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Re: [XTalk] Re: Various Methodologies

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  • Bob Schacht
    At 05:07 PM 8/31/01 +0100, you wrote: [snip] ... This is an infamous stereotype repeated as a mantra by humanists which only reinforces C.P.Snow s book about
    Message 1 of 10 , Sep 1, 2001
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      At 05:07 PM 8/31/01 +0100, you wrote:

      [snip]

      >BOB SCHACHT
      > >Part of the reason for this, as we have discussed on XTalk before, is that
      > >most members of this list do not believe that the scientific method works
      > >with our data. I happen to agree with your statement above, but I don't
      > >have much support on this list for a "scientific' approach.
      >
      >ERIC EVE
      >Hm. I wonder what exactly you mean by 'scientific method' here (sorry, I
      >think the previous discussion on XTalk to which you refer must have been
      >before I joined). To me, the paradigm of 'scientific method' is what
      >physicists do, and I don't think that history is very much like physics.

      This is an infamous stereotype repeated as a mantra by humanists which only
      reinforces C.P.Snow's book about the Two Cultures. People who recite this
      mantra generally know very little about science, and don't want to learn
      any more. I think that you, perhaps like Fabrizio, think that all science
      is experimental. I suggest that you take another look at the methodologies
      of Geology, Astronomy, Paleontology, and a few other sciences that deal
      with the past and/or inaccessible places.

      >... But perhaps you meant something rather
      >different, e.g. 'scientific' more in the sense of the German
      >'wissenschaftlich'.

      David Hindley was right to characterize my approach as more akin to
      Popper's Logic of Scientific Discovery. The great strength of science is to
      proceed by stating hypotheses in a form that can be tested independently by
      any observer using the available data. Of course, science does have its
      limits. For example, "Jesus was the Son of God" might appear to be in the
      form of a testable hypothesis, but there really is no objective way for
      independent observers to test it using verifiable procedures. Science does
      not do well in predicting individual idiosyncrasies. It does do well at
      finding patterns in repeated events of the same kind.

      >But even then it might be interesting to reflect on the
      >different ways in which methods and observations are theory-laden in
      >different disciplines. In natural science this isn't too much of a problem
      >since the theories in question are well tested, highly coherent, and
      >almost universally agreed by the relevant experts

      HA Ha ha ha ha! Oh, wait, you must be confusing science and engineering?

      >(e.g. to set up an experiment to measure the mass of a quark must
      >presuppose a considerable amount of scientific theory, but, as I
      >understand it, the theory presupposed is something all experimental and
      >theoretical physicists would agree on).

      Your use of the word "all" is quite out of place. There is very little that
      *all* experimental and theoretical physicists agree on, and that small
      subset is pretty boring and doesn't occupy much attention. I notice here
      that you are not writing about testing any hypotheses, but about working
      out the implications of a theory, which is really more an engineering
      problem than a science problem.

      >How far can this be said for any 'theory' in HJ research?

      This sets up the wrong question. I'll give you a better example, using HJ
      research. Crossan's claim that the passion narrative is "prophecy
      historicized" is potentially a productive hypothesis, which led me
      naturally to the question that, OK, if prophecies are historicized, under
      what conditions are what prophecies historicized? This is a legitimate
      question of literary science. There are abundant examples that people talk
      about-- all GMatthew's proof texts, for example, might provide a rich field
      of examples. It might lead us to understand under what circumstances first
      century Jews might consider historical events a fulfillment of prophecy,
      and a host of other important issues. Unfortunately, when I suggested this
      to Crossan, he wrote back that he was only applying his claim of prophecy
      historicized with respect to the Passion Narrative, and did not want to
      discuss other examples. Furthermore, as it turns out, his explanation of
      the Passion narrative as prophecy historicized should really be termed
      prophecies (plural!) historicized, because it takes him half a dozen
      fragments of prophecies here and there in order to explain one "event". To
      take this a little further, source critical theories and solutions to the
      Synoptic Problem are essentially problems of the science of literature. The
      so-called "Criteria" and the "Rules of Evidence" proposed by the Jesus
      Seminar in The Five Gospels rest on a series of hypotheses about literary
      dependence.

      It is not necessary for literary hypotheses to be 100% true to be useful.
      Literary hypotheses could in principle be ranked according to how often
      they test out. Hypotheses that prove true most of the time are worth
      keeping, and those with a poor track record can be rejected or sent back to
      the drawing table for refinement. But people who do literary analyses of
      this sort are generally humanists, and the idea of doing the work of
      stating clear literary hypotheses, testing them (quantitatively!), and
      refining them to increase their accuracy seems to give them the willies,
      and so instead we get endless arguments that go around inconclusively in
      circles.

