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A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kuzari Principle or Argument Part I

Updated thru 1/23/2016 10/17/2017

Over time my intent is to discuss the Kuzari argument in more detail.  
{ETA as of 6/14/2017 there are 12 posts on the Kuzari, including some directly or indirectly applicable to Rabbi Keleman and Rabbi Gottleib's Kuzari argument/principle and it flaws.}

The are several variants of the Kuzari, but basically they reduce to the following premises, assertions and claims.

KA1) There is an oral history (and bible story) passed down from Jewish ancestors that God came down to Mount Sinai and made the Jews the chosen tribe, gave them the ten commandments (some say the entire torah).

KA2) The story’s details include: 600,000 plus people at Sinai as witnesses, a new religion started at Sinai and other features that make the story unique among all religions and myths.

KA3) It is not possible for such story to gain traction among a large population unless true.

KA4) We expect myth and religion development to follow certain patterns. But the Sinai story does not fit any of those patterns. The Sinai story's uniqueness means it must be supernatural.

It must be mentioned every assertion listed above is open to serious doubt and even refute. In addition certain logical fallacies are inherent in the argument. This will be discussed in future blog posts.


{ETA 6/27/2014 An excellent repudiation of the Kuzari argument can be found at http://atheodoxjew.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-revelation-at-sinai-was-real.html He emphasizes the distinction between the thought gestalt 2000 to 3500 years ago and more modern times.}

To begin with we know that myths (even when originally known as false) evolve and get embellished over generations as they are passed down parents to children and then become accepted as true. This is especially true for ancient ignorant, superstitious and non scientific minded people. The ancient Semites would be gullible since they had tribal gods and believed in supernatural beings. Furthermore, since there is no corroborating evidence for the Sinai story, advocating that the Sinai story is different than other myths is tantamount to the fallacy of special pleading
For these reasons alone we may reject the Kuzari argument.

{ETA 10/28/2015 The ancient Israelites were superstitious. Examples are found thru out the Tenach - For example Leviticus XVII: 7 And they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices unto the satyrs, after whom they go astray. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations.

Rambam has written in the Guide to Perplexed, prior to the Sinai revelation the ancient Israelites had been steeped in pagan ways. }

{ETA 10/31/2015 Regarding Leviticus 17:7 Ramban explains the Israelites sacrificed to demons having no power or strength at all. They had no utility.}

{ETA 10/31/2015 Exodus 32 The Israelites claim the molten calf is their god.}

{ETA 10/28/2015And they were non scientific - the scientific method had not been invented yet. In short, they would not make sufficiently good experts to evaluate  a 'revelation' or myths.} 

(ETA 11/17-18/2013 Unless the Kuzari can provide an example of mass supernatural revelation claim that we know is true or some other valid evidence that it is true seems to me to be a case of special pleading. We know that myth formation and acceptance (let alone some historical behaviors) often seem irrational to us today. Using "logic" today to speculate on how ancient unscientific  superstitious people could have or should have reacted to myth formation does not supply sufficient evidence. Also see more in my comments below to ANON.)

{ETA 6/26/2014 Kuzari proponents claim the Sinai revelation was unique therefore it is true. Besides other fallacies here are two that should be stressed 1) They draw a target around the Sinai conditions to exclude every other myth. But you can do the same for almost every other myth. (The Texas Sharpshooter fallacy). 2) An hypothesis is not accepted as true because we have failed to provide a counter example}

But my main goal in this post is to discuss a myth that seems like it would pass the Kuzari Principle.


The White Buffalo Calf Woman (WBCW) Story of the North American Sioux.

Page 234 Mythology An Illustrated Encyclopedia 1980 Richard Cavendish:

The Sioux (North American Indians) have the White Buffalo Calf pipe in a palladium in Dakota and members of the tribe make pilgrimage to it. You can read the revelation story in that book, The supernatural being is talking to the people and it sounds like a fair number from the story.

A version of the WBCW story is found at the bottom of this post.



Besides the sacred pipe in the palladium provided by WBCW, consider the following information from the book Native American ReligiousTraditions by Suzanne Crawford 2007.

P. 90 "Chapter 1 described one instance of a Lakota Sun Dance (wiwanyang wacipi), a tradition marked by personal sacrifice, prayer and reverence for the sun and the four directions. The other central ceremonies brought to the Lakota by White Buffalo Calf Woman include Inipi...Hanblceyapi...Hunkapi Iowanpi...Isnati Awicalowin...Wanagi Yuhapi...and Tapa Wankeyeyapi."

So WBCW a supernatural being directly brought a group of ceremonies to the Lakota !

P.43 "...WBCW gave the sacred pipe to the people and instructed them how they were to pray with it."

P. 43 describes the story of WBCW


(ETA - see comment section for more WBCW details, and my additions to this post below.)

Some of these ceremonies are challenging, difficult and could be painful rituals. In particular the Sun Dance could be painful. 


{ETA 10/17/2017 Some critics claim the Dakota Sioux did not believe the WBCW story. Later in this post the evidence indicates otherwise. For example, in the book the Worlds Religions second edition by William A. Young 2005 beginning on page 43: The most important sacred implement for the Oglala religion is the sacred pipe.  The pipe brought by WBCW is now on a Cheyenne reservation in South Dakota. “The pipe used in Lakota rituals today are understood to be extensions of the power of the original pipe [given by WBCW]. “ In the story WBCW turns into a white buffalo then a black buffalo. WBCW promises to return. In August 1994 a female white buffalo calf is born. Has the prophecy been fulfilled ? Many Lakota people, many Lakota elders and others believe so.  They are convinced WBCW has returned to provide humanity an opportunity to learn the ways of harmony WBCW first came to teach. }

Most people would not believe the WBCW actually existed, but using the Kuzari principle it seems you can argue the WBCW story actually happened.

