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Old 03-19-2001, 11:07 AM   #21
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Polycarp:
[b] Which ancient document does not make any religious claims? Toto's gonna be throwing away almost all of our history. Poor Toto...
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Why poor Toto? Toto gets to appreciate all those ancient documents as literature or myth without having to strain my brain trying to think they are actually true.

There is no need to believe that Socrates or Confucius or Jesus were actual people or bore any resemblance to an actual person.

Frankly, all history should be taken with a grain of salt, or appreciated as myth. There are several countries in the Balkans that have almost gone to war over which one could claim Alexander the Great as a national hero. That's taking history much, much too seriously.
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Old 03-19-2001, 11:50 AM   #22
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Omnedon1:
You have a faulty understanding of the scientific method. It's the same faulty understanding that creationists have, by the way.

The S.M. only requires that the results of experimentation be repeatable. So if I take a carbon-14 sample from the Shroud of Turin, the results that I get match what you (or anyone else) gets. The historical events surrounding the Shroud of Turin (regardless of whether it was Christ's or not) are events that will never repeat themselves in history. However, we are not prevented from making scientific statements about that artifact, merely because history never repeats itself. If that were the case, then we could make no statements about the Revolutionary War or the life of Napoleon.
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Hello ?? Is anybody out there?? You made the assertion that we should use the "scientific method" as the starting point for studying history. Here is the definition of "scientific method" as it appears at www.dictionary.com.

"scientific method
n.
The principles and empirical processes of discovery and demonstration considered characteristic of or necessary for scientific investigation, generally involving the observation of phenomena, the formulation of a hypothesis concerning the phenomena, experimentation to demonstrate the truth or falseness of the hypothesis, and a conclusion that validates or modifies the hypothesis."


Since the scientific method involves “observation” and “experimentation” we can’t use it when studying most historical things. The Shroud of Turin is a rare exception in that it is one of the very few historical things on which we can use the scientific method. We were talking about the gospels as history – those are not testable by the “scientific method”. No historical writing is subject to the scientific method.

In other words, we can’t use the scientific method to determine if Jesus said or did “X” because “X” is neither observable to us nor able to be subject to experimentation. The same situation applies to the words or deeds of any historical person.

Peace,

Polycarp
 
Old 03-19-2001, 11:57 AM   #23
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Eveyone involved in this thread needs to realize what I'm claiming in regards to the "scientific method".

The scientific method requires “observation” and “experimentation”. By its very definition, we can not determine if some person in the past said or did “X” simply by using the scientific method.

Are we all in agreement on this ?
 
Old 03-19-2001, 12:04 PM   #24
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Although it's only two countries that have made a really big fuss, the principle is correct. The nation of Macedonia emerged as a distinct ethnicity only within the last few centuries, though it only become independent when Yugoslavia fell apart. However, Greek nationalists have responded by claiming some sort of copyright on that name, and have referred to Macedonia as the "Republic of Skopje", after its capital. The current compromise is to call it the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or FYROM.

The most likely location for ancient Macedonia is, however, toward the east, but I don't see any Greek-Bulgarian conflicts over it.

 
Old 03-19-2001, 12:11 PM   #25
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
Hello ?? Is anybody out there??
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Yes, we're here. Go ahead.


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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
You made the assertion that we should use the "scientific method" as the starting point for studying history. Here is the definition of "scientific method" as it appears at www.dictionary.com.

"scientific method
n.
The principles and empirical processes of discovery and demonstration considered characteristic of or necessary for scientific investigation, generally involving the observation of phenomena, the formulation of a hypothesis concerning the phenomena, experimentation to demonstrate the truth or falseness of the hypothesis, and a conclusion that validates or modifies the hypothesis."
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Yes? So?

Try this. It's a lot more detailed than "dictionary.com"
[URL=http://phyun5.ucr.edu/~wudka/Physics7/Notes_www/node6.html#SECTION02121000000000000000]http://phyun5.ucr.edu/~wudka/Physics7/Notes_www/node6.html#SECTION02121000000000000000[/ URL]

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Since the scientific method involves “observation” and “experimentation” we can’t use it when studying most historical things.
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Wrong. We can derive all kinds of information not just from the physical document itself, but also by testing the claims in the document.

For example, if Herodotus claims winged serpents existed, is that a testable claim? Herodotus lived a long time ago, you know.

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[2.75] I went once to a certain place in Arabia, almost exactly opposite the city of Buto, to make inquiries concerning the winged serpents. On my arrival I saw the back-bones and ribs of serpents in such numbers as it is impossible to describe: of the ribs there were a multitude of heaps, some great, some small, some middle-sized. The place where the bones lie is at the entrance of a narrow gorge between steep mountains, which there open upon a spacious plain communicating with the great plain of Egypt. The story goes that with the spring the winged snakes come flying from Arabia towards Egypt, but are met in this gorge by the birds called ibises, who forbid their entrance and destroy them all. The Arabians assert, and the Egyptians also admit, that it is on account of the service thus rendered that the Egyptians hold the ibis in so much reverence.