      The Five Gospels was actually a step in the right direction. However, they
      got distracted by calling too many things "rules of evidence" (some so
      called rules were not rules at all.) My point is that we can LEARN
      something from scientific method to IMPROVE our research methods, and I
      just don't buy the argument that we don't have the right kind of data.

      Bob

      Bob


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Bob Schacht
      ... David, Indeed, you are right in this summary. There is something very powerful in the discipline of stating one s claims in the form of testable
      Message 2 of 10 , Sep 1, 2001
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        At 01:48 PM 8/31/01 -0400, David C. Hindley wrote:
        >Eric Eve said:
        >
        > >>I wonder what exactly you [i.e., Bob Schacht] mean by 'scientific
        >method' here (sorry, I think the previous discussion on XTalk to which
        >you refer must have been before I joined). To me, the paradigm of
        >'scientific method' is what physicists do, and I don't think that
        >history is very much like physics.<<
        >
        >I believe Bob was referring to a discussion about Karl Popper's theory
        >that hypotheses need to be falsifiable. In other words, a good
        >hypothesis is one that can be confirmed (as there is no good way to
        >measure the significance of those confirmations with regard to
        >establishing the hypothesis as true), but in their resistance to being
        >falsified. Bob asked, rhetorically, why this could not be done with
        >historical hypotheses.

        David,
        Indeed, you are right in this summary. There is something very powerful in
        the discipline of stating one's claims in the form of testable hypotheses,
        and then figuring out how to refine them when they only work some of the
        time. Refinements generally mean being clearer about definitions, or
        defining more clearly the conditions under which the hypothesis is meant to
        apply. These are all very healthy disciplines that help us to think with
        greater precision and clarity. Unfortunately, too many people engaged in HJ
        research are unwilling to submit to this discipline.

        > Some of us protested that when it comes to physics, the phenomenon can
        > usually be repeated under controlled conditions to test the hypothesis.
        > With historical data we do not have this option.

        Here you repeat Eric Eve's canard that seems to be the humanist mantra,
        imagining that all science is experimental. According to this stereotype,
        Geology, Astronomy and paleontology must all be unscientific. Fortunately,
        you seem to realize this error, because you go on to write:


        >At first I thought Fabrizio was thinking of was some kind of
        >"empirical" method, but now I tend to agree he was thinking of the
        >"experimental" method, calling it the scientific method, although
        >Science sometimes has to rely strictly on "static" data like we do
        >with history. Astronomy might be an example. There is no way to
        >control the variables, so you determine what processes should be
        >detectable if something, say a supernova, occurs, and you try to put
        >yourself in a position to capture the data that can confirm or falsify
        >the hypothesis the next time a supernova is observed by chance). So, I
        >guess, historical data is subject to some degree of "scientific"
        >method.

        And this is exactly correct.
        Thank you,
        Bob


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Eric Eve
        ... ERIC EVE Bob, I think we re horribly at cross-purposes here. The reason I wrote To me, the paradigm of scientific method is physics is nothing to do
        Message 3 of 10 , Sep 2, 2001
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          BOB SCHACHT wrote:

          >ERIC EVE
          >>Hm. I wonder what exactly you mean by 'scientific method' here (sorry, I
          >>think the previous discussion on XTalk to which you refer must have been
          >>before I joined). To me, the paradigm of 'scientific method' is what
          >>physicists do, and I don't think that history is very much like physics.

          >This is an infamous stereotype repeated as a mantra by humanists which only
          >reinforces C.P.Snow's book about the Two Cultures. People who recite this
          >mantra generally know very little about science, and don't want to learn
          >any more. I think that you, perhaps like Fabrizio, think that all science
          >is experimental. I suggest that you take another look at the methodologies
          >of Geology, Astronomy, Paleontology, and a few other sciences that deal
          >with the past and/or inaccessible places.

          ERIC EVE
          Bob, I think we're horribly at cross-purposes here. The reason I wrote 'To
          me, the paradigm of "scientific method" is physics is nothing to do with
          repeating a 'humanist mantra' but in fact derives from the fact that my
          A-levels were in maths and physics. Thus, when I hear 'science' these are
          the disciplines that spring first to my mind! In the passage you cite from
          me, I say "I wonder what you mean by 'scientific method' here", and that was
          a genuine query, which you have now answered.

