Talk:Noah's Ark/Archive 7

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Archive 6 Archive 7 Archive 8

Article protected

I've protected this article for 3 days, which I hope will be long enough to sort out the disagreements. I'm also asking everyone to calm down and look at their own behaviour, and Taiwanboy in particular to drop the talk of sabotage. dougweller (talk) 15:51, 21 December 2008 (UTC)

I already said I would drop the use of that term. But if you're saying I should stop criticizing PiCo's behaviour, then I'm sorry I'm not going to do that. --Taiwan boi (talk) 16:35, 21 December 2008 (UTC)
Comment on the content, not the contributor. If their behavior is earnestly problematic, you can raise the issue at appropriate venues like wikiquette alerts, the incidents noticeboard and requests for comment. Article talk pages should be focused on the improvement of article content. Vassyana (talk) 19:20, 21 December 2008 (UTC)
I like the way you didn't tell Doug to 'comment on the content, not the contributor'. And if you had read my posts you would be aware that I have painstakingly followed the Wikipedia conflict management policy. Over the last eight months I've requested comment, I've requested mediation, I've suggested compromise, I've posted an alert, I've held polls, I've had third parties give their views. None of this has changed anything. --Taiwan boi (talk) 01:11, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

Who is Wikipedia addressing?

The common person? Or the academic. The word myth means different things to these classes. I would assume that someone coming to Wikipedia for information, is probably not an expert in the subject they look up. Therefore the common meaning of myth (i.e. of no real historicity) should be assumed. rossnixon 01:37, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

Good point. I'd suggest a new section, called Genre, to discuss the various ways the story has been seen/described - that way we could fit in all these different ways of seeing it, and all, of course, are equally valid from the point of view of a popular encyclopedia. PiCo (talk) 03:37, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
rossnixon, I thought Wikipedia was for everyone. I also thought that people generally came here to learn something. If a reader associates the word myth with falsehood in all contexts, then they're a myth box or wikilink away from learning that that association shouldn't be the case. Mission accomplished.
As for a genre section to discuss the various ways the story has been seen/described, it would be just as possible to do this for many more parts of the Bible. I think that would be better off in a separate article, where it can be discussed generally, a history of the concept can be included (one book I mentioned above goes into detail about the history of this), and the Noah's Ark myth, among other sections, can be used as examples. Genre of the Bible perhaps? Ben (talk) 06:43, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
Sounds like a good idea to me. I know that there have been books written about the Bible in terms of literary genres (poems, letters, etc.) Not that I'm going to write it! LovesMacs (talk) 06:54, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

I agree with ross that the more commonly understood meaning of the word 'myth' makes it unsuitable for inclusion in the opening sentence. Martin Hogbin (talk) 20:29, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

If you've got an alternative in mind, perhaps you'd care to join the on-going discussion above. This particular dispute has (apparently) raged for three years and is currently receiving assistance from the MedCab. Please read what's already there though to save time and prevent repeating existing arguments. Cheers, --PLUMBAGO 08:49, 23 December 2008 (UTC) Ooops. My bad. Hadn't spotted your edits above. --PLUMBAGO 08:55, 23 December 2008 (UTC)

What is wrong with this?

According to Judeo-Christian and Islamic scripture, Noah's Ark was a large vessel ...

In support I would say that it is factually correct but it avoids the use of the, technically correct but potentially controversial, word 'mythology'. I have left in the piped links to the mythology articles, however, as those article explain the both technical meaning of the word 'mythology' and the subject matter in detail. Martin Hogbin (talk) 10:06, 23 December 2008 (UTC)

I'd appreciate it, as would others who are following this discussion I'm sure, if we didn't start a new thread every time someone wants their idea heard, so if you could factor this into the above discussion it would be appreciated. Now, I'll discuss this suggestion separately, but I'd rather not have to discuss and list reasons for supporting or opposing every new suggestion someone adds to this already long discussion, so let me try and address this one and any potentially new suggestions in one go. Wikipedia does not prescribe word usage, classifications, etc under any circumstances, it merely follows the conventions set out in reliable sources, and so we are bound by how we place this subject into context. Since the reliable sources classify this as mythology, specifically Abrahamic mythology, and my suggestion above places the topic into context using this classification without awkward phrasing, we have a solid introductory line. An additional concession to alleviate the concerns of some editors, via the {{myth box}}, has been made that removes any chance of ambiguity of the word mythology. Everyone needs to remember that avoiding words because you or others don't like them is not neutral, and this is a core policy here are Wikipedia.
Addressing your specific suggestion, there are lots of things said according to scriptures you mentioned. Some historical, some mythical, some allegorical, some poetic, the list goes on, and this is touched upon in the section above. Noah's Ark falls under a specific classification, namely mythology. We should do the encyclopaedic thing an establish this context for the reader from the start (you would do this for a poem, or a scientific paper, or something else right?). Putting it off, or trying to hide this fact is not neutral or encyclopaedic. In fact, one of the more glaring problems with your reasoning is that you're asking us to censor a word because some might consider it controversial, and Wikipedia just isn't censored. Cheers, Ben (talk) 12:36, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
"Noah's Ark falls under a specific classification, namely mythology." No matter how authoritative you sound repeating that line over and over, it's still dead wrong. According to one school of thought (and an external one at that), yes, Noah's Ark falls under that classification. But according to other schools of thought, it definitely does not. The problem is that, as an atheist, you do not seem to recognize any other schools of thought beside your own as valid, nor acknowledge their existence, no matter how much their existence has been documented and they have been proven to exist. There's your bias. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 13:46, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
Ben, if this conflict to ever to be resolved then maybe you will have to give a little. I understand your comments about Noah's Ark being classified as mythology by reliable sources, but it does seem that there may be other opinions on this. What is true without doubt is that the Ark is mentioned in certain religious scriptures. I do not see it as censorship to change a word that might be misunderstood by a significant section of our readership to another that is factually correct. Martin Hogbin (talk) 14:55, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
There are notable minority groups who hold the story to be historical, and this isn't disputed by anyone here. That these groups sometimes use an unencyclopaedic definition of the word mythology is unfortunate, just as it is unfortunate that some groups use the word theory in an equally informal manner to try and 'reclassify' scientific theories as something conjectural. When their views (in this case historicity) are sufficiently notable and we cover them here, we do not adopt their conventions. We simply explain their historicity (or whatever) position in an encyclopaedic manner. I was initially opposed to the myth box, but have agreed to include it to alleviate the concerns. It perfectly addresses the issue, since confusion is impossible with it sitting there. I don't see how I can give any more without violating WP:NPOV, and giving undue weight to people who use the term informally. Ben (talk) 15:25, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
It is not just minority groups who may misunderstand the word 'mythology', my guess is that most people will. My dictionary (Collins) gives the 'technical' meaning of 'myth' first, but as as second definition it gives, 'a person or thing whose existence is fictional or unproven'. I think that most non-experts would assume this second meaning, I did. To go back to your example, if there was a work of literature that was technically a poem but many people regarded it as prose, the the best option in WP might be to refer to it by a broader term such as 'work' to avoid endless edit wars.
I do understand your stand on this issue and if I had to make a decision between the two original choices I would certainly have gone for the 'mythology' one as being more accurate, encyclopedic and neutral. There are many interest groups trying to subtly impose their views on WP and in general I agree that they should be resisted. However, in this case your best chance of actually improving the article and making it lastingly more neutral might be to allow just one word to be changed. Martin Hogbin (talk) 17:36, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
Well I appreciate that you understand where I'm coming from, thank you. Since I use this encyclopaedia as a learning tool fairly often, maintaining its integrity is important to me. I want to have to rely on the references of a given article to verify things, not get the complete picture. To that end, I would like to think most editors here choose the most suitable material to represent a given topic, without bowing to pressure from interest groups or impending edit wars. If by the end of this medcab case it turns out that the introduction I've suggested is not suitable, then I won't take it any further, but until then I'm going to at least present a decent case for the "more accurate, encyclopaedic and neutral terminology" and the myth box to handle any misconceptions. Cheers, Ben (talk) 21:05, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
I would simply add that, with my proposed modification, editors will find it much harder to argue against your proposal without showing a distinct non-neutral POV. Martin Hogbin (talk) 21:12, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
Perhaps, but readers should be our biggest (only?) consideration shouldn't they? As I said, when I read an article, I would like to think it reflects the current literature, not have to rely on the current literature to give me a proper overview. Cheers, Ben (talk) 21:31, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
The problem that keeps going on and on is that one person's "reliable source" is another persons biased rag. Some do not seem to realize that there is NO NEUTRAL source about this topic. Scholarly literature is NOT NEUTRAL. The problem with the Bible is that you either believe that it is true, or you believe that it is not true. And those that take one view are strongly biased agaist the other and visa versa.
It appears to me that the ONLY way to resolve this is to write the article sourcing different POVs and noting which is which. I.e., have a section from the scholarly POV, and another from the POV of believers. That way the readers are exposed to the reality of the situation. Otherwise the article becomes propaganda for one side or the other. Christian Skeptic (talk) 16:29, 24 December 2008 (UTC)

(outdent) No, that's a false dichotomy. Your proposal appears to be for a POV split. This is equally problematic; we do not do this on WP. Have I misunderstood your post? KillerChihuahua?!? 16:31, 24 December 2008 (UTC)

If it is impossible to find neutral sources such as in this case, how would you propose dealing with the widely different views? Scholars are not the end all of truth. Much of such "scholarly" viewpoints, propagandized on the History and Discovery channels, are highly offensive and extremely biased according to those who believe the Bible.
If scholars wish to hold such views--fine. But they need to recognize the biased POV that they have. Those who chose to believe the Bible and the Noah's Ark story are also biased. And they have a POV. It seems that the only valid way to deal with this is to identify the various POVs and then explain what they are. If Wikipedia doesn't do this then it is highly flawed and basically becomes propaganda. Christian Skeptic (talk) 16:50, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
Lets start with your opening statement: It is impossible to find neutral sources ... in this case" I disagree. I find your statement disingenuous. That sources do not agree with your personal opinion does not make them biased or non-neutral. KillerChihuahua?!? 17:55, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
Everyone is biased. Those who aren't, don't know themselves and are dangerous. There is no such thing as a neutral source, especially when it comes to the Bible. Scholars are either for it or against it. If they think they are neutral, they are fools. Everyone has his personal opinion. The wise person know his bias and the biases of others, and seeks to better understand the biases of others. A proper discussion of a topic explains the biases, beliefs and differences. Christian Skeptic (talk) 19:48, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
I was only making a suggestion for the opening sentence. My point was that by using the term 'scripture' we are talking about a simple and easily verified matter of fact. The Ark is mentioned in Christian scripture, without any doubt. Can we not at least agree on how to start the article? Martin Hogbin (talk) 17:17, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
No. It tries to hide biases in the links.... Christian Skeptic (talk) 19:48, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
How about if the links were to scripture. Martin Hogbin (talk) 21:02, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
Martin, I'm starting to doubt that hiding the links will make it harder for editors to complain. If we just stick to what the reliable sources say, at least everyone will be able give consistent responses to the editors that do complain. P.S. Merry Christmas all! Ben (talk) 20:26, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
Ben, see my addition above. Maybe we could say something about mythology later in the main text. Martin Hogbin (talk) 21:02, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
It's an article about a piece of mythology, why leave it until later in the article to mention this? Would you ask that the Barack Obama article not mention that he is the President-elect until later in the article because some people don't like it? Ben (talk) 21:20, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
The comparison is not apt, and just off-topic spin-doctoring, for the simple reason that nobody even disputes that he is President-elect of the USA. If really takes spin-doctors a lot of spin-doctoring, to spin the view that the inclusion of "myth" on a list of "words to avoid" really means it is a word that absolutely, of necessity, must be used at all costs, with no compromise. My head is spinning now from trying to wrap my head around that one to see it the way you do. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 21:28, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
My point was to illustrate that people not liking something is no reason avoid it in the article (an elected political leader that some people didn't like was the first example of this I thought of), and my first example does that fine. You can change the example to something more controversial if you want, like that he is African-American, but that obviously doesn't illustrate my point. Ben (talk) 21:40, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
Ben, 'President-elect' is a term well understood by most of the population whereas 'mythology' may well be misunderstood by most. It might therefor be better not to use the term until we are able to put it in a fuller context. Martin Hogbin (talk) 21:45, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
Are you suggesting that the myth box doesn't address this problem? And please keep in mind that what is good for this article, should be good for all articles. Should we rename the Christian mythology, creation myth, Egyptian mythology, etc articles? And should we avoid using the word 'theory' in scientific articles since lots of people misunderstand that word too? Ben (talk) 21:49, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
(It wasn't my intention, but that was a bit too close to WP:OTHERSTUFFEXISTS) Ben (talk) 06:42, 25 December 2008 (UTC)

Compromise

I am asking this as a separate question in order to keep the conversation as orderly as possible. Bear in mind that these questions should be answered with an eye towards finding some middle ground. What are the best points raised by editors of the "opposing" position to your own? What point(s) are you most willing to concede or be flexible regarding in the interests of finding an agreeable compromise? On a related but distinct note, what compromise(s) do you think would be most appropriate? Vassyana (talk) 01:36, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

As I said above, we are not looking down two sides of a fence, there is a confused definition that adds another dimension to this problem. I am not willing to concede to using an unscholarly definition of the word mythology, that is, I object to using the word mythology to imply falsehood. Since most scholars consider the Noah's Ark story mythology, I also object to this project shying away from the word. I think it is unfortunate that there is a "double meaning", but like the word theory, there is no confusion in the context of an encyclopaedia or other scholarly works. In terms of finding middle ground, I see no problem with noting, and discussing, that Noah's Ark is considered by some to be historical. Ben (talk) 02:41, 20 December 2008 (UTC)
Here is the compromise I proposed, but it was not acceptable to Ben Tillman:

In Abrahamic religions, Noah's Ark was a large vessel... While many modern scholars treat the story within Judeo-Christian or Islamic mythology, there are still today a number of denominations and sects within the framework of all major Abrahamic faiths who continue to teach the deluge as a historical event.

Nathan Lee then proposed this compromise, which I accepted, but once again, it was unacceptable to Ben Tillman, because nothing short of Wikipedia authoritatively declaring its determination that Genesis "simply is" mythology, no room for argument, will ever be acceptable to him.

"Regarded as myth by all but some fundamentalist Christians who believe it to be true."

