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#1 CTD

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 11:42 PM

First off, I'll point out two important things

1.) Without history, there is no other science
2.) Because all other science relies upon history, no other science can be more reliable. The maximum limit for reliability is set by the limit of history.

The reason is simple. Except in cases where one does the observing oneself, one relies upon the reports made by others. These reports of past events are history.

The methods used to investigate the past are the same, whether it be distant or recent. All past events which one did not witness, one knows through historic methods.

What I advocate: Discover, Verify, Reconcile.

That should do it for the opening kickoff.

#2 CTD

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 12:58 AM

I'll now respond to some things said in another thread.

"Default in matters of history is what we are told has happened." Wow. I guess this is true with regards to relatively recent history, when writing everything down was in vogue and standard formats had developed for nonfiction as opposed to plain old storytelling. WAY back in the day, oral tradition was a common way of recording knowledge, scholars often did a sloppy (and certainly un-peer-reviewed) job of translating documents, and making stuff up to fill the gaps in human understanding was not at all uncommon.

Right... Says who?

In the entrenched debate characteristic of evolution vs. creation, this is as close as one ever comes to a concession of victory. I cited three factors: oral tradition (We know it was common because records speak of plenty of tales being passed down for uncounted generations before being transcribed. Plus, passing down stories by word of mouth just makes sense in an early world where writing tools are hard to come by.), poor translation (The bible has been translated in countless, conflicting ways from the original Hebrew, and that's just one book.) and plain old making-stuff-up. (In the texts of almost every ancient culture, you'll find fables and just-so stories which are fascinating to read but have no bearing on reality.) Each of these provides a good reason why very old historical accounts should not be taken at face value. So, short answer, "says me, and I have good reasons to say it." If you have good reasons why any ancient text should be assumed true until shown false, go ahead and present them. That might prove difficult, though; even just the religious texts of various cultures offer explicitly incompatible descriptions of the basic nature of the universe, so taking them all at face value would be problematic.

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Concession of victory? Right... Says who?

You make an artificial distinction between recent history and ancient. It's all investigated the same. "Oral traditions" have actually proven very reliable. The common objection is that a classroom of children playing "Chinese whispers" does not keep a story straight. People who are serious about things tend to do a better job than children playing a game.

Even so, writings are being discovered from earlier times than previously thought. The assumption that writing was unavailable at any time in mankind's history is an assumption, and it's losing ground.

The fact that "fables and just-so stories" existed is presented. Well, we have them now as well. Just because we have fiction does not mean all our records are fiction.

The process of reconciliation does not consist of finding a discrepancy and throwing out records. There's a little more to it, but perhaps those who care to undertake a proper investigation would be able to figure this out.

Whoops, my bad!  I forgot to reconcile.  ...seriously, though. What does that even mean? Google says it means "make (one thing) compatible with (another)," so I guess you mean take disparate accounts and come up with a theory that explains them both? Works for me. I can reconcile evolution with ancient creation stories by saying: "Evolution is more or less true, and the ancient creation stories were understandably made up by people who didn't know the truth." There, reconciled! :)  In all seriousness, "which theory matches up best with the world we observe?" is a good metric in that it takes two competing theories and points to one as better. "Discover, verify, reconcile" is a good abstract of the scientific method, I guess, but it could use some more detail. Discover? You mean by doing experiments, or by reading ancient stories? (I'd say the former is much more reliable, for the three reasons listed above.) Reconcile? How? Now that I think about it, my standard of matching-the-world is a reconciler of sorts, in that it tells us what to do when two theories fundamentally conflict. I challenge you to come up with a better standard.

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I think my procedure's pretty straightforward. When I write about such things, I write as a coach, helping those who want to play. I don't expect to play the role of an overseer cracking whips over reluctant, balking slaves. Those who don't want to learn don't have a lot to fear from me.

Discovery can be accidental, or the result of searching.

Verification is restricted only by the means one has available.

Reconciliation can sometimes be challenging.

The key is that the same things are done for events that happened yesterday as are done for events that happened 1100 years ago. Everyone already knows how to investigate fairly competently, if they have the desire. Everyone does it all the time.

Having a story from the distant past shows one of two things: either the people who wrote it actually knew what happened (seems reasonable) or they had no clue what happened and really needed a good story to fill in the gap (also seems reasonable).

The latter is less likely, for reasons that would be obvious if you thought about it.

No, no, no! You were doing so well! :) This isn't an argument at all... it's just more fodder for A. Sphere's turnabout post, if anything. I have thought about it, and somehow the reasons why ancient civilizations didn't make stuff up still elude me. Perhaps you'd care to enlighten me? I can think of two reasons why I'm right:
1. Early humans didn't know much about science, and if things like phlogiston theory and classical elementalism show us anything, it's that man is very good at making wild assertions to fill the gaps in his knowledge.
2. Take a look at creation stories. Not just one, but all of them. Either one is right, or none are right. That leaves dozens that are completely, irredeemably wrong. This means that the number of civilizations who just made stuff up and wrote it down outnumber the civilizations who recorded the truth by orders of magnitude. I feel like this shows the making-stuff-up scenario is at least as likely as the accurate-account scenario for any given document.

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Fine. Guess I have to explain how this thinking works. People in the past wrote true and false statements. People today write true and false statements. In spite of a great deal of effort on the part of some, most statements are true.

Even most statements made by habitual liars are true. It is the nature of communication that it doesn't work if the majority of what is said is false. And there used to be liars who didn't want to be exposed every time they open their mouths - that's a factor as well.

To assume that people in the past were complete idiots, and lied more than they spoke truth is contrary to reason, and contrary to the evidence. The assumption that is in keeping with the ways of communication is that people spoke truth most of the time.

As for the latter post, I wonder if someone hasn't put a little too much of the wrong kind of thinking into the matter. That was just a recipe for throwing out everything, and it does not withstand scrutiny.
1. You don't know what they didn't know in many, if not most cases. The antihistory about how ignorant people were in ancient times is rapidly eroding. And even ignorant people are capable of telling the truth about what they see, so it doesn't even matter in most cases.
2. Talk about false dichotomies! Stories typically contain more than one sentence. If even one sentence is true, even figuratively, the story containing it is not "completely, irredeemably wrong".

1 & 2. In the past, as in more recent times. People did what they were motivated to do. Even an untruth can prove very helpful in finding out what happened. Lying isn't all it's cracked up to be. It can be revealing.

#3 falcone

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 02:18 AM

First off, I'll point out two important things

1.) Without history, there is no other science
2.) Because all other science relies upon history, no other science can be more reliable. The maximum limit for reliability is set by the limit of history.

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Are you saying history is science?

#4 CTD

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 02:36 AM

Are you saying history is science?

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Absolutely!

#5 falcone

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 03:38 AM

Absolutely!

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Can you explain why? I can understand that scientific methods could be used to explain what has happened in the past. I don't get how history itself is a science though.

#6 A.Sphere

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 04:17 AM

Absolutely!

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Elaborate please.

#7 CTD

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 06:12 AM

History is a systematic means of obtaining knowledge. Thus it is a science.

#8 de_skudd

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 06:49 AM

Are you saying history is science?

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Yes... Absolutely!

#9 de_skudd

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 07:30 AM

Elaborate please.

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Wait for it!!!!

Can you explain why? I can understand that scientific methods could be used to explain what has happened in the past. I don't get how history itself is a science though.

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You do realize that you answered your own question in your first sentence, then semi-refuted it in your second sentence... Don't you? Scientific methods ARE used to explain what has happened in the past. Everything we study uses history to explain it!

If you stop to think about it, Logic, Philosophy, induction and deduction spawned the scientific method (if you disagree with this, you have problems beyond any help you can receive here)… Empirical science is based upon a hypothesis that is then tested over and over again to prove or disprove that hypothesis. This induction then becomes a “history” of that testing. Any and all testing that we read about, are then historical archives that we refer to when we do related research.

You use logical steps in any and all testing in order to prove or disprove the hypothesis that you are testing. (Because, if you don’t use logical steps, your conclusion will be flawed just as a defective premise in a syllogism will cause the wrong logical conclusion). Thus the logical steps become a part of that history.

