Kuzari: Round Two

The previous Kuzari thread was closed. Then we talked about pascal and I stupidly referenced Kuzari. Then a whole debate ensued. Apparently, people (me included) want to continue to discuss kuzari. I will briefly outline the Kuzrari proof and the “flaws” that some people tried to attack it with. The proof has three steps:

  1. What a nation [or a large group of people] believes about it’s own national history, a nationally-experienced, nationally-commemorated event is a certain amount of evidence that the event happened. Why? First, because there is a chain of witnesses back to the event itself. I believe because I heard it from my father, who heard it from his father, etc., all the way back to the sinai events. So it is a hearsay from of evidence, national hearsay. Second, we can point to true beliefs about nationally-experienced, nationally commemorated events. That shows that beliefs about these types of events are evidentiary.

  2. The question, of course, is: How reliable is this form of evidence? The answer is we don’t know. So let’s look around; let’s see if this form of evidence has ever been wrong. It hasn’t (as of yet). Does this mean that the evidence is infallible? It does not. It merely means that it might be infallible. It means that we have no right to assume that it is fallible.

  3. This form of evidence exists for the sinai miracles.
    Here are the few flaws mentioned in the previous threads:

a) Couldn’t the history have evolved over time? Response: Yes it could have. There could also be flying-speghetti-monstors that force people to believe false histories. Merely saying something could be true isn’t enough. You have to show me that national history can evolve. Show me one case, and you win the debate.

b) There is an absence of archeological evidence for the sinai miracles. Response: i) even if we assume that God always makes sure to leave archeological evidence for his miraculous actions, absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence; ii) there is archeological evidence which backs up much of the exodus story, so you can’t call it a full absence of evidence; iii) I am not an expert in archeology, so you are asking the wrong person. I am a home-made expert in Kuzari, so feel free to discuss kuzari issues.

Your first premise is completely false. Belief is not evidence even if lots of people believe it, and with specific reference to the Sinai myth, you do not have an unbroken chain of witnesses going back to it. The belief is based on a book, not oral memory, and that book was written hundreds of years after the events it allegedly describes.

It’s not “national” history, but there are a crapload of Confederates who, contrary to actual evidentiary records, believe that the “War of Northern Aggression” was not in any way inspired by the issue of slavery.

There are also many who believe, again, in direct contrast to evidence, that slavery was a benign institution which never harmed anyone.

The Civil War was just 150 years ago. If, in only 150 years, we can have whole societies honestly and passionately believing something false about their own history, then I boggle at what people can “remember” from even longer ago.

That’s not even taking into account people who are deliberately falsifying history or misrepresenting it to make themselves look better, which then misleads people in the future who take it as a record of unbiased fact.

An oral or written history is evidence of fact. It’s not conclusive evidence though. Googling ‘history myths’ will give you numerous cases where the belief can be disproved. So the reliability of such evidence is known, it isn’t reliable.

Are you going to say anything new in this thread that you already haven’t said in the previous threads?

“That shows that beliefs about these types of events are evidentiary.”

Patently false. Becuase some events can be shown to have actually existed you cannot extrapolate that all of these events have.

First of all, thanks for teaching me a new word. Kuzari.

Second, what is it you want to debate?

I have no idea what Kuzari round one is, but this is false. Instantly Romulus and Remus sprang to mind, as did origin myths from Egypt.

If you are using ‘evidence’ as in ‘data’ that require explanation, then I suppose a national origin story would be ‘data’. However, it is not credible evidence of the alleged events. It is a data point that needs to be explained. Myth suffices as a general means of explanation.

We don’t have an unbroken chain of ‘father to son’ with regard to the Sinai miracles. We have a written account that, according to itself, has a chain of descendants within it.

In otherwords, your earlier statement of “I heard it from my father, who heard it from his father, etc., all the way back to the sinai events.” is not true. What you have is this:

We read in the bible that at some time in the past, character X heard it from his father, who heard it from his father, etc., all the way back to the sinai events.

