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Much Ado about Nothing?

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3 minutes ago, Bernard Gui said:

Objectivity and consensus: That which consists of those who believe like I do.

Consensus matters when it comes to scholarship, the sciences, and its also the building block for civilized society.  Independence to think how we individually choose is also an important tradition, especially in America, and I claim that right as well.  Doesn't mean that any of that independent thinking is reasonable, rational or critical, but I still claim that right and its core to our society.  

Is thinking outside the consensus a virtue in and of itself in your mind?  

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15 minutes ago, sheilauk said:

https://longreads.com/2017/04/13/in-1975-newsweek-predicted-a-new-ice-age-were-still-living-with-the-consequences/

I'm sure a lot would like to think it a myth.  Obviously,  with more data, and not ignoring data, scientists changed their minds. As do biblical scholars.  But I remember all the fuss in the 70s re the ice age and I watched a documentary about the changing consensus which showed the 70s footage of the "lone" voice.  But I'm not interested in searching further.  Feel free to ignore my anecdotal position. 

Did you even read this article that you linked to?  It essentially supports what I said earlier, that this Newsweek article did not represent a consensus view of the science in the 1970s, that unfortunately climate change deniers are using this as support for their arguments, and that the author of the article and Newsweek regret how this is being spun as evidence that scientists have changed their minds about the climate so we should ignore the current consensus.  The key point is, there was no consensus in the 70s about a cooling climate, this is a myth.  

Quote

In later years, though, climate change deniers latched upon the 1970s speculations of a cooling planet as a way to discredit scientists who raise the alarm over increasing global temperatures. Some contrarians point to an international conspiracy they say is trying to suppress evidence of a supposed consensus on global cooling. Not only is global warming wrong, these deniers argue, but the exact opposite of warming may be happening — and in any case, how can we believe scientists who claim one thing in one decade and something completely different in another? Or who predicted one disaster that never happened, and now forecast another?

The study of the world’s climate was still primitive in the 1970s. Few meteorological scientists then knew how to interpret trending temperature information, and the cause of climate changes was mysterious. The information that climate researchers had collected was incomplete and easy to misread. The biosciences have advanced by huge leaps since then, and many more scientists now study the climate.

Today, with far better technologies and information available, such organizations as the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Climate Assessment, and the American Meteorological Society, to name just a few, have declared that the evidence is strong that human activity is causing climate change and higher atmospheric temperatures. No peer-reviewed article advancing evidence for a cooling world has been published in a reputable scientific publication for decades. Meanwhile, thousands of studies offering evidence of global warming have appeared in those same pages, and observable changes have already resulted. Surveys in 2009 and 2010 showed that 97 percent of climate scientists believe that human activity is causing global warming. That’s an overwhelming majority.

 

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8 hours ago, rongo said:

I'm well-read on the "Isaiah problem," and I don't find Bokovoy's higher criticism to be convincing. It is a valid viewpoint, and scholars have made some good points. The Documentary Hypothesis does make some valid points, but I find that, at bottom, higher critics don't believe in the possibility of prophecy and revelation. That is what lies at the heart of those who question the authorship of Isaiah --- he made prophecies about things that happened centuries after he lived, so those items had to have been written by contemporaries. The arguments starts there with that assumption and branch out from there ---- focusing inordinately on style, given that assumption. 

I would put Bokovoy in that camp as well. If pinned down,  I believe he would deny the possibility of prophecy and revelation. People feel moved on and write their thoughts, but for God to actually be able to reveal the name of Cyrus to Isaiah 200 years previously? Impossible. That is the discomfort of liberal scholars. They prefer a deism God who exists in a vague way but doesn't interact directly. 

I'm not well acquainted enough with Bokovoy's arguments to comment on them, but I agree with you in principle.

If Nephi can behold in vision many centuries in advance the details of the Savior's mortal life and ministry, and if Joseph in Egypt can behold in vision the latter-day mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith and see it in such fine detail as to know his name would also be Joseph and that he would be called after the name of his father, then it seems to me to be no great thing for Isaiah to be given the name of Cyurs the great 200 years in advance.

