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« Organ Harvesting | Main | PC Pro-lifers »

November 18, 2008

Comments

Second, in evaluating the lack of archaeological evidence, the absence of evidence doesn't indicate the evidence of absence. You can't argue from lack of evidence. Just because archaeological evidence hasn't been discovered, doesn't mean the Exodus as described in the Bible didn't happen.

Who wants a drink from Russell's Teapot? There's no evidence it's out there but that doesn't mean it isn't.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell's_teapot

This blog is called "Stand to Reason", right?

"Second, in evaluating the lack of archaeological evidence, the absence of evidence doesn't indicate the evidence of absence. You can't argue from lack of evidence."

Couldn't a Mormon say the same thing when confronted with the fact that there were no horses, elephants, or swords in the Americas during the time period covered by the Book of Mormon? It seems to me that in some cases, absense of evidence IS evidence of absense. There's no evidence of there being a horse in my office right now, and I think that justifies my belief that there is no horse in here. If there were, then it would be evident.

So the question is what should we expect? If the Biblical narrative of the exodus really happened, should we expect to find any evidence, and what kind of evidence should we expect to find?

On that reasoning, couldn`t the Mormons use the same argument for lack of archeological evidence for their claims?

I will check out the Nova special tonight - sounds like a great piece of programming (will catch my interest anyways).

I have to agree with Chuck and Sam also concerning archaeology - we have to go with the verifiable facts. That's not to say the Exodus did not happen - but there is work to be done in that field. Maybe the bible is not a step by step manual of how this unfolded - or maybe it was smaller...who can be totally certain?

I accept the Exodus because Judaism does - not because of Christianity. But I admit the evidence is scant for the story that is claimed.

Gentlemen, there is a difference between the Book of Mormon which has zero evidence in its favor, and the OT which has been demonstrated to be historically accurate on many points -- even those that were once trumpeted as proof the Bible was wrong.

There is a difference in recognizing a complete lack of evidence and giving a work the benefit of the doubt on issues where evidence has yet to surface.

>>>"There's no evidence of there being a horse in my office right now, and I think that justifies my belief that there is no horse in here. If there were, then it would be evident."

In your illustration of your point, there's more than just a lack of evidence for a horse being in your office, there is in fact positive evidence that it is not so. I'm sure you have a nice sized office, but if we're talking about an adult horse, we can use a little spatial reasoning to determine that a horse couldn't hide easily in a small room. That's positive evidence that there is no horse in your office; not simply a lack of evidence.

I agree, bc. Lack of evidence of a horse in my office IS positive evidence that there is NOT a horse in my office. And depending on what we should expect if the exodus story is true, and how thoroughly the area has been searched, lack of evidence in that case may also be positive evidence that the exodus didn't happen the way the Bible describes it.

I don't have cable, and I can't find anybody to watch this show with. I don't suppose any of you live in Austin Texas, do you?

Gentlemen, there is a difference between the Book of Mormon which has zero evidence in its favor, and the OT which has been demonstrated to be historically accurate on many points -- even those that were once trumpeted as proof the Bible was wrong.

ChrisB,

If someone were to post your biography online that half consisted of accurate,verifiable facts and half unsubstantiated, ridiculous stories you might understand the value of treating every claim individually.

Not every claim is de facto true because it is organized with other claims that have been verified. Can we say King Kong existed because we can verify the Empire State Building does?

There is a difference in recognizing a complete lack of evidence and giving a work the benefit of the doubt on issues where evidence has yet to surface.

??? What is the difference between a belief that is supported by no evidence that exists and a belief that is supported by no evidence that currently exists? Are you able to foretell the existence of future evidence somehow? Isn't every reasonable belief supported by evidence? What the heck does "Reason" in "Stand to Reason" mean here?

Russels Teapot fails to take into account that no other dinnerware has ever been found in space, which we could safely assume, even for the sake of an analigy, that their is no teapot floating between earth and mars. In regards to the OT, and Bible archaeology, their have been SEVERAL, instances where the evidence that wasnt thier, was their, or the evidence that seemed to disprove the bible's account was later demonstratibly overturned. The Battle of Jherico is a fine instance of that.

In any case, as it applies to the Bible, specifically, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence in light of the evidence that is their.

