Friday, April 29, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- taking a razor to the argument from silence

Countering a false argument from silence can be done a couple of ways.  One is from existing data by means of Occam’s Razor.
The existing data shows an ethnic group named Israel living in the Holy Land by 1207 BCE, and that Merneptah’s Egypt considered it comparable to the other great people of that region, the K’naani.  We don’t know how long they had lived there but we have analogies from two other ethnic groups.  (Modern radiocarbon dating puts this about 20 years earlier but that’s “in the noise”, as we used to say at work, compared to something I’ll talk about later.)
Possibly the best known example is the Celts.  Herodotus, in the 400s BCE, refers to them as Keltoi living in what is now Austria.
Archaeology identifies the Celtic people of that time as the La Tene culture, remains of which were discovered by Hansli Kopp in 1857.  The Celts go farther back, however, to the Hallstatt culture of the 800s BCE, first described by Johann Ramsauer in 1846.  The Hallstatt culture already occupied Austria, and one of the oldest items of that culture turned up there in 1851.
So the initial possibility for the age of the Israelite ethnic group in 1230 or 1210 BCE could be 100 years, or it could be 400 by analogy with the Celts.   Close enough for government work.
The other example is the Greeks.  Their own tradition claims that they developed from the Ionians, Dorians, Aeolians and Achaeans.  Again, this is in Herodotus, from the 400s BCE, and we know he isn’t reliable.  Modern archaeology places the Dorians in Crete as well as in the Peloponnese, and as you know the Mykenaeans referred to the Ionians as being in Crete in the 1400s BCE, a millennium before Herodotus.
So history knows that the Hellenes or their constituents go back at least 400 years before Herodotus, to the time when the Ionians migrated to western Anatolia.  Archaeology takes them back to 1190 BCE when the Sea Peoples or at least the Cretan contingent destroyed Wilusa/Troy VIIb.  The Mykenaean description from the homeland of Agamemnon places the Ionians possibly in 1400 BCE, of course with a history of some decades or centuries before that.  And modern language research pushes their origins to the 2000s in Anatolia, under an unknown name, when they and the Hurrians and Hittites all shared some form of the “war of the gods” story with the Akkadians of Mesopotamia. 
A 400 year past for the Israelites therefore places them chronologically close to the expulsion of the Hyksos from Avaris and the explosion of Thera.  A thousand year past places their origins close to the destruction of Ebla, and the destruction of the cities of the plain.
But a past extending long before 1207 BCE is reasonable even if no recognizable physical remains exist.
The question then becomes what would be recognizable physical remains of Israelites at that point in time.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- where's the evidence?