You're right: Once one rejects the possibility of prophecy and revelation, all the other arguments about stylistic variation and what not are mere confirmation bias.

Edited by Scott Lloyd

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Overwhelming evidence is rarely that. In a few short years the consensus about eggs went from ' good for you' to ' really bad for you'  to 'good if taken in moderation. ' Same with butter. This with items that can be carefully controlled and tested and experiments done . History is replete with consensus opinion that was eventually replaced by a different consensus opinion. It is said that with many conflicts, be they physical or intellectual, one should " follow the money" . In other words " follow the profit ".

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15 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

I'm not well acquainted enough with Bokovoy's arguments to comment on them, but I agree with you in principle.

If Nephi can behold in vision many centuries in advance the details of the Savior's mortal life and ministry, and if Joseph in Egypt can behold in vision the latter-day mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith and see it in such fine detail to know that he would be called after the name of his father, then it seems to me to be no great thing for Isaiah to be given the name of Cyurs the great 200 years in advance.

You're right: Once one rejects the possibility of prophecy and revelation, all the other arguments about stylistic variation and what not are mere confirmation bias.

Weirdly ironic.  Once one assumes old traditions are by prophecy and revelation, then all conclusions based on any argument are mere confirmation bias. 

Again, Bokovoy, had indicated he accepts prophecy and revelation (I can't confirm his current position).  It's certainly possible.  The dichotomy here is really sadly ignorant, ti seems to me. 

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22 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

I'm not well acquainted enough with Bokovoy's arguments to comment on them, but I agree with you in principle.

Few of Bokovoy's arguments depend upon the prophecy issue. It's things like knowledge of Aramaic. A few things you could argue are possible but unlikely, like talking as if the conquest has already happened. But the appeal to prophecy as resolving the issue really avoids many of the arguments for a later date.

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4 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

One difference being that we have actual historical events to build the textual analysis around like the exile for example.  And I don't believe scholars would characterize this specific textual analysis as "extremely weak" either.  

Not sure what argument or text you're referring to. I think parts of deutero-Isaiah presuppose the exile is over. I'm not sure that's true of the portion in question. That is it presupposes some exile, but the question is whether that could be the first conquest of Jerusalem or if it has to be after the second. Further the text could be under development during the exile - still being modified from what was available to Nephi. But it's hard to say more without dealing with specific passages and claims.

Edited by clarkgoble

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1 hour ago, sheilauk said:

https://longreads.com/2017/04/13/in-1975-newsweek-predicted-a-new-ice-age-were-still-living-with-the-consequences/

I'm sure a lot would like to think it a myth.  Obviously,  with more data, and not ignoring data, scientists changed their minds. As do biblical scholars.  But I remember all the fuss in the 70s re the ice age and I watched a documentary about the changing consensus which showed the 70s footage of the "lone" voice.  But I'm not interested in searching further.  Feel free to ignore my anecdotal position. 

The problem is that the press often converges on the sensational and rarely does a good job representing scientific views. That's still true today but was even worse then. So appealing to popular press isn't a good way of deciding what scientists though. Trying to figure out the strength of theories from the popular press is even worse. 

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7 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

What I don't understand about your perspective is you come across as someone who embraces some level of evidence based scholarship, yet only up to a certain point.  You acknowledge some valid points, yet when evidence goes so far as to challenge your theological paradigm it sounds like you're dismissing the evidence and retreating to apologetic arguments.  Perhaps you can clarify how you can accept some of the scholarship, but not all of it?  Or maybe I'm not understanding your perspective well, and you can correct me.  Thanks

I'm planning on more time for an extensive answer (I've got to grade some stuff, and I'm on Family Home Evening lesson tonight, too), but I'll say this for now.