Deduction is a conclusion drawn from all available information on a subject that you are testing. Whether logical, philosophical and/or scientific, it remains a fact that all the information you make your deduction from, is, in fact, historical data..

More directly, paleontology is an historical science, archeology is an historical science, forensic science is an historical science, and there is scientific method in testing of antiquities documentation as well….

I can be more elaborate if you wish, but you response to this post will determine your willingness to understand…. But, the answer to your question; “is history itself a science?” is a resounding affirmative! Why? Because you have to study history to understand where you’re going, and you have to use historical data to determine ANYTHING!.

#10 jason777

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 01:00 PM

Lyell: the Past is the Key to the Present

No one has a problem understanding that unless a Creationist mentions it?

Lyell even rejected the historical account of Noahs flood by making that conclusion.

#11 Master Buffalax

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 02:10 PM

You make an artificial distinction between recent history and ancient. It's all investigated the same. "Oral traditions" have actually proven very reliable. The common objection is that a classroom of children playing "Chinese whispers" does not keep a story straight. People who are serious about things tend to do a better job than children playing a game.

Even so, writings are being discovered from earlier times than previously thought. The assumption that writing was unavailable at any time in mankind's history is an assumption, and it's losing ground.

The fact that "fables and just-so stories" existed is presented. Well, we have them now as well. Just because we have fiction does not mean all our records are fiction.

"It's all investigated the same?!?!" Aagh! Find me a credible source ANYWHERE that says that. One of the first things one learns in an ancient (or even medieval) history class is that you always read "against the grain" of the text. People have biases, people make stuff up, and people mistranslate. If you disagree, I again challenge you to find a credible source anywhere that supports you. To figure out what was really going on, one has to read multiple documents from different perspectives, critically analyze what was and wasn't known at the time, brainstorm possible political or personal motivations for skewing the facts, etc... Even if people are being serious about oral tradition, each generation can certainly add their own embellishments and slight tweaks to the story, and it's not that hard to imagine someone along the line remembering a detail or two incorrectly.

Even so, writings are being discovered from earlier times than previously thought. The assumption that writing was unavailable at any time in mankind's history is an assumption, and it's losing ground.

I'll admit, writing existed back in the day, but it wasn't common, at least not by modern standards. People didn't write everything down like they have been for the last few centuries. The bits and pieces of text we do find are certainly valuable, but they're rare and unstandardized enough that they don't give the whole picture. Even as recently as medieval France, historians will often quite literally have two texts to define a decade, and the problem only gets worse as you go further back. Giving these few documents the weight of default truth just because they're whats available will lead to all manner of faulty conclusions.

The fact that "fables and just-so stories" existed is presented. Well, we have them now as well. Just because we have fiction does not mean all our records are fiction.

True, but in modern times there are good standards for deciding what is fiction and what is not. Want an accurate account? Find a book with lost of cited sources or an article in a peer-reviewed journal. In ancient history (specifically, before the Enlightenment), such standards were essentially unheard of. Classical elementalism and phlogiston theory, as I mentioned before, provide two great examples of things that were written down in the format of scientific knowledge, but had no bearing on reality and were not supported by any kind of proper experimentation. What is it about these stories that makes them obviously fiction in the way a modern novel is obviously fiction? The problem is not that fables and just-so stories existed, it's that such stories are not easy to distinguish from honest historical and scientific accounts in very old documents. Again, you have to approach everything with a skeptical eye to glean the truth from the fiction.

I think my procedure's pretty straightforward. When I write about such things, I write as a coach, helping those who want to play. I don't expect to play the role of an overseer cracking whips over reluctant, balking slaves. Those who don't want to learn don't have a lot to fear from me.

Discovery can be accidental, or the result of searching.

Verification is restricted only by the means one has available.

Reconciliation can sometimes be challenging.

I don't think it's straightforward at all.
-You say discovery can be accidental or on purpose. I assume that means anything and everything I see or hear about counts as a discovery.
-You say verification is restricted only by the means one has available. That's an unacceptably vague position. So I could verify by experiment? Or by checking a hypothesis against my own pre-formed beliefs? Or by having some nice fellow reassure me that it's true? Or by putting all my hypotheses on scraps of paper, throwing the scraps into a fire, and accepting those that don't burn to ash? You have to have more specific standards for what is or is not legitimate verification.
-Reconciliation can sometimes be challenging. Wow. That tells me nothing about how your reconciliation actually works. Please explain how to do it before you go touting it as a good method.
I'm not saying these things to be snide - I'm genuinely confused by your method, and I think that at present my standard of "what best fits the world we see?" is better merely by virtue of being well-defined. Perhaps yours can hold some weight after you've defined it in terms more objective than "find out whatever you can, verify it however you can, and then 'reconcile'."

The key is that the same things are done for events that happened yesterday as are done for events that happened 1100 years ago. Everyone already knows how to investigate fairly competently, if they have the desire. Everyone does it all the time.

And here's the crux of the argument. This is patently false. Methods of recording and conveying stories were VERY different 1100 years ago than they are now, and they were even more different before that. Ask any historian. Research tactics are not and cannot be the same when applied to pre-Enlightenment as opposed to modern literature. The fragments of potentially mistranslated or miscommunicated text never give the whole picture, and they must therefore be taken with a grain of salt in way that is unnecessary for peer-reviewed literature (where one should be critical of any conclusions, but one can be confident that any facts are honestly stated).

People in the past wrote true and false statements. People today write true and false statements. In spite of a great deal of effort on the part of some, most statements are true.

I reiterate my emphasis on fairy tales and just-so stories. It's not as easy to separate them from historical accounts and attempts at science as you seem to believe.

Even most statements made by habitual liars are true. It is the nature of communication that it doesn't work if the majority of what is said is false. And there used to be liars who didn't want to be exposed every time they open their mouths - that's a factor as well.

To assume that people in the past were complete idiots, and lied more than they spoke truth is contrary to reason, and contrary to the evidence. The assumption that is in keeping with the ways of communication is that people spoke truth most of the time.

I didn't say these people were liars, per se. I said man has a propensity for inventing fanciful stories to fill the gaps in his understanding, and back in the day there were a lot of gaps to be filled. Every culture has wonderful tales of how the tiger got his skin, or why there are stars in the sky, or... The people who wrote these things weren't lying, they were simply being human. I don't think people in the distant past were idiots, either. They just didn't have millennia of scientific progress to work with like we do. We know much of ancient scientific literature is wrong, because we've found models that better fit the world we see, as per my favorite standard. How can we express blind confidence in everything we haven't refuted yet? If we'd done that in the past, we know now that we would have made many, many mistakes.

As for the latter post, I wonder if someone hasn't put a little too much of the wrong kind of thinking into the matter. That was just a recipe for throwing out everything, and it does not withstand scrutiny.
1. You don't know what they didn't know in many, if not most cases. The antihistory about how ignorant people were in ancient times is rapidly eroding. And even ignorant people are capable of telling the truth about what they see, so it doesn't even matter in most cases.
2. Talk about false dichotomies! Stories typically contain more than one sentence. If even one sentence is true, even figuratively, the story containing it is not "completely, irredeemably wrong".

1. It doesn't matter exactly how much a civilization did and didn't know. The point is the list of things they didn't know was a big one, and this is usually indisputable. (What's a star? Why are there seasons? What makes objects fall to earth? What is the universe made of? ...) The key is that in modern times, we have rigorous standards for reporting what we know, what we don't know, and what we're concluding from present inquiries. In the distant past, such standards did not exist, so we have to approach old texts with a skeptical eye and figure out for ourselves which statements fall into which categories.
2. Ok, fine. No story is irredeemably wrong. That's just sidestepping the brunt of my argument: there are many creation stories out there, and most of them cannot be true, at least not in any literal sense. You advocate accepting historical accounts as true unless you have good reason to believe they are false. If you apply this rule to creation stories, you wind up with conflicting and incoherent beliefs. Even if you pick and choose sentences and metaphorical meanings from each story, you still haven't told me how to decide which parts should be kept and which should be thrown away. (And yes, some HAS to be thrown away, because there's not much else you can do when a flat-out contradiction arises.) I invoke my same standard as always: "which fits best with what we see in the world?" Until you can provide me with a standard that makes as much sense as mine, or at least one that tells you what to do when conflicting information arises, your position is inapplicable to a large portion of the ancient literature we're discussing.