The Sioux have an oral tradition regarding the pipe and other rituals dating back to WBCW, just like the Jewish claim that some laws or rituals are given by Moses (in some version of the Sinai story).


The Sioux celebrate new difficult and painful ceremonies because of WBCW

How could the WBCW story gain traction unless true ? 


{ETA 8/29/2015 
I was having some discussions at Kefirahoftheweek and one Individual supplied information from  unpublished material by Rabbi Kelemen  that maybe the Dakota did not believe in the WBCW  story. [WBCW is also known as Whope].  Kelemen is making the claim based on his reading of certain texts about Dakota stories.  I am still in the process of researching the WBCW story, but so far it seems pretty clear that the story became accepted by many Lakota and the basis of their religion.  Yet even if the story was not initially believed by anybody, and now only believed by a few Dakota, concepts such as WBCW giving the Dakota ceremonies and a sacred pipe took root among some of the Dakota. Given enough time and appropriate circumstances  it could well become an accepted widely believed Dakota story. The rise of skepticism, modern science... should  prevent such stories from gaining wide acceptance, yet even modern people may come to believe in supernatural stories - miracles. For more see my later Kuzari posts. 

From Lakota Belief and Ritual by James Walker, edited by Demallie and Jahner 1980. Walker was citing information he obtained directly from Lakota Chiefs, Shamans etc:

Page 109 Whope and the gift of the pipe told by the Shaman Mr. Finger. The Shaman explains Whope gave the pipe to the Lakota and was in their camp for four days.

Page 93 Per George Sword, Bad Wound, No Flesh and Thomas Tyon: A list of ‘good’ Gods as THEY ARE KNOWN TO THE PEOPLE is  provided. Whope is on the list.

On Page 295 “The Buffalo Calf Pipe, believed to be the first pipe brought to the Lakotas by Whope and kept by the Sans Arc Tribe.” 

From Oglala Religion by William Powers 1975, 1977

Page  49 - According to George Sword, the WBCW stayed with the people 4 days and gave them 7 great ceremonies.

Page 50 Black Elk informs us Whope gave the Sioux 7 great ceremonies.

Page 64 All sacred ceremonies of the Oglalas where given to them by WBCW. Page 89 clarifies not all, but the central ones.

Page 101 One of the 7 important religious ceremonies is The Girls Puberty Ritual also called the Buffalo Ceremony. It  marks the passage into womanhood and also establishes the girls relationship with WBCW.

Page 116 During the 1950's a Catholic Priest initiates the use of the sacred pipe as part of the Christian Mass. The idea to make Christianity more appealing to the Native Americans. However the scheme sort of backfires. The Oglala became impressed because THE PRIESTS finally saw the light and the efficacy of the Sacred Rituals first brought to the people by the sacred WBCW. [ This is fairly good evidence that many Oglala themselves came to believe that  WBCW had given them ceremonies. The Priest must have known this was their belief, which is why he initiates it’s use in Mass.]}

{ETA 9/4/2015 From the Oglala People A Political History 1841 - 1879 by Catherine Price 1996.

On Page 49 the book is discussing the significant reduction of Buffalo in the USA. "The Lakotas could certainly hunt antelope, deer, elk, and other small game instead of Buffalo , but whether they chose to do so is not the crucial issue from a Lakota perspective. More important is the belief that the Lakota's ancestors were born from the Pte Oyate (the Buffalo Cow Nation); that White Buffalo Calf Women brought the sacred pipe to the people; and that they, Tatanka (the male buffalo relatives), and Maka Ina (mother earth) are united in a sacred, harmonious relationship." [So the book is saying the people believed the sacred pipe came from WBCW. ]}

{ETA 9/10/2015 I have already cited many texts that explain the story of WBCW is foundational to traditional Lakota religion. Here are some more:

The Sioux by Royal Hassrick 1964
Page 217 The book explains the WBCW story is the origin of many moral premises of Sioux society, as well as the symbolic ceremonies expressing this morality.  The story of the Goddess Whope visiting the Earth is also told to us by Iron Shell.

American Indian Myths and Legends - Erdoes and Ortiz 1984
Page XV - “In the end, however these legends are not told merely for enjoyment, or for education, or for amusement: they are believed.”
Page 47 Crow Dog, a Sioux medicine man explains WBCW - “This holy women brought the sacred buffalo calf pipe to the Sioux. There could be no indians without it. Before she came, people did not know how to live. They knew nothing. The buffalo women put her sacred mind into their minds.”
The book prints the WBCW story as per Lame Deer 1967.

The Sioux by Guy Gibbon 2003
Page 132 “A major religious figure in traditional lakota religion is the White Buffalo Calf Women, who as the messenger of the great unkown, brought the people the gift of the pipe and the seven ceremonies that were the foundation of the Lakota way of life.”
Page 151 The story of WBCW and the gift of the sacred pipe  - a foundational lakota narrative. First told hundreds of years ago.

Teton Sioux Music (Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 61) - Francis Densmore 1918
Page 63 - Lone Man (Isna la Wica) tells the ancient sacred tradition of the Sioux and this includes the story of WBCW visiting.
Page 69 The Alowanpi Ceremony - “Among the Sioux this ceremony was closely associated with the White Buffalo Calf Maiden and her mysterious visit to the tribe.”}

{ETA 9/16/2015 I have researched more books and scholarly articles on the Sacred Pipe.

