Sunday, July 17, 2011

Archaeological support for Jeremiah

Here is a Christian CADRE piece from a few years back about some archaeological support for Jeremiah.

Skeptical treatment of archaeological findings is rather interesting to me. When evidence is brought forward that supports the accuracy of the text, we are told that this really doesn't matter, since it doesn't support the supernatural content of the text directly. On the other hand, if there is a lack of archaeological support for what the text says, then we are told that this is good reason to reject the text, and especially, to reject the supernatural content of the text.

Heads, I win. Tails, you lose.

54 comments:

Walter said...

When evidence is brought forward that supports the accuracy of the text, we are told that this really doesn't matter, since it doesn't support the supernatural content of the text directly

I don't doubt that the books of the bible get a great deal of mundane history right, and probably a good bit wrong as well, but I never will see how getting the names of some ancient cities and political titles correct validates the parts of the bible that claim donkeys can talk, a man can live in a fish's stomach for three days, or that the sun sat still in the sky so that Joshua could wrap up his smiting before sunset.

There's always got to be a leap of faith in there that some of us have a hard time doing.

Bilbo said...

1) J is inspired by God.

2) Archaeological evidence is consistent with J.

3) If (1), then (2).

4) If not (2), then not (1).

Vic, are you suggesting:

5) If (2), then (1)?

Bilbo said...

Or perhaps:

6) The archaeological evidence is neither consistent nor inconsistent with J.

7) If (6), then not (1).

8) (7) is unfair.

Emanuel Goldstein said...

None of the above.

Victor is just refering to the lon established Atheist Double Standard.

Bilbo said...

Emanuel: "Victor is just refering to the lon established Atheist Double Standard."

Which is?

Victor Reppert said...

My claim is simply that if failure to confirm the Bible archaeologically decreases the probability that the supernatural content is true, then confirmation of the historical accuracy of the Bible improves the probability that the supernatural content is true. You can't use the lack of historical confirmation against the Bible while at the same time dismissing the historical confirmation as irrelevant when it occurs.

Of course

X probabilistically confirms Y

is compatible with

Y is probably false, based on total evidence.

Dave Duffy said...

I appreciate your insight. If a writer reports, "I was in this place, at this time, and this event happened" we have to take his word (or not) for the event but the time and place we can check out. This seems fair.

Matt said...

I always thought the "there's no archaeological evidence for X therefore there is no god" as a fake argument. Lack of archaeological evidence tells us nothing. The real argument is philosophical. "I doubt the existence of God and the fact that there is no archaeological evidence for the supernatural claims of the Bible means it is not evidence for such a god."

Papalinton said...

".... then confirmation of the historical accuracy of the Bible improves the probability that the supernatural content is true. "

Oh Victor. Balderdash. There are no instruments, there are no research tools, there is no way that the supernatural can be verified.

There is absolutely nothing natural about 'supernaturalism'. It is a metaphysic ideation emanating from neural activity of the brain, the exact same one that activates and conjures up Santa Claus, the Archangel Gabriel, allah, Satan, demons, dead relatives and all things that go bump in the night.

Fiddling around with probability is quibbling at the margins at best.

Victor Reppert said...

If the can be evidence against supernatural claims, then there can be evidence for supernatural claims.

If there can be no evidence for supernatural claims, then there can be no evidence against supernatural claims.

What this means also is that even if the supernatural is real, we can't know that it is. We have to commit ourselves to missing it if it should be there.

John W. Loftus said...

;-)

Such tomfoolery.

I actually saw for myself the Pool of Siloam when in Jerusalem.

What follows from that?

Roswell, New Mexico, is an actual city too. Is this by itself evidence of the existence of aliens?

Conversely, there is no evidence for Noah's Flood, the Exodus, Wilderness Wanderings, or Canaanite Conquest.

Hmmmm. The choices you habitually give us are, well, interesting ones to say the very least.

John W. Loftus said...

The OTF in action:

To rephrase Victor's complaint:

If the can be evidence against supernatural claims ABOUT ALLAH, then there can be evidence for supernatural claims ALLAH.

If there can be no evidence for supernatural claims ABOUT ALLAH, then there can be no evidence against supernatural claims ABOUT ALLAH.

What this means also is that even if the supernatural ABOUT ALLAH is real, we can't know that it is. We have to commit ourselves to missing it if it should be there.


Victor, perhaps you're missing the evidence about Allah?

John W. Loftus said...

Victor: You can't use the lack of historical confirmation against the Bible while at the same time dismissing the historical confirmation as irrelevant when it occurs.

It's not irrelevant. But what exactly does your so-called archaeological evidence actually confirm? Archaeology does disconfirm some things in the Bible as I mentioned. A disconfirmation does what everyone? It disconfirms. At best what you have are findings that are consistent with what you believe. Confirmation bias predicts that we all seek to confirm rather than disconfirm what we believe. Disconfirming evidence is therefore decisive.

Critical Thinking anyone?

Again, I must insist you read this college level textbook: How to Think About Weird Things. you don't have to tell me that you did and I won't rub it in if you do.

