Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Mandan

"The Mandans said that there were four stories under the earth and four stories above; before the flood they lived in a village under the earth near a lake, and a grape-vine grew down through, letting the light into the underworld. They wanted to come up and sent the mouse, badger, a strange, mythical animal and a deer to dig out a hole. Then they climbed out by the grapevine till half were on earth and a very corpulent woman broke the vine. A flood came when they were first coming out and the first tribe (Tattooed Faces) perished almost wholly. All this happened near a lake to the east. If they are good the Mandans go back to this old village under ground when they die. They now found themselves on the surface of the earth. The people were led by a chief and they kept walking till they reached the Missouri at the mouth of the White River. They ascended it to the Moreau, here they found enemies in the Cheyenne, and they went to war and killed and scalped for the first time. The great chief who led them out of the earth1 together with his sister and brother taught them to make shields, and then he divided them into bands and led them against the Cheyenne. After a long struggle he performed a miracle by which the enemy were nearly all slain."
-The Mandans: a study of their culture, archaeology and language, Volume 3 By George Francis Will, Herbert Joseph Spinden, page 140

....

"The Mandans (people of the pheasants) were the first people created in the world
2, and they originally lived inside of the earth; they raised many vines, and one of them had grown up through a hole in the earth overhead, and one of their young men climbed up it until he came out on top of the ground, on the bank of the river, where the Mandan village stands. He looked around, and admired the beautiful country and prairies about him—saw many buffaloes—killed one with his bow and arrows, and found that its meat was good to eat. He returned and related what he had seen, when a number of others went up the vine with him. and witnesseth the same things. Amongst those who went up, were two very pretty young women, who were favorites with the chiefs, because they were virgins, and amongst those who were trying to get up, was a very large and fat woman, who was ordered by the chiefs not to go up, but whose curiosity led her to try it as soon as she got a secret opportunity, when there was no one present. When she got part of the way up, the vine broke under the great weight of her body and let her down. She was very much hurt by the fall, but did not die. The Mandans were very sorry about this, and she was disgraced for being the cause of a very great calamity, which she had brought upon them, and which could never be averted, for no more could ever ascend, nor could those descend who had got up;. but they build the Mandan village, where it formerly stood, a great ways below on the river; and the remainder of the people live under ground to this day.'" -
-< -->South Dakota historical collections, Volume 4 By South Dakota State Historical Society, South Dakota. Dept. of History, page 521

....

"The Numangkake [aka Mandan] now resolved to go up. The great chief with his medicine and his schischikue in his hand, went first. They climbed up, one after another by the aid of a branch of a vine; and when exactly half their number had ascended, and a corpulent woman was half way up the vine, it broke, and the remainder of the nation fell to the ground. This happened in the neighborhood of the sea shore. Those who had reached the surface went on till they came to the Missouri, which they reached at White Earth river. They then proceeded up the Missouri to Moreau's river. At that time they knew nothing of enemies. Once, when a Mandan woman was scraping a hide, a Cheyenne Indian came and killed her. The Mandans followed the traces of this new enemy till they came to a certain river, where they all turned back with the exception of two, the husband and the brother of the woman who was killed. These two men went on till they discovered the enemy, killed one of them and took his scalp with them. Before they got back to their village they found some white clay which they had never seen before, and took a portion of it with them. When they came to their great chief, the first man who had climbed up the vine, and whose skull and schischikue they still preserve, as a relic, in the medicine bag of the nation, they gave him the white clay, with which he marked some lines on his schischikue. The name of this chief was, at first, Mihti-Pihka (the smoke of the village), but when he ascended to the surface of the earth he called himself the Mihti-Shi (the robe with the beautiful hair). When he had received the clay and the scalp, he commanded all his people to shoot buffalos, but only bulls, and to make shields of the thickest part of the hide, which they did. When this was done, they asked the chief what were his next commandments. To which he replied, 'Paint a drooping sunflower on this shield' (as a sort of medicine or amulet), on which the sister of the chief said, 'You are fools; paint a bean on it; for what is smoother than a bean to ward off the arrows.'

"The chief now introduced the establishment of the bands or unions, and founded first that of 'the foolish dogs.' He made four caps of crows' feathers, and commissioned the Mandans to make a number of similar ones. He then gave them the war pipe and song, and exhorted them to be always valiant and cheerful, and never to retreat before the point of the arrow. He also gave them the strips of red cloth which hang down behind, and added that, if they would follow his directions, they would always be esteemed as brave and worthy men. The chief then made two of the bent sticks covered with otter skins, and gave them the kanakara-kachka. and then two others adorned with raven's feathers^ which he also presented to them. The first represent the sunflower, and the latter the maize. 'These badges,' said he, 'you are to carry before you when you go against the enemy; plant them in the ground, and fight to the last man, that is to say, never abandon them.' He next founded the band of 'the little foolish dogs,' and assembled many young men. whom he ordered to paint their faces of a black color, and gave them a song of their own, with the war whoop at the end. and said he would call them the 'black-birds.' He afterwards went to war with his people against the Cheyennes. They reached the enemy and laid all their robes in a heap together. The chief wore a cap of lynx skin, and had his medicine pipe on his arm. He did not join in the action, but sat apart on the ground during the whole time that it lasted. They fought almost the whole day, drove the enemy into their village, and were then repulsed, which happened three or four times, and one of the Numangkake was killed. When the chief was informed of this, he ordered them to go to the river and bring a young poplar with large leaves, which he planted in the ground near to the enemy, and challenged the Cheyennes to attack him; but they answered, they would wait for his attack. As he would not commence the combat, the enemy shot at him, but their arrows only grazed his arm and robe. He then held up the poplar, which suddenly shot up to a colossal size, was thrown, by a violent storm which arose, among the enemies, crushed many of them, and obliged the Cheyennes to retreat across the Missouri."

-South Dakota historical collections, Volume 4 By South Dakota State Historical Society, South Dakota. Dept. of History, page 569

1. Emphasized to demonstrate that the climbing up to the surface was not something that happened "a long, long time ago" but in the understood real history and recent past of the people as the same chief who lead them out of the ground, also lead them on the surface and lead them against their enemies.

2. Created chronologically first, but not as ancestors to all mankind. Other people came to be via separate, special creations. Quote: "The cattle were sent back to the east, where Lone Man also created white people. Lone Man created more humans, who grew and flourished. The first people he created were the Mandan." - link.


This is the Mandan nation's story of how they came from their subterranean world beneath the Earth via a vine (ala Jack and the Beanstalk) where they had lived for a very long period of time. It is their origin on the surface and the start of their history along the Missouri River. They have had this national tradition told orally for their entire known history. Further, along with their momentous origins, they get into quick conflict with the Cheyennes - who they manage to defeat by way of a miraculous poplar - another national tradition.

As Rabbi Gottlieb says, "Any national miracle that would create a national tradition is unforgettable. So, if a nation believes in such a miracle, we have sufficient reason to accept that belief as true." -link

Or do we?

72 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sinai is hugely different from Mandan one because the other claims do not even CLAIM that it was a recent event. The fact is none of these sources even try to claim that these events happened in the recent past- they leave much less room for verifiability- they outright say- “well, this did happen long long ago in the beginning of time…” Sinai most certainly does not claim that- it says it was their direct, not-so-distant, identifiable ancestors. You are very quick to insult, and yet seem disinterested in the details.

The Mandan legend:

- Does not claim that it happened to a large group- the “village” could easily be very small. I’d like to see your source that said it’s a large group. Every source says they lived in a “village” underground. Hardly a large group. It doesn’t even claim to be, and I’ve seen zero examples which says it was a large group.

- Their own claim says it occurred not in some relatively recent time, but in that murky “beginning of time” period, much less verifiable to anyone hearing the story. I don’t know where you get the idea that it was ever considered to be recent. Every scholar calls it their “creation myth.” They call themselves the “first people in the world.” That is hardly a ‘recent’ event. This myth goes out of its way to ensure that it's unverifiable- "oh, we can't confirm it, because it happened at the very beginning." As you know, Sinai does not claim the revelation at the beginning of time.

Those details alone (particularly the 2nd one) rule out the parallel with Sinai immediately!

Just for fun, here’s a fun little tidbit:

“Villagers had long constructed elaborate underground bell-shaped food caches to preserve corn…when Ordway accompanied Sgt. Nathaniel Pryor’s detail…he observed that large amounts of corn were taken out of the underground pits.”- Lewis & Clark Among the Indians

So we can see from this, and other references, plus the fact that many tribes in these areas had myths about underground origins, that they extensively used the underground as large storage areas, hiding in battles, etc., so there is a sound historical “basis” for this. Now, you’ll say that this only shows the myth formation of the “fantastic” details, but we can see that there is in fact a historical basis for this story. The main points are that:

1- Of course we see this does NOTHING to prove that one can fabricate a history of a nation- the most it can prove is that it can exaggerate it. More on that below.
2- When there are parallel backgrounds (ie. Many groups, not even necessarily in the same geographic location, used underground storage, etc.), one invariably sees the underground myths popping up similarly. So when A, then often B. And yet, while there are plenty of peoples with the basics of the Sinai story (migration, etc), we oddly enough have zero other myths which have anything remotely like the Sinai revelatory claim, a large, memorable event. If this has a naturalistic myth formation explanation, very odd that there’s nothing even comparable.



Furthermore, the Mandans had a number of creation myths, hardly one "central" event.

http://books.google.ca/books?id=AOHXoPuVnZAC&pg=PA30&lpg=PA30&dq=First+Creator+%2B+Lone+Man+%2B+Mandan+%2B+underground&source=bl&ots=HkPpE7IxeX&sig=gxbKAt13ypgkB0axnED65bYE-Jk&hl=en&ei=qkimS52_CMKclgeM46B0&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CBQQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=&f=false


So in fact, what you are demonstrating with this example is that in fact when we see a historical claim like this, it’s not possible to fabricate it entirely, only at most to expand it. So you are proving that there really WAS an exodus and a Mt. Sinai.

Anonymous said...

You say:

This story is "Emphasized to demonstrate that the climbing up to the surface was not something that happened "a long, long time ago" but in the understood real history and recent past."

Then your source says :

"The Mandan story tells of the creation of the world, plants, animals, and man by First Creator and Lone Man" and "The first people he created were the Mandan."

That seems to demonstrate pretty clearly that this myth was indeed believed to have happened at the very beginning, long long ago.

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting retelling of the creation myth which doesn't even mention the underground part, let alone centralize it:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=9I62BcuPxfYC&pg=PA179&lpg=PA179&dq=Mandan+%2B+%22creation+myths%22+%2B+Lone+man&source=bl&ots=4VQFPre0iQ&sig=LzjWOzuSQ-30o2zacrS_9LAmYxE&hl=en&ei=YF-mS7TMHcL7lwejw4CPAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CAgQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=&f=false

We can therefore see even this one culture has multiple creation myths.