A better analigy would be if as i said earlier, other 'fine china' and dinnerware had been discovered in space, and someone in history catalogued a piece of china. The original analigy implies that thier is no such evidence for anything in the bible (as their is no such evidence for dinnerware in space.)

Edit: Please excuse my typos :/ :}

And AaronSTL, for the record, Ide be inclined to beleve that a man rising from the dead is probably the most rediculous account in the bible, which their is an extremely strong case for. It hardly requires a "stretch of the imagination" to take the Bible on its word, given its extreme resilance. You either believe it, or you dont. And yes, the url does infact say stand to reason, emphasis on reason.

I apologize, Encrustia St. Fawn, but I don't think there is one cogent argument in either of your posts. To be fair and polite, I will agree with one point you made.

...Ide (sic)be inclined to beleve (sic) that a man rising from the dead is probably the most rediculous (sic) account in the bible...

I'm afraid that's where we part ways. As far as I know, outside of the second hand and some times contradictory accounts that were written decades after the alleged resurrection, there is zero evidence the event occurred.

As an aside, if you are self-conscious about spelling errors, you can use sites like http://www.spellcheck.net/ or tools like spellcheck on the Google Toolbar to easily make corrections.

Well, apparently the God of Christianity evolved from a god of many gods...

And yes, arguing from the absence of evidence is an uphill battle which can only be won by the presence of evidence further down the road. This is where we part ways, AaronSTL. You lean towards the absence of gods because of scientific reasons, "indoctrination" by liberal professors, and perhaps the repulsiveness of a moral lawgiver. I lean towards the presence of a God because scientific evidence often is in concurrence with the Bible, "indoctrination" by Christian philosophers, and the confidence that there is a moral lawgiver on which much of modern laws are built upon.

Morality that has evolved is almost oxymoronic because evolution is a descriptive process whereas morality is prescriptive.

I don't know... If my God just evolved from some primitive cult, I might abandon some of my altruistic practices in favor of practices that would favor my genes being passed onto the next generation.

Morality that has evolved is almost oxymoronic because evolution is a descriptive process whereas morality is prescriptive.

If social behavior is evolved, which it is, cannot morality be an evolved amalgam of what individuals in a society decide is best in which the most widely successful decisions float to the top?

I don't know... If my God just evolved from some primitive cult, I might abandon some of my altruistic practices in favor of practices that would favor my genes being passed onto the next generation.

Augustine, I'm curious, what practices would you consider adopting in place of your current altruistic practices that would generally more benefit your genes being successfully passed on? Remember, behavior in a society is like dropping a stone in water, it propagates waves.

Aaron, apparently my spelling errors became a major issue for you, and for that I am sorry. Secondly, if sound reasoning isint a cogent argument, im not sure why you even visit this blog, as you seem to suggest in my posts.

You seem to imply that IF, the accounts were written, 'decades later' as you seem to suggest (as if some extreme centruanic ammount of time has passed), it automaticly nullifies the credibility of the gospel and the accounts of Jesus Christ. For one, this isint the case, but your unwillingness to consider the evidence in light of a corrupted estimate of the time it was written, and your apparent unwillingness to respond coherently to a post is unfortunate, to say the least.

I will part with this. Their are plenty of things you 'put your faith in' for which their is a comparibly MUCH less credible case for, but because it has no bearing on your well being you would never second guess it. We both claim to come 'in the name of reason', yet somehow I am the one expressing a lack of critical thinking. In any case, my reasoning and honest examination isint going to put my salvation in any trouble.

Encrustia St. Fawn,

I only mentioned the spellcheck resources for your benefit. You apologized for having made spelling errors. I thought maybe you were self conscious about your spelling abilities.

Pertaining to everything else I think it would be wise to just agree to disagree.

>>>"I agree, bc. Lack of evidence of a horse in my office IS positive evidence that there is NOT a horse in my office."

I think you misunderstood me. Lack of evidence is not positive evidence; positive evidence is positive evidence. Your illustration would be more helpful if we were trying to prove not just that there isn't a horse in your office right now(demonstrable with positive evidence as stated in my previous post), but if we were trying to prove if a horse had or had not EVER BEEN in your office at any point in time. We could look for hair on the floor or something to that effect, but if we came up empty-handed, we will not have positive evidence that a horse has never been in your office.