Boy, at every turn you sink your own boat Victor. I feel sorry that you don't understand these basic things. I really do. But I'm not going away soon, so you had better be more prepared next time.

Or, you can post something and then say something disengenuous like "I hope this doesn't turn into another round of Loftus bashing" baiting the crew.

Karl Grant said...

Loftus Failure Number One: Linguistics. Allah is merely the Arabic word for God; it is used by Arabic speaking Christians and Jews.

Loftus Failure Number Two: Theology. The God of Islam is the same one worshiped by Christians and Jews.

Loftus Failure Number Three: Still appealing to ignorance; which is still a logical fallacy.

And as a side note I had that book in college and I kept thinking that the authors should have practiced what they preached. They present cases about UFOs, Near Death Experiences and I forget what else and instead of arguing these cases on their merits, they simply tried to get the readers to dismiss them as silly and ridiculous. Unsurprising recommendation from Loftus. A much better book is Irving Copi's Introduction to Logic.

John W. Loftus said...

Soooooo, Karl Grant, if as you say Allah and Yahweh are the same God then you not only have a historical problem since they claimed and did different things, but you also have another more serious problem. Who answers prayers?

I'm not sure you can even appreciate this second problem so maybe your man Victor can.

Karl Grant said...

Loftus,

they claimed and did different things

Correction, people claimed they said and did different things. They also claimed God did and said the same things; for instance, the Exodus appears in all three Holy books (Torah, Bible and Koran). Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, is it not?

but you also have another more serious problem. Who answers prayers?

Is that a joke? Alright, let's put this in a way you might understand. Say a father has three kids (let's say their names Muslim, Jew and Christian). Now he has a special relationship with each child (all parents do, my father's relationship with my brother is different than his relationship with me). Now does the fact that the father performs an act of kindness to one child means he doesn't love the other two? Or that because he gives a gift to another one that he could give a shit less if the other two lived or died?

No, of course not. But you are saying otherwise. Now I doubt you will grasp this because I am becoming increasingly convinced that you use that hat to hide the gaping void where your brain should be.

Victor Reppert said...

John, may I gently point out that since you are now a nonbeliever, you are now looking for evidence that supports your skepticism about anything supernatural, and your ready acceptance of any book that supports that could be confirmation bias on your part.

To hear some skeptics talk, confirmation bias somehow ends once you get out of the church door.

John W. Loftus said...

Victor, please, I know we all are inflected with confirmation bias.

I know this.

I have said it a lot of times before.

That is why I am a skeptic. Skepticism is a filter all adult thinking human beings must have and we cannot doubt that filter.

So we must all rely on science to inform us what to think.

Please, at least recognize what it is I'm saying.

Karl Grant said...

Skepticism is a filter all adult thinking human beings must have and we cannot doubt that filter.

So people who are skeptical of the moon landing or the Holocaust are rational, thinking human beings? Are people who are skeptical of atheism rational, thinking adults?

And a filter is a bad analogy, as any mechanic can tell you that filters go bad all the time and have cleaned regularly, and every so often, replaced. And isn't never doubting something one of the traits of dogmatism?

John W. Loftus said...

I wrote this from our discussion Victor: Link.

John W. Loftus said...

Karl Grant, sooooo, you think doubting something requires a radical kind of slepticism? You throw that straw man around in order not to doubt at all, don't you? What's the alternative?

Tell me this, you do know what it's like to doubt someone's claim that he levitated, right?

Karl Grant said...

doubting something requires a radical kind of slepticism?

No, I just don't think it makes you smarter than the believer. Or that it somehow proves that you are more perceptive or possess greater critical thinking skills.

You throw that straw man around in order not to doubt at all, don't you?

On the contrary I doubt quite a bit. I doubt your critical reading and thinking skills are anywhere near the level you think they are and are in fact pretty rudimentary. I doubt that you actually know what you are talking about on a variety of subjects. Now, do those doubts automatically make me (the skeptic here) more intelligent, rational or perceptive than you (the believer)?

you do know what it's like to doubt someone's claim that he levitated, right?

Oh, I know what it's like to doubt a man's claim that he levitated. The difference between me and you, though, is that I recognize my doubts have no impact on whither that man levitated or not. I also recognize that doubt does not automatically make me intellectually superior to a person who believes otherwise (especially if the man did levitate). I have seen more than my fair share of shoddy reasoning coming from the mouths of skeptics. I am also willing to entertain the possibility that I am wrong, in essence, be skeptical of my skepticism.

And, oh yes, I thought about something you said earlier; about how I would have a 'history problem' if I claimed the God of Abraham is the being worshiped by Islam, Christianity and Judaism (which is what every mainstream theologian and historian states to be the case). If that is the case, than my history problem pales in comparison to the atheist as you are claiming that every major religion is a fraud, that some of the world's oldest and most powerful organizations (such as the Roman Catholic Church) are based on fraud, that the belief systems shaped thousands of years of human history and have influenced everything from philosophy to laws to modern political structures is based on a load of crap, etc....

And than you turn around and say I have a historical problem?

John W. Loftus said...