Journal of American Folklore 1906 - Vol XIX No. 75 22,  Legend of the Teton Sioux Medicine Pipe - by George A Dorsey. Percy Phillips a full blooded Sioux provides the account of WBCW and a seemingly important tribal ceremony. Percy explains - The Sans Arc have the pipe; a great many people see WBCW in the story. Also, different tribes make offerings to the pipe. Whenever they are in need or in hunger 10 best men go and plead to the pipe. Within 1-3 days their prayer is answered.  General Custer swore by the pipe he would not fight the Indians. The next summer he disregards his oath and is killed.He who swears by the pipe and breaks the oath will experience destruction. The people call the pipe the calf pipe because the women who brought it transformed into a buffalo.

From The Sacred Calf Pipe Bundle: It’s Effect on the Present Teton Dakota by J.L. Smith in the Plains Anthropologist 15, 1970 pages 87-93

WBCW gave the people the sacred calf pipe bundle and certain religious ceremonies. “From the old days to the present this bundle has been held in great reverence.” The WBCW events occur to the Red Water band of the Sans Arcs who’s Chief was Standing Buffalo. WBCW addresses the people. The people saw her turn into a white buffalo calf. “The legend is still very popular among the present Teton.” 
Based on consulting many winter counts, the author estimates 1785-1800 the time when WBCW came, and states regardless of the winter counts there exists the pipe bundle.  Informants tell there were no pipes before the coming of the sacred calf pipe and all pipe since approximate it. Citing Mekeel (articles in American Museum of Natural History and North Dakota Historical Quarterly) all of the keepers of the bundle are from the Red Water Sans Arcs. In the 1930's Red Eagle was the keeper. During her term there was a drought and the leaders of the community on the Cheyenne River petition her for the bundle. She sat out in the sun from dawn to dusk holding the pipe - refusing to move to the shade. Relatives say her death three months later in October 1936 was a result sitting in the sun. [The article does not tell us if rain came.]  In the old days the pipe bundle was kept in the lodge of the keeper and taken outside on good days displaying it for the benefit of the people.  There is now a catch all shed and “The pipe bundle is no longer taken outside, mainly because all are afraid to go near it.”  

The Sioux - By Royal Hassrick 1964

Page 223 explains: WBCW is said to have come over 10 generations ago. Interestingly at this time the Sioux were engaged in a losing struggle with the Chippewas. Supernatural intervention came not as weapon, but as a code and symbol of peace - the pipe. Such aid made it possible for the Sioux to accept defeat. She also brought a code of honor. 

From Legends of the Lakota by James LaPointe 1976, the Indian Historical Press.

James a Lakota was born in 1893.  Beginning on page 7 he explains: “Early in their ancient history, the Lakota received the most important symbol of their religion the sacred pipe. (The cross, as an example, may be compared to the sacred pipe in religious importance). So strongly have the people believed in it, that its use has remained constant even to modern times.”  White Buffalo Women gave the sacred pipe.


Page 23 In ancient times White Buffalo Women brought the Sacred Pipe to the Lakota. She also gave laws by which the Lakota were to live a moral life.  “This memorable drama is regarded as a factual event.” The book also tells the story of WBCW. 

{ETA 10/31/2015 From the book Native Religions and Culture of North America - Lawrence Sullivan (Editor) 2000 Page 18 "White Buffalo Calf Women becomes essential to the relationship between the creator and the people. She reveals a sacred pipe that they can smoke when they require help from the creator." She taught the 7 sacred ceremonies which becomes the foundation of Lakota religion.} 


[I think all the above references are strong  evidence the story of WBCW and her gift of the Sacred pipe had gained traction among many of the the Teton Chiefs, Leaders, Holy Men, and people. That the story was not understood to be fictional, but an actual event in the history of the Teton.] }

{ETA 9/16/2015 A commentator at Kefirahoftehweek    http://kefirahoftheweek.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-modern-kuzari-argument.html posted the following information (see next paragraph) from  a Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen’s unpublished article regarding the Kuzari argument. I have not seen Kelemens unpublished commentary, but will assume for this blog post that extract accurately represents Kelemen. People should not use it to disparage Kelemen since I can not vouch for it’s accuracy.   So I will use the name LEMON instead of Kelemen.

LEMON : To properly comprehend the Lakota worldview, it is crucial to step out of the Western mindset that assumes cultures place literal faith in their mythology. Ella Cara Deloria (1889-1971), herself a Lakota Indian who mastered English and became one of the first to publish written records of Lakota mythology, clarifies for those outside of the Sioux culture that "The purpose of such tales was to amuse and entertain, but not to be believed" (Elaine A. Jahner, p.26). Deloria wrote in 1938, only six years after the story was first told, that the Legend of the Sacred Pipe is "the work of a clever Lakota storyteller… The stuff of which they are built is Lakota, but the tale as such had never been in oral tradition" (ibid, p. 22). Jahner, professor of English and Native American Studies at Dartmouth, writes, "Deloria recognized the many kinds of oral creativity that characterized a vital traditional community... She also documented the adoption of European tales into the folklore of Lakota communities" (ibid., p. 23).

My Response:

LEMON has taken sentences from the book he cites out of context and thus insinuates the WBCW and her giving the Sacred Pipe was not part of traditional Lakota religion and that the story was treated as fiction by the Lakota.  I have seen no indication in any of the numerous articles and books about the Sacred Pipe that suggests the story was understood as fiction by the Lakota. Quite the opposite - see the numerous reference above. But I am still researching and trying to contact living experts on Lakota Religion.

First a little background. James Walker lived among the Dakota 1896-1914 and wrote volumes about the Dakota. Demallie and or Jahner wrote the intro to some of Walker’s books when his material was published in books about in the 1980's.

LEMON 1 - “To properly comprehend the Lakota worldview, it is crucial to step out of the Western mindset that assumes cultures place literal faith in their mythology.”

Response to LEMON 1 - I doubt that Western cultures place literal faith in all their mythology. Some myth were thought to be true and some not. The same is probably true for every culture, including the Ancient Israelites/Jews, Modern Jews of all denominations, Greeks etc: and according to Deloria we will see it is also true of the Lakota ! 