"If someone were to post your biography online that half consisted of accurate,verifiable facts and half unsubstantiated, ridiculous stories you might understand the value of treating every claim individually."

AaronSTL,

But if all the facts that you are capable of verifying have turned out to be accurate, that makes it more probably that the author is trustworthy. There may be other facts that are currently unsubstantiated, and seem ridiculous (a subjective judgment); that doesn't mean they are not inaccurate, and that shouldn't detract from the trustworthiness of the author.

But if all the facts that you are capable of verifying have turned out to be accurate, that makes it more probably that the author is trustworthy. There may be other facts that are currently unsubstantiated, and seem ridiculous (a subjective judgment); that doesn't mean they are not inaccurate, and that shouldn't detract from the trustworthiness of the author.

That's somewhat true, Anair, but extraordinary claims still require extraordinary evidence. What if I researched your life and placed the following entry into wikipedia.org with "x" replaced with the true facts:

Anair works at place x as doing x. Anair is x years old. Anair was born to x and x. Anair has x brothers and x sisters. Anair has the ability to fly and shapeshift.

By your reasoning, the first 4 statements made in that biography are accurate. Is there any reason to doubt the 5th? Is there a probability that the 5th is inaccurate?

My point is, no matter the source, every claim must be judged separately. Extraordinary claims must be supported with extraordinary evidence. Just because it can be verified that there was a battle of Jericho doesn't mean all details of every account of that battle, like horns being used to blow the walls down, God's existence, God decreeing all the inhabitants of Jericho being killed including children and the unborn, etc.

But if all the facts that you are capable of verifying have turned out to be accurate, that makes it more probably that the author is trustworthy.

But of course many of the facts that can be checked have proved to be inaccurate. I'll list a couple.

The sun was not formed after the earth was formed.

The earth is not 6000 years old, as the genealogies demand. The genealogies are lock tight. They say things like Terah was X years old when he sired Abraham. He lived Y years following the birth of Abraham, and then he died. Abraham was Z years old when he sired Isaac. Etc. This goes back to Adam.

All of the mountain tops were not covered in a world wide flood.

Tyre was not utterly destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar as Ezekiel predicted.

Egypt was not desolate for 70 years as predicted by Ezekiel.

Rabbits do not bring up the cud (though they do appear to).

There is no firmament in the sky. For this reason there is no reason for the heavens to "open" to accept Jesus as he rises.

It is not possible to see all the kingdoms of the earth from a high mountain top as Jesus supposedly did, because the earth is not flat.

Jesus did not return within the timeframe he had indicated.

The mustard seed is not "the smallest of all the seeds on the earth."

If anything the many inaccuracies of the Bible lead a rational person to be highly dubious of further extraordinary claims within the Bible.

@ Arons and Russell's teapot
Most Eupopeans, if they consider themselves as thoughtful people, believe in the 'auto'-transformation of unliving matter into living matter. But no lab in the world could ever proof such a thing, and actually it's a godless faith in a miracle. ... like to try Russell's teapot on that one?

Jon,

Just to pick one: "Jesus did not return within the timeframe he had indicated"

Read a good commentary on Matthew 24.

Read a good commentary on Matthew 24.

What makes one commentary good and another bad? Should the commentor be objectively disinterested in the meaning of the passage?

The most reasonable commentaries on Matthew 24 and other relevant passages I've read lead me to believe Jon is right. Jesus said his return would happen within a generation. Paul believed Jesus' resurrection was the "first fruits of the harvest". To me it seems the authors held a specific theory about Jesus which was falsified and then they and Christians since have been making post hoc rationalizations to justify maintaining belief.

AaronSTL,

A good commentary gives the range of scholarly opinion presented by an individual or group having credentials in the area of study whether or not it takes a particular position.

What makes a commentary reasonable?

I wanted to see what a highly regarded Old Testament scholar had to say about Matt. 24. So I read what Gleason Archer had to say.

This is what he had to say. The Greek term for "generation" means just what you would expect. The people living at the time Jesus was speaking. The word can also mean "race" but that use is obscure. Given the Greek meaning, it would look like Jesus was wrong.

