Sunday, August 30, 2009

AtF: Opposite Day Finally Arrives. Everyone Stop Breathing.

Here’s the good news as best I can tell. I have just enough Jameson for one last strong whiskey sour. I’m at the tail end of a relaxing four-day weekend. Said four-day weekend included some good times hanging out in Madison, WI with the awesome Jessi Lynn and Sarah Peacock. The Bears have a quarterback who actually knows how to throw passes for, y’know, yards and stuff. I’m a week away from the Fox Valley Folk and Storytelling Festival, and two weeks away from the Guild set we’re doing at Stage Left Café. While in Madison I picked up a copy of Weschler’s new book, True to Life: Twenty-Five Years of Conversations with David Hockney, which is already turning out to be thought provoking and amazing. It’s already provoked much thought and the start of a post I’d much rather be writing right now. As of about an hour ago I’ve got Amazon hard at work sending me Vermeer in Bosnia, Boggs: A Comedy of Values, and the new edition of Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, so I should be loaded with Weschler for quite some time. Here’s the bad news. Oasis apparently broke up this week. It’s Sunday. So that means it’s time for Bill Cooper. Remember that strong whiskey sour? Yeah, I’m thanking Sneaky Pete for that small gift tonight. I’d have been desperate enough to waste my Glenlivet 18 on this massively inauspicious occasion, too, since I’m just not sure what to do with Cooper this week. I don’t think I’m capable of handling it. It’s getting to be that bad. Seriously, this guy just doesn’t get deductive reasoning. Or inductive reasoning. Or reasoning. Hell, he probably has a hard time with seasoning.* To wit:
Likewise, Nennius' source cites Meshech (5) as the father of the Cappadocians (see Appendix 1:10 and 2:18 -- the Caphtorim), an error that also appears in Josephus. It is doubtful though that Josephus originated these errors, simply because he was himself working from much older sources. The confusion, however, was easily brought about, for the name of the Semitic people of Mash in Genesis, is alternately rendered Meshech in 1 Chronicles. Clearly the two, the Semitic people of Meshech and the Japhetic people of Meshech, were confused with one another even in classical times, and it was upon the records of the classical world that both Josephus and Nennius relied rather than upon any mere copying of the Genesis record.
Clearly. It must be a millennia long series of gaffes, of which Josephus and Nennius were the unfortunate victims. Or, y’know, Genesis said one thing, Chronicles said another, and Josephus and Nennius simply copied one version over the other. Josephus and Nennius lived too early to be introduced to the work of my good friend Sir William of Ockham and his celebrated razor. Cooper doesn’t have that excuse. Honestly, there is no excuse for Cooper. I mean, he put the solution to his little problem right there in the paragraph. We don’t have to go to theoretical historical records that have been lost to the mists of time to figure out that if the Bible had two different versions of this Meshech dude then people who were attempting to directly copy the Bible would have had to pick one version or the other. And, really, why would the Genesis account be more accurate than the Chronicles account if it’s all the infallible word of god? Srsly. Oh, and for the record, I haven’t even bothered to attempt to track down the Chronicles I version down. I don’t care enough to and, quite honestly, it’s far more enjoyable to let Cooper cast about and show his stupidity in a vacuum. I mean, honestly, the book disproves itself. I don’t even have to write these posts. I just do as a hook to attempt to entice you, my dear readers, to come back on Monday for my random musings on, um, whatever the hell it is I muse about on Mondays. It’s like we say over at Slacktivist, “Come for the Left Behind Fridays, stay for the Thursday Flame War.”** Fear not, though. The rationalization and utter lack of sanity continues apace.
Other examples of distortion (albeit still of a minor nature) are seen in that the Goths are shown to have been descended from both Magog (2), the biblical patriarch, and from Armenon, the son of Alanus. Armenon himself is stated to have had five sons, yet only four are named. (Five nations are later shown to have descended from him.) Similarly, Negue is stated to have three sons, yet four nations derive from him. The significance of all this is that Nennius could easily have edited out or corrected these points, thereby enhancing his own credibility, yet he chose to simply leave them as they are. And it is this that, almost paradoxically, enhances his standing as a trustworthy and reliable historian, and it further assures us that we are reading these exceedingly ancient documents exactly as Nennius read them.
No. Just…no. It doesn’t work that way. Getting things wrong doesn’t enhance your credibility. Fucking up the progression of things in your bizarre, imaginary world doesn’t enhance your credibility. Saying that someone who totally fucked up is credible because of his fuck up doesn’t enhance your credibility. And, in case you’re wondering, I’m directing that last one at Cooper himself.