The chaser lamed heh or ”certainty/evidentiary epistemic” has two functions. One, at the start of some text, briefly shows what the following verses are the evidence for. The other, at the end of some text, validates what the previous text says.
This has an important result for the syntax of Biblical Hebrew. You will find single verses that include both epistemic and evidence, certainty epistemic plus narrative past. See Genesis 9:22:
וַיַּרְא חָם אֲבִי כְנַעַן אֵת עֶרְוַת אָבִיו וַיַּגֵּד לִשְׁנֵי־אֶחָיו בַּחוּץ:
The way to translate this is “Cham must have seen the nakedness of his father, for he told his two brothers outside.” Vayar is the certainty epistemic; va-yaged is the narrative past for the evidence of the truth of vayar. How do we know he told his brothers? Because of what they did in the next verse. Just one more example of how a single verse is never the complete context.
This two-part situation appears all over Torah. Any time you see the certainty epistemic, look for the evidence. The next verb that looks like a narrative past, is “for” plus the evidence.
Exodus 36:8 supports my point that Torah can use narrative past instead of the certainty epistemic.
וַיַּֽעֲשׂ֨וּ כָל־חֲכַם־לֵ֜ב בְּעֹשֵׂ֧י הַמְּלָאכָ֛ה אֶת־הַמִּשְׁכָּ֖ן עֶ֣שֶׂר יְרִיעֹ֑ת שֵׁ֣שׁ מָשְׁזָ֗ר וּתְכֵ֤לֶת וְאַרְגָּמָן֙ וְתוֹלַ֣עַת שָׁנִ֔י כְּרֻבִ֛ים מַֽעֲשֵׂ֥ה חֹשֵׁ֖ב עָשָׂ֥ה אֹתָֽם:
But verse 14 uses the certainty epistemic.
וַיַּעַשׂ יְרִיעֹת עִזִּים לְאֹהֶל עַל־הַמִּשְׁכָּן עַשְׁתֵּי־עֶשְׂרֵה יְרִיעֹת עָשָׂה אֹתָם:
The audience didn’t see the work in verse 8, but the curtains in verse 14 were visible to them, otherwise the narrator should have used the narrative past again.
Compare to Genesis 9:22, you will see X and Y reversed in the creation story: “Gd said (narrative past) X.” “Gd said” is in narrative past, but it’s not evidence for X; it’s a completely independent verb.
In your Bible, or on the web page where you’re reading the Hebrew, find Exodus 35 and bookmark it. When you get there, watch for all the certainty epistemics and see if they have a follow on narrative past with the evidence. If not, you’re looking at something that the audience could still see at the point when the grammar for this material was frozen.
That’s what I’m talking about. I was already sure Olrik was on to something important with his origin and final “localizations” (the geographic evidence for the truth of the story).
When I read Cook’s dissertation and found out about the certainty/evidentiary grammatical structure with an identical function, it was electrifying.
It seemed to me that Olrik had seen a human mental phenomenon in terms of the structure and content of what people transmitted orally to future generations.
It seemed that Dr. Cook had found the same feature in terms of the grammar people used as the medium of oral transmission.
As far as I know, Dr. Cook never read Olrik’s book in the 10 years he was studying after it was translated. Olrik died some 80 years before linguists began to study modality as a feature of all grammars.
When two researchers describe the same phenomenon from different viewpoints, independently, there’s a there there.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 25, 2016

Outdoors-- it's summer!!

On summer mornings, the sun shines through the big window on the  north side of my house.
It makes a bright spot on a closet door that creeps left to the wall next  to the stairs.
It turns around and creeps back
and it disappears two months after the solstice.

It showed up yesterday morning and I might have seen it Saturday but it was cloudy and raining.

The catbird should be back in town and Saturday it should start calling.

I'm convinced the blue jays have a nest, I just don't know where.

My violets were blooming Friday morning  on the eve of Passover.
My columbines are blooming.
My wild ginger, planted last fall, is starting to spread.
The chicory is coming  up.
If my hydrangea survived the most recent frost, they'll bloom in a couple of months.
The  pokeweed is showing, promising berries for the birds.
And  I gotta cut the freaking grass.  Again.

Yep, it's summer.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 22, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- silence is not golden

