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Posted by on Nov 18, 2012 in Epistemology | 62 comments

Absence of evidence IS evidence of absence (in many cases)

I get annoyed at apologists and theists that trot “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” out as if it is some kind of unbreakable law. Nonsense. Not only is it the basis of a gazillion court cases, as well as carefully constructed scientific experiments, it is very useful to boot. It CAN be a fallacy when formulated as an Argument from Ignorance, but it is not strictly synonymous. John D. Cook, mathematician and statistician, sums it up well. Also, Carrier in Proving History deals really well with it as not being a fallacy in historical analyses. JohnM has recently being claiming this mantra incorrectly.

Absence of evidence

by JOHN on FEBRUARY 22, 2011

Here’s a little saying that irritates me:

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

It’s the kind of thing a Sherlock Holmes-like character might say in a detective novel. The idea is that we can’t be sure something doesn’t exist just because we haven’t seen it yet.

What bothers me is that the statement misuses the word “evidence.” The statement would be correct if we substituted “proof” for “evidence.” We can’t conclude with absolute certainty that something doesn’t exist just because we haven’t yet proved that it does. But evidence is not the same as proof.

Why do we believe that dodo birds are extinct? Because no one has seen one in three centuries. That is, there is an absence of evidence that they exist. That is tantamount to evidence that they do not exist. It’s logically possible that a dodo bird is alive and well somewhere, but there is overwhelming evidence to suggest this is not the case.

Evidence can lead to the wrong conclusion. Why did scientists believe that the coelacanth was extinct? Because no one had seen one except in fossils. The species was believed to have gone extinct 65 million years ago. But in 1938 a fisherman caught one. Absence of evidence is not proof of absence.

coelacanth, a fish once thought to be extinct

Though it is not proof, absence of evidence is unusually strong evidence due to subtle statistical result. Compare the following two scenarios.

Scenario 1: You’ve sequenced the DNA of a large number prostate tumors and found that not one had a particular genetic mutation. How confident can you be that prostate tumors never have this mutation?

Scenario 2: You’ve found that 40% of prostate tumors in your sample have a particular mutation. How confident can you be that 40% of all prostate tumors have this mutation?

It turns out you can have more confidence in the first scenario than the second. If you’ve tested N subjects and not found the mutation, the length of your confidence interval around zero is proportional to N. But if you’ve tested N subjects and found the mutation in 40% of subjects, the length of your confidence interval around 0.40 is proportional to ?N. So, for example, if N = 10,000 then the former interval has length on the order of 1/10,000 while the latter interval has length on the order of 1/100. This is known as the rule of three. You can find both a frequentist and a Bayesian justification of the rule here.

Absence of evidence is unusually strong evidence that something is at least rare, though it’s not proof. Sometimes you catch a coelacanth.

  • JohnM

     As I said earlier, it’s not only a fallacious argument, it’s fallacious reasoning.

    If you want to infer something, then you have to do it either on the basis of positive or negative evidence.

    Inferring something from lack of evidence, is a conclusion based on ignorance.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      Oh dear, you still don’t get it. Here is another explanation:

      One source of this confusion may be that “evidence” is a near synonym to both “proof” and “sign/indication” which are two different concepts. Using these words instead gives the two following correct sentences: Absence of sign/indication is a sign/indication of absence. 
      Absence of proof is not proof of absence.More serious is the American Statistical Association, who even sells a T-shirt with the wrong slogan on it. Being statisticians, they really should know better. Considering the large number of members who could have pointed out this error, it is rather telling that it is still there.There was a previous version of this proof, but this new one is much shorter, simpler, and it also defines the concept of evidence, which is also very useful and absolutely necessary to understand what the proof is about, which many never did understand.I have seen that the comprehension of this “absence of evidence” concept is one of the main differences between sensible and gullible people. Gullible people will not and cannot understand this concept.See this image for the Bayesian proof of this. If you want to disagree, as is your desire here, please point out where the Bayesian analysis is wrong. Otherwise, you need to accept you are wrong:http://oyhus.no/pics/AbsenceOfEvidence.gif

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      Or this:

      From Robyn Dawes’s Rational Choice in an Uncertain World:Post-hoc fitting of evidence to hypothesis was involved in a most grievous chapter in United States history: the internment of Japanese-Americans at the beginning of the Second World War.  When California governor Earl Warren testified before a congressional hearing in San Francisco on February 21, 1942, a questioner pointed out that there had been no sabotage or any other type of espionage by the Japanese-Americans up to that time.  Warren responded, “I take the view that this lack [of subversive activity] is the most ominous sign in our whole situation. It convinces me more than perhaps any other factor that the sabotage we are to get, the Fifth Column activities are to get, are timed just like Pearl Harbor was timed… I believe we are just being lulled into a false sense of security.”Consider Warren’s argument from a Bayesian perspective.  When we see evidence, hypotheses that assigned a higherlikelihood to that evidence, gain probability at the expense of hypotheses that assigned a lower likelihood to the evidence.  This is a phenomenon of relative likelihoods and relative probabilities.  You can assign a high likelihood to the evidence and still lose probability mass to some other hypothesis, if that other hypothesis assigns a likelihood that is even higher.Warren seems to be arguing that, given that we see no sabotage, this confirms that a Fifth Column exists.  You could argue that a Fifth Column might delay its sabotage.  But the likelihood is still higher that the absence of a Fifth Column would perform an absence of sabotage.Let E stand for the observation of sabotage, H1 for the hypothesis of a Japanese-American Fifth Column, and H2 for the hypothesis that no Fifth Column exists.  Whatever the likelihood that a Fifth Column would do no sabotage, the probability P(E|H1), it cannot be as large as the likelihood that no Fifth Column does no sabotage, the probability P(E|H2).  So observing a lack of sabotage increases the probability that no Fifth Column exists.A lack of sabotage doesn’t prove that no Fifth Column exists.  Absence of proof is not proof of absence.  In logic, A->B, “A implies B”, is not equivalent to ~A->~B, “not-A implies not-B”.But in probability theory, absence of evidence is always evidence of absence.   If E is a binary event and P(H|E) > P(H), “seeing E increases the probability of H”; then P(H|~E) < P(H), "failure to observe E decreases the probability of H".  P(H) is a weighted mix of P(H|E) and P(H|~E), and necessarily lies between the two.  If any of this sounds at all confusing, see An Intuitive Explanation of Bayesian Reasoning.Under the vast majority of real-life circumstances, a cause may not reliably produce signs of itself, but the absence of the cause is even less likely to produce the signs.  The absence of an observation may be strong evidence of absence or very weak evidence of absence, depending on how likely the cause is to produce the observation.  The absence of an observation that is only weakly permitted (even if the alternative hypothesis does not allow it at all), is very weak evidence of absence (though it is evidence nonetheless).  This is the fallacy of "gaps in the fossil record"—fossils form only rarely; it is futile to trumpet the absence of a weakly permitted observation when many strong positive observations have already been recorded.  But if there are no positive observations at all, it is time to worry; hence the Fermi Paradox.Your strength as a rationalist is your ability to be more confused by fiction than by reality; if you are equally good at explaining any outcome you have zero knowledge.  The strength of a model is not what it can explain, but what it can't, for only prohibitions constrain anticipation.  If you don't notice when your model makes the evidence unlikely, you might as well have no model, and also you might as well have no evidence; no brain and no eyes.

  • JohnM

    The only instance where lack of observation is valid, is when you have good reason to expect it to be observed, should it be there.

    Say, if your room-mate claimed that there’s a pink elephant in the room. Then you could reasonable say, that there’s no such thing, should you fail to observe it. Because you couldn’t possible fail to observe it, should it be in the room.

    But that wouldn’t be lack of evidence. That would be negative observational evidence.

    And therefore “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” still stands.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      Read the links. Do the homework. Argue with formal logic and mathematical probability. Then get back to me.

    • Andy_Schueler

      The only instance where lack of observation is valid, is when you have good reason to expect it to be observed, should it be there.
      Say, if your room-mate claimed that there’s a pink elephant in the room. Then you could reasonable say, that there’s no such thing, should you fail to observe it. Because you couldn’t possible fail to observe it, should it be in the room.
      But that wouldn’t be lack of evidence. That would be negative observational evidence.

      So you finally admit that you have been wrong and that your statement in the other thread about the absence of dinosaur fossils above the KT boundary was idiotic. Finally some progress. 

  • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Daosorios

    I think Victor Stenger sums it up quite nicely ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victor-stenger/the-evidence-against-god_b_682169.html ) : “absence of evidence provides robust evidence of absence when evidence should exist but does not”.

  • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

    This is quasi-correct, but the distinction between “absence of evidence” and “negative observational evidence” is simply semantic.

    If a certain proposition is true, we should expect to find evidence that it is true. If evidence cannot be proffered, then there is no basis to ascertain its truth or falsity, and the proposition is indeterminate. As Christopher Hitchens was fond of saying, that which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

    Let’s take the Exodus as an example.

    After centuries of searching, there is no archaeological evidence whatsoever that the Israelites were ever enslaved in Egypt, staged a mass revolt, and wandered the desert for 40 years as is claimed in the Bible. As a proposition, it fails because it’s unsupported by evidence. Further, the evidence we do have indicates that the tribes of Israel originated from natives of Canaan.

    Christians don’t deny these facts. Instead, they try to offer post hoc explanations  – like “the Egyptians would have destroyed the evidence, since it was embarrassing to them.”

    But this second proposition is itself unsupportable. There is no evidence that the Egyptians destroyed evidence of Jewish slaves.

    So you’re left with one proposition that is unsupported by evidence, and attempt to support it with a second proposition that is also unsupported by evidence. See the problem yet?

    We cannot conclusively disprove that the story of Exodus is true. But the absence of evidence gives us grounds to dismiss it without having to prove it false. We could go a step further and talk about the probability of Egyptians successfully engaging in a mass cover-up, and we’d probably find that the probability is quite low, further bolstering the case.

    So we can’t prove that the Exodus didn’t happen, but given the absence of evidence, particularly where there ought to be abundant evidence and the fact that available evidence is contrary to the narrative, we can confidently dismiss the story as fiction.

    Errr… this was supposed to be a reply to JohnM. Not sure why it didn’t post that way.

    • JohnM

       Mike D:

      As Christopher Hitchens was fond of saying, that which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

      Well I completely agree. But us dismissing it, says nothing about the truthfulness of it. It just tells us, that you and I consider it to be unlikely.

      • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

        Every truth claim is a probability analysis. 