Karl Grant, you don't understand the problem enough to answer it, and you do not trust what I have to say as a sincere person. So many non-sequiturs here I won't bother. Victor either does not understand the problem or he prefers ignorant people here since he won't correct your misunderstanding even though you do trust him.

Karl Grant said...

you don't understand the problem enough to answer it,

Sure John, whatever evasions and insults float your boat. But do allow me to thank you for capitulating completely.

Dave Duffy said...

John, I'm trying to understand your argument here. If you read an ancient story and the text mentions a supernatural event are you skeptical of that event and need more evidence or do you automatically dismiss that event because there are just too many crackpot supernatural explanations to natural events going on today?

Papalinton said...

Soooooooo, Karl Grant, if as you say Allah and Yahweh are the same God then you have a very serious theological, Apologetical, christological, and catholic/protestant problem.

Islam totally and unequivocally rejects the jesus-faery as the inextricable and integral part of the 3-in-1 god-head.

In the christian mythos, Yahweh is jesus and jesus is Yahweh and both share and are one and the same ghostly apparition that makes up the ménage-à- trois that goes bump in the night.

No amount of contrived and contorted pious ecumenism is going to assist you in fitting this fat round peg into the square hole.

John W. Loftus said...

Dave I am probably no more nor less skeptical than you are when reading the Book of Mormon or the Koran.

Tell ya what, look at this miracle claim and tell me what you conclude.

Papalinton said...

Tell me Dave Duffy, what "is a supernatural event"?

Do these things occur in the natural world or do they occur in the supernatural world?

If it is your evidential claim that supernatural events can occur regularly in the natural world, can natural events conversely occur in the supernatural world? If not, why not?

Is your anticipated response driven by special pleading? If it is not, and natural events *can* occur in the supernatural world, just as supernatural events *can* occur in this natural world, as the bible tells us [you know, in a free-flow exchange of parcels of information transfer], then it should be possible that the scientific method of investigation of the natural world should also be able to be used to investigate supernatural claims.

After all, there is no limit to the myriad of claims by christian mythologists, just like their close New-Age counterparts, that 'supernatural events' happen all the time and occur so readily in the natural world. To suggest the obverse is impossible, is just grandstanding theo-'logical' obfuscation and a call to special pleading.

Karl Grant said...

Paplinton,

Islam totally and unequivocally rejects the jesus-faery as the inextricable and integral part of the 3-in-1 god-head.

Yes, they reject the doctrine of the Trinity, so do the Jews (now do you want to argue that Christianity did not spring out of Judiasm?). But Jesus is still considered to be a prophet of God in Islam.

ghostly apparition that makes up the ménage-à- trois

I am surprised you even know what a ménage-à- trois, because if that picture is anything to go by I seriously doubt you have ever been with a woman, much less two at the same time.

No amount of contrived and contorted pious ecumenism is going to assist you in fitting this fat round peg into the square hole.

Who needs 'contrived and contorted pious ecumenism' when mainstream scholarship will do nicely? Every mainstream theologian, every mainstream historian, every mainstream anthropologist unequivocally states that Judaism, Christianity and Islam worship the same God and can trace the birth of their teachings to the Prophet Abraham.

If you say otherwise, well I kind of had you pegged as a conspiracy theorist anyway.

Papalinton said...

So, Karl Grant, "But Jesus is still considered to be a prophet of God in Islam", means that christians are very comfortable to live with jesus not being the god and only being a prophet.
@ Karl Grant
Your acceptance of the Islamic god without the jesus-god factor smells so much like pious Adoptionism. And I was always under the impression that Adoptionism was declared heresy at the end of the 2nd century, and was rejected by the First Council of Nicaea, which held to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, identifying Jesus as eternally begotten of god and is and of the same substance as god, inextricable.

Ménage-à- trois? Well, I mean, there is some very strange fiddlings going on under the blanket of Trinitarianism that has never been properly explained. That's why I wonder there is so much homophobia in the bible. Perhaps those who protest the loudest are indeed of that inclination themselves, just as much statistical information in personal psychological profiling these days seems to indicate. And that might be a plausible explanation, Karl.

"Who needs 'contrived and contorted pious ecumenism' when mainstream scholarship will do nicely? " should read:
"Who needs 'contrived and contorted pious ecumenism' when mainstream Apologetical scholarship will do nicely? "

What's this, "Every mainstream theologian, every mainstream historian, every mainstream anthropologist ...." an Argumentum ad Populum? But, sadly true, Karl, I agree with you on this score. But one thing we do know for certain, there .. was .. no .. Abraham. He is a fictive character. So, every mainstream theologian, every mainstream historian, every mainstream anthropologist agrees that both Judaism and Islam, together with the plethora of christianities, are all mythological derivatives drawn from the legend of the fictive Abraham. End of story. But that is all that it is: a story.

Papalinton said...

@ Karl Grant

Now about Abraham. Some of the current information:

1. There is no direct archaeological evidence of the existence of the Abraham or references to him in ancient texts outside the Bible. There is evidence that rulers and people that Abraham encountered existed (but critics claim they are too widely dispersed in time to make Abraham’s existence plausible).

