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Safeholdians don't have faith

This fascinating series is a combination of historical seafaring, swashbuckling adventure, and high technological science-fiction. Join us in a discussion!
Re: Safeholdians don't have faith
Post by Bluesqueak   » Sat Sep 22, 2018 1:22 pm

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Annachie wrote:
Bluesqueak wrote:
Serious question: have you studied history at graduate or upper undergraduate level?


Nope I studied science.


Likewise. :D

For that matter, my tutor at theological college had a doctorate in theoretical physics. ;)

Anyway, the reason why I asked was that I was guessing that the problem wasn't that I somehow managed a Bachelor of Science followed by postgrad research without ever understanding the Scientific Method. The problem was that I'd condensed my explanation of Historical Method so much that you'd misunderstood it as being basically the Scientific Method. Apologies: my excuse is that entire books have been written about historical method, and we're really here to talk about Safehold.

Looking at history from the perspective of Safehold, the historian's basic problem can be seen in the writings of the eight million original colonists.

They report what they observed completely truthfully, but their interpretation of those events is utterly false. Furthermore, the worldview of the colonists was drummed into Safehold so hard, the current population probably doesn't even realise that the colonists' writings are an interpretation. It's the historian's nightmare (and remember, David Weber did study history at graduate level). Furthermore, opposing voices have been suppressed. Yippee.

Merlin is probably never going to find out what really happened in the early history of Safehold, including what really happened in the War Against the Fallen. (I say 'probably' because I'd guess Himself does know.) He can only approach that history through a variety of records, some of whom were made by people closer to the events than others, all of whom were selecting what to record, and all of whom had different worldview/interpretations.

From what we know at the moment, the destruction of Alexandria might have been by either Langhorne or Chihiro. It might have been a reaction to Shan-Wei's final declaration that she wasn't going to accept the Langhorne Plan, or it might have been an attempt to cast Langhorne in the role of villain and then carry out a coup.

What we have seen, as evidence is revealed, is that the hypothesis-verification-adjust-hypothesis cycle is in full swing - but it isn't the scientific method. Merlin can't just decide to go out and do a bunch of observations without a time machine. The evidence he's got is the evidence he's got - and it all comes from a particular worldview, and has to be interpreted through his own worldview. You may have noticed a tendency that he has to prioritise evidence that agrees with his own worldview. :twisted:

For example, he takes Kau-Yung's evidence as pretty much literal truth, despite the fact that this appears to be a man about to nuke half his crewmates. Later, he takes Khody's diary as 'truth', despite pretty convincing evidence that Khody's suffering from some serious memory problems.

Note that I'm not saying that Kau Yung and Khody weren't telling the truth as they knew it. Just that the truth as they knew it is very unlikely to be the whole, complete 'truth'. It will have a particular bias, and it may or may not be an interpretation that justifies them each to themselves. If we discover that the Thing In The Basement is an Archangel (or personality recording, more like), we still won't (well, probably won't) recover some kind of absolute, objective record of events. We'll get another version of events.

Historians have developed, over the years, a variety of methods to deal with the inevitable bias of written sources. But they're not (generally) scientific: the historical sciences are those chiefly concerned with going out and finding new evidence (like archaeology).

If there comes a day when Safehold knows the truth about their founding (and the truth is out there; it's possible to know quite a lot about the past), they'll still be using those 'biased' colonial sources. But they'll be taking into account the new evidence that the colonists had all been brainwashed into believing the Command Team were angels and archangels. And they'll incorporate that into their new histories.

Hope that helps.
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Re: Safeholdians don't have faith
Post by Bluesqueak   » Sat Sep 22, 2018 2:08 pm

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jmsr wrote:
Bluesqueak wrote:My personal theory about what Merlin is going to do is that he's going to reintroduce source criticism to Safehold. Once there are enough people who know that the Writ has been faked, he's going to reintroduce the Tanakh, the New Testament, the Qu'ran, the other sacred writings - and ask Safeholdians themselves to determine Chihiro's sources.


Hrm, okay maybe i should jump back in here. When i said that Safeholdians don't have 'faith' i meant that they didn't have beliefs that they were required to hold in the absence of supporting evidence or in the face of contradictory evidence.

David Weber hasn't said much about the details of Safeholdian beliefs except that for each of their beliefs they can point to something to support it within the Writ which talks about consequences, e.g. don't do this because this will happen. He has also stated that their belief system is a closed system with nothing to grab on to as a possible problem in need of explanation, as Merlin has lamented at various times.