Because of the uncompromising nature of his anti-Bible position, we are forced to take it to arb-com. This makers sense, given what they ruled in 2007 about what is "adequate" for the intro of the Jean Dixon article, this is at least as big a controversy. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 02:46, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

How about you lay off the ad hominem arguments? As I said, I have no problem in noting and discussing that some people consider it historical. One of my two objections is to using the word mythology in an unscholarly way to do this, and both propositions above do this. Ben (talk) 03:02, 20 December 2008 (UTC)
To explain my above reference a bit more, in 2007 the arb com ruled that it is "adequate epistemological framing" to describe Jeane Dixon simply as a psychic, with a link to that article, without getting into a bunch of scientific caveats in the intro about how it is classified as "paranormal", etc. Similarly, several editors on this page have stated that it should be adequate to describe a Bible story as being within Genesis without further classifying it with caveats, especially ones that are "external terms". I'm just noting the parallels. The main difference is that apparently belief in the Ark is far more widespread. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 03:19, 20 December 2008 (UTC)
If we are to use that arbcom ruling as a model, then we should introduce Noah's Ark simply as Judeo-Christian and Islamic mythology, with links to those articles, without getting into a bunch of Judeo-Christian and Islamic caveats about which book Judeo-Christian and Muslims find sacred it is contained in and whether it is real or not. Oh wait, I've been suggesting that all along. Ben (talk) 03:34, 20 December 2008 (UTC)
You mean you don't think it matters for the intro to mention whether or not this story is in Genesis? You can't be serious... Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 03:53, 20 December 2008 (UTC)
I don't think it should be mentioned in the introductory sentence. Where it is found is less important than what it is.
Readers should not be dropped into the middle of the subject from the first word; they should be eased into it. - WP:LEAD
Genesis is way too specific, mythology is much more general and places the subject into context by pre-pending which religions find it sacred. Recall my suggestion from the RFC above:
In Judeo-Christian and Islamic mythology, Noah's Ark was a large vessel ...
Please read the RFC above if you haven't already. Ben (talk) 04:25, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

After thinking about it, I'm happy to make a further concession. I was originally against using the {{myth box}}, but many people on this talk page have suggested its use. If the above wording is used, I'll support including it in the article to explain to readers what we mean when we use the term mythology. Since Til is worried about the term implying false, this solution guarantees no confusion when readers come to this article, and we still abide by the terminology used throughout the reliable sources. What do you think, Til? Ben (talk) 07:48, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

No. I have found citations, as requested, demonstrating that many authors have specifically objected to labelling this as mythology, for various reasons. And there are several branches of Christianity and Islam that specifically object to labelling any part of the Bible or Quran respectively as "mythology". Then we have a gang of bullying editors, many of them proudly self-described militant atheists on their home pages, who pretend themselves to be neutral, but have such a skewed way of applying definitions, that they do not think the groups holding this story to be canonical are in the least significant, because their sources are "right", and any sources written from the standpoint of faith in these texts are "wrong", and because their agenda is blatantly to disqualify this widespread point of view from existing and redefine the entire Bible and the Quran as "myth". No, this is definitely one for arb-com. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 13:35, 20 December 2008 (UTC)
Once again you muddle two issues.
  • No-one has objected to this article discussing groups that hold this myth to be historical (let alone canonical). Personally I welcome it.
  • Everyone here waited patiently for the medcab you requested to start, and then happily participated in it, going out of their way to find and discuss many reliable sources, from easily accessible sources like the Encyclopaedia Britannica to academic papers on the subject.
  • As a result of the above, the reliable sources have been demonstrated to overwhelmingly use the term mythology.
  • Also as a result of the above, a consensus has emerged in favour of using the term mythology.
  • The sources you presented are almost all unreliable, a consequence of 'phrase mining' google books without going to the trouble of checking reliability. The one that was reliable discussed at length that the story was derived from earlier Babylonian mythology, and that it shouldn't be called a myth because it had been so personalised by the Israelites. This may be worth discussing in the article if that position is indeed weighty enough (hard to gauge with only one source offering this position thus far), but is way too complicated for an introductory sentence. WP:LEAD and the arbcom case you referenced are consistent with this position.
  • With the myth box, it would be impossible for people to get the wrong impression from this article.
  • Your reasoning for not using the term has not remained consistent throughout this discussion, giving the impression you just don't like it.
  • And if your past paragraph is representative of your position (and it seems to me it is), it boils down to an ad hominem argument and consistently threatening 'further action'.
I really don't think you have a case. Ben (talk) 14:33, 20 December 2008 (UTC)
One of your repeated themes from the beginning is that you don't think I have a case, Ben Tillman. You have to realize that it is not your decision. I am entitled to due process, and there is far from any consensus, only your repeated declaration that your sources are right because my sources don't count, or you presume to disqualify them. Your head is so far in your atheist POV that you cannot acknowledge other POVs than your own have a right to exist. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 15:30, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

Please tone down the personal language. Focus on the content. Avoid commenting about the supposed motivations or personal characteristics of other editors. Vassyana (talk) 20:34, 21 December 2008 (UTC)

Suggestion

Here's a suggested draft for the lede, based on the history of comments and good practice. Edits made:

  • Dropped: All refs. References should be avoided in the lede. Almost everything in the lede should be supported in the body of the article. For example, the explanatory note should be material addressed in the body of the article. Particularly of concern is the use of outdated and questionable references. This article is labelled as an FA, but it would be unlikely to pass a FAR. This particular issue is illustrative of the problems that would preclude the article from FA status.
  • Added: I added the myth box, per various comments and suggestions.
  • Revision: I've tried going over the various opinions espoused about the general characterization of the article and presenting the topic in the lede. I've done my best to accomodate everyone as much as possible. I tried to clean up and pare down the phrasing as well. If I've failed to address your concerns appropriately, or have caused new concerns, please do not hesitate to communicate your reservations.

This is just an attempt to make a version that might be acceptable for almost everyone involved. It might be a flawed attempt. Thoughts?

Feedback

Thanks Vassyana, and let me say I'm glad that some progress is being made. Although I can't remember it being discussed so much, it's good that some other texts are now mentioned in the lead. We have some repetition in the first and third paragraphs now, so we could probably rearrange what is there to keep things together a bit more. Also, it seems to me that what the story is about is much more important than whether or not certain groups hold it to be historical, so it feels a little awkward to read the latter information first. I don't think that is such an important issue though, so I won't debate it if others think the ordering is fine or not worth worrying about the way it is now. Overall, these are pretty minor issues with quick fixes (if others think they need to be fixed). I'm about to crash, so I'll do that and let others give some feedback before starting any discussion about these points. Cheers, Ben (talk) 21:06, 21 December 2008 (UTC)

Discussion

So how long will it be before Wikipedia "determines" that "neutrality" means declaring many articles like Resurrection of Jesus are indisputably "mythology", just to appease the editors pushing the militant atheist POV, and using the very same POV argument? Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 22:20, 21 December 2008 (UTC)

A wide variety of sources classify the tale of the Ark as part of Judeo-Christian mythology, not just those limited to a strong atheist POV. Rather than casting doubt on the motivations of other editors, please comment on the proposed draft. How does it best accomodate your concerns? How does it fail to accomodate your concerns? What changes could be made to improve the draft or better represent significant views of the topic? Vassyana (talk) 07:42, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
My question above has not been answered. What assurance is there that the self-described atheist editors who are pushing their POV that the Ark is a "myth", will not proceed to the rest of the Bible, Quran, and anything else they want to paint this way, armed with precisely the same one-sided pseudo-arguments, and blindly ignoring all the published references that establish that opposing POVs are widespread? No assurance whatsoever, that's what. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 13:23, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
Making broad conspiratorial assumptions is generally discouraged. Regardless, such comments are unhelpful. Please focus on the content discussion at hand. I cannot help resolve the dispute if content questions are sidestepped for bad faith assumptions and accusations. Vassyana (talk) 13:35, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
And still, no kind of assurance whatsoever that exactly what I just said will not happen. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 13:40, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
I am not going to speculate or debate about broader issues. I am here to discuss and try to help with this specific article and content dispute. Unless you are willing to focus your energy and contributions towards the productive discussion of this article, there is nothing I can do as a mediator to help settle this dispute. Vassyana (talk) 14:46, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
From the beginning, you asked how the Ark is treated in "reputable sources". But apparently, only those sources that treat it as "mythology" were considered "reputable" -- while any sources establishing that others, including whole denominations, specifically object to this label, or may even consider it canonical, are immediately stigmatized from the start as "disreputable" as a result of the bias. Thus it is a circular argument. I have been asked to do the impossible: find sources for the literalist viewpoint, but that aren't sources for the literalist viewpoint. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 15:20, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
How does the draft, which includes the prominent "myth box", fail to address your concerns? How could it be altered to better allay your objections? What general comments do you have about the suggested draft? Vassyana (talk) 15:29, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
Well, your draft starts out endorsing the view that this has been indisputably "proven" to be "Christian mythology" and "Islamic mythology". But there is a dispute, and it can be and has been documented. Moreover, the story is common to Abrahamic religions beside Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, so instead of describing it as "In Judeo-Christian and Islamic mythology...", it should be sufficient, and more accurate and informative, just to say "In Abrahamic religions..." I will never be convinced that using a term so many have specifically objected to, is an absolute necessity, when so many more neutral options and wordings exist. This is best left in the realm of religion, not mythology. Let individual readers make up their own mind what they think of religion, instead of "informing" them that the opinion holding religion and mythology to be one and the same was supposedly "correct" all along. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 15:39, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

Til, I've revised the opening. Ben, I've removed the duplicate mention. What can be further done to improve the draft? Til, is the handling of the mythology question better in this presentation? Ben, is the overall ordering and flow of information better? (Talk:Noah's Ark/suggestion) Vassyana (talk) 15:51, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

Yes, that actually sounds much more reasonable, since a slightly stronger argument can be made that the Ark "features prominently in" mythology. It definitely sounds more NPOV. However, wouldn't it be fair to add "although some have objected to this classification, especially literalists"? Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 16:00, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
I'll take a look over it again. I'm glad it's looking improved. Ben? What are your comments? Vassyana (talk) 16:11, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
Another thing, I like the way the current article explains in a footnote about how the more obscure sources give further details like cannibalism. That hasn't even been part of this or any disputes, so I hope we don't have to change that? Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 16:07, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
That kind of material is usually best left to the body of the article. We can merge it into the main body when the protection expires. Sound good? Vassyana (talk) 16:11, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
That's fair enough then, we'll just have to find the right place to merge it. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 16:15, 22 December 2008 (UTC)
Perhaps the sentence saying it "features prominently in" mythology would flow better in the 3rd para, joined to the sentence "The story has been subject to extensive elaboration". In other words, "The story has been subject to extensive elaboration, and it features prominently in Judaeo-Christian and mythology...". That doesn't change any of the content, but just seems like maybe a little more logical flow. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 16:29, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

Can we not just say 'scripture' instead of 'mythology'? This is strictly factual and makes no statement about who regards it a true and who does not. Martin Hogbin (talk) 18:48, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

The new wording doesn't make sense at all. There does not exist a single agreed upon definition of the word religion, but they all generally go along the lines of A system of practices which act according to beliefs ... Obviously, Noah's Ark is not in (i.e. classified as) a system of practises (sounds awkward now doesn't it?). Or perhaps consider these two
In Egyptian religion, Duat (or Tuat) (also called Akert, Amenthes, or Neter-khertet) is the underworld.
and
In the scientific method, evolution is change in the inherited traits of a population of organisms from one generation to the next.
It's just wrong. Mythology is the most sensible word by definition, and is backed by reliable sources. To avoid it because some editors don't like it is way foul of a NPOV. Noah's Ark is classified as Abrahamic mythology, Duat as Egyptian mythology and evolution as belonging to biology. I would support the Abrahamic mythology wikilink over the more wordy Judeo-Christian and Islamic version I proposed, which addresses Til's concern above.
I don't know why Til is talking about proving this to be mythology, he still doesn't seem to get that it's a classification, so I can't address that concern. Also, I won't comment on the rest of the suggestion yet, since it's likely things will only have to change depending on how the intro sentence turns out. Ben (talk) 21:14, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

Just some quick notes:

  • Any lead should ideally be in subject/predicate form, X is Y, where X is the word or words in the article title, and Y is a very brief expansion/explanation. In this case, "Noah's Ark is/was (insert phrasing of choice)". It should not start "In Abrahamic religions..." unless there's a very good reason, and I can't see one.
  • Of course, if we start that way, Ben won't like it: the first sentence would read "NA was a large vessel built at God's command" etc, and Ben wants to make clear that it wasn't a real boat (which is what this whole problem is about). So I suggest inserting the reference to Genesis at this point in order to make clear that it's a story - "NA is (not was) the large vessel in Genesis, built at Goad's command etc etc". The mention of Genesis is enough to make clear that it's in Abrahamic religions.
  • I'm not happy with the mention of Noah's Ark being found in "numerous Abrahamic scriptures (with titles following). It's true of course, but is it so important as to merit a mention in the lead?
  • I'm also not happy with saying it features prominently in Judeo-Christian and Islamic mythology. Where exactly does it feature? The Ark is never mentioned again the Old Testament (the Jewish angle), and barely in the New (Christian). And when it is mentioned in the New Testament, it's not in a mythological context, but a theological one - God, we are told, will save the elect through Christ as he once saved Noah. That's hardly a mythical take on it. (Of course, if you want to say it features in Jewish and Christian theology, that's quite a different matter).
  • I have problems with this sentence: "A wide variety of interpretations arose over time, ranging from apologetic literalism to theological allegory to skeptical doubt." This misuses several terms - "apologetics", in the theological sense, isn't an apology but an explanation, and has no particular connection with Biblical literalism; I'd remove the word "theological" from in front of "allegory"; and I don't think "sceptical doubt" is a very meaningful phrase.
  • Also this sentence: "However, many members of the Abrahamic faiths, such as Biblical literalists, continue to regard the story of the Ark as accurate and important history. Some explore for archaeological proof in the mountains of Ararat, where Genesis says Noah's Ark came to rest." There's no need to tell the reader that the people who search for the Ark are members of Abrahamic faiths - it can be taken as a give. Nor is it quite accurate - Ark-searching is exclusively associated with Fundamentalist Christians, and I doubt you'll find any Catholics or Orthodox, let alone Jews and Muslims, climbing Ararat.