2. Abraham lived when the Middle East was dominated by the early kingdoms of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Many of the places associated with Abraham mentioned in the Bible, such as Haran, Ur, Shechem, Ai and Hebron have been located by archaeologists and some are still occupied today.

3. The Bible also contains what appear to be factual errors. In Chapter, Abraham visits the "the land of the Philistines" who did not arrive in Canaan from Crete until 400 years after Abraham is said to have existed. In Chapter 24, Abraham's servant is taken away by a retinue with 10 camels to find a bride but camels weren't introduced to region until around 1000 B.C.

4. For many believers it is really here nor there if concrete evidence of Abraham exists or not. A rabbi in Hebron told National Geographic, “For me Abraham is philosophy. Abraham is culture. Abraham may or may not be historical. Abraham is a message of loving kindness. Abraham is an idea. Abraham is everything. I don’t need flesh and blood.”

5. Estimates of Abraham’s birth year vary widely. From the best that can be determined Abraham— if he indeed existed—was born around 1800 B.C., although scholars have suggested a range of dates between 2100 B.C. and 700 B.C. Those that argue for the 2100 B.C. date point to references to Ur, which thrived in the 3rd millennium B.C.

6. Those that favor the 700 B.C. date point to the camels and a mention of the Chaldeans in Mesopotamia, which did not appear in Mesopotamia until late in the first millennium B.C. Other scholars say the presence of camels and Chaldeans doesn’t mean much because they were probably added by biblical writers at the time they wrote it and are irrelevant for dating purposes.

These were lifted from: http://factsanddetails.com/world.php?itemid=1393&catid=55&subcatid=351

End of fictive story

Karl Grant said...

Papalinton,

means that christians are very comfortable to live with jesus not being the god and only being a prophet.

I am sure they have less of a problem of with Islam's view of Jesus still being a messenger of God view than with your 'faiery ménage-à-trois' comment.

Your acceptance of the Islamic god without the jesus-god factor smells so much like pious Adoptionism.

Considering Christianity appeared six centuries before Islam I...you know what, I think I will leave it at that. Along with the fact that every major Christian theologian acknowledges that Christianity and Islam shares a common ideological foundation, I have provided links to back that claim up. Which, as par the course with you, you have ignored.

But than you are never interested in debate or evidence anyway and merely concerned with trying to get a rise out of people. And if your actions on the blogs are your main idea of fun then your life must be pretty damn dull. I pity you, I really do.

That's why I wonder there is so much homophobia in the bible. Perhaps those who protest the loudest are indeed of that inclination themselves

And who in this debate, if it could be called that, has brought up homosexuality? You. Who tends to bring up homosexuality in other debates, on this blog and others? You.

I probably should have figured you were gay. I must say that is a nice picture you have there of you and your husband. So were did you guys have the honeymoon? I tried to get my girlfriend to go with me to Seoul but she wouldn't. Too bad really.

mainstream Apologetical scholarship will do nicely?

I said mainstream, not Christian. Even atheist historians, theologians, anthropologists and philosophers acknowledge Christianity and Islam's common ground. You would know that if you did a little research...wait, I forgot who I am talking to, my apologies.

Argumentum ad Populum?

No more Argumentum ad Populum than saying every mainstream biologist supports the theory of evolution. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, is it not?

But one thing we do know for certain, there .. was .. no .. Abraham.

Tin foil hat time, kiddies! ? Seriously Pap, we have more information pertaining to Abraham's existence than Socrates's existence (the only record he ever lived comes from the writings of his disciple Plato).

Karl Grant said...

Also from that website of yours, on the about page:

I am not professor or an expert on the subjects I write about but I have done a fair amount of reading about them....The text is written more in travel guide and magazine or newspaper styles than in an academic style. I don’t have footnotes and bibliographies but I do name sources when I think those sources offer unique insights and quote a variety of people.

Oh and I forgot about Xenophon and Aristophanes, they also wrote about Socrates.

Papalinton said...

@ Karl
"Seriously Pap, we have more information pertaining to Abraham's existence ..."

Where is it? And puhlease don't quote the OT or the Tanakh or the Kuran.

The very latest and indeed seminal work has been done by Finklestein and Silberman in 'The Bible Unearthed'. This archeological treatise has been universally accepted as the most comprehensive scholarship into the world of the OT.

Two relevant findings from the research is captured in the following words:

"The Old Testament account is, according to the authors, neither historical truth nor literary fiction, but a powerful expression of memory and hope constructed to serve particular political purposes at the time it was composed. The authors claim quite convincingly that the kingdoms of Israel and Judah became radically different regions even before the time of King David; the northern lands were densely populated, with a booming agriculture-based economy, while the southern region was sparsely populated by migratory pastoral groups."

and

"Though the Bible credits Abraham as the first human to realize there is only one God, we now know that there is no evidence for monotheism for many centuries after the reported time of Abraham."

The synthesis of current scholars is that: "In the Abraham story, the communication of God's alleged will comes to him directly, as spoken.  It must be kept in mind that the interpretation of all that follows in the story hinges on firstly, acceptance of this assertion, secondly, upon a fundamentalist and literal interpretation of these verses, and finally, upon acceptance of the Bible as the Word of God.

