Volume 2, Issue 5
February 26, 2012
Putting scientistic jargon in its place
Tel Megiddo overlooking the famous biblical valley


The possibility that the artifact which NAMI and their team have discovered on Mount Ararat might actually be Noah's Ark is destined to be the source of humor. I am not referring to the kind that preceded ABC's Good Morning America's interview with archaeologist Eric Cline when they discussed NAMI's April, 2010 announcement. (Click to see.) The network's punch at what they have to view as the childlike mind of those who believe in Noah's Ark licensed them to cover an event which they knew would be popular but also scorned by scientifically sophisticated audiences. It is Cline's unconscious move to seriousness during the heart of the interview that signals what I have in mind. He is too good an archaeologist not to suspect that the joke might be on those like himself who, under the banner of scientific archaeology, have ridiculed the search for Noah's Ark.

I had a recent exchange with Cline that foreshadows what I believe is going to give rise to more good-natured humor. It pertains to the entire claims of scientific prehistory. Those of you who have been reading these newsletters will recall that I have been explaining how the evidence of Noah's Flood became obscured due to the geologist Charles Lyell having stretched out what was formerly understood as diluvian (from the Flood) remains into a million-year plus Pleistocene era, now understood as the Ice Age. Human remains from the Pleistocene are known as Paleolithic (Old Stone Age). I am further claiming that Paleolithic man is actually contemporaneous with Neolithic (New Stone Age), Calcholithic (Copper and Stone) Age, and Early Bronze Age man! The antediluvian civilization ended by the Flood explains the elaborate burials associated with ancient man and why "religious" burials have seemed to dominate mankind's prehistory.

Cline was more interested in my book, which featured a picture on its cover of the archaeological site of Megiddo in Israel (see above) where Cline himself serves as the Associate Director of Excavation. According to me, the Early Bronze city at Megiddo was buried by topsoil and debris from Noah's Flood. Understandably, Cline finds my claim disturbing. He began doing what a good scientist ought to do, which was to challenge the basis of my claims. His criticism included my reference to different dates for the ending of the Early Bronze Age; mentioning a paper by Yale's Harvey Weiss that the Early Bronze Age was ended by drought; my interpretation of the royal tombs at Ur as a party brought to a sudden end by the waters of the Flood; my challenging the current dating of Late Uruk (which I explain as being the site of ancient Babel); and claiming that Megiddo could not have been destroyed by the Flood inasmuch as it has been excavated to bedrock.

After pointing out the particular places in my book that most of his questions were answered, I suggested that my thesis might be proven false by more carefully studying the site at Megiddo, together perhaps with data from other sites in Israel. This would be to show that the archaeological periods older than the Early Bronze (Calcholithic, Pottery Neolithic, Pre-Pottery Neolithic, Paleolithic and the numerous subdivisions of all these) have in fact been determined by strata (where latter periods clearly overlie early periods) rather than, as I am claiming, being an artificial chronology based on a highly-subjective typology. I also asked Cline for a reasonable explanation of the burials in these periods aside from them having been caused by the Flood. I did not ask him to show the remains of the settlements where all those buried in these eras lived. In asking, I sense what it might have been like for Elijah to assist the prophets of Baal. [1Kings 18:27]

What I am claiming is that scientific prehistory is but a house of cards held together by the fact that it is no longer much challenged and when it has been, at least until now, no one has been able to put forth a clearly better alternative. Those cards forming the house of scientific prehistory are but bits of archaeological and other kinds of scientific jargon. Cline rightfully prides himself on being a well-trained archaeologist, and I heartily agree, though that is the problem. He has been taught how to do archaeology and he trains others to do archaeology in the way that he was trained. What archaeologists like him do not much do is question the way they have been taught archaeological prehistory. They do not seem to understand that prehistory is built on mere conventions.

As thinkers in archaeology understand, the heart of archaeology is chronology. Cline seems to have forgotten that archaeological dates earlier than the Late Bronze Age (after which reasonably reliable historical dating exists) are conventions, and there are different conventions. Conventions based on king lists still prevail in the Early Bronze archaeology of Israel and the Ancient Near East. Flinders Petrie's (1853-1942) version of the Egyptian king lists is still used to date the archaeology of Israel. Chronologists agree that the current Egyptian chronology is wrong, but they haven't a better replacement. King lists are great for later periods when there is no need for guessing about gaps and where there are a lot of cross references to check one nation's calendar to another.

