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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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Kuzari Part 11

This is a continuation of the Kuzari Argument begun here,  I would suggest skimming all my prior Kuzari posts. 

Here is one version of the Kuzari argument, but similar sentiments  permeate many versions of the Kuzari argument.

“Where the ‘Exodus-Sinai story’ false, it wouldn’t have gotten beyond the innumerable other people - like us but who came before us - who heard it.” Moreover, so many people can not be wrong.

It may surprise where this version of Kuzari argument (the portion in bold face) came from. It is a direct quote and readings from page 103 of the book Rumors by Jean-Noel Kapferer 1990  I simply replaced the book’s word ‘rumor’ with ‘Exodus-Sinai story’ !

[Rumor, myth, legend, urban legend, national tradition,  collective memory, group think overlap sharing much in common and are not a reliable source for truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. ]

Beginning on page 103 from Kapferer  and in regard to the previously cited bolded 'proof'  he has this to say: “ The group is thus assumed to have filtered the rumor before it reaches us.”  This is one reason rumors can spread even amongst intelligent and educated people. In addition: “To believe in a rumor is to manifest one’s allegiance to the group voice, i.e. to collective opinion.” Rumors contribute to social cohesion. [ Tribal allegiance would be very important in ancient times,  and provides ample motivation for beliefs even in the absence of  evidence. Survival of the tribe may depend on widespread beliefs.]

[Kapferer's  book is based on social psychology, crowd psychology and behavior, marketing, individual psychology and other academic disciplines. It is rooted in empirical evidence, in empirical studies of numerous rumors, some in real time as they are evolving. It is rooted  in actual human behavior. It  behooves people who give credence to the Kuzari arguments/principles to spend some time reading such books.]

Page 139 Often rumors have no original truth.  Rumors may result from a constructive process by a group faced with an ambiguous event. [Could a major Volcano eruption be conflated with God(s) by ancient people ? Yes. My prior Kuzari posts documented this amongst several different cultures. Somehow some escaped Israelite slaves manage to survive in the desert.  This could be ascribed to divine intervention. There were probably other  ambiguous events that could lead to the the construction of the Exodus-Sinai stories by a cadre with certain interests.]

Page 178 The book explains regarding rumors of movie stars  “We prefer a story that does us good to a truth that gives nothing.” [And there is no reason why the same should not apply to some rumors, legends, myths and the Exodus - Sinai stories.]

Page 243 “The resistance of certain rumors to facts sometimes surprises observers. For a rumor to spread, it must survive the legitimate objections inevitably raised by the first people who hear it. Reality must thus at least not have been an obstacle to the rumor.”  The book goes on to explain - "But the proliferation of absurd rumors prove rumor is able to surf on the surface of reality and absorb counter-arguments that people put forward. Proofs and counter arguments are turned around allowing the rumor to persist.” [ This is true today, but how much more so in ancient times with widespread belief in supernatural beings interacting with people and other motivations to accept rumors.]

Page 264 “And what we find is that altogether unfounded information can circulate in society as founded information and has the same mobilizing effects” ;

“Social knowledge is based on faith not proof.”

Page 82 The most important reason we believe rumors is the rumors convey information we want to believe. It may overturn our usual criteria of realism, plausibility, the latter being governed by our desire to believe, not the other way around.

Page 84 Rumors we hear often find an echo in us - this due to belonging to a social group whose opinions, values, and attitude we share. The psychological benefits reaped in adopting and participating in rumors clearly justifies our not being punctilious about their plausibility. However, rumors must include a certain dose of realism - meaning given the state of knowledge of the public the rumor was not improbable.

Page 81 A rumor being narrated may have crucial fallacies, but the audience is not in a critical set, but in a participatory set. The story need only recount events that seem possible while we hear the story. In a social setting the unconvinced generally remain silent and no counter-argument put up.

Page 77 “It is the structural ambiguity of most events which makes them a screen upon which we project previously existing images, hypotheses and opinions: the perception of events is self-validating.” 