PiCo (talk) 06:24, 23 December 2008 (UTC)

Regarding your first two points, some context needs to be established in the first sentence, and it should be done as least awkwardly as possible. Mentioning Genesis is not sufficient to establish context for the reader, and I've discussed this at length above, any more than the name of a particular book of a particular collection of sacred writings from any other religion is. Identifying that Noah's Ark belongs to Abrahamic mythology is a clean establishment of context for the reader that is supported by the reliable sources. I can't see how to introduce this in the form you like in your first point, but I'm not convinced we need to. The reason I choose the word ordering I did was it was the least awkward way of presenting the relevant information. I'm not setting some precedent by doing this either, since countless other articles, from featured articles through to stubs, quickly establish some context for the reader before introducing the topic in exactly this way, with the same obvious motivation that it was the least awkward way to present the information (and in fact, isn't awkward at all). Also note that we're not violating any policies (or guidelines) that I'm aware of by choosing this particular word ordering. Finally, how about you stick to attacking my argument or suggestions, and not me?
For your third point, I think that it is found in numerous scriptures is important enough to mention in the lead, however I won't object if the list of such scriptures is removed from the lead (and retained in the article proper).
For your fourth point, I don't particularly like the wording of the sentence either. But this will be a non-issue if this is established in the first sentence as I've suggested anyway, since we can scrap it and move directly to discussing where, and from what context, Noah's Ark is later referenced (and this extends well beyond sacred literature, so trying to attach a simple 'features prominently in X theology' label to these later references is going to suffer the same problems you've highlighted with the current version). This addresses the second half of your fourth point.
I want to stress that discussion of these points has little value at the present, since until an introductory sentence has been settled, changes to it will have an effect on latter sentences (as I mentioned in discussing PiCo's fourth point, it will be a non-issue if context is properly established in the first sentence). For that reason, I'd like to hold off addressing your other concerns until this first sentence is settled. Ben (talk) 08:19, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
Ben, I'm not attacking you, I broadly agree with you. I was merely making a prediction.
Just as a matter of interest, this is what contemporary biblical scholars believe happened: In 586 BC the priests and aristocracy of Jerusalem (broadly the same people - they were from the same families) were taken off into captivity in Babylon. Some of them at least had a big intellectual problem: they'd been associated with a religious/political movement over the previous 50 years that had seen the priests providing a theological justification for Judah to annex lands immediately to the north. God, the priests said, had promised it to them. And now here they were in captivity and Judah was part of someone else's empire. What had gone wrong? They settled down to explain it. God was angry, for Judah had sinned. The nature of the sin was insufficient attention to the worship of Yahweh, the personal god of Israel (they weren't monotheists - other gods existed, but Yahweh was the god of Israel, and he was a jealous god). So Yahweh had allowed Marduk, the god of Babylon, to conquer his people. Then in around 536 the Persians conquered Babylon and told the priests they could all go home (the aristocrats too). So they did. And someone, apparently a single individual, wrote what is now chapters 1-11 of Genesis. It's a complete, self-contained story, built on some earlier stories, but absolutely a unit. And one of it's main features is a detailed critique of Babylonian mythology. The Ark story was simply lifted from the Atrahasis myth and re-written to give a new twist, one that supported the personal theology of the Priestly author (although bear in mind that he represented a whole group of priests, and also aristocrats). He also lifted a number of other myths - Adapa and the South Wind, the Enuma Elish - and he used them to write theology. So the Ark story can't be read or understood outside the context of Genesis 1-11, which is not based on anything oral and traditional, but is an entirely literary and artificial creation. As for how Genesis 1-11 got attached to the rest of Genesis, that's another story, and there are lots of theories, but everyone recognises this as a unit, and almost everyone sees it being written when and how I describe. PiCo (talk) 08:56, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
Ok no problem, it just seemed like you were attacking my motives with your predictions. Cheers, Ben (talk) 12:57, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
I was willing to accept the statement that "it features prominently in Judaeo-Christian and Islamic mythology" as a compromise. But Ben isn't interested in any compromise, he will reject anything that isn't deliberately offensive to the literalist view, because, I believe, being deliberately offensive to the literalist view is really his goal, not true, strict neutrality. His past statements on several occasions about how anything that doesn't offend the literalists, means thus we are kow-towing to them, bear what I'm saying out. His entire view of "neutrality" is skewed; to him it means, in a machievellian sense, that we must offend and antagonize one view of scripture to show that we are "neutral", and endorse his own interpretation of the Christian scriptures while telling other views in the controversial subject that sorry, their interpretation of Scripture is just plain wrong, because only Ben's sources are "reputable". With this kind of attitude, I do not believe we will ever find middle ground or compromise, because there is no middle ground. I said that a slightly stronger case could be made that the Ark "features prominently in mythology" because this is more accurate and neutral than saying it "is" mythology. For example, for centuries the Church maintained that sirens were nothing more than a Greek pagan fable, and did not exist. Then around the height of Reformation (c. 1600 AD), some Jesuits like Kircher suddenly reversed this position and began to assert that sirens were actually real creatures, and that this means they were also aboard the Ark. I doubt if they convinced too many Protestants, or dissuaded them from overseas travel, with this kind of tactic. But who today would dispute that Kircher's claim is one example of the Ark "featuring prominently in Christian mythology"? I wouldn't even dispute that. There are similar examples in other Abrahamic religions, of the Ark "featuring in" mythology, many already supported by the body of the article. Thus Vassyana's wording seems like a stroke of genius because normally it should satisfy everyone. But to say the canonical scripture account by itself just "is" mythology, is to violate neutrality by summarily discounting from consideration, all those significant numbers who expressly disagree with that assessment. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 14:13, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
Once again I'm repeating myself, when reliable sources classify Noah's Ark as mythology it says nothing about the historicity of it. You need to sort out your association of mythology with false stories and/or dead religions, it's not correct usage for an encyclopaedia. It is your refusal to do this that is the problem. I am not judging peoples interpretation of scriptures, we are reflecting the classification of a particular narrative by reliable sources, which we are required to do in order to satisfy WP:NPOV. We do not prescribe our own usage of terms or classification, and this includes omitting important classification context for readers. I also note that two people have already objected to the suggested compromise you are so fond of. As I've gone through above, fixing the introductory sentence gives us room to fix the problems associated with it though. Ben (talk) 15:04, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
Over the years that this debate has raged, this is one of my favorite responses among the many that various editors have made to that argument: [1] (User Pollinator, writing in Jan 2006, he does raise some good points about defining and redefining words away from the way most people perceive them.) But it is not that I "need to sort out my association of mythology with false stories". This definition is, as has been pointed out all along, a valid definition, included in practically every dictionary as a common definition. When external sources apply this same word, "mythology", to the story of Noah's Ark, they do so precisely n order to connote their opinion that the story is false -- far more often than any sources might do so for the sake of expressing their "neutrality". I can find PLENTY of quotes like this one: Now I do not believe the story of the flood and of Noah's Ark, and I doubt that many of those reading this believe it either, at least not in a literal sense. It is clearly a part of biblical mythology and probably originated in an earlier culture and found its way into the mythos of the ancient Hebrews and thus into the Old Testament. (Ricker, Godless in America: Conversations with an Atheist‎, 2006, p. 56) Perhaps a common opinion, but still an opinion that significant groups of people don't subscribe to. And the word that this author is using to push his point-of-view, is the very same one that pov-pushers want wikipedia to recognize as "neutral" by applying only one of its two dictionary definitions. And here's another very good reliable source discussing Noah's Ark, the Bible in relation to the terms "history" and "myth": [2] Please note that the author, Northrop Frye here uses the commonly understood definition of the contrast between "history" and "myth" that is a clearly subjective one, and makes several other pertinent comments about this same topic we are discussing. And on the next page he states that whenever "scholars" describe elements of Genesis, or the rest of the Bible, as "myths", they are really proposing that they be removed from the canon as unhistorical elements. He's right, they are proposing this, but it's not wikipedia's place to subtly push this idea, and certainly not to recommend or suggest what parts of the Bible ought to be decanonized as unhistorical. Let the churches determine what their own canons are to include, not wikipedia. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 18:41, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
Decanonized as unhistorical? What are you even talking about? Are you somehow concerned that once a part of the bible is considered to be mythology by a religious group, then they must not consider it canonical or something? That is nonsense. And what does it even have to do with this article? Til, we don't have the interests of outside groups in mind when writing this article. That is pure POV pushing. And Frye does not suggest any of this either. Let me start with a quote of his:
In this narrative there is no boundary line anywhere clearly defined that separates myth from legend, legend from historical reminiscence, reminiscence from didactic history, didactic from actual history.
He goes on to argue that looking for actual history in the bible by striping away all of the mythology is the wrong way to go about it, since
we shall find that we have thrown out so much of the Gospels that not one syllable of any of the four of them is left.
He, like any reasonable person, does not believe the Bible contains only false statements, and so as I have been trying to explain all along mythology and historical fact can (and do) overlap. The definition of the word has this feature built into it, it's why scholars use it. Frye is not discussing whether texts should be considered canonical or not at all, he is talking from a literary criticism point of view. Once again I am forced to review your chosen sources carefully to fix up own synthesis of them. Your synthesis of Ricker is just as poor. You come to the absurd conclusion that since he doesn't consider it historical and he considers it mythology, he must equate mythology with false. I am in the same boat as Ricker, yet I do not consider the terms equal, not even close! I really am sick of reading and interpreting your sources for you Til, trying to separate your synthesis of the text from what is actually discussed. That was the last time I'll do it. Please stop allowing your POV to influence your actions here. Ben (talk) 20:41, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
Re-read the Frye passage. He is discussing exactly the same issues that we are discussing, and his comments are 100% relevant, not a synthesis. Discussing the Ark story and whether or not it is a "myth", he clearly acknowledges: "The ordinary notion of myth and history is that history is what really happened; myth is what probably didn't happen, at least not in that form". He clearly writes: "scholars still speak hesitantly of 'mythical elements' in Genesis or the Gospels, as though they were elements that could be, or should be, removed". Apparently you don't like the source because it uses the term "myth" the same way most people understand it, so you pulled the accusation of "synthesis" out of your hat. But it's right on target to the same discussion we are having, and it's just the kind of source we should be looking for. I can find scads of other quotes that leave no doubt that when they say the Noah story is a "myth", they mean to say it is fictional. And reading all your past comments also shows that you are making both arguments at the same time, seemingly supporting the word "myth" in both of its meanings, by also arguing your view that the story is unhistorical. You can't pretend the word is neutral only when it suits your purpose or agenda. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 20:59, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
Til, you seem to have a problem with reading. Bulk information is presented to you, be it a book, paper, reply to a previous comment, whatever. Then you mine a phrase or two that you like, completely disregard the rest of the material, and try and build a case using your mined words. You just did it again with my last reply. I don't get it, and it is so unconstructive. Did you even look at the date the work was originally published and compare it with the source I gave in the previous section? Ben (talk) 21:18, 23 December 2008 (UTC)


Modified suggestion for first sentence

In Judeo-Christian and Islamic scripture, Noah's Ark was a large vessel, built to save Noah, his family, and stock of all the world's animals from the deluge.

I still think 'scripture' is the most neutral and strictly matter-of-fact term to use here even thought it is less descriptive that other possible terms. Because we are talking about perceptions rather than strict or academic meanings I have also removed 'at the command of God' from this sentence. It is rather bland but it may be the only way forward. Martin Hogbin (talk) 12:18, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

In Abrahamic traditions

The article's section titles include "In 'fill in blank' tradition", such as "In Islamic tradition". Of course, most are later traditions, but all are traditions. Collectively, they are Abrahamic traditions. Accordingly, "In Abrahamic traditions, Noah's Ark was..." introduces the topic. --Modocc (talk) 08:40, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

What purpose would it serve, apart from creating a link to the Abrahamic traditions article? PiCo (talk) 09:25, 27 December 2008 (UTC)
It adds information to the lede, because it introduces the traditions in which Noah's Ark appears, and it removes the repeated reference to the Book of Genesis. Modocc (talk) 09:53, 27 December 2008 (UTC)
That's already covered in the first sentence of the third paragraph of the lede ("The story has been subject to extensive elaborations in Judaism, Christianity and Islam..."). What essential new information is added by specifying that these are known collectively as Abrahamic traditions? If you have a stylistic objection to repeated mentions of the word Genesis, that can be easily dealt with. PiCo (talk) 10:25, 27 December 2008 (UTC)
I should have simply said that Abrahamic traditions adds context to the first sentence. Details about these traditions should be included further down. --Modocc (talk) 19:44, 27 December 2008 (UTC)
I think 'tradition' would be as problematic as 'mythology' in the lead sentence. Martin Hogbin (talk) 13:12, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

Abrahamic traditions and Biblical tradition

In the lede, it should be made clear that the first sentence is generic to all the Abrahamic traditions, and that the story as told in the second paragraph is specifically biblical (from the Book of Genesis). Citing only Genesis in the first sentence and continuing unmodified to the 2nd paragraph muddles these facts. Modocc (talk) 23:42, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

The correct first sentence is given as suggestion #2 in the RFC above, according to your dictionary, the majority of the notable, reliable sources and scholars in the field and your English teacher (it makes sense). Ben (talk) 15:07, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
If any tweak helps solve a clearly identified problem without creating more problems lets keep it. I'm not against your suggestion, as it does not matter to me, however, this article and related articles would not be significantly improved by such edits. The Adam and Eve, The Tower of Babel and similar articles refer to the books and so can this article. Modocc (talk) 16:38, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
As with all Wikipedia articles, it's more helpful and important to explain what something is before you explain where it comes from. The proposed edit does this, ergo, it's an improvement. Also note WP:OTHERSTUFFEXISTS. Ben (talk) 17:01, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
Its a story. Lots of OTHERJUNKEXISTs, but in difficult cases it doesn't hurt to check to see if there is any BETTERSTUFF. Modocc (talk) 17:31, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
I wasn't criticising the act of checking for other stuff, I don't think anyone would, I was just noting that using it as a reason for anything must be done with care. Ben (talk) 17:41, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

Now, another attempt to fix this, with consensus.

