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No longer take comments. Post's 'labels' are unreliable for linking or searching. Use the INDEX OF POSTS instead. A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview and understanding of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. 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. IF YOU GET A MESSAGE THAT THE POST IS MISSING - LOOK FOR IT IN THE INDEX or search or the date is found in the address.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Kuzari Argument Part 21 Rabbi Kelemen Bomb

Updated 4/24/2018

It would be very helpful to at least skim my prior Kuzari argument posts beginning with Kuzari Argument Part 1.  Also, additional documentation and details related directly to this post are found in them. 

RK's bomb begins at 40:40  minutes:seconds in this video.

Recall the Sinai story has G-d communicating with a group of people.

{Terminology for this post - ‘Sinai type story’ means  a story involving a deity communicating with a group of people .}

RK’s bomb relates to the uniqueness of the Sinai story which I have previously addressed. This post will provide additional protection from  RK’s bomb, but there may be some overlap with prior posts. 

{FYI - RK’s bomb is also found in RK’s book Permission to Receive on page 70. “Ultimately one must conclude that something miraculous happened - if not at Sinai, then in the evolution of Jewish  mythology.”}

RK’s bomb is that no other religion or myth involves a group of people claiming a deity spoke to them. Yet, ‘history’ is supposed to repeat itself. The non repetition of a Sinai type story is indicative  that the story itself is unnatural. Unnatural means supernatural.  RK is also using his bomb to discredit any ‘natural’ explanation for the Sinai story.

According to RK, there are two options:

(A) Miracle  number one. A deity communicated with a group of people at Sinai. 

(B) Miracle number two: A violation of ‘history repeat law’  occurred  because only one religion or mythology out of thousands and thousands has a deity communicating with a group of people.  

Given a choice between  the two miracles, RK would like us to reject option (B), leaving option (A) as the only other alternative.

One immediate problem is RK implicitly equates the miraculousness of option (A) and option (B). However, Option (B) is less miraculous than Option (A). Option (A) involves an actual supernatural being, while (B) only involves breaking of a ‘history repeat law’. It seems more  rational to choose the less miraculous scenario, which is option (B). 

Lets explore RK's  argument in more detail. P1 thru P4 seem to be RK’s premises.

P1) Anything that is natural will happen more than once. 

ACJA  response

P1 is a reasonable premise for scientific experiments that are repeated.  

P2) History repeats itself; an extension from natural law to history.

ACJA  response

I am uncomfortable with P2.

History is not like science experiments with all its controls. History also involves different people, different  cultures, different climates, different catastrophes, different needs  etc: which all influence outcomes.  However, RK argues the generic themes of history repeat, but maybe not the details. Unfortunately,  the devil is in the details. The devil is also in the different initial conditions. 

‘History repeats itself ‘ is more a  rule of thumb than a law or natural law. Even the rule of thumb is difficult and problematic in application. When are two different  events considered a repetition and not a repetition ? The two events may be similar in some ways and different in others. The initial conditions prior to the two events may be similar in some way and different in others. 

P3) Religious themes - meaning  revelation  narratives will repeat. RK  extended  P2 to get to P3.

ACJA response

I am even more uncomfortable with P3 than P2. P3 has all the problems of P2 and more. Religion and myth formation depend on the experiences of the cultures, their environments, the various catastrophes they have experienced, wars, food supply, the peoples needs and desires, accidents etc: 

Moreover, the drivers of history may or may not be similar to the drivers of religion and myth formation. 

However, myths have been categorized into various categories, so in that sense it can  be  argued  religions and myths can be organized by type,  which is a sort of repetition. Many scholars consider the Sinai story as belonging to the category of Nation Foundation Myths.  

P4) Only once in 4000 years has a Sinai type story been claimed to have occurred.  RK allows for another story from in India. In that Indian story the people all died after the supernatural event and so could not relay the story. RK counts it as a half.

ACJA response 

The 4000 years is not all that impressive. We have few records from ancient times. Also, the bulk of mythologies are  mostly  found in the distant past. For example, in modern times it would be harder to evolve many types of  mythologies because information is more widespread and available. People have become more skeptical with the advent of the enlightenment. In short, there was a much shorter period in which the bulk of mythologies could form. 

My other Kuzari posts have documented  parallels and points of contact between the Sinai  revelation narrative and miracle  narratives of other peoples. The Sinai story is not as unique as RK  makes it out to be.

Perhaps some nations would like to have a Sinai type story but not as many as implied by RK.  For example,  maybe only one in 100 nations would desire a Sinai type story,  so one out of a hundred is not all that miraculous.  Some religions have no deities. Those practitioners would have no need for a divine revelation mythology. Some polytheistic religions would have a difficult choice selecting which deity to perform the revelation and  because of the competition  none are selected. As the Yahweh alone movement gains traction, there is a need for a claimed revelation from one god.

There was a limited period when nation foundation myths develop. Generally early in the nations history.  So we do not expect to have as many national founding myths as one may think. Also limiting the number of nation founding myths is the limited  number of nations. 

We have limited ancient historical records. If Sinai type stories are rare we would expect to find very few if any in the records.

(The Sinai story is considered by many scholars a Nation Founding myth. How many nations had the need for a nation founding myth just like Sinai ?)