Interestingly, Petrie himself created the method of using seriation typologies from pottery as a way of creating chronologies for prehistorical eras older than the king lists. What seriation means is that he used a supposed history of pottery development based on jars that he found in Egypt as a way of dating archaeological remains. Problem is that he had no strata so as to objectively determine which jars were really older than other jars. In fact, almost all the beautiful pottery that he used in his seriation history was unbroken due to the fact that all their owners had died in the Flood. Archaeologists everywhere used Petrie's method to create chronological frameworks that are only imagined. But this method was nothing new. Archaeologist had been doing something similar since Sir John Lubbock (1834-1913) invented the equally subjective Paleolithic/Neolithic division in prehistoric archaeology. 

I am not saying that there are no strata for these earlier periods. Even before the Flood, there were earlier and later technologies and styles. One of my future projects is to develop a sound chronology for the antediluvian era of mankind's history. I now have a chronological marker (the Flood burials) that will greatly assist in doing so. Paleolithic sites may not belong to mankind's earliest history!

The point here is that scientific jargon has wonderfully served scientific history by causing laymen to suppose it based on sound study. Latin names like paleolithic are preferred because Latin was formerly the language of learning. Epipaleolithic sounds more impressive than just being at the very end of the Old Stone Age. The further back one goes in an imagined history, the more need there are for scientifically-sounding names to cover the tens of thousands and millions of years of supposed human prehistory.

For the oldest eras, it is more common to base chronology on a supposed climate history. Climate history includes measurements of things like pollen and isotopes, complete with equations, tables, and graphs whose practical meaning (if there is a practical meaning) is rarely spelled out or connected to what was actually done in a way that relates to what we really want to know. Compared to the jargon and technical argot that one must wade through to understand (if that is the right word) papers on scientific dating and climatology, archaeological reports as well as Harvey Weiss paper to which Cline referred are models of clarity. Cline failed to notice that Weiss paper "Beyond the Younger Dryas: Collapse as Adaptation to Abrupt Climate Change in Ancient West Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean" is referenced in my bibliography. Weiss is speculating drought severe enough to end civilization occurring at the very time that Kathlyn Kenyon found severe erosion occurring throughout the land of the Bible. Of course, the Dryas is an arctic flower. Why Weiss used this to speculate on the climate of ancient Israel and why it doesn't work is explained in my article at left below.

Best regards,
Philip Williams

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In this issue
Putting scientistic jargon in its place
The New Archaeology
Climate-based chronologies from peat bogs
Chronologies from bores and annual rings

The New Archaeology
How scientification destroyed archaeology's purpose, meaning, and popularity 