Let’s me honest, the Kuzari ‘proof’ is a ‘nice’ little ‘logical’ rationale (I used scare quotes to indicate what I believe the beliefs are of those who hold to this idea rather than my own beliefs) for those who already believe in Judaism. In absentia of this proof they’d still believe though. It’s a justifaction

For those who don’t though, it’s a big load of pants.

I don’t think we even have that. Does the Torah actually claim to have been an unbroken oral tradition in the text itself? I think the Talmud claims it was written by Moses, but the first books of the Old Testement never really addresses its own authorship or sources.

But in anycase, I agree it doesn’t really matter. If you want to know if a text is true, the fact that the text says its true because it came from eyewitness accounts doesn’t help you any.

You might be right - I’m thinking of genealogies.


How many times have we all heard “I heard from a friend of a friend of a friend that X, Y, and Z happened”?

Shoot, I know people who will insert themselves into such things (urban legends - as in ‘it happened to me!’) or just blatantly make up connections.

Okay, so this thread isn’t about the Afghanistan president. My mistake.

Let me try to clarify the so-called Kuzari proof. The text of the Bible - Deuteronomy, to be specific, states that:

Regarding **abele derer’s **insistence on the uniqueness of these events, I assume he feels that the Bible says it:

So the “proof” generally goes something like this:

The Jewish people believe that their ancestors ALL witnessed miraculous events en masse. They believe this because their parents told them, whose parents told them, and so on. Or more correctly that their parents told them the Biblical account was true, whose parents told them, etc.

It is impossible for such a belief to ever arise in the absence of the actual historical event taking place. How’s that? Well, if some charlatan showed up with his freshly written biblical text and told people “Hey, remember when our ancestors all got taken out of Egypt together and all that crazy stuff happened?” everyone would be all like “ROTFL. GTFO. If that had happened to OUR ANCESTORS, whyTF don’t we know about it already?”

Contrast this to Christianity or Islam, for example, where the adherents of Christianity or Islam just had to be convinced that crazy stuff happened far away to someone they never heard of, which isn’t a big deal if you’re slightly credulous to begin with.

a d, is this reasonably accurate?

Have you ever heard of the game “telephone”? A bunch of kids sit in a circle or row. One whispers a word or phrase into the ear of the child next to him, who whispers what he hears into the ear of the person next to him, and so one until the last child announces what he/she heard, which isn’t the word that started the chain. History works the same way, especially oral history; each generation distorts the message a bit more (sometimes a lot more) until it no longer resembles the truth. “I heard it from my father, who heard it from his father” is NOT going to give you an accurate account or even close.

There’s also the problem that such passed-on “historical” accounts tend to wildly contradict one another, so it is simply logically impossible that all of them or even most of them are true.

It is when the claims being made violate known laws of physics. You most certainly need evidence then; evidence strong enough to cast doubt on all the experiments that demonstrate the reality of those laws. And much the same goes for claims that violate everything else we know of the history of the time, or what we know of human nature. And that goes double when the subject is one that people have demonstrated an eagerness to lie about, such as religion.

Your unsupported word that your mother has black hair or likes apples is one thing; your unsupported word that she can fly by flapping her arms is another. And your unsupported word that she needs bail money for a crime that she didn’t commit (so could I pretty please help pay it for her) is as well.

Perhaps I’m nitpicking this (again), but please note – this type of evidence will never be, and cannot possibly be, infallible. “Infallible” connotes utter certainty. Even assuming everything else about your Kuzari exposition, it is patently absurd to suggest even the possibility that hearsay evidence could be infallible. Perhaps you could make a convincing argument that the exodus events took place with high probability, but that’s all (and if you could pull it off it’s nothing to sneeze at).

Additionally: you seem to want to say “this kind of evidence could support an explanation; it has not been shown no to support an explanation; therefore I accept the hypothesis that is not falsified by this evidence”. But isn’t that rather ad hoc? Without addressing the issues, raised by others, linking this evidence to your hypothesis, it does seem a lot to me like making things up.