Then there is the pleasure of grand explanations to win us over - to provide a framed order. [And what a grand tale the Exodus- Sinai stories are. No wonder they become smashing films.]

Page 79 “ A rumor is an explanatory system, i.e a hypothesis that gives order to observations. In general, when a rumor is far fetched or sophisticated, people like it.” 

Page 80 “ As a rumor spreads it becomes more convincing.” Meaning to say - If people are saying the same thing it must be true right ? [One way a rumor gains a wider number of believers. A small group may start a story pass it along until it becomes widely heard.] 

Page 76 Rumors are often accompanied by ‘proofs’ to endow undeniable credibility.  It provide explanatory power for facts around us and satisfies a need for order in the world around us.
[ And is that not what large portions of the Bible are about  ? How the world came to be. From whence the diversity of the various tribes and nations  in the Ancient Near East.  The Israelite's origins and role on Earth. How to maintain the good relations with G-d...] 

Page 65 Rumor credibility is related to specific characteristics of the person we hear it from and the message transmitted to us. [ Would my Father lie to me ? Would Rabbi XYX lie to me ? ...] [ The Jews are the chosen people protected by the warrior god Yahweh who reveals himself at a mountain has a nice ring to it, especially if you are from that tribe.]

Page 70 What is plausible keeps getting broader and broader. [Consider Hammurabi’s claim of a code given to him by god. This can become a whole tribe got the law from god. Or consider some of the extra miracles and fanciful tales added by the midrashim to Exodus story.]

Page 36 The proverb 'where there is smoke there is fire' is ABSURD. Rumors can be 100% false. They may start in the fertile imagination of witnesses, message receivers, people who deliberately start and spread rumors. Also page 45 one reason people spread rumors are to convince. [Think propaganda for example. Could the Exodus - Sinai stories  serve as propaganda ? Sure.]

Page 36 Rumors may begin in a newspaper article that though written with good intention was false. People read it and then begin to believe it. [So the Exodus story was written in a holy text with good intention, yet it was false. It could then become widely believed. The scrolls written up by the Kings and Priests was the press. Many people who found such scrolls or who read them would treat them as truth.]

Page 34 Manipulation and disinformation can spread rumors. [ Could anyone of ancient Israel’s heroes, leaders, scribes desire to manipulate and spread disinformation ? It is not beyond plausibility.]

 Page 32 Rumors may start due to faulty interpretations of messages. The hearers add to or modify the message. Example: WWI the Germans newspaper reports the fall of Anvers into German hands, bells were rung.  This eventually is written up in the paper Le Matin as: It has been confirmed Anvers barbaric conquerors punished priests for heroically refusing to ring church bells by hanging them upside down in the bells. [Certain anti German biases provided a fertile ground for such evolution and belief  in the story. FYI Le Matin was wrong about Anvers.] “Error in fact consists in constructing information according to a plausible scenario, and rumors reflect images and stereotypes that have gained currency.” [ Biases and prior beliefs may determine what is plausible.]

Page 27 “ Sometimes there are no incident or fact or thing seen to spark a rumor."  “The rumors created the fact.” [Portions or potentially all of the Exodus - Sinai  story's may have no basis in reality.]  

Page 24 “A troubling event/fact may give rise to a rumor. The most ‘satisfactory interpretation’ to the group [this can depend on the sort of people in the group. Ancient or Modern. Superstitions or Not. Etc: etc: ] circulates and  in general is PASSED DOWN TO POSTERITY. IT IS THE ONLY INTERPRETATION THAT IS REMEMBERED." [ My caps. For example the Sinai revelation reads like a short official  scripted version of the event rather than a report of all of what actually occurred. It is that version  of events that get passed down. No dissenting voices are recorded. No alternative views are presented.]