Another issue that I discussed with Eric Cline concerned his contention that when he is doing archaeology, he is "not looking for anything but rather for everything." I suggested that he would make better use of his digs by seeking to answer important and interesting archaeological problems related to his digs.
Cline is the product of an era in his field known as the New Archaeology. Beginning in the sixties, the New Archaeology intended to complete the scientification of archaeology, especially prehistory. As in the case of other humanities of that era, archaeologists wanted to see their field put a firm scientific basis. Inspired by the use of computers and high technology scientific dating, the New Archaeology seemed intent on altogether replacing history with science. 
The New Archaeology succeeded in its mission. Archaeologists studied processes and systems, something that a systems engineer such as myself well understands. In my field of telecommunications, we studied some of the works of what was known as General Systems Theory from the field of archaeology. But while I was seeing the problem in my field of telecommunications as engineers not being attentive to the human problems and needs, archaeologists were pretending that humans were nothing special in the evolution of systems.
In fact, the New Archaeology turned archaeologists into technicians focussed on processes and procedures producing dull archaeological reports. They practically destroyed the entire purpose and meaning of archaeology along with its popularity. Most archaeological departments closed or were merged with other departments.
Many years ago, the British scientist and humanist C.P. Snow warned in his book Two Cultures of the dangers when those speaking English could no longer understand the language of science. The danger was not, as some then thought, that scientists would some day be in charge of society. The true danger is that due to the increasing fragmentation of scientific fields together with incomprehensible jargon, science has become a victim of politicalization in fields from genetics to climate science. 
Through the leadership of William G. Dever, the New Archaeology even sought to replace biblical archaeology with what some understand as Syro-Palestinian archaeology. Those inclined to the New Archaeology derided what they called "digging with the spade in one hand and the Bible in the other." In their view, the Bible was an embarrassing corruption of what they saw as the pure scientific work of archaeology.
As folks began loosing interest, it became apparent to the archaeologists working in Israel that the Bible would remain the chief reason for doing archaeology. Though no literalist, Dever has himself criticized minimalists who understate the amount of light that the Bible sheds on archaeological digs.
If Cline is looking for anything and everything, why has he chosen to work in that tiny spot on the earth's surface about which so much is written in the Bible? Of all the hills in the world why has he chosen to dig on the one famously associated with the battle of Armageddon? Cline knows he needs the Bible. A glance at his publications and website shows that he needs biblical stories like Noah's Ark just to keep folks interested in what he is doing.
Notwithstanding my criticism, I value trained archeologists such as Cline who do the tedious and painstaking work of archaeology. I am also delighted that he has chosen to focus on irresponsible archaeology concerning the Bible, whether it be about Noah's Ark or the Ark of the Covenant. (Click to hear Cline on this subject.) I share his concern for how biblical themes have been exploited by opportunists who have been confusing the public with crackpot science. Unfortunately the scientification of archaeology is itself much responsible for the rise of irresponsible and crackpot alternative archaeology. The proper way to solve this problem is for competent archaeologists and scientists to give serious attention to the Bible, and not just in investigating eras from the Late Bronze Age, but for the entire period of man's earliest history. 
Climate-base chronologies 
from peat bogs 

Why archaeologists should ignore them   


In the nineteenth century, geologists decided that rather than being the remains of Noah's Flood, diluvial remains were instead from a long glacier period (the Ice Age). They searched for some better indicator of periods within the Ice Age than the faunal remains suggested by Charles Lyell. Following Lyell, Edouard Lartet (1801-1871) had divided Pleistocene into a long age of bisons, followed by an age of reindeer, then an age of mammoths, and finally a long era of cave bear. The new way was to to divide the Pleistocene into a series of glaciations. In the US, these are called Nebraskan, Kansan, Illinoian, and Wisconsin. In Europe, the last Ice Age is called the Würm. Though the same era, it sounds more scientific than the Age of the Cave Bear.
Due to their need to accommodate what was then understood as a most ancient Egyptian civilization that had to follow the Ice Age, they set the Holocene, the time since the Ice Age, at about 12,000 years. Danish naturalists conceived a climatic chronometer for the Holocene by looking at layers of peat containing different colors and kinds of pollens. Some layers showed pollen from an arctic flower called the Dryas. Other layers did not. In 1876, Axel Blytt decided this indicated alternate periods of cold wet and warm dry eras. The Blytt-Sernander climate-based chronology is listed above. 
The Blytt-Sernander series has become a favored reference in prehistoric archaeology. Unlike the prehistoric archaeological periods, the Blytt-Sernander series is based on what is in fact chronological strata. Here, the dating problem is due to the lack of objective absolute dating. The era of peat deposits used in this sequence depended on what was then the supposed needs of archaeology and by assuming that the peat sequence post-dated what was understood as a million year glacial era in which no peat could have been made. As did Yale's Harvey Weiss, the paper mention above by Eric Cline, archaeologists use the climatic indicators of Blytt-Sernander to speculate archaeological changes such as the cause of the end of the Early Bronze Age. Even if the chronology is correct,  how do we know that climate markers in Denmark are of global rather than local weather? Consider that central Europe this year has experienced an extraordinary cold winter. In America it has been extraordinarily warm. 


Tens of thousands of jargon-filled scientific papers have been written many of them using and a few of them confirming Blytt-Sernander by studies of pollens, microfossils, isotopes, or other proxies (climate indicators). Due to the recent popularity of global warming, the paleoclimate industry has mushroomed. But I am not impressed. To confirm this sequence, there must be some independent means of correlating these strata to calendrical time. Some claim that Blytt-Sernander dates have been confirmed using the kinds of dating I discuss in the column on the right. In truth the reason Blytt-Sernander remains in widespread us is due to the problems I mention in that same column. 