LEMON 2 - “Ella Cara Deloria (1889-1971), herself a Lakota Indian who mastered English and became one of the first to publish written records of Lakota mythology, clarifies for those outside of the Sioux culture that "The purpose of such tales was to amuse and entertain, but not to be believed" (Elaine A. Jahner, p.26). [This is page 26 in Lakota Myth by Walker including an Intro by Jahner] “

Response to LEMON 2  - LEMON  is quoting Jahner out of context. In  Deloria’s book  Dakota Texts Volume XIV she explains One group of Dakota stories where not believed. BUT there is a second group of stories that were believed.  

So some of the stories in DELORIA’s book were believed and some not. But it is even worse for LEMON -  Page 26 the very page he cites disproves him - because it writes some tales were believed to be historical.

 I skimmed thru Deloria’s book Dakota Texts and did not find the story of WBCW in the book. And the WBCW story is not in the book Lemon is citing. Rather it is found in a different book Lakota Belief and Ritual by James Walker, Editors Demallie and Jahner 1980. 

 LEMON  3 cites "The purpose of such tales was to amuse and entertain, but not to be believed" (Elaine A. Jahner, p.26). “

Response to LEMON 3 - This is Jahner quoting  Deloria’s response to some Dakota stories. It is not a reference of Deloria regarding the WBCW story as implied by LEMON. Also see my LEMON 2 above.

LEMON 4  “Deloria wrote in 1938, only six years after the story was first told, that the Legend of the Sacred Pipe is "the work of a clever Dakota storyteller… The stuff of which they are built is Dakota, but the tale as such had never been in oral tradition" (ibid, p. 22).”

Response to LEMON 4 - This makes no sense. According to LEMON’s reading the story was first told in the 1930's. Yet I have seen an actual book published in 1906 and 1918 with the WBCW story in it !

LEMON  is citing page 22 from the book Lakota Myth by James R. Walker including an intro by Jahner. Deloria is referring to the stories told by Sword to Walker. BUT, the story of WBCW was told to Walker by Finger as seen in a different book .

LEMON also  misquotes the text. The text actually says “tales” not tale. This makes LEMON statement  very misleading, as if Deloria is addressing the WBCW story; yet she was not at all doing that. Also I did not find in the text where it says the Legend of the Sacred Pipe is not in the oral tradition or it is the work of a clever Dakota storyteller.  It is a false quote.}

{ETA 1/23/2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bv1_Yf6vAsc

Oglala Lakota Women and Buffalo - in this short video a modern  Oglala women treats the giving of the sacred pipe by WBCW as an actual historical event. Listen to the first couple minutes. This is not an Isolated video by one Oglala. There are many youtube videos where the Oglala treat WBCW as an actual historical event. } 




See Kuzari Part 2

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A version of the WBCW story as found at http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/White-Buffalo-Calf-Woman-Sioux.html


Briefly here is the account, but see the link for more details and for accuracy.

A long time ago there was a famine for lack of game. Daily two hunters depart looking for game, and one day up a hill they see a most beautiful female floating figure. One scout out of desire tried to touch her but was killed by lighting. This female was the WBCW. She told the scout she would appear in the village and to inform the Chief to make arrangements. After four days they saw WBCW coming. She told them to make a sacred alter and held out a pipe to the people and explained how to use it. The villagers dipped some sweet grass, into a skin bag of water and gave it to her, and to this day the people dip sweet grass or an eagle wing in water 
and sprinkle it on a person to be purified. She also taught various other rituals and skills.

“The people saw her walking off in the same direction from which she 
had come, outlined against the red ball of the setting sun. As she 
went, she stopped and rolled over four times. The first time, she 
turned into a black buffalo; the second into a brown one; the third 
into a red one; and finally, the fourth time she rolled over, she 
turned into a white female buffalo calf.” After which the buffalo herds return.

UPDATE - Minor change was to summarize the story from the link and partially quote it less 10/6-10/7/2013




26 comments:

shunah uporash said...

Loved it, I'm looking forward to seeing more from you...

Anonymous said...

The article you linked to says "She told the Lakota that they were the purest among the tribes..." While earlier it claimed a presentation to the 'nation'. Was it one tribe, or a whole nation? How many? When did the event take place?
Why are names of leaders, families and their geneologies omitted?
The story is told by a 'Lamedeer' in 1967. Do we know that a large group believed it to be a factual, literal story about their own ancestors? Are there contradictory versions? Which is the traditional version? Regardless, from this version it clearly mentions one 'camp', one 'tribe', so it cannot qualify for the "Kuzari Principle" because, like some other claims, if this claim was (falsely) presented to the people at a future date, or naturally evolved, and they asked 'why did we not hear about such a fantastic claim. We should have heard about it.' They could be told that 'it was only tribe X that was present, but we are all descended from other tribes. But we are all one family, so me(the story teller)getting the story from my father is the same as all of us getting the story from the original tribe...'.
To qualify for Kuzari, it must be a claim of the complete presence of the ancestors, who were historically identifiable. Here, there are no claims of large numbers of witnesses. No geneologies. No timeline claiming how long ago it happened. Very few details. And maybe most significantly, the main claim that something amazing and unusual happened in 'public', was very brief(the rolling over turning into a buffalo on the way out)and of questionable significance. Maybe a camp of 50-100 Indians were smoking a pipe and halucinated. Some saw it and some didn't or weren't sure and maybe became convinced.
Compare this with the claim believed by Jews, that their complete nation of ancestors, historically indentifiable as the 'children of Israel', 'Jews' etc. all witnessed great miracles, simultaneous national revelation, and ate food that appeared miraculously in the desert daily, for forty years, where no hallucination or trickery can be sustained for such a long time. This began a new religion with a massive text of laws supposedly implemented into daily life of the nation and passed on to their children. There are recorded names of leaders, geneologies, families, location of settlement and other details. Based on the version of the story you linked to, I don't see how they can be compared with respect to the Kuzari Principle. All the best

Anonymous said...