{ETA 4/24/2018 Kuzari proponents often argue why Christianity or Islam do not claim a Sinai Type Story. There are any number of reasons, only some explained in my other Kuzari posts. For example, the Israelite Sinai story could have been used to unite ancient Israel especially after the split between the Northern and Southern kingdom.  Or the Sinai Story also involves a nation foundation mythology not just a religion. The conditions under which many other religions and myths form are substantially different. Rather than compare the Sinai story to all myths and religions which appears to provide a small frequency a better comparison is to nation foundation myths. The Sinai story would still have a low frequency, but it would not be as low as RK figures. Thus, the Sinai story would not be as unnatural as RK would have you believe. } 

RK’s Conclusion #1The Jewish claim is unique and has a very low frequency (P4).  The Jewish type claim if natural  should have been repeated yet has not, thus violating P3. This indicates the Jewish claim is unnatural, which means it is supernatural. 

ACJA response

RK’s premise  P3 is open to severe doubt. P4 is also problematic. We may rationally reject Conclusion #1. 


RK concludes his lecture with the following:

Can you explain  how the Jewish claim came about ?  Let suppose  I suggest explanation XYZ.  RK now asks is XYZ  natural ?  Suppose I respond  yes.

RK asks do natural events happen more than once ? Suppose  I say yes.

RK asks has XYZ ever happen again ? Suppose I say no.

Conclusion #2: RK  claims then XYZ was not a natural event since  natural events should happen more than once.

ACJA response

1) This sort of argument is very similar to my previous discussion, and most of my prior comments still apply.  

2) The point is not that we should expect that XYZ leads to Sinai type stories.  Rather, it is an explanation for one specific and particular peoples story, the Sinai story which involved ancient near east escaped slaves wandering in a desert about 3000 years ago. There is no reason to expect XYZ should lead to other peoples developing a Sinai type story.

Alternatively, XYZ may be an broad explanation -  propaganda, group think, duress, evolution of myths  etc: etc:  to explain many mythologies and religions. The Sinai story is thus just another myth subject to those same sort of explanations. 


Back to RK

RK  offers  a possible loophole to his Conclusion #2. 

The loophole being it  was natural event, but very unlikely and only happens extremely infrequently. So far it happened only once in 4000 years yet it could  happen again. 

RK rejects the rationality of the  loophole: suppose the odds of the Sinai type story  1 out of trillions. Then we should rule out it being natural.  If it is very unlikely that a natural event led to the Jewish belief  that god spoke to the people , then it must be very likely it was not a natural event that led to the belief.  RK supplies the figure that there is a .00001% the Sinai type narrative  was natural, so almost 100% the Sinai is unique and unnatural. Because  the Sinai type story  is so unusual  the very fact that it happened only once is indicative of a break in nature.  Rather than accept  that conclusion  RK believes we should accept the alternative  that the Sinai story is true.

ACJA Response

1) This sort of argument is very similar to my previous discussion, and most of my prior comments still apply

2) I have no Idea where RK’s one in  trillions or his  .00001% comes from, but I accept that of all known  myths very few involve a group of people witnessing something they claim is supernatural and so a very small percentage seems reasonable, as an empirical fact.  The low frequency is not cause to conclude something unnatural has occurred. 

Also, I am not convinced the Sinai story belongs unto a category all itself, since it has much in common with nation founding myths, etiological myths and other mythologies. Viewed that way we may consider the Sinai story just another foundation and or etiological myth.

3) We can apply RK’s type of argument to prove the truth of Islam, Miracle of the Sun and the White Buffalo Calf Women Story (WBCW)  and I am sure there are others such stories to be proven. 

Consider Islam - A unknown uneducated man receives a revelation from the angel Gabriel. The revelation is  recorded in a book. The religion gains extremely fast traction and it’s followers become a world power in a matter of a few years. An amazingly fast rise to power.

When has this ever happened ? It so unique so it must be unnatural.

It can be argued  Islam is not all that unique for one reason or another.  Unique  is very difficult to define operationally making almost a useless criteria. Some Muslims may say the rise of Islam is unique because of X and Y and Z, while some other individual will say it is not unique because of C and D and F.  

RK’s argument can be used to prove the WBCW as follows:

In the WBCW story a supernatural being imparts religious principles and a pipe to a tribe of the Dakota native American Indians.

When has this ever happened ? It so unique so it must be unnatural.

RK’s argument can be used to prove the Miracle of the Sun as follows:

When has such a miracle ever occured ? It is unique, therefore unnatural and therefore miraculous. 

There are some other problems with RK’s argument that need to be mentioned.

A) RK compares the probabilities of various dice outcomes to the outcomes of   national foundation myths, religious formation, and  mythologies. I think he  misusing  probability theory and it will require future posts.

B)  Consider science experiments  where we actually expect 100% repetition of ‘history’.  Suppose an experiment failed  to repeat. Should we conclude something unnatural has occurred ?  Perhaps despite best efforts some parameter or variable had varied from our prior experiments. Or, maybe there was an unnoticed temporary magnetic field power surge that alters the experimental outcome. Thus a single violation of P1 should not lead to the conclusions of miracles. A single violation of P2 should be considered even less miraculous. A single violation of P3 least miraculous of all.


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