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

Re Mandans:

"Their own claim says it occurred not in some relatively recent time, but in that murky “beginning of time” period, much less verifiable to anyone hearing the story. I don’t know where you get the idea that it was ever considered to be recent. Every scholar calls it their “creation myth.” They, as you point out, call themselves the “first people in the world.” That is hardly a ‘recent’ event."

You are not reading the sources carefully - if at all. They were the first people created but didn't leave the world underground until much later. They report that the same chief was present when they climbed as well as when they went to war with the Cheyenne. This war in their history, as reported to the colonials, was only in their recent past.

"Does not claim that it happened to a large group- the “village” could easily be very small. I’d like to see your source that said it’s a large group. Every source says they lived in a “village” underground. Hardly a large group."

As per Lewis and Clark's report: "The whole nation resided in one large village underground near a subterraneous lake..."

http://www.legendsofamerica.com/NA-Mandan.html

A large village sounds large to me. When they made their first alliance after the war with the Hidatsu they said that they had to spread apart from each other because the land could not sustain both of them. Sounds like a sizable group to me.

"So we can see from this, and other references, plus the fact that many tribes in these areas had myths about underground origins, that they extensively used the underground as large storage areas, hiding in battles, etc., so there is a sound historical “basis” for this."

Whatever floats your boat.


"That seems to demonstrate pretty clearly that this myth was indeed believed to have happened at the very beginning, long long ago."

Duh. They're different stories. The story of their initial creation is different from the one when they left their underground world. I don't know why this is hard for you.

"Here's an interesting retelling of the creation myth which doesn't even mention the underground part, let alone centralize it:"

That's because it's a different myth! You might as well be comparing Bereishit and Shemot! Sheesh!


"So you are proving that there really WAS an exodus and a Mt. Sinai."

Are you saying that there was an Exodus and Sinai like there was an underground world where the Mandan came from?

frumheretic said...

That is hardly a ‘recent’ event. This myth goes out of its way to ensure that it's unverifiable- "oh, we can't confirm it, because it happened at the very beginning." As you know, Sinai does not claim the revelation at the beginning of time.

What is 'recent'? How does the Exodus story (supposedly >3200-years ago, which I guess is 'recent' enough to your mind) ensure that it is verifiable?? There is NOTHING that verifies the story beyond the story itself!

Samantha Cohen said...

The most important- indeed, fatal - flaw is the distance in time. I did read your sources, and many others. There is no indication that it was much later in the creation myth. In fact, every single book that references this story calls it their "creation myth" and mentions it alongside the creation of the world story as part of the same narrative.

So by any straightforward reading of these sources, the trek from underground is part of the same "creation myth," or at least according to every source I saw, including the very americanhistory one you quoted! I love how you’re dismissive and insulting, and yet unable to provide any sources for your claims.

The fact that their chief led them in the fight with the Cheyennes does not indicate at all that this event happened in a much later time. None of your sources say anything of the sort.

I think you know very well that this underground claim was in the beginning. It happened to the "first people."

"The Mandan tradition of their origin is, that ages ago they lived underground..." Once again, a long, distant time ago, far removed by any national memory.

Still, about size: the entire 'nation' was underground, and that has zero bearing on the size of the group. Remember the "entire nation" was a village.

Another Lewis & Clark letter, recorded by Donald Dean Jackson, refers to the "village" with no reference of its size.

Of course, "villages" are typically small, as opposed to towns or cities, plus of course, at least half the people never came up anyway after the heavy woman broke the rope, so whatever number they have, it was at most half that. Plus, let's put it in context. In the 1800s, before the disease, at their peak they were 1,600 people, and that's after years of expansion.

Samantha Cohen said...

Of course, the Mandans had multiple stories about their origins. I think you ignored the first source that said: ""The Mandan had several different stories about the creation of the world and the Mandan people.""

Here’s another source which has a very different origin of the Mandan people, without the underground part, told by a Mandan storyteller. Odd that the people could have a completely different myth about the origin of their people:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=0QIgVPju2eoC&pg=PA22&lpg=PA22&dq=mandan+%2B+%22first+people%22+%2B+underground&source=bl&ots=9aAsuujrro&sig=sNil6EMAUQW3pqaxcX-LVTxrv-Y&hl=en&ei=75umS-10w5uWB4zs0ZgC&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CBMQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=&f=false

Right after retelling the underground example of the origin of the Mandan, it says “The storyteller also had another version…”

“At first the world was entirely water….she [a swan] assumed the form of an Indian, and made all the beasts, birds, fishes and insects, and became the first of all Indians.” It’s another version of the origin of the Mandans, yet completely different, and with no mention of underground. This is not an unrelated narrative, but rather given directly in contrast to the underground one. It is clearly a far different version of their origin.

Oops =)

Here’s yet ANOTHER Mandan story that says their people started off by climbing a mountain to avoid a flood. Pg. 52. In fact, of the categories of creation myths presented in the book (from the sky, water, land, or underground), the Mandan one is from the water, with no mention of underground at all:

http://books.google.ca/books?id=I3_j7x1ysmgC&pg=PA48&dq=mandan+creation&hl=en&ei=maOmS-ykC8Hflgf06oTTCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CEsQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=&f=false

After discussing the beginning of the gods, Lone Man was hunting when he “discovered the First People living on the land.” Nothing about underground.

Then, “Lone Man led his people up the mountain to the last village.”

The entire origin story- nothing about living underground

Oops =)

Samantha Cohen said...

So we have:

1/ "The Mandan had several different stories about the creation of the world and the Mandan people."
2/ The Mandans had "another version" of their origins, separate from the underground myth, where they came from a swan; no mention of their origins underground.
3/ A story that says the first Mandans were already on the land, and then went up a mountain during a flood

So we can see that the Mandan example is a failed parallel because:

- Unlike Sinai, which claims the event was recent, this goes out of its way to say it happened in the same narrative as the first creation, to an “ancient people,” the “first people,” “long long ago.” It goes out of its way to say it was in the distant past, unlike Sinai, which repeatedly says the opposite.
- Unlike Sinai, this is not the only Mandan myth about the origin of their people. There are other legends which are completely different.
- Unlike Sinai, the myth does not claim a significant number of people were there. It was a “village” that lived beside a lake, and half the people are still underground now. This does not seem to indicate a significant population of possible witnesses.

For these reasons, the parallel to the Sinai claim fails.

Orthoprax said...

Samanatha,

It doesn't matter how separated in time the first creation was until they left the underground world - the climbing up the vine was in their relatively recent history since they report the same chief being present at their recent historical war with the Cheyenne.

""The Mandan tradition of their origin is, that ages ago they lived underground..." Once again, a long, distant time ago, far removed by any national memory."

Sure - they do report that ages ago they lived underground. It was the climbing out that was a more recent event in their mythology. I know you really wish this were otherwise, but it just ain't.

"Another Lewis & Clark letter, recorded by Donald Dean Jackson, refers to the "village" with no reference of its size."

And? If one reports it being large and another letter reports it without reference to size, the size of "large" is still the corect adjective.

"Of course, "villages" are typically small, as opposed to towns or cities,"

LOL! Any habitation was described by the natives as a village. They didn't know of cities.

"Plus, let's put it in context. In the 1800s, before the disease, at their peak they were 1,600 people, and that's after years of expansion."

Quote: "Double Ditch Indian Village was a large earthlodge village inhabited by the Mandan Indians for nearly 300 years (AD 1490 - 1785). According to Mandan oral history, Double Ditch was one of seven to nine villages simultaneously occupied near the mouth of the Heart River. The Mandan population in this area probably totaled 10,000 or more during this time."

http://history.nd.gov/historicsites/doubleditch/index.html

"Of course, the Mandans had multiple stories about their origins. I think you ignored the first source that said: ""The Mandan had several different stories about the creation of the world and the Mandan people.""

Not at all. They have several stories about their original creation (not dissimilar from Bereishit 1 vs Bereishit 2) but they report living underground and making their way to the surface later on. In fact, as part of their mythos, part of tribe lived aboveground and the other part lived underground. The part that lived aboveground died in the flood. That's how Lone Man can interact with the Mandans on the surface (the "Tattooed Faces" related in the original post) even while the reported ancestors of the real Mandan tribe did not interact with him. Different stories Samantha, reading comprehension, please!

So that's that, then. Have a good day. :-)

Orthoprax said...

"Before the first great deluge, the Numangkake lived below ground, but a band of them (the same of which we have been speaking) took up their abode above ground at an earlier period. They believe that there are four stories below ground and as many above, and they now inhabit the fourth from below. The baud which first came from above ground is called by them Histoppa (those of the tattooed countenance), and these for the most part, perished in the great deluge."


South Dakota historical collections, Volume 4 By South Dakota State Historical Society, South Dakota. Dept. of History, page 568

DrJ said...

Its really not hard to understand how the Sinai myth got perpetuated. There's no need to argue the foolish nuances of all of these stories. Here's a plausable sequence.

1. A few individuals experienced a "revelation".
2. They convinced others that it really happened (as Mohammed or Jesus disciples did).
3. The small group grows larger through natural replication + people joining the clan voluntarily or otherwise. This larger group accepts the story as true.
4. Hundreds of years pass. There is little written documentation,as most people are illiterate. But the stories grow, get embellished, and change over time. There are always, however, wise men and "scribes" who guard the stories.

5. Gradually, the myth of a few people experiencing revelation grows to many experiencing it.

6. In the meantime, the Hebrews have coalesced from many small tribes into a large nation. The national stories continue to be perpetuated, although since the events supposedly occured many hundreds of years in the past, nobody really personally remembers anything.

7. At some point, the story, as perpetuated by the scribes, tells people that a whole nation stood at Sinai. It sounded very plausible, in the context of all of their existing national stories.

No big deal. No miracle. No conspiracy needed.

Mr. Cohen said...

The Jewish nation is 3,322 years old, counting from the Exodus from Egypt. Since then, powerful empires and nations have tried to destroy us more times than anyone can count. But Jews are still here, while countless nations, empires, languages, races and religions have vanished forever.

But Jews did more than just survive. Considering the number of Nobel Prizes Jews have won over the past century, you might suspect that a quarter of the population of this planet is Jewish, but Jews are only 1/700th of the world population.

Jews returned to their land after more than 18 centuries of Diaspora. The 1948 War of Independence was won by Jews, despite overwhelming odds.

How could these things happen if there is no G_d who cares about Jews?

To receive quick quotes from Jewish holy books and short true inspirational stories of Rabbis, go to:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DerechEmet/

Orthoprax said...

DrJ,

Oh, of course. I think gradual myth formation is the most sensible and plausible explanation. I just think it's interesting to compare the mythos of other tribes as well. It helps to further recognize the mechanisms of myths.



Mr. Cohen,

"How could these things happen if there is no G_d who cares about Jews?"