          ERIC EVE (previously)
          >>But even then it might be interesting to reflect on the
          >>different ways in which methods and observations are theory-laden in
          >>different disciplines. In natural science this isn't too much of a problem
          >>since the theories in question are well tested, highly coherent, and
          >>almost universally agreed by the relevant experts

          BOB SCHACHT
          >HA Ha ha ha ha! Oh, wait, you must be confusing science and engineering?

          ERIC EVE
          Have you found me out? (Actually, my first degree _was_ in engineering). But
          seriously, I suspect we may be at cross-purposes here. When I referred to
          'the theories in question' I wasn't referring to the cutting-edge stuff
          which might well be disputed among physicists, but to the (probably by now
          quite mundane) type of theory that needs to be presupposed in making
          measurements (e.g. of such quantities as mass, charge, wavelength etc.).

          >>(e.g. to set up an experiment to measure the mass of a quark must
          >>presuppose a considerable amount of scientific theory, but, as I
          >>understand it, the theory presupposed is something all experimental and
          >>theoretical physicists would agree on).

          BOB SCHACHT
          >Your use of the word "all" is quite out of place. There is very little that
          >*all* experimental and theoretical physicists agree on, and that small
          >subset is pretty boring and doesn't occupy much attention. I notice here
          >that you are not writing about testing any hypotheses, but about working
          >out the implications of a theory, which is really more an engineering
          >problem than a science problem.

          Well, no, how else is one going to test a theory other than by working out
          some of its implications and seeing whether they match observations? So far
          as the first part of the paragraph is concerned, I think your objection to
          my 'all' probably rests on a misunderstanding of what I took to be agreed,
          which may well be much the same as what you refer to as 'that small subset
          [which] is pretty boring and doesn't occupy much attention', i.e. the kind
          of physical theory that must be presupposed in making a measurement (I'm not
          sure that this subset is all that small, though, but I guess 'small' is a
          relative term and it would depend what you were taking as the standard of
          comparison). This may be as mundane as accepting that classical mechanics
          works well enough at the mesoscopic level, quantum mechanics at the
          microscopic level, and general relatively at the macroscopic level, 'well
          enough' in this case meaning 'well enough for the purpose of taking
          measurements' (of course this is an over-simplification, and should _not_ be
          read as intended as a fully accurate description). Can you name one single
          physicist who would disagree? (Again, I'm _not_ talking about discussions
          about what quantum mechanics _really means_ or how all these should be
          combined into a 'theory of everything' that is the ultimately true
          description of reality; I'm talking about the working assumptions that all
          [perhaps I should have written 'nearly all' since there might always be an
          eccentric exception] physicists would take for granted).

          BOB SCHACHT
          >It is not necessary for literary hypotheses to be 100% true to be useful.
          >Literary hypotheses could in principle be ranked according to how often
          >they test out. Hypotheses that prove true most of the time are worth
          >keeping, and those with a poor track record can be rejected or sent back to
          >the drawing table for refinement. But people who do literary analyses of
          >this sort are generally humanists, and the idea of doing the work of
          >stating clear literary hypotheses, testing them (quantitatively!), and
          >refining them to increase their accuracy seems to give them the willies,
          >and so instead we get endless arguments that go around inconclusively in
          >circles.

          >My point is that we can LEARN
          >something from scientific method to IMPROVE our research methods, and I
          >just don't buy the argument that we don't have the right kind of data.


          ERIC EVE
          This suggests to me that we really have been arguing at cross purposes,
          since I don't disagree with you in principle here at all. For example, in
          the post to which you have just replied I wrote "Maybe we can learn
          _something_ from the analogies with natural science", which actually doesn't
          look that different from what you've just said. In fact, I think the process
          of forming, testing and refining hypotheses probably is the right way to go
          about HJ research. I also think that whether or not we have the right kind
          of data is something that cannot be determined _a priori_ but can only be
          determined by attempting the kind of procedure you describe. So I suspect I
          must have misled you into supposing that my targets were other than they
          are!

          My concerns are not at all to rubbish the kind of approach you are
          suggesting but rather
          (a) To query what kind of truth-claim is being made by the use of the term
          'scientific' and what feature or type of scientific method is being appealed
          to (you have now answered that in a way that I'm entirely happy with, apart
          from one or two reservations to be noted below).
          (b) More specifically, to query whether the application of certain criteria
          (e.g. multiple attestation, double dissimilarity) is as 'scientific' as it
          is claimed (but of course, this in part depends on what the user claims for
          it), or whether such criteria may sometimes embody questionable
          presuppositions.
          (c) To query whether the isolation of 'authentic' material by these type of
          criteria is really the best place to start in HJ research (since there may
          be the danger that such criteria contain presuppositions that effectively
          imply some hypothesis about Christian origins or whatever), or whether it
          would not be better to proceed more along the lines you describe (which
          sounds more like a top-down than a bottom-up approach, at the risk of
          oversimplifying). Of course, at some point one may need to combine both
          approaches.