It is prudent to remember, Karl, for a long time and for many people even today, the Bible was the Word of God.  Therefore it was not liable to error.  Modern historical research and cross-cultural information, however, has allowed current scholarship to drop this impossible presumption and to instead interpret the Bible as spiritual literature, not as spiritual fact.  This allowed for questions to be posited that were inconceivable under traditional circumstances.

Karl Grant said...

Papalinton,

Where is it? And puhlease don't quote the OT or the Tanakh or the Kuran.


Let's see, we have the 17,000 clay tablets from Ebla on which a number of names are recorded, including Isaac, Jacob, and Abraham, as well as the names of Abraham's father, grandfather and great grandfather, Terah, Nahor and Serug. These names are also known from other sources in Northwest Mesopotamia in both Babylonian and Old Assyrian texts.

One Brow said...

Victor Reppert said...
If the can be evidence against supernatural claims, then there can be evidence for supernatural claims.

If there can be no evidence for supernatural claims, then there can be no evidence against supernatural claims.


Archeological confirmaiton/disconfirmation can't support or discredit generic supernatural claims. If Jeremiah got every bit of archeology wrong, how does that impact the supernatural status of his inspiration? However, you using an overly broad, and slightly inappropriate, category. The evidence can confirm or disconfirm inerrancy in the biblical text. Inerrancy is one of those property where you have it or you do not. Thus, any evidence against inerrancy means the Bible contains errors. Evidence that statements are not errors does not alter the status of known errors.

Victor Reppert said...

The issue wouldn't be inerrancy, but rather something I would call general historical reliability. Using a Bayesian model of evidence, X is evidence for just in case X is more probable given Y than given not-Y.

I would expect accurate reports of miraculous activity to come from sources which make serious attempts to describe the facts, and which have good enough access to the relevant facts to have a great deal of general historical reliability. So, it seems to me that evidence that Scripture has historically accurate content is evidence that the miracle claims contained within are true; that evidence could be outweighed by the overall plausibility of naturalism in the minds of many reasonable persons.

It seems to me you have to distinguish between saying

1) The evidence for X isn't good enough for me

and saying

2) There is no evidence at all.

What I suspect is that, deep down, a lot of skeptics are atheistic presuppositionalists. They think that in order to have evidence for something it has to have a naturalistic explanation, and to use inductive reasoning to support any claims with respect to the supernatural is to abuse the inductive reasoning process.

If that's the case, they shouldn't be saying we don't have the evidence, what they should be saying is that the kinds of claims Christians make are not the sorts of things that it is even logically possible to have evidence for.

Dave Duffy said...

“Dave I am probably no more nor less skeptical than you are when reading the Book of Mormon or the Koran.”

Good, I am skeptical but not dismissive of those two books. I am also largely ignorant of them. But, it does allow a conversation.

Wow Pap, a lot of stuff there after you asked a question, slow down a little, were all just men here.

I’m more of a daydreamer than a philosopher, but here’s how I think a supernatural event is, at least, possible: Imagine a simple closed natural system. Like, nitrogen gas sealed in a tank. Since there is heat the atoms are in motion and randomly colliding with one another and exerting a consistent pressure on the outside of the tank.

Now, let’s say you had a way of knowing EVERYTHING there is to know about the system—the trajectory and velocity of each molecule at each moment, the effect of each and every collision on each and every atom and so on. Having all information on the system you also had a machine that could do the trillions of calculations necessary to be able then to predict the location and trajectory of every atom at every moment in the future (let’s forget Heisenberg for a moment and accept a simple view of the two atom molecule). Your knowledge is complete and predictions are perfect.

With this complete knowledge you would be able to affect the system in every possible way. You could for example be able to calculate that if you hit one molecule with a burst of microwave energy it would affect the trajectory of that molecule and thus every molecule in the system. If your knowledge were perfect you could, theoretically, hit one molecule in just the right spot with just the right amount of radiation to set off a series of events that would cause all the atoms to simultaneously hit one spot on the tank and lift the tank into the air (levitate it).

You have a natural event, with the appearance of supernatural qualities. Although, being able to know everything and make the kind of calculations necessary, would require, seemly, a supernatural mind.

Just something I was thinking about today on the topic. Your thoughts?

Tony Hoffman said...

VR: “So, it seems to me that evidence that Scripture has historically accurate content is evidence that the miracle claims contained within are true;...”

?

This kind of statement should embarrass you. You should tune your ear to the several commenters here who have tried to bring to your attention the faulty logic you’re employing.

But it’s not really a matter of logic; it’s a basic matter of heuristics, or historical method, or scientific thinking.

To begin with, credible falsehoods aren’t normally surrounded with other falsehoods, else they’d be easy to spot, and nobody would be fooled. And people (including me, of course) are fooled all the time by credible falsehoods. The fact that many incompatible religions exist and flourish together isn’t proof that one of them must be right, but that people can definitely be fooled by falsehoods about supernatural claims. The inability of the religious to acknowledge this fact is at the heart of debates like these.