        40 years of wandering in Kadesh-Barnea of what would be an astonishing number of people and animals and no evidence.

        We do, however, have evidence of small nomadic tribes at the same time. Suspect, that.

    • sir_russ

      Mike,
      I really like this comment because it underscores that it is by evidence that we come to accept that something is true.  Something should be considered true only if evidence exists to support it.

  • JohnM

    Mike D:

    Let’s take the Exodus as an example.

    After centuries of searching, there is no archaeological evidence whatsoever that the Israelites were ever enslaved in Egypt, staged a mass revolt, and wandered the desert for 40 years as is claimed in the Bible.

    I’m sorry, but that’s simply not the case.

    An Israelite house have been found in egypt.
    http://members.bib-arch.org/publication.asp?PubID=BSBA&Volume=29&Issue=5&ArticleID=9

    Coins bearing the name of Joseph have been found
    http://www.wnd.com/2009/09/111091/

    The plagues of Egypt are corroborated by the Ipuwer Papyrus
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ipuwer_Papyrus

    And there’s more:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0-ULxk2BJ4

    • Andy_Schueler

      An Israelite house have been found in egypt.
      http://members.bib-arch.org/pu

      Wow, an entire house that “might have belonged to workers, perhaps slaves” ?? That´s certainly evidence that the Israelites were ever enslaved in Egypt, staged a mass revolt, and wandered the desert for 40 years as is claimed in the Bible! Moron. 

      Coins bearing the name of Joseph have been found
      http://www.wnd.com/2009/09/111

      And why is there no scientific publication for this or a report by a serious newspaper instead of the WND (which has yet to find a single 9/11 or Obama conspiracy theory that is too stupid for them to print) ? Right, because the report is complete bogus:
      http://michaelsheiser.com/PaleoBabble/2009/09/evidence-for-the-biblical-joseph-discovered/

      The plagues of Egypt are corroborated by the Ipuwer Papyrushttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I…

      Pro-Tip, read articles before you cite them, then you might have found this part in the wiki you linked to: “The association of the Ipuwer Papyrus with the Exodus as describing the same event is generally rejected by Egyptologists.[25]”. Moron.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NZMJ7JRYKH7WR6YTXJGG3PU65E John Grove

    JohnM,
    Seek professional help.

  • JohnM

    Andy_Schueler :

    …Moron.
    …Moron.

    Keep up the childish, “someone hurt my feelings” act. It suits you.

    Wow, an entire house that “might have belonged to workers, perhaps slaves” ??

    Listen kid.. It’s not just any house. It’s a bit like finding a viking mead hall in Mexico. But I’m sure you fail to grasp the implications of that.

    And why is there no scientific publication for this or a report by a serious newspaper ….because the report is complete bogus

    It was also published in The Jerusalem Post. I just picked that link, to get the reaction that you gave me. And your link, refutes nothing.

    Pro-Tip, read articles before you cite them

    I certainly did. And I’m only happy to link articles that lays out the controversy. Why would I try to hide that?

    “The association of the Ipuwer Papyrus with the Exodus as describing the same event is generally rejected by Egyptologists.[25]”

    Of course… They are called Egypt-ologists for a reason. Imagine the implications of all of them agreeing with the obvious similarities, compared to the 10 plagues described in the bible.

    And so what? We don’t need them to tell us how similar they are.

    —-

    Furthermore, I note that you didn’t comment on what I consider the most important link.

    • Andy_Schueler

      Listen kid.. It’s not just any house. It’s a bit like finding a viking
      mead hall in Mexico. But I’m sure you fail to grasp the implications of
      that.

      As I said, an entire house that “might have belonged to workers, perhaps slaves” ??
      That´s certainly evidence that the Israelites were ever enslaved in
      Egypt, staged a mass revolt, and wandered the desert for 40 years as is
      claimed in the Bible! Moron.

      It was also published in The Jerusalem Post. I just picked that link, to
      get the reaction that you gave me. And your link, refutes nothing.

      Wow,
      it was mentioned in two newspapers, including the conspiracy theory
      headquarters WorldNutDaily, and there´s not a single research paper on
      this and the report got Joseph´s name wrong (which was not Saba Sabani
      according to Genesis 41:45) and refers to the inscriptions as “usually simple, since writing was still in its early stages”,
      although the biblical Joseph would have lived during the Middle Kingdom
      were the egyptian language was NOT in it´s early stages.
      Sounds plausible! Moron.

      I
      certainly did. And I’m only happy to link articles that lays out the
      controversy. Why would I try to hide that?

      “Generally rejected” means it´s not controversial. Moron.

      Of course… They are called Egypt-ologists for a reason. Imagine the
      implications of all of them agreeing with the obvious similarities,
      compared to the 10 plagues described in the bible.

      And so what? We don’t need them to tell us how similar they are.

      You have no clue what an Egyptologist is do you ? Moron.
      Also, there are vague similarities to one of the 10 plagues. Moron.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NZMJ7JRYKH7WR6YTXJGG3PU65E John Grove

     If you read ‘Did the Exodus Really Happen?’ by Rabbi Wolpe you will see even in the subtitle his unfalsifable faith with these words, ‘Knowing the Exodus is not a literal historical account does not ultimately change our connection to each other or to God.’

    http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Judaism/2004/12/Did-The-Exodus-Really-Happen.aspx

    So when there is NOT evidence of exodus what do they religious say? It simply does not matter to them. It’s exactly the same line of thinking when evolution by natural selection became overwhelming. Shape-shift your theology if need be to save face.