          That said, I do have a slight reservation about our ability to test theories
          'quantitatively'. If the sort of literary theory you have in mind is
          something like a solution to the Synoptic Problem, then this is fine. If it
          is more in the nature of a historical proposal about what Jesus was actually
          up to in first-century Galilee, then my point is that there are fewer agreed
          points of reference against which any proposal can be tested; but perhaps
          your term 'literary theory' suggests that this isn't what you had in mind.

          I hope that clears things up a bit.

          Best wishes,

          Eric
          ---------------------------
          Eric Eve
          Harris Manchester College, Oxford
          email: mailto:eric.eve@...
          Home page: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~manc0049
        • Bob Schacht
          ... Eric, Thanks for your continuing dialogue on these points. I think that your notion of what historical theory consists of is about a generation out of
          Message 4 of 10 , Sep 2, 2001
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            At 04:54 PM 9/1/01 +0100, Eric Eve wrote to David Hindley:

            >Thanks for the clarification, but there are still some differences between
            >your astronomical example and the business of testing a historical theory,
            >are there not? In the first place, a theory about supernovae in general
            >should be applicable to any supernova, so although one might indeed have
            >to wait for a supernova to appear, any old supernova would do and the
            >measurements should in principle be repeatable on any supernovae (or
            >should it be supernovas?) that came along thereafter. A historical theory
            >on the other hand is a reconstruction of a sequence of events and the
            >causal relations between them that occurred once only in one particular
            >time and place.

            Eric,
            Thanks for your continuing dialogue on these points. I think that your
            notion of what "historical theory" consists of is about a generation out of
            date. I suggest that you consult some of the works of the "new history" of
            the past 30 years or so, and in general the field of social history. To see
            an example of this sort of thing in historical Jesus studies, take a look
            at Crossan's The Birth of Christianity, on p. 148:

            "Cross-cultural anthropology indicates that peasant unrest and resistance
            escalates as agrarian empires increase their commercializing activities and
            take peasant land (not just peasant surplus)."

            Crossan gets ideas like this from the intersection of anthropology and
            social history, where the two have blended together somewhat.

            Your point is valid with respect to specific events in the life of Jesus,
            and the juxtaposition of personal biography and social history often leaves
            people confused, because different research paradigms are being combined.
            The theories of social history do not *directly* help establish whether or
            not Jesus did something. What they can do is establish a credible context
            for reports of his sayings or deeds ( I think this is what is sometimes
            called the "Sitz im Leben" of the text). This is what the "Context Group,"
            that Loren Rosson often speaks of, can help us with.

            Sometimes on the contrary, social history might show that, say, a pericope
            reported by Luke might make sense to a Greek audience in Europe, but would
            make no sense to a Judean audience.

            >In the second, if the theory about supernovas predicted (say) that a
            >certain proportion of the elements hydrogen, helium and lithium should be
            >observed in the supernova at a particular stage in its evolution, there
            >would be little or no scope for disagreement among astronomers whether or
            >not this turned out to be the case once the appropriate spectroscopic
            >measurements had been conducted. It may often be far less clear how a
            >historical theory can offer testable consequences that are so
            >unambiguously falsified or verified.

            See the above example from Crossan, which indeed offers testable
            consequences that can be falsified-- not necessarily in the same place and
            time, but in various places and times where circumstances are similar.

            >... I'm not saying that
            >the analogy between scientific and historical theories is totally
            >valueless, but that at the end of the day they are rather different kinds
            >of thing so that any analogy should not be pressed too far.

            I think that you have exaggerated the differences.

            > If I understand him correctly, I'm simply getting at much the same thing
            > here as Steve Black was when he wrote
            > (<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/crosstalk2/message/8108):>http://groups.ya
            > hoo.com/group/crosstalk2/message/8108):
            >
            > >It seems to me that many scholarly methodologies can
            > >(and perhaps are) be used utterly subjectively. This, to me, is not
            > >so much of a problem, the problem is that the results are presented
            > >as if some scientific certainty HAS been achieved, and that it wasn't
            > >a subjective enterprise.