The most concern I have had with prior attempts has actually been the removal of Genesis from the first sentence, for the story may have the most weight (at least it does in Western culture) and as the Genesis account is prominent in other related articles. It still possible to keep and give substantial weight to the Genesis story though, with something like: "In the Book of Genesis and other scriptures of the Abrahamic religions, Noah's Ark was", followed in the second paragraph with "The Genesis story...". This proposal solves the contextual issues and has the advantage of smoothly transitioning the first two paragraphs. -Modocc (talk) 23:42, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

I think that mentioning a specific religious text in the opening sentence gives that text too much weight. Of course Genesis can be mentioned later, where it can be put more into context. Martin Hogbin (talk) 14:03, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
In that case, we should refer to Genesis when telling the story in the second paragraph because the numerous narratives do differ. We would need something like "The story, according to the Book of Genesis, tells how God...". Modocc (talk) 16:09, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
Earlier versions of the intro did do this, but people keep changing bits and pieces without considering consensus or the introduction as a whole. I think the introduction should be reworked on this page, and then moved over to the main page when some sort of consensus has been achieved. Your earlier suggestion of Abrahamic traditions is a step in the right direction in that it doesn't get into specifics too early, though it is non-standard terminology and the word placement doesn't seem to make sense to me (the story is in a set of traditions?). The first paragraph can be used to explain there are differing narratives, where the second paragraph can pick up on the Genesis version (and its elaborations in later works). The third paragraph can probably be safely left out of the discussion until we sort out the first two paragraphs. Ben (talk) 16:36, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
Alright, introducing the story in general way, and lets consider disambiguating what we are talking about (a story) like this:
"Noah's Ark, a story of Abrahamic traditions, was a"
-Modocc (talk) 17:20, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
It still doesn't make sense. To say that a story belongs to a set of traditions is awkward. And you're trying to prescribe terminology that isn't supported by the majority of the reliable sources on this topic, which is strictly against policy at WP:NPOV. You acknowledge the current intro isn't good enough, but won't use the reliably and notably sourced suggestion I've already mentioned. Why is it deficient? Is there something it fails to capture? What is the problem? Ben (talk) 17:34, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
Traditions are things that are passed down from generation to generation. In this case: a story. Saying its awkward and "doesn't make sense" is vague. As for a critique of your suggestion, I've no huge objection, however most article subjects are not prefaced with whatever science may study it. We would certainly not write "In biology, oil glands are...". Oil glands are biological, and we can source that and include it too, but then we would be leaping into the triviality of it all. In my view, the fact that its myth is trivial. More importantly, and whats being discounted above, is that there are usually alternatives when dealing with identity issues. -Modocc (talk) 20:17, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
I went to the oil glands article, and it was a stub. Maybe you should choose a better biological representative, like say, evolution? It's an FA. It's also much more controversial than this subject. I tend to find that most decent articles introduce some context in the first sentence like the above (or perhaps in some other order if English permits it). I don't really see the point in arguing too much about the vagueness of my 'doesn't make sense' argument, since it still leaves the problem that we're prescribing our own terminology that isn't established by reliable sources. Ben (talk) 20:28, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

From suggestion #2 above

In Abrahamic mythology, Noah's Ark was a large vessel built by Noah at God's command to save his family, and stock of all the world's animals, from the deluge. The story was derived from Mesopotamian mythology around the 5th - 10th century BC, and is today most notably contained in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and the Qur'an.
The Genesis story tells how God, grieved by the wickedness of mankind, Gen 6:6. Few details are provided in Genesis, but deuterocanonical works such as I Enoch and Jubilees assert that this wickedness that was offensive to God included widespread cannibalism and sorcery, among other immoralities. decides to destroy the corrupted world, but instructs Noah to build the Ark and take on board his family and representatives of the animals and birds. The flood rises to cover the Earth, but at its height "God remembered Noah", the waters abate, and dry land appears. The story ends with Noah offering an animal sacrifice and entering into a covenant with God. God regrets the flood, and promises never to do it again, displaying a rainbow as a guarantee.

It still needs some tweaking, in particular it could be noted that there are differences in different works. I tried to do this by talking about elaborations, but elaborations are discussed in the third paragraph, so I've just removed it for now. Maybe the ordering of paragraphs two and three should be changed to help deal with this, in particular parts of the third paragraph could be merged into the first. This would also help 'unhide' the cite in the second paragraph. I'm also not happy with the sloppy dates. Ben (talk) 17:50, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

Opposed. The suggestion that 'The story was derived from Mesopotamian mythology around the 5th-10th century BC' (shouldn't that be 'BCE'?), is a claim without support from the scholarly consensus (which actually agrees that the relationship between the Biblical and Mesopotamian flood narratives is complex and anything but a simple literary derivation). Of course, I'm not objecting to the word 'mythology', as explained above. --Taiwan boi (talk) 04:54, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
I used BC since that is what the rest of the article used, though I'm not worried about a change if others agree with it. I didn't choose the language to try and imply the relationship was simple either, so I'm sorry it came across that way. Do you have a suggestion on how to mention this relationship without it getting too messy? I tried to explain above that the intention was to work in a mention of elaborations and differences a bit more explicitly (a footnote isn't really satisfactory) to this proposal, once a relationship with other works had been established. Ben (talk) 05:44, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
I appreciate the difficulty in making suggestions for improvement which don't come across as simplistic, since the issue is complex. I do agree with you that footnotes would be somewhat clumsy. I'm actually wondering if it can be conveyed with sufficient clarity and usefulness in the limited space available in the lede. This keeps raising the fact that an article specifically on the Genesis flood does not currently exist, whereas it certainly should and this would be one issue it could address (the Noah's Ark article could then link to the relevant section when describing the fact that the flood story is found in a number of ANE traditions). Perhaps the lede could simply mention that the narrative of Noah' Ark is part of a deluge narrative the key elements of which are found in a number of ANE traditions with which the Genesis narrative shares a complex literary and historical relationship? Again, this would be the right place for a link to a complete article on the Genesis deluge. --Taiwan boi (talk) 06:02, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
Is there really sufficient material to support a decent article on Noah's Ark outside of Genesis though? Ben (talk) 06:19, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
This is a highly controversial topic, and as with any Bible topic, there is a wide gamut of incompatible interpretations, analysis, hypotheses and conjectures from differing published sources, that do not all agree with one another, and cannot be artificially "made" to agree with one another by bending the semantics. In such a situation, it is not our job as editors to "establish" that some published POVs or hypotheses are "valid", while others are "wrong". We are not a board of judges who have been appointed to determine for all time what Truth is, here on the talkpage. Your talk of "We can mention those views only once we have established they are correct" shows that your basic understanding of NPOV is still completely backwards. NPOV policy is very clear what we do in such controversial situations where there is no agreement among sources: we reserve making any independent judgement about which ones are "correct", and we simply list all the various opinions and iterpretations, along with who holds them, without trying to "push" for any one POV, or pretend that many sources aren't sufficient to establish that a POV exists just because some of us may personally disagree with it. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 13:41, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
Just wondering where I said "We can mention those views only once we have established they are correct"? I agree that is wrong, so I'm wondering within what possible context I said that. Cheers, Ben (talk) 16:23, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
It's that you seem to have a litmus test for "reliability" that presupposes an answer to the question the other sources have a different answer to. That totally goes against all our standards for what RS can be used for. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 16:31, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
Do you mean to say I didn't say that? Then can you please give an example of a source that is reliable, that I said wasn't reliable? Ben (talk) 16:40, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
Oppose. Great, you added in a bunch of other disputed POV assertions as fact, and make it seem like something nobody believes anymore, failing to mention as has been repeatedly established, the inconvenient fact that many people today do. What kind of "compromise" is this? Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 17:55, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
It's a part of the definition of mythology. The Encyclopedia mythica for instance explicitly notes that all myths are, at some stage, actually believed to be true by the peoples of the societies that used or originated the myth. If you think it is worth mentioning more explicitly, then suggest how to word it. Ben (talk) 18:09, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
Discuss, don't vote my bruthah from another scholah. Ben (talk) 18:37, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
...copied from inside the hat section
The idea that the story was derived from Mesopotamian mythology is also not undisputed. There are also sources that consider the Mesopotamian myth to derive from the Bible, and others that consider both to derive from a third original, now lost account. Of course, we've already heard the opinion that only those sources complying with a particular viewpoint are "reliable", and all the rest aren't even significant or notable enough even to establish that anyone thinks differently. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 21:00, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
Well Til, you need to establish the significance of those views. If you find that they are more significant than the sources outlining that Noah's Ark was derived from Mesopotamian mythology, then I'm happy for your viewpoint to replace this one. Otherwise, WP:NPOV is very clear about this. Ben (talk) 21:10, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
Why do you keep informing me what you think I need to do, as if you are my arbiter? I don't recognize you in any such role -- in fact, I'm not really convinced or impressed by much of your self-important and magisterial-sounding spin-doctoring of every single source I have found so far. I am familiar with wikipedia's established standards on what purposes sources can be reliable for, when determining if a viewpoint is significant or may be mentioned neutrally, perhaps you are not. Again, feel free to check with WP:RS/N to see if they agree that my sources are all unmentionable rubbish and of no value. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 21:56, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
This is supposed to be a discussion of this proposal, not Martin's (again)
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.
As you seem to be back to the same dispute, I am going to ask again if both of you could live with:
In Abrahamic scriptures Noah's Ark was a large vessel built by Noah to save his family, and stock of all the world's animals, from the deluge. The story was derived from Mesopotamian mythology around the 5th - 10th century BC, and is today most notably contained in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and the Qur'an. Martin Hogbin (talk) 20:49, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
Why is this better than the above version? Ben (talk) 20:55, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
The idea that the story was derived from Mesopotamian mythology is also not undisputed. There are also sources that consider the Mesopotamian myth to derive from the Bible, and others that consider both to derive from a third original, now lost account. Of course, we've already heard the opinion that only those sources complying with a particular viewpoint are "reliable", and all the rest aren't even significant or notable enough even to establish that anyone thinks differently. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 21:00, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
Well Til, you need to establish the significance of those views. If you find that they are more significant than the sources outlining that Noah's Ark was derived from Mesopotamian mythology, then I'm happy for your viewpoint to replace this one. Otherwise, WP:NPOV is very clear about this. Ben (talk) 21:10, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
Why do you keep informing me what you think I need to do, as if you are my arbiter? I don't recognize you in any such role -- in fact, I'm not really convinced or impressed by much of your self-important and magisterial-sounding spin-doctoring of every single source I have found so far. I am familiar with wikipedia's established standards on what purposes sources can be reliable for, when determining if a viewpoint is significant or may be mentioned neutrally, perhaps you are not. Again, feel free to check with WP:RS/N to see if they agree that my sources are all unmentionable rubbish and of no value. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 21:56, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
You seem to be arguing about the second sentence. Does that mean that you would both accept the first? Martin Hogbin (talk) 21:59, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
I think it's worse than my version, which is why I wanted to know why you thought your version is better. Ben (talk) 22:04, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
Of course you think it is worse than your version, but it might be acceptable to Til. I am desperately trying to find a sentence that you can both agree on. You may both have to give a little. Martin Hogbin (talk) 22:18, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

Well, this entire debate started (before I got here in this instance, and has been ongoing for three years according to Til) over the word mythology and as you point out, "of course [I] think [your version] is worse than [my] version", for all the reasons I, and others, have listed on this page. With both of those things in mind, you're going to have to give a slightly more compelling reason to drop the 'mythology issue' than Til liking the version of the intro without it. If that is truly the only reason you're suggesting it, then of course I oppose it. Ben (talk) 22:30, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

Then it looks like you are going to be stuck with the current version for some time. Martin Hogbin (talk) 23:02, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
Am I to interpret that as "if Til doesn't like it then it doesn't get implemented"? Ben (talk) 23:28, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
No, once again you are attempting to single me out, when multiple editors besides me are on record as saying they don't find the term "mythology" necessary and consider it over-the-top framing. I could make quite a long list of editors if you go back over 3 years of this dispute. You would have to discount a lot of editors besides just me to pretend you have a "consensus". Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 23:47, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
Til, what are you talking about? I explained to Martin that "you're going to have to give a slightly more compelling reason to drop the 'mythology issue' than Til liking the version of the intro without it". He replied with "Then it looks like you are going to be stuck with the current version for some time". I was asking how I should interpret that, not singling you out. Why am I even explaining this? You really are an amazing creature Til. Ben (talk) 23:59, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
What part did you not understand? I thought I was clear enough. And please, stop reconfiguring all the comments or hiding them from sight, according to your aesthetics or opinions. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 00:16, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
Then what do you propose I do Til? This is the third section Martin has brought his suggestion up in. One of the sections is dedicated entirely to it. He needs to flesh it out there, not here. Ben (talk) 00:20, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
Just for the record, I was using Til as an example of the many who appear to object to the use of the word 'mythology', at least in the opening sentence. I would be pleased to flesh out my suggestion if there were any sign that some sort of compromise might be reached on just the opening sentence. I do not want to censor but there is no point in being gratuitously provocative. Martin Hogbin (talk) 09:29, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

(edit conflict) Ben, the lede should not be belabor too many details such as those with the stories' origins. In the very first sentence, the subject's notability needs to be established. IMHO, removing Genesis from the first sentence causes it to fail the notability standard. Modocc (talk) 02:04, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

I introduced the stories origins so we didn't have to go into too much detail about why there are differences in different narratives. Once we start talking about a specific narrative in the second paragraph, it won't be too surprising to the reader why we've had to make the distinction "The Genesis story ..". I am open to suggestions, but I am against mentioning specific texts in the first sentence. As for establishing notability, I think the fact that this is a part of Abrahamic mythology more than suffices. Ben (talk) 02:40, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
I disagree. The question that needs to be answered from the guidelineis "Why is this subject notable?"[my emphasis]. Short answer, its a bible story. Without any reference to the Bible, there is nothing to distinguish it from less notable stories from more obscure texts. Looking only at the first sentence alone, heck, it could easily be something that my neighbors' pastor published as a part of the Abrahamic mythology. Its not of course, but to meet the standard, its best to keep a biblical reference in the first sentence. Modocc (talk) 03:15, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
With respect to your neighbours' pastor, his writings would not constitute Abrahamic mythology. Though I would support Hebrew or Biblical mythology if others found this suitable (both terms are also in use). Ben (talk) 03:39, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
I think Ben needs to seriously consider his insistance on the use of the word 'mythology'. I have two reasons for this:

1. As mentioned above, the 'ordinary' man looking at this article will almost always assume that 'mythology' implies falsehood, regardless of any academic definition. Ben argues that they are just one click away from learning better, but the majority of 'ordinary' people, who are just looking for a quick and easy reference would not even think to do this - or even be aware of their ignorance. WP is written by Academia, but for the 'common' man. Including the term 'mythology' simply ensures that most people who read the article will believe the story of Noah's Ark to be false. Surely that should be avoided. 2. I disagree with the assertion that the acadamic concensus is that the story of Noah's Ark is a mythology. Certainly, you will find plenty of references to say that it is 'mythological in nature', but within that broad consensus are plenty of differing viewpoints. There are those who state that it is utterly made up - so classifying it as a fiction. There are those who say that it is a myth. There are those that say that it is allegorical - and thus a parable. Still others will say that it is rooted in some grains of historical truth - and therefore it is a legend. My point is that the number who say it is a 'myth' is actually a minority of those who broadly say it is 'mythological in nature'.--FimusTauri (talk) 14:38, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Regarding your point 1., that the ordinary man will always assume that mythology implies falsehood is a mighty big claim. I'm no biblical scholar, so I guess that makes me pretty ordinary, and I don't make that association in the context of any scholarly work like an encyclopaedia. I guess that breaks your claim. Your claim is just as easily disputed if you change 'all' to 'most', since there is prolific use of the term in general (as opposed to specialist) works. Encyclopedia Britannica being the most closely aligned to this project, but then the words use extends even as far as children's books, the general media, and academic institutions in an educational environment, and lets not forget every dictionary that has been checked on this talk page. I think your claim is dubious at best. I have a question for you, how does this position of yours get around scientific articles on Wikipedia freely using the word theory? Finally, the consensus among scholars is that the Noah's Ark story is not grounded in history, and this is practically undisputed outside of those few who consider the Bible as history. The article should reflect this majority viewpoint per WP:WEIGHT, so being worried about one word implying that the Ark story is not historical, when the rest of the article should anyway, is a bit silly.
Regarding your point 2., You can't dispute that 'the majority of reliable sources classify this story as mythological', when the reliable sources themselves make the claim that 'the majority of reliable sources classify this story as mythological'. As for the different labels you've given the story, for all the research I've done since this discussion has started, I have rarely read anyone who described this story as fiction (J. R. R. Tolkien comes to mind). I could go through your list of terms, but I think Northrop Frye said it best:
A structure of myth and metaphor is what we have: it is all that we have, and it is no use trying to shake a residue of factual history out of it, even on a spiritual level. We may say, for example, that some Biblical stories seem to deal with really central issues, like the five versions of the Resurrection story, and that these may be the spiritual form of real events. Others, like the stories of Samson, seem to be clearly folk tales, or at best allegories, while still others, like the story of Job, are explicitly poetical. But as long as we keep steadily looking at the whole Bible as a seamless web of myth and metaphor, this reductive solution becomes increasingly unsatisfying.
For all your concern about the ordinary reader, it seems absurd to burden them with such technicalities so soon in the article. Perhaps you just don't like it, I don't know, but the word myth is perfectly acceptable in all forms of media and for all levels of readership, and I don't see any reason why Wikipedia should be an exception to this preference. Ben (talk) 16:16, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
"the word myth is perfectly acceptable in all forms of media and for all levels of readership" = FALSE. You're still baldly refusing to acknowledge the existence of any forms or levels that don't comply with your invented rule. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 16:25, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
"so being worried about one word implying that the Ark story is not historical, when the rest of the article should anyway, is a bit silly." rather proves what TE has been saying - you are trying to impose your POV that everyone says that it is a myth when clearly there are very many people who do not accept that. Also, just because you do not associate mythology with falsehood breaks no arguments - a poll of 1 will always get a 100% result!--FimusTauri (talk) 16:41, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
Are you the same person who wrote the first comment? Ben (talk) 17:11, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
'No' is the short answer.
Can I draw this discussion back to the original proposal put forward by Ben:
He claims that his proposed version is an improvement because it removes the presupposition of knowledge in the subject (by which I assume he means the Book of Genesis). This seems to me to be a frivolous argument, given that there is a link to that subject. Yet Ben later uses the argument that anyone who does not understand the concept of 'mythology' in an academic sense is only a click away from revelation (no pun intended!) On the one hand we have a concept (Genesis) with which most readers will have at least passing knowledge (and therefore will accept its context without further concern) and on the other hand Ben wishes to introduce a term (mythology) whose academic meaning is lost to the majority of readers. To my mind there is almost nothing wrong with the way it is currently worded, but the way Ben would like to word it is fraught with problems. Surely, if there is doubt about the use of a word, then the common sense approach is to avoid that word. The current wording is only at fault in that a minority of users would have to click a link to discover what the Book of Genesis is.--FimusTauri (talk) 11:02, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
It just occurred to me that I may have misunderstood Ben's last question. If he is asking if I am the same person who wrote the first comment, then no. If he means am I the same person who wrote the first comment by FimusTauri then the answer is 'Yes'.--FimusTauri (talk) 12:25, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
This is almost exactly the same as your first comment, so please reread my first reply again and feel free the answer the question I asked in it. You have added the highly dubious claim that most people know what Genesis is though, but this was one of the first things I discussed on this page. There are additional problems with restricting this article to only what is contained in Genesis, which has also been discussed in this very thread. Ben (talk) 16:35, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
I assume you are referring to the question about the word 'theory', which also has a double meaning. There are differences. If a friend in a pub comes up and says "I have a theory as to why the beer is flat in here," you can be certain that he is simply engaging in speculation. If, on the other hand, he talks about Einstein's Theory of Relativity (which, you will note, is capitalised for this very reason), you know that he is talking about a sound mathematical model which has been subjected to peer review and is generally without dispute. Context is important in speech. In the written language the use of capitalisation generally is used to refer to established theories, further removing doubts from the context. With the word 'myth', capitalisation is only used to refer to specific 'myths', where the word 'Myth' forms part of the common name. Otherwise, there can be no certainty from the context as to whether the intended meaning is one of fable, legend or even colloquialism (which I know you have dealt most eloquently elsewhere). The significant difference is that context is far less likely to reveal to the listener or reader whether the intended meaning is one of falsehood or simply of classification under a heading intended to imply the legendary nature of the material without regard to its veracity.--FimusTauri (talk) 16:51, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Ahh I see, context works for the word theory .. but not for the word myth. Riiight. Anyway, it looks like the featured article General relativity could use a copy edit from you. With so many uncapitalised words, it's amazing it passed its featured article candidacy. Ben (talk) 17:13, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
I think any analogy with 'theory' in science is best avoided, there have been major edit wars over the use of this term in some articles. Let us just stick to the meaning and interpretation of the word 'mythology'. Martin Hogbin (talk) 17:39, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
You don't see any relevance? Ben (talk) 18:28, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
It is not that. It is that there is much controversy over the usage and meaning of the word theory, so using it as an example to help resolve this dispute is likely to be unhelpful. Martin Hogbin (talk) 18:50, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
I've had the evolution page watchlisted for a really long time. The only controversy I remember ever seeing is people who come along and announce that 'evolution is just a theory'. It's similarity to the above 'confusion' argument, to me at least, is very clear. Perhaps you had some other controversy in mind, like if x should be labelled a theory or not? But that isn't the argument FimusTauri presented, though it is addressed, with respect to the word myth, by much of the rest of this talk page. P.S. We should get someone out to fix these train tracks. Ben (talk) 19:09, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
The real issue here is whether or not the word 'mythology' is appropriate in this context. I accept that, according to the academic definition, the word is accurate - I do not agree, however, that it is appropriate.
Ben argues that the word myth is acceptable in all forms of media and at all levels of readership. This is the crux of the issue. I disagree. It may well be acceptable in the majority of the secular media, but the secular media presents only one side of the issue. The other side (the opposing POV) does not accept or use the word 'myth'. I cite two examples which must surely be considered both reliable and verifiable. The authors are certainly 'scholarly'. In both instances the subject is treated in a matter-of-fact, encyclopaedic manner. Neither states that the story is not a myth because they have no need to.
Bible History Online
Jewish Encycolpedia
Another source - The Catholic Encyclopedia - is equally scholarly and reads in a similar vein. It does, however include a quote which is interesting in this context:
The opinion that these chapters are mere legendary tales, Eastern folklore, is held by some non-Catholic scholars; according to others, with whom several Catholics side, they preserve, under the embroidery of poetical parlance, the memory of a fact handed down by a very old tradition.
Here, the opposing POV is presented. They also acknowledge a 'middle ground' view that story may not be literally true, but founded on some truth that was later embroidered.
The important point here is that there are literally millions (maybe even billions) of people who hold Christian, Jewish or Islamic faiths dear. The 'official' view of these faiths (as outlined in the references above) is that the story of Noah's Ark is, in essence, true, although there is debate within these faiths as to the degree of truth held within the stories. Whether they are right to hold the story as true or not, is not the issue here - the issue is simply whether they hold that view or not. The references I have given show that they do hold this view.
In light of this, it should be clear to any right-minded reader that using the term 'mythology' is likely to cause offence to many of these people. At the very least, the implication that a story held to be true by their faiths may be false is enough to warrant us not using the word 'mythology' to describe this story.
It is not our job to determine if the story of Noah's Ark is true or false. If use of a word in this context gives the implication to even a significant fraction of the readership that it is false, then that word must be avoided.--FimusTauri (talk) 09:42, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Fimus, we must be aware of how the article will be perceived and understood by our readership. I have made some changes to Vassyana's suggestion with notes on why I made them, which you can find here. What do you think? Martin Hogbin (talk) 11:14, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
For me, your suggestion is excellent, Martin. It avoids the potentially offensive term 'mythology' (and any similar terms). It states where the story can be found and gives a succinct summary. If people can agree on this then hopefully the article can move on. I also favour including the box to inform people as to what the term 'mythology' means, as this term may still be included later in the article (hopefully, in context and therefore without the potential for offense).--FimusTauri (talk) 11:33, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
Fimus, your Catholic Encyclopedia is far from scholarly, it's a hundred years old, and things have moved on, even for Catholic scholars. As for causing offense, it's not one of our concerns - we should certainly avoid causing gratuitous offense, but if people are offended by the idea that the world is round instead of flat, that's no reason for humoring them. It's a simple fact that mainstream biblical scholarship regards the Ark story, and all the stories in the first dozen chapters of Genesis, as myth. (That includes Catholic scholars, by the way).PiCo (talk) 12:02, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
I have already acknowledged the accuracy of the scholarly use of the word 'mythology'. What is beyond my understanding is why there are individuals here who insist that the word must be used (and risk offending) when there are perfectly acceptable, non-offensive alternative wordings available, such as Martin's. If someone can give me a valid reason for being unnecessarily offensive then I will happily shut up on this issue.--FimusTauri (talk) 12:24, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
Can I also add, being new to WP editing, I am still finding my way around. I have just been looking at the NPOV tutorial and came across the section 'mind your nuances'. This clearly states that we should take care in choosing our words. I realise this section is about nuance and not offense, but the principle is the same. It says to avoid words with the wrong nuance. In this instance 'mythology' may carry the nuance of 'falsehood'. Although academics would (and should) reject this, many others do not. In this context, the risk of the wrong nuance should be avoided. Again, I say that there are plenty of valid alternatives that do not carry this nuance.--FimusTauri (talk) 13:05, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
PiCo, it would seem that,in your statement '...regards ...all the stories in the first dozen chapters of Genesis, as myth', you are using 'myth' to mean a story that is not literally true. According to the myth box, the word 'myth' carries no implication of truth or falsehood. The fact that the word can be used in two different ways is exactly the reason we should not be using it in the opening sentence. Martin Hogbin (talk) 13:50, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
Pico, another point: I have seen you, and others, repeatedly appeal to an imaginary "policy" that only exists in some peoples' heads, which you have expressed as: "As for causing offense, it's not one of our concerns - we should certainly avoid causing gratuitous offense, but if people are offended by the idea that the world is round instead of flat, that's no reason for humoring them.". That isn't quite what the real policy says. WP:NPOV, or "neutrality", actually means that (much like Switzerland) not causing offense IS one of our concerns. If you say it's not our concern, that's really the exact opposite of "neutrality". And for this purpose, a distinction there is made between *significant* or *widely held* views, and others. "Flat Earth" is NOT a *widely-held* view by any stretch, and there your favorite comparison falls down flat. For the last time already, please stop making it. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 14:14, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
The Wikipedia article 'Describing points of view', under the section 'English language' states:
In the main English Wikipedia, there is still a need to avoid professional jargon and to keep language as simple and direct as the accurate treatment of the subject matter permits.
Using the word 'mythology' and assuming everyone knows that it is being used in the 'academic' sense is surely an obvious case of 'professional jargon' which we need to avoid.--FimusTauri (talk) 15:10, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

FimusTauri, your sources and accompanying reasoning aren't helpful to us, the first relies exclusively on a source from 1915, the second talks about Noah's Ark only as it is contained in certain literature, so no discussion outside of this literature takes place which is precisely where our problem lies, and the third PiCo has already dealt with. Your reasoning, "Neither states that the story is not a myth because they have no need to" and therefore these sources disagree with the classification, is just silly. If you're interested, I made reference to a book that discusses the evolving use of the word in one of the threads above.

Martin, why are you so insistent on your version? Your intention of helping resolve this argument by introducing alternatives to a sourced, neutral and accurate version of the introductory sentence is not helpful. In fact it's only extending this already long argument, which is the last thing we need right now. My intention here is not to please every editor, it's for accuracy and neutrality. You have now removed the mention of God because it "adds an air of unintended support for the existence and authority of the Abrahamic God". Yuck. The qualifier that this is part of Abrahamic mythology takes care of this perfectly. As I said, the Abrahamic mythology version is accurate, neutral and well-supported by the literature. Your version serves only to move this helpful classification to the third paragraph, and replace it with no classification, and among other things it introduces problems like your God problem above. This is a substantial weakening of the article. Do the article a favour Martin, please, not a couple of editors on this talk page.