Do you acknowledge that it’s possible that all supernatural claims could be bogus? Because if you don’t, then there’s no point in discussing issues like these with you.

Papalinton said...

@ Karl

"Let's see, we have the 17,000 clay tablets from Ebla on which a number of names are recorded, including Isaac, Jacob, and Abraham, as well as the names of Abraham's father, grandfather and great grandfather, Terah, Nahor and Serug. These names are also known from other sources in Northwest Mesopotamia in both Babylonian and Old Assyrian texts."

Still makes him a mythological character. Why? Because those same tablets talk about the Great Flood in the story if Gilgamesh, and we know for a fact, Noah and flood are fictive entities from the same period. End of story. And of course we know that Judaism plugs into Mesopotamian mythology.

Thrasymachus said...

I'm also not sure about any big 'double standard' here.

Suppose a Roman history contained a claim like L: "Our armies destroyed London around 300BCE".

Archaelogical evidence that London either a) never existed then, or b) was existing just fine over that time, is pretty decisive evidence that L is false.

However, if we did find that London was destroyed around 300BCE, that ain't sufficient for L, because of underdetermination. We'd want to know more ("Were there roman armies even in England at 300BCE? Does London's destruction suggest it was destroyed by a hostile army? etc.)

That the archaeology does not refute the account is evidence in its favour, but only fractionally so. In these cases, these strongly underdetermined bits of evidence only really 'keep you in the game'.

This applies non-archeologically too. If I'm brought up as a witness to a crime, the fact I can't positively identify the suspect torpedoes the value of my testimony, but again, the fact I can is not enough for my testimony to give significant confirmation to 'he did it'. (Strictly, my positive ID is fractional confirmation on Bayes, but who cares?)

So the sceptical view of "Countervailing archaelogy is sufficient to refute your account, but supportive archaeology barely helps you" is about right.

(Note also the above does not rely on presumptions against the supernatural etc.)

Karl Grant said...

Papalinton,

Because those same tablets talk about the Great Flood in the story if Gilgamesh, and we know for a fact, Noah and flood are fictive entities from the same period.

Ah, so you are just going to dismiss any archaeological evidence that contradicts your beliefs out of hand (surprise factor on this revelation = 0). Also, question begging; the authenticity of these accounts are what is being debated (number of times I have witnessed Pap fail logic = 382. Wow, you are almost at five hundred! Only 118 more logical failures needed for you to win the coveted Dumbass Troll of the Year Award! Keep going, I know you can make it!).

I must congratulate you though, Pap. Every time I enter a debate with you I have low expectations on the quality of your arguments and your ability to examine evidence that runs contrary to your beliefs. And then you consistently fail to meet them. Good show, old chap!

Victor Reppert said...

Tony: Of course, the evidence could fail to be anywhere near adequate, and all supernatural claims might be false. The question isn't truth or falsity, but whether there is evidence for those claims of any sort.

I could easily admit that there is evidence that the Book of Mormon was given to Joseph Smith on gold plates. That doesn't make me a Mormon.

A better objection would be the one Hiero5ant made against me in the succeeding post, that I am nitpicking.

Papalinton said...

@ Karl Grant
"Every time I enter a debate with you I have low expectations on the quality of your arguments and your ability to examine evidence that runs contrary to your beliefs."

It is you, not me, that declares as fact there is a jesus-god-faery and a panoply of 'dramatis personnae' of angels, archangels, Satan, demons, seraphim and cherubim romping around at the bottom of the garden. Your psychological grip on what constitutes 'reality' supported by evidence and proofs are at one and the same, tenuous in the extreme.

I am reminded of Claude Helvetius, 18thC French philosopher and poet: "A man who believes that he eats his God we do not call mad; a man who says he is Jesus Christ, we call mad."

Karl Grant said...

Papalinton,

Thank you for so eloquently proving my point about low expectations on dialogue. On the Insults and Ridicule Scale I give that a 4 out of 10. Sorry, but you don't qualify for a bronze medal at this time, much less silver or gold. 'Jesus-faery' and calling your theist opponent mad are just so passe, much too common atheist gutter talk for a man of your supposed caliber. You need to be more original if you want to get the gold.

PhilosophyKnight said...

Am I the only one who does not understand what John Loftus is exactly trying to say in his first posts at July 18th, 832 AM?

First, let's recap:
Victor Reppert makes his post "Archaeological support for Jeremiah."
Therein, his point seems to be this: If archeological evidence does not support certain events recorded in the Bible, and this is taken as evidence against any of the Bible's supernatural claims, then there must be a sense in which confirmation of certain events also lends some credence for its supernatural events.
-------

My observations on Reppert's initial post:
Of course this is the case. Just take even this one consideration into account--if the authors were worried at all about the validity of the recorded events, then numerous incorrect recorded events suggests they were either incompetent or simply that they were not concerned at all. If they were concerned about veracity in most cases, then they probably were also about the supernatural claims.

I believe many people are reading too much into what Reppert means by saying what might count as "evidence" of something and what that entails.

