On Proving the Divinity of the Torah

On Proving the Divinity of the Torah

When it comes to the divinity of the Torah, the first question we must ask is not whether or not the Torah is divine, but how we could know that the Torah is divine. Assuming it is true, how would such information come to us. Ironically, the most direct source of this knowledge is seemingly indirect; the divinity of the Torah is due to the divinity of its author, and thus to prove that the Torah is divine what we really have to prove is that it was revealed by the divine. Once that were proven, we could know from there that the Torah is divine.

At this point, it’s necessary to talk about the different types of truths that exist, and how we can know them. There are three different types of truths, and each can be known in different ways. Rational truths, such as math and logic, are known through the intellect. Let a person sit and think in a vacuum and he will uncover these truths. Empirical truths, such as physics and astronomy, are known through examining the world around us. Let a person study the fields ands the forests and he will uncover these truths. Historical truths regard the occurrence and qualities of historical phenomena (ex: The torah was or was not given, and it’s giver was or was not divine, etc.). Historical truths must be known through witness, either by witnessing it first hand or by hearing it from those who did. Otherwise, you would have no way of knowing that it occurred. However, as you get farther away from the phenomenon, either spatially or temporally, you begin to need a chain of witnesses, meaning a tradition. Thus there are certain phenomena which certain people could only know through tradition.

The divine giving of the Torah is like that for people today. The only way we could know it is through tradition. Anyone who believes that the Torah is divine came to that knowledge through hearing of it from a trustworthy source, who themselves presumably heard it from a trustworthy source. This does not mean that we have a tradition through which we could know definitively that the Torah was divinely revealed, or that there could be such a tradition, but it does mean we shouldn’t expect to prove it some other way.

The above division of types of truths and the way they can be known, which we have made use of up to this point, is slightly misleading. While it is true in the strictest sense, it ignores the way we corroborate different pieces of information with information derived from other methods. The most common proofs for the divinity of the Torah all fall under this category. The proofs can’t directly arrive at the knowledge that the Torah is divine, but they can strengthen the tradition-based claim.

There is, however, a distinct problem with this type of proof in this case. Such a proof requires knowing the characteristics of a divine text, such that if a text possessed those characteristics it is divine, and if it did not possess those characteristics than it is not divine. You could thus examine any text to see whether or not it has those characteristics and thereby determine if it is divine. Seeing as we do not possess a text which is incontestably divine, we have no way of determining what those characteristics might be, and we therefore have no way of proving that the Torah is divine. However, the flipside is that there is no way to prove that the Torah is not divine.

To illustrate this, it’s worth looking at a few examples. First, the approaches from history. People have suggested that the Torah is divine because it (whether superficially or through “codes”) successfully predicts historical events. People have also suggested that the Torah is not divine because it inaccurately describes historical events. The first approach is based on the the assumption that a divine text ought to correctly predict future events. The second is based on the assumption that a divine text ought to accurately and scientifically describe historical events. Neither of these assumptions is really based on anything, however, and so whether or not the proofs function is dependent entirely upon a personal choice regarding those assumptions.

Similarly, the divinity of the Torah is often disproved by showing that the Torah resembles documents with human authors. However, this is based upon the assumption that a divine text will not resemble a human text. Not only is this a baseless assumption, it is rejected by the midrashic hermeneutic concept that “the Torah speaks in the human language.” As this statement is adapted and developed by Maimonides, it becomes clear that the above assumption is particularly problematic, as a text that in no way resembles its audience will be incomprehensible to them, and thus a divine text intended for a human audience will be a very human text indeed.

This approach can be extended to pretty much every assumption people make about the Torah. The unfortunate side effect is that it empties the phrase “divine text” of all content. It makes no prescriptive claims about what a divine text would look like. “Divine text” becomes a label we simply apply to certain texts. This often feels less inspiring, but I do think it is more correct.[1]

In summary, the idea that the Torah is divine is not something that could be learned from logic, or from examining the world, or from reading the text itself. That knowledge must come to us through tradition. We can then strengthen the certainty of that knowledge through other proofs, but those will all be based on our own rather baseless assumptions about what a divine text should look like. However, this becomes less helpful when we begin to doubt tradition. Whereas medieval Jewish thinkers, such as Saadiah Gaon and Rav Yehuda HaLevi, took it for granted that knowledge derived from a tradition is trustworthy, this assumption fails to be compelling in the modern world. We don’t assume that information derived from a tradition is automatically false, but we don’t assume that it is necessarily true either.

The flip-side of all of this, however, is that it is equally impossible to prove that the Torah is not divine. The divinity of the torah exists in conceptual space beyond the reach of proofs or disproofs. Belief in the divinity of the Torah is thus an act of assent that involves a variety of factors, such as personal experience, identity, existential commitment, and a person’s understanding of tradition. It is something we ought to struggle with not just once over the course of our lives, as it is not something that can be settled definitively. But it is something that should have a radical and formative impact on our lives.

[1] Some important caveats to the idea that there is no content to the term “divine text”:
An exception to this might be morality. Seeing as we generally define God as perfectly moral, we would expect anything that issued from God, such as a divine text, to be perfectly moral, or at the very least not to prescribe things we think of as immoral. As opposed to other similar possibilities, Morality tends to override any relativist position.
The answer given to this is generally that the Torah was written in a certain historical context, and that this imposed certain limitations on the text. The text couldn’t be perfectly moral because the people of the time could not have accepted it. Whether or not this answer is compelling is a different question, but it works from a logical standpoint.
This flows directly from the idea mentioned above that “the Torah speaks in human language.” The Torah is now being said to be a divine text with very human limitations. Thus any analysis of it that reveals human characteristics, including undeveloped morality, is to some degree unsurprising.

Another caveat is that traditionally we assume a divine text will have a single author though this isn’t technically necessary. Thus a text that could somehow be shown to be composed of multiple parts, that should clearly be attributed to disparate times and places, this would prove that there were multiple authors and that the traditional divine authorship is incorrect. I am not at all confident that such attribution could be proved, but if it could then it would successfully challenge divine authorship. However, it’s also possible to suggest, less traditionally, that a divine author would make use of previously existing texts, combining them and perhaps adding to them to create the text we call divine, and this would solve this challenge to divine authorship.

21 thoughts on “On Proving the Divinity of the Torah”

  1. Hey, sorry about the late response, I’m going back through some of the old posts 🙂 if these questions are addressed in a later post, I’m happy to be pointed to it.

    I’m not sure I understand the distinction in this post between historical and empirical truth. It seems that we usually will look for some form of empirical evidence when ascertaining historical truth. In a physics experiment, we ask the question “if this were true, what evidence would we expect to see”. This is a perfectly valid question to ask about a historical event, and historians and archeologists, even biologists studying the fossil records use this type of evidence all the time to establish the truth of past events.

    1. I’ve definitely sharpened these ideas over time, but I don’t think I ever wrote up a new version.

      I think if I wrote this today, I might avoid use of the term “empirical” for exactly this reason. The idea behind what I here called “empirical truths” is that they are truths about the nature of the world, and that they are (at least theoretically) universally accessible to anyone, anywhere through carefully observing the world in front of them. In contrast, what I called “historical” truths (this term could probably also be clearer) is about specific, concrete events or figures. Something or someone can only be known by testimony or evidence therefore (I got a lot of pushback about evidence, whereas I was just including it within “witness,” albeit by an object rather than a person.)

      I didn’t directly address the question of “if this were true, what evidence would we expect to see,” but I think the second half of what I wrote points in the direction of a response. Namely, “if X were true, what evidence would we expect to see” assumes that we can know separate from the specific instance of X, what it would look like if X were true. X would therefore have to fall into some sort of category with other instances, the consequences of which would provide a basis for our expectations about X. We would know that X should lead us to expect A, B, C, etc. because Y and Z led to A, B, C, etc.

      Assuming I’m correct in the preceding paragraph (let me know if I’m not), we would have have a category of something like “divine texts” or “revelations” in order to know what we should expect if the Torah is divine or if the Sinaitic revelation happened.

      1. I see what you are trying to do with the historical distinction, but it still seems fuzzy to me. Maybe what you are going for is reproducible or not? Even with this, the sciences are full of studying non-reproducible or one-off phenomenon. The scientific method seems to apply in any case.

        As for the type of evidence to look for, I completely agree that we have no idea what characteristics to expect of a divinely given text. Attempts at a proof or disproof on those grounds are baseless because we don’t know what it should look like. However, when looking for evidence, you may be setting the bar too high. We could have (at least) two other types of evidence that would be useful.

        1) We can bring evidence against alternatives – There are only two contenders for authorship, divine or human. If we could show that something is impossible or highly unlikely to have been written by a human author, it would qualify as evidence for the divinity hypothesis (the inverse of “if x is true…”). And we do know what human authored texts look like, so we avoid the above concern.
        2)We can look for other effects outside of the text – If the authorship question has other ramifications that could be investigated that are not textual, that would produce physical, historical, or other types of “artifacts”, then those would also qualify as evidence (potentially using the rule-put-alternative method as well). I disagree with your final point in your reply that we cannot know anything about what we should expect to see in the world if a revelation happened. We could make SOME reasonable assumptions about such a cataclysmic event as described. We’ve had cataclysmic events in history.

        We routinely use these types of evidence for unobservable, one-off events in science, for questions like “what wiped out the dinosaurs”, or “what were global temperature trends thousands of years ago”. We cannot observe these events but we look at different possibilities and rule out options, and sometimes we even find some evidence that points directly to an answer.

        With our question about the divinity of the text, I do not understand why uniqueness is a roadblock to evidence gathering. Is there any reason why these categories of evidence do not work in principle?

        PS. I think your point is a form of David Hume’s argument against the existence (or knowledge) of miracles, and my point is more of a Bayesian statistical approach, which we seem to use to analyze all types of phenomenon.

        PPS. For what it’s worth, I think that the evidence from predictions falls into category 1, and the Kuzari proof from tradition that you mention in passing from Rabbi Yehuda Halevi actually falls into category 2, and does not require you to “trust” the tradition per se. That is a much more complicated point that I would have to write my OWN blog post on.)

  2. A) I think “reproducibility” is probably close enough to what I’m trying to get at, if not exactly the same.

    B) Regarding the two type of alternatives, I disagree on both counts.
    1) This is going to expand my critique of demonstrative proofs a little, but the ability to argue against human authorship requires not just a category of what human-authored texts look like but a *stable* category of what human-authored texts look like. Otherwise, when encountering something previously unseen within human-authored texts, the answer might just be to expand the category of what human-authored texts look like, rather than to reject the category.
    2) I would maintain my final point, and in response to your disagreement, I would point to the story of Eliyahu at Har Chorev, where it is made clear that divine can davka not be a cataclysm, but can in fact be the קול דממה דקה.

    C) I must admit to not knowing enough about Bayesian analysis to understand your point here.

    D) I must admit to not understanding your final comment as well. I’m not sure what you have in mind with categories 1 & 2. I would also note that both Rav Saadia Gaon and the Kuzari are very explicit about the importance of trustworthy tradition, the Kuzari in particular.

    1. Ok, lets stick to B. I think that is where the interesting disagreement is.

      1) I agree in terms of textual or stylistic qualities, which are a bit subjective to begin with honestly. But I am thinking more of content. With regard to content, we know what humans can produce. We also know what type of content would be (near) impossible for a human to produce.

      More specifically if there are predictions in a text. A prediction coming true is not itself interesting, what matters more is the odds that it will happen. If a text makes a very unlikely prediction, say winning lottery numbers, and it turns out to be true, it would imply certain things about the author. Either the author had knowledge of the future event, or had control of it (we do not assume luck with astronomically small odds like that).

      Now if a prediction were made with regard to a historical event in the future that would have some equivalently tiny chance of occurring, and that prediction came true, it would imply similar knowledge of the future or control of historical events, both of which are not things that humans can do, and but are attributes associated with divinity.

      In principle this seems like evidence that COULD exist. If it did, would you say that this would not be evidence for a divine author of a text?

      2) Yes, there are times that an experience with the divine is subtle. But the event in question is self described by the text and associated tradition as big deal (to say the least), so if that is the event we are trying to verify, we can look for evidence of such a cataclysm.

  3. Sounds good. I do indeed see plenty with which I disagree.

    1) So, to start with, I’m not convinced “prediction” is the right category for thinking about nevuah. It’s at best a means to nevuah’s ends, and often simply a confirmatory tool. But let’s continue as if it is “prediction.”

    A. Statistical probabilities for things is of course always based on the category of “things that have happened so far,” which we then apply to judge new things that happen. I’m not sure that makes any sense on anything other than a practical level. On a practical level, we can use statistics and probability to help make good choices and plan appropriately. But can we determine anything that lies behind events, or determine the likelihood that something *wouldn’t* have happened? If something happens that defies our model, perhaps it just means we should revise our model, or more strongly, that our model was wrong. Minimally, it might just mean that “things that have happened so far” is a weird and artificial way of separating some events (those in the past) from others.

    B. If we talk concretely about the Torah’s “predictions,” I think we’d also have to evaluate the quality of the predictions. Are they specific about what will happen? Perhaps more importantly, are they specific about when it will happen? If not, then the predication can never be proven to be wrong, and therefore human, predictions.

    2) Right but even if we could verify the cataclysm, such a cataclysm is not inherently connected to divine revelation (both because revelation can appear without it, and because cataclysms can appear without divine revelation), so all that would demonstrate is “a cataclysm occurred.” The fact that the text under discussion records it as connected to divine revelation would not automatically make it so.

  4. 1A) It seems to me that the thrust of your argument is this line “If something happens that defies our model, perhaps it just means we should revise our model, or more strongly, that our model was wrong.” (If this is not true, then please correct me, and possibly ignore the following point).
    If you are worried that when dealing with a new phenomenon you can always retreat to revising the model, how can you ever know something new? For example, you see traces in a particle accelerator of phenomenon you’ve never seen, and scientists decide they may have found a new particle. Could you not just respond that it could equally be an old particle acting in a new way?

  5. (Continued from above)
    I just saw a news story about this recently: https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/what-is-the-fifth-force
    And yet, we have discovered new particles and forces.

    This is related to a more general question about how the scientific method deals with choosing a correct theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_choice
    The important takeaway is this:

    “The discussion has continued, but no general and uncontroversial solution to the problem of formulating objective criteria to decide which is the best theory has so far been formulated. The main criteria usually proposed are to choose the theory which provides the best (and novel) predictions, the one with the highest explanatory potential, the one which offers better problems or the most elegant and simple one. Alternatively a theory may be preferable if it is better integrated into the rest of contemporary knowledge.” (this was the most succinct source I could find on this topic. i know that there are no real citations, but this info can be found and verified in many places. I will do so on request)

    A point I made before applies here as well. Finding evidence in our case should not be made harder than it is in the sciences. If it is good enough for science, it should be good enough for religion.

    1B) You seem to be pointing out that falsifiability is your standard for evidence. To that, I first point to the point above that not everyone agrees that falsifiability is the end all in science. I also wonder if you consider theories about a multiverse or string theory unscientific as they admittedly claim to not be able to provide evidence and cannot be falsified.
    Further, I am not sure i totally understand why a prediction that cannot be falsified is less interesting if it comes true. Thought experiment: you meet a psychic and the psychic tells you “one day you will have an experience with a trillion-trillion to one odds, and you will be the one” and then at some point in life, you won the lottery, it makes sense to have even a passing thought that the psychic may be something more? Not incontrovertible or enough to make you worship them, but enough to make you think twice about that time you thought your eyes were playing tricks on you and you though you saw them levitating.

    2) This one may drive deeper to the heart of our disagreement. Because I completely agree with this statement. Knowing a cataclysm occurred does not make it so. And you could never know for sure.

    In any inquiry you are not looking for incontrovertible proof. That is literally an impossible standard. For every correct assessment, there are a million “Just so” stories you could tell that could explain any phenomenon. The argument that I am making is that you are in fact only looking for evidence, perhaps the preponderance of the evidence.

    If we could provide reasonable evidence that a book that a group has contains information that to the best of our knowledge is impossible to have come from human sources but points to/hints at/suggests an author with divine qualities, and there is evidence that the event in which it originated was cataclysmic and affected those who experienced it for year, generations, millennia afterwords, I don’t know that we should write that off just because it *could* have been something else. It can *always* be *some*thing else.

    All of this is to say that the evidence provided is relevant, whereas your argument seems to claim that it worth zero. Does this evidence get you over the hump of belief? I think that is a different discussion. But this type of evidence, if it exists, should fall on one side of the scale. It is not worthless. It is a difference between whether you are looking for “proof” or “evidence”. I would argue that it is actually always the latter.

    In retrospect, I guess we could have just argued over the title of the original post 🙂

    I am very curious to hear your thoughts on this. I think this drills down pretty far on our disagreement and I’m curious if we can come to a single point, or potentially a small, discrete number of points that we really differ on here.
    For what it’s worth, I’m enjoying this, and I hope you are too. If this is too much, I don’t mean this to be adding stress, especially with everything going on.

  6. I definitely am enjoying this, b”h. I’ll respond to the specific points in #1 but I think you’re right that #2 contains more fundamental disagreement.

    1A) I think I would actually argue with your equation of science and religion. Do they have the same goals? Do they claim to be making the same sorts of claims? It seems strange to me to just assume the answers are yes. I should also note that I do tend to be critical of overly-bold scientific claims as well (this is connected to the Humeanism you noted before).

    Regarding the new particle example, the article makes a point of mentioning how skeptical and cautious many scientists are being in regard to the new claims.

    Regarding theory choice, I would note that the paragraph you quoted throws out a variety of options, some of which support my claims better than yours, I believe (this may be connected to my differentiating between religion and science).

    1B) I made a point of not mentioning falsifiability, but perhaps I can sharpen my point: If the prediction test is meant to determine if the text is human or divine, then it should be able to yield either one of those results, otherwise it is really only meant to lead to one result.

    I think your thought experiment is potentially helpful, but I see its significance a bit differently. If a psychic said something with trillion-trillion to one odds would happen to me, I would struggle to call that a prediction, because it has no specific content. I have no way of knowing when that thing has taken place. Even if I win the lottery, perhaps that was not the event of which the psychic was speaking. Moreover, if I was attempting to determine whether or not the person actually is psychic, then “one day you will have an experience with a trillion-trillion to one odds” means that I have to suspend judgement until I run out of days in which to have that experience, meaning when I die (to gesture outside the thought experiment, I might say, “until the end of days”). I am incapable of reaching the determination that the person is not a psychic. This standard thus seems intended to avoid one of the two options for which I was supposed to be testing. The only possibility is that an event takes place which *could be but isn’t necessarily* what the psychic had in mind, and then I say that it is what the psychic had in mind and decide the psychic really is psychic.

    2) So on one level, I agree with you here. The original post is primarily meant to argue against a stronger approach that might be called “proof” rather than the “evidence” approach you are proposing, which takes our epistemological limits more seriously.

    That said, I think the role of faith is a lot more robust than you are suggesting. To connect it back to some of my original points about uniqueness and not knowing what what evidence of the divine would look like, I think that even if the predictions you mentioned had indeed been successfully fulfilled, that would not constitute evidence for the divinity of the Torah. That would at best constitute evidence *against* the idea of human authorship. Going from “this doesn’t fit the (stable) category of human authorship” to “this was written by God” requires assuming that those are the only two options. Moreover, even if those are the only two options we can imagine, moving from “this doesn’t fit into one of the two categories we can imagine” to “this is in the other category we can imagine” requires assuming that reality conforms to our imagination in some significant sense. I think you can only bridge those assumptions with specific forms of faith.

  7. I wrote up another point by point response to your last comment, but I deleted it before sending. I think we’re heading a little bit into the weeds (by “we”, I mean me. Your digressions were only in response to points I was raising). I think all of these points are very interesting, but do not address our initial disagreement. If you don’t mind, I think I would like to backtrack a bit and see if I understand your position. If you still want me to respond to your most recent points, I will gladly do so.

    If I understand correctly, your fundamental idea in the original post is:

    A claim about the divine origin of a text, more specifically, establishing the truth of this claim, falls into it’s own category of inquiry. This category is beyond the reach of our current truth finding methods, namely the logical evaluation of evidence, possibly to be referred to as the scientific method. This is not a point about the quality of any specific evidence but about whether evidence can exist in principle.

    The reasons it is not subject to normal logical inquiry are as follows.

    1) It is, what you called, a historical truth. We worked out this is probably better described as something that is not reproducible.

    2) We have no positive description of the theory we are attempting to prove (there are no qualities to define a “divine text” to identify anything as evidence).

    3) The attributes for this category in general are lacking rigorous specific definitions, so even potential evidence is always going to be tentative. (authorship attributes are vague/subjective and can change in the future).

    Is this correct? Did I miss anything important?

  8. Going back sounds good to me.

    These seem essentially correct, but I want to sharpen 1 & 3.

    1) It’s not just that the event/object is not reproducible, it has to do with what I might call it’s historical specificity. Even if you could reproduce the event/object exactly, it still wouldn’t be *that* event/object. Reproducing the event/object would tell us that such a thing is possible, but would not be able to tell us that the specific object/event actually happened/existed. That requires some sort of human or evidentiary witness.

    3) I guess the way I would put this is that the meaning or significant of potential evidence will always be disputable: Does any given piece of evidence really contradict our definition, or does it simply mean that we should expand our previous definition?

  9. Ok, so I’d like to take these one at a time to try to avoid going off course.

    So if we are on the same page on the thesis, what is it about “historical specificity” that is “beyond the reach of our current truth finding methods”? It is not obvious to me why this quality should invalidate our truth finding methods.

  10. I see now I should have been more critical when reading that paragraph. I would not say that “historically specific” events/objects are “beyond the reach of our current truth finding methods,” so much as they are available only to certain truth finding methods. Specifically, they can be known via personal testimony or via physical evidence (assuming that it is unambiguous).
    As for why this is the case, it’s as simple as imagining trying to discover if a specific cat named Larry is owned by a woman named Jan living in Rio Del Rey, at a given address. Unless someone tells you this is the case, or you find some sort of unambiguous physical evidence (the closest I can imagine for this scenario is a municipal pet license with the owner’s name and address), then you can’t ever arrive at that piece of information. Attempting to derive it from other things you know about cats, women, or Rio Del Rey could give you at most probabilities that *a* cat named Larry is owned by a woman named Jan living in Rio Del Rey, at a given address, but it could never tell you that *that* cat named Larry is owned by a woman named Jan living in Rio Del Rey, at a given address.
    Does that help clarify at all?

  11. Ok, so I would change the main idea statement to this:

    A claim about the divine origin of a text, more specifically, establishing the truth of this claim, falls into a specific category of inquiry only accessible to evidence by testimony or physical evidence, but not direct observation or experiment (with the argument points now disqualifying the categories of testimony and physical evidence). Is this correct?

    Is this true of establishing any claim about something in the past? Does this differ in some important way from answering a question like “what wiped out the dinosaurs”, or “what was the temperature of the universe 3 billion years ago” or is this in the same category as questions like that?

    As for your statement of “why”, could that reasoning be applied to experimental evidence and observation?

    As a concrete example, take Francesco Redi’s experiments disproving spontaneous generation. I assume you are familiar, but in case not: Rotting meat was assumed to generate maggots. He set up jars with meat inside and a mesh on the top and showed that as the meat spoiled, the maggots appeared on top of the mesh rather than in the meat, proving the meat was not what was generating the life, but that it was being deposited from the outside. This is an example of direct experimental evidence. Could your argument be used to say “that only proves that in his specific experimental setup, he didn’t see spontaneously generated life, but that was just one instance and one setup so it does not disprove the general theory of spontaneous generation”. If your reasoning does not go this far, why not? Is there something different about experiments?

  12. Shavua tov. Sorry about the delayed response. Your new version seems correct, except that I don’t understand what you’re getting at in the parenthetical, so I can’t answer definitely.

    That’s a good question. I think the answer is yes, they’re in the same category.

    So your example points to the difference between the different types of knowledge, knowledge of specific things/events vs knowledge of general rules. Redi’s experiments were used to render general principles about the world and how it works. The sort of epistemological humility necessary for that and how science should see those rules is a slightly different topic. The parallel to my example would be the question of how you could know what is happening on a specific piece of meat.

    In order to know what is happening on a specific piece of meat, you have a few options: 1) experience it directly. 2) witness or evidence. 3) apply the general principles that you bring to the instance (which were obviously different before and after Redi’s experiments).

  13. I apologize for my confusing parentheses, I will clarify. I think it’s very important that we continue to update our shared “model” of the argument as we clarify points to stay on the same page.

    We seem to agree then that this inquiry falls into, or is similar enough to, a certain category of scientific inquiry. You’re next points then are to rule out any ability to find out evidence because:
    A) We have no positive description of the theory we are attempting to prove (there are no qualities to define a “divine text” to identify anything as evidence).
    B) The meaning or significance of potential evidence will always be disputable.

    Your last response also points to 3 categories of information about a specific situation.
    1) direct experience
    2) witness or evidence
    3) apply the general principles that you bring to the instance

    Your goal is to rule out all possible evidence categories. I think we agree that direct experience is not relevant here because this is a past event, not a present one to experience.

    I’m a bit confused about 2 and 3. I assume the points A & B are directed at category 2 above? Is this correct? Or do they also address category 3? Is category 3 a possible category in the divine text inquiry, or are you ruling it out for some other reason? (the general relationship here between general principles and specific cases is confusing me a lot)

  14. I realize this last question seems a bit generic. I was trying to figure out the way you are understanding evidence. I think I have a more directed question on that topic.

    If we agree that divine authorship of the text falls into the same category as what wipes out the dinosaurs, does it have the same standards of evidence? Would you accept any of the same “types” of evidence to both questions or is divine text still different somehow?
    Worded differently, can you apply to the skeptical questions about authorship to the types of evidence for the dinosaur extinction? If not, why not?

    1. This is a little hard for me to answer, as I have spent very little time thinking or reading about the question of what wiped out the dinosaurs, but I think in principle yes, it would be essentially the same.

      1. Sorry, I was not trying to back you into a corner there.

        Is there a topic or question that you have more background in that can demonstrate how evidence is supposed to work properly in this category? Or are you saying that everything in this category suffers from the same flaws?

  15. I’m ok running with the example, I just wanted to say up front that it might take me a little longer to work through things. I can’t think of any non-theological/miraculous example that I’ve spent time thinking about anyway.

    I don’t know that I would use the word flaws, but to perhaps reformulate the category I’ve been describing: any specific object or event can be known only through direct experience, or via testimony (or a chain of testimony) or evidence of that event. This is in contrast to principles abstracted from events or objects and which are fundamentally knowledge about a category of events/objects, rather than about a specific event or object, as well as in contrast to ideas that can be arrived at via speculative reasoning.

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