Possibly the most important fallacy when it comes to archaeological finds, is the false argument from silence saying that something didn’t happen or didn’t exist because the evidence hasn’t been found.
There are two arguments from silence, one true and one false.
The true argument from silence has a specific requirement.  If the person making the argument has access to complete data, then the argument that something didn’t happen or didn’t exist based on its absence from the dataset is true.
When somebody says that a given sports performance is not an Olympic record because it’s not in the Olympic record book, that’s a true argument from silence.  The Olympic committee has absolute control over what constitutes a record for purposes of the Olympics. 
Archaeology doesn’t have a complete record.  This is another resemblance with paleontology, and for similar reasons.  Normal weathering or decay processes destroy fossils and human artifacts.
Humans also destroy them. We don’t know the extent of the library of Alexandria, because it was deliberately destroyed by people.  In 500 years, if people are still around, there may be arguments about whether there were Buddhist statues at Bamian in Afghanistan.  Humans destroyed those statues.  The records of them may go missing or also be destroyed.  In 500 years it will be a false argument from silence that they didn’t exist.  The same is true for Tell Nimrud, destroyed in 2015 (after the antiquities were looted for sale to support terrorist activity).
What paleontologists do, in that case, is the same thing archaeologists do, or should do.  Actually it’s several things.
One is drawing conclusions from what they did find.  If a paleontologist finds a fish skeleton which is a fossil and not just a recently dead fish, then the paleontologist knows that a long line of ancestors back to the original life form came before that fossil fish.  Identifying the geological age of the rock containing the fossil shows where in the geological age of earth the fish lived, and thus how much of the 4 billion years of life on earth stand behind that fish. 
Archaeologists have to do the same thing.  In particular, this applies to the Merneptah stele.  Given the determination that it was put up about 1207 BCE, archaeologists realize, from the part of the inscription giving Israel as the name of an ethnic group raided at the same time as the K’naani, that such an ethnic group existed in the Holy Land at that time, and had done so for long enough to be generally known to the Egyptians as living there.
What’s more, archaeologists know that the two ethnic groups could somehow be distinguished from each other, or nobody would give them two names.  That’s the lesson of the terms Ekwesh and Peleshet in the Medinat Habu inscription.  The Ekwesh had a distinct cultural feature that did not apply to the Peleshet, and the Peleshet were culturally indistinguishable from people living in Crete, right down to using Linear B writing.  Likewise from the point of view of the Hittites, the Ahiyyawa did not have distinctive subgroups.  For us to decide that Ekwesh means Ahiyyawa ignores some of the facts and therefore doesn’t meet the test of Occam’s Razor.  The process of elimination that identifies the circumcised Ekwesh with the Ahiyyawa breaks down, and it is much more reasonable to identify them with Kush, a people known to be circumcised.
Finally, archaeologists know that no ethnic group leaps into existence at the moment it is first named in writing but has developed distinctive characteristics over a period of time.  How long?
For that, archaeologists can use Occam’s Razor as a diagnostic.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- Cook meets Olrik

This lesson is where the rubber hits the road as far as Dr. Cook’s  dissertation.  I said the chaser lamed heh or ”certainty epistemic” is used by a narrator who is certain that what he is telling is true. I also called it an evidentiary epistemic and now I will show why.
On the Fact-Checking page of this blog, I am going to talk about oral narratives from the point of view of Torah structure. I won’t reach that part of the page before I post this. I rely on a book by Axel Olrik called Principles of Oral Narrative Research, written early in the 20th century in Danish from his lecture notes at a university. In 1992 it was translated into English.
Olrik says that narrators in an oral tradition have an issue of credibility with their audience. Oral narratives always include something out of the ordinary, and the narrators have to counteract audience disbelief.
One way is to tell about a landmark well-known to the audience because it is visible.
When the narrator names it at the start, she then goes on to tell why it is important and it’s always about the start of a cultural feature or about a historical event whose consequences are still in force.
When she names it at the end, she has just told a story the audience can hardly believe, and the narrator uses the landmark as evidence of the truth of the story.
The “certainty epistemic” can appear either at the start of a series of verses or at the end.
When it appears at the start, it has to be followed by evidence.
When it appears at the end, it stamps and seals the truth of the preceding material.
Because it points at evidence of which the audience has a physical or mental picture, it provides certainty that the story is true.
Cook gives an example of the first format when he refers to Kings II 8:1-4. It starts out with metadata about Chizqiyah, saying “he did (va-ya’as) what seemed right to Gd.” Since the certainty epistemic has to be followed by the evidence, it then says what Chizqiyah did that was right.
You’ll find the second type in Exodus with the making of the tabernacle. Over and over again, it says “He [B’tsalel] made (ya-as) ” plus the thing he made. One example is Exodus 36:14:
וַיַּעַשׂ יְרִיעֹת עִזִּים לְאֹהֶל עַל־הַמִּשְׁכָּן עַשְׁתֵּי־עֶשְׂרֵה יְרִיעֹת עָשָׂה אֹתָם:
Why is that so important for understanding Biblical Hebrew? Because the audience has evidence that proves what the narrator was saying is true. In other words, a narrator doesn’t use this grammar unless everybody knows about the things that were made to go in the tabernacle, like the ark of the covenant. They have to have seen it with their own eyes by the time the narrative was first told with this epistemic, otherwise they won’t believe what the narrator just said.
There’s a perfect example of the opposite in Numbers 32:31.
וַיַּֽעֲנ֧וּ בְנֵי־גָ֛ד וּבְנֵ֥י רְאוּבֵ֖ן לֵאמֹ֑ר אֵת֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר דִּבֶּ֧ר יְהוָֹ֛ה אֶל־עֲבָדֶ֖יךָ כֵּ֥ן נַֽעֲשֶֽׂה:
The historical setup is this. The Gadites and Reubenites had no impact on Jewish history once they helped with the Ingress. They didn’t even furnish any characters for the book of Judges. The next time they appeared in Jewish history was in Joshua 22 when they got in trouble for building a mirror image of the cairn at the Yarden River. After that, they fled west when the Assyrians attacked them. That’s why we have a narrative past here instead of an evidentiary or certainty epistemic. This happened in the past, it’s over and done with, and it had no impact on the Israelites or Jews later.  The narrator can’t use a certainty epistemic or his audience will think he is crazy or stupid or something.
I have one more piece of linguistic data and then I’ll move on to the last modality.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