Couldn't tell if it went through the first time..

The article you linked to says "She told the Lakota that they were the purest among the tribes..." While earlier it claimed a presentation to the 'nation'. Was it one tribe, or a whole nation? How many? When did the event take place?
Why are names of leaders, families and their geneologies omitted?
The story is told by a 'Lamedeer' in 1967. Do we know that a large group believed it to be a factual, literal story about their own ancestors? Are there contradictory versions? Which is the traditional version? Regardless, from this version it clearly mentions one 'camp', one 'tribe', so it cannot qualify for the "Kuzari Principle" because, like some other claims, if this claim was (falsely) presented to the people at a future date, or naturally evolved, and they asked 'why did we not hear about such a fantastic claim. We should have heard about it.' They could be told that 'it was only tribe X that was present, but we are all descended from other tribes. But we are all one family, so me(the story teller)getting the story from my father is the same as all of us getting the story from the original tribe...'.
To qualify for Kuzari, it must be a claim of the complete presence of the ancestors, who were historically identifiable. Here, there are no claims of large numbers of witnesses. No geneologies. No timeline claiming how long ago it happened. Very few details. And maybe most significantly, the main claim that something amazing and unusual happened in 'public', was very brief(the rolling over turning into a buffalo on the way out)and of questionable significance. Maybe a camp of 50-100 Indians were smoking a pipe and halucinated. Some saw it and some didn't or weren't sure and maybe became convinced.
Compare this with the claim believed by Jews, that their complete nation of ancestors, historically indentifiable as the 'children of Israel', 'Jews' etc. all witnessed great miracles, simultaneous national revelation, and ate food that appeared miraculously in the desert daily, for forty years, where no hallucination or trickery can be sustained for such a long time. This began a new religion with a massive text of laws supposedly implemented into daily life of the nation and passed on to their children. There are recorded names of leaders, geneologies, families, location of settlement and other details. Based on the version of the story you linked to, I don't see how they can be compared with respect to the Kuzari Principle. All the best

Anonymous said...

Your claim that there is no evidence for Sinai, and the argument is therefore special pleading is just misunderstanding the argument. The argument does not assume anything factual about the claimed event. The argument is based on the fact that the actual claim is different from other claims.

It starts with the observable fact that the 'Sinai claim' has unique differences from other claims that are known to have appeared through myth formation or conspiracy. Corroborating evidence is irrelavent.

Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist said...

@Anon. Based on the books I cite, it seems the Dakota did believe the WBCW story to be true. The tribe that followed the rituals claim the rituals came from WBCW and for this tribe Kuzari could apply.

The Torah also has conflicting stories about the Sinai revelation. We do not know where it occurs, and the academic consensus is the Exodus (of 600,000 plus) from Egypt and the desert wandering in the desert for 40 years, did not occur. Even the term (aleph) describing the volume of people at Sinai is uncertain (meaning maybe there were not 600,000 plus people, but rather a few hundred or thousand). In short there are a many uncertainties to the Exodus story as well.

If you construe the Kuzari argument to require all the elements inherent in the Torah Sinai story it is as if you have a target and have a drawn a circle around it and thus exclude all other stories.

Asking people to believe in the Sinai story (with all its miracles) is a case of special pleading. Uniqueness of the supernatural Sinai claim, over other supernatural claims, does not make it any more true. Extraordinary claims require Extraordinary evidence. However, if there was corroborating evidence, then the Sinai story would be much less of a case of special pleading.

Thanks you for the comments.

Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist said...

@ANON "White Buffalo Calf Woman (Lakota: Pte Ska Win / Pteskawin / Ptesanwi) is a sacred woman of supernatural origin, central to the Lakota religion as the primary cultural prophet. Oral traditions relate that she brought the "Seven Sacred Rituals" to the Teton Sioux."http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Buffalo_Calf_Woman

Anonymous said...

Alter, this link you posted sounds like a different version. It doesn't even have the turning into a buffalo bit. The only unordinary thing claimed is witnessed by 'two scouts'. The claim that she was a 'sacred woman of supernatural origin' is not claiming an event, it is an interpretation of an event(seeing a human woman). It is no different from many ancient beliefs that a king or other people were 'gods'. The claim was never that they witnessed God directly, it was that they witnessed a person, and believed him to be God. The same applies here. The Sinai claim says that the whole nation simultaneously experienced a communication which they all understood came from a non-physical entity and knew was the creator and controller of nature, and he told the nation that he was the one who manipulated nature in Egypt and freed them.

Anonymous said...

"We do not know where it occurs"

Well, the splitting of the sea was at the Red Sea(sea of Reeds). The path of the encampments are detailed in the Torah and the cities in Egypt they were in. Even if they can't be located exactly several thousand years later, there is enough information to narrow it down. But, I'm not sure why it's relevant. Why is what's known not enough? All the KP needs is a belief that the original believers should expect that were it true, it should have left over enormous evidence(we should have heard about it from our grandparents etc.). I don't see why knowing the Sinai desert, from Egypt, through the Red Sea, and the general route recorded is not more than enough for our purposes.

Anonymous said...

"and the academic consensus is the Exodus (of 600,000 plus) from Egypt and the desert wandering in the desert for 40 years, did not occur."

I don't know why the 'academic consensus' has any value if they are taking an educated guess. Science is supposed to be based on evidence. How are they proving that something didn't happen 3300 years ago? Arguing from absence is not strong. How did they decide what should have been left over, and what should have survived erosion, natural disasters, looting etc.. How did they know exactly where to look? Did they check every possible place? Did they dig deeply enough? etc.