Til, didn't we already discuss equating WP:NPOV with Swiss law? And I suggest you read the content disclaimer, where it notes that Wikipedia may contain material that is objectionable, in particular "many articles contain frank discussion of controversial topics". It also notes that "Wikipedia's current policy is to include such content, provided it breaches neither any of our existing policies (especially Neutral point of view) nor the laws of the state of Florida in the United States, where Wikipedia is hosted". We know that the classification of Noah's Ark as mythology holds the most significant viewpoint, so there is nothing left to argue about. Ben (talk) 21:10, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

Ben, I am insistent on my version because it is quite obvious that we are never going to get 'mythology' into the opening sentence because there is too much opposition to it, whether you consider that opposition justified or not. I am therefore trying to find a compromise alternative that is acceptable to all, based on the suggestion by Vassyana. You claim that the Abrahamic mythology version is 'accurate, neutral and well-supported by the literature' but others disagree. On the other hand nobody can dispute that the word 'scripture' is all of these? Finally, if you want to put God back into the opening sentence that is fine by me but there is already mention of God in the second paragraph, which is about Abrahamic religious texts. Martin Hogbin (talk) 21:38, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
There are several problems here, but let me focus on three of the main ones. The first problem was the opposition to classifying Noah's Ark as mythology. It has been demonstrated via multiple sources that it is overwhelmingly classified as such, and so according to WP:NPOV we are supposed give this position due weight. The second problem is whether or not this classification belongs in the first sentence. Without going into the arguments for or against this, let us just say that I think it should be, you think it won't happen, and at least one person is against it. The third problem is in coming up with an adequate compromise should it be decided not to include it in the first sentence. It seems then, that you are one step ahead. Can we at least determine that the classification does not belong in the first sentence before we worry about compromises? If you're happy with this then I propose we start a new thread focused on whether the classification belongs in the first sentence. When all is said and done in that thread, we can start a new thread on compromises. What do you think? Cheers, Ben (talk) 00:26, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but I still think my likening the spirit of the NPOV policy to "Swiss law" is entirely appropriate; some things just can't be brushed off with a mere dismissive fleck of the old wrist and a "because I said so!". Switzerland's neutrality is a time-honoured and well understood metaphor for maintaining good diplomatic relations with -all- major parties, which is pretty much, exactly what NPOV calls for. But I can see how such a metaphor would become particularly odious to those parties who would redefine "neutrality" as: "Entering into the fray, throwing our weight with one side in opposition to the other, becoming a combattant, and blatantly antagonizing a very widespread viewpoint by using exactly the same detrimental language as their opponents in the controversy". Of course, if that's to be the true definition of our "neutrality", then it would require a similarly Orwellian interpretation of nearly every other word written at WP:NPOV. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 14:21, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

New section - Ark in Current Interpretations

The new section has two parts. The first summarises some - not all - academic scholarship of the last hundred years. The second deals with the more popular idea of a literal Ark. The second section is based on the previous section(s) dealing with this area, but drastically shortened. The existing section went into far too much detail - not so much exhaustive as exhausting. As a result, it was giving undue weight to one particular pov, namely literalism. Please discuss how you see this new section. PiCo (talk) 08:48, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

The section you eliminated completely is a section which achieved consensus after weeks of discussion, extensive referencing, and contributions from a number of editors. You stood alone at that time in objecting to it, and you have never ceased to attempt radical edits to it, even to the extent of removing it entirely.
What section is that, exactly?PiCo (talk) 02:07, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
The section I entitled 'Critical evaluation'. --Taiwan boi (talk) 03:36, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

What you wrongly term the 'literalist' POV (see previous extensive discussion on this), is simply the POV that the Ark was a historical vessel. That happens to be a highly significant POV within the Christian community, as the Gallup poll demonstrated, so the material included in it was not in breach of WP:WEIGHT. This was demonstrated by the many references which were provided. You attempted for weeks to eliminate any references to Christian views of the Ark which do not treat it as a historical vessel, and instead treat the Ark narrative as allegory, and you also attempted for weeks to describe as 'Biblical literalism' any POV which considers the Ark to be a historical vessel, even if that POV was not in fact a Biblical literalist POV. You tried using the term 'Biblical literalist' repeatedly, despite it being pointed out repeatedly that the term was pejorative and not to be used, not to mention the inappropriateness of using it to describe POVs which were not 'Biblical literalist'. You later switched to the equally inaccurate term 'literalist', which is an ambiguous term on Wikipedia, and which in this context will be read as 'Biblical literalist' (as you intended it to be read), which is inaccurate.

Belief in a literal Ark, is literalism - it's pretty straightforward, really, and I don't see your point. Nor it the term "literalism" pejorative.PiCo (talk) 02:07, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
No, you're wrong. Belief in a literal Ark is treating the Ark as a historical vessel. This does not connote literalism. The term 'literalist' in Wikipedia is an ambiguous term. In the context of a Biblical narrative it will be read as 'Biblical literalist' (as you intend), which is an inaccurate description of views which are not Biblical literalist views, and which is a pejorative term. I have explained this all repeatedly.
I note that you have recently been over to the Biblical literalism article and removed any mention of the fact that it is used as a pejorative term. That is a clear indication that you are pushing an agenda. You are deliberately changing what Wikipedia says about that term in order to try and remove it from Wikipedia's list of pejoratives, so you can use it in this article. This demonstrates beyond doubt that you are determined to describe as Biblical literalism all views which regard the Ark as a historical vessel. You are absolutely dedicated to using this term, and you are prepared to edit related articles so that they support your POV in order to justify your use of the term. Editing Wikipedia articles specifically so that they support your personal views, and so you can appeal to them in editing disputes, is POV editing. --Taiwan boi (talk) 04:00, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
What we have here is your latest attempt to remove a section to which you have long objected, and which achieved consensus after weeks of discussion, extensive referencing, and contributions from a number of editors. Your contributions to this article have overwhelmingly been efforts to remove material rather than add it, you don't add references from reliable sources, and you consistently target for removal any material which describes the case for the Ark's historicity. Your editing history of this article is clearly biased. --Taiwan boi (talk) 01:45, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Articles on Wiki are subject to constant change and improvement, that's the nature of the beast. If you don't like this, I can only suggest that write a book instead. PiCo (talk) 02:07, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
I have not objected to change or improvement of the article, as you well know. I have objected to your consisted biased editing of this article, your repeated attempts to bulldoze through your edits without discussion, and your repeated refusals either to discuss your edits or to enter informal mediation over editing disputes. --Taiwan boi (talk) 03:36, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
While we're here, what are your thoughts on the other part of the new section, the one that deals with modern scholarly thinking? PiCo (talk) 02:07, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
I provided them below. --Taiwan boi (talk) 03:36, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
The section badly needs some citations, some of which I can help out with (when I wake up, I'm about to go to bed). I can't vet all the information in it, though nothing stands out as contradicting what I have read, so no complaints there. I'm a little worried about where links are placed though. For instance, as far as I know flood geology is alive and well today, but its main article link is only present in the 19th century section. One final comment before I head to bed (sorry if all of this seems too brief), it might be worth shortening the section heading to "Current interpretations". Cheers, Ben (talk) 09:55, 2 January 2009 (UTC) Oh, it might be worth copying what has been removed into this section (but hiding it in a hat/hab environment as I did in one of the previous sections)? Ben (talk) 09:59, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
I've added some citations, most of them primary (i.e., tracing ideas to the scholars who originated them). If you think more are needed, please add tags. PiCo (talk) 11:19, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
See my response above. In addition, the scientific explanation does not target the literalist interpretation of Noah's Ark. Instead, it targets the story itself, and explains the various scientific inconsistencies that have been asserted by modern scholars. This has been a major part of NA scholarship in the last few hundred years, and it deserves a more comprehensive section than what you have provided. Considering that Noah's Ark is one of the most recognizable stories from the Bible, it's a shame that the article has been cut down to a measly 39KB in length. The referencing is shoddy (where's the scholarship? All I see are Internet sources!), there are MoS errors, and other issues – I'm considering a possible FAR if these issues aren't resolved. Nishkid64 (Make articles, not wikidrama) 18:56, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
Nishkid, there is no such thing as the scientific evaluation of Noah's ark. The section you're talking about is an explanation of the literalist interpretation, and that's a very vaild part of the subject. But we aren't allowed to argue the case, either for or against - our job is just to explain it. Who believes in a real ark, and why. Also, I get the impression that you don't actually know much about biblical scholarship - what is your background in this area? PiCo (talk) 19:48, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
PiCo, is that question germane to this discussion? Last I looked, WP does not credential its editors. SteveMc (talk) 22:47, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
There will certainly be commentaries by notable atheist scientists (Dawkins springs to mind) that should be mentioned in this article. Martin Hogbin (talk) 00:06, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
I don't think Dawkins is an authority on this. Maybe in my suggestion below, where commentary can be fleshed out. Ben (talk) 00:16, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Publications by Dawkins would certainly represent one reliable source for atheist opinion on NA. Martin Hogbin (talk) 00:35, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
I fail to see how atheist opinions are weighty enough for inclusion here. Ben (talk) 00:43, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
PiCo, credentials have no bearing on my ability to edit this article. Regarding the section, I admit that I incorrectly referred to the section as scientific evaluation, since it's more of literalist POV + rebuttal. However, modern scholarship relies heavily on scientific explanations of certain aspects of the story – e.g. could we have sustained enough genetic diversity to maintain a healthy population?, and I believe the article should not cover these topics in such a superficial manner. To relieve your concerns regarding the undue weight being given to the literalist POV, we could possibly refactor this section into a critical evaluation and a literalist rebuttal section. As a newcomer to this article, I'd like to hear more about your thoughts on this matter. Nishkid64 (Make articles, not wikidrama) 01:13, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
There is more than enough material on critical evaluation to support an article on its own, so it's almost certain coverage of it here will be superficial to some degree. I still think a separate article would be the best way to deal with this. Is there a way to do that without it playing the role of a POV fork? Ben (talk) 02:00, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

Can I suggest we start a new article on literal interpretations of Noah's Ark? It's certainly notable enough and there is plenty of material to support such an article. It could also neatly incorporate the Searches for Noah's Ark article, and it could serve as a template for other notable "literal interpretations of X" type articles (creation according to genesis being the most obvious).

There is another advantage, directly related to Nishkid's/PiCo's concerns above. The scientific evaluation of certain claims in the Noah's Ark story has been used by scholars over the last couple of centuries, this is already touched upon in the article, but perhaps could be expanded a little. It has also been used to counter literalism stances, which brings us to the advantage of having the above article. This scholarship sections in this article could briefly talk about how the results of the scientific evaluations influenced scholarship, and the literal article could go into specifics of the scientific evaluations. The rationale being that all the details of the scientific evaluations are not necessary to understand how scholarship has changed and where it is at now, but is much more important in explaining literal interpretations and evaluations of such positions. We give an overview of the new article in this article, with a main article link to the new article. Nothing gets cut, and everything seems to be in a logical place.

This idea may need tweaking, but I think it has a lot of merit. What do you think PiCo, Nishkid? Ben (talk) 00:16, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

After thinking about it, it would be too much like a POV fork, so maybe that's not the best idea. Ben (talk) 00:49, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

One article on Noah's Ark is plenty. Martin Hogbin (talk) 00:24, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Oh, oh, let me counter your brilliant argument with: I disagree. Ben (talk) 00:35, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, creating a POV fork isn't such a great idea. See my suggestion above. Nishkid64 (Make articles, not wikidrama) 01:15, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

New suggestion for new section/subsections on contemporary views

Thank you Til for what you said in your last edit summary - words of sanity. I hear you.

OK, let me re-posit my suggestion in new terms:

  • 1: I believe we need a section on 20th/21st century interpretations of the ark - contemporary views, if you like to call it that. This seems logical, given that the article at present takes a historical plan, going from ancient/medieval traditions to the 18th/19th century - why should it stop there as if nothing happened since except the literalist view?
    • QUESTION: Do you agree or disagree? (or have other views/suggestions?)
    • REPLIES

I agree with this. The article already had such a section, which was both detailed and well referenced. You removed it.Taiwan boi (talk) 03:51, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

Agreed. I'm about to head off to bed, but I'll evaluate the two versions of the article and compare the current interpretations sections. Nishkid64 (Make articles, not wikidrama) 05:47, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

I agree, there should be commentary on all significant interpretations, each based on reliable sources . Martin Hogbin (talk) 10:59, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

If you look at the article as it now stands, you'll find that there is commentary on all significant interpretations, each based on reliable sources. PiCo's edits have been aimed at removing the distinction between these different interpretations (literalist and non-literalist views), and deleting one of them (the allegorical interpretation). It would help if people familiarized themselves with the current article content, so they know what's already there. That will save them suggesting that we include material which the article already contains. --Taiwan boi (talk) 11:13, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
  • 2: Given that I personally would like to see this new section on contemporary views, I'd like to see it have 2 subsections, one on the views of biblical scholarship, one on the literalist interpretation (which is important, since the polls say 60% of Americans hold this view).
    • QUESTION: Do you agree or disagree, or have other ideas entirely?
    • REPLIES

The section on contemporary views already provided views from current Biblical scholarship as well as literalist, non-literalist, and allegorical interpretations. You removed the allegorical interpretations, and attempted to classify both the literalist and non-literalist interpretations as 'literalist' interpretations, as well as removing the distinction between views of Biblical scholarship and non-scholarly views. I don't see any reason to depart from the section which was previously in the article.Taiwan boi (talk) 03:51, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

  • 3: If we are to have a new subsection on 20th/21st century scholarly views, I propose the following:
Modern scholars generally see the Ark story as the centrepiece of a narrative panel within the Book of Genesis which they have termed the Primeval Narrative.[29] Taking up Genesis 1-11, the chapters tell how God created a perfect world in which mankind would be his regent, but how man rebelled against God, causing God to destroy his creation (the Ark/Flood story). God forgives man (the Noahide covenant at the end of the Ark story), yet man rebels again (the Tower of Babel story); this second rebellion, however, is forgiven without destruction, and God instead scatters man across the earth, each nation to its own alloted land. The Primeval Narrative then joins with the main theme of Genesis, the story of Abraham and the land promised to the Chosen People, the descendants of Noah's son Shem.[30]
This story was apparently written in the 5th century BC, taking existing Babylonian myths as its basis, but altering them to give the story a distinctive twist in accordance with Hebrew monotheism: in place of the many gods of the Babylonian Atrahasis myth, Noah deals with Yahweh, the god of Israel, and in place of the essential pessimism of the Babylonian story, where things get worse and worse over time, the message of the Genesis story is essentially optimistic, with a God who forgives rebellion and guides his chosen people to their land.[31] Both the Babylonian and the Genesis Ark are symbolic rather than real vessels: both are images of their respective universes, the seven-story cube-shaped vessel of Utnapishtim mirroring the seven levels of the Babylonian cosmos, the three levels of Noah's ark imitating the three levels of the Hebrew world described in Genesis 1 (the skies, the habitable earth of mankind, and the watery underworld below).[32] The Flood itself recapitulates the six days of Creation, but in reverse: it begins in the second month, mirroring the second day of Creation when the habitable earth is created, mounts with the Ark until the sixth month, rests on the mountains on the seventh month (as Yahweh himself rested on the seventh day), and then retreats for a further six months until the earth is recreated and the Ark is no longer needed.[33]
    • QUESTION: Assuming we do decide to have a section on this subject, are you happy with this as a basis? (The superscript numerals refer to points where citations are to be given).
    • REPLIES