I'm just saying -- Earth Day

So on Dear Abby somebody posts about the time it takes for things to break down in a landfill.
Dear Abby has not been doing well this year; she didn't answer the question and she didn't refer people to reliable websites.

Let's empty our recycling bins.
Let's stop drinking sodas, which are causing obesity and diabetes instead of preventing them.
Let's stop drinking bottled water, unless our local water is rotten (does the name Flint ring a bell) or we're in an emergency.
Let's stop eating in restaurants; new studies show that the PACKAGING of fast food is dumping bad chemicals into your body.  This packaging winds up in your trash because it ISN'T recyclable.
Also you don't  want to go somewhere "gluten free", only to find out later at home that they weren't  gluten free enough.  Word.  News story.
Let's cook from scratch.    We'll get fewer calories, less fat and sodium and sugar, more fiber and vegetables and fruit, for less money.  More packaging that doesn't go in the trash.
Let's take the raw vegetable and fruit refuse and the egg shells and compost them.
Let's stop dumping grass cuttings into the recycling.  It's great fertilizer for your lawn. 
Let's stop dumping leaves into the recycling.  Mow them into tiny bits and you have instant compost.  The only other thing you need to put on your lawn is cornmeal gluten for weed and feed, spring and autumn.  Cuts bee-killing chemicals.
Let's buy grocery bags that last nearly forever.  Word again.   I have some that are ten or fifteen years old.  Think of how much plastic hasn't gone into my landfill for 10-15 years because I spent $10-15 at the start of that time.

Think globally.  Act locally.

I'm just saying....

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 15, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- piling on the evidence

I guess I forgot about this because it’s not just a scientific principle, it’s a principal in all discussion of any topic.
Whoever presents extraordinary claims, has to present extraordinary evidence.
If you’re going to make a claim that is unexpected or goes beyond the expectations of your field, you have to provide evidence that goes beyond what other people in your field have to provide.
The burden of proof is on you. And where have you heard that before?
So a for-instance: you can’t prove that ghosts exist in the ordinary sense of being able to detect their presence, if all you do is pile up anecdotes told by people who believe in ghosts. Not when you’re talking to people who want scientific evidence.
What you have to do is get them to agree on what a ghost is and what evidence proves they exist. Then you have to get that evidence. If you don’t, there could be something wrong with what you did, or you may have picked the wrong evidence, or the definition of ghost you agreed on is wrong. You have to make the changes and do all the tests over again under the new paradigm, and somebody else has to be able to do the same tests and get the same results.
Bietak didn’t use the same techniques as other archaeologists covered by the Archaeometry article and he hasn’t convinced them to accept his definitions or techniques as proving what he thinks he proved. So he hasn’t taught us anything new, not even that the technique of radiometric dating is invalid, because he didn’t prove that all the other archaeologists were wrong orr that the techniques they used had flaws.  He simply didn’t do the tests that would have showed he was wrong.
Notice that part of the issue is defining your audience. Who is it that you are trying to prove things to? If all you want to do is prove things to other people who already agree with you, then you don’t have to prove anything at all, they already agree with you.
If you want to prove things to people who don’t already agree with you, you have to know what they know and what they accept as proof.  If you don’t, can’t, or refuse to, provide that proof, you can’t prove anything to them.
This is what separates the little kids from the big kids, too. If you’re not going to take the challenge, you’re stuck in a box with yourself and the people who already agree with you.
But then, the rabbis knew that more than 17 centuries ago. Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 25a says proof goes according to the standard definition, not a private definition (this will come up again in the next part of the blog). Which should show you another problem that archaeologists sometimes have. I’ll discuss it in a couple of weeks.
For now, there is a bigger fallacy to fry that relates to archaeology.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- Third modality

The third broad kind of modality is the epistemic. If you have ever read about epistemology, you know that it’s the subject of how we know what we know.