#12 CTD

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 06:55 PM

"It's all investigated the same?!?!" Aagh! Find me a credible source ANYWHERE that says that.

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There is no need. This is something everyone already knows. When a source contradicts itself, or employs fallacious reasoning, what do we do? We DON'T alter what we do depending on the age of the source. It does not matter one bit.

I don't know or care who you consider a "credible source", and I don't know whether or not they could be forced to admit this or not. I don't care.

You make much ado over what boils down to cultural and linguistic differences. Guess what? If you find a source today who is a member of an island tribe you are not familiar with, you face the very same obstacles. Age has nothing to do with this.

One of the first things one learns in an ancient (or even medieval) history class is that you always read "against the grain" of the text. People have biases, people make stuff up, and people mistranslate. If you disagree, I again challenge you to find a credible source anywhere that supports you.

It's your assertion. The burden to provide sources is not mine.

And as I said, these issues have nothing to do with the age of the source. They have to do with the source being a member of a foreign society.

To figure out what was really going on, one has to read multiple documents from different perspectives, critically analyze what was and wasn't known at the time, brainstorm possible political or personal motivations for skewing the facts, etc...

Did Iraq possess WMD's?

Even if people are being serious about oral tradition, each generation can certainly add their own embellishments and slight tweaks to the story, and it's not that hard to imagine someone along the line remembering a detail or two incorrectly.

I'm not interested in imagining. I'm interested in finding things out. All people are subject to making mistakes. All are subject to being careless or deceptive. All are subject to being ignorant. There are no exceptions.

That's why one of the most valuable things one can find is a consistently reliable source. This is true if you're investigating events that happened a month ago. This is true if you're investigating ancient history, and it's true for all times in between.

And everyone already knows this. Nobody takes tabloids seriously. Many don't take network news at face value. Does anyone need to ask why? If so, please ask yourself first. It will save time.

#13 Master Buffalax

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 10:27 PM

There is no need. This is something everyone already knows. When a source contradicts itself, or employs fallacious reasoning, what do we do? We DON'T alter what we do depending on the age of the source. It does not matter one bit.

...I'm at a bit of a loss right now. Please understand that I'm not talking about sources that contradict themselves or sources that are fallacious. Those sources can be weeded out on their own merits, regardless of when they were written. I'm talking about sources that use good logic and are internally consistent, but simply state facts that may or may not be true as far as we know. Most historical documents are like this. The key is that in recent history, we have good standards for separating fiction from nonfiction, and we have prolific documents from all sorts of sources so that fact-checking is relatively easy. Older documents are much rarer and more poorly preserved, so there are often only a few documents which provide an incomplete picture at best. This means that the technique for reading and verifying ancient documents has to be very different from that applied to modern documents. To state that "everyone already knows" the techniques are the same is so explicitly, stubbornly incorrect that I don't even know how to respond. I guess you said I need to provide sources, so I can start there:
http://books.google....=result#PPA2,M1
http://articles.lati...-joel-kraemer16
The first is a book talking about the importance of using multiple models to examine medieval documents and view them from all possible information to get a better view of the real truth. The second is an article with a couple paragraphs of quotes that say essentially what I'm trying to convey, including this gem: “[T]he historian should gather and interpret evidence by methods like those employed by the detective… We harvest the evidence and force it to yield its secrets.” Like a detective. As in, skeptically. And with the mindset of reconstructing a picture of the past from small fragments of evidence. Quite unlike analysis of literature from the modern era, where everyone writes everything down and you can be fairly sure the facts in a peer-reviewed article are legitimate facts.

Lest we get bogged down in the citations, though, the central point here is that you are displaying an amazing ignorance of historical method, and I don't really know how to get you to change your mind. I talked to one of the professors here on campus, Dr. North, about the issue. He's a medieval and Renaissance studies specialist with more experience as a historian than everyone on this forum combined. And he confirms that no credible historian would ever say we should take ancient texts at face value the way we do with modern texts. Am I committing an appeal-to-authority fallacy? Maybe. But I can't think of any better way to convince you how wrong you are, especially when you seem to take it for granted that your position is the obvious one which almost everyone agrees with. It's not, and your credibility to any knowledgeable reader will suffer until you realize that.

You make much ado over what boils down to cultural and linguistic differences. Guess what? If you find a source today who is a member of an island tribe you are not familiar with, you face the very same obstacles. Age has nothing to do with this.

Actually, that's true. Remote island nations are hard to come by in this age of globalization, but analyzing the texts from such a nation would indeed require different tactics from normal analysis of modern literature. The thing is, this only strengthens my argument, because ancient civilizations were actually a lot like your hypothetical island tribes; they didn't speak English (some spoke old English, and even that's a challenge to read) and their cultures were amazingly different from those of today or even of the near past. The only difference is that ancient texts have had more time to be lost or mistranslated, and there's no way to contact the original authors and see what they actually meant. Sound tricky to deal with? It is. That's why we have to use special techniques.

Did Iraq possess WMD's?

No, and that's actually a great example. Say a future historian wanted to investigate the war in Iraq. He might find the infamous WMD report; reading it, he would quickly be able to conclude two things:
1. It was extensively researched and cited, so the facts reported in it are probably accurate.
2. The authors concluded from the aforementioned facts that WMDs were in Iraq.

Assuming the historian was at all thorough, he'd skim through the mountains of other publications from the early new millennium and quickly find a ton of reports detailing how the Bush administration screwed up and analyzing the mistake from every possible angle. The correct interpretation would be immediately obvious: The US government, despite conducting a reasonably thorough study, jumped to an erroneous conclusion and said there were WMDs in Iraq when there weren't any.

Now let's place the document in a context more typical of ancient texts. Let's say that from the 2000-2005 era, the historian only had maybe a dozen texts to work with, consisting of the WMD report, CNN transcripts covering the Iraq war and 9/11, a few political blog posts from various years, and a propaganda leaflet from the White House. None of the documents obey any particular format that indicates their credibility or the personal biases of their sources. Taken at first glance, these documents would indicate that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and we saved our nation from a potential nuclear attack by striking back against the terrorists who flew planes into our buildings. When we analyze old historical documents (or documents from island tribes, for that matter) we need to use an unusually critical viewpoint to avoid filling in the blanks with similarly false conclusions.

I'm not interested in imagining. I'm interested in finding things out. All people are subject to making mistakes. All are subject to being careless or deceptive. All are subject to being ignorant. There are no exceptions.

That's why one of the most valuable things one can find is a consistently reliable source. This is true if you're investigating events that happened a month ago. This is true if you're investigating ancient history, and it's true for all times in between.

And everyone already knows this. Nobody takes tabloids seriously. Many don't take network news at face value. Does anyone need to ask why? If so, please ask yourself first. It will save time.

Yes, all people are subject to being mistaken, careless, or deceptive. That's not so much of a problem in this day and age, when one can easily check many documents with many sources to get the real picture and screen out mistakes or falsifications in individual accounts. With ancient texts, we don't have that luxury. Part of the problem is that there are so few texts that comparison between accounts is difficult, and another part is that cultural and linguistic barriers make it tougher to decide what should be taken seriously and what shouldn't. (As you point, out, no one today would take tabloids seriously. When texts are further removed from our modern culture, we can't so easily discern whether a given document is worth our consideration.)

Also, "find a consistently reliable source" is an interesting thing to say. I agree; a consistently reliable source from a given era in history is worth many times its weight in gold. I challenge you to name one such source from before the year 1000. It shouldn't be hard - if all historical documents should be taken at their word, just about ANYTHING would suffice. Got one? Good. Now name a second. Betcha can't. Something tells me this little test will make the logic behind your argumentation a little more plain. Or perhaps you can't even think of one - if not, your arguments kind of fall apart. One should be able to think of at least a couple examples of one's ideas being usefully applied in practice, after all.