    Ah the religious, nothing will convince them….

  • JohnM

    lol. Who cares what Rabbi Wolpe thinks?

    John Grove : there is NOT evidence of exodus

    Liar. Liar. Pants on fire.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NZMJ7JRYKH7WR6YTXJGG3PU65E John Grove

      Your childish rants don’t make you persuasive. It just makes you sound like the moron you are. A childish moron. There is NO evidence for exodus at all. NONE

  • JohnM

    What I find rather fascinating about irrational atheists, when it comes to the bible, is their disbelief of the gaps.. 

    “Bethlehem was a hole in the ground at the time of Christ”

    “Nazareth was a hole in the ground at the time of Christ”

    “Herod never existed”

    “Pontius Pilate never existed”

    “King David never existed

    One by one, these claims have been refuted by archaeological findings. And their disbelief of the gaps, seems to get smaller and smaller.. 

    • Andy_Schueler

      What I find rather fascinating about irrational atheists, when it comes to the bible, is their disbelief of the gaps.. 

      This sentence is semantic nonsense. Work on your english – even trolls need to be able to write coherent sentences. 
      Moron.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      Er, atheists don’t claim all of those. The non-existence of Nazareth is adhered to by some, and David is supect since in the history of Judaism, archaeological, the only extra-biblical evidence is reference to a ‘house of David’ in the Tel Dan Stele, and that could refer to many different things or a nugget of historicity entirely embellished, as most cultures do.

      • JohnM
        • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

          This should be interesting, John, since the Daily Mail is literally the worst publication in UK print!

        • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

          Are you serious John?

          True to form, this is the Daily Mail at its crappest worst. This hilarity is the evidence for David aluded to in the title:

          According to Prof. Garfinkel, ‘This is the first time that archaeologists uncovered a fortified city in Judah from the time of King David. Even in Jerusalem we do not have a clear fortified city from his period. Thus, various suggestions that completely deny the biblical tradition regarding King David and argue that he was a mythological figure, or just a leader of a small tribe, are now shown to be wrong.’ Garfinkel continued, 

          Er, WTF? A fortufued city from the time of David is proof of David!

          1) circular reasoning (assuming the thing it is trying to evidence)
          2) a fortified town is not proof of David. It is proof of… a fortified town. Garfinkel appears to be a tool.

        • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

          The idea that a single, spectacular finding can reverse the course of modern research and save the literal reading of the biblical text regarding the history of ancient Israel from critical scholarship is an old one. Its roots can be found in W F Albright’s assault on the Wellhausen School in the early 20th century, an assault that biased archaeological, biblical and historical research for decades. This trend—in different guises—has resurfaced sporadically in recent years, with archaeology serving as a weapon to quell progress in critical scholarship. Khirbet Qeiyafa is the latest case in this genre of craving a cataclysmic defeat of critical modern scholarship by a miraculous archaeological discover
          During recent archaeological excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, a fortified city in Judah adjacent to the Valley of Elah, professor Yosef Garfinkel, the Yigal Yadin Professor of Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and colleagues, uncovered assemblages of pottery, stone and metal tools, and many art and cult objects. Three large rooms were revealed that Garfinkel says were cultic shrines corresponding in their architecture and finds to the time of King David. He adds that this discovery is extraordinary for it is the first time that shrines from the time of the first biblical kings—Saul, David and Solomon—have been uncovered, and shed light on how a cult was organized in Judah at the time of King David. These shrines pre-date the construction of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem by 30 to 40 years.
          The discovery is indeed extraordinary, about as extraordinary as finding the Bat Cave of Batman and Robin under the streets of New York City, which was, of course, called Gotham City in those days, as everyone knows from the popular myth! Saul, Solomon and Solomon’s famous temple are all myths with not a single piece of material evidence for any of them, and king David, the father of the mythical Solomon, has the equivocal testimony of an highly contentious piece of a broken inscription. So all three of the earliest kings of Judah are as real as king Arthur, Dr Faustus and William Tell… they are not!
          The expedition to Khirbet Qeiyafa has excavated the site for six weeks each summer since 2007, with co-director Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Located approximately 30km southwest of Jerusalem in the valley of Elah, Khirbet Qeiyafa was a border city of the Kingdom of Judah opposite the Philistine city of Gath. The city, which was dated by 10 radiometric measurements (14C) done at Oxford University on burned olive pits, existed for a short period of time between ca. 1020 to 980 BCE, and was violently destroyed. The revolutionary results of five years of work are presented in a new book,Footsteps of King David in the Valley of Elah, published by Yedioth Ahronoth.
          The architecture found at Khirbet Qeiyafa at this date is quite refined, and is interpreted by Garfinkel as evidence of royal activities, and therefore of state formation. An elite social level and urbanism existed in the region eleventh century Judah. Garfinckel seems convinced that it strengthens the historicity of the Jewish scriptures, and that their description of the architecture of the palace and Temple of Solomon is authentic:
          This is the first time that archaeologists uncovered a fortified city in Judah from the time of King David. Even in Jerusalem we do not have a clear fortified city from his period. Thus, various suggestions that completely deny the biblical tradition regarding King David and argue that he was a mythological figure, or just a leader of a small tribe, are now shown to be wrong.
          The Jewish bible relates how the people of Israel had a cult different from all other nations of the ancient Near East, being monotheistic and aniconic—free of human and animal figures—and having an aversion to pork. Garfinkel continued;
          Over the years, thousands of animal bones were found, including sheep, goats and cattle, but no pigs. Now we uncovered three cultic rooms, with various cultic paraphernalia, but not even one human or animal figurine was found.
          No human or animal figurines were found, suggesting the people of Khirbet Qeiyafa observed the biblical ban on graven images.
          It suggests that the population of Khirbet Qeiyafa observed two biblical bans—on pork and on graven images—and thus practiced a different cult from that of the Canaanites or the Philistines.
          However, the Hebrew Univerity press release is clear that no one is sure when these aniconic and monotheistic practices began, during the Israelite and Judahite monarchies (10-6th centuries BC), or only later, in the Persian or Hellenistic eras. The claim that images of humans or animals were absent in the three shrines is, on the face of it, evidence that worshipers here differed from the Canaanites and the Philistines, who made images of their gods.
          The three rooms, part of larger building complexes, are supposed to have been separate shrines. In this respect they are different from Canaanite or Philistine cults, which were practiced in temples—separate buildings dedicated only to rituals. Garfinkel supposes that because the bible speaks of the portable ark being stored in private houses (2 Samuel 6) that it was worshiped in private houses. Yet there was only one such ark at a time, so it could hardly have been worshiped in three separate rooms. Indeed, three separate shrines in one larger building suggests polytheism, the different rooms being devoted to different objects of worship. Indeed cult objects found include five standing stones (Masseboth), two basalt altars, two pottery libation vessels and two portable shrines. Canaanites commonly worshiped masseboth, stones, and even the bible suggests the Judahites and Israelites did, though they were not supposed to according to Moses. It is deeply entrenched. Jews today still worship stones!
          Two portable shrines or “shrine models” were found, one made of pottery, c 20cm high, and the other, 35 cm high, of stone. These are boxes shaped like miniature temples, which could be closed. The stone shrine is made of soft limestone and painted red. Its façade is decorated by two elements—seven groups of roof beams, three planks in each. This architectural element, the “triglyph”, is known in Greek classical temples, like the Parthenon in Athens. Its appearance at Khirbet Qeiyafa is the earliest known example carved in stone. The second decorative element is the recessed door. This type of door or window is known in the architecture of temples, palaces and royal graves in the ancient Near East. It was a typical symbol of divinity and royalty at the time.
          Similar triglyphs and recessed doors can be found in the description of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings6:5;31-33) and in the description of a temple in Ezekiel 41:6. These biblical texts are replete with obscure technical terms that have lost their original meaning over the millennia.
          For the first time in history we have actual objects from the time of David, which can be related to monuments described in the Bible.
          Now, the stone model helps us to understand these obscure technical terms in the description of Solomon’s palace as described in 1 Kings 7:1-6. The text uses the term “Slaoth”, which were mistakenly understood as pillars and can now be understood as triglyphs. The text also uses the term “Sequfim”, which was usually understood as nine windows in the palace, and can now be understood as triple recessed doorway.Most of these injudicious claims of Garfunkel’s have been severely criticized as biblicist nonsense, even by biblicists! I Finkelstein and A Fantalkin have slated the interpretations and the amateurish methodology of the excavation. Thomas Verenna commented on this reporting of Garfinkel’s excesses:
          “Will these finds settle the debate over the historical David? Garfinkel would like to think so. ‘Various suggestions that completely deny the biblical tradition regarding King David and argue that he was a mythological figure, or just a leader of a small tribe, are now shown to be wrong’.”MSNBC coverage on QeiyafaReally? Because you found a couple of regional house shrines in a fortified city? Because you have an ostracon with some writing on it? What hubris this is, when someone can so blatantly claim that certain scholars are wrong because you’ve found common ancient Near Eastern artifacts (which have been misidentified) at a dig in the Near East. if anything this only shows the lengths that certain individuals will go to try to prove their presuppositions. They are willing to fabricate whole cultural contexts that never existed so long as in the end they can say they’ve found the facts behind their biblical truth. It is both tragic and disgusting: tragic because most people will never question the validity of the article or the claims therein, and disgusting because it is permitted to happen.

  • JohnM

    Andy_Schueler : there are vague similarities to one of the 10 plagues.

    And the irrational atheists continue to deny, what is clearly seen by any rational person.

    http://ohr.edu/838

    • Andy_Schueler

      And the irrational atheists conitnue to deny, what is clearly seen by any rational person.

      Not “irrational atheists” – rather “people who study artifacts like the Ipuwer for a living”.
      And don´t pretend that you actually read the document, here is the english translation:
      http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/texts/ipuwer.htm

      1. Plague of the blood – vague similarities.
      2. Plague of the frogs – missing.
      3. Plague of lice or gnats – missing.
      4. Plagues of flies or wild animals – missing.
      5. Plague of pestilence – missing.
      6. Plague of boils – missing.
      7. Plague of hail – missing.
      8. Plague of locusts – missing.
      9. Plague of darkness – missing.
      10. Death of the firstborn – extremely vague similarities (“Indeed, the children of princes are dashed against walls, and the children of the neck are laid out on the high ground. Khnum groans because of his weariness.”)