A verb in epistemic modality expresses something about the speaker’s knowledge or lack thereof. In English we say things like “I know,” “I’m sure,” “I’m convinced,” “I believe,” “I guess,” “I accept,” ands so on.

Hebrew has words for these concepts, but it also has two modal epistemic forms, each with its own interesting consequences.

When you have a verb in the imperfect and it starts like the narrative past, but it only seems to have two root letters, try looking it up as a lamed heh verb. Actually, the examples I have found in Torah are all from a limited set of verbs.


Anah, that last verb, has two meanings.  One is to torment, as in tormenting yourself at Yom Kippur.  The other is an answer, a response, payback.  It’s this second version that you will find in the epistemic.

Gesenius calls this “shortened imperfect” and say that it’s a jussive or command form. That’s true only if there’s no vav at the start, and every example I can think of is a form of hayah, “to be”.  If you find a non-epistemic that isn’t “be”, let me know.

Here’s the explanation for the vav-prefixed form.  See Deuteronomy 10:3 for one example.

ג וָאַעַשׂ אֲרוֹן עֲצֵי שִׁטִּים וָאֶפְסֹל שְׁנֵי־לֻחֹת אֲבָנִים כָּרִאשֹׁנִים וָאַעַל הָהָרָה וּשְׁנֵי הַלֻּחֹת בְּיָדִי:

 The bolded words are first person singular.  I have to really twist my brain around to get a jussive out of that and even then, I don’t really believe it.

I sometimes call this the chaser lamed heh form, but that would leave out the possibility that it might show up in other ancient Semitic languages, which have lamed yod or lamed vav verbs; lamed heh is strictly Hebrew. To apply across the board, we can call this a “certainty epistemic.” What it means is that the speaker (or narrator) is absolutely certain something happened. The context suggests the reason they are so certain of this.  It can also be called an “evidentiary epistemic” for reasons that I will soon discuss.

This goes with something I am going to discuss in detail on the Fact-Checking page of the blog but I will discuss it briefly here because I won’t get around to it for a couple of years yet (!) and it’s important for understanding Torah.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Garden -- save the bees

I came across this by chance on the website for WTOP.   It  seems that sanity is breaking out in the  gardening industry.

Now if Scott and Pennington would  just stop  telling you to seed grass in the  spring when the  ground is too cold. 

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 8, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- bucking the trends

A final scientific principle before I get to the fallacies is this.  Sciences blend together and make use of each other’s results.
The best discussion of this that I can give is studies at Avaris.
One of the premier archaeologists working at this site has been Manfred Bietak, and his results include a conclusion that Ahmose chased the Hyksos out of Avaris about 1450 BCE.
I read his 1991 report for the American School of Oriental Research; it runs to 47 pages including the bibliography, and the whole time I read, I kept looking for radiometric dates for the site.
They aren’t in there.
In 2011 a journal called Archaeometry published a report which showed that radiometric dating applies consistently throughout Greece, Turkey, southwest Asia, Mesopotamia, and Egypt.  It applies at all times, from the 2500s BCE on.  It applies to all sites, no matter who is funding the research.  The only archaeologist who has bucked the results of radiometric dating is Bietak, and radiometric dating shows that the site where he worked in Avaris came to an end at the same time as the Thera explosion, just after 1630 BCE.
Radiometric dating is part of a hard science, physics, and it has been applied successfully all over the world.  For Bietak to claim something that doesn’t agree with radiometric dating requires other evidence and Bietak doesn’t give it.
One of the things that leads either to mistaken archaeological claims, or to misunderstanding of archaeological claims, is the idea that sciences are neatly marked off and never the twain shall meet.  It’s the same assumption that says that it’s perfectly rational to get a flu shot every year because flu viruses mutate, but we have to reject that over a period of 4 billion years, complex life forms can develop from mutations.  Or it’s perfectly rational to get radiation therapy for cancer, but we have to reject that the science underlying this treatment points to the accuracy of radiometric results for the age of the earth.  As soon as Descartes used algebra to analyze geometry, the idea that fields of study have sharp and immoveable and impermeable delineators, and one conclusion has nothing to do with any of the others, crashed and burned.
We are only mortal and we can only understand as much as we study in the depth to which we study it.  But trying to isolate fields of study from each other not only doesn’t work in the real world, it prevents isolationists from proving they have achieved accurate results.  This will come up again toward the end of the blog. 
Beitak failed to use a source of data that disagreed with him.  He got an off the wall result.  This is not what Richard Feynman meant when he talked about learning something new, because it’s  the other archaeologists who have taught us something new: that events in this geographical area happened a century or two before the previously accepted dates.  The reason Bietak didn’t get the same results as everybody else is that he didn’t do his work the way everybody else did. 
Which feeds into next week’s post.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew -- transitive hifil