Because the religion/culture of the Jewish people fostered a strong sense of survival in the face of opposition and the crucible of persecution along with an intelligent bent made for a people of great potential once granted emancipation. One could argue that it was God that persevered the Jew, but it was really the idea of God that pushed the Jew on.

DrJ said...

Orthoprax,

I try to make the same arguments with religious people I know but they remain "skeptical":)

They say that there is something fundamentally different about a revelation myth that makes it harder to beleive than other myths, but this is just not so.

Mr Cohen,

I recognize that your argument is from the heart, from emotion, and it has appeal. But basically it is an argument from serendipity, which from a probability point of view, proves nothing. Its not different than the "miracle" of a person winning the jackpot lottery.

That Jews survived is indeed remarkable, but you could make the same argument for Chrisitianity-- what are the chances that a Jewish Rabbi's ideas would become such a successful religion and take over the world? Is that God, too? Or what about the success of Islam?

Holy Hyrax said...

>That Jews survived is indeed remarkable, but you could make the same argument for Chrisitianity-- what are the chances that a Jewish Rabbi's ideas would become such a successful religion and take over the world? Is that God, too? Or what about the success of Islam?

Well, Christianity and Islam really grew, expanded in their own territories. Jews, were spread everywhere for most of their history. It's not really a fair analogy. I personally do feel their is the divine hand of providence with Jews, since our own tradition testifies for us being scattered all over, but yet we will survive and then one day come back to our national homeland. Look, if it was no more remarkable than Christians and Muslims, Mark Twain would not written that great piece on the Jews. Mr. Cohen's argument is not one from the heart solely but one from simply living and seeing a promise being fulfilled.

PS- I don't see Christianities spread as being antithetical to God being 'behind it.'

Rabban Gamliel said...

Orthoprax the real Kuzari argument as well as that of Rabbi Gotleib refers to a national experience expereienced by all. Don't fall into the Dawkins delusion of not feeling the need to examine closely your opponents argument or thinking there is nothing more to check concerning what is meant by your opponent's statement.

Rabban Gamliel said...

The fact is I have never read or heard as of yet of a revelation in which it says it was addressed to the whole nation. None of your supposed contradictions to it yet come with any proof provided by you of a constant reference to it amongst the nation yet with it being central to the very reason and mission of the nation. You act as if the Kuzari was making a passing argument as trivial as giving proof of some trivial incident. The Kuzari was giving it's central argument on behalf of Judaism and not casually given like on some blog but in defense against our enemies.

Rabban Gamliel said...

I will also say this. A modern argument would simply be this. Where is the argument of Jesus or Mohamed or anyone that their respective nations were given a revelation witnessed and accepted by all as giving them a faith to follow. Jesus and Mohamed could not do so because their respective peoples would have been quick to point out that they have beliefs contradictory to them inherited from their ancestors.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

"Orthoprax the real Kuzari argument as well as that of Rabbi Gotleib refers to a national experience expereienced by all."

I don't think Rabbi Gottleib actually says that at all, but your criticism is irrelevant as the Mandan are such an example where they have a story where the entire nation experienced an event.

Holy Hyrax said...

>I don't think Rabbi Gottleib actually says that at al

I think he does or the very least, referring to it. I mean, thats the basic thrust of the Kuzari argument.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"where the entire nation experienced an event." First it doesn't say they all individually experienced it. Second there is a difference between telling people of a supposed event and between telling them of events that contradict their thinking. There is also a difference between telling people events happened that contradicted what they were told. There is also a difference with telling people they know of events already. The prophets never said "here is something I'm informing you of. We were taken out of Egypt and given the Torah. They allready knew. You are grasping at straws. You also failed to address my comment on Jesus and Mohamed or it seems any of my points.

Orthoprax said...

HH,

"I think he does or the very least, referring to it. I mean, thats the basic thrust of the Kuzari argument."

That every person experienced X event is not referred to at all by Rabbi Gottleib. He speaks in terms of national memory where large, key events in their history cannot possibly have been fraudulently originated. See the link I posted.



RG,

"First it doesn't say they all individually experienced it."

Two parts. Not only does Rabbi Gottleib not focus on this facet at all, but for the Mandan it is trivially demonstrable that they believed that they all climbed out of the Earth individually.

"Second there is a difference between telling people of a supposed event and between telling them of events that contradict their thinking."

And you know how anyone in any of these prehistorical societies thought? Pure speculation. Besides for the fact that this is irrelevant to any Kuzari-like argument.

"There is also a difference between telling people events happened that contradicted what they were told. There is also a difference with telling people they know of events already."

Difference between what and what? Your points don't have grammatical indices.

"The prophets never said "here is something I'm informing you of. We were taken out of Egypt and given the Torah. They allready knew."

And? They knew the same way the Mandan knew that they climbed out of the Earth. Common social mythos.

"You also failed to address my comment on Jesus and Mohamed or it seems any of my points."

Because your points are irrelevantly about revelations, which is only one subset of one type of mythos.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Two parts. Not only does Rabbi Gottleib not focus on this facet at all,"

I'll check to see if you know what you are talking about and then tell you.

"but for the Mandan it is trivially demonstrable that they believed that they all climbed
out of the Earth individually."

But that's just a mass of individual stories. I am talking about the claim that all saw as a national event and further you give a trivial example. Was the claim given in place of their records and/or beliefs about their origins? Did they say forget about stories of our rulers we now say we came from the earth during those periods? Can you really tell Jews forget about stories of Eastern Europe or Yemen we spent the exile in the earth. You can't make up just anything. You can make up origins stories concerning prehistory more easily but not stories involving what is in the historical memory period of the people. You try and make up stories and see how you will have limited mileage. You are ignoring my points and being superficial.

RG said:"Second there is a difference between telling people of a supposed event and between telling them of events that contradict their thinking."

You said:"And you know how anyone in any of these prehistorical societies thought? Pure speculation."

Excuse me but you are the one who has to demonstrate how they thought. You're are full of DH and arguments based on supposed probabilities and now you say that since I haven't proven a negative I can't use logic here and you say it is just speculation. So if you don't need to show a story on how they thought but just have to say prove there wasn't such a story why give us this story anyhow?.

"Besides for the fact that this is irrelevant to any Kuzari-like argument."

You don't know except superficially the argument I see.

RG said:"There is also a difference between telling people events happened that contradicted what they were told. There is also a difference with telling people they know of
events already."

You said:"Difference between what and what? Your points don't have grammatical indices."

You can't be told events happened that contradict what they have been told happened and expect for people to just buy it. Further how can you tell people they already know something if it is now being made up.

RG said:"The prophets never said "here is something I'm informing you of. We were taken out of Egypt and given the Torah. They allready knew."

You said:"And? They knew the same way the Mandan knew that they climbed out of the Earth. Common social mythos."

You are claiming though it was made up then. When did this social mythos start then. Further they were unaware of their history and were willing to have it replaced? The Mandan story was not replacing history they knew but adding to it.

RG said:""You also failed to address my comment on Jesus and Mohamed or it seems any of my points."

You said:"Because your points are irrelevantly about revelations, which is only one subset of one type of mythos."

You are being superficial. It is not simply a subset. Revelation would be a whole new religion here. Why hadn't they claimed that all agreed to them? Because they couldn't.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

"But that's just a mass of individual stories. I am talking about the claim that all saw as a national event and further you give a trivial example. Was the claim given in place of their records and/or beliefs about their origins? Did they say forget about stories of our rulers we now say we came from the earth during those periods? Can you really tell Jews forget about stories of Eastern Europe or Yemen we spent the exile in the earth. You can't make up just anything. You can make up origins stories concerning prehistory more easily but not stories involving what is in the historical memory period of the people."

I don't know what you're talking about. It's not a mass of individual stories, it's their collective story of their own origins. Their prehistory takes place underground the same way the Israelites' prehistory takes place in Egyptian bondage. The events at Sinai are as just much in the "historical memory" of the Israelites as was the climb up a vine in the memory of the Mandan.

"Excuse me but you are the one who has to demonstrate how they thought."

Actually I don't. If I merely show you another example of a similar "national unforgetable," as per Rabbi Gottleib, then you are forced to either accept them both or reject them both as they rise and fall on the same principles.

"You can't be told events happened that contradict what they have been told happened and expect for people to just buy it. Further how can you tell people they already know something if it is now being made up."

Ok, maybe. I wasn't arguing against this.

"You are claiming though it was made up then. When did this social mythos start then. Further they were unaware of their history and were willing to have it replaced? The Mandan story was not replacing history they knew but adding to it."

Um, I didn't claim when it was made up at all. Please explain how the Mandan came to believe their origin story and you may have an explanation for how the Israelites came to believe theirs.

"You are being superficial. It is not simply a subset."

Of course it's a subset. Myths come in all colors and shapes. The myth of revelation is just one kind of myth. Another kind of myth is saying your people were born underground.

"Revelation would be a whole new religion here. Why hadn't they claimed that all agreed to them? Because they couldn't."

Of course they couldn't. Those religions are universalist, cosmopolitan and relatively modern - they had no means of forming under the review of a single tribe at their dawn of reflective history. You're comparing apples and oranges.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"RG,

"But that's just a mass of individual stories. I am talking about the claim that all saw as a national event and further you give a trivial example. Was the claim given in place of their records and/or beliefs about their origins? Did they say forget about stories of our rulers we now say we came from the earth during those periods? Can you really tell Jews forget about stories of Eastern Europe or Yemen we spent the exile in the earth. You can't make up just anything. You can make up origins stories concerning prehistory more easily but not stories involving what is in the historical memory period of the people."

Orthoprax said:"I don't know what you're talking about. It's not a mass of individual stories, it's their collective story of their own origins. Their prehistory takes place underground the same way the Israelites' prehistory takes place in Egyptian bondage. The events at Sinai are as just much in the "historical memory" of the "Israelites as was the climb up a vine in the memory of the Mandan."

Our experience in Egypt was not our prehistory. Prehistory for the purposes of what I'm talking about is where one talks about events before any historical experiences of the nation. The Israelites when they entered Canaan knew where they came from. You try telling Ashkenazic Jews their ancestors did not come to America from Europe. You are grasping at pathetic straws. You seem to desperately want to prove your case.

Rabban Gamliel said...

RG:"Excuse me but you are the one who has to demonstrate how they thought."

OA:"Actually I don't. If I merely show you another example of a similar "national unforgetable," as per Rabbi Gottleib, then you are forced to either accept them both or reject them both as they rise and fall on the same principles."

The full quote:RG said:"Second there is a difference between telling people of a supposed event and between telling them of events that contradict their thinking."

You said:"And you know how anyone in any of these prehistorical societies thought? Pure speculation."

RG:"Excuse me but you are the one who has to demonstrate how they thought. You're are full of DH and arguments based on supposed probabilities and now you say that since I haven't proven a negative I can't use logic here and you say it is just speculation. So if you don't need to show a story on how they thought but just have to say prove there wasn't such a story why give us this story anyhow?."