            Of course it is possible to do bad science. "Creation science" comes to
            mind. The other side of this problem is that the public too often regards
            science as determining matters of *truth*. This is a misperception. Perhaps
            "Truth" operates on a different ontological level than science? Science
            seeks the best explanation for the data, and offers methods for choosing
            between competing explanations. It has no way of saying whether the best
            explanation is "true." For example, in physics there are two competing
            theories about the nature of light: One that it acts like a particle,
            another that it acts like a wave. Which is it? Which explanation is "true"?
            Both explanations offer useful predictions about the behavior of light, but
            last I knew it was yet to be determined which was "true." I suppose that,
            in terms of the logic of knowledge, when a theory becomes widely accepted,
            it then is assumed to be "true." Perhaps it might be instructive to look at
            the "truth" value of the concept of Evolution. It has achieved widespread
            acceptance, so that many people accept it as "true"-- but not religious
            fundamentalists who prefer creation "science". Of course that picture has
            been clouded by revisions to the theory of Darwinian evolution from the
            Gradualist model to the more modern "punctuated equilibrium" model
            of Steven J. Gould and others, according to which long periods of
            stability are punctuated by rapid periods of evolution in some species. And
            then you could get down to ontological arguments about whether mutation
            happens by "chance" or by divine intervention... So science is often
            perceived by the public as the purveyors of truth, to the extent that the
            public has "faith" in science that amounts to scientism-- that is, they
            have faith that science holds the key to the truth, and that scientists
            thereby become the High Priests of the New Age: People have "faith" in
            them, but don't really have any idea of what they do and how they work. At
            that level, what really is the difference between science and religion?

            My bottom line: That science, properly understood and properly used, is not
            only a valuable tool of historical Jesus studies, but has the potential to
            greatly expand our knowledge of the historical Jesus.

            Best wishes,
            Bob


            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Eric Eve
            ... Bob, Thanks, too, for continuing this dialogue on methodologies, though we seem to be a bit out of sync since your last reply appears to answer my
            Message 5 of 10 , Sep 2, 2001
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              BOB SCHACHT WROTE (Sun Sep 2, 2001 4:55 pm):

              >Eric,
              >Thanks for your continuing dialogue on these points. I think that your
              >notion of what "historical theory" consists of is about a generation out of
              >date. I suggest that you consult some of the works of the "new history" of
              >the past 30 years or so, and in general the field of social history. To see
              >an example of this sort of thing in historical Jesus studies, take a look
              >at Crossan's The Birth of Christianity, on p. 148:


              Bob,

              Thanks, too, for continuing this dialogue on methodologies, though we seem
              to be a bit "out of sync" since your last reply appears to answer my
              last-but-one post and to ignore my most recent response. Perhaps there is
              some technological reason for this (e.g. I'm looking at the correspondence
              through the web site while you're getting it by periodic emails?).

              Actually, I think now the problem may mainly be one of terminology. I'm not
              unaware of the application of social scientific methodologies to
              first-century history (I've attempted to use them in a small way myself, see
              http://www.ecse.ukf.net/thesis/chapter9.html, although this is a *very*
              compressed summary). If by 'historical theory' you mean something like
              social history informed by cultural anthropology, cross-cultural
              comparisons, and sociological models, then of course you are broadly right.
              And I was aware when I was writing it that my description of 'historical
              theory' in my post to David Hindley was not totally adequate; but perhaps I
              was in too much of a hurry to get onto my main point.

              BOB
              >Your point is valid with respect to specific events in the life of Jesus,
              >and the juxtaposition of personal biography and social history often leaves
              >people confused, because different research paradigms are being combined.
              >The theories of social history do not *directly* help establish whether or
              >not Jesus did something. What they can do is establish a credible context
              >for reports of his sayings or deeds ( I think this is what is sometimes
              >called the "Sitz im Leben" of the text). This is what the "Context Group,"
              >that Loren Rosson often speaks of, can help us with.

              >Sometimes on the contrary, social history might show that, say, a pericope
              >reported by Luke might make sense to a Greek audience in Europe, but would
              >make no sense to a Judean audience.

              ERIC:
              Yes, I agree with all of that. But what I what in mind when I (perhaps too
              loosely) used the term 'historical theory' was something that went beyond a
              reconstruction of the socio-economic conditions of first-century Palestine
              to describe the particularities of some aspect of Christian origins
              (although I'd fully grant that such a theory might and probably should
              incorporate the kind of social history you're talking about).

              BOB:
              >See the above example from Crossan, which indeed offers testable
              >consequences that can be falsified-- not necessarily in the same place and
              >time, but in various places and times where circumstances are similar.

