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[XTalk] Re: Testing Hypotheses

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  • David C. Hindley
    ... although to me BOTH hypotheses described by Crossan, History Remembered vs Prophecy Historicized, are incompletely specified. Crossan s sketch of Prophecy
    Message 1 of 4 , Nov 29, 1999
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      robert m schacht <bobschach-@...> wrote:

      >>I don't see the problem as one of how to construct hypotheses,
      although to me BOTH hypotheses described by Crossan, History Remembered
      vs Prophecy Historicized, are incompletely specified. Crossan's sketch
      of Prophecy Historicized is more complete than his characterization of
      History Remembered, but still is more the outline of an argument than
      its complete specification.

      I see the real problem as one of how to test (or evaluate, if you will)
      hypotheses, and how to talk about the results appropriately. And to do
      those things, it helps for a theory or hypothesis to be spelled out in
      precise detail. Let's take a look at Crossan's chapter on methodology
      in Birth of Christianity.<<

      I wish I had more references that relate specifically to historical
      hypotheses. Two of the examples I gave were thinking along the line of
      Economics or Anthropology, where hypotheses can be formed from and
      tested against the masses of data available in living systems. History
      is sort of the poor child.

      Due to travel constraints, I will be unable to respond until Fri or Sat
      this week, but am interested in pursuing the discussion re the two
      hypotheses proposed by Crossan in The Birth of Christianity.

      Regards,

      Dave Hindley
    • David C. Hindley
      On Sun, 28 Nov 1999, Robert M Schacht said: [Statements of mine to which Bob was responding have been snipped, as was a little bit of
      Message 2 of 4 , Dec 4, 1999
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        On Sun, 28 Nov 1999, Robert M Schacht <bobschacht@...> said:

        [Statements of mine to which Bob was responding have been snipped, as was
        a little bit of color commentary]

        >>Perhaps terminology is getting in the way here. Let's take the concrete
        example of Crossan's framing of "History remembered" (attributed to
        Raymond Brown) and "Prophecy Historicized" (attributed to Helmut Koester.)
        He presents these in The Birth of Christianity (and elsewhere) as
        alternative ways of explaining or understanding the Passion Narrative.
        These are comparable to what might be called theories or hypotheses. How
        are we going to decide between them, in your terms? Trying to eschew some
        of my former terminology, I see two kinds of methods:
        1. Examine each theory or hypothesis for logical flaws. For example,
        Koester complained that Brown's theory was inadequately presented.
        2. Evaluate (test?) each theory by means of evidence.

        We have used both methods frequently on CrossTalk, at least in an informal
        way.<<

        >>To put my arguments in perspective, consider that I was writing my
        dissertation in the seventies in archaeology, which shares with history
        many of the qualities you pointed out. Archaeology was trying hard to
        become more "scientific" then, and I guess my gut feeling is that
        archaeology and history are in the same boat in this regard.<<

        >>In fact, there have been quite a few developments since the 70s in the
        philosophy of science. The Logical positivism of Carl Hempel has been
        undermined, but I can't think of anything coherent to replace it.
        Post-modernists have tried to claim the field, but despite making many
        good points, I think they're better at criticizing than in proposing a
        better alternative. For our purposes, it would be a good idea to use
        Crossan's discourses on methodology as a basis for this discussion, since
        he's probably more sophisticated in this regard than anyone else I know
        of in critical scholarship.<<

        >>I don't see the problem as one of how to construct hypotheses, although
        to me BOTH hypotheses described by Crossan, History Remembered vs Prophecy
        Historicized, are incompletely specified. Crossan's sketch of Prophecy
        Historicized is more complete than his characterization of History
        Remembered, but still is more the outline of an argument than its complete
        specification.<<

        >>I see the real problem as one of how to test (or evaluate, if you will)
        hypotheses, and how to talk about the results appropriately. And to do
        those things, it helps for a theory or hypothesis to be spelled out in
        precise detail. Let's take a look at Crossan's chapter on methodology in
        Birth of Christianity.<<

        Please excuse my persistence at getting to the heart of the methodology
        issue, as it relates to historical investigations, before commenting
        specifically on Crossan's methodology. I located another textbook that
        does devote several pages to the characteristics of historical research,
        and I'd like to summarize these pages if you will permit me to test your
        patience a little more.