What I was saying was that if you are claiming that anything could have been made up about their history even if it would contradict their history you have the burden of proof of showing it happened. We are not so much dumber than you that you don't have to look closely at what we say as if we obviously could not have thought of your points. In any event you try telling Americans their ancestors came directly from Mars and not primarily from Europe and they will not believe you because it is too well known. Tell them their ancestors before living in Europe came from Mars and you will have more followers because their is no memory from beyond Europe. It is their prehistory then being supposedly described.

Rabban Gamliel said...

RG:"You can't be told events happened that contradict what they have been told happened and expect for people to just buy it. Further how can you tell people they already know something if it is now being made up."

OA:"Ok, maybe. I wasn't arguing against this."

Well then what are we arguing about?

RG:"You are claiming though it was made up then. When did this social mythos start then. Further they were unaware of their history and were willing to have it replaced? The Mandan story was not replacing history they knew but adding to it."

OA:"Um, I didn't claim when it was made up at all. Please explain how the Mandan came to believe their origin story and you may have an explanation for how the Israelites came to believe theirs."

It sounds like the Mandan were explaining origins altogether. They are saying people at least they originally lived underground and then moved up. They are connecting their history above ground which they would really know about with mythology just like other peoples described origins like saying that the different castes of India issued from their main god's body. That part of course is not from their memory but of course the history of their castes they knew so they would not replace the history of their castes with their origin's myth but instead add to it. The Israelites were already a people in Egypt so they were not going to claim they were then a people from the earth and replace their history.

RG:"You are being superficial. It is not simply a subset."

OA:"Of course it's a subset. Myths come in all colors and shapes. The myth of revelation is just one kind of myth. Another kind of myth is saying your people were born underground."

Of course I know it's a subset. I was saying it is not simply a subset but is claiming a religion was revealed so if it contradicts the present religion it's claims will be rejected.

RG:"Revelation would be a whole new religion here. Why hadn't they claimed that all agreed to them? Because they couldn't."

OA:"Of course they couldn't. Those religions are universalist, cosmopolitan and relatively modern - they had no means of forming under the review of a single tribe at their dawn of reflective history. You're comparing apples and oranges."

They were not universalist and cosmopolitan at their very origin. They each formed under the review of a single tribe at their dawn of reflective history.

Samantha said...

Orthoprax,

You're just a bit too hasty in trying to synthesize the opposing stories, and make them all fit with the underground myth. The fact is the Mandans had multiple myths about their people, some of which said nothing at all about underground.

In this creation story of the Mandan people, First Man discovers the “First People living on the ground,” and has no mention of anyone living or coming up from underground.

The story mentions the growth and development of the Mandan people, but says nothing about anybody coming up from underground.

Now, the only way to explain that omission and synthesize this with the underground story is to say, as you did, that this group who first arose and interacted with Lone Man was not the ancestor of 'modern' Mandans, but the tattooed faces tribe of them:

"That's how Lone Man can interact with the Mandans on the surface (the "Tattooed Faces" related in the original post) even while the reported ancestors of the real Mandan tribe did not interact with him."

Firstly, that group also arose out of the ground, so that does nothing to explain the absense of any mention of that. But more importantly, this group walking on the ground is NOT the tattooed faces.

You wrote the reported ancestors of the 'real' Mandan tribe did not interact with Lone Man above ground (and thus this original tattooed group left the picture, either dying off or assimilating with them, etc.). So therefore, at this point the "real" Mandans (ancestors of the 'current' Mandans) still had not made their appearance in the story.

Problem is, this telling of the story makes it quite clear that the people being described (the ones interacting with Lone Man above ground, with no mention of coming from underground) are not a different group or subset (tattooed faces), but the very ancestors of the 'modern' Mandans. This story leaves no room for any additional appearance by any other group and describes this group as having 5 large villages, further indicating that they are the ancestors of the "current" Mandans and not some group who disappeared. The tattooed faces detail has almost all of them dying in the flood soon after coming above ground, and nothing about them growing into large numbers. Furthermore, if you compare the stories, you'll see this legend, as others do, have First Man joining the Mandan people through a virgin. So this myth is clearly about the same people, the "real" Mandans, and not the tattooed group.

So since we know this story describes the ancestors of the Mandans themselves, it is extremely odd for it to not say anything about coming up from underground. It's still *possible* by the time Lone Man discovers them on the ground, they had already come up, but it's more likely that either that detail is not part of this myth at all, or even if it is part of the myth, it's certainly not a central event.

You say: "They have several stories about their original creation (not dissimilar from Bereishit 1 vs Bereishit 2) but they report living underground and making their way to the surface later on."

According to this source, that is false. This telling discusses the growth of THE Mandan people, but absolutely nothing about coming up from underground.

http://books.google.ca/books?id=I3_j7x1ysmgC&pg=PA52&lpg=PA52&dq=mandan+%2B+flood+%2B++mountain+%2B+Lone+Man&source=bl&ots=lr_X4ARUzm&sig=GGtjLyxmWW1gnGyVheBogPrQdw0&hl=en&ei=jjiqS62tDJq2NLn43dgB&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CAoQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=&f=false

Orthoprax said...

RG,

"Our experience in Egypt was not our prehistory. Prehistory for the purposes of what I'm talking about is where one talks about events before any historical experiences of the nation."

Of course it is. There was no nation before Egypt. The first "national experience" for the Israelites starts in Egypt, the first Mandan starts underground.

"The full quote:RG said..."

And? This response is a non sequitur.

"What I was saying was that if you are claiming that anything could have been made up about their history even if it would contradict their history you have the burden of proof of showing it happened."

If the given history is prima facie questionable then it is you who is required to demonstrate evidence for it. I merely offer myth building as a likely explanation for how outlandish stories came to be accepted by a society and I offer similarly unlikely stories being accepted by other societies, like the Mandan.

Since the Mandan's story is obviously absurd, I leave it to you to explain how they came to accept a story that must have contradicted whatever sense of history they possessed.

"It sounds like the Mandan were explaining origins altogether. They are saying people at least they originally lived underground and then moved up."

They describe it as their own national history. How did they come to understand it that way if they have a sense of history that must have contradicted it?

"The Israelites were already a people in Egypt so they were not going to claim they were then a people from the earth and replace their history."

Sure, could be. But how much embellishment could have been added to the small seed of fact?

"They were not universalist and cosmopolitan at their very origin. They each formed under the review of a single tribe at their dawn of reflective history."

That's simply false. Jesus/Paul existed at a time when both Jewish and Roman civilizations were pretty advanced and widespread. How could you possibly introduce a national revelation at that stage of the game? Muhammed spoke among various, small Arab tribes but his goal was not to elevate any one people but to universalize the message. He wanted even the Jews to join in. It wouldn't make sense to be revealed to a single people.

Orthoprax said...

Samantha,

I didn't just make it up, this two-step aspect of their mythology is well documented. I gave my source above and I'll offer it again here:

"Before the first great deluge, the Numangkake lived below ground, but a band of them (the same of which we have been speaking) took up their abode above ground at an earlier period. They believe that there are four stories below ground and as many above, and they now inhabit the fourth from below. The baud which first came from above ground is called by them Histoppa (those of the tattooed countenance), and these for the most part, perished in the great deluge."

Quote from Prince Maximilian of Wied, explorer and ethnologist of the Mandan, circa 1800. From:

South Dakota historical collections, Volume 4 By South Dakota State Historical Society, South Dakota. Dept. of History, page 568

http://books.google.ca/books?id=AIFhgEi_ozsC&pg=PA312&dq=Before+the+first+great+deluge,+the+Numangkake+lived+below+ground&cd=2#v=onepage&q=Before%20the%20first%20great%20deluge%2C%20the%20Numangkake%20lived%20below%20ground&f=false

Samantha said...

"I didn't just make it up, this two-step aspect of their mythology is well documented."

?

You completely misunderstood my post. I didn't say the myth about the tattooed faces isn't part of their mythology- I showed that this myth about First Man meeting the first people above ground in the book I presented- that is not the tattooed faces as you claimed, but the regular Mandans themselves.

The book I quoted has a people who First Man meets on the earth (and which says nothing about coming from underground).

In order to salvage the claim that this is not a different myth, but still part of the underground one, you claimed this people who interacted with Lone Man above ground was the tattooed faces group, but I described above how this group who First Man meets clearly cannot be the tattooed people, but is rather "the" Mandan people.

Your own quote says these tattooed people "for the most part, perished in the great deluge," whereas in the other story about the people First Man meets on the ground, they grow to become 5 large villages.

So the fact remains that, according to the book I cited, here is another entirely different origin of the Mandans, which has them already living on the ground, and that has zero mention of arising from underground. Your attempt to "mix and match" myths by trying to squeeze the underground myth into this one about Lone Man meeting the first people above ground, fails.

Samantha said...

Here’s another version of the origins of the Mandans:

“Lone Man left and again traveled all through the land he had made. He thought there should be some people living in the world, and he decided to make some. He took two ends off his ribs…and made one into a man and the other a woman.”

The Mandan underground claim is that they were the first people created in the world (and that they originally lived underground), but here, a Mandan myth has the first people created in the world being made on the ground.

This certainly cannot be the tattooed faces for the simple reason that Lone Man created this group on the ground, whereas the underground myth has them living originally underground with everyone else (they were just the first to arise).

Already, we have a very significant difference, but look at this:

“After the people increased, and the Corn people had come from below, and the Sky people from above, the village was so large that they had to divide it.”

That sentence immediately tells us that this group who had arisen from underground was only one of multiple groups who became part of this large Mandan village.

He's saying that the people who had come from underground were only some of the ancestors who made up the Mandan people- certainly not the entirety of them. So only "some" of their ancestors were believed to have come out of the ground, and, at least according to this version, this disqualifies it from being anything close to a national event.

Some more difficulties:

"The other informants stated that a mudhen brought up clay...and this earth was shaped into a man and a woman...Another myth speaks of coming from underground..."

This passage would be a complete non-sequitur if it were describing different narratives. Ie. 'There are apparent differences in the stories of bereishis 1 & 2. Another myth speaks about Egypt.' Clearly, they're not about different stories.

Rather, the Mandans coming from a rib (or clay) is described as one version of the people's origins, while arising from underground is another version of the same origin.

You will surely say one story describes their physical creation, and another merely describes their "exodus" from underground, but not only would that make the statement above illogical and meaningless, they can't possibly be part of the same story because the underground myth makes clear the Mandans originated underground, whereas these myths about ribs and clay definitely seem to indicate they were on the earth. One can't fit both together.

You're continually trying to synthesize these contradictory stories together as either talking about different events in their myth, or as different aspects of the same legend, but numerous references describe the underground myth as one among multiple myths.

Samantha said...

One man says: "Our old people must have got some of their stories mixed because they tell of coming out of the ground as a tribe and also of the making of the world on top at the Heart River."