----

My confusion about Loftus's post:

His challenge to Reppert's thinking is this: "Roswell, New Mexico, is an actual city too. Is this by itself evidence of the existence of aliens?"

Remember what Reppert is claiming in his initial post: if archeological evidence can count as evidence against a supernatural claim, then certain other archeological evidence can also count for supernatural claims.

Now Loftus points out an example where a certain, specific archeological truth does not seem to count as much evidence towards an analogically-close-to-supernatural claim. But why should Reppert's argument above neccessarily require him to also hold THIS claim as true: Each and every archeological truth must count for or against a supernatural claim.

Further, consider this: what if the location these UFO-believers reference to did not even exist! Of course that is evidence against their other claims. How about the important claim, though, that this simple geographical truth might somehow count as evidence for the UFO believer's claims? Well, it is in regards to showing us some evidence that the UFO-believers have at least some concern for veracity in their claims.

Reppert also is not bound to this claim: 'evidence for' must mean that when you consider this 'evidence for' you personally are then convinced of the claim that it is 'evidence for.'

Papalinton said...

@ Karl Grant
"Sorry, but you don't qualify for a bronze medal at this time, much less silver or gold. 'Jesus-faery' and calling your theist opponent mad are just so passe, much too common atheist gutter talk for a man of your supposed caliber. You need to be more original if you want to get the gold."

I just wish there was something of genuine substance presented that I could tackle at the level you suggest, Karl, but oftentimes much of the supporting commentary to religious mythmaking simply offers little more than personalized experiential disclosure or individual idiosyncratic revelation. 'Personal' witnessing is pretty flimsy ground to work from, even at the best of times; not much at all to go on really and generally focused at a similar level for readers of celebrity social comment magazines.

Any very passé.

Karl Grant said...

Papalinton,

I just wish there was something of genuine substance presented that I could tackle at the level you suggest

Please Pap, let's be honest here. Everybody and their grandmother knows you would just dismiss something of genuine substance out of hand because it contradicts your world view. Let's just take a look at the our recent little Abraham discussion:

Pap: There is no evidence that Abraham existed. Somebody said so in a book, therefore it must be true!

Karl: The city records of Ebla, discovered in 1975 and dated from 2500-2250 BCE, mention Abraham's name along with members of his family and some of their exploits that seem to corroborate the Biblical story of Abraham. His name and some of his deeds are also mentioned in old Babylonian and Assyrian texts.

Pap: Those things reference a story I believe is made up! Therefore, they don't count.

You are a close-minded demagogue, that is a proud breed! Don't sell yourself short!

'Personal' witnessing is pretty flimsy ground to work from, even at the best of times;

Personal witnessing is what the history discipline is largely based on. What is most of our historical evidence for the Battle of Waterloo? Personal testimony of those who were there.

Tony Hoffman said...

Since you insist on using Bayes to examine this I'm going to suggest what I think is the correct way to approach the problem in that way.

Every time a supernatural claim can be investigated, it is shown to be false. This is our prior probability, and we can call this 1 over a very, very large number.

Every time a supernatural claim that contains incidentally inaccurate information can be investigated, it is shown to be false. This give us the same vanishingly small number.

But here's the real problem. Every time a supernatural claim that contains incidentally accurate information can be investigated, it is also shown to be false. This gives us another vanishingly small number.

So that's the problem. Your Bayes numbers at some point have to be based on reality, and it seems to me that your prior and conditional probabilities both a) lead to miniscule numbers in a way that isn't surprising, and b) that your conditional probabilities don't relate with reality -- supernatural events with incidentally accurate information (all those that can be investigated) don't actually deliver any different number than those with incidentally inaccurate information. There is no measured difference between the two conditional properties you propose, at least not one that can be based on reality.

So, the problem seems to be in your premise, that supernatural events are more likely to be true in claims that have incidentally accurate information. But this claim doesn't stand up to scrutiny, and to convince otherwise I think you'll need to demonstrate that claim -- if you can do that, then we're off to the races.

Papalinton said...

@ Karl grant

PapaL: 'Personal' witnessing is pretty flimsy ground to work from, even at the best of times;

Karl Grant: "Personal witnessing is what the history discipline is largely based on. What is most of our historical evidence for the Battle of Waterloo? Personal testimony of those who were there."

That which you are describing is not 'personal witnessing' of the christian type I was referring to Karl. Christian personal witnessing is the very antithesis to that you characterize. The personal testimony of a participant at the Waterloo Battle [the example provided] is the form of prima facie classification that counts, and has legal weight and high value as testimony in a court of law.

Christian personal witnessing is that which is utterly useless as testimony in a court of law. Christian personal testimony, based on emotive and psychologic episodes, is the very base level of human experiences that are driven by primitive and primal instinctual reflexes generated in the amygdala region of the brain. The Amygdalae are located deep within the medial temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates, including humans. In research the Amygdala is shown to perform a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions. The amygdalae are considered part of the limbic system. Christian experiential personal witnessing is the direct product of activity within this region of brain function.

The Waterloo Battle format of personal witnessing is the product of neural activity in the Medial Forebrain bundle and the Prefrontal Cortex, that area distinguishes the thinking part of the human brain.