As a final note, I'll just reiterate two of what I feel are my strongest points that weren't addressed. Don't want them to get lost in the muddle, after all; that would be #8 from the Evo Debate Playbook thread.

1. Regardless of how much we should treat ancient texts differently, your "discover, verify, reconcile" paradigm is coming across as lofty-sounding but largely meaningless. Please narrow down what you mean by these three terms, taking into account the criticisms in paragraph 4 of my last post. Until you do, I think my standard of "what fits present observations best?" wins out just because it's well-defined.

2. Your standard of taking historical documents at face value simply does not work on creation stories, for instance, because accepting any one story contradicts key components of the others. How do you decide which parts of which stories to keep, and which parts to throw away? This kind of ties into my previous argument; you need a well-defined standard to separate worthwhile from worthless, because believing everything is not a tenable position.

#14 CTD

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 01:15 AM

The fact that "fables and just-so stories" existed is presented. Well, we have them now as well. Just because we have fiction does not mean all our records are fiction.

True, but in modern times there are good standards for deciding what is fiction and what is not. Want an accurate account? Find a book with lost of cited sources or an article in a peer-reviewed journal.

That's a poor standard. It isn't foolproof to begin with, and if we apply it, we won't obtain very much information. Your own post fails to meet this standard, so I'll consider applying it.

Naw, you'd just say I was "retreating".

If my friend says his tire went flat yesterday, do I assume the statement is false because he doesn't have "peer-review" backing him up?

Does any courtroom anywhere in the world apply this standard?

I think it's easy to see that rejecting statements for lack of citations and "peer-review" is impractical, wasteful, and just plain silly.

...What is it about these stories that makes them obviously fiction in the way a modern novel is obviously fiction? The problem is not that fables and just-so stories existed, it's that such stories are not easy to distinguish from honest historical and scientific accounts in very old documents. Again, you have to approach everything with a skeptical eye to glean the truth from the fiction.

You seem to overlook verification and reconciliation. Again.

I don't think it's straightforward at all.
-You say discovery can be accidental or on purpose. I assume that means anything and everything I see or hear about counts as a discovery.
-You say verification is restricted only by the means one has available. That's an unacceptably vague position. So I could verify by experiment? Or by checking a hypothesis against my own pre-formed beliefs? Or by having some nice fellow reassure me that it's true? Or by putting all my hypotheses on scraps of paper, throwing the scraps into a fire, and accepting those that don't burn to ash? You have to have more specific standards for what is or is not legitimate verification.
-Reconciliation can sometimes be challenging. Wow. That tells me nothing about how your reconciliation actually works. Please explain how to do it before you go touting it as a good method.

Everyone does these things all the time. My checklist is helpful for those who may tend to forget one or more of the steps (hint).

I'm not saying these things to be snide - I'm genuinely confused by your method, and I think that at present my standard of "what best fits the world we see?" is better merely by virtue of being well-defined. Perhaps yours can hold some weight after you've defined it in terms more objective than "find out whatever you can, verify it however you can, and then 'reconcile'."

Your standard is subjective, and with no checklist, your followers just might forget some important procedures.

#15 CTD

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 01:18 AM

Discovery can be accidental, or the result of searching.

Verification is restricted only by the means one has available.

Reconciliation can sometimes be challenging.

The key is that the same things are done for events that happened yesterday as are done for events that happened 1100 years ago. Everyone already knows how to investigate fairly competently, if they have the desire. Everyone does it all the time.

And here's the crux of the argument. This is patently false. Methods of recording and conveying stories were VERY different 1100 years ago than they are now, and they were even more different before that.

People speak. People write. People gesture.

Formerly, people spoke, and wrote, and gestured.

Ask any historian. Research tactics are not and cannot be the same when applied to pre-Enlightenment as opposed to modern literature. The fragments of potentially mistranslated or miscommunicated text never give the whole picture, and they must therefore be taken with a grain of salt in way that is unnecessary for peer-reviewed literature (where one should be critical of any conclusions, but one can be confident that any facts are honestly stated).

Present day literature which is fragmentary and has been translated, what of it? How is newness going to solve any of the problems?

I reiterate my emphasis on fairy tales and just-so stories. It's not as easy to separate them from historical accounts and attempts at science as you seem to believe.

I don't know that I've given any indication. I suppose some people would struggle with the problem more than others. This is true of most endeavours.

I didn't say these people were liars, per se. I said man has a propensity for inventing fanciful stories to fill the gaps in his understanding, and back in the day there were a lot of gaps to be filled. Every culture has wonderful tales of how the tiger got his skin, or why there are stars in the sky, or... The people who wrote these things weren't lying, they were simply being human.

Has it ever been established that even one ancient story was dreampt up simply to provide a childish explanation for a part of nature that was not understood? I honestly don't know how one would go about establishing such an assertion without assuming it.

I don't think people in the distant past were idiots, either. They just didn't have millennia of scientific progress to work with like we do. We know much of ancient scientific literature is wrong, because we've found models that better fit the world we see, as per my favorite standard. How can we express blind confidence in everything we haven't refuted yet? If we'd done that in the past, we know now that we would have made many, many mistakes.

Huh?

"Blind confidence in everything we haven't refuted yet" sounds like some mistaken versions of "science" I've seen. "Every hypothesis is assumed true until falsified" would be a better paraphrase.

But that's neither here nor there.

1. It doesn't matter exactly how much a civilization did and didn't know. The point is the list of things they didn't know was a big one, and this is usually indisputable. (What's a star? Why are there seasons? What makes objects fall to earth? What is the universe made of? ...)

And nobody knows even now what makes objects fall, or what the universe is made of.

The key is that in modern times, we have rigorous standards for reporting what we know, what we don't know, and what we're concluding from present inquiries. In the distant past, such standards did not exist, so we have to approach old texts with a skeptical eye and figure out for ourselves which statements fall into which categories.

Your really would do better to stop mixing "pro-science" propaganda with your argument. It has nothing to do with the methods of investigating the past.

2. Ok, fine. No story is irredeemably wrong. That's just sidestepping the brunt of my argument: there are many creation stories out there, and most of them cannot be true, at least not in any literal sense.

No it isn't.

You advocate accepting historical accounts as true unless you have good reason to believe they are false. If you apply this rule to creation stories, you wind up with conflicting and incoherent beliefs.

I do? I had not noticed. I haven't encountered this problem before. Perhaps you omit reconciliation?

#16 CTD

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 01:20 AM

Even if you pick and choose sentences and metaphorical meanings from each story, you still haven't told me how to decide which parts should be kept and which should be thrown away. (And yes, some HAS to be thrown away, because there's not much else you can do when a flat-out contradiction arises.) I invoke my same standard as always: "which fits best with what we see in the world?" Until you can provide me with a standard that makes as much sense as mine, or at least one that tells you what to do when conflicting information arises, your position is inapplicable to a large portion of the ancient literature we're discussing.

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That's all right. I still haven't told you lots of things. You still haven't accepted what I've already told you, and I don't think you intend to.

I will say this for your standard: On paper, it is slightly better than "I'll believe what I want to believe".

#17 CTD

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 01:38 AM

There is no need. This is something everyone already knows. When a source contradicts itself, or employs fallacious reasoning, what do we do? We DON'T alter what we do depending on the age of the source. It does not matter one bit.

...I'm at a bit of a loss right now. Please understand that I'm not talking about sources that contradict themselves or sources that are fallacious. Those sources can be weeded out on their own merits, regardless of when they were written.

You don't say?

Well, I'm not cherry-picking what I'm talking about. Investigating history is what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about sources that use good logic and are internally consistent, but simply state facts that may or may not be true as far as we know. Most historical documents are like this.

If there is no reason to doubt a statement, and it has been verified and reconciled, it is universally assumed true in everyday life. The same standard must apply in all cases, lest one be an hypocrite or employ special pleading.

The key is that in recent history, we have good standards for separating fiction from nonfiction, and we have prolific documents from all sorts of sources so that fact-checking is relatively easy.

How many people were in my kitchen yesterday at 2 P.M.?

