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RE: [XTalk] Re: Various Methodologies

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 of 10 , Sep 2, 2001
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              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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