      Moron.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NZMJ7JRYKH7WR6YTXJGG3PU65E John Grove
  • JohnM

     Well, you clearly didn’t read the link

    • Andy_Schueler

      Well, you clearly didn´t read the Ipuwer.
      Which didn´t stop you from insulting the members of an entire discipline (Egyptology) as irrational. 
      Moron.

    • Andy_Schueler

       Well, you clearly didn’t read the link

      The link is actually quite funny, here is one example of what the good rabbi tries to sell as a “striking similarity”:
      “So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days.”
      Exodus 10:22
      and the “corresponding part” in the Ipuwer:
      “Destroyed is [. . .] in that time, and a man looks [on his friend as] an adversary. The infirm man brings coolness [to what is hot . . .] fear [. . .. . .]. Poor men [. . . the land] is not bright because of it.”

      Wow! What a striking similarity! 
      Moron.

  • JohnM

    Andy_Schueler : Well, you clearly didn´t read the Ipuwer.

    “The land is without light”

    Just to mention one of the things you missed.

    • Andy_Schueler

      “The land is without light”Just to mention one of the things you missed.

      Why don´t you look at the passage in context (see below), striking similarity isn´t it ? 
      Moron.

  • JohnM

    I’m just trying to not shatter your unbelief completely. Gotta be gentle around people with a crutch you know ;)

  • Andy_Schueler

    JohnM nicely illustrates what happens when a mind incapable of critical thinking is fed information by “news” outlets like the Daily Mail or the Worldnetdaily. 
    Archaeologists found coins with inscriptions of the biblical Joseph in Egypt, it must be true because the WND says so:
    http://www.wnd.com/2009/09/111091/
    Also, Noah´s Ark has been found, it must be true because the Worldnetdaily says so:
    http://www.wnd.com/2010/04/146369/

    Let´s see what else the Worldnetdaily reports, here´s a selection of “featured articles”:
    – The Antichrist arises, with scimitar in hand
    – Chinese plot to strip Americans of firearms
    – Black Expo ‘inescapably tied’ to race violence
    – Hitler’s pastors today
    – Gog, Magog and Vladimir Putin
    – Shooting at police now legal in Indiana
    – Chariots in Red Sea: ‘Irrefutable evidence’
    – Obama ‘fulfills’ Isaiah 9:10 prophecy – again
    – Eric Holder and Isaiah 51
    – Was communist mentor intimate with Obama’s mother?

    Yeah, looks like a reliable source for your daily news. 

  • JohnM

    Is Fox news a reliable source then?? :P

    Anyway.. How about this one?

    http://theophilogue.com/2009/04/24/extrabiblical-evidence-for-king-david/

    • Andy_Schueler

      Anyway.. How about this one?

      No matter how whacky your beliefs are, you will always find a source to support them – there are people with a PhD in Geophysics who try to argue that the earth is actually a flat circle.
      What you do is cherry picking, if there is an unanimous consensus among experts that contradicts your beliefs (essentially all of Biology, Geology and Anthropology, and a lot of ancient near eastern and biblical studies) – you completely ignore it. We already saw in an earlier comment that you think that an unanimous expert consensus is completely irrelevant (just an argumentum ad populum, amirite ?!) and the opinion of a single crackpot who thinks that bloodletting is an effective therapy is just as valid as the consensus of medical practicioners. But if you find just one lonely nutjob featured in a craptacular “news” outlet like the WND, you take it serious if it happens to align with your beliefs – without doing any fact-checking of course. 
      And that´s why you continue to embarass yourself. 

  • JohnM

    Andy_Schueler: Also, Noah´s Ark has been found

    I found a really interesting youtube video related to that, some time ago…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90Y_b8-YXoY

    • Andy_Schueler

      I found a really interesting youtube video related to that, some time ago…

      OMFG, UfoTV ??? 
      http://www.ufotv.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PLST
      Never heard of this before, but it is truly craptacular – they have a DVD on “Mayan prophecies and crop circles” !! :-D 
      Also, “The dangerous truth about vaccines”, “Military remote viewing psychic training course”, “From Orgasm To Ecstasy: Love Is The Gateway To Altered States Of Consciousness” – an awesome of example of crank magnetism:
      http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Crank_magnetism

  • JohnM

    Andy_Schueler : there are people with a PhD in Geophysics who try to argue that the earth is actually a flat circle

    Really? Who?

    Andy_Schueler : What you do is cherry picking

    Not at all. I’m happy to look at all the evidence available.

    Your problem is, that you don’t have any evidence. You just have blind unbelief.

    • Andy_Schueler

      Really? Who?

