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Re: orion-list Kuhn and Popper

Dear subscribers to orion,

I think I owe you a few lines, because, to a certain extent, the title in 
one of my essays triggered the ongoing discussion on "paradigm shift", 
Popper and Kuhn. First of all, I deliberately limited the phrase "paradigm 
shift" to a particular field of Qumran archaeology, the cemetery in 
particular. Here, I see indeed a "paradigm" or a interpretive model at 
work, which recently nobody has more vividly promulgated as Joe Zias in his 
Boston paper: the cemetery contains only the bodies of adult males, it is 
Essene, its character supports the Essene identification of the nearby 
ruins as habitation of the celibate Essene community. The classic essay in 
this respect is Emile Puech's article in a recent issue of BASOR. This my 
not be a pure Kuhnian "paradigm", but that was not my point. I did not 
intend to do exegesis of Popper or Kuhn. What is more important to me, is 
the way this model works in reality. Russell Gmirkin has rightly pointed 
out the tendency of supporting circular argument, an intrinsic 
"conservatism" (might not be politically correct, blame it on my German 
background :-)) and what I call a "filtering" of the evidence. E.g. you can 
see the "filtering" when people refer to Beit Safafa as proof of the Essene 
type of burial and fail to mention that half of the graves' orientation 
plainly contradicts that. - To me, Khirbet Qazone was the last nail to the 
theory that grave form evidenced in Qumran has anything to do with 
religious beliefs (my article Steven Goranson referred to), the 
anthropological research done by my German collegues has put the last nail 
in the coffin for the assumption that the contents of the Qumran graves are 
any unique (my latest article). So the conclusion was unavoidable: if there 
is nothing Essene in the cemetery, there is no way to claim that the 
cemetery positively (!) supports the notion of the Essene character of the 
ruins (something Emile Puech does, but other as well). So to me it is not a 
matter of falsification (I might run into another trap messing with pure 
Popper here :-() but of asking what evidence is still left to support (!) 
the old model in the first place?
Of course, there may be other sets of evidence that still do support the 
Essene character of the settlement (but I have my doubts): the ceramic 
spectrum, the water installations etc. I have the notion (it is still a 
notion yet) that the deeper you get into the archaeological evidence, the 
less probable it gets to positively claim that Khirbet Qumran has Essene 

All the best and thanks for the challenging discussion,

Jurgen Zangenberg

For private reply, e-mail to Jurgen Zangenberg <jurgen.zangenberg@pantheon.yale.edu>
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