Some of you know enough Hebrew to object to something I said in the last lesson. I said that when the qal can’t be used transitively, it has a piel form to take on the transitive use.
Some of you know that there are verbs where the qal is intransitive but the transitive form of the root is hifil, the causative.
The best example is met, which can be either masculine singular progressive or 3rd masculine singular perfect aspect. But it always means “is dead.” Yes, you can think of it as “will die”.
The example used in Dr. Cook’s book is Genesis 44:22.
כב וַנֹּאמֶר אֶל־אֲדֹנִי לֹא־יוּכַל הַנַּעַר לַעֲזֹב אֶת־אָבִיו וְעָזַב אֶת־אָבִיו וָמֵת:
It’s the va-met at the end, which obviously has a future meaning. It’s an oblique modality, a subordinate clause of a future result.  Yehudah is telling Yosef why Binyamin is not with the brothers; based on that, he expects Yosef to believe in an event that would be the outcome of bringing Binyamin to Egypt, no matter how extreme the claim might be.
But when you say “kill,” you have to use hemit , the hifil. See Exodus 21:29.
וְאִם שׁוֹר נַגָּח הוּא מִתְּמֹל שִׁלְשֹׁם וְהוּעַד בִּבְעָלָיו וְלֹא יִשְׁמְרֶנּוּ וְהֵמִית אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה הַשּׁוֹר יִסָּקֵל וְגַם־בְּעָלָיו יוּמָת:
If the ox killed, etc., “and then it killed…”.
Now, from earlier lessons you know that there are three words for “kill”, harag, ratsach, and hemit. The first two are transitive in the qal binyan and the third is not. Notice that the first two have an issue of intent which separates them; a horeg did not have intent and can’t suffer the death penalty and the reverse is true of a ratschan.
With hemit we have two main uses. One is with the death penalty, mot yumat. Since the death penalty is allowed by Torah, we don’t worry about intent. An executioner cannot be taken to court for doing the job assigned to him by the court.
With the ox, there’s an issue called daat. The ox cannot form intent. It doesn’t have the capability. Likewise, Jewish law considers that underage people don’t have daat. Jewish law doesn’t punish when there is an absence of daat. So why does the ox have to die?
It’s not the ox against which the punishment is directed. It’s the owner. He owns the ox for hauling heavy loads, pulling a plow, running a mill, or threshing grain. Knowing that it can’t be trusted, he should have locked it up, but he didn’t. So he doesn’t get to keep the ox. Knowing that it’s dangerous, society can’t afford to just turn the ox over to somebody else; nobody else should be forced to take on this responsibility. The ox dies to secure the community from a deadly menace.   Now the former owner has to spend money  -- a lot  of  money – on a new ox if he wants to carry on his profession. Just because he failed to buy and use a two-dollar lock.
There’s another tiny ramification. The law is allowed to kill. But the law is abstract and it can’t have daat. That would be a good reason to use hemit for the death penalty. It’s also why the law can’t act without a court case. People have to speak for the law because only people have daat.
And that’s my homily for the day.   Now we’ll go on to the third kind of modality.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Garden -- April 2016

I hope you didn't wake up to a horrible reality in the DC region.
Our temperatures crashed last night.
If you were misled into putting out warm-weather plants, you were a month too early.

