History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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The Israelites and transformations over a region over a time interval…Axial Age enigmas…(more Str/Seqs stuff)

March 17th, 2014 · 1 Comment

The stream and sequence model is a useful way to approach questions that are too complex for any explanation, but which may have been subject to design arguments. I.e. the case of ancient Israel. It is impossible to make sense of the data using the ‘god’ concept as a causal substitute.

Having said that, the ancient Israelites correctly sensed something that we can now see defies easy explanation. Note one irony: everything up to the historical chronicle of Israel after about 900 BCE is the stream component, mostly myth, but with probable historical remnants, e.g. the tale of Abraham, Moses, etc… The myth correctly shows how adjacent peoples, e.g. Canaanites, intersected with the Egyptian civilization, etc… so the Bible takes a heavy hit here: the whole stream history up to the post-Solomon era is unreliable, along with the Exodus, the Sinai tales, the Joshua invasion, etc… Not much left. But the Israelites missed the real ‘miracle’ (in quotation marks), even as they correctly began to sense that a transformation was occurring over a geographical region. Small wonder they couldn’t quite get it straight, and wondrous indeed that they caught a glimpse of the macrohistorical sasquatch. The Greeks in a stupendous apparition of cultural innovation from the Archaic to the classical period drew no such conclusions: they didn’t observe a ‘transformation’ over a region over a time period, a sort of monster ‘integral from minus infinity’ over an xyz interval.region.volume (?) (to inject a slightly preposterous math argument for the sake of not giving up on naturalistic explanations). But the Israelites clearly saw that some action was occurring with respect to their culture/kingdoms, and they were in a most peculiar situation: even as a sense of a national culture was taking root they were torn away from their geographical basis. It is a tale of disappearing kingdoms, Israel, then Judah. Then the exile: and it is just here that two gestating monotheisms, Canaanite and Persian intersect and mutually amplify.
This is pretty hard to explicate as chance, and pretty hard to remove from intuitions of design, leaving a truly eerie mystery. The Israelites sensed something was afoot, and then injected a theistic argument that in reality tends to disguise the real design, which is totally beyond current forms of explanation. The point is that in this murky history there are too many pieces of a puzzle in place to be confident of random developments. But the theistic version instantly muddles the whole discussion.
The stream and sequence approach then remains neutral on key issues, but shows a dynamic at work of some unknown macro process.
Note the way a theist argument doesn’t really work: a divinity wouldn’t operate discontinuously over history. But it is hardly illogical for a ‘primitive’ people to interpret perceptions of the ‘macro’ action over a region, over several centuries, as the action of a ‘higher power’ of some kind.
In fact, we don’t have any answers here, although I think that our discussion of an ‘evolutionary’ context is the right one. In this new form ‘design’ arguments are not disallowed, unlike darwinian evolution. But they must have evidence. We have the evidence here, almost, but not quite. The problem is that the evidence points to the phenomenon now called the Axial Age, and the same dynamic of a transformation over a region is at work in many different places across Eurasis: there is a common denominator at work. For entirely different outcomes. So we are stuck. BTW this gets close to the kind of situation that Dembski considered in his reasoning on the design inference. We almost instinctively make a design inference, even as we must acknowledge, in this case, that the progression of events could have been random. But we sense that that randomness doesn’t add up. We should also note that the terms of ‘divinity’ changed over time, as later Jews and Christians sensed that the ‘revealed documents’ they had made their tradition were problematical.

Here we should inject the realization, using our stream and sequence distinction, that the history of ‘Judah/Israel’ shows sequence placement, while the full realization, e.g. the birth of Xtianity (and Judaism
m, and later Islam) are stream elements, a bit disconcerting. There is actually no contradiction: the Axial Age interval was a stupendous thing to itself, a transformation over a region, in a larger transformation that was nearly global, while the era of the birth of Xtianity was a series of events triggered by individuals, in a political or religious movement that just happened in a butterfly effect to grow and amplify, i.e. a successful socioplitical event that was a de facto revolution over time. We cannot say that these downfield events were pre-contained dynamically in their source period. The Xtians certainly tried to claim so. Actually we don’t quite know. Whatever the case, the birth of Xtianity wasn’t a ‘dynamical’ event as with the Axial Age transformations (in addition to being a concert of individuals), but the actions of individuals in history. This situation can have, depending on your beliefs, religious or secular, spiritual sources, but they are not the same as the macro-humungous ‘evolutionary’ transformation of regions/cultures over time that we see in the larger sequence structure.
You can see at every stage the attempts to decipher this structure from the beginning to the end, and we can see that so far the secular debunking jobs are almost more confused than the religious which slowly but surely got a rough sense of the whole stupendous event series, but with the onset of hopeless confusions nearly overtaking the whole gambit of biblical historicism.

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