Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The TMH / DH Project - Bias

Before beginning this project, I thought I would add a quick note about my own personal bias and what I can do to try to minimize this problem.

We all have biases, and there is no way anyone can approach any significant question in a completely neutral way. (It is not even clear that there is such a neutral way.) The best we can to is acknowledge our biases, critically examine arguments without letting the bias get in the way, and subject our conclusions to the critical evaluation of others who disagree with us. So here goes.

My own belief is that the evidence for the DH is pretty strong. However, this is not a solid dogmatic belief. I base it on having read the Torah (obviously) and some more popular works about Bible Criticism. The arguments seem convincing. Also, the DH is accepted by pretty much all of academia (with huge debates about some details) some Orthodox Jews, and most Christian groups, including the Catholic Church and most Protestant denominations. In contrast, the only people who advocate TMH are mainly Orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Christians. Moreover, no one advocates even an early date for the Torah (say, before King Solomon) or a single author (even if not God). I have also found most of the kiruv type arguments to be less than convincing, although several have some persuasive force.

However, I have not thoroughly investigated all these claims. Advocates of the DH often make assertions that I have not checked. And of course there are oodles of traditional Jewish commentary offering explanations for anomalous verses or stories in the Torah, most of which I have not checked either. This subject is complicated and important, and I for one am not comfortable reaching any conclusion without having analyzed this material in much greater detail. (Hence, this project.) I recognize my bias, but I also recognize that my conclusions, although based on a fair amount of good evidence and argument, are still tentative, especially when I realize how much important evidence and argument is out there than I have not considered.

I routinely put my own biases aside in evaluating arguments. I am a practicing appellate lawyer. I spend a huge amount of time doing exhaustive legal research and making legal arguments in great detail. My briefs do not go to juries; they (usually) go to three-judge appellate panels. My audience is very smart, very sophisticated, and very thorough. As a result, I spend much of my time critically examining arguments that both support and oppose my position. And I frequently decide that arguments that would be helpful to my client are not likely to prevail. I have a great deal of experience in analyzing my arguments and other arguments from different perspectives, and I hope to employ those skills here.

Finally, I will subject my conclusions to the critical comments responses of others. (See next post for details.)

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