      History of the Flat Earth Society

      The modern age of the Flat Earth Society dates back to the early 1800s, when it was founded by Samuel Birley Rowbotham, an English inventor. Samuel Rowbotham’s Flat Earth views were based largely on literal interpretation of Bible passages. His system, called Zetetic Astronomy, held that the earth is a flat disk centered at the North Pole and bounded along its southern edge by a wall of ice, with the sun, moon, planets, and stars only a few hundred miles above the surface of the earth.
      After Rowbotham’s death in 1884, followers of his Zetetic Astronomy founded the Universal Zetetic Society.Flat Earth theory spread to the United States, largely in the town of Zion, Illinois where Christian Catholic Apostolic Church founder John Alexander Dowie and later Wilbur Glenn Voliva promoted Flat Earth theory. Voliva died in 1942 and the church quickly disintegrated.
      Flat Earthism remained in Zion, gradually becoming less popular into the 1950s.The International Flat Earth Society was formally founded in 1956 by Samuel Shenton, a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Geographic Society. Shenton died in 1971 and Charles K. Johnson became president of the International Flat Earth Society. Johnson actively and charistmatically promoted the Society and, over time, its membership increased to over 3,000. His wife Marjory took an active role in the Society as well, often contributing articles to the Flat Earth Society Newsletter.

      http://theflatearthsociety.org/cms/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=48&Itemid=65

      Not at all. I’m happy to look at all the evidence available.

      Look at me, I check ALL the evidence, I read the Daily Mail AND the Worldnetdaily and I´ve even seen some documentaries on UfoTV! Take that Mr. Scientist!!

      Your problem is, that you don’t have any evidence. You just have blind unbelief.

      I´ve never seen any evidence for Evolution in the Worldnetdaily, so Evolution must be a satanic lie. Take that Mr. Scientist!!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NZMJ7JRYKH7WR6YTXJGG3PU65E John Grove

    [[I’m happy to look at all the evidence available.]]

    Uh huh. Your happy to look at it so you can devise unfalsifiable arguments against it.

  • JohnM

    Here’s more irrational atheist claims, often raised by such folks, and easily shot down.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88HhzZ4LHDI

    • Andy_Schueler

      Here’s more irrational atheist claims, often raised by such folks, and easily shot down.

      So, you got your ass handed to you again and now it´s time to post some random crap from Youtube ?
      Moron.  

    • Andy_Schueler

      Wow, the video is even worse than expected. It starts with some strawmen (Moses could not have written the Pentateuch because writing didn´t exist at the time – who the fuck ever claimed this ?) and for the claims that are not strawmen, the creator of the video points to theories that have been disproven for decades.
      JohnM, you are a Moron.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NZMJ7JRYKH7WR6YTXJGG3PU65E John Grove

    [[JohnM, you are a Moron.]]

    That is about the extent of it.

  • JohnM

    Another great video, making the gap of unbelief smaller.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKiitJeE6fc

    • Andy_Schueler

      And while we are posting random YT crap that has nothing to do with the OP or the ensuing discussion, here is a video of a turtle attacking a cat:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwQ4hDsP_jg 

      • Vic

        Another interesting discussion and somewhat typical of how the classic creationist/noncreationist dialogue seems to go down.

        The discussions seem to have inspired several fascinating blog posts here on SIN. Johnathan Pearce, Andy Schueler and John Grove, I also honestly think buddha would have gone ALLCAPS by now and flipped the table.

        • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

          Thanks Vic!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NZMJ7JRYKH7WR6YTXJGG3PU65E John Grove

     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLk_MoyVf90

  • Peter

    This Christian apologetics website urges caution about those coins 

    http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2010/01/03/Urging-Caution-A-Brief-Comment-on-the-So-Called-Joseph-Coins.aspx They give a couple of reasons 1) Ancient historians believe the oldest coins came from Lydia in 700 BC, the theory that these are Joseph’s coins would push back the earliest coinage by 1000 years. 2) It would be odd for someone other than the Pharaoh to appear on coins. 3) The Egyptian transliteration of Joseph’s name is unknown, so how would someone know it referred to Joseph? 4) It is claimed the coins were discovered in the Museum of Egypt, which implies that many experts would need to have missed the fact that they were “coins”.  They conclude (in Autumn 2009):”The ministry of ABR urges GREAT CAUTION with respect to these claims. We are not claiming that this report is necessarily false. However, we believe that there must be more information forthcoming on this discovery before it can be touted as support for the Bible. ABR will continue to monitor the situation and post our commentary on the ABR website. In the meantime, we urge our brethren not to use this information as an apologetic until more information is available.”

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      Good stuff, Peter. Thanks you for your input!

  • JohnM

    Peter,

    Yes we should keep in mind, that the reports about the coins, has yet to be verified.

    But keep in mind, that I don’t really need the coins to show, that the claim that “After centuries of searching, there is no archaeological evidence whatsoever” is a false claim.

    I also note that this link has ( as far as I can see ) yet to be commented on by anyone:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0-ULxk2BJ4

    • Andy_Schueler

      But keep in mind, that I don’t really need the coins to show, that the claim that “After centuries of searching, there is no archaeological evidence whatsoever” is a false claim.

      You have done nothing to falsify this claim. 
      The alleged coins with Joseph´s name are not supported by any reliable source and their existence is incredibly implausible for a long list of reasons.
      The plagues of egypt are not corrobated by the Ipuwer papyrus (which you have never even read since you only quoted a secondary source which grossly misrepresented the content of the Ipuwer papyrus).
      And a single house that might have belonged to slaves is no evidence for the exodus. 
      You have provided no evidence whatsoever – you just pasted random links that you found via Google without doing any fact-checking as usual. 
      And I´m certainly not wasting one hour of my time to watch one of your conspiracy videos on Youtube – we´ve already seen your taste in videos (UfoTV – that´s a low standard even among YEC´s). If you want to show that the consensus of Archaeologists is wrong, you have to do better than randomly posting links. 
      Moron.