        My view of the problem of proving or disproving hypotheses in historical
        research was apparently heavily influenced by this textbook. I outlined
        the section as follows:

        1. Historical problems in a special field.
        1.1. The time period studied is recent history where facts are available
        but have not yet been gathered together
        1.1.1. Cross sectional
        1.1.2. Longitudinal
        1.2. *The time period studied is sufficiently long ago that records of
        events are not complete.
        1.2.1. Application of scientific method.
        1.2.1.1. A hypothesis as to what happened may be formulated on the basis
        of those pieces of information already at hand.
        1.2.1.2. Deduce consequences that should be present if the hypotheses is
        true, but may not have been found yet.
        1.2.1.3. Seek to verify the hypothesis by searching for this additional
        information.
        1.2.1.3.1. *Finding such evidence dramatically increases confidence in the
        original speculation. This is in contradiction to experimental situations
        where finding confirmation adds relatively little confidence because the
        alternatives which could have produced the same observations are so
        numerous
        1.2.1.3.2. *Not finding such evidence is not particularly discouraging
        because of the great likelihood that the appropriate material has been
        lost rather than never having existed. This is in contradiction to
        experimental situations where failure to find confirmation can lead to
        complete rejection of the hypothesis.

        2. *Special features of the historical approach.
        2.1. Dependence upon observations that cannot be repeated in the same
        sense that a laboratory experiment or a descriptive survey can.
        2.2. Observations are often not organized or conveniently recorded for
        solving a particular problem, requiring great patience and willingness to
        engage in tedious research.
        2.3. Studies tend to be carried out by individuals and not by teams,
        increasing the research burden.
        2.4. The historical approach does not always carry a defined hypothesis,
        due to its increased dependence upon inductive reasoning. A "question
        type" hypothesis, often unstated, is often used to sift through specific
        observations and generalize a description of what actually occurred.
        2.5. Results of historical studies are often reported in a more narrative
        and much less rigid style than is usual with other research approaches.

        3. The procedures of historical research.
        3.1. Collection of data.
        3.1.1. Notes.
        3.1.1.1. Types of notes.
        3.1.1.1.1. Bibliographical notes.
        3.1.1.1.2. Subject notes. Items of information which may be used in the
        presentation of the data.
        3.1.1.1.3. Method notes. Ideas which come to the researcher in the course
        of reading the material, such as new hypotheses, new places to seek out
        additional material, critical comments about reports under consideration,
        and general reactions to the document.
        3.1.1.2. Media.
        3.1.1.2.1. Record notes on cards (or a database that serves the purpose of
        cards).
        3.1.2. Data.
        3.1.2.1. Types of data.
        3.1.2.1.1. Consciously transmitted information.
        3.1.2.1.2. Relics.
        3.1.2.1.3. Memorials.
        3.1.2.2. Sources of data.
        3.1.2.2.1. Primary sources. Materials by eyewitnesses.
        3.1.2.2.2. *Secondary materials. Hearsay materials. Danger of relying to
        heavily on secondary materials.
        3.2. Criticism of data.
        3.2.1. *Veracity of sources.
        3.2.1.1. External a.k.a. Lower Criticism. Is the document under
        consideration a genuine one?
        3.2.1.2. Internal a.k.a. Higher Criticism. Is the information contained in
        the document trustworthy (i.e., accurate, consistent, etc)?
        3.2.1.2.1. Positive internal criticism. Researcher momentarily assumes
        that the author of the document was accurate, competent and acting in good
        faith (although keeping in mind that he may be speaking figuratively), and
        seek literal meaning of the statements of the document.
        3.2.1.2.2. Negative internal criticism. Researcher momentarily assumes
        that the author of the document is fallible, foolish or faking and seeks
        evidence that this is not so.
        3.2.1.3. Interrelation of lower and higher criticism.
        3.2.1.3.1. The trustworthiness of the document may help determine whether
        it is genuine.
        3.2.1.3.2. The genuineness of a document may help determine whether the
        information in it is trustworthy.
        3.3. Presentation of data.

        4. Advantages and limitations to historical research.
        4.1. Advantages
        4.1.1. *Some problems cannot be solved in any other way, as the
        circumstances cannot be repeated.
        4.1.2. Some problems cannot be feasibly duplicated, or duplicated in a
        desirable manner.
        4.1.3. Can help alleviate emotionally charged situations by identifying
        the situations that led up to it and providing a new perspective of the
        present situation.
        4.2. Disadvantages.
        4.2.1. *Lack of rigorous control in matching past situations with present
        ones. Only gross effects can be detected, and seldom can the cause of
        these effects be directly attributed to particular variables in a specific
        way.
        4.2.2. *Tendency to generalize results far beyond the justified limits.
        4.2.3. *No guidelines to tell a researcher how much information to gather
        and analyze before a conclusion can be reached. Hence, researchers may
        stop before finding the correct solution, or chance never finding it.
        4.2.3.1. Sample size cannot be effectively estimated as in other fields.
        4.2.3.2. No effective way to calculate likelihood of making various kinds
        of decision errors.

