Monday, April 1, 2013

Jerry Coyne Admits Mistake about Obama

Jerry Coyne admitted that his speculations about Obama being an atheist were mistaken. However, we really don't know if Jerry was wrong or right. Asking what religion a politician is is like asking what color a chameleon is.

What was more interesting about Coyne's post were his assertions that various statements that Obama made were "factually incorrect," such as the Exodus from Egypt and the Resurrection of Jesus. True, most scholars think that the Exodus didn't happen, but there is a growing list of archaeologists who think it did. As for the Resurrection, I'm curious what Jerry's proof is that it is "factually incorrect."


JDB said...

"but there is a growing list of archaeologists who think it did."
Is there data on this?

Bilbo said...

David Rohl's New Chronology seems to be gaining sympathy among archaeologists.

JDB said...

The Wikipedia article suggests that Rohl's is an aberrant view strongly rejected by the discipline (given his life in entertainment, I'm not surprised). Even Kenneth Kitchen seems to reject his views, and Kitchen is one of the two actual archeologists I know of who accept the Exodus narrative (the other is James Hoffmeier).

The article doesn't even seem to speak to what (by responding to me with it) you imply it does, which is that "there is a growing list of archaeologists who think [the Exodus happened]".

Unless I'm missing something, which is entirely possible because I only skimmed the Wiki, it shows that Rohl's work has convinced zero archaeologists that the Exodus happened. The Wikipedia article cites a few people who think he has produced valuable work in other areas, like in Egyptian chronology, but not in adding the Exodus to it.

I certainly don't say all this with any glee, because I certainly wish there was more evidence for the Exodus.

Bilbo said...

Okay, but his conclusions in Egyptian chronology would solve many of the problems of correspondence between 'Egyptian history and the Biblical Exodus narrative. From the article:

Furthermore, Rohl shifts the Israelite Sojourn, Exodus and Conquest from the end of the Late Bronze Age to the latter part of the Middle Bronze Age (from the Egyptian 19th Dynasty to the 13th Dynasty and Hyksos period). Rohl claims that this solves many of the problems associated with the historicity issue of the biblical narratives. He makes use of the archaeological reports from Tell ed-Daba (ancient Avaris), in the Egyptian eastern delta, which show that a large Semitic-speaking population lived there during the 13th Dynasty. These people were culturally similar to the population of Middle-Bronze-Age (MB IIA) Canaan. Rohl identifies these Semites as the people upon whom the biblical tradition of the Israelite Sojourn in Egypt was subsequently based.
Towards the end of the Middle Bronze Age (late MB IIB) archaeologists have revealed a series of city destructions which John Bimson and Rohl have argued correspond closely to the cities attacked by the Israelite tribes in the Joshua narrative.[29] Most importantly, the heavily fortified city of Jericho was destroyed and abandoned at this time. On the other hand, there was no city of Jericho in existence at the end of the Late Bronze Age, drawing William Dever to conclude that, “Joshua destroyed a city that wasn’t even there”.[30] Rohl claims that it is this lack of archaeological evidence to confirm biblical events in the Late Bronze Age which lies behind modern scholarly skepticism over the reliability of the Old Testament narratives before the Divided Monarchy period. He gives the example of Israeli professor of archaeology, Ze'ev Herzog, who caused an uproar in Israel and abroad when he gave voice to the "fairly widespread" view held amongst his colleagues that “there had been no Exodus from Egypt, no invasion by Joshua and that the Israelites had developed slowly and were originally Canaanites,"[31] concluding that the Sojourn, Exodus and Conquest was “a history that never happened.”[31] However, Rohl contends that the New Chronology, with the shift of the Exodus and Conquest events to the Middle Bronze Age, removes the principal reason for that widespread academic skepticism.

If his Egyptian chronology becomes accepted among authorities, then the major obstacles to accepting the Exodus will evaporate. Will his chronology become accepted? I got the impression that the major criticism was that it was too radical. But if it solves problems in lining up Egyptian history with Egyptian archaeology, as the article suggests is the case, then I expect that eventually it will be accepted, and with it the historicity of the Exodus.

JDB said...

For the record, I try not to take my lessons in archaeology, egyptology, or any other technical subject from Wikipedia (side-note: especially articles transparently written by disciples of the work in question. The inordinate size of this article in the context of the theory's apparent lack of acceptance in the field by itself suggests that it has this character. Not to mention the many violations of Wikipedia's policies on citation and objectivity, e.g. in the un-cited claim, "most academics defer to Kenneth Kitchen for the counter arguments against the New Chronology.")

In any case, I take it from this exchange that there is no justification for your claim that "there is a growing list of archaeologists who think [the Exodus occurred]." As far as your evidence shows, the number on that list has gone from something like two (Kitchen and Hoffmeier) to something like two (Kitchen and Hoffmeier). I assume your words were just careless, and maybe a bit overeager.

Of course now I'm struck by additional claims you've made, like that "...the major obstacles to accepting the Exodus" are tied to the rejection of Rohl's chronology. Do you have any actual archaeologists in mind? And which of their objections would be undermined by Rohl's chronology? (I have to trust you, but you're not allowed to look this up post hoc. I want to know, in particular, on what basis you've been making these claims about this particular academic discipline - Wikipedia? Reppert's blog? Journals of archaeology? Popularizations by archaeologists? Popularizations by non-archaeologists like Rohl?...etc.).

Bilbo said...

The major objection to the historicity of the Exodus is that the major events in the story do not line up with the traditional chronology. However, they do line up with Rohl's new chronolgy. Therefore, if more archaeologists accept Rohl's new chronology, their objections to the historicity of the Exodus will dissolve. If you don't accept that conclusion, then I guess I need to post more about this subject.

So the only question is whether more archaeologists have accepted Rohl's new chronology. I'm basing my statement on watching David Down's video of the Exodus, comments in the Wiki article, and comments I have found scattered in various places when googling Rohl's new chronology.

JDB said...

(1) A list has members. You said that "... there is a growing list of archaeologists who think [the Exodus happened."
You haven't even responded to the fact that the number of members on the list (which you didn't offer in the first place) appears to have gone from two to two (at least one of whom, Kitchen, rejects Rohl's chronology), so your list-claim as stated is apparently false. Did you misspeak? If so, that's fine. At best, what your argument would defend is this: if an archaeologist accepts Rohl's chronology, then that archeologist should accept the historicity of the Exodus.

(2) The next question is: is the rejection of Rohl's chronology the only thing that stands in the way? Apparently you haven't done research into critical scholarly discussions of the Exodus by archeologists, so there isn't much, if any, justification for this broad claim about an entire literature in which you have apparently read zero academic books or articles.

Somewhat humorously, even your stand-in for scholarly research - Googling - should reveal that Kenneth Kitchen, one of the leading experts in this area, simultaneously defends the historicity of the Exodus and rejects Rohl's chronology. Likewise other conservative academics in related subjects, like Provan/Long/Longman in A Biblical History of Israel, simultaneously defend the historicity of the Exodus and reject Rohl's chronology. (The latter go so far as to, while citing Rohl's discussion and pictures of some inscriptions in a footnote, make sure to add a caveat about his unusual chronology.)

JDB said...

As for my acceptance of the conclusion, it's simply a matter of providing evidence that (i) some sizable majority of the objections in critical scholarly literature on the Exodus require a rejection of Rohl's chronology; and (ii) evidence that your list (or some list in the neighborhood) has increased in size.

(i) is simple in theory, but hard in practice. You'd have to acquire, and then read, a large amount of scholarly material. Or, on the assumption that you don't have that kind of time available, a peer-reviewed literature review of said material.