I read Sidney B. Sperry's stuff on the Isaiah Problem when I was in high school. He quoted from both sides, but came down squarely on the side of the entire Book of Isaiah being in the brass plates (i.e., so that the "Isaiah Problem" in the Book of Mormon isn't a problem). I found his arguments and evidences offered very convincing, and the higher criticism lacking.

In 2007, I began reading the Interpreter's Bible (KJV and RSV side-by-side, with extensive exegetical and sermon notes). My wife was hospitalized with surgeries and lengthy recuperation, I was a new bishop, and had four young children. When they were asleep, I pulled out volume 1 of 12 and took notes (I just finished volume 12 last year, in fact). Most of volume one consists of essays about Bible scholarship, the Documentary Hypothesis, various aspects of Near Eastern Studies, etc. Fascinating stuff, for me. It doesn't even begin Genesis until like page 500. It is written from a secular Bible Studies perspective, and many essays are extremely sympathetic to higher criticism. I took a lot of notes (some day, I'd like to type them up). There are places in my notes where I mentioned good points I hadn't thought of before that run counter to my "default orientation" on things. For example, one of many, many points in the Documentary Hypothesis, from Wellhausen down to the present, is the fact that extensive mention of details of walled city urban life in the Pentateuch is anachronistic. I agree with DH proponents that items like this are likely later additions that reflect realities not on the radar during the Exodus and the Wandering in the Wilderness. 

But, there are also many points that I disagree with and find unconvincing. Overall, I personally find the conservatism of Mormon tradition about scripture to be far more accurate and convincing. 

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2 hours ago, sheilauk said:

https://longreads.com/2017/04/13/in-1975-newsweek-predicted-a-new-ice-age-were-still-living-with-the-consequences/

I'm sure a lot would like to think it a myth.  Obviously,  with more data, and not ignoring data, scientists changed their minds. As do biblical scholars.  But I remember all the fuss in the 70s re the ice age and I watched a documentary about the changing consensus which showed the 70s footage of the "lone" voice.  But I'm not interested in searching further.  Feel free to ignore my anecdotal position. 

This was what I was taught in public school in California and Illinois.  I remember some of the discussions.

It is possible the science community wasn't teaching it as I didn't have a way to keep up with them at the time, but it was certainly in my little communities.

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I read Sidney B. Sperry's stuff on the Isaiah Problem when I was in high school. He quoted from both sides, but came down squarely on the side of the entire Book of Isaiah being in the brass plates (i.e., so that the "Isaiah Problem" in the Book of Mormon isn't a problem). I found his arguments and evidences offered very convincing, and the higher criticism lacking.

The challenge is that Sperry is dead before (what I would consider) the really important stuff comes out, which makes his work really dated on this issue. You can't really engage the question without being more than passingly aware of Michael Fishbane (1985: Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel) and Benjamin Sommer (1996:  “Allusions and Illusions: The Unity of the Book of Isaiah in Light of Deutero-Isaiah’s Use of Prophetic Tradition,” in New Visions of Isaiah and 1998: A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40–66). These discussions form the foundation of what I would consider to be current thought on Isaiah in particular and part of a broad selection of material on rhetoric in the Old Testament more generally. These arguments are all about the relationships between texts (and not so much about comparing the text to the historical record). What do we do when it appears that a passage in Isaiah borrows from Jeremiah (and not the other way around)? These are not simple arguments - and most often (in my experience), in apologetic discussions they are swept aside for an appeal to a simpler sort of discussion that inevitably fails to engage the arguments made using the tools of higher criticism. These arguments are simply not about prophetic foresight (or lack thereof). They are about the language and the way that the language is used.

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42 minutes ago, rongo said:

I'm planning on more time for an extensive answer (I've got to grade some stuff, and I'm on Family Home Evening lesson tonight, too), but I'll say this for now.

I read Sidney B. Sperry's stuff on the Isaiah Problem when I was in high school. He quoted from both sides, but came down squarely on the side of the entire Book of Isaiah being in the brass plates (i.e., so that the "Isaiah Problem" in the Book of Mormon isn't a problem). I found his arguments and evidences offered very convincing, and the higher criticism lacking.

In 2007, I began reading the Interpreter's Bible (KJV and RSV side-by-side, with extensive exegetical and sermon notes). My wife was hospitalized with surgeries and lengthy recuperation, I was a new bishop, and had four young children. When they were asleep, I pulled out volume 1 of 12 and took notes (I just finished volume 12 last year, in fact). Most of volume one consists of essays about Bible scholarship, the Documentary Hypothesis, various aspects of Near Eastern Studies, etc. Fascinating stuff, for me. It doesn't even begin Genesis until like page 500. It is written from a secular Bible Studies perspective, and many essays are extremely sympathetic to higher criticism. I took a lot of notes (some day, I'd like to type them up). There are places in my notes where I mentioned good points I hadn't thought of before that run counter to my "default orientation" on things. For example, one of many, many points in the Documentary Hypothesis, from Wellhausen down to the present, is the fact that extensive mention of details of walled city urban life in the Pentateuch is anachronistic. I agree with DH proponents that items like this are likely later additions that reflect realities not on the radar during the Exodus and the Wandering in the Wilderness. 

But, there are also many points that I disagree with and find unconvincing. Overall, I personally find the conservatism of Mormon tradition about scripture to be far more accurate and convincing. 

Here are my recommendations.  Read Bokovoy's Authoring the Old Testament, its accessible for a Mormon audience and has great footnotes from the mainstream scholarship on this subject which you can refer to if you still question some of that scholarship.  

If you find yourself not convinced after really attempting to understand the breadth of these arguments then at least you've done some due diligence.  

Personally my default position on scholarly questions like authorship and archeological evidence is to follow mainstream scholarship.  To me these things don't have to destroy my faith because my faith is not built on specific claims about how God has to work.  My personal testimony is based on how God has worked in my life subjectively and not how some other individuals in the past or present orient towards God.  So I'm excited about all the scholarship because it's interesting and tells me more about how previous generations related to God and wrote about those experiences which tells me a lot about human nature.  

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7 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

The middle ground is that many commentaries note that a lot of Isaiah was in development prior to the exile but after the Assyrian prophecies of proto-Isaiah. It doesn't explain everything, but typically it explains a great deal. More or less it's just the idea that deutero-Isaiah isn't composed out of whole cloth after the exile but was already in development at the time of Jeremiah. The elements that are explicitly from the exile or later are simply missing from the Book of Mormon.

I'd add that the very way Nephi and Jacob modify Isaiah with their own pesher suggests that was a common practice at the time of Jeremiah and thereby actually gives support for a multi-author Isaiah. i.e. the claims about deutero-Isaiah themselves rest upon practice we see in the Book of Mormon. Quoting from my T&S post:

Isaiah 48-53 are the main problematic passages -  the so called stubborn Israel passages. The argument more or less is to accept the multiple authorship but merely problematize when those chapters were written.

Again this is well within the scholarly mainstream. See for instance McKinley, "The Usefulness of a Daughter" in Isaiah and Imperial Context: The Book of Isaiah in the Times of Empire. They aren't debating that deutero-Isaiah isn't writing well after proto-Isaiah merely questioning whether it reflects the Babylonian exile. She quotes Goldingay, "we do not even know for certain whether the material in Isaiah 40-55 is of Babylonian background or perhaps mixed origin." She writes herself, "...there appears to be a change of focus in chapters 49-55. While some have suggested that 'the core of Isaiah 40-48 originated in Babylon addressing the gola, whereas Isaiah 49-55 was composed by a group in Judah to address the population of Jerusalem after 520 BCE."  

I don't want to portray this as without controversy. But effectively it's just pushing the text back 20 years to after the initial attacks by Babylon and first generation of exiles but before the final conquest and exile. i.e. during the very disruptive period of Zedekiah between 597 and approximately 586. Effectively the claim is that deutero-Isaiah 48-53 is a different prophet contemporary with Jeremiah writing after the initial exile but before the final one -- much like Lehi.