              Well, yes and no. I broadly agree in principle. Crossan's understanding of
              the social dynamics of first-century Galilee is, as I recall from his _The
              Historical Jesus_ (it's a couple of years since I read it) an integral part
              of his reconstruction of the HJ. I have _no_ quarrel with this as a
              methodology (like you, I'm sure that this kind of thing can only serve to
              improve our understanding of these matters). But, to illustrate what I'm
              getting at, someone could (and some people surely have) question details of
              the social-historical reconstruction on which Crossan bases his account of
              the HJ whereas *no* physicist would question the wave-particle duality of
              light (see below). My point is *not* therefore that there is something
              seriously wrong with employing social-historical reconstruction but simply
              that it does not provide quite such a firm basis as a widely accepted
              physical theory in natural science. This was partly what I had in mind when
              I talked about comparing the way in which observations in the two
              disciplines were theory-laden. All photons behave in the same way, but all
              societies do not. We may indeed learn a great deal from cross-cultural
              comparisons, but this is not an _exact_ science.

              BTW, as a complete aside, has much been done with cultural-anthropological
              work on evil-eye belief in relation to HJ research? If so, I haven't come
              across it. For example, the apparently hard saying at Matt 5.28 would be
              something of a commonplace in peasant Mediterranean society where evil eye
              belief was rife (as anthropologists certainly believe it was in the Levant),
              see e.g. David Gilmore, 'Anthropology of the Mediterranean Area', _Annual
              Review of Anthropology_ 11 (1982), pp. 197-98, where he talks about the
              emphasis "on the significance of the eye as an instrument of knowledge,
              power, predation and sexuality... To 'see' others voyeuristically without
              being seen gives intense pleasure and a feeling of superiority... The eye is
              also the erogenous zone par excellence throughout the Mediterranean cultural
              area... Simply to be 'seen' in these societies conveys powerful erotic
              overtones." Jesus' teachings on wealth and possessions also read a bit
              differently when set in the light of what I've read on evil eye beliefs. Am
              I the only one to pick this up or am I just totally off beam here?

              BOB:
              >For example, in physics there are two competing
              >theories about the nature of light: One that it acts like a particle,
              >another that it acts like a wave. Which is it? Which explanation is "true"?
              >Both explanations offer useful predictions about the behavior of light, but
              >last I knew it was yet to be determined which was "true."

              ERIC:
              They're both true, surely. Light (or electromagnetic radiation in general)
              comes in discrete packets or 'quanta' of energy (called photons) that
              exhibit wavelike behaviour (e.g. interference patterns). The same,
              incidentally, is true of _any_ particle at this scale (e.g. electrons).
              There is problem in envisaging what this actually _means_, since at the
              scale where such quantum mechanical considerations apply, our common-sense
              notions of things such as 'particle' start to break down. But I don't _know_
              of _any_ physicist who would describe these as 'two competing theories'
              (though bear in mind I finished my school physics in 1972 and my engineering
              degree in 1975, so I could be a bit rusty by now!).

              BOB:
              >My bottom line: That science, properly understood and properly used, is not
              >only a valuable tool of historical Jesus studies, but has the potential to
              >greatly expand our knowledge of the historical Jesus.

              ERIC:
              I don't really disagree with this at all. In the first post where I
              evidently appeared to you to question it I was more concerned to find out
              what you meant by scientific method. My suspicions haven't been those of a
              humanist suspicious of or ignorant about science, but those of someone
              originally trained as a scientist (well, an engineer, anyway) who gets
              suspicious of humanists' appeals to science! In your case, I think the
              suspicions were largely unjustified.

              BOB:
              >I think that you have exaggerated the differences.

              ERIC:
              Maybe, but there _are_ differences and I'm just anxious they should be
              recognized.
              I think perhaps I'd better wait for your response to both this post and my
              previous one (8326) before saying any more. Besides, I've got a supper
              invitation to run off to!
              But thanks again for a most informative dialogue.

              Best wishes,

              Eric
            • Bob Schacht
              ... Eric, Thanks for your patience. Actually the reason is that I can t keep up with all the correspondence, and I m trying to deal with them in chronological
              Message 6 of 10 , Sep 2, 2001
              • 0 Attachment
                At 07:58 PM 9/2/01 +0100, Eric Eve wrote:
                >BOB SCHACHT WROTE (Sun Sep 2, 2001 4:55 pm):
                >
                > >Eric,
                > >Thanks for your continuing dialogue on these points. I think that your
                > >notion of what "historical theory" consists of is about a generation out of
                > >date. I suggest that you consult some of the works of the "new history" of
                > >the past 30 years or so, and in general the field of social history. To see
                > >an example of this sort of thing in historical Jesus studies, take a look
                > >at Crossan's The Birth of Christianity, on p. 148:
                >
                >
                >Bob,
                >
                >Thanks, too, for continuing this dialogue on methodologies, though we seem
                >to be a bit "out of sync" since your last reply appears to answer my
                >last-but-one post and to ignore my most recent response. Perhaps there is
                >some technological reason for this (e.g. I'm looking at the correspondence
                >through the web site while you're getting it by periodic emails?).