Older documents are much rarer and more poorly preserved, so there are often only a few documents which provide an incomplete picture at best. This means that the technique for reading and verifying ancient documents has to be very different from that applied to modern documents. To state that "everyone already knows" the techniques are the same is so explicitly, stubbornly incorrect that I don't even know how to respond.

Perhaps you should've waited until you had a better response.

I guess you said I need to provide sources, so I can start there:
http://books.google....=result#PPA2,M1
http://articles.lati...-joel-kraemer16
The first is a book talking about the importance of using multiple models to examine medieval documents and view them from all possible information to get a better view of the real truth. The second is an article with a couple paragraphs of quotes that say essentially what I'm trying to convey, including this gem: “[T]he historian should gather and interpret evidence by methods like those employed by the detective… We harvest the evidence and force it to yield its secrets.”

YOUR OWN SOURCE is in perfect agreement with me. Detectives investigate what? Things that happened yesterday, last week, last month.

Here it is again:

“[T]he historian should gather and interpret evidence by methods like those employed by the detective… .,” explains Kraemer, citing the late Yale historian Robin Winks as his inspiration. “We harvest the evidence and force it to yield its secrets.”


I'll include the rest of your post so you may reflect on how much time you wasted attempting to gin up some dispute.

Like a detective. As in, skeptically. And with the mindset of reconstructing a picture of the past from small fragments of evidence. Quite unlike analysis of literature from the modern era, where everyone writes everything down and you can be fairly sure the facts in a peer-reviewed article are legitimate facts.

Lest we get bogged down in the citations, though, the central point here is that you are displaying an amazing ignorance of historical method, and I don't really know how to get you to change your mind. I talked to one of the professors here on campus, Dr. North, about the issue. He's a medieval and Renaissance studies specialist with more experience as a historian than everyone on this forum combined. And he confirms that no credible historian would ever say we should take ancient texts at face value the way we do with modern texts. Am I committing an appeal-to-authority fallacy? Maybe. But I can't think of any better way to convince you how wrong you are, especially when you seem to take it for granted that your position is the obvious one which almost everyone agrees with. It's not, and your credibility to any knowledgeable reader will suffer until you realize that.
Actually, that's true. Remote island nations are hard to come by in this age of globalization, but analyzing the texts from such a nation would indeed require different tactics from normal analysis of modern literature. The thing is, this only strengthens my argument, because ancient civilizations were actually a lot like your hypothetical island tribes; they didn't speak English (some spoke old English, and even that's a challenge to read) and their cultures were amazingly different from those of today or even of the near past. The only difference is that ancient texts have had more time to be lost or mistranslated, and there's no way to contact the original authors and see what they actually meant. Sound tricky to deal with? It is. That's why we have to use special techniques.
No, and that's actually a great example. Say a future historian wanted to investigate the war in Iraq. He might find the infamous WMD report; reading it, he would quickly be able to conclude two things:
1.  It was extensively researched and cited, so the facts reported in it are probably accurate.
2. The authors concluded from the aforementioned facts that WMDs were in Iraq.

Assuming the historian was at all thorough, he'd skim through the mountains of other publications from the early new millennium and quickly find a ton of reports detailing how the Bush administration screwed up and analyzing the mistake from every possible angle. The correct interpretation would be immediately obvious: The US government, despite conducting a reasonably thorough study, jumped to an erroneous conclusion and said there were WMDs in Iraq when there weren't any.

Now let's place the document in a context more typical of ancient texts. Let's say that from the 2000-2005 era, the historian only had maybe a dozen texts to work with, consisting of the WMD report, CNN transcripts covering the Iraq war and 9/11, a few political blog posts from various years, and a propaganda leaflet from the White House. None of the documents obey any particular format that indicates their credibility or the personal biases of their sources. Taken at first glance, these documents would indicate that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and we saved our nation from a potential nuclear attack by striking back against the terrorists who flew planes into our buildings. When we analyze old historical documents (or documents from island tribes, for that matter) we need to use an unusually critical viewpoint to avoid filling in the blanks with similarly false conclusions.
Yes, all people are subject to being mistaken, careless, or deceptive. That's not so much of a problem in this day and age, when one can easily check many documents with many sources to get the real picture and screen out mistakes or falsifications in individual accounts. With ancient texts, we don't have that luxury. Part of the problem is that there are so few texts that comparison between accounts is difficult, and another part is that cultural and linguistic barriers make it tougher to decide what should be taken seriously and what shouldn't. (As you point, out, no one today would take tabloids seriously. When texts are further removed from our modern culture, we can't so easily discern whether a given document is worth our consideration.)

Also, "find a consistently reliable source" is an interesting thing to say. I agree; a consistently reliable source from a given era in history is worth many times its weight in gold. I challenge you to name one such source from before the year 1000. It shouldn't be hard - if all historical documents should be taken at their word, just about ANYTHING would suffice. Got one? Good. Now name a second. Betcha can't. Something tells me this little test will make the logic behind your argumentation a little more plain. Or perhaps you can't even think of one - if not, your arguments kind of fall apart. One should be able to think of at least a couple examples of one's ideas being usefully applied in practice, after all.

As a final note, I'll just reiterate two of what I feel are my strongest points that weren't addressed. Don't want them to get lost in the muddle, after all; that would be #8 from the Evo Debate Playbook thread.

1. Regardless of how much we should treat ancient texts differently, your "discover, verify, reconcile" paradigm is coming across as lofty-sounding but largely meaningless. Please narrow down what you mean by these three terms, taking into account the criticisms in paragraph 4 of my last post. Until you do, I think my standard of "what fits present observations best?" wins out just because it's well-defined.

2. Your standard of taking historical documents at face value simply does not work on creation stories, for instance, because accepting any one story contradicts key components of the others. How do you decide which parts of which stories to keep, and which parts to throw away? This kind of ties into my previous argument; you need a well-defined standard to separate worthwhile from worthless, because believing everything is not a tenable position.

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#18 CTD

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 03:46 AM

On second thought, I'll go ahead and see what I can do to comply with the rule about responding to posts fully.

Lest we get bogged down in the citations, though, the central point here is that you are displaying an amazing ignorance of historical method, and I don't really know how to get you to change your mind.

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Right...

I talked to one of the professors here on campus, Dr. North, about the issue. He's a medieval and Renaissance studies specialist with more experience as a historian than everyone on this forum combined. And he confirms that no credible historian would ever say we should take ancient texts at face value the way we do with modern texts. Am I committing an appeal-to-authority fallacy? Maybe. But I can't think of any better way to convince you how wrong you are, especially when you seem to take it for granted that your position is the obvious one which almost everyone agrees with. It's not, and your credibility to any knowledgeable reader will suffer until you realize that.

"If it makes you feel good." Isn't that what they say?

You make much ado over what boils down to cultural and linguistic differences. Guess what? If you find a source today who is a member of an island tribe you are not familiar with, you face the very same obstacles. Age has nothing to do with this.

Actually, that's true. Remote island nations are hard to come by in this age of globalization, but analyzing the texts from such a nation would indeed require different tactics from normal analysis of modern literature. The thing is, this only strengthens my argument, because ancient civilizations were actually a lot like your hypothetical island tribes; they didn't speak English (some spoke old English, and even that's a challenge to read) and their cultures were amazingly different from those of today or even of the near past.

Hmmm. Your argument is strengthened when you are demonstrated to be incorrect. Sweet reasoning, if you can pull it off. Poisonous, but sweet.

The only difference is that ancient texts have had more time to be lost or mistranslated, and there's no way to contact the original authors and see what they actually meant. Sound tricky to deal with? It is. That's why we have to use special techniques.

"Special techniques, huh?" I shan't venture to guess.

Did Iraq possess WMD's?

No, and that's actually a great example. Say a future historian wanted to investigate the war in Iraq. He might find the infamous WMD report; reading it, he would quickly be able to conclude two things:
1. It was extensively researched and cited, so the facts reported in it are probably accurate.
2. The authors concluded from the aforementioned facts that WMDs were in Iraq.

Assuming the historian was at all thorough, he'd skim through the mountains of other publications from the early new millennium and quickly find a ton of reports detailing how the Bush administration screwed up and analyzing the mistake from every possible angle. The correct interpretation would be immediately obvious: The US government, despite conducting a reasonably thorough study, jumped to an erroneous conclusion and said there were WMDs in Iraq when there weren't any.

