Wednesday, September 19, 2007

613 Seeds In A Pomegranate?

This assertion is easily disproved. Just take a pomegranate and open it. Count the seeds. Most likely, you will find more or less seeds in it.

But, as someone linked to on Areivim, someone did some research and discovered that the average amount of seeds in a pomegranate is indeed 613.

The belief seems to stem from the connection that our zechuyot should be as many as a rimon. And since zechuyot come from doing mitzvot, and the mitzvot according to sources in Chazal number 613, it would indeed be appropriate. And indeed, who is going to take the trouble to check? It is an inspiring statement, and your average non-skeptic back then is not going to painstakingly count the seeds in a rimon just to prove this wrong. And the skeptics probably had bigger fish to fry.

To quote Bertrand Russel:
Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths.
This is the result of coming to conclusions on the basis of logic, rather than looking for empirical evidence which proves or disproves.

This fellow looked at pomegranates from several different countries, and came to the conclusion that the average number of seeds in a pomegranate overall is 613.

1. Statistical Summary

Country Sample Size min #seeds max #seeds avg #seeds min weight (g) max weight (g) avg weight (g)
US 150 286 1370 680 145 1065 421
Singapore 2 339 579 459 250 400 325
Iran 37 165 1263 338 200 660 354
Spain 2 580 837 709 280 330 305
Turkey 12 267 971 576 226 1001 603
Brazil 3 647 1054 809 568 658 599

All 206 165 1370 613 145 1065 420
Table 1.1: Pomegranate Statistics (download the data file for a complete listing of each pomegranate)

Of course, I don't buy this. (Assuming he actually did count all these pomegranate seeds.) This seems like the problem that may or may not exist by the Torah codes. Statistical conclusions are perhaps valid in Torah codes where you made the prediction first, and it came out like that. But if you are not working on an a priori basis, but first searching for all matches and then circling the ones that happen to come out, that is a different story.

In this case, did he choose the specific number of pomegranates from each country in the beginning, or as the experiment went on? Did he know beforehand, based on earlier inspection, roughly how many seeds there were in pomegranates from each country?

As it stands, U.S. pomegranates are overwhelmingly represented, with a sample size of 150. Add another 200 pomegranates, the average would not be 613, but a larger number.

Similarly, why 2 from Spain and Singapore but 3 from Brazil. If someone wanted to come up with the number 613, once he had a rough estimate of the min and max in pomegranates from each country, all he needed to do was -- if the average so far is below 613, add a pomegranate from a country which would take you higher. If above 613, add a pomegranate from a lower country. Keep doing this until you converge to 613.

I don't know if this was a joke, or intended seriously, in which case he has a load of time on his hands. But I do not think that this proves an average of 613.

Update: See here for an Google Spreadsheet that shows that the number indeed is 613.

Update Oct 24, 2007: Malbim is a source for the 613 seed claim.


Eliyahu said...

Maybe women had poorer nutrition in Aristotles day

Anonymous said...

Whats your final thought on the matter t or f and where is the malbim?

joshwaxman said...

absolutely false.
and i'll see if i can track down the malbim again.

kol tuv,

joshwaxman said...

from a quick Google Internet Search:

"Derashot Chasam sofer (vol.2 I believe) Shabbas hagadol 5591.

Malbim on his peirush to shir hashirim Chapter 4 verse 3"

Student V said...

Why would they exclude the only pomegranate type that is relevant - the one from the Land of Israel? Maybe the average was too far off for his liking and chose to use only foreign versions... Interesting that the goldena medina average is closest...

Moshe Laymore said...

The researcher probably lived in America so obviously American pomegranates were the easiest to obtain. The study was probably done in a shmitta year, so since Israeli pomegranates could not be exported the researcher went to the trouble of obtaining 37 from Iran which is quite close. Simple, really.

I think someone (Rabbi Waxman)should do a proper study using 1,000 randomly chosen Israeli pomegrantes before Rosh Hashana.

joshwaxman said...

to take this seriously:
he says what years he bought it, namely 2005 and 2006, which i don't believe were shemitta years.

he also gives the country of origin and the country of purchase. indeed, the US pomegranates were purchased when he was in the US (e.g. Queens, Brooklyn, NY, Pittsburgh). A bunch of the Brazilian and Iranian pomegranates were purchased in Chemnitz, Germany.

If you look at his original experiment, via, he has 134 pomegranates, and an avg of 682 seeds.

A bit later, he added more pomegranates, for a total of 154, and an avg of 675 seeds.

Then, a bit later, he reached an avg of 613, which is what it presently shows.

He has stated that since, he has counted more pomegranates, and that really the website should be updates with a new avg.

Anonymous said...

Recently I read in Jeremiah 52 their were 196 pomegranates on the bronze columns. A still small voice whispered to me as plain as day, "these are the nations filled with the seed of men". Guess what!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin