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Author Topic:   Evidence for the Biblical Record
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 2446 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 193 of 348 (551231)
03-22-2010 1:18 AM
Reply to: Message 158 by Peg
03-19-2010 11:43 PM


Re: Denial Of The Evidence
Peg writes:
The story of Babel most certainly is based on fact which is confirmed by history, archaeology and folklore.
Peg, if you're going to assert historical fact for this story, then you should clarify the chronology. How long ago did this happen? That is, what (approximate) date is associated with the specific tower that was so offensive to God as to cause him to do something to all humanity that is so patently nonsensical? No need to get into the specific location of said tower, but a specific chronology -- with evidence to support it -- is what the current thread is asking for.
Now, whatever date you come up with, there are two different sources of conflicting evidence: biblical and factual. The conflicting evidence from the bible is of course amenable to "re-interpretation" for the sake of religious apologetics (that's how it goes for all things in the bible), and the issues are summarized nicely in the wikipedia article on the Tower of Babel:
quote:
... Some see an internal contradiction between the mention already in Genesis 10:5 that "From these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with his own language" and the subsequent Babel story, which begins "Now the entire earth was of one language and uniform words" (Genesis 11:1)...
(I seem to recall that you've been in on discussions about that point in other EvC threads...)
But the more important factual evidence involves the time-depth of recorded linguistic history from diverse languages. The main limitation on this source of evidence is the durability of the medium used for writing. It's really hard to get parchment and papyrus to last more than a thousand years. Even stone does poorly beyond a couple thousand, when it's exposed to the elements. But this is a case where our favorite adage is especially apt: "absence of evidence does not constitute evidence of absence."
For example, tortoise shells found in Jiahu, China, dated about 6600 years BCE, bear 11 distinct inscribed symbols that strongly resemble characters found in the earliest confirmed Chinese writings, which date from about 1700 BCE (see both the wikipedia article on Written Chinese and a separate BBC news item.
This is actually just circumstantial evidence for a continuous lineage of writing conventions in China over a span of about 5000 years. Until more inscriptions on durable media are found, it will remain circumstantial. But it's considerably more substantial that whatever "corroboration" you might find for the Tower of Babel myth.
Then there's the linguistic and archeological evidence regarding the language represented by the oldest Egyptian hieroglyphics (3300 BCE), and the older written symbols from which that system developed (starting as early as 4000 BCE).
It's important to note that when these oldest instances of Chinese and Egyptian writing were created, they were already distinct languages (and were not the language used by the Hebrews).
And then, since you've referred to the trees that historical linguists have hypothesized as the lines of descent for known languages, you should also be aware of the observed facts about how all human languages naturally change over time. A lot of research has been done on the mechanisms, effects and rate of linguistic change, and it has been firmly established how the Romance languages developed from Latin, the various Germanic and Scandinavian languages developed from Proto-Germanic, how Latin, Germanic, Greek, Russian, Sanskrit and many others developed from Proto-Indo-European, and so on.
The Tower of Babel myth makes sense as an ancient fable that tried to account (in a very simplistic way) for the observation that people from disparate regions tend to speak disparate languages, but it makes no sense as an historical account. Based on what we now know for certain about human language, there's no need to posit a cataclysmic supernatural event to account for language diversity -- it's a natural attribute that is built into the overall system, such that when a population splits geographically, their respective speech patterns will gradually change in different directions until eventually they become distinct (mutually unintelligible) languages. It's really very much like the process of biological evolution, on a much shorter time scale -- just dozens or a few hundred generations, rather than thousands (but still not directly observable within a single life time).
You have not presented anything even close to establishing a single chronology that fits both the temporal sequence of events in the bible and the observed evidence involving the migration patterns and linguistic histories of people spread over the habitable continents of the globe. If you try, you'll find that it's impossible to do that.

autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 158 by Peg, posted 03-19-2010 11:43 PM Peg has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 198 by Peg, posted 03-22-2010 4:42 AM Otto Tellick has replied

  
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 2446 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 207 of 348 (551508)
03-22-2010 11:49 PM
Reply to: Message 198 by Peg
03-22-2010 4:42 AM


Re: Denial Of The Evidence
peg writes:
... (The Tower of Babel) happened at some time during Pelegs lifetime. His birth was in 2269 bce and he died in 2030 bce. So the confusion of languages happend during this 239yr timeframe...
I might ask where you got those birth/death dates for Peleg, but it doesn't matter. If you accept an assertion (from whatever source) that this person existed and actually lived for 239 years, there's not much for us to argue about, since that sort of assertion lies far outside any sort of reality-based world view, IMHO. For the two of us to be on opposite sides in terms of accepting that as believable, well, that sort of brings an end to constructive debate, don't you think?
In any case, despite that fact that the pre-Phoenician writing systems (Chinese, Cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphics) generally arose from pictographic origins, this does not lend any sort of direct support to your position regarding the "historical" nature of Babel story. To begin with, those precursors to Chinese writing were found in China, and had been there since long before the date range you've given us for the Babel story. People were already that far away from the Middle East before anyone "dispersed" from that tower.
And of course there's Coyote's favorite evidence of continuous habitation in North America that spans (before and after) the period of time that YEC's attribute to the "global flood" -- which predated the Tower story by quite a bit, so those folks were already there in America when the supposed language cataclysm hit.
Maybe you'd like to invent a theory about how the the confounding of languages was implemented over that sort of distance? But aside from contradicting the original tale, that sort of scenario makes even less sense: the people living in China and America (whatever language they were speaking at the time) would have had no involvement at all in building that tower, so why burden them with this linguistic affliction?
Oh, well maybe communication was good enough in those days (despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence to support this), so that there really was a global conspiracy to build that tower. Case closed, I guess. But still no evidence to support this "historical event", and tons of evidence that just don't fit with it, and defy any explanation consistent with the Babel story.
BTW, just because the Chinese, Egyptians and Sumerians (who invented Cuneiform) all started out with pictographic notions for their writing systems, this does not in any way imply that they were all speaking the same language when they started to write. In each case, there was a natural and crucial development, whereby the pictographic symbols came to be used for their phonetic values, based on the words represented by the pictures, and not just their symbolic or pictorial values.
To illustrate with a made-up example based on English, suppose we had a pictograph like this: "", representing the word we know as "boat", and another one like this: "\_/", representing the word "ox". We could then write about the new skin treatment we call "<_>\_/", pronounced "boat-ox" -- the symbols are used only to represent their sounds, in order to "spell out" some other concept that has nothing to do with the original "meanings" of the pictograms.
Once symbols are used to represent sounds rather than concepts, the writing system becomes truly productive, making it possible to record anything that speakers of the language say.
It is because of that development in writing systems that modern day linguists are able to theorize about the sounds of the ancient languages. And based on obvious differences in how their respective sets of symbols were used in combinations in each region, there is really no basis for assuming that the original writers of Chinese spoke the same language (used the same sounds for the same words) as the original writers of Sumerian or Egyptian. On the contrary, there can be no doubt that these were three very distinct languages already, when writing first came on the scene for them -- i.e. long before the date range you attribute to the Babel "event".
OTOH, if you believe that someone named Peleg lived for 239 years, these linguistic details are bound to be of no consequence at all, because in your world view, fantasy counts as history, no matter what.
Edited by Otto Tellick, : minor grammar repair
Edited by Otto Tellick, : another grammar patch.
Edited by Otto Tellick, : No reason given.

autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 198 by Peg, posted 03-22-2010 4:42 AM Peg has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 210 by Peg, posted 03-23-2010 4:16 AM Otto Tellick has seen this message but not replied

  
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 2446 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


(1)
Message 267 of 348 (552279)
03-27-2010 11:12 PM
Reply to: Message 263 by Peg
03-26-2010 6:52 PM