The thing is, i don't see how that is possible without employing 'faith' by which i mean embracing beliefs without evidence or that are to be held anyway in the face of contradictory evidence. Many of our holy books contain such injunctions as well as situations in which skeptics are criticized for not "just believing;" I'm sure we can all think of several off the top of our heads.

Anyway, that was my only point. From what the author has said, Safeholdians have a closed belief system but the details that he has given seem to indicate the opposite.

And FWIW i think that reintroducing source criticism is probably unnecessary, possibly pointless but maybe worthwhile to do anyway. They're actually pretty intelligent and likely have compiled reference texts and other associated stuff already; but likely there aren't any contradictions to generate doubt; but given the other skills they've lost they may have lost this skill too.

Personally, i'd just as soon have the Empire Of Charis or Merlin himself put out a public declaration requesting that anyone holding ancient artifacts or unpublished works forward them to Merlin for examination. They could do it by putting up posters everywhere that were actually made of smart paper and had microscopic cameras attached to them so they could infiltrate the 'secret' meetings of other co-conspirators like the Wylsynns or the Brothers of Zherneau.

jmsr


Essentially, the problem is that you're basing your argument on a false premise. As I (and others) have repeated at boring length, faith doesn't mean believing without evidence.

I realise that there's a popular meme to that effect, but memes aren't necessarily true. :) Certainly the injunctions to 'just believe' in my particular holy books often come after evidence has been presented and wrongly interpreted, or is directed to those in the future who will have testimony rather than direct visual evidence. But that evidence often isn't sufficient for absolute, definitive, can't-believe-anything-else proof.

Safeholdian faith is displayed by Duchairn, I think. Remember that he's basing this on what he thinks is completely trustworthy evidence that there is a God, that God has a plan for Safehold, and that God is good. He has the books of God's very archangels to prove it.

But what he doesn't have evidence for is that God's personal plan for Rhobair Duchairn includes making him his instrument to help rescue Safehold from Zhasper Clyntahn and then cleanse His Church. He just has to go forward into his own personal night, clutching the lantern of his personal faith, and hope that the direction it illuminates is God's will.

That's faith in things unseen. Duchairn bases it on what he thinks is good evidence; but he has no idea if his interpretation is correct. He just hopes. :)

Your idea of a public request by Merlin for secret societies to forward their most sacred texts to him would require the same sort of trustful faith, by the way. You only have to think how careful the Brethren and the Sisterhood were about their own ancient artifacts.

The evidence would be the past behaviour of Merlin - but it would still require one heck of a lot of faith in Merlin's basic goodness and trustworthiness.
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Re: Safeholdians don't have faith
Post by RogueWarrior   » Tue Oct 09, 2018 11:29 pm

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One does not have to appeal to faith, if one has good evidence.

One doesn't have to appeal to walls of text to make a point.
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Re: Safeholdians don't have faith
Post by Bluesqueak   » Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:06 am

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RogueWarrior wrote:One does not have to appeal to faith, if one has good evidence.

One doesn't have to appeal to walls of text to make a point.


Which itself misses the point:

to the historian, walls of text ARE the evidence. :)
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Re: Safeholdians don't have faith
Post by RogueWarrior   » Sat Oct 13, 2018 9:48 am

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Walls of text are just ad populum unless the are actually true.
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Re: Safeholdians don't have faith
Post by JBNL1972   » Sat Oct 13, 2018 1:05 pm

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RogueWarrior wrote:Walls of text are just ad populum unless the are actually true.


and how, in absence of evidence both in support and to the contrary, do you judge this 'truth' ?
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Re: Safeholdians don't have faith
Post by Weird Harold   » Sat Oct 13, 2018 1:21 pm

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JBNL1972 wrote:and how, in absence of evidence both in support and to the contrary, do you judge this 'truth' ?


Why look it up on the Internet, of course. :D
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Answers! I got lots of answers!

(Now if I could just find the right questions.)
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Re: Safeholdians don't have faith
Post by Bluesqueak   » Sun Oct 14, 2018 2:46 am

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Weird Harold wrote:
JBNL1972 wrote:and how, in absence of evidence both in support and to the contrary, do you judge this 'truth' ?


Why look it up on the Internet, of course. :D


Right after you close down all the university departments that rely on 'walls of text'. But before you close down the Internet. ;)
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