This is a repeat of some material which is already in the article (near the beginning, where it belongs), and contains material which is not only irrelevant to current views (discussing instead speculations about original intent and meaning), but also presents only one POV, and that a minority view within scholarship (why not present the scholarly consensus?). You haven't even demonstrated that the POV you want to include here is sufficiently significant for inclusion.Taiwan boi (talk) 03:51, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

  • 4: Whether we agree to the above new section or not, I propose that we have a single section on the literalist interpretation of the Ark, and that it be shorter than the current amount of space devoted to this - simply because it's distorting the balance of the article. (Note: "literal" here means the belief in a real, tangible ark - let's not argue semantics, please).
    • QUESTION: Do you agree or not, or do you have other views?
    • REPLIES

This is misleading because when you say 'literalist interpretation' you don't really mean 'literalist interpretation' you mean 'any interpretation which treats the Ark as a historical vessel'. The view that the Ark was a historical vessel is not only a highly significant POV but remains the majority POV, so the extent of material on this POV which was originally in the article does not breach WP:WEIGHT. You are suggesting that we essentially remove any reference to this POV, or treat it as if it was the minority POV. That simply doesn't abide by Wikipedia editing policies.Taiwan boi (talk) 03:51, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

I think this is a point we need to clarify. Biblical literalism refers to the strictest adherence to each word of Biblical scripture. I think there are some who believe in a real and tangible ark, but aren't what we would call biblical literalists. Nishkid64 (Make articles, not wikidrama) 05:47, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
You're absolutely correct. What PiCo has tried to do is to classify any view which regards the Ark as a historical vessel as a literalist view. This is clearly incorrect. Robert Best believes the Ark was a historical vessel, but he is anything but a literalist. Plenty of secular scholars believe a historical flood was the basis for the entire flood narrative, but are not literalists. As PiCo explained on your Talk page, his intention is to reduce as much as possible any mention of Christian POVs regarding the Ark as a historical vessel (despite the fact that this remains the majority view in Christianity), and to brand as literalist any views which regard the Ark as a historical vessel. He also wants to remove any reference to views of the Ark as allegorical. You will note that he has deliberately edited the Biblical literalism article to remove any reference in the article to the fact that it is a pejorative term. His reason for doing so is so that he can use the term in the Noah's Ark article to describe any view which regards the Ark as a historical vessel. The edit I have supported differentiates clearly between literalist views which regard the Ark as a historical vessel, non-literalist views which also regard the Ark as a historical vessel, and allegorical or other views which do not regard the Ark as a historical vessel. That section provides [[WP:RS|reliable sources] for each view. --Taiwan boi (talk) 05:57, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
By "literal" I mean a tangible, touchable ship. Not really any disagreement here. PiCo (talk) 06:55, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
It is well understood that you are speaking of views which hold to the historicity of the Ark as a 'tangible, touchable ship'. But where we disagree is on the fact that you wish to describe any and all such views as 'literalist' views, by which you mean Biblical literalism. As Nishkid64 has pointed out, and as I have pointed out repeatedly, not all views which hold to the historicity of the Ark are 'literalist', still less Biblical literalist. That's the issue here, and you know it. --Taiwan boi (talk) 07:04, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
I think we should have a section on the view that the Ark was an actual vessel that had a significant impact on subsequent evolution of all animals and the development of humans. It would seem that this view is quite widely held but it is clearly one which is at odds with the scientific evidence, which we also need to make clear. Martin Hogbin (talk) 10:59, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
The section which is in there now already does that. This section describes the different views (including Christian views which do not regard the Ark as a historical vessel), giving weight to the majority Christian viewpoint, which is that the Ark was a historical vessel. This section describes the various criticisms of the Ark from reliable sources, including scientific opinions:
  • Did Noah Really Build An Ark? 'It would have been about 450ft long, and experts say it would have broken apart'
  • Noah's Ark 'the odds are that the technology of the time and the reputed material (gopher wood or shittim wood = ?acacia) would have made such a structure too flimsy for the purpose'
  • The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark, 'Many writers (e.g., Kenneth Feder, Frauds, Myths, and Mysticism, Mayfield, 1990) point out that the construction of the Ark, given the conditions stated in the Bible, would probably have been impossible'
I have yet to see a sound reason for the suggested edit. --Taiwan boi (talk) 11:11, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
In that case I support the view that that section (or an adequate replacement) should remain in the article. Martin Hogbin (talk) 11:45, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
  • 5: Assuming we do decide to revise the section(s) on the literal-ark pov, I propose we let Nishkid64 do this - he's already offered to do so in an earlier post, if I read him correctly. He's new and he's neutral, so let him produce a draft edit that we can then work on.
    • QUESTION: Do you agree/disagree, assuming Nishkid64 also agrees?
    • REPLIES

Given that Nishkid64 is both new and has yet to demonstrate any familiarity with the relevant material, I don't see why he should be the first choice for a draft edit. I'm the one editor here with the greatest familiarity with the relevant material, and I am the one editor here who has contributed the most number of reliable sources to this article (over 40), as well has the one editor here with the greatest number of consensus supported edits. I've also demonstrated my capacity to be neutral, removing POV material from Christians who have attempted to bias the article towards their views, and raising no objections to the use of the term 'mythology'. I'm not saying that I'm the one who should draft a new edit (though my previous drafts of this section received consensus approval), but I am saying that with all due respect there are better qualified editors for the task than Nishkid64. --Taiwan boi (talk) 03:51, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

This article will be a challenge, but I'm up for the task. I certainly will accept all help I can get. Throughout my wiki career, I've demonstrated that I can conduct thorough research and compose comprehensive and well-written articles. Nishkid64 (Make articles, not wikidrama) 05:38, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

What I'm interested in is your personal knowledge of the relevant scholarly literature and history of interpretation of this particular subject. I'm also interested in which research tools you use (note that Google is not a research tool, JSTOR is). What can you tell me? --Taiwan boi (talk) 05:48, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Well, what exactly are you looking for? I know the stories, the development of skeptic scholarship (flood geology, for example) and its level of acceptance amongst scholars and the populace in the present day. I am a university student, so I have access to journals, newspapers, books, etc. Nishkid64 (Make articles, not wikidrama) 19:41, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
For a start I'm looking for familiarity with the article's current content, which a surprising number of editors who visit this article lack. I'm also looking for evidence of previous interest in this article, and evidence of previous valuable contributions from it using reliable sources. I'd like to see evidence of familiarity with the relevant used primary and secondary sources commonly used to research this subject, as well as the historical and current arguments for and against the historicity of the Ark. This is the material which the section under review is supposed to cover. Finally, I'd like to see an example of your research method in action, complete with a description of the academic research tools you've used (most people here think a combination of Google and personal opinion is all they need). --Taiwan boi (talk) 12:00, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

Folks, I'm trying to be calm and rational here. No article is ever perfect, but if we work together, we can get close. PiCo (talk) 02:57, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

(Note: I've taken the liberty of resorting Taiwanboi's responses so they're under the individual questions - easier to follow that way. Please other editors reply to each question individually). PiCo (talk) 04:07, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

Synthesis

I have been doing a bit of reading about WP policy on source materials. What I was looking for I finally found at Synthesis of published materials. I suggest that everyone take a look at that, remembering that it is not sufficient for WP editors to do their own synthesis of opinion, as that would be original research as well. At this point, there are plenty of references on each side, at least as I see it. I suggest a discussion about source quality is now needed. SteveMc (talk) 22:43, 4 January 2009 (UTC)

Let me know what you think of Robert A. Oden's books, one of which contains:
As we have seen, the course of twentieth-century research has yielded the increasingly more certain conclusion that there is mythical material in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Interestingly, however, for many years this conclusion was seen to apply primarily or solely only to certain small sections within the Bible. These sections were essentially those for which an obvious parallel could be found among the mythological collections of ancient Israel's neighbors — the myths of Mesopotamia, Canaan, and Egypt. Of course, such parallels have appeared with unanticipated frequency because of the archaeological discoveries of the past few generations, so that even limiting the application of the label myth to those biblical narratives with ancient Near Eastern analogies has produced a fairly large pool of material. Today, it is not just the flood story in Genesis 6-9 or allusions to a battle between Yahweh and a cosmic monster (in Job, for example) that are seen as mythical. Included, too, are the portraits of Yahweh in the setting of a divine council (as in Psalm 82 or 2 Kings 22), any number of references to a cosmic mountain (in Ezekiel and several Psalms especially), and much more.
Synthesis required: 0.
Or how about Marcus Borg's opinion on the matter? In talking about David Strauss he notes that
David Strauss's claim that many of the gospel narratives are mythical in character, and that "myth" is not simply to be equated with "falsehood" — have become part of mainstream scholarship.
Of course, these guys are scholars, and the last thing we need to do is to listen to the so called experts. Let's see, maybe a nice general reference like Encyclopedia Britannica can clear this up for us. Hmm ...
Despite the tangible similarities of the Mesopotamian and biblical myths of the flood, the biblical story has a unique Hebraic perspective.
Probably a typo, wait ...
The Old Testament is usually regarded as embodying much material that anthropologists would regard as containing mythical themes in just the same way as the practices of the ancient Greeks, Chinese, or Abenaki Indians are bound up with myths.
And they seem to have an entire article on creation myths, that includes the biblical one, too. Well, we're better than Britannica anyway, we don't need to listen to them.
Ok, let's go for rock bottom, surely books about educating young children and people learning English would avoid using such a confusing term! Let's see, Happily Ever After: Sharing Folk Literature with Elementary and Middle School Students, as published by the International Reading Association, might give us a clue ..
Mythology often includes sacred or religious text and, as mentioned previously, is believed to be true by the teller. Thus, stories from the Judeo-Christian tradition, such as the Old Testament stories in Moses and several accounts of the Noah's Ark story contribute to this subgenre.
Many teachers find the small collections and picture book versions of myths more readable for their English-language learners and struggling readers than what is often encountered in literature anthologies.
What? Picture book versions of the Bible using the word mythology too? I refuse to believe it. Let's see, surely Oxford University Press when handed a book titled The Illustrated Guide to the Bible would refuse such terminology!
It is generally recognized today that myths and mythological concepts figure prominently in the Bible.
What an outrage. We should write to Oxford University Press and tell them their editors are hardly abiding by Swiss law by allowing this through!
Well it's obvious what must happen now. Wikipedia must rise above the rabble! We will invent our own terminology that sounds nice and pretty to a few editors on a talk page. Or, you know, we could describe Noah's Ark as the significant majority of the reliable sources do, as WP:NPOV instructs us to do. In fact, it's time we stopped going around in circles. Unless a more compelling reason is given against describing Noah's Ark as mythology, than that given for doing so, backed by policy and notable, reliable sources (your own (or 60% of Americans) personal feelings, phrase inventions and the truth do not count), I'll be making the change when the article is unlocked. Reversion without said reason will obviously constitute a violation of policy.
Also, please note that the above is but a sampling of sources across a very broad spectrum, but I thought breadth was better than depth in compiling the above selection. I have plenty more references if required, including less specific references about usage in higher education and the media. Since this section was titled synthesis, I've also focused on references that directly dealt with what people say about the general state of affairs as opposed to individual opinions, or the Noah's Ark story (in a few cases, both). Whatever policy citations and references you put forward to counter this will have to be exceptionally compelling. Ben (talk) 06:38, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
I repeat my earlier question: Why use a term (mythology) that has the potential to offend and that runs a risk of misinterpretation when there are alternative terms/phrases available? For the opening statement we should stick to undisputable facts. The 'mythological' nature of the story can be discussed in great depth later in the article, where it should be given the greatest weight as it is quite obviously the view of a majority of (secular) scholars. But to use it in the opening sentence risks giving extra weight to the POV that Noah's Ark is unhistorical. That is risking non-neutrality in the one place where neutrality should be most strictly observed.
On a seperate note: Before arriving at this discussion I had a fairly certain view of what a 'biblical literalist' (and its minimalist counterpart) is, based, at least in part, on a BBC programme I watched a few months back (unfortunately I cannot remember the details). I have followed the link above to see what the WP article says and I have to admit that it bears very little resemblance to what I had thought. That BBC programme stated quite clearly that there is a broad spectrum of opinion within both the literalist and minimalist camps as to the extent wo which the Bible retains historical accuracy. This spectrum is so broad, in fact, that the two 'sides' will often meet in the middle and even overlap. The way 'literalism' has been used in this article comes across as quite offensive and clearly intended to be a derogatory term.--FimusTauri (talk) 10:20, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
FT, as Ben so ably demonstrates, the identification of the Ark as myth is mainstream. To equivocate on this point would be to hide the truth. It's not our job to pander to those (a very small number) who refuse to accept this fact. PiCo (talk) 10:24, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
I am having great difficulty understanding what some people above are using the words 'myth' and 'mythical' to mean. PiCo, could you explain to me what you mean by, 'the identification of the Ark as myth is mainstream'? Ben perhaps you could tell me what you take the word 'mythical' to mean in the quote, '...conclusion that there is mythical material in both the Hebrew Bible...'? This is not a trick question or even an argument, I am just trying to find out what you mean by the word 'myth'. Martin Hogbin (talk) 10:35, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
You have utterly failed to see my point, PiCo. I do not dispute that the story of the ark is mythological (in the scholarly sense). I do not dispute that the majority of the mainstream scholars (at least the secular ones) view it as mythology (in the scholarly sense). That it is seen as mythology is not the dispute. (There is another point that there is an opposing POV, but that is not my main concern.) The point is that many, many people will see the word mythology and read 'false', because they do not understand the academic use of the word. That means that many, many people will be given the false impression that WP is claiming that the story is false. Whilst, in the strictest sense of the term, it is accurate to use the word, the fact that many people reading that word will get the wrong impression means that, for those people at least, the wording is not neutral.--FimusTauri (talk) 10:38, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
Martin, I use myth/mythological/mythology to mean traditional narrative carrying religious meaning, and frequently using typological images/plots (the plot of a goddess who descends into the underworld for a certain number of months each year and them emerges for example, or the image of the cosmic mountain, or the figure of the divine prankster - these are found in cultures all over the world). The ark/flood story is likewise world-wide, and the Noah story is simply one manifestation). Contrast this with wisdom literature, for example, which can be equally religious but has no narrative (no plot), or the undisputed histories of the books of Samuel and Kings (how accurate they are as history is certainly disputed, but no-one denies that they're written in the form of narrative history).
FimusTauri, I understand your point, since you express it quite clearly, but I don't accept it - we shouldn't go out of our way deliberately to give offense, but there's no reason to tie ourselves in knots avoiding it, either. PiCo (talk) 11:04, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
Pico, thanks for that. So when you say, 'the identification of the Ark as myth...' do you mean that it is not to be taken as a substantially historically accurate account of an actual physical event? Martin Hogbin (talk) 11:23, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
There are alternative wordings available, so we don't need to tie ourselves in knots, and we can easily avoid giving offense at the same time. Can I refer you to the discussion at User talk:Stevenwmccrary58/ReligiousNPOV--FimusTauri (talk) 11:38, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I am taking part in the discussion you refer to but I genuinely do not understand what the supporters of the word 'mythology' mean by it. Although you and I think it is a bad word to use, it is hard to argue against its use unless we know exactly what those who want to use it mean by the word. I am just trying to find that out. Martin Hogbin (talk) 12:29, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
I wonder if this might help you, Martin. If you look here you will see that Roget's Thesaurus defines myth as 'fictitious story, often ancient'. Most revealingly, the antonyms are ' fact, non-fiction, truth '. I wonder if Roget is sufficiently authoritative?--FimusTauri (talk) 14:56, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
I agree that the word 'myth' can be used to mean 'fictitious' but I interested to know what PiCo and Ben take the word to mean. Martin Hogbin (talk) 16:45, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
Please see my entry in this discussion above under "Will the use of 'mythology' in the opening sentence give a significant number of readers that impression?" The point is not what certain scholars think "mythology" means, but what will most people think it means. Most people will look to dictionaries and two of the most authoritative dictionaries say that "mythology" is antonymical to "factual" and "historical".RDavS (talk) 18:50, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