  • JohnM

    Andy_Schueler : I´m certainly not wasting one hour of my time to watch….

    Then keep burying your head in the sand…

    I guess that’s what to be expected from Christ myth lunatics.

    After all, not even Bart Ehrman could talk some sense into you folks..

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    What I find amusing about the apologists’ criticism of “absence of evidence” arguments is how often they resort to them,  e.g., no evidence of anyone disputing the traditional authorship of the canonical gospels , no evidence of any of the apostles ever recanting their testimony, no evidence that anyone ever tried to prove that Jesus body was still in the tomb.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      It really is ubiquitous.

  • Garry Matheny

     

    Their inability to find something is what they offer as proof.
    They only recently found (2002) the “workers’ village” for the pyramids of the
    Giza Plateau. It is estimated this town housed 20,000 people and was built out
    of bricks, whereas the children of Israel lived in tents. And this discovery
    only came after they had searched every inch of the Giza Plateau for the last
    two hundred years of archaeology. But there is something that has recently come to light on this subject.

    The Monastery of St. Paul in the Eastern Desert of Egypt has an interesting
    tradition about the Exodus of Israel. They say that during the wanderings of
    Israel that Miriam, the sister of Moses, washed there in a pool of water which
    they call the “Pool of Miriam”. Israel’s next encampment after the
    Graves of Lust was at Hazeroth (Numbers 33:17), where Miriam was struck with
    leprosy. It is of interest that this tradition from the Monastery of St. Paul
    (also from ancient Arab writers) makes no mention of anyone else in the camp of
    Israel doing this, not even Moses or Joshua or Aaron, but only Miriam, the one
    person who was struck with leprosy at Hazeroth (Numbers 12:15). And according
    to the Bible (Leviticus 14:9), she would have been required to wash both her
    clothes and herself (“Pool of Miriam”) before re-entering the camp.

     

    If this is so then we should find the
    graves of lust close by which was the encampment just before Hazeroth, and
    which was the only mass grave recorded during the 40 years of wanderings. About
    seven miles from the Monastery of St. Paul are 30 catacombs! How did the
    Israelites die at encampment of Kibroth-hattaavah
    “graves of lust,” and Taberah? Both times the “fire”
    of God burned to death (cremated) multitudes who were there (Numbers 11:1,
    Psalm 78:20-21). The Egyptians, Arabs and Jews did not cremate; the Romans and
    Greeks who at one time ruled Egypt and sometimes cremated, had no known towns
    within 60 miles of these catacombs. The Bedouins call this site Wadi El Khawaja,
    “Valley of the Foreigner”.    

     

    It was Sir Wilkinson
    who found these catacombs and said, “We went into those where the doors were the
    least obstructed by the sand or decayed rock, and found them to be catacombs;
    they are well cut, and vary from about eighty to twenty four feet, by five…We
    sought in vain for inscriptions or hieroglyphics; our curiosity was only
    rewarded by finding the scattered fragments of vases, bitumen, charcoal, and
    cloth. It is evident that the bodies were burnt, and the ashes…deposited in the
    vases, of which innumerable broken remains are seen in every direction; they
    are earthenware, mostly red, and heart-shaped…”  (Sir Wilkinson.  Royal Geographical Society, 1832,
    p.34).           

     

    Greeks and Romans did not always
    cremate, and at no other location in the Eastern Desert have cremated remains
    been found, even at sites known to have been home to Greeks and
    Romans! The book “The Red Lands” (2008, about the Eastern Desert of Egypt)
    said, “Evidence from all eras of antiquity indicates that bodies were inhumed
    and not cremated.”, also “There would have also been practical reasons for
    inhuming the dead: the fuel to cremate would have been in very short supply,
    indeed, in this hyper-arid and relatively treeless region.” (The Red Lands. p.
    198)  I received a letter (e-mail, Jan 12, 2011) from an archaeologist at
    the British Museum, in regards to the 30 catacombs, who said, “However,
    cremation in the Eastern Desert seems to be unknown to archaeologists who work
    in that region. At present, it seems, the site remains to be explained.”  
        

     

    In Alexandria, Egypt, a catacomb was found for both Greeks and
    Romans, also with cremated remains. However, their ashes were placed in a
    different shape of vase than the ones found at this site. They were also
    painted and many inscribed, not only with the name of the person, but also the
    date he died. These things: the lack of
    inscriptions and the plain unpainted vases, point to a mass funeral, as the
    Graves of Lust witnessed. For had this burial site been used for years, then
    certainly these vases would have been decorated as were those found at other
    sites! Israel had the time to make these
    catacombs as they were at Kibroth-hattaavah for at least 30 days (Numbers
    11:20). Normally a catacomb will have only a couple of entrances, and is
    lengthened as the need for more room is required. But in order to dig out a
    catacomb, because of the distance between the walls (about six feet), only two
    or three men at a time could work the front of it. If someone had the manpower
    and wanted to make many catacombs in a short time (as required for the
    “graves of lust”) he could split the men up into groups, with each
    group digging out a different catacomb. Here we have 30 entrances for 30 short
    catacombs, again pointing to them all being made at the same time.  The most that the other routes could show you
    would be a few piles of rocks on the ground. To see pictures of these catacombs
    and the vases see =   http://www.sinai-horeb.com/