Anonymous said...

"Even the term (aleph) describing the volume of people at Sinai is uncertain (meaning maybe there were not 600,000 plus people, but rather a few hundred or thousand)."

I've never heard this one. What is your basis for questioning this term? It sounds bizarre to me. Many times the Torah describes the leadership structure of the tribes, and names the general of 10's, then of 100's, then of 'alaphim', it sure sounds like a clear pattern. In any case, several times the Torah records a census of the nation and records the population numbers within tribes, tribe totals, and then says the national total. It's simple addition, and it uses the word there. See Exodus 18:21(right before the 'Sinai event')for the word in a clear pattern. We don't need to question what the word means if we do the math ourselves(see beginning of Numbers).

Anonymous said...

"If you construe the Kuzari argument to require all the elements inherent in the Torah Sinai story it is as if you have a target and have a drawn a circle around it and thus exclude all other stories."

Where did anyone require 'all the elements inherent...'?

The 'elements' are not just chosen arbitrarily. They are an attempt to describe the principle of the argument, which is based on an event which if true, would leave over(according to the expectations of the receivers of the story) tremendous, easily available evidence for the first receivers of the event. The proposal is, that significant numbers of people will not believe it if that expected evidence is missing('we should have heard about it if it were true'). The criteria could be argued, but to some degree they naturally follow. One or two, or a couple hundred witnesses, especially if unnamed, and they or their direct descendents are not expected to be accessible to the ones hearing the story for verification(for whatever reason, whether too much time passed, or the story included only one portion of the ancestors and they can't be sure it was their own who witnessed it, they aren't identifiable etc...) does not meet the criteria. Not just any group claim will do.

Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist said...

@Anon
This was labeled Kuzari part one and it provides a story that appears to fit the Kuzari. (Discussion of the other Kuzari aspects were for later posts, but unfortunately my response comments were wrote in haste). Of course Kuzari proponents will say it is not similar for various reasons.

The Teton Sioux have an oral tradition of new rituals introduced by a being believed to be supernatural. The people claiming this are decedents of the original witnesses who are the Teton Sioux. These decedents visit a pipe which they believe was given to them by a supernatural being. You are welcome to search the web, read books and find out more about the story. The second link I provided was to confirm there was an oral tradition among the tribe, that is all.

They had reasons to believe she was supernatural, which included the buffalo transformations which they claim their ancestors witnessed.

For now, the reason I mention there are uncertainties or inconsistences in the Sinai story because U did so for WBCF story.

The academic consensus is important and I was leaving this for another post. Very briefly - If they found archeological evidence for a mass of people in the desert or confirming information from any ancient near east country supporting the premise of a mass exodus of slaves from Egypt or mass of people in desert or massive invasion of Canaan etc:, the Exodus story would have at least some credibility. Protracted intensive archeological digging, satellite surveys and other methods of historians, archeologists.... have come up with no evidence. Without this supporting evidence the Exodus story is just like other myths, and so it is a case of special pleading. If U want to know how the academic consensus was reached study their texts. Many apologetics require almost insurmountable evidence from academic disciplines that dispute their dogma, while those same apologetics make assertions with virtually no evidence to support their own position.

Regarding aleph - I can not claim this for myself. Some apologetics try to explain away the lack of evidence of the Exodus mass by saying there would not be any if the scale was smaller. If the scale was smaller then there was no mass of people at Sinai and this would violate Kuzari argument. Those apologetics are very familiar with Hebrew and the bible.

>>>The elements' are not just chosen arbitrarily....

You seemed to be doing just that when U asked for say genealogies, named leaders, time lines ... seemed like U are adding to the list of requirements to satisfy the Kuzari. So, see my next sentence.

>>They are an attempt to describe the principle of the argument, which is based on an event which if true....

Can U be so kind as to write your understanding of Kuzari with premises and conclusion stated clearly.

Also, please provide the Chapter and verse for your assertions regarding the story in the Torah.

Then we can see if WBCW or any story satisfies the premises.

Thank you again for the visit.

Anonymous said...

Again, the KP is not arbitrarily looking for a difference that makes Sinai unique. It is making a hypothesis that there is a limit to what people will believe. That

they(in significant proportions, not just a few crazies) will not believe in spite of the absence of expected , enormous, easily available evidence. So since Sinai's

uniqueness is cause for receivers of the story to expect enormous, easily available evidence if it were true(grandparents memories, a national reliigon etc.), and

people won't believe if that is missing, and historically people have believed(with clear evidence going back at least 2000+yrs(maybe 2400+see Elephantine paparietc.),

therefore it should make it more believable/true.

"The Teton Sioux have an oral tradition of new rituals introduced by a being believed to be supernatural. The people claiming this are decedents of the original

witnesses who are the Teton Sioux. These decedents visit a pipe which they believe was given to them by a supernatural being."

You have not addressed the points I made in previous posts.

"Of course Kuzari proponents will say it is not similar for various reasons."

Of course anti-Kuzari proponents will say it is similar for various reasons.

Saying 'of course', and 'various reasons', implying that the arguments are made only on the basis of bias is an insinuation, which can be made in both directions. It

has no content, ignores the reasons I gave for my argument, and fails to give any reasons for maintaining your position in spite of my arguments.

"Regarding aleph - I can not claim this for myself. Some apologetics try to explain away the lack of evidence of the Exodus mass by saying there would not be any if

the scale was smaller. If the scale was smaller then there was no mass of people at Sinai and this would violate Kuzari argument. Those apologetics are very familiar

with Hebrew and the bible."

If you can't claim it for yourself, you shouldn't use it. "Those apologetics are very familiar with Hebrew and the bible." does not add credibility. If you are relying

on any claim made in the name of Torah or 'apologetics' in order to attack Torah, you should accept any claim made in the name of science which disagree with the

'concensus', which does exist on most issues.