Page 23 Rumors arise when info is scarce. Information has value. [ So rumors about one’s history would be welcome in ancient times. Stories about the Israelite's a grand Exodus  would be welcome. ]

Page 21 Rumors can be started by Authority figures such as Pastors. [ The Scribes could thus spread rumors about a people’s history as in the Exodus.  Why should people reject it ? Because the people did not hear such history from their parents ? That presumes the parent would know their own history better than the Authority figure presenting the history. It also presumes knowledge of one’s history was widely known. Such was not the case thousands of years ago. It also presumes people are skeptical. And if we have learned anything from studying  rumors it is that people today and yesteryear are often not skeptical enough. It also presumes that people will reject an Authority figure presentation over a parents. Maybe, but if covered with enough sugar and application of stick the Authority figure’s presentation can gain traction. Authorities also have the means to perpetuate a story.]

Page 27 Testimony can be a source of rumors. Witnesses provide false information with the same self assurance, with same good intention as they provide true information.  What we sustain sometimes reflects more our mental stereotypes that what we have really seen.  Other considerations are the extent of biases, physical state of the witnesses, and their stress level. [Did the ancient Israelites have biases ? High stress levels ? Mental stereotypes ? Yes, Yes and Yes]

I will now switch to another text- Rumor Mills by Fine, Heath Editors 2005.

Page 141 “Collective memory is thus related to rumor in at least two ways. First Collective memories create fertile ground for the reception of rumor, within the structures of collective memory, certain claims ‘make sense’, are linked to a set of beliefs and attitudes about the nature of the social order, and thus appear plausible to the audience of the rumor.”

“Second, Collective memories, including memories of past rumors, can actually contribute to the production of new rumors; speaker may draw upon or refer to past events in their creation of rumor narratives.”

[Recall,  Judaism really starts with Avrahum Avinu (Abraham our Father), not at Mount Sinai. God makes a covenant with Abraham. This could be part of the ancient Israelites collective memory providing fertile ground for new stories such as a new covenant with God at Mount Sinai. In addition, in developing the Exodus- Sinai stories the author(s) could draw on past memories of a law giver such as Moses, the slavery, escape and survival of some of the Israelites in the desert.  These provide pieces of a story to build the grand story of Exodus-Sinai.]

I will now switch to another text- Rumors That Changed The World E. Chirovici 2015.

Beginning Page IX - In ancient times people, ( in part because of their geographical constraints) people did not distinguish between rumor and information. Recent research has revealed that our brains are not designed to make so clear a distinction, using the same cerebral region for the cognitive integration of both. 

Page X - The human psychical world includes 'magical thinking'  and this type of thought is the perfect ecosystem in which rumors can evolve and multiply - and this is still true today. 

Page XII - Rumor can be used to manipulate, dis-inform and  propagandize. 

 I have cited only some of the numerous facts regarding rumor formation, rumor spread, rumor acceptance, rumor use. (There is so much more if you read the literature regarding national tradition, collective memory, rumor, myth formation and marketing.)   Much of what I have posted can be applied to the many potential and plausible natural ways the Exodus and Sinai mythology began, spread and eventually allegedly became to be accepted as true stories by many Jews. At times I  have provided some hints as well.

We need only provide a single natural explanation consistent with ancient near east beliefs, rumor theory and human beings how a story such as Exodus - Sinai could have gained traction. In pasts posts I have already done this. Yet we can provide other scenarios. Given a choice between a natural explanations over a supernatural explanations we choose the former, even if we can not prove exactly which scenario or combinations therof actually occurred. 

The Exodus - Sinai stories could have been sparked by some real historical events, a maximalist approach if you like. Or the stories could have been made up but with some plausible elements to lend credibility, a minimalist approach. Even some works of fiction have factual elements. Also, it is possible the story began amongst a small tribe of people, and the story was passed down generation after generation until it was codified by the scribes and Priests. By then the small tribe had grown in size lets say with 600000 males.  That figure gets codified into the scribal story. Even Kuzari proponents don’t deny a small group of people can be mistaken. Overtime the small population grows it becomes a larger population. 

Continued Kuzari Part 12

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