Let's stop treating coincidence as "evidence"
Peg, I think it's time for you to drop this line of argument about some sort of relationship between the people and/or language of ancient China and those of ancient Mesopotamia. Your statements do not lend any kind of coherent support to the Tower of Babel story being "historical", and more importantly, they do nothing to address the substantial evidence that makes it impossible for the story to be literally true in any sense.
That Chinese symbol you cited, which can be translated into English as "boat" or "ship", is in indeed built up from three symbols, each of which can be used in isolation with their own meanings. Unfortunately, the "compound" meaning that you derived from them is almost certainly the wrong one. Yes, the first of the three can stand alone as another word that translates to "boat" in English, and it's used in several compound characters that all refer various to kinds boats, ships, or other vessels that operate on water. But the third symbol (the square) actually means "mouth" in the sense of "open end, entrance, gate", as in "the mouth of a river", while the middle part, which usually stands alone to mean "8", can also refer to "all around, all sides".
So rather than referring to a boat with 8 people (or "8 mouths") on it, it's far more likely that this Chinese character (船) was drawn to refer to a kind of boat or ship that is used to navigate both rivers and seas ("all around the mouth"). It has nothing at all to do with 8 people, let alone Noah's Arc or any sort of flood myth. Of course, I really haven't had much exposure to the history of the Chinese language, so there may well be some other explanation for how this symbol came about -- maybe it was assembled on the basis of phonetic values of the parts. But any relation to Noah's Arc is absurd.
Now, what about the more substantial issues: the discrepancy between your own time frame for the Babel story (somewhere around 2100 BCE, based on Peleg's 239-year life span, according to as-yet unspecified sources?), and the physical evidence that people in China were using symbols a few thousand years earlier -- symbols that anticipated the Chinese writing system, which itself was already fully developed and in use in China very close to your date range for Babel (not more than a few hundred years later, and probably around the same time).
And of course, there's also the time depth of Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics: these systems were created, and as linguistic analysis clearly shows, they were already being used phonetically (i.e. symbols put together into words on the basis of their sounds, not their original pictographic meanings), long before your date range for Babel.
And lest there be any doubt, the sound systems of Sumerian and "pre-Babel" Egyptian were quite distinct: at the points when these two writing systems were developed, they were being used to represent two mutually unintelligible languages. This has been confirmed by the linguists who draw the trees of relationships among languages, based on the written words in the respective languages, their meanings, their grammar, and their apparent pronunciations.
The Babel story never had any direct evidence to support it, because it was invented to supply a facile answer to the question of why people from different places spoke different languages. It wasn't until the 1800's that scholars of philology began to recognize the systematic relationships among certain groups of languages, the field of historical linguistics was born, and the "comparative method" for hypothesizing the family trees of related languages was formalized on the basis of observed patterns in current, living languages and dialects, as well as the physical evidence of written records from various ages and locations, spanning thousands of years and the whole Eurasian continent and Mediterranean region.
We now understand that language change is an intrinsic, inexorable, never-ending process; the geographic dispersion of one group into two or more isolated groups will lead inevitably to distinct dialects after a fairly small number of generations, and then later to distinct languages if the isolation persists for enough additional generations. This is the correct answer to the question that originally gave rise to the Babel story. That story is nothing more than a myth that began as a made-up tale, like Thor's lightening and thunder. The tale wasn't even invented by the Hebrews; they just adopted it into their scripture, changing some details to suit their message, because there was no other explanation available at the time.
I find it astonishing (and pretty appalling) that adults who are educated enough to use computers are still bent on treating the Babel story as factual history, and when the real facts are explained to them in detail, they deny or ignore the facts, rather than accept that the story is a myth.
Edited by Otto Tellick, : No reason given.
Edited by Otto Tellick, : (had to "diable smileys")

autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 263 by Peg, posted 03-26-2010 6:52 PM Peg has not replied

  
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 2446 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 271 of 348 (552361)
03-28-2010 10:54 AM
Reply to: Message 270 by JonF
03-28-2010 9:01 AM


Re: back to topic of linguistics
JonF writes:
Well, I guess nobody wants to present any, you know, evidence that the interpretation of that character as a phrase is valid.
Well, actually, in my previous post at Message 267, I did address the issue of how that one particular Chinese character that Peg cited could be interpreted as a phrasal construction, and pointed out that her phrasal interpretation ("boat with 8 people") is almost certainly incorrect.
The alternate meanings of the second and third components of that one ideogram, leading to a phrasal interpretation that refers to a particular kind of boat or ship, can be found here No webpage found at provided URL: http://www.mandarintools.com/chardict_rs.html -- you'll see the two "radicals" that correspond to those two components, and you just need to select each one in turn, set "0" and some higher number for the "Lower bound" and "Upper bound" fields, and click "Search by Radical/Stroke".
AbE: I don't know Chinese, so it's possible the interpretation I suggested for that character isn't right either -- the character might have been created on phonetic grounds.
Edited by Otto Tellick, : added quotation from JonF's message, and closing paragraph / disclaimer.

autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 270 by JonF, posted 03-28-2010 9:01 AM JonF has not replied

  
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 2446 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 272 of 348 (552376)
03-28-2010 3:17 PM
Reply to: Message 266 by Peg
03-27-2010 9:32 PM


Re: Denial Of The Evidence
Peg writes:
So, if you agree that linguists use similarities in words to establish a link, why should the similarity between the chinese words and mesopotamian ideas not prove such a link?
Because between Chinese words and Mesopotamian ideas, there are no similarities on which any sort of linkage can be established. Peg, you have shown posted images (without citing your source -- such a bad and tiresome habit!) of two Chinese characters (out of several thousand that exist in Chinese). Your first example (character for "ship" based on ideas about Noah's Arc) is prima-facie nonsense and easily debunked. The second one doesn't fare any better:
Creation is comprised of the following components
dust + (breath of) life + (from God's) mouth + motion = Creation
No. To start with, the portion you refer to as "motion" doesn't seem to exist as a separate, meaningful character, but is used only as a "radical" in building a wide assortment of other characters (not having any overall semantic unity). The thing you cite as "(breath of) life" also appears not to exist as such. Wherever you got that picture from, it's a misanalysis of the character.
Oh, and the full character resulting from the combination (造) is actually not the noun "creation", but rather a verb ("construct, build, begin; prepare" when I look it up this way, and "to make; to build; to invent; to manufacture" when I look it up this way. (You can just paste the unicode character I've given into each of those search pages.) {AbE: Please realize that any reference to God in any portion of this character is utterly fictional and unwarranted.}
Do they only identify and establish links under some circumstances but not others...can they pick and choose which links they accept and which links they reject?
Yes, as with any other evidence-based field of research, historical linguists need to weigh the potential, plausible alternatives regarding relationships among distinct language varieties, and pick one that is best motivated by and most consistent with established knowledge about how speech patterns change over time, as well as with current knowledge about the geographical and temporal evidence associated with those language varieties.
As it is with new discoveries of intermediate species in the geological fossil record for the theory of evolution, so it is with new discoveries of ancient writings in the archaeological record, and new information about the vocabularies and speech patterns of relatively obscure living languages and dialects, for historical linguistics. These things fill in gaps in our knowledge, they occasionally force a shift in our chronologies, or more rarely, a minor adjustment to the branching relations.
And what would they base such rejection or acceptance upon?
There's lot of detail available on this, but the primary thing is the presence vs. absence of a core shared vocabulary. For example, a central piece of evidence for the Indo-European group is the commonality of terms for family members: brother, sister, father, mother, daughter, and son all have regular correlations among the various descendants of Proto-Indo-European. Of equal importance is the regularity in patterns of sound change affecting the shared vocabulary: when you see the differences between English "brother", German "Bruder", Italian "fratello", French "frère", etc, you often find other shared vocabulary among these languages that show a similar correspondences between Germanic /b/ and Romance /f/, between English // (eth) and German /d/, between Italian /a/ and French /è/ etc.
Obviously, the "magical" nature of a Tower-of-Babel type of "event" wouldn't need to give any account for this sort of detail. Before it, everyone talks the same, and after it, everyone talks different, and there's nothing more to say about that. If anyone has any further questions about how that sort of event actually worked itself out in the ancient population and led to all the evidence we know of today, they just have to make up stories on their own to suit themselves, because there is no basis on which to form any rational, objective account of the process. And of course, that is exactly what the extreme Bible literalists have been doing all along: making up stories to suit themselves.
Edited by Otto Tellick, : (as indicated in text)
Edited by Otto Tellick, : (disable smileys. Reminder to self: don't put unicode characters inside parens!

autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 266 by Peg, posted 03-27-2010 9:32 PM Peg has not replied

  
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 2446 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 281 of 348 (552969)
04-01-2010 12:15 AM
Reply to: Message 280 by Peg
03-31-2010 8:04 PM


Re: Denial Of The Evidence
But if you think so, then what was the original Adamic language that everyone spoke before the confusion? Is it still in existence?
it was hebrew and the reasoning behind this is that hebrew was the language of Noah and his 3 sons.
Well, assuming that God really wanted to mess things up that way with the Babel trick (which was actually a pretty stupid idea, if you think about it), I really don't see any grounds for preserving any trace of the original "Adamic" language in any human mind. Might as well treat everyone the same way, and lose the original language completely.
I think you'll also want to change your chronology, to make sure that every form of writing arises at some point after the tower, and none before. You haven't even tried to assert this, but it ends up being a necessary entailment. Think about it: all the truly independent (original) writing systems -- Chinese, Egyptian, Sumerian and Phoenician (parent of the Hebrew writing system) -- were clearly being used to represent different languages, as of the oldest extant evidence for each.
(Of course, Sumerian and Egyptian -- and possibly Chinese -- are older than Phoenician, hence older than Hebrew, but no worries... I'm sure you can toss some details into your chronology to cover these facts. Even if there is no scriptural basis for them, they can be asserted without directly contradicting what's in the Bible, right? That's the beauty of having "an accurate historical record" that tends to skimp on the little "implementation details" of all those supernatural "historical" events.)
If it made sense to speak of a "Babel event" (which doesn't make sense at all, but let's put that aside), it would also make sense to conclude that there was never any written form for the "Adamic language". All knowledge about pre-Babel events must have been preserved by oral tradition. (Seriously: does the Bible indicate that anything was ever written down by anyone before the Tower event?) Then, you just need make up another story about how all the knowledge (all that accurate historical record) embedded in the Hebrew oral tradition was sustained or re-instantiated after the Babel event. That's a piece of cake, 'cuz God can do anything.
BTW, Peg, this thread is in a science forum, and not only have you failed to show any Biblical reference to back up your latest assertion, but you are completely lacking what this thread is about: independent and corroborating evidence to back up the claim.
The Babel story is a really bad case for objective corroboration. I recommend that you seriously consider the consequences of interpreting it as allegory, parable or metaphor. Trust me, doing so is not such a bad thing, and can be more profoundly enlightening than a strict (and unsupportable) literal reading.

autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 280 by Peg, posted 03-31-2010 8:04 PM Peg has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 282 by Peg, posted 04-01-2010 2:53 AM Otto Tellick has replied

  
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 2446 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 286 of 348 (553175)
04-01-2010 7:01 PM
Reply to: Message 282 by Peg
04-01-2010 2:53 AM


Re: Denial Of The Evidence
Peg writes:
The genesis account shows that people were writing well before the tower incident...they were writing in their original language, hebrew...
Do you have any citations for that? And independent evidence as well? I think you may not have understood my point: the oldest written Hebrew that we know of is not as old as the oldest written Phoenician (whose writing system was adapted for use by the Hebrews); likewise, the oldest known Sumerian cuneiform and the oldest known Egyption hieroglyphs are older than the oldest known Hebrew.
Archaeological and historical linguistic research has established that Hebrew derives from the same source as (but is slightly more recent than) Phoenician, and there are clearly differences between Phoenician and Hebrew. The research also shows that the Egyptian of the oldest hieroglyphs, and the Sumerian of the oldest cuneiform, were each distinct languages, quite different from one another (and from Phoenician and Hebrew), with different sound systems, different lexicons, different inflectional patterns on words, and different sentence structure.
Now, if those those other writing systems existed before the "Babel event" supposedly took place, this clearly means that people were already speaking different languages before God got around to "confounding" them. The chronology you presented earlier for Babel (based on implausible dates for Peleg), combined with the known archaeological ages for cuneiform and hieroglyphics, leaves us with no other conclusion.
Maybe, like the flood, this supposed "global" effect was actually just local... (i.e. the people involved in the "rebellion" might in fact have been speaking a single language, but lots of other people, in far-flung places, were not involved, and were already speaking other languages). But it really makes no sense under any interpretation -- until you decide to interpret it as a parable or fable or myth or allegory or... anything but history.

autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 282 by Peg, posted 04-01-2010 2:53 AM Peg has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 288 by Peg, posted 04-03-2010 11:42 PM Otto Tellick has replied

  
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 2446 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


(3)
Message 296 of 348 (554022)
04-05-2010 11:32 PM
Reply to: Message 288 by Peg
04-03-2010 11:42 PM


Re: Denial Of The Evidence
peg writes:
dating methods can be flawed and not give accurate dates.
Well, let's compare that to the Bible: it can be flawed and does not give accurate dates. Which source is able to quantify the range of its potential inaccuracy more carefully? In science, this range of inaccuracy is called the "margin of error", or the "confidence interval", and is usually measured in single-digit percentages. Please read RAZD's posts about the correlations among dating methods, in the "Dates and Dating" forum.
Oh, and in case you want to claim that the Bible cannot be flawed, there is this one fundamental problem with that notion: every Bible in use today is a translation, and translations are imperfect. They always are. And whose fault is that? If we go with the Bible as "history", it's God's fault -- it was His idea to confound humans by scrambling their language. So the "divine wisdom" of the Babel event was to ensure that the Word of God would become immediately incomprehensible to most of the people alive in the world in that age, and to make sure that it would remain imperfectly perceived for the rest of time! Nice job.
The Babel story, when you follow up to understand its consequences, represents a colossal blunder on God's part. Somebody (i.e. God, or rather, the person who cast this mythological fable into the OT scripture) really was not thinking this thing through very well at all.
One last little diversion: in trying to find information about the relative ancestry of Semitic languages, I found this curious tidbit at National Geographic:
National Geographic - 404
Be sure to read both pages. Bottom line, as it applies to this thread: the form of Hebrew found in OT scriptures is different from a clearly attested form of a clearly related (parent) language, from which both Phoenician and Classical Hebrew are derived. Prior to any putative time frame for the Babel event, languages were already differentiated, and language change over time was already documented across independent historical and archaeological records, so the supposed effect of the Babel event was already in evidence well before the event could have occurred (not to mention that there really is no clear, independent physical evidence for the event).
The Babel story as presented in the OT does not stand up as history, period -- quite apart from the fact that it makes no sense.

autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 288 by Peg, posted 04-03-2010 11:42 PM Peg has not replied

  
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