Is this a glimmer of implication that Lehi IS the/one of the modifiers of Isaiah actually in the Old Testament as it stands?  Or is that too simplistic?

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3 hours ago, Maidservant said:

Is this a glimmer of implication that Lehi IS the/one of the modifiers of Isaiah actually in the Old Testament as it stands?  Or is that too simplistic?

That's too simplistic. Likely there wasn't a single person and it took place over years. Duetero-Isaiah appears to often be reworking Jeremiah. So there is a relationship there. More or less I'm just arguing the borrowing is deeper and relates to the whole Jeremiah period. i.e. there were proto-deutero-Isaiah texts. And again to emphasize, the mainstream view is that it was written a few decades after Jeremiah. So my view isn't without problems.

 I just find it interesting that not all of deuteroIsaiah makes an appearance. Further the purported context of an under development book of Isaiah from the time of Josiah up to the time of the exile actually lines up with Nephi's exegesical practices where he has zero problem modifying Isaiah and still calling it Isaiah even when it's very clearly an expansion making sense of the circumstance they found themselves in. In other words Nephi's practice shows Isaiah developing the way scholars claim it developed.

4 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

What do we do when it appears that a passage in Isaiah borrows from Jeremiah (and not the other way around)? These are not simple arguments - and most often (in my experience), in apologetic discussions they are swept aside for an appeal to a simpler sort of discussion that inevitably fails to engage the arguments made using the tools of higher criticism.

Many if not most apologists are quite fine with multiple Isaiah authorship and particularly the documentary hypothesis. Indeed many got back quite some years tend to see Lehi in terms of the northern kingdom and conflict with the deuteronomists. There's not one view of course and in particularly the issue of how much Barker to appropriate is a constant issue. Bill Hamblin recently wrote a post critiquing that view for not dealing well with Jeremiah's positive comments to Josiah. (This gets touched upon in the T&S post comments) So I think there's a fair diversity of opinion, but very few just throw out higher criticism although I do think higher critics often aren't up front about the strength of their arguments. (To make a common point - less that 20% of papers in the hard sciences replicate. Why should we expect the very weak empirical arguments of higher criticism to do better than physics or biochemistry?)

But I bet if you were to poll most authors at the Interpreter and/or old FARMS/MI that most accept many elements of higher criticism.

Edit: I know you know this Ben -- just making the general point for readers. I didn't want to come off patronizing as I know you've written for the Interpreter and so for. So don't take the above as a comment aimed at you. Just wanted to clarify things since of course David's stuff some would call apologetic at times. There's you of course who've written there. Colby Townsend. Keven Christiansen and many others whose who apologetic depends upon elements of higher criticism. However one can embrace it in the big picture and quibble in the smaller picture depending upon the argument at hand.

Edited by clarkgoble

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17 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

Consensus matters when it comes to scholarship, the sciences, and its also the building block for civilized society.  Independence to think how we individually choose is also an important tradition, especially in America, and I claim that right as well.  Doesn't mean that any of that independent thinking is reasonable, rational or critical, but I still claim that right and its core to our society.  

Is thinking outside the consensus a virtue in and of itself in your mind?  

At one time the consensus was that J.S. Bach was just a back-country musician whose music was out-dated, stodgy, and academic. Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky changed the course of music history by thinking outside the consensus. 

Edited by Bernard Gui

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16 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

No offense, but this is the same kind of logic used by climate change deniers.

 

[Stargazer struggles manfully to strangle his impulse to leap into a massive threadjack.]

[Succeeds, mostly.]

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15 minutes ago, Bernard Gui said:

At one time the consensus was that J.S. Bach was just a back-country musician whose music was out-dated, stodgy, and academic.

Or shall we also mention the consensus that was the Phlogiston Theory?