Once again, this statement would be a complete non-sequitur if he's talking about different stories or parts of the same mythos. If these myths are merely about different parts of their mythology as you claim, then it makes no sense for him to say the elders mixed the stories up since these stories aren't even talking about the same event.

I know you'll say the creation at the Heart River is part of the creation account (as opposed to the underground emergence one), and that it's a different story from the underground one, hence problem solved. But think for a moment. He's saying these myths are contradictory- one of which has the people living underground, and another seemingly that they were created above ground.

Now, if it were the case that, as you say, they "have several stories about their original creation, but [all] they report living underground and making their way to the surface later on," this storyteller's comments make no sense at all. It's like saying "our people must be confused because they say we lived in Egypt, and also that we come from the Garden of Eden." If it were different stories, different 'chapters' of the same myth, then his statement about the stories being mixed makes no sense at all.

He's saying the elders mixed up the stories because they say both that people came from underground and that the world was created on top of the river. Therefore, the world being created on top of the river presumably is not only the 'genesis myth,' but one that includes the original people as well (the Mandan myth, remember, has them originally living underground, not migrating there from above ground, so it's not possible to synthesize both these together into one narrative).

If it were about two different stories, it would make no sense to say the old people got their stories mixed up. Unless of course, you think this fellow is mixing apples and oranges (creation myths vs. emergence myths), and that you know Mandan mythology better than he does.

Now, if you still think it's about different parts (creation myth vs. emergence myth), right after mentioning the underground and the above-ground myths, he says:

"Others say they came from the sky." Ie. some say the first people came from underground, some say from above ground (heart river), and some say from the sky.

If, as you say, the 'coming-from-sky' or 'coming from heart river' origins are the "origin" myths while the underground is their "emergence" myth, this man is making a meaningless and illogical statement saying the elders "mixed up" because they tell both stories.

The storyteller also says people tell different stories about whether the large lake the people originally lived beside was under the ground or above it.

You certainly deserve credit for your attempts to synthesize stories even when the Mandans themselves say they're not the same thing. The fact remains unchanged that according to both scholarly and first-hand accounts, the Mandans had multiple myths about their people, some of which say nothing at all about underground emergence, and others which say it was only part of the Mandans who had ever come up from there.

Maybe you ought to do more than a casual reading before you speak authoritatively on this.

http://books.google.ca/books?id=wHIfGPIZ5LwC&pg=PA361&lpg=PA361&dq=Mandan+flood+myth&source=bl&ots=8xx5H5PpsG&sig=aDNuTUEK8n07qr8_Ll9yorb4OXo&hl=en&ei=m0uqS-_QLZXUNaLNhJUB&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10&ved=0CCEQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=&f=false

Orthoprax said...

Samantha,

"I showed that this myth about First Man meeting the first people above ground in the book I presented- that is not the tattooed faces as you claimed, but the regular Mandans themselves."

Ok, fair enough. And in the last source you quote Scattercorn, a surviving Mandan, who notes that her people think that whole flood event actually happened underground too! The people in her tribe who do not so believe are the educated people of the modern age, particularly the young people who went to fight in war and saw the lake for themselves out in the open.

"“After the people increased, and the Corn people had come from below, and the Sky people from above, the village was so large that they had to divide it.”
That sentence immediately tells us that this group who had arisen from underground was only one of multiple groups who became part of this large Mandan village."

I think this Scattercorn is a confused remnant of her tribe. Other sources in the very same book you offer her quotes explain the Madan as all being Corn People. It would seem to me that she was attempting her own form of synthesis of her mythological contradictions by latching creation stories to the emergence story.

I never said that the Mandan did not have contradictions in their myths - in fact I agreed to that expressly earlier on. However, contradictions between where or how or from what they were created from is irrelevant given that the national myth is that they as a tribe climbed up from underground on a vine. Whether they were created underground or moved undergound later or even if there exists no comprehensible synthesis of contradicting myths regarding how they came to be underground, the story of their climb to the surface is solid and consistent.

They have many myths of creation, but only one myth of national origin.

"If it were about two different stories, it would make no sense to say the old people got their stories mixed up. Unless of course, you think this fellow is mixing apples and oranges (creation myths vs. emergence myths), and that you know Mandan mythology better than he does."

I think she (it's a she) is just viewing these stories more critically than her ancestors and sees contradictions in the sequence of stories, but the stories are indeed about different events.

Rabban Gamliel said...

RG:"Our experience in Egypt was not our prehistory. Prehistory for the purposes of what I'm talking about is where one talks about events before any historical experiences of the nation."
OA:"Of course it is. There was no nation before Egypt. The first "national experience" for the Israelites starts in Egypt, the first Mandan starts underground."
RG:"The problem with your argument is that the Israelites left Egypt having been already a people. You are asking us to believe they would have replaced their history in Egypt preserved in words like Suf and names like Pinchas, Moshe and Aharon with mythology. As for the Mandans it is not replacing their history to say they first came from underground, assuming you are interpreting it correctly."

Rabban Gamliel said...

RG:"What I was saying was that if you are claiming that anything could have been made up about their history even if it would contradict their history you have the burden of proof of showing it happened."
OA:"If the given history is prima facie questionable then it is you who is required to demonstrate evidence for it. I merely offer myth building as a likely explanation for how outlandish stories came to be accepted by a society and I offer similarly unlikely stories being accepted by other societies, like the Mandan."
I wasn't arguing with that.
"Since the Mandan's story is obviously absurd, I leave it to you to explain how they came to accept a story that must have contradicted whatever sense of history they possessed."
It did not contradict their sense of history. If I say we were all descended from Neanderthals and another says we are descended from dinosaurs and still another from aliens and still another from unicorns, it doesn't contradict our historical experience. Telling the Ancient Egyptians for example that their Pharaohs really did not rule Egypt with all those dynasties but instead there was only one dynasty would have contradicted their history in major detail known very well to them and would have been rejected. The point is you cannot just make up all history. Try today. You can make up some history and get it published even in the New York Times but try to make up something to replace something too well known, for example, that George Washington wasn't the first president but rather that it was John Adams or that WWI was really between the U.S. and England and it will be rejected.
RG:"It sounds like the Mandan were explaining origins altogether. They are saying people at least they originally lived underground and then moved up."
OA:"They describe it as their own national history. How did they come to understand it that way if they have a sense of history that must have contradicted it?"
They did not have a contradiction with their history.That is the point. Does it contradict our historical experience if we are descended from frogs or cavemen or dust from the earth? It only adds to our historical experience.
RG:"The Israelites were already a people in Egypt so they were not going to claim they were then a people from the earth and replace their history."
OA:"Sure, could be. But how much embellishment could have been added to the small seed of fact?"
Fair enough if you don't believe, but there were limits in what could be claimed.
RG:"They were not universalist and cosmopolitan at their very origin. They each formed under the review of a single tribe at their dawn of reflective history."
OA:"That's simply false. Jesus/Paul existed at a time when both Jewish and Roman civilizations were pretty advanced and widespread. How could you possibly introduce a national revelation at that stage of the game? Mohammed spoke among various, small Arab tribes but his goal was not to elevate any one people but to universalize the message. He wanted even the Jews to join in. It wouldn't make sense to be revealed to a single people."
I was actually thinking more in terms of them claiming that all accepted from their respective peoples, Jesus from the Jews and Mohammed from the Arabs. In the beginning Christianity and Islam was dealing only with Jews and basically Arabs respectively.
During summer break I'll be able in more detail to read Rabbi Gottleib and the Mandans. For now I'm just taking your word for the interpretation your giving.

DrJ said...

Without going into the nitty gritty of different myths, let me just state the fallacy of the Kuzari proof:

It is an argument by special pleading.

"Special pleading is a form of spurious argumentation where a position in a dispute introduces favorable details or excludes unfavorable details by alleging a need to apply additional considerations without proper criticism of these considerations themselves. Essentially, this involves someone attempting to cite something as an exemption to a generally accepted rule, principle, etc. without justifying the exemption." (Wikipedia)



We have thousands of religious and national myths in history. The biblical myth is one of them. The Kuzari argument claims that this myth is "different" because its a national revelation. But this claim that the revelation myth is "exempt" from the behaviors of other myths, due to this distinction, is not substantiated, from either historical examples or psychological data.

Therefore, by default, the Bible myth is similar to other myths. Other than national revelation, it shares many characteristics with other myths: supernatural events, wars, leaders, Holy Books, dieties, etc.

The general rule: religious and founding myths are folklore, sometimes with a seed of truth, embellished and changed over generations.

The "distinction" claim is an important issue. Any myth could identify some distinctive or unique characteristic about it, and thus claim it is like no other myth. For example, the Jesus myth could claim that it is the only one with a crucifixion, or when somebody walked on water.

Therefore, the burden of proof lies with he who claims the exemption.

Rabban Gamliel said...

The Kuzari principle does not claim to be an exception to the rules, but a product of the rules. If an entire nation experiences something the Kuzari says it is to be reckoned with not because of some claimed exception for revelations or nations but because of the numbers involved.

DrJ said...

"If an entire nation experiences something the Kuzari says it is to be reckoned with not because of some claimed exception for revelations or nations but because of the numbers involved."

That is exactly the fallacy.

It claims exemption because of the numbers claim itself. It says, that unlike other national or religious myths, which are assumed false, our myth is different and therefore true, because it claims that many people saw it.

This is exactly what special pleading is, and is a fallacy, unless one provides good evidence for the exemption for such a claim(outside of the myth, of course).

Evidence could come in the form of other mass revelation myths which turned out true. Lack of other examples is not evidence, as some would cliam; it is lack of evidence.

[The logic of such a claim would be circular logic: claims of mass revelations must be true. The proof? One example, of Sinai, which is true.]

DrJ said...

Another essential clarification:

If we didn't already know, that in general, religious founding myths are embellished or false, we wouldn't even be having this argument.

In that case, there would be no need to "prove" the Torah revelation.

It is only because of our skepticism of OTHER PEOPLE'S myths, that we plead, that OUR case is different.

And that is precisely the special pleading fallacy.

DrJ said...

"The Kuzari principle does not claim to be an exception to the rules, but a product of the rules."

Can you make a "rule" from one example?

perfume said...

There is no proof of "masses" being at Sinai...The "masses" idea is part of the entire myth. A few people could have believed the there were "masses" at some special event and then convinced others of this idea.

I also think that when it comes to God and religion people r extremely irrational and will believe in almost anything.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"DrJ said...
"If an entire nation experiences something the Kuzari says it is to be reckoned with not because of some claimed exception for revelations or nations but because of the numbers involved."

That is exactly the fallacy.

It claims exemption because of the numbers claim itself. It says, that unlike other national or religious myths, which are assumed false, our myth is different and therefore true, because it claims that many people saw it.

If many did it would be proof. Many people saw the landing on the moon and the killing of Kennedy on television. Many saw the Holocaust. Many saw the Queen of England. It is unthinkable that these are not true reports.Details may be changed but the major picture is true.

