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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.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Kuzari Argument Part 26 National Experiential Tradition

I hope this post can be understood as more or less stand alone. But perhaps you will need to read my prior Kuari argument posts to  flesh out some details. Start here Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist: Kuzari Principle or Argument Part I  while my immediately prior post is Alter Cocker Jewish Atheist: Kuzari Argument Part 25 - National Experiential Tradition - Armenian Genocide

Back in September 2015 Kuzari Argument Part 6 I wrote a critique of the  National Tradition argument for Judaism. Rabbi Gottlieb's (RG) discussion starting at about 32 minutes in this video  responds to an objection to his Kuzari argument for Judaism (which bye the way happens to be somewhat related to my 2015 objection). However,  I think RG response falls short. Moreover, his talk does not overcome that 2015 objection to his Kuzari argument. Maybe he was not trying to address my 2015 critique. 

I am going to paraphrase my understanding of this portion of RG's video and respond to it.  I am going to play by the rules of his game that NETs (National Experiential Traditions) are a valid 'category'. As defined by RG - NET National Experiential Tradition:

The National Tradition is accepted by the Nation itself.

The National Tradition describes the history of the Nation itself.

The National Tradition describes an event experienced directly by everyone in the Nation. Describes an event that sometime in the past all the people of the Nation observed the event directly.

The National Tradition is of a kind of event that you expect people to remember. It moves a people, a meaningful event.

Basically RG argues that since all known NETs are true (or likely true)  and since the Sinai Story is according to RG a NET we should accept it as likely true or true.

I will define the NET RULE: "NETs are true (or likely true)".

My 2015 objection was that all the National Traditions (which would also include NETs) that we know are true or likely true (RG lists wars, plague migrations etc:) are in an entirely different category than the Sinai story. In other words, the Sinai Story because it involves miracles and a supernatural being is an extrapolation beyond the data of known true or likely true NETs. The Sinai story has a quality altogether different than the NET examples he has provided and shares more in common with tall tales, foundation myths and legends.  RG admits that a gap exists between the Sinai story with it's supernatural elements and the examples of the NETs he has provided which only involve natural elements. RG claims he can bridge the gap. I don't think he succeeds. Also, RG seems to acknowledge that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and I agree with him.  

First I want to drive home my main point why RG's fails to bridge the gap.  RG needs to provide an example of a NET involving supernatural being(s) where we have good reason to believe the NET is true. That is the sort of NET the Sinai story is, that is the sort of category the Sinai belongs to. However, RG only provides an example where the ancient Chinese claimed a star exploded and disappeared and they (hypothetically) tell this to the ancient Greeks who held stars never disappear. RG maybe arguing that per the ancient Greeks a disappearing star would qualify as a "supernatural" event. RG may also be arguing the Greeks by rejecting the Chinese testimony would fail to learn and would be in error about star behavior. Thus the Greeks and by analogy I should (with some qualification) accept testimony about supernatural events. I don't see what the Chinese-Greek example has to do with supernatural beings. Perhaps to the ancient Greeks the star behavior would be out of the ordinary, or unexpected, or unnatural, but my critique is about NETs involving supernatural beings. RG's does not address the core of my critique. Maybe he will do so in another video. 

I also want to discuss other issues from this same portion of his Video.

RG rhetorically asks how reasonable is it to be opposed to miracles ? We should be very opposed to accepting miracles. First on the principle extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The Kuzari argument is a sort of philosophical argument for the Sinai story, not actual evidence for the Sinai story, let alone extraordinary evidence for it. Also see for more reasons to reject miracles. 

RG thinks that objecting to miracles is analogous to people's unwillingness to change their understanding about how nature behaves. Also, it may lead to rejecting new valid information.  For example, we may reject Copernicus's new understanding of nature. Or we may reject the Chinese testimony about stars disappearing. Or we may reject advances in science. I think RG is advocating a poor analogy.  Rejecting miracles or supernatural beings is not the same as rejecting a new natural paradigm of natural laws, as for example if the Greeks reject the Chinese paradigm. Likewise accepting a new natural paradigm of how nature works (like when for example General Relativity replaced Newtonian Gravity) is not at all analogous to going from say a naturalistic paradigm to accepting miracles or supernatural being(s).  

RG asks how do you learn that your picture of the world needs to be changed ? I do not apriori rule out stories of miracles or supernatural beings. I advocate that until the evidence is overwhelming, we should reject stories involving supernatural beings or miracles.  Moreover, our so-called laws of nature are not in stone, but can change as new data comes in. Never in modern science have we revised our so-called laws of nature to include supernatural beings or miracles. We just update our models to reflect new data. Those models have always been 'natural'. 

RG thinks we need good testimony to change your picture of the world. 

I would much rather have good data and scientific analysis. Also we do not have any testimony, let alone good testimony for the Sinai story. All we have is a story in a book that is alleged 'to be believed by many descendants of the people described in that book'.   People often misrepresent Hume as apriori never allowing the acceptance of miracles. If you read my I discuss that misrepresentation of Hume. Regardless of Hume's position, I am open to the possibility of accepting testimony of miracles or supernatural being(s) if the testimony is of excellent quality and we if we could rule out natural explanations to a very high degree.

RG claims all human experience supports the reliability of our testimony, thus something happened at Sinai-Exodus to challenge your picture of how the world works.

At best human experience supports that NETs are true or likely true when they involve wars, plagues, migrations and natural events. 

However, "our testimony' is a story about miracles and a supernatural being revelation and so are outside the scope of NETs known to be true or likely to be true. For this reason alone, RG's argument is very weak. Moreover, I can accept the Sinai stories without invoking miracles or that a supernatural being revelation actually occurred. Rather, they were all natural events (I provided many examples in my prior Kuzari posts) and so I am not compelled to change my world view as far as supernatural beings or miracles.   

Lets assume the Sinai story is a NET. I will present two options. 

Option One: The Sinai NET did not really really involve miracles and a supernatural being revelation. I will assume this to here mean the Sinai NET is an exception to the NET RULE.

Option Two: The Sinai NET which includes "miracles" and a "supernatural being revelation" is really really true. 

Lets apply a Humean style approach. The probability that there could exist a NET that violates the NET rule (option one) is higher than the probability of the Sinai story really being the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth (option two). Why ? One reason is that miracles are a violation of everything we know about nature. There is not a single substantially verified miracle or supernatural being revelation. So to accept Option Two would mean completely revising everything we know about the Universe. However, Option One would only be an exception to the NET RULE. Surely the NET RULE is not as solid as all our experience that real miracles do not occur, and real supernatural revelations do not occur.  Thus, we should accept Option One as more likely than Option Two.

Secondly, Human Experience (which includes archaeology and history) supports the notion the Sinai story of biblical proportions is a false NET. Thirdly, there are numerous natural explanations for the Sinai NET that do not involve actual real miracles and real supernatural being revelation. See my numerous Kuzari posts. 

I am not convinced that real miracles and a real supernatural revelation is the most likely explanation for the Sinai-Exodus stories, even if those stories have some historical validity.  Nor am I convinced the most likely explanation for the (alleged) acceptance of the Sinai story by (allegedly) numerous Jews is because the Sinai story accurately represents factual history. 

But even if you think I am overstating the strength of my objections to Kuzari style arguments, you may agree with me that Kuzari style arguments do not provide extraordinary evidence for the extraordinary claims of the Sinai story. Until such evidence is provided my world view is not challenged by the Sinai story.