Tag Archives: socrates

The Death of Science Part 5 — The Double Standard

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Secular Humanism boldly proclaims that the events recorded in the Bible are not historic. But using those same standards, neither were Plato, Socrates, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Sun Tzu or most historic people or events.

The oldest surviving manuscript of Plato’s documents dates to 895 AD. The Codex Oxoniensis Clarkianus 39 was copied more than a thousand years after the death of Plato. It is incomplete, containing only the first six tetralogies.

We only have references to Socrates in the works of Aristotle and Plato. There is no other evidence that Socrates ever existed.

Sun Tsu wrote around 550 BC, but the old fragments of the text are the Yinqueshan Han Slips, almost 5,000 bamboo fragments which contain pieces of 13 chapters of the Art of War. The Yinqueshan Han Slips date to approximately 140 BC.

The writings of Julius Caesar come from two manuscript sources, Amsterdam 73, 2nd quarter of the 9th century, written at Fleury and Paris lat. 5056, 11-12th century, written at Moissac. http://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/2011/01/08/the-manuscripts-of-caesars-works/. In addition, there are hundreds of references to Julius Caesar in other works, but these manuscripts are all much later. We have statues which purport to be a good likeness of Julius Caesar, but there is no way of verifying this.
None of the writings of Alexander the Great still exist in any form. His memory is preserved in works of art, such as statues, paintings and architecture. Many others wrote about Alexander, with the most well-known of these biographies being the work of Plutarch, where he compared Alexander with Julius Caesar in a book call Parallel Lives. Parallel Lives was written by Plutarch in the 1st century AD 350 years after the death of Alexander. The oldest existing MSS of Plutarch is the 10th century AD.

We could continue, but these five examples show the condition of the evidence for the most well-known and well-documented of the ancients. I do not mean to imply that this lack of evidence means that we should not trust the evidence that exists, or doubt the existence or deeds of these men. Quite to the contrary, this seems to be excellent material on which to base a highly accurate history of the time period.

And once we have established standards for evaluating history, we can then apply those same standards to other documents. First we look at the Epic of Gilgamesh. The Epic of Gilgamesh is found in fragments of cuneiform tablets. It exists in several different ancient languages, Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, Old Babylonian and Babylonian. Some of these fragments are the oldest written documents known to man. Our versions are pieced together because there is no entirely complete copy. The seventh century BC library of the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal contains a nearly complete copy and this is the version most modern translations are based on. One very important detail is the variations in the texts. This variety has led to the conclusion that the Epic of Gilgamesh was a political story and the story changed to fit various political climates.

While the Epic of Gilgamesh is a story of gods and goddesses and superhuman feats, its emphasis seems very modern. It is entertaining. It is interesting. But it also establishes a caste system. It clearly shows that those who not members of the nobility (the gods and goddesses) are nothing more than what we call serfs, slaves with the responsibility of providing for the nobility. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the nobility (the gods and goddesses) had powers you could not resist.

Second, we examine the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Probably better known than the Epic of Gilgamesh, there are complete copies of the Book of the Dead written in various tombs. It also has great variety among the various tombs. The Book of the Dead is earlier. The later versions used by the Egyptians us known today as the Book of Gates. Unlike the Epic of Gilgamesh, these were not written as political propaganda for the lower classes. Few people would ever see these tombs after they were sealed.
Perhaps there was some attempt by the priests to hold political power over the families of those who were being buried. They might have allowed a small number to view the walls before sealing the tomb. But the family members of those who were buried and the priests writing out the words on the walls believed that these spells had some power over death.

Unlike the Epic of Gilgamesh, where a simple understanding of human nature seems to answer the question of why was this book written, the Book of the Dead is written by and for people who were not only obsessed with the afterlife, but convinced that their magic charms could somehow achieve immortality.

These very general conclusions about these historical documents using standard techniques and methods have nearly universal agreement. However, when we apply the same method and techniques to the Biblical documents, a tsunami of prejudice and bigotry attempts to overwhelm the evidence. The Dead Sea Scrolls provide us with vellum, papyrus, and pottery documents which match the Masoretic text we have used for over a thousand years and date to within only a few centuries of the original authors. This is far more reliable than any other ancient document.

elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/the-not-so-dead-sea-scrolls/

The Old Testament is quoted by the Church Fathers and Josephus, with copies as old as the 2nd century AD. It is translated into Greek (LXX), Latin (Vulgate), Ethiopian (Coptic), Syriac (Peshitta), and we have copies of each of these.

The Roman government executed an Empire-wide campaign to burn and destroy every copy of the New Testament and to kill everyone who possessed a copy of it. In spite of this, we have thousands of copies of the NT, fragments dating back to the first century and complete copies of the NT dating the fourth century AD. There are more eyewitness records to the events of the New Testament than any other ancient person or event, including major battles.

Why do people who claim to believe in science change their standards, their method of evaluating evidence, when they examine the evidence supporting the Bible?

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Information, Please?

“Never Let Schooling Interfere With Your Education,” by Grant Allen and popularized by Mark Twain. “One year in Italy with their eyes open would be worth more than three at Oxford.”

“What a misfortune it is that we should thus be compelled to let our boys’ schooling interfere with their education!”

In the early days of the American Republic, the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville toured America and wrote of his observations. He marveled at the education of our children, believing an American education to be the best in the world. Women and children were well educated and could hold their own in any conversation on any topic.

Entrance exams into colleges such as Princeton or Harvard required reading and writing part of the exam in an ancient language (normally Latin, Greek or Hebrew) and a modern foreign language (usually French or German). That included proper grammar and using certain words correctly. One example of a geography question from the 1869 Harvard entrance exam: “Bound the basin of the Po, of the Mississippi, of the St. Lawrence.” One example of arithmetic from the same exam: “Find the cube root of 0.0093 to five places of decimals. Find the square root of 531.5 to three places of decimals.” A section followed this on Logarithms and Trigonometry.

After completing the Freshman year, another round of entrance exams were required to be admitted as a sophomore. The questions were somewhat more difficult. Write an essay comparing and contrasting the following “Leonidas, Pausanias, Lysander.”

While Alexis de Tocqueville was impressed with America’s classical education, he noticed a lack of training in modern thinking. At that time a public versus private education was determined by enrollment, not funding. A public education meant that it was open to everyone. A private education meant that the school was closed to everyone except members.

Even an exam from 1895 Salina, KS would be difficult, if not impossible, for the average college graduate of today. There is some question as to who was being tested; Eighth Grade? High School? Is it a teacher’s certification exam? To be fair, science and arts disciplines were not included in these examinations. No physics, chemistry, music, literature or physical education were required. Each of these disciplines takes time and that time is taken away from these other courses.

Yet today we have high school graduates unable to read their own diplomas. The shift in emphasis is not the reason for their inability to read. It is the lack of discipline, both personal and academic. The books Why Johnny Can’t Read: And What You Can Do About It and Why Johnny Still Can’t Read: A New Look At the Scandal of Our Schools by Rudolf Flesch examine both some of the problems and solutions.

We are perhaps the best informed and worst-educated generation the world has ever seen. Most American students have completely lost the ability to think through any issue. We have access through the Internet to any information we want. But what do we do with it? Problems that might take days, weeks, months or even years to solve are discarded in favor of easy quick solutions.

This mentality began with plays, then switch to movies. Even serial movies had some kind of an end. TV shows had either complete solutions in half an hour; at most an hour or soap opera formats where nothing was ever solved. The open-ended nothing is ever really solved format became the fast paced video game. Quick one-word or phrase solutions are available through Google searches, so we have no need to remember anything. Life has become unending self-gratification where nothing important matters. “Give it to me now” has been the motto of western culture for over 50 years. Did it begin with the Beatles? Elvis? Frank Sinatra?

Solomon reminded us that “there is nothing new under the sun.” Plato wrote of Socrates in his dialogue Phaedrus that writing in and of itself was a step in the wrong direction. Instead of the mental disciple required by oral traditions, humans grew lazy and relied on what was written down. They could read, so they no longer needed to remember or think. “This will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, … they will trust to the external written characters.”

Plutarch tells us that Lycurgus, the founder of the laws of Sparta, believed the same way. “None of his laws were put into writing by Lycurgus, indeed, one of the so-called “rhetras” forbids it.”

Our generation easily dismisses the charge that they do not think things through with a “yeah, right,” neither openly accepting or rejecting, just wanting to “get on with life.”

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs and tyrannize their teachers.” (attributed to Socrates [Plato]. The exact source is unknown.)

These children killed Socrates when they grew up and came to power. These children also started the Peloponnesian Wars, one of the most barbaric episodes in human history.

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