Two totally and distinctively separate area of cognition and physical response.

Karl Grant said...

Papalinton,

So they stimulate different parts of the brain? Wow! News flash of the obvious, courtesy of Pap: different experiences stimulate different parts of the brain!

Big deal. I am pretty sure the sex you have with your husband there stimulates a different part of the brain than witnessing the events of Waterloo (unless, of course, your 'private time' consists of thoughts like 'insert item P into slot B'). So does the bowel of cheerios I am eating as I type this. Does that prove you don't love your husband or I am not eating cereal? Of course not.

Victor Reppert said...

Tony: Your comment is a classic example of the Problem of the Single Case or the Reference Class Problem in probability theory, where we attempt to go from frequencies to antecedent probabilities.

If X is a more reliable witness in general, and is someone who bothers to get things right in general, then it seems pretty clear that X is going to be more likely to be reliable regardless of subject matter.

I'm not sure about the claim that any time we have a purported supernatural event we have been able to debunk it. The problem is that when skeptical investigators decide they can't explain something naturalistically, they have the option of saying that it has a naturalistic explanation, but we haven't found it. So they won't say they've found something supernatural, but rather they will say that they haven't found the naturalistic explanation. Unless, of course, they do find the naturalistic explanation. So I am not sure that we have the kind of full induction that would allow us to assign probability zero to any supernatural claim.

Tony Hoffman said...

VR: “If X is a more reliable witness in general, and is someone who bothers to get things right in general, then it seems pretty clear that X is going to be more likely to be reliable regardless of subject matter.”

Well, no, not regardless of subject matter. If you are reliable, and I answer differently than you on every question, I will be more reliable on those subjects in which reliable witnesses are prone to misperception or misinterpretations. And on those subjects which you have no ability to perceive or discern (say, identifying the song playing on a radio wave that passes through you), then you are not likely to be more reliable than me. So, although I largely agree with you, clearly there are subject matters in which your generalization does not hold up. And that also seems to be the kind of subject matter you are proposing.

VR: “I'm not sure about the claim that any time we have a purported supernatural event we have been able to debunk it.”

I think if I were an apologist this would be the subject of study for me. I would want to define supernaturalism, and find instances in which it has defied natural explanation. (And I don’t mean vague inferences, I mean in a rigorous way.)

VR: “The problem is that when skeptical investigators decide they can't explain something naturalistically, they have the option of saying that it has a naturalistic explanation, but we haven't found it.”

Actually, I think this is only a problem for apologists. I don’t see this as a problem, for instance. I see this as an opportunity, and a testament that skeptical investigation, similar to a hippocratic oath, is less likely to lead to hasty and dangerous conclusions.

VR: “So they won't say they've found something supernatural, but rather they will say that they haven't found the naturalistic explanation.”

You seem to be pretending that there are no good reasons for making the assumption that an unexplained phenomena will more likely have a natural than a supernatural explanation. But clearly, there are very good reasons.

VR: “So I am not sure that we have the kind of full induction that would allow us to assign probability zero to any supernatural claim.”

But I didn’t say that we should assign probability zero in my comment. I said that the numbers are “vanishingly small” (but not zero), and possibly more importantly that there is no good reason to assign a larger number to the likelihood of a supernatural event having occurred in those accounts that contain incidentally accurate information.

Here’s another way of looking at it – imagine if I proposed this scenario: Science is generally reliable. So, it makes sense that a scientifically designed test for breast cancer should detect breast cancer more often than a control that does not use the scientifically designed test. So, if we plug what I describe into a Bayes calculator, we will see that that those who use our test are more likely to correctly detect breast cancer than those who do not. So what’s wrong with this scenario? Notice that I didn’t say that our test actually detects breast cancer.

And that is the basic problem in your argument. You are assuming that a reliable witness is better at detecting and reporting a supernatural event than an unreliable witness. But our actual data shows us that this is not the case. And you need that data in order to get your Bayes calculation to move the probability up even a tiny, tiny bit.

Like I said, if I was an apologist, I’d explore this, because if I truly believed as a Christian does, I would think that something along this line of inquiry should be fruitful.

Victor Reppert said...

I have developed a definition of what is natural, which has to do with there not being any mental explanations at the basic level of analysis. If something normative, subjective/perspectival, purposive, or intentional is at the basic level of analysis, then it isn't naturalistic according to my definition. I have also developed the argument that if everything is natural in this sense, then reasoning and science itself are impossible.

However, I am open to the possibility that this definition of the natural might be rejected. It is the naturalist who needs the notion of the supernatural, because they need to know what to exclude from their worldview. If it turns out that my Christian ontology is real, but that it's all really natural in some sense and therefore not supernatural, I don't really care. Thus, for example, the attempt to exclude all theistic explanations from science on the grounds that they are supernatural is, I believe, a fundamental error. Therefore, I am inclined to reject all "demarcationist" arguments against creationism and intelligent design, even though I don't necessarily advocate those positions. We could in theory discover laws governing what to expect from God, and include those in science. The fact that that would "naturalize" God doesn't bother me in the slightest.