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The Biblical Archeology Syndrome

The Biblical Archeology Syndrome

Latest edition (tenth, published in 2020) of cheats, myths and puzzles, The textbook used by archaeologist Kenneth L. Vader lies and falsifications about humanity’s past to present and explain, in an educational way, the basic ideas about pseudoscience and logical fallacies, and records at least six occasions on which traces of Noah’s Ark, or the Ark itself, still intact, would have been “discovered” in Last year, either on the slope of Mount Ararat, in Turkey (its traditional landing site) or on a mountain located in Iran, Mount Solomon.

Discoverers of Noah’s Ark, as well as identifiers The “real location” of Sodom and Gomorrahfalls within the line of pseudoscientific research known as “biblical archaeology,” the task of combing the archaeological and geological record in search of “evidence” that can be used to argue that the biblical account—particularly the Old Testament—should be considered factual.

Initially, the method of biblical archaeology can be viewed as a combined application, quite typical of pseudoscience in general, of confirmation bias (dealing with only relevant evidence that appears to confirm the desired hypothesis) and Cherry pickingThe selective and biased presentation of this evidence. But biblical archaeologists practice these common sins with additional detail—an interpretive focus.

(L) Logical connection

The relationship between evidence and hypotheses is, for the most part, viewed as something that occurs directly. The material presented is said to either support or contradict the thesis, confirm or refute, or increase or decrease the probability that the proposition is true. However, there is a third element that tends to go unnoticed and is rarely questioned: Relevance Of the materials facing the question, and Relevance For the argument to which it fits (or which one is trying to fit). Finally, the logical relationship between the hypothesis defended and the evidence presented.

This third element tends to go unnoticed, in general, because the connection is self-evident: if we want to know whether a certain health remedy “X” cures a certain disease “Z,” then the cases of people who recovered from “Z” after passing through “X” seem to Clearly relevant. Of course, without adequate controls, this connection becomes illusory, but it is difficult to disagree that examples of apparent success carry an intuitive connection (an intuition that can be confirmed or not, depending on the results of studies that are more suitable for evaluating causal relationships and analyses). made of).

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However, in a field such as biblical archaeology, the relationship, whether logical or intuitive, between evidence and hypotheses is always coercive, if not completely non-existent. There is no natural intuition linking pieces of wood found on the side of a mountain in Turkey, or an oval rock on the side of another mountain located in Iran, with the supposed global flood that occurred 5,000 years ago. Or even broken pottery, in an ancient settlement in the Dead Sea region, led to the destruction of two cities with divine wrath.

In such cases, it is not enough to merely sift through the evidence, downplay the inconvenient facts (as confirmation bias does) or exclude them altogether, to organize the rest into a narrative that is entirely focused in the “right” places (e.g. Cherry picking). This is because the existing evidence is not only weak or questionable, it is simply not relevant to the issue: it needs to be fixed, through an interpretive effort that attempts to transform the arbitrary into the relevant, and the irrelevant into the essential. For example, in the case of the Iranian Noah’s Ark, strangely shaped sedimentary rocks were reinterpreted as the fossilized prow of the ship.


Such a strategy—the magical extraction of “evidence” out of thin air, by objectively creative reinterpretation of facts unrelated to the hypothesis being defended—is not limited to ancient miracle hunters, but is so striking in the field that I decided to name it. , at least temporarily, the Biblical Archeology Syndrome.

The frequent user of this “arrival calculation”, in which the numbers (or arguments) necessary to produce the predetermined sum are cooked up, with the knowledge of the desired outcome, is of course psychoanalysis: in reactions to the publication of “What? Nonsense!”, it has become tiresome to present Any vaguely positive references to concepts such as “unconscious” or “repression” in the peer-reviewed literature are seen as evidence that Freudian ideas have intrinsic merit.

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This occurs even if the only similarity between the concept used in scientific work and the psychoanalytic meaning of the term is of the same kind found between an oval rock and the prow of a mythical ship. The “unconscious” is perhaps the most scandalous example. “Cognitive psychology and neuroscience have long established beyond doubt that there is no separate unconscious mind that follows its own rules,” the article says. “The cognitive unconscious in everyday life”, written by psychologist researching unconscious processes John Bargh. “Although we continue to refer (…) to the unconscious mind, to do so is in fact an anachronistic throwback to psychoanalytic theory.” Or Maurice N. Eagle (in “Basic Concepts in Classical Psychoanalysis”): “Evidence for unconscious processing is often seen as providing support for Freud’s claims about the dynamic unconscious.”

What Eagle, a generous psychoanalytic author, calls “wrong” is perhaps better described as “bad faith.”

Moreover, it is an inherent vice, and has tainted the system since its founding. As Richard Webster wrote in his booklet “Freud”“Instead of moving from observations to theory, Freud began with a theory and then rationalized it backwards, organizing a series of ‘observations’ that were then incorrectly presented as the data from which the theory was derived.”

There are currents in the philosophy of science that grapple with the supposed problem of the indeterminacy of theory by facts, which is the idea that given a body of data about reality, it is theoretically possible to imagine an infinite number of theories capable of explaining it. .

I call the problem “supposed” because, first, it has never shown itself in practice (there have never been “infinite theories” in competition); Second, because the number and form of theories applicable to explain a given set of data will always be limited and guided by established theories that explainOthers Datasets. This is because descriptions of reality must converge toward mutual consistency: there are flat-Earth hypotheses that explain sunrise and sunset very well, but they cannot be taken seriously because they contradict all the knowledge produced by physics, geography and astronomy.

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The Biblical Archeology Syndrome refers to the occurrence of the opposite phenomenon in the world of pseudoscience: Over-determination Data through Theory – In the face of a sacred hypothesis, “data” is anything that agrees with it, or can, after some rhetorical sleight of hand, I give an impression That you agree with her. From the perspective of a society committed to pseudoscientific belief, this overspecification is not a problem, but rather a design feature. Not a bug, but a featureas they say there.

Carlos Orci is a journalist and editor-in-chief of Revista Questão de Ciência, author of O Livro dos Milagres (Editora da Unesp), O Livro da Astrologia (KDP), Negacionismo (Editora de Cultura) and co-author of “Pura Picaretagem” (Leya), and “Science in Daily Life” (Editora contexto), the work that won the Jabuti Prize, “Contra a Realidade” (Papirus 7 Mares), and “What nonsense!” (context editor)