        [G. C. Helmstadter, _Research Concepts in Human Behavior_, Englewood
        Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc, 1970, pp 41-49] <It may behoove me to say
        at this point that my major in college was Psychology, not history or
        biblical studies>

        I have marked with an asterisk those points which I think have more than a
        casual relevance to our inquiry.

        While I have devoted a couple evenings to reading pages 519-525 of
        Crossan's _Birth of Christianity_, unfortunately I have to turn my
        attention right now to getting some field work scheduled for the upcoming
        weeks as well as study for a professional certification exam set for
        Tuesday. I will be traveling out of town on Wednesday and possibly
        Thursday. By week end I hope to be in a better position to summarize the
        positions of Brown and Koester on the origins of the passion narrative and
        their relation to biblical prophesies, as presented by Crossan, and
        consider them in light of the above outline.

        My hope is that the list members will not find my habit of summarizing
        things like this to be too burdensome, but I guess that can be expected in
        light of outline level 2.2 above. <g>

        Regards,

        Dave Hindley
      • Robert M Schacht
        On Sun, 5 Dec 1999 01:24:21 -0500 David C. Hindley ... [Statements of mine to which David was responding have been snipped.] ... methodology ... research,
        Message 3 of 4 , Dec 5, 1999
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          On Sun, 5 Dec 1999 01:24:21 -0500 "David C. Hindley"
          <dhindley@...> writes:
          > On Sun, 28 Nov 1999, Robert M Schacht <bobschacht@...> said:
          >
          > [Statements of mine to which Bob was responding have been snipped,
          > as was a little bit of color commentary]

          [Statements of mine to which David was responding have been snipped.]

          David:
          > Please excuse my persistence at getting to the heart of the
          methodology
          > issue, as it relates to historical investigations, before commenting
          > specifically on Crossan's methodology. I located another textbook that
          > does devote several pages to the characteristics of historical
          research,
          > and I'd like to summarize these pages if you will permit me to test
          your
          > patience a little more.
          >

          No problem, as they say.

          > My view of the problem of proving or disproving hypotheses in
          historical
          > research was apparently heavily influenced by this textbook. I outlined
          > the section as follows:
          >

          [Near the end of your message, you wrote:]
          > I have marked with an asterisk those points which I think have more
          than a
          > casual relevance to our inquiry.

          Taking the hint, and so as not to test the patience of anyone trying to
          follow our discussion, I've snipped most of that which you did not mark.
          Basically, I am pretty much in agreement with your notes, with exceptions
          provided below.

          > 1. Historical problems in a special field....
          > 1.2. *The time period studied is sufficiently long ago that records of
          > events are not complete.
          > 1.2.1. Application of scientific method.
          > 1.2.1.1. A hypothesis as to what happened may be formulated on the
          basis
          > of those pieces of information already at hand.

          "already at hand" is an issue. If you mean "information used to formulate
          the hypothesis," that's cool. If you mean "all information presently
          published that might be consulted," that's deceiving because, often, all
          such information is *not* used. There are two ways to go here:

          A. The path of Inductive Generalization: Use ALL available evidence--
          everything that has ever been published, to rigorously induce the general
          principles involved (slight digression: the process of induction always
          involves a little creativity; in terms of Logic, it is not as rigorous as
          deductive reasoning. Because of that, generalizations should *always* be
          regarded as hypotheses.)

          B. The path of an appeal to available theory plus *some* of the available
          evidence.

          It seems to me that what Crossan does in Birth of Christianity in his
          contrast between History Remembered and Prophecy Historicized is of this
          second kind-- That is, the explanation "Prophecy historicized" is based
          on the theory of literary criticism plus the textual evidence from the
          Passion Narrative. However, it seems not to be based on a systematic
          examination of other data at hand, such as GMatthew's use of prophetic
          validation. (If I am wrong about this, I hope someone will point out
          where Crossan or Koester has systematically worked through all the
          available evidence on historicized prophecy.)

          > 1.2.1.2. Deduce consequences that should be present if the hypotheses
          is
          > true, but may not have been found yet.
          > 1.2.1.3. Seek to verify the hypothesis by searching for this additional
          > information.

