Debating evidence, method & Inferences: Oak vs Koch – Part 8

Dieter Koch writes (referring to my interpretation of AV observation and its resultant inference),

You could be right here.

I could be wrong, but not until someone establishes that by providing a better and alternate (and of course, testable) explanation for AV observation.

Dieter Koch writes,

However, since the verse appears in a list of omens and since an astronomical fact that is valid over thousands of years does not suit for an omen, I do have the following doubts:
1. Either your interpretation (difference in right ascension and meridian transits) is wrong; but I admit I do not know a better explanation. But on the other hand, sometimes the limitation of our horizon does not allow to see us the correct solution.
2. Or your interpretation is correct, but the verse is misplaced in Vyasa’s list of omens and does not belong into it, but got there wrongly as a result of some text revision. [emphasis mine]

It is indeed true that limitation of our horizon does not allow to see us the correct solution. By horizon, if you mean limitation of our current knowledge (in this case, of astronomy) and technology, I am in complete agreement. On the other hand, what I have found is that, in almost all cases, the resistance to AV observation has come from dogmatic attachment to a specific claim(s) for the timing of Mahabharata war (among the 130+ claims), irrespective of if these claim(s) were based on superficial evidence that also broke all rules of logic, consistency of a theory, and objective testing.

You describe your choice in simplistic either/or scenario. You do not stop there. You add to the mix another critical and specific yet independent issue of ‘text revision.

The issue of ‘text revision’ is an issue that applies to either of the possibilities you have described above (either/or). The issue of ‘text revision’ applies to each and all astronomy observation of Mahabharata text. The issue of ‘text revision’ applies to entire core of Mahabharata story and text.

This is a critical issue and not to be taken lightly and especially not be invoked by Mahabharata researchers, conveniently to put down an ‘objectively testable’ explanation of another researcher while remaining mute when it applies to one’s own explanation.

I will write a separate note on this issue of errors due to interpolation, translation, transcription, transposition, transliteration and such errors, how various groups have dealt with them and what should be the preferred way to deal with them.

I am glad that you have brought up this subject.
What follows are 4 instances I noted down. In your first response, you wrote,

#1
In addition, it does not seem very likely that a memory of astronomical content, which is handed down only among stargazers, survives uncorrupted over more than 10 millennia. Well, of course, “unlikely” does not mean “impossible”.

#2
Or maybe we have to modify Oak’s idea and think of a different scenario: In a far later time, e.g. after 400 BCE, when the Mahabharata found its final form, the Vedic astronomical tradition could have remembered that in very old times (i.e. around 4508 BCE) the order of the two stars had changed. The phenomenon could have been wrongly associated with the Mahabharata War and therefore been inserted in the text.

#3
This verse is in obvious contradiction with the Verse about Jupiter and Saturn in Vishakha, because the end of Uttaraphalguni is 40° away from the beginning of Vishakha. No interpretation trick can remove this contradiction. One of the two verses must be wrong. I decided that the latter must be wrong, for reasons not to be discussed here.

#4
The possibility that the text with its great number of variants could in parts be incorrect or have interpolations never comes to his[oak’s] mind.

Among the 4 cases I have cited above (from Koch’s first response), the very first (#1) is due to Koch’s own confusion and or interpretation of war occurring in only around 11000 BCE! In remaining 3 cases, Koch took shelter under this notion of anything that does not make sense (#2) must be due to ‘text revision’, if Koch can-not explain multiple observations for a given planet – in this case – Saturn (#3), then it must be due to ‘text revision, and when Oak explains 6 specific observations of Mars with his new and testable theory, again, Koch invokes interpolation (#4)! It will be interesting to see how many of these 6 Mahabharata observations of Mars can be corroborated by Koch’s own proposal (1198 BCE?)

By the way, I may mention that there are 3 observations of Saturn and not 2 as mentioned by Shri Koch.

Dieter Koch writes,

(If you or another reader have never seen the BORI edition of the Mahabharata, please try to get access and have a look into it. I mean the printed edition, where you can see the many variations of the text and the additions and omissions that were made in different manuscripts. It would be naïve to believe the Mahabharata is still exactly what originally came out of the mind of its original composer. Vyasa cannot have composed it in so many versions. The BORI edition is just an attempt to reconstruct a version that underlies extant versions.)

I presume Shri Dieter Koch is taking this opportunity to educate the public who may not be aware of multiple manuscripts and subsequent efforts by BORI to create a critical edition of Mahabharata text. Fine.
I agree that BORI effort is indeed good (tremendous labor of love and hard work that went over generations of researchers) however it should not be taken as the last word on what is interpolated and what is not.
As mentioned elsewhere, in our email discussion, I will write a separate note on this entire issue of ‘text revision’ and I will send it to you (and the mailing list) as soon as I have a chance to write it.

Dieter Koch writes,

From a private message of Mr. Phadnis to myself and you, I learn that Mr. Phadnis also considers it possible that the verse on A and V “may have been incorporated in the text at a later stage by someone to tell the posteriority that the story belongs to an earlier times when ‘A was ahead of V’ even though it was no longer true.” And he adds: “Whether by Vyasa or by someone later, the fact has fortunately been recorded and it is a clear pointer to the likely year for the war. Why reject the pointer?” Mr. Phadnis, I hope you do not mind my quoting from a private message. You will certainly agree that it is relevant for the discussion! Your point is valid, and the pointer could be true. But we also have to consider the possibility that the pointer could be wrong. If it was added later, perhaps even a lot later, by somebody we do not know and in a text passage where it does not belong, it could be either true or wrong.

I have no idea what is the purpose of the above passage by Shri Koch. I will let Shri Phadnis respond to it. I may encourage Shri Phadnis to share his letter to Shri Koch (I was copied on it) to the mailing list) so that the readers can decide for themselves what to make of comments of Shri Phadnis but also Shri Koch referring to them

Dieter Koch writes,

Even if the AV observation does go back to the time before 4508 BCE, it does not necessarily follow that the Mahabharata War must have taken place within the period of 11091 BCE – 4508 BCE. I mentioned two alternative plausible scenarios. The mere fact that you don’t like them, not even consider them, for whatever reasons, does not preclude them.

I fail to understand the logic (or lack thereof) of first two lines of Shri Koch in the above passage.

I am not clear on what two alternative plausible scenarios he is referring to so no question of me liking or not liking them. If Shri Koch can explain what these two scenarios he is referring to, I would be happy to comment.

Dieter Koch writes,

Also important: A single verse could at best be a single clue, but it would be imprudent to make it the only fundament of such an important assumption as is the time range within which the war must have taken place.

Beyond simple comprehension of corroboration and falsification and testability, there are additional aspects such as ‘degree of corroboration, the degree of falsification and degree of testability. The discussion has already become longer and detail exposition of these concepts is beyond the scope of this discussion. I will encourage Shri Koch and those interested parties to read ‘The Logic of Scientific Discovery’ and ‘Conjectures & Refutations’ by Sir Karl Popper. These two books discuss these concepts in depth.

A single observation can be epoch-making and thousands of observations may not lead to any new insights. Nothing imprudent about the AV observation claim and its impact.

Modern science is full of them (e.g. the most successful theory of cosmology/astronomy from Copernicus through Einstein). I hope there is no need to quote them, but if Shri Koch fails to recognize them, I will be happy to quote them in abundance.

To be continued…

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