Anonymous said...

"The academic consensus is important and I was leaving this for another post. Very briefly - If they found archeological evidence for a mass of people in the desert or

confirming information from any ancient near east country supporting the premise of a mass exodus of slaves from Egypt or mass of people in desert or massive invasion

of Canaan etc:, the Exodus story would have at least some credibility. Protracted intensive archeological digging, satellite surveys and other methods of historians,

archeologists.... have come up with no evidence. Without this supporting evidence the Exodus story is just like other myths, and so it is a case of special pleading.

If U want to know how the academic consensus was reached study their texts. Many apologetics require almost insurmountable evidence from academic disciplines that

dispute their dogma, while those same apologetics make assertions with virtually no evidence to support their own position."

The adademic concensus is not important. You have not given a reason why it should be. Science is important. Science is based on reasons and evidence. Scientific

concensus is only important if it has good reasons and evidence. Believing something and giving it importance because it is the 'concensus', is an appeal to authority,

it is unreasoned faith.

And in this case you are assuming their conclusions to be true, and demanding physical evidence from those arguing in support of the Torah. You have it backwards.

Those arguing the Kuzari Principle are making a claim about the formation of beliefs and their reliability. We claim a transmission of knowledge of the Egypt/Sinai

events, and claim that such a belief could not have become what it is by myth-formation or a conspiracy(as I described earlier).
You are trying to disprove the Kuzari argument, and bringing scientific opinion to disprove the events directly. The burden of proof is on you and anyone trying to

disprove. And it is very difficult to prove something did not happen based on the absence of evidence. "Many apologetics require almost insurmountable evidence from

academic disciplines that dispute their dogma" This is shifting the burden of proof. Those who are 'disputing' ('dogma' shows your bias) have the burden of proof to

show that there was no exodus etc. They have the burden of proof to argue what evidence should be found, and to prove not just that they didn't find it, but that it

does not exist, it is not findable. I don't have to study their texts. It is their, or whomever is representing their views' responsibility to show why you've

succeeded in proving something to not exist. The Torah doesn't make any specific claims that necessitate physical evidence being findable 3300 years later, therefore

the Torah is not responsible for requiring non insurmountable evidence from people trying to show that evidence is absent 3300 years later.

Anonymous said...

"while those same apologetics make assertions with virtually no evidence to support their own position"

The Kuzari argument is not based on claims of physical evidence. Saying it is like all other myths because there is no physical evidence is ignoring the Kuzari

argument.

If you want to disprove the Torah claims based on scientific/academic arguments, you must show convincingly what evidence should exist and that it doesn't exist.

If you want to disprove the Kuzari argument, you have to show a counter-example that respects the claim contained in the K principle.

Like I said before, the argument is that a belief will not form falsely if the believers would expect enormous, easily available evidence, but that evidence is

missing.

And like I said, you could argue what the criteria of Kuzari should be. But the point is that what ever criteria are chosen must respect this principle. The criteria

must justify the expectation(not reality) in the mind of the potential believers of enormous, easily available evidence, and show that in reality it was missing, and

yet significant numbers of people believed it to be true in spite of the missing, expected evidence.

Asking for things like the complete set of ancestors, geneologies, location of settlements etc. is not for the sake of being able to physically verify the claims

later. It is to satisfy the principle that people hearing a claim containing such details, would expect evidence to be available in their time. An Indian tradition

that one tribe of their ancestors experienced something, when the claim doesn't say details such as large numbers of witnesses, geneologies etc., does not create the

expectation for one hearing it (if it were heard at a future date) of enormous, easily available evidence. One hearing the tradition could ask the storyteller 'why did

I not hear about it already from my grandparents?' and could be told, 'they weren't faithful to the tradition, but I heard it from my grandfather'. His decision to

believe is now based solely on one source. Try the same scenerio with Jews at some point in history(say 670bce). '650 years ago the whole nation of our ancestors

heard God speak to them and to Moses and witnessed many miracles including eating miraculously appearing food in the desert, daily for 40 years and this began a new

national religion full of laws for national, and individual everyday life. 'Why did I not hear about this from my grandparents?' What can the explanation be? That only

one tribe witnessed it? but the belief is that the whole nation was there.

Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist said...

@ANON Tried to respond to your comments (there are so many), but perhaps U misunderstand my response or my response was not clear. Some of your sentences need more clarification.. So which comment should I respond to ?

Beforedoing so it would be very helpful for U to lay out and label your version of the Kuzari premises and conclusions, otherwise we may be going in circles.

>> If you can't claim it for yourself, you shouldn't use it...

I disagree. There is ambiguity in the term aleph and the scale according to several respected experts in Hebrew and the bible and so there is an uncertainty in the story. But by no means is it the only uncertainty in the Exodus story. That is for another post.

I have not formed an opinion about aleph uncertainty and must research it further. Since U have not heard their arguments, may I suggest U research it. (They were trying to DEFEND the torah. It is about biblical Hebrew and context, not science. It is possible expert people can disagree on the meaning with neither side being proved incorrect.)

>>The academic consensus is not important.

I disagree, because they are peer reviewed, give evidence, give reasons and must defend their views.

>>> Believing something and giving it importance because it is the 'consensus', is an appeal to authority...

I disagree again, See for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority is sometimes a valid argument.

X holds that A is true.
X is a legitimate expert on the subject matter.
The consensus of subject-matter experts agrees with X.
Therefore, there exists a presumption that A is true.

>>>Those arguing the Kuzari Principle are making a claim about the formation of beliefs and their reliability. We claim a transmission of knowledge of the Egypt/Sinai events, and claim that such a belief could not have become what it is by myth-formation or a conspiracy(as I described earlier).