[2.76] The ibis is a bird of a deep-black colour, with legs like a crane; its beak is strongly hooked, and its size is about that of the land-rail. This is a description of the black ibis which contends with the serpents. The commoner sort, for there are two quite distinct species, has the head and the whole throat bare of feathers; its general plumage is white, but the head and neck are jet black, as also are the tips of the wings and the extremity of the tail; in its beak and legs it resembles the other species. The winged serpent is shaped like the water-snake. Its wings are not feathered, but resemble very closely those of the bat. And thus I conclude the subject of the sacred animals.

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By your busted application of the Scientific Method, we have to grant this as provisionally true.

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The Shroud of Turin is a rare exception in that it is one of the very few historical things on which we can use the scientific method. We were talking about the gospels as history – those are not testable by the “scientific method”. No historical writing is subject to the scientific method.
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The claims that the writings make are most certainly testable by the scientific method. Inasmuch as those claims interact with the physical universe around us.

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In other words, we can’t use the scientific method to determine if Jesus said or did “X” because “X” is neither observable to us nor able to be subject to experimentation. The same situation applies to the words or deeds of any historical person.
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I repeat: by your rationale, we could never make any kind of scientific claims about the Revolutionary War (or about how the Declaration of Independence came into existence, since your focus has been on documents). Both the Rev. War and the creation of these documents were one-time events that none of us ever observed firsthand. So I ask you: is it a true statement that we cannot make any sort of scientifically valid statements about the REvolutionary War, or the Declaration of Independence?

Also, I thought you wanted to discuss miracles, not what a person said.



[This message has been edited by Omnedon1 (edited March 19, 2001).]
 
Old 03-19-2001, 12:28 PM   #26
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One more item, Polycarp - by your definition, we cannot use the scientific method on unique events in history (by the fact that they are unique and don't repeat).

So how do murders get solved in courtrooms around America today? There are scores of murders for which no eyewitness was present (except the victim, who is dead and the murderer, who isn't talking).

Those murders are both unique as well as lacking in direct observational evidence of the event.

Is it really your contention that all the investigative and forensic work that goes into solving murders is non-scientific? That it yields no factual data?

This is why your understanding of the scientific method is flawed. The repeatability you are stuck on is the repeatability of the experimental data - not the repeatability of the historical event itself.



[This message has been edited by Omnedon1 (edited March 19, 2001).]
 
Old 03-19-2001, 12:47 PM   #27
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Omnedon1:
One more item, Polycarp - by your definition, we cannot use the scientific method on unique events in history (by the fact that they are unique and don't repeat).

So how do murders get solved in courtrooms around America today? There are scores of murders for which no eyewitness was present (except the victim, who is dead and the murderer, who isn't talking).

Those murders are both unique as well as lacking in direct observational evidence of the event.

Is it really your contention that all the investigative and forensic work that goes into solving murders is non-scientific? That it yields no factual data?

This is why your understanding of the scientific method is flawed. The repeatability you are stuck on is the repeatability of the experimental data - not the repeatability of the historical event itself.

[This message has been edited by Omnedon1 (edited March 19, 2001).]
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So this is what you consider to be a good analogy? Applying the historical method in a trial with a statue of limitations with resolving historical accounts of what happened 2000 years ago, or 1000 years ago?

Do you have any references to actual historians who only apply the scientific method to discover history?
 
Old 03-19-2001, 01:08 PM   #28
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So this is what you consider to be a good analogy? Applying the historical method in a trial with a statue of limitations with resolving historical accounts of what happened 2000 years ago, or 1000 years ago?
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The statute of limitations point is irrelevant to the question of scientific discovery of facts. Statute of limitations is a legal principle with an arbitrary timeframe.

And in point of fact, we use forensic evidence to solve murders that occurred decades, or even centuries ago. And by the way: there is no statute of limitations on murder.

Indeed, we use those same principles to discover facts about the life and death of Incan and Egyptian mummies, who have been dead for thousands of years - regardless of how they died.


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Do you have any references to actual historians who only apply the scientific method to discover history?
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Did I make any claims that historians ought to rely solely upon the scientific method?

If you will check, you will see that I proposed that we focus on several independent lines of evidence from different disciplines.



[This message has been edited by Omnedon1 (edited March 19, 2001).]
 
Old 03-19-2001, 01:33 PM   #29
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Omnedon1:
Did I make any claims that historians ought to rely solely upon the scientific method?