What you should have in the ground now are:
green peas, snow peas, kale, collards, mustard greens, beets, turnips, carrots, some lettuces, spinach.

What froze last night are:
tomatoes, squash of all kinds, black-eye peas, green and wax beans, eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, melons, potatoes.

Your infant tree fruit might have frozen, too.

And you should not have planted grass seed.  Ignore the Scott's ads.  They are a waste of  money.
But you know that if you have been paying attention to what Mike McGrath says.

I'm not in the mood to plant this year but I have a month to get over that.
I did prune old wood from my horehound and the rest of it is greening up.
My hydrangea is leafing out, looks like it will be a good year for that.
And the hosta -- hey, what can I say, hosta is pretty much indestructible.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 1, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- passing the test

This week I’m going to talk about something you probably already know about, but given the sometimes fragmented nature of education today, I won’t assume you do.
You may have heard of Occam’s Razor.
This is a basic scientific principle which separates the big kids from the babies.
William of Ockham, a monk of the 1200s CE, formulated the principle that there should be a single explanation that covers all the facts. 
Isaac Newton said that as long as two situations have similar features or effects, we can assume they have similar causes as long as the assumption is sufficient to explain both and explains both of them accurately.   Newton was involved in the debate whether light was a wave or particle phenomenon, but wave physics covered only part of the observed phenomena connected with light, and particle physics covered everything wave physics didn’t. 
Einstein showed that quantization applied to energy, that waves delivered energy in packets of a certain size, which were the so-called particles of energy transfer like the photon.  And de Broglie showed that waveforms exist for all particles, and the mass of the particles calculates to the energy of this waveform.  So matter and packets of energy both have a dual wave/particle nature.  Heisenberg provided the rest of the solution to the puzzle.  What you test for affects your results.  If you use tests that focus on the particle aspects, you get particle results.  If you use tests that focus on the wave aspects, you get wave results.
The problems that Occam’s Razor causes for archaeology relative to Torah are at least two.
One is that archaeologists will quantify the scientific facts about a find and then try to apply it to part of Torah.  But they use a translation which is inaccurate, or they quote out of context which, as you already know, is a fundamental error, or they commit other fallacies. Identifying shabbatum as the genesis of Shabbat ignores both the details about shabbatum and the details about Shabbat.  It doesn’t cover all the facts.
The other problem is confusing an explanation that seems simple with an accurate explanation.  One example of this is deciding that because Hammurabi’s code has laws about battery, and Torah has laws about battery, the one must be copied from the other.  Things contributing to confusion are fallacies and hidden assumptions.  For example, when this conclusion was drawn, Akkadian and Assyrian had both been deciphered by westerners, and it was a short step from believing that because specialists in cuneiform knew what it said, anybody could know what it said.  But the cuneiform specialists didn’t deal with the limitations of access to the material, access to the training, and low literacy in the 1700s BCE.  That all contributes to a fallacy called presentism saying that the conditions applying now applied in the past.  They were looking for characteristics of their own culture in a past culture, simply because they learned how to read its writing. 
Claims that Torah copied from Mesopotamian literature also drew on a belief that all culture originate in one place and disseminated from there.  (In a way this is true, but the original belief was about Classical Greece; the proponents would have made fun of anybody who said the place was Africa.)  Van Dongen’s thesis about “The Song of Going Forth” partakes of this belief.  He assumes not only that the material had to disseminate to Greece for Hesiod to write his Theogony (seven centuries later) but also that it disseminated in text.  That text would have to be cuneiform for a millennium until the development of Linear B, and another half millennium until the Greek alphabet developed.  In the meantime the proto-Greeks would have to go to cuneiform school, etc. etc.  I’ll give the solution toward the end of this blog.
Next week I’ll discuss something that all sciences use but that doesn’t seem to have been expressed.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved