Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Going Nuclear on the Kuzari Principle

[The Hiroshima blast, 1945]

In discussions on the Kuzari Principle (KP), I politely and repeatedly asked Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb to provide me with historical events that he would consider National Experiential Tradition (NET) events. According to Gottlieb, a NET “is a national tradition concerning a national experience that would change the life of the nation.” NET is also Gottlieb’s category for Sinai. A key argument for him is that beliefs about NETs don’t form in the same way as mythic beliefs. Ancient Jewish belief about Sinai should be true, he claims, because it’s implausible that a NET belief would arise as myths typically do. Many myths, for instance, emerge as “the gradual transformation of the record of a natural event.” Gottlieb uses Kuzari to argue that the miraculous explanation--an actual divine-human interaction between God and Israel--is the more likely one.

Gottlieb typically challenges critics of the Kuzari Principle to come up with false NETs, and he so challenged me. Initially, I refused to provide an example because my main issue with Kuzari was not NETs but the reasoning being employed by its defenders. That is, my argument was that each of the three elements in Gottlieb's Kuzari argument were flawed:
I find the logical proofs on Kuzari unpersuasive for reasons I explain in my article: (1) The very possibility of a divine-human event is itself not established satisfactorily; (2) the definition of "evidence" used is too imprecise; and (3) the seemingly arbitrary tethering of cultural beliefs to single events is overly simple and not sufficiently nuanced to deal with real cultural history.
Only later, and after pressing, did Gottlieb engage me on my assessment of his reasoning. Although I don't think he ever explicitly conceded my point, my opinion remains that the reasoning of Kuzari--both the reasoning of the principle and the reasoning that assumes the principle's validity--makes it a principle of limited and ever-questionable value. In the end, Kuzari attempts to use philosophy to answer a historical question.

On the matter of false NETs, I eventually conceded to Gottlieb that I was unable to think of one:
I do want to address your words, so: I don't know of any false NET events. However, if Sinai is false it would qualify as one.

But my question to you is whether there are any other events, true or false, that qualify as NETs. Does the fall of Troy qualify? Does 9-11? Does Woodstock?
I want now to re-visit the issue of NETs and talk about Gottlieb's curious obsession with false NETs. I get the rhetorical/argumentative game he is playing with demanding false NETs, but I don't understand why he gives no attention at all to real--that is, true--NETs. Indeed, he dismissed my request for real NETs as immaterial.
Finding a Sinai-like event is not relevant, if by Sinai-like you mean national revelation. What is relevant is finding a known false NET, since that category is the content of KP.
Thus the question is why Gottlieb is only interested in a false NET, that is, in a national tradition concerning a very significant national experience that didn’t actually happen. To explore a possible answer to this question (and I have also emailed Gottlieb a link to this article), let's review a case Gottlieb made to me against the applicability of myth formation to NETs, like Sinai:
If myth formation applies to a belief, then of course the belief is not true. Myth formation shows how false beliefs arise. Now THERE ARE NO KNOWN FALSE NET BELIEFS. If myth formation worked in the NET category there should be many NET beliefs that are known false, but there are none. So the evidence that we have of myth formation working is limited to cases that are not NET. The evidence we have is against myth formation applying to NET beliefs since if it did there should be many known false NET beliefs.
For Gottlieb, false NET beliefs would show that the KP is incorrect. False NETs would show that national beliefs can be based on fabrications of nationally witnessed events. Without false NETs, says Gottlieb, KP leads us to conclude that the more plausible case for Sinai is that it actually happened, since it’s more unlikely that a national belief could be made up about direct national ancestors having experienced something unforgettable and life-altering.

Let’s put aside Gottlieb’s argument for a moment and ask what I think is a reasonable and relevant question: “What NETs do we know, true or false?” My rationale for the question is simple: If myth formation does not apply to the emergence of NET beliefs, then perhaps looking at other NET beliefs will help us to understand how they happen and what effects they have. These NET beliefs seem like very interesting phenomena which should be investigated and studied.

Gottlieb says that there are no known false NET beliefs and that these are the only kind of NETs that are relevant to KP. But how can true NET beliefs not be relevant? Wouldn’t true NET beliefs provide positive support for Gottlieb’s argument that such beliefs arise not by myth formation but rather by actually happening? Wouldn’t true NETs clarify why myth formation didn’t work for them? Wouldn’t true NETs demonstrate how nations respond to life-altering events and incorporate these events into traditions, and wouldn’t these demonstrations be helpful in understanding post-Sinai Israel?

Gottlieb’s dismissal of true NETs is therefore very strange. I have been puzzled by his not providing at least one documented NET to show, at the very least, that it can be a genuine category. Thus, I want to look at one event that I think very well qualifies as a NET: the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945.

Yes, these could be considered two events, but for the sake of argument, we’ll consider it one event. Now, does the bombing qualify as a NET? Absolutely, “it is a national tradition concerning a national experience that would change the life of the nation.” There is an annual ceremony in Japan commemorating the event. In fact, this past August the US ambassador to Japan attended the ceremony; it was the first time since the actual event that the US ambassador had done so. Thus, we have solid grounding for there being a national tradition. Now we can hardly think of an experience having a greater change on a nation. In addition to the death, destruction, radiation and after-effects of the blasts, the bombings preceded Japan's unconditional surrender in the war. Following the war, Japan and the US enjoyed good relations, and Japan later became a leader in electronics technologies and manufacturing.

The bombings should be a textbook case for the Kuzari Principle. We have an event that we know really occurred. It left behind “enormous, easily available evidence of its occurrence.” If the evidence did not exist, we are hard-pressed to think of how the Japanese people could have believed that it did happen. So why isn’t Gottlieb trumpeting Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a real-life example of a NET? Surely a main source of belief among the people on the ground lies in the two mushroom clouds over Japan and not in myth formation, just as Gottlieb says the source of belief in Sinai must lie in an awesome event in the desert. With the bombings, he gets a real-life NET, and he also gets to say that there are still no known false NETs.

My hypothesis as to why Gottlieb doesn’t tout Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or any other true NET, is this: “formation of beliefs involves more than simply the truth of (all/some of) the event.” He knows that Kuzari posits a straight line from event to evidence to belief. But the event, the evidence, and the belief all get forked and complicated in real life. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki demonstrate how easily complications emerge.

Consider being on the ground near Hiroshima and/or Nagasaki at the time of the bombings. That the atomic bombs were dropped is but one small aspect of the event and the beliefs about it. Immediately following detonation, the people of Japan and the world have only basic knowledge to rely upon. They know that there were two extraordinary explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They know that many people died and were made to suffer. Beyond this basic level, beliefs about the event develop and facts quickly become an issue; they become sites of contest. With the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the issues include:
  • The number killed: At least one US report lists “many tens of thousands of deaths” while official Japanese records calculate at least 200,000 people. Some historians say “the vast majority of victims [were] women, children and elderly men.”
  • The military efficacy of the bombings: The US position is that the bombings forced immediate Japanese surrender and made a land invasion by the US unnecessary. However, post-war studies indicate that the war in Japan could have ended as soon or sooner without the bombings—when, for instance, Russia entered the war.
  • The intentions of Japan: It’s contested as to whether Japan would have surrendered unconditionally with or without the bombings.
  • US advance warning to civilians: There are claims that "Special leaflets were…dropped on Japanese cities three days before a bombing raid to warn civilians to evacuate." But the evidence seems to point against there ever having been any advance warning.
  • The objectives served by the bombings: It seems that the bombings could have served curiosity as to the destructive powers of atomic weapons and not necessarily a military objective.
Consider also how the Japanese came to realize what was happening with the bombings:
The Tokyo control operator of the Broadcasting Corporation of Japan noticed that the Hiroshima station had gone off the air. He tried to re-establish his program by using another telephone line, but it too had failed. About 20 minutes later the Tokyo railroad telegraph center realized that the main line telegraph had stopped working just north of Hiroshima. From some small railway stops within 16 kilometers (10 mi) of the city came unofficial and confused reports of a terrible explosion in Hiroshima. All these reports were transmitted to the headquarters of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff.

Military bases repeatedly tried to call the Army Control Station in Hiroshima. The complete silence from that city puzzled the men at headquarters; they knew that no large enemy raid had occurred and that no sizeable store of explosives was in Hiroshima at that time. A young officer of the Japanese General Staff was instructed to fly immediately to Hiroshima, to land, survey the damage, and return to Tokyo with reliable information for the staff. It was generally felt at headquarters that nothing serious had taken place and that the explosion was just a rumor.

The staff officer went to the airport and took off for the southwest. After flying for about three hours, while still nearly 100 miles (160 km) from Hiroshima, he and his pilot saw a great cloud of smoke from the bomb. In the bright afternoon, the remains of Hiroshima were burning. Their plane soon reached the city, around which they circled in disbelief. A great scar on the land still burning and covered by a heavy cloud of smoke was all that was left. They landed south of the city, and the staff officer, after reporting to Tokyo, immediately began to organize relief measures.

By August 8, 1945, newspapers in the U.S. were reporting that broadcasts from Radio Tokyo had described the destruction observed in Hiroshima. "Practically all living things, human and animal, were literally seared to death," Japanese radio announcers said in a broadcast received by Allied sources.
These issues collectively teach us two important lessons: people don’t always know exactly what it is they have witnessed, especially without context; and post-event contextualization and interpretation can shape public memory and opinion of real events in significant ways. To confirm these points further, and perhaps finally, consider this testimony of an eyewitness to Hiroshima:
The magnitude of the disaster that befell Hiroshima on August 6th was only slowly pieced together in my mind. I lived through the catastrophe and saw it only in flashes, which only gradually were merged to give me a total picture.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

As much as six kilometers from the center of the explosion, all houses were damaged and many collapsed and caught fire. Even fifteen kilometers away, windows were broken. It was rumored that the enemy fliers had spread an explosive and incendiary material over the city and then had created the explosion and ignition. A few maintained that they saw the planes drop a parachute which had carried something that exploded at a height of 1,000 meters. The newspapers called the bomb an "atomic bomb" and noted that the force of the blast had resulted from the explosion of uranium atoms, and that gamma rays had been sent out as a result of this, but no one knew anything for certain concerning the nature of the bomb.
Applied to Sinai, these lessons remind us that we don’t know what, if anything, happened at Sinai and how it was experienced. The lessons also tell us that the Torah’s report provides a single source that does not always seem to say what the rabbis insist it does. Reference, for example, my reading of the relevant passages in Exodus 19 and 20, “where the direct interaction of God occurs unambiguously only with Moses, and perhaps also with Aaron.”
When we look at the biblical passage above, and we must remember that we read it in translation, we see that the nature of the interaction between God and Israel is hardly so remarkable as Kuzari might otherwise lead us to believe. With Moses and then Aaron seemingly as the sole exceptions, all Israel keeps its distance from Sinai and remains “far off.” The people see smoke and feel shaking, as if they are before a volcano. What did Israel hear? Certainly, they heard the shofar. What of God did they hear? Only sound.…While Jewish tradition has maintained that God spoke the first two commandments directly to Israel (but see Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, II.33), this seems to be an interpretation that is not explicit in the text itself.
Applied to Kuzari, the atomic bombings example offers lessons in the malleability of both beliefs and evidence. If I’m a very nationalistic American, I will dismiss or diminish information that potentially upsets my view. I’ll rather accept the lower casualty figure and believe that the two locations served a mostly military purpose. If I am suspicious of the government, I will accept different evidence and evaluate it differently. I don’t know whether ordinary people in Japan and around the world were unprepared to believe that the two bombings had happened unless evidence was presented to them. I suspect that many people had their opinions shaped and solidified by media, government spokespeople, and influential personal contacts—far away from direct evidence. I also know that people do funny things with evidence. Some people think the Zapruder film shows a conspiracy to assassinate JFK. Some people think the lunar photos show evidence that the US Moon missions were hoaxes.

In light of the above points, we can see how inadequately Kuzari handles concepts such as “event,” “evidence,” and “belief.” None of these concepts is put in the context of cultural knowledge and social power relations. None of these concepts is used in a way that considers the nuances in personal/collective experience, the ties between evidence and presupposition, and the use of beliefs as instruments of community coherence and conformity. A true NET belief such as the atomic bombings shows that people will believe according to their agenda and according to their favorite thought leaders.

Finally, I want to return to the quotation I gave earlier of Gottlieb’s case against myth formation. Gottlieb has continued to maintain the mistaken claim that “we have positive evidence that KP is true.” He has pointed to the quotation I gave as containing the positive evidence. As I went through in an earlier post to dispute his claims to empirical backing for Kuzari, I want to go through the quotation now to show that he is not providing positive evidence:
  1. “If myth formation applies to a belief, then of course the belief is not true.” This is a conditional statement and probably too much a generalization, since many myths are great exaggerations of the truth (i.e., Euhemerism). No positive evidence is contained in this sentence.
  2. “Myth formation shows how false beliefs arise.” This is an assertion, and no positive evidence is contained in the sentence.
  3. “Now THERE ARE NO KNOWN FALSE NET BELIEFS.” This is an assertion; moreover it is an assertion of having no positive evidence. The assertion itself and alone contains no positive evidence.
  4. “If myth formation worked in the NET category there should be many NET beliefs that are known false, but there are none.” This is a conditional statement that repeats the lack of positive evidence. It is an argumentative statement, but no positive evidence is here that supports why “there should be many NET events that are known false.”
  5. “So the evidence that we have of myth formation working is limited to cases that are not NET.” This statement asserts the existence of evidence for myth formation. While this statement makes an unspecified appeal to positive evidence, it actually contains none of its own.
  6. “The evidence we have is against myth formation applying to NET beliefs since if it did there should be many known false NET beliefs.” This is an assertion that makes an appeal to unspecified evidence of myth formation, as in #5, above. However, this statement claims that the evidence goes against the application of myth formation to NET beliefs. We get no mention here of either the specific evidence being referred to or the reasons the evidence would lead us away from a conclusion that myth formation applies to NET beliefs. So, this statement by itself contains no positive evidence.
Based on these six sentences, I do not think it is true to say that “we have positive evidence that KP is true.” So far, there is no positive evidence. Plus, the evidence of at least one real NET shows that Kuzari is too vague and speculative to tell us much about Sinai or belief in Sinai. In the case of Hiroshima/Nagasaki, the formation of beliefs started with confused reports of an event witnessed by very many. Information was then gathered and consensus opinions began to be formed. Later, the event was put into historical context and its significance contested.

With Sinai, we have one report given from one perspective. We don't know the report of the people closest to the mountain. We don't know the observations of witnesses in the very back. We cannot hear the voices of the women, the outsiders, and the opponents. We have no documents from the nations closest to Sinai telling us about something most unusual having happened. The strongest inference we can draw from Sinai is that something--a natural event or some other fantastic occurrence--may have happened out in the wilderness. We may even be able to justify saying something must have happened. We cannot, however, say with any confidence that Sinai happened. Kuzari changes nothing about this because even if the principle itself is 100 percent true, it doesn't tell us anything about what exactly happened at Sinai, how, to whom, over what time period, and at what stakes. It's a believer's reason to believe, a "nice to have." But it's not especially compelling to a neutral observer.

And that's why at this point it's best to leave the discussion because, with Sinai, the one thing we have not talked about is the one thing we should have been talking about all along: The actual evidence that we have for the actual people we think correspond to "Biblical Israel." Although this has been a fascinating discussion on logic, belief, and classification of events, we cannot get very far without a collection of real evidence and data. I have already shown that the pro-Kuzari side is not forthcoming when it comes to direct, positive evidence. We cannot derive a clear picture of Biblical Israel, Sinai, or the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki based on a principle. If we truly want to understand the events and these people, we need to study the writings and the physical data, and we need to remember not to get carried away by the existence or non-existence of evidence. The evidence often means what we want it to mean, and the non-evidence doesn't tell us much of anything.

18 comments:

  1. For me one of your most powerful ani-KP posts! Now we need you to write a consolidated article about it :)

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  2. Rambam10:51 AM

    I know I have been whining about this after a lot of your Kuzari posts, but I really do think it is a mistake to start playing the philosophy game with Kuzari proponents.

    You point out correctly that the argument puts Sinai in a category by itself. There are similar false beliefs like Holocaust denial, Muslim splitting of the moon, Mormon beliefs about early America, Jesus's feeding of the multitudes, Aztec revelation, Voodoo ritual, etc. that are all easily discounted by the proponent at the cost of defining the category in a way as to include only Sinai. This makes for a relatively air-tight philosophical argument (from their perspective), but makes it useless for actual application to the real world.

    I tend to disagree with you that their motivation for not using examples like Hiroshima/Nagasaki is that the histories of those events are ambiguous and reflect clear biases. The main point, that there was a big explosion, is clear, and so they will say of the main point of Sinai-revelation.

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  3. Rambam11:04 AM

    Furthermore, there are many Kuzari formulations out there that attempt to downplay the uniqueness of Sinai and place it in a more normative historical framework. See for instance:

    http://www.mesora.org/torahfromsinai.html

    These approaches argue that events like the civil war closely parallel Sinai in the sense that they were easily observed publicly, interpreted, etc. and cannot have been fabricated precisely because of this character.

    The trouble with these examples and the reason I would say that Gottlieb is tighter than Chait is that those examples are known to be true based on physical evidence, independent accounts, primary source manuscripts from the actual period, etc. So they do little to suggest that cultural tradition is reliable even in these cases. I would suggest that this is why Gottlieb avoids these examples (as opposed to what you are saying). I don't think analyzing the nuances of belief formation is his problem, I think he is perfectly willing to take an idealized view of that history too and pick and choose his data points. I think he needs to keep his NET category only events accepted based on tradition.

    Then the question would be to identify a national event that had profound impact on a nation that was told and retold for generations and then ultimately confirmed. In fact the task would be in general to show that when evidence arises to test a NET, it always passes.

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  4. Rambam11:19 AM

    So ultimately the problem is that the examples would all have to be quite contemporary. This is because once we start to get past the era of photography, past the newspaper, and even past the printing press (and we are still a long way from Sinai) we realize that history starts getting extremely tough to pin down. We always have to resort to excavation of the actual sites to figure anything out-the stories are worthless.

    I recently debated Kuzari with a Jewish scholar and at one point he tried to trip me up by asking me how I knew Caesar lived. I said we know this because their is physical evidence from the period (coins, etc.) that show his name and face, there are multiple written eye-witness accounts from the period and historians that lived during the period who were known to be meticulous in checking all their facts confirmed it.

    He was expecting me to say
    "c'mon, everyone knows Caesar lived!" To be honest, I think a lot of the people that claim Kuzari really are THAT ignorant about how we know what we know about the distant past. I am sure their is some cognitive dissonance at play too because they know of many myths of other faiths they think are ridiculous and so have ample reason to discredit the always unreliable cultural tradition method of history. In the end it is a mistake to think that just because they talk ancient history, they have any respect for the whole of it, or it's methods. They are just playing a game.

    So I think your conclusion is right and I return to the beginning of my rant that it is useless to play the game with the Kuzari proponents. It is perhaps overly charitable, but it really just makes sense to concede that a large Jewish nation assembled at a mountain at that time and walked away believing they heard God.

    The very weak point in the argument is this point. You touch on it with the issue of "possibility". That is, how skeptical should we be by default about Sinai and what would we need to see (in the text for instance) to convince us they were right.

    You don't want to argue philosophically about ancient history. Philosophy is just not useful in this context. Good luck convincing proponents of this.

    This isn't about the Israelites, it's about God. Tell Gottlieb you wanna talk about God.

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  5. Rambam,

    I know that you don't like playing the "philosophy game" with KP proponents, but it's their game to some extent and I feel I ought to try and engage proponents on their own terms.

    For the KP proponent, it's not enough that some, many, or all agree that there was thunder, lightening, and other sounds. The explanation of these physical happenings has to be believed, and that explanation has to be passed down through the generations.

    The Kuzari proponent's problem is whether what people believe is the truth or whether even an entire nation can all believe an incorrect explanation of an unusual phenomenon.

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  6. Rambam12:13 PM

    The issue of whether we can rely on the scientifically naive Israelites' ruling out of natural explanations for what occurred seems only to be an issue for an atheist. These arguments are much better suited for theists who are trying to ascertain which religion is true, and they have always been the main targets.

    One might say that you can use cosmological/ontological/design arguments to assuage the possibility and interpretation concerns, but these all have their own problems. Mostly, the mainstream of Jewish apologetics has been mostly focused on elevating Judaism over other faiths. I never recall atheistic viewpoints being taken the least bit seriously when I was in the fold. I remember hearing a lot of "These people are twisting their minds around hopelessly to avoid the responsibility of the Torah-things can't come from nothing!" On the other hand, a lot of attention was paid to questions like "How do we know Jesus wasn't the messiah?

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  7. I've had folks argue to me that a volcanic eruption or other such mighty and natural event wouldn't have been taken for a supernatural occurrence. So, I guess it's an issue for some theists.

    My reply is that I would expect any and every natural occurrence to be taken as a sign from God. The separation of nature from God is a modern invention or convention.

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  8. I really didn't see how you refuted anything by looking at a true NET.

    The KP argument sounds pretty straight forward.

    If it was so easy to fool people to believe in an event such as Sinai (false NET), we would see more dopes believing in false NETs, (meaning: more false NETs).

    If it happened only once, it sounds improbable. Why there is only one false NET?

    The fact there is only one allegedly false NET (Sinai), gives it credibility. It sounds more probable it's true, like all the other NETs.

    This is how I understand R' Gottlieb argument.

    If I would go ahead and refute KP, I would either find more false NETs, or explain why the definition of NET is rigged to just suit Sinai, or explain in some other way why having only one false NET is not really all that peculiar.

    IMHO, giving example of more true NETs, just gives KP more credibility, as it makes the argument shine more - look how all the NETs we find are true, except Sinai - which makes you doubt Sinai is false.

    I didn't find persuasive arguments of this sort in your posts.

    I didn't see how you in any of your posts explained why this basic KP argument is flawed...

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  9. I really didn't see how you refuted anything by looking at a true NET.

    The KP argument sounds pretty straight forward.

    If it was so easy to fool people to believe in an event such as Sinai (false NET), we would see more dopes believing in false NETs, (meaning: more false NETs).

    If it happened only once, it sounds improbable. Why there is only one false NET?

    The fact there is only one allegedly false NET (Sinai), gives it credibility. It sounds more probable it's true, like all the other NETs.

    This is how I understand R' Gottlieb argument.

    If I would go ahead and refute KP, I would either find more false NETs, or explain why the definition of NET is rigged to just suit Sinai, or explain in some other way why having only one false NET is not really all that peculiar.

    IMHO, giving example of more true NETs, just gives KP more credibility, as it makes the argument shine more - look how all the NETs we find are true, except Sinai - which makes you doubt Sinai is false.

    I didn't find persuasive arguments of this sort in your posts.

    I didn't see how you in any of your posts explained why this basic KP argument is flawed...

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  10. kDar,

    The true NET is not meant to refute a KP-based argument, and please note that KP is not itself an argument.

    Rather the true NET shows there is nothing upon which to establish a "principle" at all.

    More recent Kuzari posts of mine that may interest you:
    http://larrytanner.blogspot.com/2011/06/kuzari-reply-to-dovid-kornreich-on.html

    http://larrytanner.blogspot.com/2011/07/how-sinai-story-originated-and.html

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  11. Take a look at http://philosophyofjudaism.blogspot.com/2011/09/kuzari-principle.html, I think you'd be interested in the blog as well. It's a little article I wrote about the Kuzari principle, I'd be interested to hear your critique as it applies to what I wrote there.

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  12. How is this for a NET - a false one. The entire Muslim Ummah, or large part of it, somehow knew that the Jews/Zionists were behind 9/11.
    Or, the medieval Christians knew in several countries, that jews would use a gentile's blood for matzah. Surely, such a widespread belief could not be accepted by millions of people if it were false, with no evidence to support it!

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  13. A NET, whether falsified or not, does not prove anything, it is just a red herring. There are other unique claims and experiences. Islamic apologists make their own claims, but do not use NET as their nominated argument, they dream up something else. Does that make Islam true?

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  14. The Book of Corinthians 1:15 claims that Yashke (Jesus H. Christ) was resurrected after the crucifixion, and this was witnessed by hundreds of people! Thus according to Gottlieb's "logic", it is therefore rational to accept Yashke as Moshiach Yisboroch, and also as son of G-d, this is verified by the Kuzari Principle. The resurrection was a NET.

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  15. There is also another NET experience, in the Torah, which calls into question the degree of NET for sinai. This is the Golden Calf incident of Ex 32. If the whole nation had actually witnessed in no uncertain terms the Sinai revelation, why did they shortly after, decide to worship a Golden calf - which was the complete antithesis of the 10 commandments?
    "1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him: 'Up, make us a god who shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him.'"

    If the people had all achieved prophecy and seen God, then why were they so fickle? How many people leave a Yeshiva programme and go worship idols the next day?

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  16. Strictly speakin, the experience of the people was only that they saw thunder and lightning and were scared :
    Exodus 2014 And all the people perceived the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the voice of the horn, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled, and stood afar off
    15 And they said unto Moses: 'Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.'

    This is the NET of Sinai. However, they soon became disenchanted with this NET, and sought a golden calf.

    So in reality, we only rely on Moshe's authorship for what he experienced. This is being clinically skeptical, of course.

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  17. King Ahab, as told in 1Kings 16-18, practiced Baal worship. This was not a private experience but a national one, for all of the Northern Israelite kingdom. So much so, that Elijah called on Ahab to bring 450 Prophets of baal to Mt Carmel. This Ball worship was a NET, as it defined the Northern Kingdom. It was practiced by Kings before and after Ahab. Was this a true NET or a false one? depends how you define true. Either way, it destroys the so-called Kuzari principle.

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Feel free to comment if you have something substantial and substantiated to say.