          I have a slight objection to the word "verify"; in my philosophy of
          science, hypotheses can be supported, but "verification" is a bit too
          strong. But let's press on to another issue: what is meant by "additional
          information"? I would object to limiting this to "information not yet
          discovered or published." In the example of the "Prophecy historicized"
          hypothesis, it seems to have been based primarily on an examination of
          the passion narrative, and not on other possible examples of historicized
          prophecy, e.g., in GMatt. So I would argue that information of the type
          specified in your 1.2.1.3 should include information that is available
          but not yet used. This is what I argued several posts ago as a way of
          testing the "Prophecy Historicized" hypothesis.

          > 1.2.1.3.1. *Finding such evidence dramatically increases confidence in
          the
          > original speculation. This is in contradiction to experimental
          situations
          > where finding confirmation adds relatively little confidence because
          the
          > alternatives which could have produced the same observations are so
          numerous
          > 1.2.1.3.2. *Not finding such evidence is not particularly discouraging
          > because of the great likelihood that the appropriate material has been
          > lost rather than never having existed. This is in contradiction to
          > experimental situations where failure to find confirmation can lead to
          > complete rejection of the hypothesis.
          >
          > 2. *Special features of the historical approach....
          > 2.2. Observations are often not organized or conveniently recorded for
          > solving a particular problem, requiring great patience and willingness
          to
          > engage in tedious research....

          I wondered why you didn't mark 2.2 with an asterisk! <g>

          > 2.4. The historical approach does not always carry a defined
          hypothesis,
          > due to its increased dependence upon inductive reasoning. A "question
          > type" hypothesis, often unstated, is often used to sift through
          specific
          > observations and generalize a description of what actually occurred.

          There is no objective reason for this, other than scholarly tradition.
          Scholars have not as a rule been raised with scientific methods, so
          imagine that hypotheses don't apply to their work. The language of
          inductive reasoning tends to employ the process of "generalization".
          However, what one winds up with at the end of the inductive process
          should, IMHO, be regarded as an hypothesis (see more on this above.)

          > 2.5. Results of historical studies are often reported in a more
          narrative
          > and much less rigid style than is usual with other research
          approaches.

          You ain't just a-whistlin' Dixie. Interesting that you use the term
          "rigid" rather than, say, "rigorous."

          >
          > 3. The procedures of historical research....
          > 3.1.2. Data.....
          > 3.1.2.2.2. *Secondary materials. Hearsay materials. Danger of relying
          to
          > heavily on secondary materials.
          > 3.2. Criticism of data.
          > 3.2.1. *Veracity of sources....
          > 4. Advantages and limitations to historical research.
          > 4.1. Advantages
          > 4.1.1. *Some problems cannot be solved in any other way, as the
          > circumstances cannot be repeated....
          > 4.2. Disadvantages.
          > 4.2.1. *Lack of rigorous control in matching past situations with
          present
          > ones. Only gross effects can be detected, and seldom can the cause of
          > these effects be directly attributed to particular variables in a
          specific way.

          I think this is overly pessimistic.

          > 4.2.2. *Tendency to generalize results far beyond the justified limits.

          Yes. Often.

          > 4.2.3. *No guidelines to tell a researcher how much information to
          gather
          > and analyze before a conclusion can be reached. Hence, researchers may
          > stop before finding the correct solution, or chance never finding it.

          Well, I wouldn't say that there are *no* guidelines, but I do agree that
          historians need to pay more attention to this. Also, depends on what you
          mean by "conclusions." A lot depends on how conclusions are offered. Most
          of the time, they're not much more than working hypotheses, but often
          "conclusions" are represented as "facts" or are otherwise treated as
          certainties. That sort of thing is what prompted my knee-jerk reaction
          that started the ancestor of this thread.

          >
          > [G. C. Helmstadter, _Research Concepts in Human Behavior_, Englewood
          > Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc, 1970, pp 41-49] <It may behoove me to
          say
          > at this point that my major in college was Psychology, not history or
          > biblical studies>
          >
          >
          > While I have devoted a couple evenings to reading pages 519-525 of
          > Crossan's _Birth of Christianity_, ...
          > By week end I hope to be in a better position to summarize the
          > positions of Brown and Koester on the origins of the passion narrative
          and
          > their relation to biblical prophesies, as presented by Crossan, and
          > consider them in light of the above outline.
          >

          I look forward to your analysis.

          > My hope is that the list members will not find my habit of summarizing
          > things like this to be too burdensome, but I guess that can be
          expected in
          > light of outline level 2.2 above. <g>

          Oh, yes. The one I thought should have an asterisk. ;-)

          >
          > Regards,
          >
          > Dave Hindley

          Cheers,
          Bob
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