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  Columnist: William B Stoecker

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Twins and synchronicity

Posted on Saturday, 8 January, 2011 | 1 comment
Columnist: William B Stoecker

Most of us like to imagine that we enjoy free will, but we cannot even clearly define the term. Certainly, our freedom is limited by a multitude of factors such as laws, economics, the need to earn a living, age, and health. We can imagine a universe where at least a fair degree of free will is possible, or one where everything is fixed and our future cannot be changed and we are little more than biological robots. But in between the extremes is the possibility that free will exists but is limited by synchronicity. Synchronicity was defined by Carl Gustav Jung and Arthur Koestler as a non-causal tendency for similar events, objects, and people to cluster together in time and space. Koestler, in particular, cited numerous examples of clustering so statistically improbable that they virtually proved the existence of synchronicity. I have written of synchronicity as it applies to UFO encounters, and especially to Roswell.

And then there is the mystery of identical twins, particularly some of those separated at birth, by, for example, being adopted by different parents. Twins can be fraternal, or dizygotic, born of two fertilized eggs in the womb at the same time. True identical twins are monozygotic; a single fertilized egg splits into two viable embryos and both survive. Having precisely the same genetics can explain many similar characteristics, tendencies, and interests, but, as we shall see, there are limits. Monozygotic twins are quite rare; there are approximately one million sets of them in the United States today. No statistics are available as to the number separated at birth, so I will assume one pair in ten, or 100,000 sets. Understand that I am being generous here; the real number is certainly less. This will become important later on.

There are published examples of sets of twins separated at birth who later discovered one another and whose life stories are strikingly similar, so much so that genetics and probability cannot adequately explain it. One set, Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein, both became professional authors. Perhaps this is not too improbable, since they would have similar interests and talents, but getting published and actually making a living at it is a good deal more difficult than most people imagine.

Barbara Herbert and Dianne Goodship both quit school at age 14. Both fell downstairs and injured their ankles at age 15. Both took local government jobs; both met their future husbands at age sixteen at town hall dances (not in the same town); and they both suffered miscarriages in the same month. Yet each went on to have two sons and one daughter. When they finally met they were wearing nearly identical clothes. This is rather hard to chalk up to coincidence.

But it is nothing compared to the case of the two Jims…Jim Springer and Jim Lewis, who met one another on 2/9/1979 after being separated since their birth 39 years before. Let us assume that any one man has a one in ten chance of being named “Jim” or “James.” Again, I am being generous, since the odds are actually a good deal less. The chance of two separated twins both being named Jim would then be one in a hundred; this is how statistics are computed. Each married a wife named Linda, to which, generously, I will give an overall probability of one in one hundred. Each divorced, and each twin’s second wife was named Betty…again, one in a hundred. Each had a son named James Allan, another one in a hundred. Each had a dog named Troy…you guessed it, one in a hundred yet again. They both frequently vacationed out of state (they lived in Ohio) at the same Florida beach…another one in a hundred, and here I am being very generous indeed; the real odds are much smaller. I won’t count the facts that they both chain smoked, suffered from migraines, drank beer, and had basement woodworking shops; all of this could be explained by their identical genetics. But consider that both had been sheriff’s deputies; despite their having similar interests and aptitudes such jobs are not always available. But here I will be extremely generous and assign this an overall probability of one in ten. Each twin occupied the only house on a block…one in a hundred at best.

The overall odds, computed by multiplying all of these, come to one in ten to the fifteenth power. But since there are (at most) 100,000 such sets of identical twins separated at birth and living in our country, we divide this into the first number, and the overall odds of such a string of “coincidences” come to one chance in ten to the tenth power, or one in ten billion. Remember that my assumptions are generous every time and the real odds are far less. And this is without even considering the case of Barbara Herbert and Dionne Goodship; using the same kind of analysis, the odds against their incredibly similar life stories are one in ten million.

The odds against the two sets of twins having such similar histories are one in ten to the seventeenth power. Again, remember that the real odds are certainly even more remote than that. These are not, I repeat, not coincidences. And these are just the cases that have come to light and been made public. The majority of such separated twins probably never find one another, so there are probably other stories just as improbable. It appears that we are living in a universe where free will is limited and coincidence is a myth.

Article Copyright© William B Stoecker - reproduced with permission.

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