I could say “I have asked my cat questions with yes/no answers, and she meows once for yes and twice for no; I have asked her if the exodus account is true; she meows only once. I don’t know whether my cat-meow technique is infallible evidence, but until one has shown that it is fallible, I must accept it. No, no, it won’t do to point out that cats don’t understand English and couldn’t possibly look into the past even if they did – you need to point to at least one instance of my cat giving a wrong answer – and until you do, I’m right.”

Well, is your cat Jewish?

The first claim does not apply to the Sinai experience. There is no record of the people in the Levant between the purported event and the sixth century B.C.E. actually believing the story. The story in a form that might precede the Torah is not in language that would not indicate earlier and now lost versions. In fact, if we rely on the Tanakh, itself, we have a claim that the “knowledge” was actually “forgotten” for many years as described in 2 Kings 22/2 Chronicles 34. So the purported “discovery” of the book has no line of connection back to the events. The people of that time, (or the people of the post-exilic period who may have been the first real audience of the stories), had no “memory” of their parents recalling those events–unless you want to assert that the stories in Kings and Chronicles are false.

As to the second claim, your assertion does not appear to be supported by any facts. That there are myths and legends that may carry some tiny morsel of fact regarding a historical event may be true. However, the morsel of fact is not evidence of anything unless we can actually tease out the events that are supposed to havce occured. For example, both Genesis and the Epic of Gilgamesh place an early paradise at the upper end of the Persian Gulf. Archaeology has found evidence that the earliest Sumerian culture may have developed at that location in a region that has now been flooded by the Gulf. This might indicate that tales of a “better” place were handed down from one generation to another, initially fueled by nothing more than the nostalgia for the “good old days” or might might simply be that Genesis copied details from an older story because it made a good story without any connection to any historical event. If it is the latter–something equally plausible of the former–then it is “evidence” of nothing at all. And even if the story is a passed memory in distorted form, it does nothing to provide “evidence” of a Garden or Eden.

Provide any such “evidence” that has failed to be wrong. So far, you have not.

As noted in my response to point 1, this statement is utterly false.

= = =

The Lakota and Dakota have a “memory” that they were created as the first people in the Black Hills. Archaeologists and Philologists have found evidence that those peoples migrated to the Black Hills from farther East–possibly as far East as what is now Virginia. Demonstrate how their claims differ from yours or back away from this silliness.

I must say, the Kuzari “proof” is the biggest bunch of cock and bull I have heard in a long time. It is has been thoroughly debunked in 2 GD threads (at least to my satisfaction). In fact, I have not seen a single other poster support this “proof” which is an indicator in itself. I think abele derer needs to take a good long look at his arguments. Hell, I have no problem if he wants to believe in the Old Testament or anything else. Just please stop trying to shove a “proof” down our collective throats that proves nothing.

Before responding to a couple of the points mentioned here, I will add a couple of more points that should have been included in the original post. Also, I am sincererly sorry about the fact that I simply don’t have the time to respond to all of your points (I will also be out-of-town, overseas, for a couple of days on business, so I don’t know how often I will be able to access the internet).

Here are the additional points:

  1. Why is it important that the sinai history is a nationally-experienced, nationally-commemorated event believed to have been heavily commemorated by the same people who saw the miracles? Why is it important? Because it makes it extremely difficult for a nation to gobble up this false event! If the sinai miracles never took place, if God never commanded an everlasting sabbath to the Jews who heard God’s voice at sinai, then our intution tells us that it would have been extremely difficult to get people to believe it. They should have immediately responded: “How can you claim that God commanded an entire nation who saw miracles to ‘never to forget the miracles of the Exodus,’ if we never heard of it from our ancestors”

Here is a list of the commemorations, which I already posted earlier on, for the exodus alone:
This is a short (and incomplete) sample of the commemorations of the Exodus. As I’ve said many times before, commemorations mean nothing. Rather, what excites me is the fact that the commemorations were believed to have been initiated at the time of the miracles:

  1. One must refrain from work on the first day of Passover (Leviticus 23:7);
  2. And refrain from work on the seventh day of Passover (23:8);
  3. One must slaughter a Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:6);
  4. One must eat a part of the Passover lamb (12:8);
  5. One must roast, but not boil, the lamb’s flesh (12:9);
  6. One must not serve the meat to non-Jews, whether they are pagans (12:43) or monotheists (12:45);
  7. One may not serve the meat to a Jew who is uncircumcised (12:48);
  8. One must eat the meat as part of a large group (12:46);
  9. One mustn’t break a bone of the carcass (12:46);
  10. One must not leave over any of the meat to daybreak (12:10);
  11. One must not eat leaven and bread for the seven days of Passover; doing so can inspire death by heaven (13:3);
  12. The Israelites must abolish leaven and bread from the land of Israel (13:7);
  13. One must eat matzo for the seven days of Passover, to commemorate the food eaten at the Exodus (12:18);
  14. One must eat bitter herbs, to commemorate the bitter labor in Egypt (12:8);
  15. One must wear “phylacteries,” small scrolls which contain the Exodus miracles (13:9);
  16. One must provide gifts for retiring servants as a way to commemorate that the entire nation who were once slaves in Egypt (Deuteronomy 15:15);
  17. One is commanded to tell his children about the Exodus (Exodus 13:8);
  18. One is required to verbally remember the miracles of Exodus “which you have seen with your eyes” at least once a day, and according to the Talmud, at least twice a day (Exodus 13:3; Deuteronomy 7:18; 16:13; 24:18, 22);
  19. It is forbidden to forget the Exodus from Egypt (Deuteronomy 8:14);
  20. One must celebrate Passover during the springtime, to commemorate the fact that the Exodus took place during the spring (Deuteronomy 16:1)
  21. One must visit the Temple during the holiday of Passover (Exodus 23:15)
  22. One who was unable to perform the Passover holiday, he must celebrate a “Second Passover” which takes place one month after the traditional Passover (Numbers 9:9-11).
  23. One is commanded to love strangers, since “you were strangers in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19);
  24. One must allow Egyptians to convert, since they initially allowed the Jews to reside in their land (Deuteronomy 23:8);
  25. One must bring the first fruit to the Temple, and then read a chapter of the Torah which contains the miraculous Exodus story (Deuteronomy 26:5);
  26. One must allow unfortunate people to enter his field and eat the leftover fruits, so as to commemorate the Exodus (Deuteronomy 22:24);
  27. One must perform the “redemption of the firstborn child” ceremony, so as to commemorate the “Plague of the Firstborn” in Egypt (Exodus 13:11);
  28. One must offer his firstborn sheep as a sacrifice in the Temple, in order to commemorate the “Plague of the Firstborn.” (Exodus 13:12)
  29. One must redeem his firstborn donkey onto a sheep and then offer the sheep as an offering, and while doing so should relate the miracles of the Exodus generally and the “Plague of the Firstborn” specifically to his child (Exodus 13:13-15)
  30. Jews mustn’t enslave their brothers indefinitely, in order to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt, when the Jews tasted the bitterness of slavery (Leviticus 25:42)
    Here are the facts: The Jews believe that a) millions of their ancestors; b) experienced 14,600 days of miracles (which makes hallucination impossible); c) which was heavily-commemorated; d) the commemorations are extremely burdensome.

Another interesting point worth keeping in mind: Moses’ Torah does not explicitly promise an afterlife.

I will specifically respond to many of your silly arguments in a later post.

Don’t be silly. It’s a religious claim, they’d agree to whatever they were told to believe even if it contradicted what they were told to believe last week. Especially since they’d likely be killed if they didn’t.

Meaningless, plenty of groups could make similar claims. Widespread self-denial or outright self destruction is not at all unusual among religious believers of all types; and again, since the various religions contradict each other it is logically impossible for most to be true.