"This is exactly what special pleading is, and is a fallacy, unless one provides good evidence for the exemption for such a claim(outside of the myth, of course).

Evidence could come in the form of other mass revelation myths which turned out true. Lack of other examples is not evidence, as some would cliam; it is lack of evidence."

We have evidence of mass experience. You are using special pleading. You are claiming revelation myths are not subject to ordinary rules of numbers.

"[The logic of such a claim would be circular logic: claims of mass revelations must be true. The proof? One example, of Sinai, which is true.]"

The Kuzari is certainly not saying claims of mass revelation must be true because we have Sinai. You are turning Rabbi Yehauda HaLevi into a strawman.You are not intrepeting him correctly.

"Another essential clarification:

If we didn't already know, that in general, religious founding myths are embellished or false, we wouldn't even be having this argument."

Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi certainly did not live in an age in which it was generally believed that in general, religious founding myths are embellished or false. They of course would deny if their faith had its origins in Judaism with its absolutism that other faiths were really revealed but there was no automatic assumption of skepticism towards other faiths stories.Still he made his argument.

Rabban Gamliel said...

I should have put the parentheses like this.
"DrJ said...
"If an entire nation experiences something the Kuzari says it is to be reckoned with not because of some claimed exception for revelations or nations but because of the numbers involved."

That is exactly the fallacy.

It claims exemption because of the numbers claim itself. It says, that unlike other national or religious myths, which are assumed false, our myth is different and therefore true, because it claims that many people saw it."

If many did it would be proof. Many people saw the landing on the moon and the killing of Kennedy on television. Many saw the Holocaust. Many saw the Queen of England. It is unthinkable that these are not true reports.Details may be changed but the major picture is true.

perfume said...

"Many people saw the landing on the moon and the killing of Kennedy on television. Many saw the Holocaust. Many saw the Queen of England. It is unthinkable that these are not true reports.Details may be changed but the major picture is true. "

THESE EVENTS WERE WITNESSED AND DOCUMENTED BY MANY PEOPLE...WE ALSO HAVE PHYSICAL EVIDENCE OF THESE EVENTS......WE HAVE NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE WHEN IT COMES TO SINAI AND SINAI WAS ONLY DOCUMENTED BY 1 BOOK WHICH WAS THEN LATER ACCEPTED BY MASSES....SINAI IS HARDLY ON THE LEVEL OF A KENNEDY ASSASSINATION,ETC

DrJ said...

"If many did it would be proof. "

Many people reportedly saw Jesus' miracles. Many people witnessed the miracle of the the Quran's revelation to Muhammad, who was supposedly illiterate.

["10On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." 13Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. "]

The New Testament is full of these stories. According to the bible, it was widely known that Jesus did miracles and many different people saw them.

If you say that we shouldn't believe those claims, than we shouldn't believe Sinai, unless you claim special pleading.

For you skeptics out there, tell me whether you think that the fallacy of "argument by special pleading" is the killer argument to debunk the Kuzari argument.

I don't bother responding to comparisons with holocaust denial or the moon landing, what JP does. The differences are obvious to any rational human being.

Rabban Gamliel said...

I today so far do not have time to respond to Dr. J. (finals week still in college to study for) but I do have time to respond to Perfume.

"perfume said...
"Many people saw the landing on the moon and the killing of Kennedy on television. Many saw the Holocaust. Many saw the Queen of England. It is unthinkable that these are not true reports.Details may be changed but the major picture is true. "

THESE EVENTS WERE WITNESSED AND DOCUMENTED BY MANY PEOPLE...WE ALSO HAVE PHYSICAL EVIDENCE OF THESE EVENTS......WE HAVE NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE WHEN IT COMES TO SINAI AND SINAI WAS ONLY DOCUMENTED BY 1 BOOK WHICH WAS THEN LATER ACCEPTED BY MASSES....SINAI IS HARDLY ON THE LEVEL OF A KENNEDY ASSASSINATION,ETC"

Sinai is documented in many books of the Bible. According to the Documentary Hypothesis which has no documentation or physical evidence many of those books came before the closing of the Torah. We do not have physical evidence of every event and yet they were witnessed by enough people that we believe it.

Rabban Gamliel said...

Well now I can for a moment respond to Dr. J
"DrJ said...
"If many did it would be proof."

Many people reportedly saw Jesus' miracles. Many people witnessed the miracle of the the Quran's revelation to Muhammad, who was supposedly illiterate."

I do believe you are wrong about Muhammed.

"["10On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." 13Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. "]

The New Testament is full of these stories. According to the bible, it was widely known that Jesus did miracles and many different people saw them."

Why wasn't it claimed the whole nation believed in Jesus or claimed to have seen his miracles? Because it could not be claimed. There is a limit as to how big a claim can be made to your contemporaries. To tell a nation that a revelation that goes against what they believed was revealed to their ancestors and yet telling them not in the form of giving new information but rather in the form of telling them "you all know and yet you go against God" would be too much to except for them not scorn and laugh at. Something happened early on with the Israelites feeling that a covenant was between them and God. Details could still be made up under the many witnesses argument but not the broad outline. People could get mixed up about the exact details surrounding the constitution being made but the broader outline is too connected up with the United States, and well known to make up.

"I don't bother responding to comparisons with holocaust denial or the moon landing, what JP does. The differences are obvious to any rational human being."

I hope you are not claiming that I the son of a hidden child and a grandson and relative of Holocaust concentration victims was exploiting the Holocaust. I wasn't giving equivilency just giving examples. I shouldn't have to defend my examples when I am not making a moral comparison.

Rabban Gamliel said...

I wrote "telling them "you all know and yet you go against God" would be too much to except for them not scorn and laugh at."
I meant to write:"telling them "you all know and yet you go against God" would be too much to accept for them not too scorn and laugh at."

perfume said...

"According to the Documentary Hypothesis which has no documentation or physical evidence many of those books came before the closing of the Torah. We do not have physical evidence of every event and yet they were witnessed by enough people that we believe it"

SO NOW U R USING DOCUMENTARY HYPOTHESIS TO PROVE YOUR POINT? VERY STRANGE...SO U DONT EVEN THINK THAT MOSES WROTE THE TORAH....

ANYWAYS IT HARDLY PROVES YOUR POINT BECAUSE THE HOLOCAUST WAS DOCUMENTED BY MANY 1000'S OF PEOPLE FROM ALL DIFFERENT CULTURES AND RELIGIONS AND NOT JUST A FEW BOOKS LIKE THE DOCUMENTARY HYPOTHESIS....ALSO WE HAVE PHYSICAL EVIDENCE OF THE HOLOCAUST. WHEN IT COMES TO SINAI WE HAVE NEGATIVE PHYSICAL EVIDENCE..1.NO EVIDENCE OF MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ENCAMPED IN THE DESERT 2. NO EVIDENCE OF A MASSIVE EGYPTIAN COLLAPSE 3. CARBON DATING SHOWING THAT THE CITIES OF ISRAEL WERE NOT DESTROYED IN THE WAY THE THE BOOK OF SAMUEL STATES.

EGYPT EVEN CONTROLLED THE LAND OF ISRAEL DURING THIS TIME ACCORDING TO MOST HISTORIANS.

perfume said...

AND BY THE WAY IM SURE 1000'S OF ISRAELITES DIDNT ACCEPT SINAI BECAUSE THEY CONTINUED TO WORSHIP IDOLS IN MASS!

THE JEWISH RELIGION PROBABLY ONLY TOOK OFF BECAUSE THE KINGS OF JUDAH FORCED THEM TOO BY DESTROYING THEIR IDOLS AND PLACES OF WORHSIP.

DrJ said...

RG-- I don't discount the possibility that there could be a kernel of truth to the revelation tradition. But the way that myths change and get embellished over time, and refer to events long past and which cannot be verified or disproven-- this is no different than any other religious myth-making.

Perhaps the myth started out among a small clan of believers, and over time it become embellished to encompass millions. The fact that it now claims to have been witnessed my millions adds nothing to reinforce the claim.

James Kugel speaks about the "etiological" explanations for biblical stories, whose purpose was to explain to contemporaries (whenever that was) how things came to be the way they are.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"perfume said...
"According to the Documentary Hypothesis which has no documentation or physical evidence many of those books came before the closing of the Torah. We do not have physical evidence of every event and yet they were witnessed by enough people that we believe it"
SO NOW U R USING DOCUMENTARY HYPOTHESIS TO PROVE YOUR POINT? VERY STRANGE...SO U DONT EVEN THINK THAT MOSES WROTE THE TORAH...."
No I'm discounting it but showing how it is believed in despite not having the virtues you demand of the Bible.
"ANYWAYS IT HARDLY PROVES YOUR POINT BECAUSE THE HOLOCAUST WAS DOCUMENTED BY MANY 1000'S OF PEOPLE FROM ALL DIFFERENT CULTURES AND RELIGIONS"
An event needs so many different cultures and religions to be verified? How do we verify most history? I think it is enough that so many people went through the Holocaust.

"AND NOT JUST A FEW BOOKS LIKE THE DOCUMENTARY HYPOTHESIS...." There is zilch Documentary Hypothesis writings dug up or seen. All we have is speculation. No tradition or records about or physical evidence.
"ALSO WE HAVE PHYSICAL EVIDENCE OF THE HOLOCAUST. WHEN IT COMES TO SINAI WE HAVE NEGATIVE PHYSICAL EVIDENCE.." Don't be so sure. In any event the desert lacks more evidence than other areas. But in any event most of history lacks any physical evidence. "3. CARBON DATING SHOWING THAT THE CITIES OF ISRAEL WERE NOT DESTROYED IN THE WAY THE THE BOOK OF SAMUEL STATES." The evidence is mixed. More and more evidence for what supposedly has been ruled out has been made and further the Book of Samuel does not describe the cities being destroyed. The book of Joshua does. Myths have a point to their elements and embellishments too much of the Bible is just record like. Further why do we have Egyptian words. Why do we have Egyptian names like Pinchas and Aharon and Moshe? This is just one piece of evidence.
"EGYPT EVEN CONTROLLED THE LAND OF ISRAEL DURING THIS TIME ACCORDING TO MOST HISTORIANS."
Egyptian control was challenged in this period. Israel meaning the nation of Israel was not under Egyptian control. Egypt and Israel fought one another then with the Pharaoh saying he destroyed the people of Israel so that they are no more. Of course we are still existing.
"perfume said...
AND BY THE WAY IM SURE 1000'S OF ISRAELITES DIDNT ACCEPT SINAI BECAUSE THEY CONTINUED TO WORSHIP IDOLS IN MASS!
THE JEWISH RELIGION PROBABLY ONLY TOOK OFF BECAUSE THE KINGS OF JUDAH FORCED THEM TOO BY DESTROYING THEIR IDOLS AND PLACES OF WORHSIP."
The Israelites were not accused of disbelief in Judaism. Their problem was in adopting other faiths in addition. Further how could the Jewish religion have taken off due to the Kings of Judah destroying their idols and places of worship when the idolatry triumphed with many a king of Judah being the very cause of this idolatry? You give no proof or evidence for such speculations and yet for me you demand physical evidence and many eyewitnesses.
"DrJ said...
RG-- I don't discount the possibility that there could be a kernel of truth to the revelation tradition. But the way that myths change and get embellished over time, and refer to events long past and which cannot be verified or disproven-- this is no different than any other religious myth-making.
Perhaps the myth started out among a small clan of believers, and over time it become embellished to encompass millions. The fact that it now claims to have been witnessed my millions adds nothing to reinforce the claim."
I think what I as opposed to the Kuzari am really arguing is that something massive and quick had to have happened in the desert. I am the first to admit that the Kuzari argument is not perfect. But it has an element of truth in it. Sorry if I got too sensitive about the Holocaust. If I did I am sorry. I did not mean to gang up on you. It was hardly my intention.

perfume said...

"ANYWAYS IT HARDLY PROVES YOUR POINT BECAUSE THE HOLOCAUST WAS DOCUMENTED BY MANY 1000'S OF PEOPLE FROM ALL DIFFERENT CULTURES AND RELIGIONS"
An event needs so many different cultures and religions to be verified? How do we verify most history? I think it is enough that so many people went through the Holocaust."

YES I think the Torah needs to be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt because the death penalty can u be used based on its teachings like breaking the Sabbath or committing homosexuality etc

"Further why do we have Egyptian words. Why do we have Egyptian names like Pinchas and Aharon and Moshe? This is just one piece of evidence."

This is not evidence...The Torah is probably based on many events that occurred but that have been greatly exaggerated and embellished.

"Egypt and Israel fought one another then with the Pharaoh saying he destroyed the people of Israel so that they are no more. Of course we are still existing."

So u r saying that Egypt recorded an event that is known to be an exaggeration.....that sounds exactly like the Torah

"The Israelites were not accused of disbelief in Judaism. Their problem was in adopting other faiths in addition."

Hard to believe that a nation that witnessed or were the direct descendants of a nation that witnessed so many awesome miracles would still adopt other faiths......

Rabban Gamliel said...

"perfume said...
"ANYWAYS IT HARDLY PROVES YOUR POINT BECAUSE THE HOLOCAUST WAS DOCUMENTED BY MANY 1000'S OF PEOPLE FROM ALL DIFFERENT CULTURES AND RELIGIONS"
An event needs so many different cultures and religions to be verified? How do we verify most history? I think it is enough that so many people went through the Holocaust."

YES I think the Torah needs to be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt because the death penalty can u be used based on its teachings like breaking the Sabbath or committing homosexuality etc"

In theory yes. In actual practice it was hard to get anyone executed. I wonder if anyone was as the standard sounds too much to implement. But in any event your argument makes no sense. If something is proven true based on a particular method or to be doubted for lack of a method you can't say well I'll have a lesser method for one over the other. It means there are grounds for doubt for all cases then. I can't say for instance someone may be arrested if he is named John so I will have a greater level of proof used to prove if his name is John. Also you raised the bar here. Earlier your argument had the Torah being subject to the same level of scrutiny.

"Further why do we have Egyptian words. Why do we have Egyptian names like Pinchas and Aharon and Moshe? This is just one piece of evidence."

This is not evidence...The Torah is probably based on many events that occurred but that have been greatly exaggerated and embellished."

So what your saying is that there would be an element of truth. That is precisely what I was arguing is the truth in the Kuzari argument.

"Egypt and Israel fought one another then with the Pharaoh saying he destroyed the people of Israel so that they are no more. Of course we are still existing."

So u r saying that Egypt recorded an event that is known to be an exaggeration.....that sounds exactly like the Torah"

Hardly a comparison. The Torah records defeats and weaknesses. Kings were condemned to their faces on behalf of God and it was recorded. The Pharaohs did not record defeats except to record and invent victories.

"The Israelites were not accused of disbelief in Judaism. Their problem was in adopting other faiths in addition."

Hard to believe that a nation that witnessed or were the direct descendants of a nation that witnessed so many awesome miracles would still adopt other faiths......"

It shows that there was ttruth there. The Prophet had already said who heard of a nation not following its own god but the Jews don't. Nations did not violate there own religions and yet the Israelites were unique. In their land they slid into idolatry and adopted the worship of other faiths. They were threatened with exile by the prophets in the name of God. This was able to be done because the Israelite God claimed soveirienty beyond Israel and could not be conquered. In our land we were disloyal to our God and outside the land when we should have given up we were loyal. You cannot use our behavior to show a lack of uniqness but on the contrary that both our faith and the fact that it was so uniqe it was something hard to be exclusively loyal to shows that something revolutionary happened.

perfume said...

"in theory yes. In actual practice it was hard to get anyone executed. I wonder if anyone was as the standard sounds too much to implement. But in any event your argument makes no sense. If something is proven true based on a particular method or to be doubted for lack of a method you can't say well I'll have a lesser method for one over the other. It means there are grounds for doubt for all cases then. I can't say for instance someone may be arrested if he is named John so I will have a greater level of proof used to prove if his name is John. Also you raised the bar here. Earlier your argument had the Torah being subject to the same level of scrutiny."

Historical events can be accepted to have occurred based on different levels of certainty. Some of the criteria would be 1.physical evidence 2. number of witnesses and individual records. 3. motivation for witnesses to lie or tell the truth. 4. the intelligence or sophistication of the witnesses 4.the complexity of the event .....etc

The event of Sinai simply doesn't stand up to this criteria to the same degree as the Holocaust does.



"So what your saying is that there would be an element of truth. That is precisely what I was arguing is the truth in the Kuzari argument.

of course I think there is an element of truth......All the best lies have elements of Truth....


"You cannot use our behavior to show a lack of uniqness but on the contrary that both our faith and the fact that it was so uniqe it was something hard to be exclusively loyal to shows that something revolutionary happened."

it absolutely does NOT show that something revolutionary happened.....the fact that Jews kept on worshiping idols does not help your case........


In conclusion, i think its fairly obvious that the Sinai Revelation and many other Biblical accounts did not occur the way the Torah states. This puts the entire Divine nature of the Torah into question. If the Torah is not divine then I dont think a person needs to live according to its strict standards....

DrJ said...

RG-no offense taken or intended by the holocaust reference. I was simply pointing out how people often use the "reductio at Hitlerum" argument.

Regarding the Sinai revelation story, I'll make an analogy to an unrelated question: Is radiation from cellphones dangerous? The literature is inconclusive and contradictory.

So how will you live your life? In fear, that one day it will have proven to cause cancer, and avoid cellphones at all costs? Or, ignore the question altogether and use a cellphone with abandon? Or perhaps use it in moderation, with the understanding that we are exposed to radiation (and other risks) all of the time anyway, and moderate use probably won't make a difference?

I personally go with the last choice. Same goes for Sinai, whose truth can never be proven conclusively. Maybe its true, probably not, and even if true something that happened 3000 years ago probably won't make a difference anyway. So I live a life in "moderation": being part of the Jewish people, trying to live a moral life, keeping the traditions, but not taking the details and minutiae too seriously. Being meticulous with the kashrut of my mezuzahs or lulav makes no difference in the scheme of things, except how you feel about it.

Its an attitude and philosophy to knowledge and life.

In my view Heredim have basically institutionalized obseessive compulsive disorder for a whole community, which (like the cell-phobic nut) lives in fear lest they violate some commandment and face dire consequences.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"perfume said...
"in theory yes. In actual practice it was hard to get anyone executed. I wonder if anyone was as the standard sounds too much to implement. But in any event your argument makes no sense. If something is proven true based on a particular method or to be doubted for lack of a method you can't say well I'll have a lesser method for one over the other. It means there are grounds for doubt for all cases then. I can't say for instance someone may be arrested if he is named John so I will have a greater level of proof used to prove if his name is John. Also you raised the bar here. Earlier your argument had the Torah being subject to the same level of scrutiny."

"Historical events can be accepted to have occurred based on different levels of certainty. Some of the criteria would be 1.physical evidence 2. number of witnesses and individual records. 3. motivation for witnesses to lie or tell the truth. 4. the intelligence or sophistication of the witnesses 4.the complexity of the event .....etc

The event of Sinai simply doesn't stand up to this criteria to the same degree as the Holocaust does."

Neither does a lot of history. Most of it. The Holocaust occured though and we know it because all you need is one convincing piece of evidence. If one line of evidence is good enough you don't need loads. Further lack of all evidence which is not what Sinai lacks is not proof of a lack of truth to it. Most of the events of your life occured without apparent evidence remaining behind. Something is either true or not. One method of discovering truth will work for all if it is possible. If it were possible to discover God in a lab it would be shown true there. If it is possible to use reasoning to discover God it is possible to use reasoning to discover the scientific method.A method may not discover everything but it is not because the method could be used on a subject but would not be good enough to discover truth despite the method being fully appliable. Some methods of discovering truth can not be applied to something because of technicalities that prevent it from being applied but not that even if we could it would still not be good enough for the subject at hand.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"So what your saying is that there would be an element of truth. That is precisely what I was arguing is the truth in the Kuzari argument.

of course I think there is an element of truth......All the best lies have elements of Truth...."

Your bias is showing. If Sinai has an element of truth you could still say as is true that many truths get mixed in with some untruth. Further you said lies. That's a clear bias. You are to begin with expressing vague beliefs of yours as truths grounded in sharp evidence and now you postulate lying based on even less support actually none.


"You cannot use our behavior to show a lack of uniqness but on the contrary that both our faith and the fact that it was so uniqe it was something hard to be exclusively loyal to shows that something revolutionary happened."

it absolutely does NOT show that something revolutionary happened.....the fact that Jews kept on worshiping idols does not help your case........"

Then you explain the Jews adopting in their own land the gods of other nations. What an unusual people undergoing profound revolutionary thinking that they don't just stick with their national faith. It sure helps my case. It is a part of what establishes it.


"In conclusion, i think its fairly obvious that the Sinai Revelation and many other Biblical accounts did not occur the way the Torah states. This puts the entire Divine nature of the Torah into question. If the Torah is not divine then I dont think a person needs to live according to its strict standards...."

That is your belief. It is not obvious anymore than you can tell me why I should adopt your ethical system or indeed any. You have your faith and I have mine. To me it is enough to have a part of a Kuzari argument. To you not. I see a glass half full. You see it half empty.

"DrJ said...
RG-no offense taken or intended by the holocaust reference. I was simply pointing out how people often use the "reductio at Hitlerum" argument."

I understand.

"Regarding the Sinai revelation story, I'll make an analogy to an unrelated question: Is radiation from cellphones dangerous? The literature is inconclusive and contradictory.