From Alanus onwards appears a comprehensive table of the nations of Europe. One or two of these names were archaic even in Nennius' time and would long have fallen into disuse. They are all, however, familiar to any historian today whose studies have touched upon the history of Europe at about the time of the Roman Empire. For several centuries, it seems, Europe was a seething cauldron as nation vied with nation in a bewildering array of migration, invasion and displacement. Yet not one of the names in this list of nations is historically unattested, not even that of the unlikely-sounding Gepids.
Yeah. Blah blah blah. Let’s go look at those oft-maligned Gepids,*** shall we? And I’m going to go to a far more reputable source for this: Wiki-friggin’-pedia. Yeah, you heard me.
The Gepids were first mentioned around 260 AD, when they participated with the Goths in an invasion in Dacia, where they were settled in Jordanes' time, the mid 6th century. Their early origins are reported in Jordanes' Origins and Deeds of the Goths, where he claims that their name derives from their later and slower migration from Scandinavia: You surely remember that in the beginning I said the Goths went forth from the bosom of the island of Scandza with Berig, their king, sailing in only three ships toward the hither shore of Ocean, namely to Gothiscandza. One of these three ships proved to be slower than the others, as is usually the case, and thus is said to have given the tribe their name, for in their language gepanta means slow.. (xvii.94-95)
Okay, for the record, that right there is an awesome origin story. And it comes from Jordanes’s Getica, which in turn was based on Cassiodorus’s Gothic History, written about twenty years earlier. So we’re confronted with two different origin stories of this random Gothic tribe that possesses a name that Cooper bizarrely calls “unlikely-sounding.” Why “Gepids” is more unlikely than, say, “Alemanni” or “Scythian,” or, for that matter, “Britons,” is beyond me. I’m guessing he’s trying to say, “How could they possibly be called the Gepids if there wasn’t some dude named Gepid who started them?” Or he’s just an idiot. I leave it for you to decide, my masterfully discerning audience of several. For this we need to understand the sources. Jordanes wrote his work in 551 and was working with a book written by Cassiodorus in 530 CE or thereabouts. Cassiodorus, meanwhile, worked directly for Theodoric the Great, who was king of the Ostrogoths and regent of the Visigoths. So you’d think that Cassiodorus had access to a bit more of the necessary information to discuss the Gothic tribes than, say, Nennius, who was a good two hundred years later, separated by the English Channel, and had the notable handicap of attempting to write a history based on the Bible, the Aeneid, and narrated by the voices in his head. Oh, hell, I don’t even have to do the level of work I’ve been doing here. I can just point this out. In the entry I posted last week I slapped up a genealogy that Cooper printed after discovering it in Nennius. It purports to be the genealogy from Japheth to Alanus, who was, like, the grandfather of the classic European tribes. Yeah, this thing here: Look at it. Look at it for a long moment and you’ll probably see there’s something horribly, horribly wrong with this chart. Go on, look. I’ll wait. … See it yet? … Okay, time’s up. Cooper’s chart shows there are eighteen generations between Japheth and Alanus. Eight. Teen. That’s a grand total of 360 years if we take a generation as being 20 years. Hell, I can be nice and say that a single generation was 100 years and it doesn’t change a damn thing. Let’s say that there really was a Noahic Flood in approximately 2400 BCE. Nennius’s little chart doesn’t even take us to the year 2000. Going with 100 year generations doesn’t even get us to the Classical age of Greece. Even if I play by the Bible's rules I can show that this doesn't make a damn bit of sense. There isn’t an aged genealogy of Japheth in Genesis 10 and 11, but if we go by the one given for Shem in Genesis 11 the first 8 generations took 400 years (each son mentioned followed his father by about 30 to 35 years with an outlier on either end). The next generation was Abraham, and he doesn’t count, so let’s say that Japtheth’s 18 generations followed a similar progression with another 30-ish year progression. We’re talking a thousand years from the Flood to the purported foundation of the Roman Age European tribes. So this actually basically requires us to believe that the Visigoths were sitting up in Eastern Europe by roughly the period of the Exodus. I imagine they were mostly checking their watches and practicing their lines for the next 1600 years or so. Or perhaps they were as Cthulhu, slumbering in the deep forest until the stars aligned and they arose to make war on all humanity. Honestly, it’s just as believable. -------------------------------- *Sorry. **Nobody actually says that to the best of my knowledge. Also, I think Slacktivist has about as many commenters in a day as I have readers in a week. And if Fred doesn’t, PZ Myers certainly does. I don’t know why I’m mentioning this. I think it’s to highlight the difference in relative popularity between, say, Left Behind and After the Flood. I totally should have picked a better known book to debunk. Maybe for my next project I’ll just go through the Bible chapter by chapter. Yeah that’s the…ticket… ***Okay, not really.


