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testing hypotheses

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  • Brian E. Wilson
    Bernard Dainton wrote (SNIP) - ... Hi Bernard! Relativity and mathematical logic were my first loves in my degree in science and maths; the synoptic problem my
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 27, 1998
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      Bernard Dainton wrote (SNIP) -
      >In a scientific investigation you define your hypothesis, do the
      >experiment, and your data either does or does not support the
      >hypothesis - it is entirely objective.

      Hi Bernard!
      Relativity and mathematical logic were my first loves in my
      degree in science and maths; the synoptic problem my passion in my
      degrees in NT studies. I think we might be on the same wave lengths.

      >In the synoptic problem, however, the interpretation of the evidence is
      >much more subjective, so that the same data that I think supports an
      >oral solution others think supports a literary solution.

      I am not sure that we should "interpret the evidence" since this is not
      the same as positing a hypothesis and testing it against the data.
      It is very easy, for instance, to interpret the evidence of the minor
      agreements of Matthew and Luke against Mark in the triple tradition.
      Indeed, there is an infinite number of interpretations of that pattern.
      I would suggest, however, that the synoptic problem arises from **all**
      the patterns observable in the synoptic gospels. It seems to me that the
      synoptic problem is to put forward one hypothesis and test that against
      **all** the observable patterns taken together, including the minor
      agreements, the doublets, the triple tradition, the agreements in order
      of pericopes of Matthew and Luke against Mark in the triple tradition,
      the existence of material special to each synoptic gospel, and so on,
      and so on. If a hypothesis is shown not to be compatible with only one
      observed pattern, the hypothesis is not a solution. If a hypothesis is
      shown to be compatible with all such patterns, then the data "supports
      the hypothesis", and the hypothesis is a solution to the synoptic
      problem.

      The difference from some branches of science, of course, is that the
      data is already fixed. The data is not derivable from experiments, like
      measuring the time to bounce a radar beam onto the surface of an
      aircraft and back. Our data is "set in concrete" in documents already
      written. Really, the synoptic problem is a historical problem in which
      we use a scientific approach to get as close as we can to what happened,
      like biologists looking at fossils in different geological strata, or
      even like astro-physicists using radio-telescopes to look back hundreds
      of millions of years in time by observing radiation in the five
      centimeter red-shift wave band coming from very distant space.

      Best Wishes,
      BRIAN WILSON
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