So how will you live your life? In fear, that one day it will have proven to cause cancer, and avoid cellphones at all costs? Or, ignore the question altogether and use a cellphone with abandon? Or perhaps use it in moderation, with the understanding that we are exposed to radiation (and other risks) all of the time anyway, and moderate use probably won't make a difference?

I personally go with the last choice. Same goes for Sinai, whose truth can never be proven conclusively. Maybe its true, probably not, and even if true something that happened 3000 years ago probably won't make a difference anyway."

Unless that is what caused the Judaic type ethical system we adopted and the West adopted since Rome became Christian.

"Its an attitude and philosophy to knowledge and life."

Agreed.

"In my view Heredim have basically institutionalized obseessive compulsive disorder for a whole community, which (like the cell-phobic nut) lives in fear lest they violate some commandment and face dire consequences."

Well I am not Chareidi. Also while I have many Chassidic relatives, if I have Chareidi relatives I am not in contact with them so a good deal of what you describe I can only take your word for (the Chassidic world I find differs a good deal from today's Chareidi world-and the previous Chareidi world certainly is not todays) as well as partially confirm from reading and having encountered Chareidim as friends and people I have met.

DrJ said...

"Unless that is what caused the Judaic type ethical system we adopted and the West adopted since Rome became Christian."

A very relevant question. Does an etiological argument make a difference to us now? I argue that it doesn't.

We can ask ourselves, "how did it come to be that we have such and such ethics." Whether a diety gave it to a prophet, or somebody made it up, or we borrowed it from somebody else, or it was evolutionary.

My view is that although the question is interesting historically, it doesn't matter now. We have what we have, and we're moving forward, using reason and lessons learned, not backward. The diety isn't revealing himself now anyway, so if He did exist, He doesn't seem to be involved any more. (I know that Christianity and Jesus have something to say about this...)

I recognize that the philosophy of orthodoxy and halacha says otherwise. This says that the Jews continue to fulfill the mission God gave to them 3000 years ago by observing rabbinic Judaism today. The only real argument in favor of that assertion is that this is what Jews have always done. In other words, an argument from tradition. To me, that is not very compelling, except insofar as my desire to remain part of the Jewish people. But I don't find it morally compelling.

Rabban Gamliel said...

It seems to me that the impetus towards an ethical system is basically derived from societal influences. I know my father talked of the influences of his youth in Bnei Brak. Bnei Brak was not a modern city like today and the values were very spiritual from the world of Eastern European Jewry. One did good because the world has value. Wonderful but after the Holocaust and the hatred we now see in socalled enlightened Western Europe it becomes more difficult than ever to see the contents of morality being the gift of unmitigated reason. On the contrary pure reason leads to meaninlessness in creation with no inherent value and at best we just decide what values to impose and we can speak of duties but nothing we do has inherent value. Europe and the West failed us and fails us and its silence resulted in the Holocaust, and the UN singly out Israel for abuse. It seems if not for us being in one environment as opposed to another our basic moral sense would vary from what we presently share.

DrJ said...

Mostly true.

However traditional societies pay a price: gross inequality, discrimination, repression of creativity and trampling the rights of individuals.

So do you want to go back to the world of old?

Regarding the holocaust-- was it the West that failed us or God?

I don't agree that reason alone leads to meaninglessness.

I don't think that seeking the good life for youself and for the ones you love or care about is meaningless.

Having said that I admit that far left secular European multiculturalism has lost its way. As a rabbi told me once, "don't be so open-minded that everything falls out".

Rabban Gamliel said...

"DrJ said...
Mostly true.

However traditional societies pay a price: gross inequality, discrimination, repression of creativity and trampling the rights of individuals.

So do you want to go back to the world of old?"

Sounds a lot like Political Correctness. Forget about the damned West. I used to have some idealism towards history. Western Europe looks its nose down on America but Western Europe is hypocritical and will tolerate all violence and injustice if perpetrated by the correct groups. What has it learned from the Holocaust? The Hell with it!

"Regarding the holocaust-- was it the West that failed us or God?"

Oh the West was wonderful. When Hitler tried to get the Jews to leave they were accepted by the other countries so that the Holocaust never really happened.It was all a fake. As for God, He gives us freewill. In any event ultimately He doesn't owe us aanything. If He did not give us a sense of morality we would not have it and any greavences. Who knows what other senses exist no doubt an infinity that He has not granted but that to an alien being endowed with some such sense that would affect behavior, would find us wanting. What human nature is like altogether is not objective but what God has endowed us with and so our expectations of the good life are subjective in that sense.

"I don't agree that reason alone leads to meaninglessness.

I don't think that seeking the good life for youself and for the ones you love or care about is meaningless."

We have faith that such is the case. On the level of reason though where does meaning exist? What is meaning for a universe that transcends us? How do we prove it exists? Reason can find the God of Aristotle so to speak but not the God of Abraham, the God who led us out of Egypt preserved us and gave us our land back, the God who who takes account of our every deed and rewards and punishes us.

Anonymous said...

“Where, Lewis and Clark asked the Mandan, did your people come from? We live under the water, where we have a village and gardens. Then, before we remember, we come out through a hole and settle on the Missouri River.”

Here we have final and direct proof that according to the Mandan’s own recollection of their myths, this formative event in their history happened in a time so long ago, it was “before we remember.” You can no longer reasonably deny this was their belief.

More about their varying myths:

“Ignoring the belief of some Mandans that they came from the south- First Creator’s land- and the west- a cavern on the banks of a river at the ocean’s edge (ie. underground), Clark postulated that they were descended from a more civilized state to the east.”



“Such apparently simple issues as directionality were devilishly difficult to establish with the Mandan, though. Some came from below; some came from over there…”

The page goes on to say many Mandan responded positively to Clark’s suggestion that they came from the east, but they didn’t really believe that, and only tried to please him with the eastern origins. But they really did believe the others:

“He (Clark) did not appreciate their stories set westward, to the south, or underground…The eastern origin…were Clark’s theories." Clark kept suggesting they were from the east, but they had other beliefs about their origins, underground being one of them.

I trust this will finally allow us to move beyond this Mandan example, and allow us to recognize that this case is, for multiple reasons, a deeply flawed comparison.

(pgs. 5,6)

http://books.google.ca/books?id=V1-T0ExpxgAC&pg=PA4&lpg=PA4&dq=Lone+Man+%2B+virgin+%2B+mandan&source=bl&ots=vCcZWnVA5P&sig=OPv-Df_pQC1qvGg3Q2XZkQ0Q2-s&hl=en&ei=dZfTS6aPKMaAlAfgwN22AQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"Here we have final and direct proof that according to the Mandan’s own recollection of their myths, this formative event in their history happened in a time so long ago, it was “before we remember.” You can no longer reasonably deny this was their belief."

No, it just shows that they have short memories. I've already given several sources showing that their story of coming up from underground came right before recent events on the surface. Myths flow into recent history.

Obviously in real life they never actually came up from underground and had forgotten where they came from, but that was the common understood source of their origin (and had to be relatively recent because they as a people just weren't that old).

I admit that for rhetorical purposes the Mandan are not an ideal example since they appear to not hold unanimous and clear understandings of their origins, but illustratively they do indeed show how a people can have obviously false beliefs about their historical collective experiences.

Alexandra said...

RG, I hope to respond to you in full when I have more time, as you make a lot of unfalsifiable and weak claims, some of which are decidedly irrational. However, I would like to remind you that as the great physicist Carl Sagan once said, 'Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.' Yes, a lot of events in history are not supported by a bucketfulls of empirical facts, but then again they dont claim to have made a covenant with the one true omni-max God somewher on an inidentified mountain in the middle of ancient Palestine.
If I told you 'I have a sister,' you would likely take my statement at face value. Other than my being a pathological liar, why would I decieve you about my siblings or lack thereof?
However, if I told you that I had an invisible pink unicorn that comes out of hiding at night to play with me, I would have to provide much evidence before I could be released from the nearest mental institution.
Likewise, in a murder trial, if a suspect merely claims not to have killed someone, that is not sufficient because there is reason to suspect the contrary. However, if a random person tells you they have never killed someone, you would probably believe them.
Do you understand the difference?

And your point about secular society betrays much fear and baseless hate. You think modern Western society is bad? Spend a day in the dark ages, when Judeo-Christianity ruled the civilized world, and tell me how that works out for you.
Have you ever even READ history? Ancient civilazations were horrible, such that our life even today with all its problems would seem almost ridiculously fortunate in comparison. Research the horrors people went through as recently as three hundred years ago, and then talk about the big bad West.
-Alex

Alexandra said...

Lots of typos in my above post ,especially the beginning- please ignore :)

Anonymous said...

Page 571 of the History of South Dakota mentions how they came to a village where the Mandane lived for a long time. Then they made an alliance. This would seem to indicate that the story about the vine and the poplar miracle was the tribes prehistory.

escort barcelona said...

It can't truly work, I believe like this.

Anonymous said...

A different says...
FACT there is no empirical evidence of Sinai event
FACT The Torah that states the event has questionable credibility. All the miracles, contradictions, apparent myths, magic etc: etc:

Now we a have a story according to Yahweh’s chosen people. Roughly as follows.
That Yahweh intervened in human affairs, performs all kinds of miracles to free an enslaved tribe, then miracle upon miracle kept this tribe of hundreds of thousands of people in the desert alive for 40 years. Yahweh also came down to a mountain in a desert and made them the chosen people.

We have two explanations

A) The Exodus and Sinai story as essentially nation building myths. folk lore, propaganda...
B) That the story actually happened.

The more reasonable explanation is the former. It explains the story in the context of human affairs and natural phenomena. The latter explanation implies some supernatural Yahweh god exists and he can do miracles that add a level of complexity that strains the imagination and creates more unsolved problems than it solves. Also see my comments at http://truetorah.blogspot.com/2012/05/part-1-archaeology.html?showComment=1369036031892#c534400231874616655
My opinion and I have no time to debate it, Figure it out yourself

Anonymous said...

From the point of view of a religion-starter, the issue is this: Can you make up a story and get people to believe it?

In general, the answer is yes if you're a magnetic person and people can't verify your story/claim of revelation.

But the answer is no if people have the ability to check if you're telling the truth.

The force of the Sinai mass revelation story is that the story should have been verifiable by the first generation to hear/read it.

Alternately, if it is natural for a "gradually evolving story" to start out with lesser claims and eventually change into something like the Sinai narrative, then we should be able to point to other equal or at least comparable examples of such stories amongst the thousands of worldwide religions.

So disregarding the other problems with the Mandan stories, does the Mandan tale talk about something that people, at some point, had the power to verify? The closest it comes is by tying the story into a war with the Cheyenne, but an ancient conflict in a non-literate culture where wars are habitual is not a verifiable event.

natschuster said...

According to the books quoted, he myths were related by one chief, and recorded by one person. Is there any real proof that the Mandan actually accepted it as their authentic history? The fact that the same person tells very different stories would seem to indicate otherwise.