creation argument. A creationist will look at a protein and say to you, "This protein contains 600 amino acids. If any of these amino acids were different, this protein would not function properly. Since there are 20 possible amino acids, the probability of this particular configuration is one in 20 to the 600th power. That is a very small probability, in fact one might say that it is too small to be a coincidence and therefore there must have been divine guidance. To someone who has not been taught to think critically, this might seem to be a pretty convincing argument, but think about it this way....

There are 445 members in this group and each of us has a birthday. Mine is August 6. There is a one in 365 chance that this is your birthday. Now think about this--the chance that a group of people would have all of the birthdays that this group does is one in 365 to the 445 power. It would be pretty much impossible for a group of people to have this set of birthdays, right--yet it just happened, right here. No divine guidance. No bizzarre coincidences.

This may not have anything to do specifically with the Lincoln/Kennedy story, but it is an example of how statistics and coincidence can be used against you if you don't know how to look at them. Many fanatics are masters of persuasion. Those who are not armed with knowledge are easy prey for these people. If there are any critical thinking or logic classes available to you, they are not a waste of time. When you find something that is just too amazing to be true, keep searching for answers and you will be amazed at what you find. I am to this day convinced that there is a logical explanation for everything, even if it has not been figured out yet.



Rebuttal : Lincoln and Kennedy: Bound by coincidence 

Aparthib Zaman.

In response to : 

I would like to discuss some generalities relating to coincidences and "strange connections" that would apply to all coincidences, not just "Kennedy's and Lincoln's strange connection" that Shayon's post referred to. I must admit that Shayon only presented some interesting facts of coincidences (Although some of those "facts" may be distorted as Avijit's research has shown) not drawn any conclusions from it. My discussion is general and applies to those who may "see" some divine connection in those coincidences.
The desire to see divine connections or design in mundane occurrences of coincidences is a strong human instinct arising out of a yearning for a world beyond this observable one and rooted in the desire for life after death in order to find a meaning of this life and to move on. This yearning was behind Jung's theory of Synchronicity, which is nothing but a pseudo-scientific mish-mash, although in his desperation he even tried to enlist some help from his friends well-versed in Quantum Physics. He tried to link an aspect of Quantum Mechanics called Quantum non-locality (Einstein called it spooky) with apparent connections between human experiences. A case of pure quackery like astrology. Quantum non-locality has many alternate scientific explanations and is not "spooky" anymore, although it still remains the ultimate epistemological intellectual challenge to physicists.
Anyway, the fact is that all coincidences appear to be strange connections to many because of
(a) improper understanding of statistics
selective bias of human mind
, and
sometimes due to succumbing to intentional manipulations of facts.

Misunderstanding of statistics can lead one to view a not-so-unlikely occurrence as very unlikely. Selective bias leads one to forget and ignore the majority of events, all of which are individually very unlikely, not treat them as coincidences or strange connections but only the ones that appear to be interesting to the human mind.
For example, if we roll ten dice the likelihood of getting the sequence 6526553214 is the same as 6666666666 both of which are equally likely and also very unlikely to occur in one trial.
(1/6x1/6x1/6x1/6x1/6x1/6x1/6x1/6x1/6x1/6) But the former will not catch anyone's attention, the latter will.
When one is dealt a bridge hand of thirteen cards, the probability of being dealt that particular hand is less than one in 600 billion. Still, it would be absurd for someone to be dealt a hand, examine it carefully, calculate that the probability of getting it is less than one in 600 billion, and then conclude that he must not have been dealt that very hand because it is so very improbable or that it must be a divine connection for him to get this rare hand!
Another important aspect of probability that is not appreciated by many is that time and numbers play a very important role in statistics. A very unlikely event will eventually occur given enough time. Or, equivalently, if many trials are conducted for an unlikely event simultaneously, one of the trials will materialize the very unlikely. Those who have studied statistical Physics will recognize this in the Ergodic Hypothesis, a very important concept. Sometimes we are amazed that out the billions of known stars and their planets only Sun harbours wonderful life forms and only on the planet earth. Is that a surprise? Life requires a sensitive range of conditions of temperature, gravity, density of atmosphere, right distance from star, right tilt of the axis, etc., for life to evolve. Only earth satisifes this condition. Its like 6X6X6X6X6X6X6X6X6X6 people rolling ten dice at once. One of them will certainly roll 6666666666. Any surprise? All the billions of planets are like ten rolled dice. Only one (earth) is 666666666 (i.e., has conditions suitable for life forms). So here we are, on planet earth wondering about life. If planet "X", instead, satisfied the conditions of life instead of earth then we would be on planet "X". But then we would call "X" earth. It's only a matter of label.
How about the lottery? One lucky person picks the right number. Someone has to win it if all the numbers are sold out. No divine connection. Yet the winning person may view it as a divine connection for him to win it. Even if that lucky person has just lost his home and belongings in a fire that would not make it any more divine. Because again if anything can happen at all, it will eventually happen, if one waited long enough. No one who has lost his belongings in fire has ever won in a lottery before, in million years of human history, humanity waited long enough for it to happen and finally it did happen to Mr. X on day Y of Year Z. By the same logic a billionaire may also someday win a lottery ticket (Talking about carrying coal to Newcastle!) it would not have any different significance from the former case. No amount of coincidences of PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE (i.e., natural) events can point to divine or supernatural connections. Occam's Razor will always point to a natural explanation through an eventual realization of a very unlikely (but not impossible) event.
A nuts and bolts calcualtion may help dispel the mystic of strange coincidences that we sometimes experience in life (Like you were thinking of an old friend in an airport and then suddenly he appears, approaching you). A person may have 100 distinct experiences a day. In ten years, for 1000 people
that would mean 4950x3650x1000=18,06750000 pairs of events. So its very likely that some of those events will be of strange coincidence types to some of those 1000 persons.
As a final example, let's take the case of "prophetic" dreams.  Sometimes a person "X" dreams of an event and the event takes place soon after the dream.  X sees a divine connection in his dream. Now, consider this. Normal people have about 25 dreams/night. With 250 million people in US there must be billions of dreams dreamt everynight and trillions in a year.  With so many dreams, some are bound to match with reality and seem prophetic. It would be astonishing if there wasn't any (p-55 Schick).
Some may object that the connections do not have to be divine. They could be natural, but not mere chances. There must be some deep natural (scientific) connections between them. This is what Jung had hinted at. But that is a mere "May be". A natural or scientific connection can only be made through scientific method itself. And science has not found any connections between such coincidences. Nor is there any need to.  All such connections have been explained nicely through Occam's Razor by probability theory, which is an important tool of science as well.
I hope to have dispelled some myth and misconceptions about coincidences. I apologize if I seemed to have ruined any hope for divine supernatural connection that certainly appears to be a more appealing option. And one can continue to believe in that. After all, placebos are as effective (or more) a therapy as real drugs. But if it did inspire a little bit of interest in critcial thinking then I suggest going further and read the following two books.
1.  How to Think of Weird Things - Theodore Schick & Lewis Vaugn

2.  Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences - John Allen Paulos. 


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