I disagree and believe that is just what happened - myth development for the WBCW and the Exodus story. How the myths could have reasonably developed is complicated and will hopefully be discussed in future posts. Any reasonable scenario would then disprove the Kuzari. The focus on my first post was very limited to WBCW that seems like it may satisfy Kuzari requirements. So please lay out your version of Kuzari premises and conclusions.

>>You are trying to disprove the Kuzari argument, and bringing scientific opinion to disprove the events directly. The burden of proof is on you and anyone trying to disprove....

Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist said...

@ANON The burden of proof is on the person claiming a supernatural event occurred to show it is consistent with historical and archeological knowledge. The Exodus story of 600000 plus etc: etc: is not. Name even one qualified expert historian or archeologist who believes the Exodus story (mass slaves, plagues, mass slave exit, mass of people 40 years in desert, mass invasion of Canaan) occurred and has published their view in an academic journal. When I say believe, I do not mean emunah, but based on academic discipline.

>>And it is very difficult to prove something did not happen based on the absence of evidence.

In some cases it is difficult, but for the Exodus story a compelling case can be made. Hence the academic consensus.

>> Those who are 'disputing' ('dogma' shows your bias) have the burden of proof to show that there was no exodus etc.

I disagree. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The burden is on those making supernatural claims, especially when the claim is in book with other fanciful tales, apparent contradictions, apparent anachronisms, apparent unscientific claims, and other assorted apparent nonsense...but that is another discussion.

However, there is evidence that the Exodus stories probably did not happen the way Orthodox Judaism claims it did. (That is the academic consensus.).

>>The Kuzari argument is not based on claims of physical evidence. Saying it is like all other myths because there is no physical evidence is ignoring the Kuzari argument.

I do not think it reasonable to look at the Kuzari as an abstract principle when empirical evidence about the Exodus story is available. For example, someone can provide me a philosophical proof” why xyz must be true. (Not that Kuzari actually qualifies as a philosophical proof). The proof falls flat if there is contradictory empirical evidence against xyz.

>>If you want to disprove the Kuzari argument, you have to show a counter-example that respects the claim contained in the K principle....

Since when is an argument true just because no counter-example exists ? Can U provide me a citation.

SO, before we can continue our conversation lay out your version of the Kuzari labeled premises and conclusion and I will try to find U a story to match your premises or a counter example.

Thank you visiting.

Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist said...

@anon

>>It starts with the observable fact that the 'Sinai claim' has unique differences from other claims that are known to have appeared through myth formation or conspiracy.

visitation from supernatural being(s), miracles, and a Warrior god. It occurred very long time ago and we can not question the alleged witnesses. This is common in other myths as well.

Even if the Sinai story is so unique it does not mean it is true.

Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist said...

@Anon
>>"..the KP is not arbitrarily looking for a difference that makes Sinai unique. It is making a hypothesis that there is a limit to what people will believe."

And in my opinion ancient, unscientific and superstitious people can be very gullible or not as questioning. (Even modern people can be led to believe falshoods.) In other words, ancient people can behave irrationally.

The kernal of Sinai story could have began among a small group of people, then as the population grew the story was still accepted.

Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist said...

@Anon

>>>"This began a new religion with a massive text of laws supposedly implemented into daily life of the nation and passed on to their children.

Many of the rituals of Judaism predate the alleged Sinai event. I would argue a new religion did not start at Sinai or at any particular point in time.

Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist said...

@Anon

>>>"They are an attempt to describe the principle of the argument, which is based on an event which if true, would leave over(according to the expectations of the receivers of the story) tremendous, easily available evidence for the first receivers of the event.

Ok, so U are now defining a special kind of event, an event that would leave evidence. An example would be an explosion.

>>>The proposal is, that significant numbers of people will not believe it if that expected evidence is missing('we should have heard about it if it were true').

Here is where I disagree for 3 reasons. Myth evolution can explain how false events eventually become believed by the masses. We can not assume ancient unscientific people would be as skeptical as modern critical thinkers. Even a mass of modern people come to believe in falsehoods.


Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist said...

@Anon
There is the Sinai story in the Torah. It is very difficult to show let alone prove any people actually witnessed or believed the Sinai revelation. Previously I suggested some reasons. It will turn into another debate, but consider soon after Sinai the golden calf. Then the almost continuous Idol worship by the masses and even Israelite Kings. How likely is it for this to occur so soon after a revelation from God ?

Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist said...

WBCW story

Here is another link http://www.ilhawaii.net/~stony/dcmyths.html

The story says "[WBCW] She told the Lakota that they were the purest among the tribes...." So it sounds like she is speaking to many people.

Later "The people saw ..." the miracle transformation. This probably refers to the same Lakota people.

The Chief was Standing Hollow Horn. Notice another seeming miracle that the buffalo reappeared just after she leaves.

In the Book The Encyclopedia of Native American Religions A. Hirschfelder, P. Molin 1992 On page 318 - Chief Black Elk says it was Chief Standing Hollow Horn too. And it says the people of the camp saw her. The people saw the buffalo transformations.

Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist said...

@anon - Last week I was very busy and did not read your comments carefully enough before responding. I have tried to address some more of your comments directly. Over the next few weeks I will probably add more comments.

Your comments gave me a better appreciation of the Kuzari argument. So thank you.


Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist said...

@Anon

>>> "To qualify for Kuzari, it must be a claim of the complete presence of the ancestors, who were historically identifiable."

WBCW story its the Lakota and they are historically Identifiable. But U reject that story.

Lets suppose no other story meets your ad hoc stringent criteria. So U have a single unique story and it's people who accept it. Then based on what evidence can U say the story is true ?

There are ways the Sinai story may have evolved over time to eventually become accepted by a large mass of people.