If you will check, you will see that I proposed that we focus on several independent lines of evidence from different disciplines.
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I agree with you that it should not be the only method. I have no objection to using the scientific method, when it is availabe, such as through archeology. And if you have noticed, it has been mostly the Christians who have raised the archeological discoveries in these discussions. Such discoveries have been important in confirming such previously doubted facts as the existence of the city of Nazareth, the rule of Pilate, the accuracy of Acts, the accuracy of the desription of Jesus' crucifixion, the accuracy of the Gospel of John, and the dating of the New Testament books.

As should be obvious, the above discoveries, as useful as they have been in discarding previous skeptical arguments, can only go so far. They cannot prove what Jesus preached, they cannot prove why he died, they cannot prove what the disciples saw after Jesus was resurrected.

Which is why New Testament scholars, from liberals and atheists to conservatives and Christians, rely to a large extent on the tools mentioned by Polycarp. His list is not exhaustive, and I think he made it pretty clear that it was not.

It is also mostly Christians who have used the tools that Polycarp described. Those tools are somewhat akin to the point of a lance. They rest on many other disciplines to get to that point. Archeologists discover the manuscripts, reconstruct them, and then date them. Source critics wade through the material, discovery things like Matthew and Luke's dependence on Mark, Matthew and Luke's use of "Q," John's independence of Mark, the gospel's indepenence of the Pauline letters.

Additionally, information gleaned from the study of the Roman/Jewish environments during the time of the New Tesament is utilized to a great extent in this process. The better we understand the environment of Pagan religions, Roman government, and First Century Judaisms, the more accurate ourdating and interpreting the New Testament.

When all of the above is accumaled, then the tools Polycarp discussed may be used.

So the scientific method has a limited, but important, role in studying history generally, and the New Testament in particular. But the study of history itself is NOT conducted by THE scientific method.

 
Old 03-19-2001, 01:56 PM   #30
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I agree with you that it should not be the only method. I have no objection to using the scientific method, when it is availabe, such as through archeology. And if you have noticed, it has been mostly the Christians who have raised the archeological discoveries in these discussions.
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I have not noticed that, in point of fact. From what I have seen, the Christians raise a claim that such-and-such proves the bible. Then it's left to the skeptics to run around and do the footwork of actually verifying or disproving.

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As should be obvious, the above discoveries, as useful as they have been in discarding previous skeptical arguments, can only go so far. They cannot prove what Jesus preached, they cannot prove why he died, they cannot prove what the disciples saw after Jesus was resurrected.
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Which means that whatever "proof" you think you have is not a strong proof at all. If indeed it is even proof. And considering the very nature of what it is that theists are claiming, I again remind you: extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.


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Which is why New Testament scholars, from liberals and atheists to conservatives and Christians, rely to a large extent on the tools mentioned by Polycarp. His list is not exhaustive, and I think he made it pretty clear that it was not.
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1. The tools he mentioned are secondary to the objective data that we can derive using the scientific method. If the text says that City A was inhabited in 1000 BCE and we know that to be impossible, then the scientific data trumps the written claim.

2. The tools that he mentioned are still subject to the defects I (and Bob K) pointed out.

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Embarrassment - if the text refers to an incident that is not embarrassing, we're asked to take it as accurate because it is fairly plausible and non-controversial. But if the text contains an embarrassment, then that somehow proves the truth of the text and again, the skeptic is asked to accept it.

Dissimiliarity - as Bob K points out, is likewise of questionable use. If the text refers to an event that would be harmonious with the historical and social backdrop of ancient Palestine, then the skeptic is asked to accept it for precisely those reasons. On the other hand, if the event in question is dissimilar to what was expected, then the skeptic is told that "it couldn't possibly be made up, so it has to be true."

It seems that no matter what the evidence, the theist manages to create a "win" out of it.

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Additionally, information gleaned from the study of the Roman/Jewish environments durinthe time of the New Tesament is utilized to a great extent in this process. The better we understand the environment of Pagan religions, Roman government, and First Century Judaisms, the more accurate ourdating and interpreting the New Testament.
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Certainly.


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When all of the above is accumaled, then the tools Polycarp discussed may be used.
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I agree in general. However,

1. These tools are still subject to the flaws mentioned above; any set of tools that always arrives at the same conclusion is fundamentally useless for deriving any truth.


2. There is also the issue of scope. The kinds of secondary investigative pathways that you describe can only produce, by their very nature, relatively guarded and tentative conclusions. The reason that we have to resort to those methods in the first place is because the primary way, the preferred way to discover the facts is not available to us. So the strong, declaratory statements about "evidence" and "proof" that come from secondary methods are inappropriate.


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So the scientific method has a limited, but important, role in studying history generally, and the New Testament in particular. But the study of history itself is NOT conducted by THE scientific method.
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But historical conclusions that have no support in the scientific method, or are contradicted by the data gathered via the scientific method - those conclusions are either tentative (in the former case) or wrong (in the latter case).

 
 

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