Now let's place the document in a context more typical of ancient texts. Let's say that from the 2000-2005 era, the historian only had maybe a dozen texts to work with, consisting of the WMD report, CNN transcripts covering the Iraq war and 9/11, a few political blog posts from various years, and a propaganda leaflet from the White House. None of the documents obey any particular format that indicates their credibility or the personal biases of their sources. Taken at first glance, these documents would indicate that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and we saved our nation from a potential nuclear attack by striking back against the terrorists who flew planes into our buildings. When we analyze old historical documents (or documents from island tribes, for that matter) we need to use an unusually critical viewpoint to avoid filling in the blanks with similarly false conclusions.

Whether history is ancient or recent, we have the same problems. And the same solutions.

Yes, all people are subject to being mistaken, careless, or deceptive. That's not so much of a problem in this day and age, when one can easily check many documents with many sources to get the real picture and screen out mistakes or falsifications in individual accounts.

I don't know what you're imagining. Most stories we encounter do not have mountains of documentation from multiple sources. I'd say less than one story in a thousand has more than a couple of sources, although I haven't put a lot of thought into it.

With ancient texts, we don't have that luxury. Part of the problem is that there are so few texts that comparison between accounts is difficult, and another part is that cultural and linguistic barriers make it tougher to decide what should be taken seriously and what shouldn't. (As you point, out, no one today would take tabloids seriously. When texts are further removed from our modern culture, we can't so easily discern whether a given document is worth our consideration.)

Seeing as we don't have "that luxury" in the present, I don't think you're making much progress.

#19 CTD

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 03:50 AM

Also, "find a consistently reliable source" is an interesting thing to say. I agree; a consistently reliable source from a given era in history is worth many times its weight in gold. I challenge you to name one such source from before the year 1000. It shouldn't be hard - if all historical documents should be taken at their word, just about ANYTHING would suffice. Got one? Good. Now name a second. Betcha can't. Something tells me this little test will make the logic behind your argumentation a little more plain. Or perhaps you can't even think of one - if not, your arguments kind of fall apart. One should be able to think of at least a couple examples of one's ideas being usefully applied in practice, after all.

You obviously have no desire to understand. You continue to argue against this "all historical documents should be taken at their word" straw man. You forget that the only way a source can be determined reliable at all is if the information it contains is confirmed by other means. There is nothing to your argument.

If you dare not even state my position accurately, I suggest you have little hope of victory.

As a final note, I'll just reiterate two of what I feel are my strongest points that weren't addressed. Don't want them to get lost in the muddle, after all; that would be #8 from the Evo Debate Playbook thread.

1. Regardless of how much we should treat ancient texts differently, your "discover, verify, reconcile" paradigm is coming across as lofty-sounding but largely meaningless. Please narrow down what you mean by these three terms, taking into account the criticisms in paragraph 4 of my last post. Until you do, I think my standard of "what fits present observations best?" wins out just because it's well-defined.

I think you think it wins out because you want it to. You haven't defined it beyond stating it.

2. Your standard of taking historical documents at face value simply does not work on creation stories, for instance, because accepting any one story contradicts key components of the others. How do you decide which parts of which stories to keep, and which parts to throw away? This kind of ties into my previous argument; you need a well-defined standard to separate worthwhile from worthless, because believing everything is not a tenable position.

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I believe my position is clear. I have said more than once that history should be verified and reconciled. Anyone who has selective enough vision to have overlooked these words deserves to believe every word you say. On every subject. In every context.

For the record, do you claim every story should be presumed false? If so, I intend to respond and mock this claim without much mercy. Beyond that, don't count on too many more responses. My time is my own.

#20 Master Buffalax

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Posted 28 January 2009 - 05:18 PM

Holy cow. What's that, a... sextuple post in response to mine? That's gotta be a record of some kind. At any rate:

The following quote is near the end of your responses, but it's a key point, so I wanted to put it first. The rest of my responses proceed in the order of your arguments; just keep in mind that I wrote most of them before I wrote this first one.

[QUOTE]You obviously have no desire to understand. You continue to argue against this "all historical documents should be taken at their word" straw man. You forget that the only way a source can be determined reliable at all is if the information it contains is confirmed by other means. There is nothing to your argument.

If you dare not even state my position accurately, I suggest you have little hope of victory.[/QUOTE]
Aha! Yes! :lol: Just when I was about to lose all hope. Now we're really getting somewhere. I was genuinely under the impression that you were saying historical texts should be assumed true unless one has particular reason to believe that they are false. This was based on a comment from the Evo Debate Playbook thread:
[QUOTE]Default in matters of history is what we are told has happened.[/QUOTE]
If my understanding was wrong, I apologize. It now sounds like you're saying historical texts can point one in promising directions, but any claim from a text should be verified like any other claim before it is accepted. I agree with that position wholeheartedly. If this is indeed a good summary of your beliefs, all the debate about ancient versus modern texts no longer needs to be maintained; as long as you agree historical texts should be approached with plenty of skepticism and a critical eye, whether they should be approached with MORE skepticism and criticism than modern texts is a tangential question.

The central issue here then becomes: how do we confirm the facts in a given historical text (an ancient one in particular)? You and I seem to agree that such confirmation is necessary, so a standard by which the confirmation can be executed is also necessary. As always, my standard is "does it match up with the world we see?" as elaborated on above. Is this an acceptable standard? Maybe the whole confirmation process falls under "verify" in your three step process. Could "discover, verify, reconcile" be paraphrased as "find or make claims about the world, screen those claims based on how well they match observations, combine the claims that withstand scrutiny with prior knowledge to form a more complete picture of the world"? That sounds exactly like the scientific method, and I support it fully. When you reply to this post, please let me know what is correct and incorrect about my interpretation of your position here.

There are a lot of arguments, so I'm providing a brief index of my key claims:
*Refute my four reasons (after the 9th quote) why ancient texts should be treated with more scrutiny than modern ones. If you agree that ancient texts should be treated with high scrutiny and critical analysis (regardless of what you think about modern texts), these do not need to be addressed.
*You really need to define discover, verify, and reconcile in terms more exact than "everyone does these things". Either accept the paraphrasing I offer above or give your own definitions.
*At this point it's more out of curiosity than anything else, but I really want to know how you differentiate between creation stories. How do you know which parts of which stories to accept as truth, literal or otherwise?

Respond to these three arguments and I'll be happy. You can bring up any or all of the specific arguments that follow, but you could completely address my position by addressing these three points.

[QUOTE]That's a poor standard. It isn't foolproof to begin with, and if we apply it, we won't obtain very much information. Your own post fails to meet this standard, so I'll consider applying it.[/QUOTE]
I do have to admit that "everything should be peer reviewed" is an excessive standard. However, when any recent occurrence is in doubt, one can find plenty of peer reviewed or well-cited sources, coming from authors with different viewpoints, to separate truth from fiction. With ancient texts, that can't be done, so the process of checking between many credible sources must be replaced with scrutinizing what you have very, very carefully.

[QUOTE]If my friend says his tire went flat yesterday, do I assume the statement is false because he doesn't have "peer-review" backing him up?[/QUOTE]
No, of course not. You know your friend and you understand the motives and context of his saying what he says. Instead, imagine just finding a scrap of paper saying that someone got a flat tire. Did it happen? Hard to say - maybe the scrap of paper came from a novel, or from a letter written by a guy trying to explain his way out of a moving violation.

[QUOTE]Does any courtroom anywhere in the world apply this standard?[/QUOTE]
Yes, in a manner of speaking. If one person accuses another of a crime [we find a text], that is not enough to get a conviction [make a conclusion]. If it was, we'd have false convictions [false conclusions] all over the place. Instead, the accusation needs to be backed up by multiple witnesses with matching stories [checking the text against other accounts from different authors] and/or good evidence that points to the crime being committed [real-world observations that match what is said in the text]. If there are plenty of witnesses, and even some expert witnesses [lots of other texts, including a few peer-reviewed and well-cited ones], the conviction can go through without much evidence at all. If all you have to go on is the original account and maybe one witness who didn't directly observe the crime [typically the case for texts from early periods when writing was less common], there had better be plenty of good evidence before the jury decides to convict. The analogy isn't perfect, but it actually works better than I expected it to. In modern literature we have many sources and clear standards for determining the reliability of said sources, so we can just check sources against each other until we're satisfied that we've found the truth. With older texts, we don't have either of those luxuries, so "what best matches the world we see?" is a crucial standard for extracting truth from what's available.