GailVortex said...

Reading what you excerpt of Cooper's piffle, I find myself lost in layers of "Why?"

Why did he even start on this line of thought? Why did he spend time collating a bunch of "historical sources" that no reputable historian would have steered him to for this purpose? Why can't he construct a coherent sentence? Why did someone at his publisher think this was a good reason to kill trees?

And perhaps most importantly: why aren't there whiskey sours all around for your faithful readers for every excursion into this drivel?

[I think perhaps the analog to your reference of the Slacktivist "Come for the Left Behind Fridays, stay for the Thursday Flame War" for this blog is unfortunately "Come for the interesting history [like the awesome Gettysburg series], clever storytelling and good writing and put up with the AtF posts"... Sorry, man.]

Geds said...

Oh, that's harsh. I'd say you wound me, but I think it's wrapped up in a pretty strong compliment, so I'm okay with that. And I try to make the AtF posts at least marginally entertaining. It's tough, given the source material.

Meanwhile, I got linked from the James Randi forums specifically for the AtF stuff. The person who put the post up said that I have a blog "dedicated to" Cooper's rubbish.

I can honestly think of nothing sadder than to live a life so devoid of meaning that I'd write an entire blog dedicated to After the Flood. I mean, at that point suicide isn't just an option, it's an imperative.

Michael Mock said...

Can I just tell you how glad I am that you're *not* devoting your blog to After The Flood?

Also, I admire your fortitude. I can't even read the *excerpts* without my eyes glazing over; how you manage to wade through that thing, I'll never know. (But I'm sure it's painful!)

Michael Mock said...

Oh, and - in my case, it's "Come for the deconversion stories, stay for the wit & insight."

The Woeful Budgie said...

Ditto Michael. And while I like whiskey sours as much as the next gal, I'd say that a decent Irish whiskey would be put to better use in Irish Coffee.

Geds said...

Hmm, so I seem to have a mutiny of sorts on my hands. And my own strange zeal for this project doesn't seem to have rubbed off on anyone other than ExPatMatt and El Borak.


Fine. See what you get. Who knows? I might decide to start up a new weekly feature: things I learned from Lawrence Weschler. See how y'all like that one, punks...

johngf said...

I just read After the Flood for the second time (which is actually why I found this site, I was looking up the relationship of Japeth and Jupiter), it's really quite short and easy to read compared to Custance. His Doorway Paper 1 is OK, but I ground to a halt a quarter into Paper 2 over a year ago (and there are 7 Doorway Papers).

Sparked my interest in doing proper research myself though.