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First the link to this week’s complete list as HTML and as PDF.
The main result in Isley et al. that I can see, is that you can’t expect uneducated people to make educated choices. They react far more strongly to the way numbers are presented than to the numbers themselves. The evaluation of comparable alternatives relies on subtle quantitative differences. Presenting them as stark black vs. white contrasts is the way to run an efficient dictatorship or ochlocracy, not an enlightened democracy.
The way we are taught to translate words in old Hebrew texts is to peruse long lists of, at first glance totally unrelated, possible meanings of the word in question, until we find the one, that seems to fit the current context. I share Clines’ dislike as stated in his conclusion 3. What I always try to do is start off with the plain and basic meaning of a word and try to get a feeling for the width and shape of the field it encompassed for the native speaker. That way I can hope to pick up idiomatic leanings and undercurrents that a simple word substitution would miss altogether. After all, those singular outlying translations of a word are, at their root, nothing but guesses, and while the authors of those lexica undoubtedly were far more qualified to make inspired and educated guesses than any of us undergraduate students are, I still prefer to take heed of Huxley’s admonition, never to trust the experts implicitly.
Hurvitz arrived here at a well chosen time, seeing that his position directly contradicts that by Young of last week.
With the proliferation of articles describing significant confounders for the interpretation of isotopes and with the wide spread in the underlying reference data, I’m deeply suspicious of studies claiming to elucidate the contribution of different food sources to exact percentages. I accept Choy et al.’s method may be sufficient to propose the consumption of sea fish where none was expected before but I doubt their claims of exact proportions.
The European Neolithic is known to have advanced at a widely divergent pace and at separate times in different parts of the continent, especially parts with widely opposed climate and latitude like Scotland and the French Mediterranean coast. So if there were a recurrent experience of an initial boom and bust, we would not expect all those busts to occur simultaneously in one single century as in Downey, Haas, & Shennan. And checking for a possible explanation we find the relevant hump of nearly all their boom excursions faithfully reproduced in Bernhard Weninger’s (Doc.Prae. 38 (2011), 9) simulation of the artifacts generated by the shape of the carbon isotope calibration curve alone. Their whole result turns out to be entirely spurious.
See also my critique of their related article in the list of 2013-10-14.
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