[QUOTE]I think it's easy to see that rejecting statements for lack of citations and "peer-review" is impractical, wasteful, and just plain silly.[/QUOTE]
I'll admit that I probably overstated my case in the last post, and for that I apologize. The point is that if anything in a modern text is important and/or suspect enough that you want to make sure it's true, you can easily find other, credible sources and check it against them. With older texts you can't do that, partly because other texts are so hard to find and partly because there's no easy way to pick out a few sources as "obviously credible" and work from there.

[QUOTE]You seem to overlook verification and reconciliation. Again...
Everyone does these things all the time. My checklist is helpful for those who may tend to forget one or more of the steps (hint).[/QUOTE]
I don't "overlook" any of your three steps. They simply make no sense to me, and I can't give you credit for doing something I don't understand. I've made a point of asking you for better definitions in every one of my posts, and you've responded with nothing but vague assertions that everyone knows exactly what you're talking about. I think that kind of argument is somewhere in the "Evo Debate Playbook" thread. If you want your standard to be worth anything, you should at least be able to define it on demand, even if you usually assume people know what you mean. See immediately after the 9th quote in this post for a more detailed argument against "reconcile" in particular.

[QUOTE]Your standard is subjective, and with no checklist, your followers just might forget some important procedures.[/QUOTE]
Why is my standard subjective? I can make a pretty clear checklist, if you want:
1. Determine what the text in question says about the world. Some of these statements may be explicit, others may be subtle and implicit. To find them all, start with everything the story says and apply the rules of logic to deduce what claims would be necessarily true if the text's claims were true. Logic is objective, so this step is objective.
2. See how the world actually works. This is just observing and noting what you see, with no interpretation, so it's objective.
3. Do the predictions of the text match your observations? If yes, the text is accurate. If no, the text is inaccurate. If partly yes and partly no, those parts of the text that agree are accurate, while other parts are inaccurate. This step simply involves comparing two lists and seeing which items do and do not show up on both, so it is objective.
4. Add the true parts to your knowledge bank. Look at the text again, brainstorming for reasons why the incorrect parts might be there. If you can come up with plausible alternative meanings (metaphor or satire, for instance) re-evaluate the new meanings from step 1. If you can come up with a personal, political, or religious reason why the author might have written an incorrect part, add that to your knowledge bank as a small insight into the author's life and surrounding culture. When you're done, add what's left of the story to your knowledge bank as an interesting story, but don't draw any further conclusions from it.
There - four objective steps for the extraction of knowledge from an ancient text, assuming it makes claims that have to do with the world around us. You might say that some of these steps are not quite as objective as would be ideal, but they're certainly better than being told to "discovery, verify, reconcile" and leaving it at that.

[QUOTE]People speak. People write. People gesture.

Formerly, people spoke, and wrote, and gestured.[/QUOTE]
Since ancient speech and ancient gestures can't be preserved like texts can, we're only talking about 'people write' here. At this point, your argument basically boils down to "People wrote stuff then, and they write stuff now, so we should just treat all writing the same." This ignores the fact that in ancient times, there was less writing, current translations of said writing are less reliable (more chance for a mistake as time goes on), there weren't clearly defined formats (like citation and peer-review) to mark certain documents as more credible than others, and the texts were written in a very different cultural context, making proper interpretation more difficult.

I feel like I keep saying these things, and you keep responding with one of two arguments:
1. People wrote both true and false things throughout all history, so time is not an issue.
2. The same problems would come up when analyzing the texts of some isolated, island tribe.
The first is a non-response. I just listed four reasons above why it's harder to glean truth from ancient texts, and none of them are "ancient people lied more." These four reasons tell you why there IS a fundamental difference between ancient and modern writings; you have to either refute them or explain why they don't matter before the "present is just like the past" argument can hold any weight. As for the second, I've already conceded that isolated tribes must be analyzed in much the same way as ancient civilizations, although a few issues (such as the accumulation of translation errors over time) aren't as big of a problem. This in no way refutes my argument. It merely shows that my argument applies to a slightly wider range of texts than I originally stated. I will continue to use the term "ancient texts" since that was the topic that started this debate, but it can also be understood to apply to the texts of isolated civilizations in most cases.

[QUOTE]Present day literature which is fragmentary and has been translated, what of it? How is newness going to solve any of the problems?[/QUOTE]
Well, such literature would also fall under the growing category of things my arguments apply to. The thing is, the vast majority of modern literature ISN'T fragmentary (it hasn't had time to get lost, and more copies were probably made in the first place), and peer-review and easy, online access to multiple translations both reduce the chance that a faulty or biased translation of a given document will be accepted. If you can find a fragmented, translated, modern document, though, I'll concede that its newness would not solve most of the problems I mentioned, so it should be treated with the same skepticism that I advocate for all ancient texts.

[QUOTE]Has it ever been established that even one ancient story was dreampt up simply to provide a childish explanation for a part of nature that was not understood? I honestly don't know how one would go about establishing such an assertion without assuming it.[/QUOTE]
There's this one story from somewhere in the Pacific Islands about how the rhino got its wrinkles. Lovely tale; greedy rhino steals the Parsi Man's cake, and to get revenge, the Parsi Man sprinkles the crumbs into rhino's skin while rhino is off taking a bath. When rhino climbs back into his skin and zips it up, he itches like crazy, so he rubs up against the tree and scratches and scratches until he's stretched out his skin into a wrinkled mess and rubbed off the zipper so he can't get out. Now, rhino is stuck with his wrinkled, itchy skin, which is why rhinos are so angry all the time.

There's one. For a few more, try every creation story ever, except maybe one (as I keep saying, pick one and you contradict the rest). Or all the Greek myths about how the constellations were put in the sky. I could go on. Even if these stories weren't dreamed up specifically as substitutes for real knowledge, the effect is the same: someone reading them today and taking them at face value would get a very wrong picture of why the world is the way it is. Once again, skepticism is key.

[QUOTE]I do? I had not noticed. I haven't encountered this problem before. Perhaps you omit reconciliation?[/QUOTE]
I... ugh. You keep citing your vaunted reconciliation, and every time I ask you to define it you fail to do so. At this point, I can think of two things it might mean:
1. A truth producing black-box. Theory 1 + Theory 2 + "Reconciliation" = Truth! I wish this happened in real life, I really do. But I can't just say "reconcile" to make falsehood disappear, and neither can you.
2. Your own pre-formed beliefs. In this case "reconcile" is a euphemism for "disregard or reinterpret anything that doesn't match what I already believe." If this is what you do, that's fine - just say so explicitly so people don't mistakenly think your decision making process is at all objective or unbiased.
Maybe reconcile doesn't mean either of these things? For your sake, I hope it doesn't. But if it doesn't, you have to TELL ME WHAT IT MEANS. I don't know, and dismissing my inquiries with arguments like "everyone does these things all the time" is simultaneously naive, egotistical, and condescending.

[QUOTE]
That's all right. I still haven't told you lots of things. You still haven't accepted what I've already told you, and I don't think you intend to.