And there's more! :-) 

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6 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

At one time the consensus was that J.S. Bach was just a back-country musician whose music was out-dated, stodgy, and academic. Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky changed the course of music history by thinking outside the consensus. 

You didn't answer my question about whether thinking outside the consensus is a virtue in and of itself.  Many conspiracy theorists think outside the consensus too.  

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6 hours ago, Stargazer said:

Or shall we also mention the consensus that was the Phlogiston Theory?

And there's more! :-) 

If this is the best example anyone can find of scientific consensus being wrong, then I'm feeling pretty confident in following the mainstream.  This is from the 17th century if wikipedia is correct.  I asked for examples in the past 100 years.  

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2 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

You didn't answer my question about whether thinking outside the consensus is a virtue in and of itself.  Many conspiracy theorists think outside the consensus too.  

A lot of mistakes are made and perpetuated by following the consensus; however, that does not make it inoperable. A reasonable dose of skepticism is therapeutic. I'm not sure what you are getting at.

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46 minutes ago, Bernard Gui said:

A lot of mistakes are made and perpetuated by following the consensus; however, that does not make it inoperable. A reasonable dose of skepticism is therapeutic. I'm not sure what you are getting at.

You seemed to applaud this idea of not following the consensus earlier, which made me wonder if you consider this a virtue.  Skepticism and critical thinking are very important skills.  I just don't see how not following the consensus is to be applauded when in most cases, especially in the case of mainstream scholarship and the sciences, following the consensus is by far the most statistically prudent path.  

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18 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

You seemed to applaud this idea of not following the consensus earlier, which made me wonder if you consider this a virtue.  Skepticism and critical thinking are very important skills.  I just don't see how not following the consensus is to be applauded when in most cases, especially in the case of mainstream scholarship and the sciences, following the consensus is by far the most statistically prudent path.  

We are probably more comfortable when we feel we are with the majority. Thus my facetious comment that consensus and objectivity consists of those who think like I do. We make progress going with the herd, but sometimes we find ourselves led to a place we didn't expect or want to be. At what percentage do you think consensus locks in truth?

Edited by Bernard Gui

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2 hours ago, hope_for_things said:

If this is the best example anyone can find of scientific consensus being wrong, then I'm feeling pretty confident in following the mainstream.  This is from the 17th century if wikipedia is correct.  I asked for examples in the past 100 years.  

It's not necessarily the best. It's the first one that occurred to me. Wasn't responding to your request for recent examples, I was just adding to something Bernard Gui posted. But really, what difference does it make how long ago it was?

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1 hour ago, Bernard Gui said:

We are probably more comfortable when we feel we are with the majority. Thus my facetious comment that consensus and objectivity consists of those who think like I do. We make progress going with the herd, but sometimes we find ourselves led to a place we didn't expect or want to be. At what percentage do you think consensus locks in truth?

I think truth is more of a process and a probability.  We're 99.999% sure gravity exists and works the way it does, but we can't explain how it works or the specific boundaries around what causes it.  I wouldn't describe consensus as "locking in truth."  The contrasting perspective that has been expressed by a few people on this thread is that they may have studied some elements of an issue, and based on that limited understanding they are able to reject the ideas of professionals who collectively have likely devoted thousands of hours examining these issues using the scientific processes of testing eliminating other possibilities.  

To dismiss this collective effort based on a personal undisciplined review of the materials is reckless and doesn't reflect a rigorous engagement with the material, rather it typically reflects a misunderstanding of the issues.  

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19 minutes ago, Stargazer said:

It's not necessarily the best. It's the first one that occurred to me. Wasn't responding to your request for recent examples, I was just adding to something Bernard Gui posted. But really, what difference does it make how long ago it was?

Because do you really think the collective scientific endeavor was as robust in the 17th century as it is today.  We have hundreds of scholarly institutions and peer reviewed journals and worldwide collaboration on problems in the modern age.  Its the power of large numbers, as the numbers increase accuracy increases as well. 

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