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Re: Where is Seminar Gray/Black Voting Data?

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  • Mahlon H. Smith
    ... Thanks for the suggestion, Steve. You are right in surmising that I m wading through a landslide of back e-mail. Truth is I ve been without a computer for
    Message 1 of 2 , Jun 4, 1998
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      Michael Davies wrote:

      > I believe you are going through your email systematically, as is your
      > custom, and you'll find that Lee has laid some very serious charges
      > against the mathematics of the JSem. I've been tempted to send them
      > off to Funk, in your absence, but I don't think he's on the WWW. In any
      > event, it will be interesting to see what your response is to the whole
      > crosstalk discussion, which I'd suggest you read through as a whole.
      > Steve

      Thanks for the suggestion, Steve. You are right in surmising that I'm
      wading through a landslide of back e-mail. Truth is I've been without a
      computer for almost a month. My not-so-old one got zapped by lightning
      in that horrendous tornado spawning thunderstorm on May 6 & I've spent
      the past month negotiating with my insurance company for data recovery &
      replacement. I finally got back on line today, but it will take me a
      week or so to get files reloaded & everything working the way it should.
      (I probably will have to rebuild my address books from scratch.) And I
      still have 600+ e-notes to sift through (not counting the dozen or so
      new ones that were posted since suppertime).

      My earlier response to Lee was dashed off on the naive assumption that
      it was a simple request for bibliographical information. I could have
      saved myself precious time if I'd sorted through the next 300+ notes
      before replying. I can't guarantee that I've read the whole subsequent
      discussion yet but I've sorted thru enough related messages & reviewed
      the mathematics of Lee's "Error in JS Vote Tally" webpage to be able to
      make a less redundant & more substantive reply.

      1. I agree that Lee's challenge to the objectivity of the JS methodology
      is substantial enough to merit the attention of Funk & other JS fellows.
      So I plan to add a link to his page on the JS Forum's webpage on recent
      reaction to the JS's work. That should get his webpage (currently
      accessed only 46 times) some real action (the JSForum has no counter,
      but is a major contributor to the 100+ daily traffic on the RU religion
      website). I hope that someone who is so concerned with generating
      accurate statistics will appreciate this move to give his negative vote
      on the JS's work greater weight.

      2. Lee's challenge though mathematically impressive itself suffers
      several serious flaws, the most basic of which is his assumption that
      the purpose of the RPGB color scheme was simply to indicate the
      statistical mean of fellows voting for or against the authenticity of a
      given saying. If that were the case there would have been no need for
      weighting the votes or for using an alogorithm to calculate the weighted

      3. Lee totally ignores the published explanation of the meaning of the
      RPGB voting schema & assigns his own interpretations of what these
      colors should or should not mean. Greg Jenks' assessment of the JS
      voting was absolutely correct:

      >I consider that the point of the colour coding is not simply to convey >the results of a vote, but rather to interpret the voting for the >purposes of assessing the probability that a specific item of tradition >should be included in the database for Jesus research.

      This is made clear in Funk's explanation of the the agenda of the JS in
      the introductions to both 5G (pp. 35-37) & Acts of Jesus ("Beads &
      Boxes" pp. 36-37).

      First, note that the primary meaning of the RPGB voting scheme was to
      determine consensus on whether a saying should be included in a
      historical data base FOR DETERMINING WHO JESUS WAS. The answer to this
      question is simply yes (it is in) or no (it is out).

      Everyone has reasons for thinking that Jesus probably did or did not say
      something. After publically debating these, the Fellows voted on the
      basis of the strength of arguments pro & con. In other words, did the
      reasons for ascribing this item to Jesus (rather than the author of this
      or that gospel) outweigh the arguments against. If so=R; if not=B. But
      historical reality is not simply black or red. The P & G gradations were
      introduced to avoid the quandry of what to do with a basically authentic
      Jesus saying that had been modified by one or another gospel writer or
      an editorial composition that included some genuine echoes of Jesus.

      It is obviously harder to determine whether an ambiguous item should be
      accepted into or rejected from a data base of information that is useful
      for determining Jesus' personal characteristics. Somemay be & some may
      not. Thus, in proposing to recalculate the boundaries of the pink-gray
      categories, Lee is in fact arguing for greater ambiguity in determining
      the consensus about what may or may not have originated with Jesus
      himself. If we wanted an ambiguous grabbag of material that individual
      scholars could select bits & pieces from to construct their personal
      images of Jesus we would not have had to spend 13 years & 10's of
      thousands of dollars to find it. We could have simply used the extant
      gospels as is.

      The whole point of the JS project was to try to clarify what material a
      broad range of contemporary scholars would accept as historically
      reliable info about Jesus & what material they would exclude. One is
      always free to argue that excluded material (black) should be included,
      but this has to be done by providing cogent reasons for authenticity,
      not just by arbitrarily shifting the statistical position of the
      position of the markers for determining what is in & what is out.

      4. Lee faults the JS for giving the R & B votes too much weight &
      concludes his webpage thus:

      "Determining the Seminar consensus is exactly analogous to calculating
      Grade Point Averages in school."

      This should not be such a startling revelation to anyone one who has
      read the 5G or Acts Jesus since Funk explicitly makes the analogy of a
      red vote to an A & a black vote to an F. Red is unqualified support;
      black is unqualified rejection. When an academic scholar committed to
      objective weighing of the evidence makes such an unqualified assessment
      it merits extra weight, whether it is in evaluating the work of a
      student or in evaluating the historical reliability of a piece of
      information. So red votes & black votes were deliberately given more
      weight than the ambiguous mediocre pinks & grays. NB: The JS votes were
      not tabulated on a bell curve, because the object was not to determine a
      broad middle ground of those items that might pass as historical but to
      determine the consensus of what should definitely be accepted or not.

      The project is akin to the hiring process. When you're looking for a
      reliable colleague, do you hire the candidate who is everybody's 2nd or
      3rd choice? In my department at least we give greater weight to
      unqualified recommendations or objections in order to find someone we
      all can live with. That is why the Fellows who voted Pink or Gray did
      not object (except on a rare occasion) when a smaller number black votes
      excluded a saying from the common data base, or when a few red votes
      rescued a saying that the majority had reservations about. A's & F's do
      generally tell more about reliability than B's & C's.

      But this has gotten too long. If I find time this next week or so, I'll
      post rebuttals to some of Lee's posts.


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