Re: Herodotus' Mice and the need for historical verification

From: Dr. Blake Nelson (
Date: Sun May 05 2002 - 14:29:35 EDT

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      I wrote:
    >>In fact, I do not claim any of Genesis is not
    >>historical. I do claim that there is no reason to
    >>reject scientific understandings of the universe
    >>because of Genesis or vice-versa. We must
    >>fundamentally understand the limits of our different
    >>types of knowledge. Scientific knowledge, deep
    >>can never disprove or prove the kind of God attested
    >>to by the books of the Bible.

    Glenn wrote:
    >No, but it can verify or falsify claims about
    >particular events, which will
    >leave observational remains, claimed to have been
    >done in a particular order by that God.

    See my discussion below re interpreting "facts" in
    social scientific analyses. This is true sometimes,
    but not always. I do not think that the examples you
    use are necessarily always hard propositions in the
    way they might be in a physics sense.

    > It simply cannot go
    >there. Ellis, Polkinghorne, Buber, all sorts of
    >people have discussed this at length. Not all truths
    >are scientific and historical.

    >They are not truths but beliefs. Muslims believe
    > things, which are mutually
    > exclusive with your beliefs, they would claim the
    > title of truth for their position.

    I disagree with this. Not all "truths" are
    scientifically verifiable. No moral or ethical truth
    is testable. Does this make them not truths?
    Perhaps, but then nothing is capable of being called
    an asbolute Truth. For example, empiricism is not
    scientifically (empirically) verifiable, therefore
    science operates according to a belief too and has no
    claim to Truth, only a claim to repeatability which
    may be due to lots of things that have nothing to do
    with Truth. Without getting too philosophical there
    is a difference between epistemology and ontology.
    Any epistemological perspective if an act of belief
    which defines, in part, what is ontologically
    possible. There is, in that sense, no truth that is
    beyond contesting as Truth. 2+2=4 is based, as Goedel
    pointed out, on things which cannot be proven, but
    must be accepted as foundational. Therefore you
    cannot properly say that 2+2=4 is True in an absolute
    sense. I am not a postmodernist in any way shape or
    form, but from a rational (and philosophical)
    standpoint there is no such thing as an
    unquestionable, absolute truth. Hard scientists (and
    engineers) get off easy, because they have a practical
    result.. the rocket works, or it blows up. There
    really isn't a Truth claim, there is a practical
    result that either appears to work or not. I agree
    that science approximates reality and is
    versimiltudinous only because I believe in a God that
    undergirds reality with regularity. Cut off from that
    belief, I have no grounds to be an empiricist.

    And, without getting too syncretic, the number of
    foundational claims between a Muslim and a Christian
    may be fewer than you think. Both largely share a
    particular ontological view of the universe that is in
    agreement. Key particulars diverge, but the overlap
    is larger than the disagreement although the
    disagreement may be more significant than the


    >>"England revolted against George Washington and
    >>earned their freedom
    >>from American tyranny," is a demonstrably false
    >>statement which in no way is
    >>in a system requiring precision. I simply can't
    >>believe you are advocating the above view!

    I misread this the first time around (trying to
    respond too fast). I never advocated this view, but
    there is a difference in views regarding whether
    American revolted against English tyranny or whether
    America had been getting off better than most of the
    Empire and when England tried to "equalize" the burden
    on the American colonies, the Americans overreacted,
    because they were really getting a free ride for so
    long. Moreover, there is a dispute among historians
    whether the Americans were mad at the monarchy, which
    was how it was portrayed before I went to school --
    democracy vs. monarchy, or whether they were really
    ticked off at parliament rather than the crown. These
    things are interpretive disputes based on equivocal
    data. It may be harder to support some way out ideas,
    but the closer in you get to the central data, you can
    come up with many pretty reasonably good hypotheses to
    fit the data.

    This is an area where social sciences and arts and
    humanities are different than most hard sciences. It
    is easier to come up with a universe of theories that
    fit the data pretty well. Since a good deal of my
    background is in the social sciences, I tend to see
    this problem in approaching texts. Physics types
    often have only one or a couple theories that fit data
    well, so they tend to see things outside the hard
    sciences that way. It's not that way in say sociology
    or psychology or even in economics, you can have LOTS
    of close to equally plausible explanatory theories
    because "facts" are open to far more interpretation in
    these disciplines.


    >In the Beginning God created the heavens and the
    >The waters parted and the Israelites passed through
    >on dry land
    >The walls of Jericho fell down.
    >They found the stone rolled away.


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