That the Blytt-Sernander sequence remains in use far into the era of scientific dating only shows that there is in fact no more reliable chronometer for eras that are older than a few thousand years. Notwithstanding the dubious guesses lying at the foundation of their science, imagine the difficulty paleo-climatologists might have were they to admit to the public (or even to one another) that in fact they have no reliable way of dating what is supposed the climate of the past. They need not worry until someone seriously challenges them in the court of public opinion. Their secret lies hidden in the technical argot of their scientific papers, most of them too boring even for their peers. 





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Chronologies from bores and annual rings 
Lacking true chronometers, they may be but the boring games of government-paid scientists
Temperature (blue), CO2 (green), and dust (red) from the Vostok ice core in Antarctica supposed deposited over about 420,000 years. [Chart from Wikimedia]
Just as there are limits to historical dating, there are also limits to dating by radiocarbon, even when these dates have been "calibrated" by tree rings. I have previously explained my reasons for not trusting tree ring calibrations above about 5000 years: because calibration is based on wiggle-pattern matches of wood samples that are themselves arranged according to their radiocarbon dating. There is circularity rather than true sequence in these calibration arrangements. Even so, matching is done by computer programs that can be programmed to match anything to anything. Those drawings of matching patterns of continuous tree ring sequences used to illustrate tree-ring calibration of radiocarbon dating misrepresent what is really going on.
Not to worry, some will tell us. We have stratified annual layers from such things as glacier lakes (called varves) and ice-core bores that create climate records going back not only for tens but for hundreds of thousands of years. Some claim that these along with global indicators of pollen, volcanic ash, and climate events can be used to date the relative strata such as that use for the Blytt-Sernander series. (See left.) 
Despite measurements from varves and charts of bores seeming to point exactly to the deposits from hundreds of thousand years, there are problems. How do we know that deep deposits of varve deposits are continuous? Where on the earth has there never been neither wind erosion, water erosion, nor summer melts? Indeed, do not geologists explain the notable lack of continuity found the world over in the deeper geological column as due to erosion? Even if there has been no erosion, the evidence of annual snow deposits quickly disappear under the pressure and weight of the ice. There is no ice bore with a mark stamped 74,320 bp that has not been placed there by the scientists or their technicians. 
In truth, the best example of a truly historical marker in arctic ice comes from the accidental grounding of a squadron of bombers and P-38's in Greenland in 1942. These airplanes were at last recovered in 1990, buried under about 250 feet of ice. The accumulation was about 5 feet per year, more than accumulates in Antarctica and northern Greenland and less compressed than the ice found at deeper levels. Still, each foot along this depth of ice contained the same kind of annual markers as is ordinarily found in ice core bores. 
If we have difficulty dating individual varves and bores, perhaps we can at least synchronize various columns and bores due to a common pattern of worldwide weather, or perhaps from some worldwide marker such as the explosion of a volcano. Notwithstanding what some claim about patterns of climate history, consider the weather that we know. There is occasionally weather that is almost worldwide, but no common patterns of worldwide weather. If the earth has in fact been colder or warmer in the past so as to create a worldwide record, the patterns will be obscured by the far more variable climate from the seasons. One might keep this in mind when he reads claims that climate events from distant ice core bores and ocean floor deposits have been correlated. 
Some believe there are global markers in the geological column due to the impact of some ancient comet. Whether these markers from millions of years ago do actually exist outside the imagination of scientists, no one has pointed out a global marker for a comet impact occurring as recent as the last Ice Age, that is, within human history. Regional markers do exist for the eruptions of volcanoes. A problem is that these markers don't just fail to cover the earth, they may not even cover areas near the volcano that were not downwind at the time the volcano erupted.
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Christian Leaders & Scholars is the newsletter and publication site of Philip Ernest Williams, author of The Archaeological Evidence of Noah's Flood (2011). The site is also a ministry not only to Christian leaders and scholars but all who are interested in the more difficult issues pertaining to the Bible and its implications for science and history. (Read more)