But, Jesus did not speak in Greek. He used Aramaic. In that language the term for generation is equal in its use for race. Jesus could have been saying "the Jewish race will not pass away" and this would be just as likely as "this generation will not pass away". Matthew translated the Aramaic into Greek and using the obscure meaning.

Could Jesus have been wrong? That is a logical possibility unless you presuppose that Jesus is always right. Could he have meant the Jewish race will not pass away? Yes, that is also a logical possibility.

There is no reason to think "Matt 24 = the Bible is wrong" is an air tight case. There is a good and reasonable alternative.

As long as I am going off topic, A resource for investigating available commentaries:

http://www.bestcommentaries.com/

At the moment I am using R. T. France; The Gospel of Matthew from the NICNT.

My approach to commentaries & scripture follows St. Augustine:

"As regards our writings, which are not a rule of faith or practice, but only a help to edification, we may suppose that they contain some things falling short of the truth in obscure and recondite matters, and that these mistakes may or may not be corrected in subsequent treatises. For we are of those of whom the apostle says: “And if you be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” Such writings are read with the right of judgment, and without any obligation to believe. In order to leave room for such profitable discussions of difficult questions, there is a distinct boundary line separating all productions subsequent to apostolic times from the authoritative canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. The authority of these books has come down to us from the apostles through the successions of bishops and the extension of the Church, and, from a position of lofty supremacy, claims the submission of every faithful and pious mind. If we are perplexed by an apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, The author of this book is mistaken; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood. In the innumerable books that have been written latterly we may sometimes find the same truth as in Scripture, but there is not the same authority. Scripture has a sacredness peculiar to itself. In other books the reader may form his own opinion, and perhaps, from not understanding the writer, may differ from him, and may pronounce in favor of what pleases him, or against what he dislikes. In such cases, a man is at liberty to withhold his belief, unless there is some clear demonstration or some canonical authority to show that the doctrine or statement either must or may be true. But in consequence of the distinctive peculiarity of the sacred writings, we are bound to receive as true whatever the canon shows to have been said by even one prophet, or apostle, or evangelist. Otherwise, not a single page will be left for the guidance of human fallibility, if contempt for the wholesome authority of the canonical books either puts an end to that authority altogether, or involves it in hopeless confusion."
Contra Faustum, Book XI

Dever is wrong. The problem is not with biblical historicity. The problem is with biblical chronology.

Biblical archeologists are not biblical chronologists. Biblical chronology is a specialized discipline upon which biblical archeology is dependent.

Dr. Gerald Aardsma, a professional CHRONOLOGIST, has pointed out repeatedly that traditional biblical chronologies (such as Usher's chronology) are seriously in error prior to the time of Samuel and the Israelite kings. (See, for example, his article "Evidence for a Lost Millennium in Biblical Chronology" (Radiocarbon 37, No. 2 (1995): 267--273; Proceedings of the 15th International 14-C Conference, edited by G.T. Cook, D.D. Harkness, B.F. Miller and E.M. Scott.) This is why later events, such as the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., have been so well confirmed by biblical archeology and why no earlier biblical events, such as the Exodus, have been confirmed at all by biblical archeology. Biblical archaeology, as a scholarly discipline, persists in using a wrong, out-of-date biblical chronology. There is no more chance of finding the Exodus in the second millennium B.C., where old-time biblical chronology scholars such as Ussher placed it, and where ALL biblical archaeologists continue to insist on looking for it, than there is of finding World War II in the first millennium A.D.

When one gets their biblical chronology right, biblical archeology confirms the historicity of the Exodus every bit as much as it confirms the historicity of the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. Read Dr. Aardsma's book "The Exodus Happened 2450 BC" (http://www.biblicalchronologist.org/products/Exodus_book.php) if you doubt this.

Dr. Aardsma has been attempting to get the biblical archeology community to adjust their biblical chronology to bring it into line with modern scholarship in this area for years, but has repeatedly been denied publication in biblical archeology journels. One can only wonder what motivates biblical archeologists, such as Dever, to be so closed to inter-disciplinary scholarship vital to their field. Is it possible they hold an over-riding bias which compells them to warp their discipline into service to disprove the Bible?

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