                Eric,
                Thanks for your patience. Actually the reason is that I can't keep up with
                all the correspondence, and I'm trying to deal with them in chronological
                order! So if you'll excuse me, let's go back to your message
                At 12:35 PM 9/2/01 +0100, when you wrote:
                >...Bob, I think we're horribly at cross-purposes here. The reason I wrote
                >'To me, the paradigm of "scientific method" is physics is nothing to do
                >with repeating a 'humanist mantra' but in fact derives from the fact that
                >my A-levels were in maths and physics. Thus, when I hear 'science' these
                >are the disciplines that spring first to my mind! In the passage you cite
                >from me, I say "I wonder what you mean by 'scientific method' here", and
                >that was a genuine query, which you have now answered.

                Good! And thanks for the notes on your background, too. BTW, have you read
                any of John Polkinghorne, or Fritjof Capra ("The Tao of Physics")?

                [snip]

                >...When I referred to 'the theories in question' I wasn't referring to the
                >cutting-edge stuff which might well be disputed among physicists, but to
                >the (probably by now quite mundane) type of theory that needs to be
                >presupposed in making measurements (e.g. of such quantities as mass,
                >charge, wavelength etc.).

                "Making measurements" is not the aspect of scientific theory-making that
                interests me, in relation to HJ studies, except insofar as one must make
                measurements as part of testing the implications of a theory, as you note a
                little later:

                >...Well, no, how else is one going to test a theory other than by working
                >out some of its implications and seeing whether they match observations? ...

                No disagreement there, as long as the focus of the measurement is on
                testing a theory. I thought you had some other issue in mind.

                [more snipping]

                >ERIC EVE
                >... I don't disagree with you in principle here at all. For example, in
                >the post to which you have just replied I wrote "Maybe we can learn
                >_something_ from the analogies with natural science", which actually
                >doesn't look that different from what you've just said. In fact, I think
                >the process of forming, testing and refining hypotheses probably is the
                >right way to go about HJ research.

                Agreed!

                >I also think that whether or not we have the right kind of data is
                >something that cannot be determined _a priori_ but can only be
                >determined by attempting the kind of procedure you describe. So I suspect
                >I must have misled you into supposing that my targets were other than they
                >are!

                I am delighted to be put straight on these matters. Thank you.


                >My concerns are not at all to rubbish the kind of approach you are
                >suggesting but rather
                >(a) To query what kind of truth-claim is being made by the use of the
                >term 'scientific' and what feature or type of scientific method is being
                >appealed to (you have now answered that in a way that I'm entirely happy
                >with, apart from one or two reservations to be noted below).

                Good; I'm glad we've made progress there.

                >(b) More specifically, to query whether the application of certain
                >criteria (e.g. multiple attestation, double dissimilarity) is as
                >'scientific' as it is claimed (but of course, this in part depends on what
                >the user claims for it), or whether such criteria may sometimes embody
                >questionable presuppositions.

                I think some of the trouble here has been to refer to the "criterion" of
                "Multiple attestation" as if everyone knows what that means, when it is
                clear from recent exchanges that is not the case. Instead it seems to me
                that what we need is a more fully-stated *principle* of multiple
                attestation. To get at this, let us return to The Five Gospels and their
                "Rules of Evidence," which are offered as "standards by which evidence is
                presented and evaluated.... A standard is a measure or test of the
                reliability of certain kinds of information." (T5G, p.16). This is a good
                place to start. Unfortunately, in their enthusiasm, they wound up
                presenting as standards things that make no sense *as standards*, but let's
                not let that distract us here.

                The principle of multiple attestation is presented as one of those "rules
                of evidence" (which are all printed as bullets in red printing) on page 26,
                but without the label, "multiple attestation":
                * Sayings or parables that are attested in two or more independent
                sources are older than the sources in which they are embedded.
                This more full statement takes care of some of your previous concerns (and
                those of others). It probably needs further refinement, but at least this
                fuller statement is a better point of reference.