I will say this for your standard: On paper, it is slightly better than "I'll believe what I want to believe".[/QUOTE]
If you wait to tell me what I ask for until I've accepted what you've already said, you can only win this debate in your own mind. Maybe that's enough for you, but I can say this: anyone reading this argument will not look favorably on your position. If you want to actually refute my position, you must give definitions when I ask for them (I will happily do the same for you - just be explicit about it so I don't misunderstand your request), refute arguments that I make, and make arguments of your own. You have yet to define your own position beyond vague generalities, so you have at most two of the three items on this checklist completed and at present cannot win the debate. Fortunately, the item you're missing is the easiest to fix. In two easy steps:
1. Tell me what discover, verify, and reconcile mean using definitions that do not include the terms themselves (that's standard for any dictionary) and without dismissing my question as something everyone should know the answer to. Please make the definitions as objective as you can, although I guarantee I won't dismiss them out of hand as "not objective enough".
2. Since I asked this specifically, tell me how your "discover, verify, reconcile" standard applies to the many creation stories of the world. How do you know what is literally true, what is metaphorically true, and what is false? I can do this with my standard; the 4-step checklist above guarantees that no contradictions will survive the screening process. Explain why your standard can do the same or explain why believing contradictions doesn't matter.

[QUOTE]If there is no reason to doubt a statement, and it has been verified and reconciled, it is universally assumed true in everyday life. The same standard must apply in all cases, lest one be an hypocrite or employ special pleading.[/QUOTE]
There you go again - "verified and reconciled." Enough of your arguments hinge on this method of your that I'd think you would have defined it by now. Strip those terms out and your argument falls apart: just because there is no reason to doubt a statement does NOT mean you should default to assuming it's true. That's called being gullible, and it'll get you into trouble. If you plan to draw any important conclusions from something, you should check it against other sources and/or what you know about the world before you believe it with confidence.

[QUOTE]How many people were in my kitchen yesterday at 2 P.M.?[/QUOTE]
I have to admit, that's actually a good point. If you're looking for the right sort of information, there won't be many sources to give it to you no matter what time period you're in. Thinking about this, I have to make a major concession. Please read all the text following it before you gloat about it, though.
Conceded: Any old statement, ancient or modern, can be accepted at face value if one or both of the following conditions are met:
1. The statement makes no predictions about what we should see in the world today, and no other reliable knowledge conflicts with the statement. In other words, if we've run out of ways to potentially disprove the statement without even casting doubt on it, we may as well assume it's true.
2. There isn't much to be lost by thinking the statement is true when it's not true. In slightly more detail, the amount of effort one should spend verifying a statement is inversely proportional to the importance of the conclusions one will draw from the truth or falsehood of said statement.

This concession shrinks the scope of my arguments substantially. But hey, on the rare occasions when debate works like it ideally should, that's what's supposed to happen: one or both sides change their views to accommodate the other's arguments. On a less friendly note, I think the core of my argument is still valid for a couple of reasons:
1. This debate has expanded in scope since its origins over in the other thread, but it was originally focused on texts that make some statement about how the world works. These texts are the ones for which I most strongly object to taking at face value, and they don't meet either of my above conditions. They make predictions about the world in general so we can test them against modern observations, and the consequence of erroneously accepting the wrong ones is to have a flawed view of how the world works, which in my mind is pretty substantial. In one obvious example, the entire underlying framework of biology is at stake.
2. My first condition emphasizes the necessity of saying "I guess we may as well believe it" only when we've run out of ways to test its accuracy. We still need a good standard for accuracy testing, and your "discover, verify, reconcile" is, as currently defined, inadequate.

[QUOTE][QUOTE]Older documents are much rarer and more poorly preserved, so there are often only a few documents which provide an incomplete picture at best. This means that the technique for reading and verifying ancient documents has to be very different from that applied to modern documents. To state that "everyone already knows" the techniques are the same is so explicitly, stubbornly incorrect that I don't even know how to respond.[/QUOTE]
Perhaps you should've waited until you had a better response.[/QUOTE]
No, thanks. I think this response just works fine, and until you refute it I'll go with it. Are you saying that ancient documents are not rarer and more poorly preserved than modern ones? Or are you saying that a fragmented and incomplete picture of history can be looked at the same as a more complete one? The two options comprise all possible ways you could disagree with this particular statement, so please respond with "the first one", "the second one", or "both." Please do not respond with a snide comment that doesn't actually address my argument.

[QUOTE]YOUR OWN SOURCE is in perfect agreement with me. Detectives investigate what? Things that happened yesterday, last week, last month.
[/QUOTE]
Yes. They investigate UNDOCUMENTED OCCURRENCES that happened recently. The point is that the detailed, multi-perspective documentation isn't there; all they have to go on is a few scraps of evidence and some leads that may or may not be fruitful. Ancient texts give similarly insufficient amounts of information, while modern texts give a lot more.

More importantly, you've lost track of your own position in trying to refute my point. Let's say you're right: detectives investigate recent things, so recent texts should also be treated the way a detective treats an investigation. This means that ALL texts should be approached with skepticism and careful, critical thinking, and that NO texts should be taken at face value no matter how new they are. This doesn't match with what I'm saying, but it's the exact opposite of your original position, which is that all texts should be taken at face value unless you have particular reason to believe they shouldn't.

In the next paragraph, I move to leave citations out of this debate, and this is why; you end up debating what other people meant instead of the merits of the issue. I only brought up citations because you said the burden to do so was on me, and I thought meeting this burden would be a good way to keep things moving.

[QUOTE]"If it makes you feel good." Isn't that what they say?[/QUOTE]
Fine by me. I don't like having citation wars anyway. I just wanted to cite a few sources to make it very, very clear that your "everyone agrees with me" arguments are patently false. There's plenty of debate on the ancient texts issue relying entirely on logic and examples, so let's stick to that and leave appeals to authority/majority out of it.

[QUOTE]Hmmm. Your argument is strengthened when you are demonstrated to be incorrect. Sweet reasoning, if you can pull it off. Poisonous, but sweet.[/QUOTE]
"Proven to be incorrect" is a bit of a strong term. My argument was that ancient texts need to be treated differently from modern ones, and you correctly pointed out that texts from isolated tribes should fall into my "ancient" category even if the texts themselves are relatively new. Even if time isn't the only deciding factor, I maintain that ancient texts at least fall under the category of "documents requiring special skepticism and critical thought", regardless of what else may or may not fall under this category.

[QUOTE]Whether history is ancient or recent, we have the same problems. And the same solutions.[/QUOTE]
Immediately after the 9th quote in this post, I give four reasons why your "past is like the present" argument is wrong. Please refute my reasons; don't just reword your original argument.

[QUOTE]I don't know what you're imagining. Most stories we encounter do not have mountains of documentation from multiple sources. I'd say less than one story in a thousand has more than a couple of sources, although I haven't put a lot of thought into it.[/QUOTE]
This is the key reason why I made the concession above. Many stories, past or present, don't have lots of corroborating sources. As I admitted, these stories can be taken at face value if you've exhausted the limited options for verifying them and/or the consequences of believing them erroneously aren't too dire. In modern times, there's a nice counterbalance between how much one needs to double-check a story and how many sources are available. You have personal accounts of specific instances, which can be taken as presented (with maybe a grain of salt). Then, you have bigger descriptions of more significant, historical events. These tend to have a number of sources with different viewpoints describing them, so you can at least glean general fact from the texts and eliminate major factual errors or personal biases. Finally, you have scientific texts, which describe why things in the world are the way they are. These are cited, peer-reviewed, critiqued, and recompiled to death, and you can keep checking more reliable sources on a topic until the cows come home. The unique problem with ancient literature is that you find documents with the far-reaching implication of the third category and the unverifiability of the first category. It is dangerous to approach such texts without a skeptical mindset, because if you accept as true something that isn't true, you don't have many other sources to catch your error, and your worldview will contain major flaws until you realize your mistake. The lack of standardized formatting and cultural context only make the problem worst, since they cut down on the already small number of clues we have to determine what is truth and what is fiction in a given text.

[QUOTE]I think you think it wins out because you want it to. You haven't defined it beyond stating it.[/QUOTE]
I thought my standard was fairly well-defined to begin with, but my step-by-step, objective progression given above defines it even better. "Discover, verify, reconcile" has not been defined, as I pointed out several times above.

[QUOTE]For the record, do you claim every story should be presumed false? If so, I intend to respond and mock this claim without much mercy.[/QUOTE]
No, it would be too strong to say every story should be presumed false. I would sat that if a story meets either of my conditions listed in the concession above, it can be presumed true. Otherwise, one should not make any presumptions until the standard of "does it match with what we see in the world?" has been applied.




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