                >(c) To query whether the isolation of 'authentic' material by these
                >type of criteria is really the best place to start in HJ research (since
                >there may be the danger that such criteria contain presuppositions that
                >effectively imply some hypothesis about Christian origins or whatever), or
                >whether it would not be better to proceed more along the lines you
                >describe (which sounds more like a top-down than a bottom-up approach, at
                >the risk of oversimplifying). Of course, at some point one may need to
                >combine both approaches.

                If any inappropriate presuppositions are built into any of our rules of
                evidence, they must of course be exposed and corrected, which will result
                in refining the rules of evidence. I think we are in agreement that this is
                a good thing?
                [snip]
                >...I hope that clears things up a bit.

                Yes it does. Thanks!
                Now back to your most recent message:

                >Actually, I think now the problem may mainly be one of terminology. I'm
                >not unaware of the application of social scientific methodologies to
                >first-century history (I've attempted to use them in a small way myself,
                >see
                ><http://www.ecse.ukf.net/thesis/chapter9.html,>http://www.ecse.ukf.net/thes
                >is/chapter9.html, although this is a *very* compressed summary). If by
                >'historical theory' you mean something like social history informed by
                >cultural anthropology, cross-cultural
                >comparisons, and sociological models, then of course you are broadly right....

                Thanks; It is good to see convergence and better mutual understanding on
                these points.

                [snip]

                >My point is *not* therefore that there is something seriously wrong with
                >employing social-historical reconstruction but simply that it does not
                >provide quite such a firm basis as a widely accepted physical theory in
                >natural science. This was partly what I had in mind when I talked about
                >comparing the way in which observations in the two disciplines were
                >theory-laden. All photons behave in the same way, but all societies do
                >not. We may indeed learn a great deal from cross-cultural comparisons, but
                >this is not an _exact_ science.

                OK, I'll grant that point.


                >BTW, as a complete aside, has much been done with cultural-anthropological
                >work on evil-eye belief in relation to HJ research? If so, I haven't come
                >across it. For example, the apparently hard saying at Matt 5.28 would be
                >something of a commonplace in peasant Mediterranean society where evil eye
                >belief was rife ...

                Can't help you here. My social commentaries unfortunately lack a subject
                index, and Malina & Rohrbaugh's Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic
                Gospels (1992) makes no comment about the evil eye in its discussion of
                Matthew 5:28.

                > Jesus' teachings on wealth and possessions also read a bit
                >differently when set in the light of what I've read on evil eye beliefs.
                >Am I the only one to pick this up or am I just totally off beam here?

                Dunno. Maybe Leon Rossen knows.


                >BOB:
                > >For example, in physics there are two competing
                > >theories about the nature of light: One that it acts like a particle,
                > >another that it acts like a wave. Which is it? Which explanation is
                > "true"? >Both explanations offer useful predictions about the behavior of
                > light, but >last I knew it was yet to be determined which was "true."
                >
                >ERIC:
                >They're both true, surely. Light (or electromagnetic radiation in general)
                >comes in discrete packets or 'quanta' of energy (called photons) that
                >exhibit wavelike behaviour (e.g. interference patterns). The same,
                >incidentally, is true of _any_ particle at this scale (e.g. electrons).
                >There is problem in envisaging what this actually _means_, since at the
                >scale where such quantum mechanical considerations apply, our common-sense
                >notions of things such as 'particle' start to break down. But I don't
                >_know_ of _any_ physicist who would describe these as 'two competing
                >theories' (though bear in mind I finished my school physics in 1972 and my
                >engineering degree in 1975, so I could be a bit rusty by now!).

                Well, this calls to mind Bill Arnal's phrase about the "worst kind of
                harmonization"! The two theories ARE contradictory. Particle theory is
                based on things that have mass, and photons of light are (or were?) not
                thought to have any mass. Conversely, wave theory, if I recall, assumes
                masslessness. If you examine the presuppositions of these two theories (as
                you encourage us to do), they are contradictory. But then, my knowledge of
                these theories is decades old, as well.

                [snip]

                >BOB:
                > >I think that you have exaggerated the differences.
                >
                >ERIC:
                >Maybe, but there _are_ differences and I'm just anxious they should be
                >recognized. ...

                In debates such as this, the point of raising differences is usually to cut
                off debate and prevent dialogue between science and critical scholarship on
                the historical Jesus. I am happy to recognize differences, as long as these
                differences are not exaggerated and used as an excuse to ignore scientific
                method.

                Thanks for your patience,
                Bob
                Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
                Northern Arizona University
                Flagstaff, AZ


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