For the past couple days, I've been reviewing the entire article history, edit by edit, since it was first created as a stub in 2002. It's time-consuming, but interesting. This current dispute can be seen starting on last Aug 7, with Nathan Lee breaking with previous editorial consensus of the actual contributors / main authors of the article, by adding terms like "Christian mythology" etc. to the lede sentence. (Additionally, his sometimes singling out the term as "Christian mythology" or "Creation mythology" at first suggests perhaps he hadn't even read the body carefully yet). This edit summary shows the apparent intent or rationale that was offered for this at first. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 19:04, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

NathanLee seems to have lost interest. Like TE, I also got the impression he hadn't bothered to read the article, and that he had an axe to grind. The consensus pre-Nathan was that the lead began by identifying where the ark story was to be found - in Genesis. I was quite happy with that, and so were all other editors, but there seems to be a new body of editors now and I guess the nature of Wiki is that nothing lasts. RDavS says we should use the dictionary definition of "myth" With respect, I think we should not. If readers are under the impression that "myth" means fiction, then they need to have that misunderstanding corrected. The Simpsons is fiction; Noah's Ark is not. More specifically, the genre of The Simpsons is satire; the genre of the Ark story is myth. If readers don't understand the concept of genre, then it won't hurt them to learn. In fact it will help them. Encyclopedias should educate, not pander to ignorance. You can't read the bible and understand it without a knowledge of genre. Here's what Gordon Wenham says on that (and anyone who doesn't already know who Wenham is, probably shouldn't be editing this article): ""Genre...gives us a clue to the author's understanding of his work and how he hoped his readers would understand it." Misunderstanding of genre, or ignorance of its existence, can lead to such silliness as earnest discussion of where exactly the Good Samaritan met the traveler - mistaking parable for history. Jacobsen, who is an authority on these matters, characterises the Primal History as mytho-history - a blend of myth and history, or myth told in the form of history. (Jacobsen was writing in 1981, so can be regarded as a contemporary opinion). For Martin Hogbin and others, I hope this helps explain what I mean when I use the word "myth" - but please, it's not my personal definition, nor is it only used by "some" scholars - its use by biblical scholars in this sense is universal, and is never taken as a synonym for "fiction". We owe it to our readers to tell them this. PiCo (talk) 22:39, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for that PiCo but it still does not explain to me what you mean by 'myth'. Martin Hogbin (talk) 23:20, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
I do not agree that a neutral sense of "mythology" is universal among Bible scholars -- unless one is required to exlude all Bible believing people from the classification. Even though the word does not say that everything about the story or its history is contrary to fact, it does include the understanding that something about its content is fictional, unhistorical, or contrary to fact. That is the point repeatedly made by TE. It is a POV that asserts that something about the Genesis account is contrary to fact. That is the meaning of the word. The POV that accepts the content of the Genesis account as factual history is not a minor or fringe POV, but one held by thousands of people of a variety of faiths. For them, having Wikipedia classify the account as mythical is offensive.RDavS (talk) 00:13, 6 January 2009 (UTC)
For Martin Hogbin: When I say "myth" I mean a narrative (a story - one with a plot - whether told in poetry or prose) which deals with the gods (or God), frequently but not always interacting with men (many Greek and other myths don't involve humans), the central theme of which is theological (it explains the world in terms of supernatural agency (note that this excludes ghost stories, which do not seek to explain the world). The stories might be about the origin of the world (Enuma Elish), or about moral problems such as the existence of suffering (Pandora's Box), or a whole host of other themes. Stories along the lines of Aesop's fables are not myths - there's no gods, and seek to teach moral lessons, not to explain the source of morality. Jesus's parables are not myths - like fables, they seek to teach moral truths, but unlike fables they don't use animals as their protagonists. So there you have 3 genres already - myth, fable, parable - and there are more. This is why it's simplistic and misleading to speak simply of "fiction" - it's far too narrow.
For RDavS - with respect, the use of the word "mythology" in the sense I've described is indeed universal among bible scholars. As I've tried to explain, it is not a synonym for "fiction". It's a precise tool for describing one specific type of narrative, distinguishing it from parable, epic, and others. You speak of "history," but history is yet another genre - the Book of Kings is history, in this technical sense, because it deals with the world without reference to the supernatural (or not much - but in fact Yahweh makes very few personal appearances in Kings), is a narrative (i.e., has a plot), and deals with events within a chronology. The first 11 chapters of Genesis also have a chronology of course, hence Jacobsen's suggestion that this is really mytho-history, a blend of the two genres. You say that thousands of people hold Genesis 1-11 to be history. So they do - I'd put the number at hundreds of millions - but they don't use the word "history" in the same that scholars do, nor do scholars regard Genesis 1-11 as history. You speak of fact, and this is really the nub of the issue: scholars see Genesis 1-11 as dealing with a set of facts which are not those of history. These chapters deal with Man's relationship with God, with His creation of a perfect world, man's disobedience, and God's decision to destroy His creation through the Flood. This is not fiction, but it's not fact, either. This is what we need to explain to readers. PiCo (talk) 01:25, 6 January 2009 (UTC)
This insistence on explaining to readers of Wikipedia that "This is not fiction, but it's not fact, either," is just as dogmatic as that of any extreme fundamentalist. The assertion, "it's not fact, either," is a POV. It may be a majority POV; it may be a scholarly POV; but it remains a POV, and it's not neutral.RDavS (talk) 01:55, 6 January 2009 (UTC)
I think he means we can't say it's a proven fact, which is correct. We have to leave it up to the reader. But the idea that we have to "enlighten" millions of readers that their beliefs are "wrong", because some scholars decided so, seems to be breaking what I call the "Prime Directive" - strictly report on what people believe, not play a role in trying to influence it. Especially when dictionaries and thesauruses even back them up that "false" is indeed one of the correct meanings for "myth". Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 02:05, 6 January 2009 (UTC)
Yes, Wikipedia has to represent all major points of view. A reading of the Ark story as history is certainly a widely held view, and I'm not suggesting we don't represent it. But I think readers to need to be aware (or be made aware) that that's what it is - a reading, a point of view. I know TE is very well aware of that, but I think a lot of people aren't and have a preconception that it's history. It's important that we alert them to the scholars' use of the word "myth", and their interpretations of the story. The third and vulgar (in the strict sense) reading of the story - that it's fiction and nonsense - I regard as beneath contempt, yet still the people who hold it need to have their preconceptions shaken. Incidentally, on another subject: someone said above that he thinks the label "literalism" is pejorative. I don't at all. I respect literalists, their position is well thought out and intellectually sound. And they don't simply say "The Bible says so!" end of story. PiCo (talk) 02:16, 6 January 2009 (UTC)
It's clear you don't believe the term 'Biblical literalism' is pejorative (that was the term under question by the way, not 'literalism'), because you went over to the Biblical literalism article in Wikipedia and not only removed any mention of its pejorative use, but also all the references which the article cited demonstrating its common pejorative use. In other words, you edited the article to reflect your personal POV instead of reality. The reality is that the term Biblical literalism is commonly used in a pejorative way. --Taiwan boi (talk) 07:04, 6 January 2009 (UTC)
(The preceding, slightly off-topic, commentary is brought to you by Taiwan boi, who is really, really upset about called a literalist, because he really, really isn't, even though he really, really believes that Noah's Ark is really, really true.)
PiCo, please see WP:CIVIL. My comment was on topic. Yours was yet another snide personal attack. I was not really, really upset about called a literalist'. You didn't even call me a 'literalist'. You are again attempting to avoid the real subject and hide behind personal attacks. I have not brought my personal views on this subject into the discussion, as they are completely irrelevant. The issue is that you deliberately edited a Wikipedia article so that it reflected your personal POV, and you did so in order to try and strengthen your case in an edit war. --Taiwan boi (talk) 06:03, 7 January 2009 (UTC)
Thank you, TE (talk). Point well taken. I have no objection to explaining in the body of the article that most (or according to some: all) scholars consider the Genesis account of the deluge to be mythical. But as I understand the discussion, the argument is on whether to assert that POV as a given in the opening sentence. To present the POV in the body is to be expected -- as well as the opposing POV, if some editor wishes to enter it. That's educational and enlightening.RDavS (talk) 02:40, 6 January 2009 (UTC)
Thank you PiCo for that detailed explanation. When you use the word 'myth' does that mean that the story is historically accurate, not historically accurate, or it could be either? Martin Hogbin (talk) 09:27, 6 January 2009 (UTC)
As the terms are used by biblical scholars, "history" is one genre, "myth" is another. The scholars discuss (meaning they try to decide) what the original authors and audiences would have understood by the story - finding the correct genre is an aid to that end. They generally agree that the pre-Christian, original audience, would have believed the story to be true - that they would have thought of the Ark as a real ship, and the flood as a real event. But the factual reality of the story would only have been the starting point - compare, say, Shakespeare's Hamlet, which 17th century London audiences might also have thought to be real Danish history. Those audiences would not, however, have gone to the Globe Theatre in search of a history lesson. Similarly, the 5th century Jews would have taken the reality of the Flood and Ark as a given, and read it (or heard it? - this question is much discussed) for other meanings. They would have noted, no doubt, that the Flood recapitulates the Creation - it's God's destruction of his world, followed by it's re-creation. That makes Noah a new Adam, the First Father of the human race. They would have noted that God makes a Covenant after the flood - this, for them, would have been the culmination of the story. And they would have seen the connection between the death of all pre-Noahide mankind, and the new beginning from Noah's three sons, one of them the ancestor of the Jews, another the ancestor of the Persians, the third the ancestor of the Canaanites - and the subordination of the Canaan-sons to the sons of the other two. All of this gets lost in our own reading of the Ark story, which centres instead on the Resurrection - an option not available in the 5th century BC. PiCo (talk) 10:44, 6 January 2009 (UTC)
Once again, thank you for your patience PiCo, I think I have pretty well got it now. It seems that 'myth' is a term used by certain scholars to describe a genre in a way that make some things clear but not others, for example a myth is traditional but may or may not be historical. I can see the benefit of the term in some circumstances, as it allows certain issues to be discussed without involving others that may not be considered relevant or helpful to the discussion. I can also see the benefit of using the term in this article, but...(I guess you knew this was coming) I do not regard myself as uneducated or stupid but it has taken me several days of persistent questioning to get to the bottom of the meaning of the word as used by yourself and certain scholars. I therefore put it to you that we should not use this word in the opening sentence of this article. As in Vassyana's suggestion, I am happy to include 'myth' or 'mythology' in the lead section where there is a little more time to put it into context. I also put forward a pragmatic reason for doing this. If we push mythology in readers' faces it is likely to be continually changed, requiring constant maintenance and edit warring on this page. It would be nice to at least get some agreement on the lead section. It may not be 100% to everyone's taste and you may have to give just a little. Martin Hogbin (talk) 11:03, 7 January 2009 (UTC)
Martin, my apologies for not replying earlier, but I only just noticed your post in the mass of posts here. Personally, I'd be happy to have no adjective at all qualifying "vessel" - just "Noah's ark is the vessel in which Noah saved the animals from the flood", or such. Note the use of "is" instead of "was" - it identifies the subject as being the story of the Ark, not the Ark itself. But I know full well that this idea won't fly. PiCo (talk) 22:40, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
I will add your suggestion to my list of opening senetences on Vassyana's suggestion page. If editors are willing to consider wordings that are not their first choice, we might make some progress. Martin Hogbin (talk) 09:30, 9 January 2009 (UTC)
The above is, of course, only one interpretation of how the story came to be, but only one of several that are current among sources (That's why there is a controversy) We also can't exclusively "push" a minimalist idea that it was purely a fable Jews invented around their campfires, because though that is one POV, there is still *considerable* opinion, even among published scholars, that it is at least rooted in some real event, even perhaps one of far lesser magnitude. And in fact, the farther back in historiography one goes, the more one will find sources take it seriously and with the utmost solemnity, as something to be commemorated by man for all time -- not the other way around, as if it was only intended as an allegorical campfire story. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 12:41, 6 January 2009 (UTC)
PiCo, are you saying that a myth would not normally be expected to be historically accurate?
Not really, but only because the approach of myth isn't the same as the approach of history. They both have meaning - no historian is interested simply in setting down what happened, he's always got some theme, and myth also always has a theme. They're two different ways of getting that theme across, one based in things that everyone knows to have happened and can check up on, the other based in traditional stories and symbols. PiCo (talk) 21:26, 6 January 2009 (UTC)
From what I learned in Comparative Religion Class many years ago, a distinct "genre" is recognized, of contemporary sacred texts or (documents of rule) of all the major living religions or worldviews. Though all the different worldviews may mutually refer to one another as "mythology", we were supposed to be neutral and avoid the term. (Particularly as, being a large Canadian University, there were practitioners of all these faiths in the class!) Even the Dewey Decimal, Library systems do not recognise "religion" as a subgenre of "mythology", but the other way around. "Myth" and "History" aren't the only two genres here. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 21:49, 6 January 2009 (UTC)
I wasn't meaning to suggest that only two genres exist, that would be silly. PiCo (talk) 01:00, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

OK, but this has got me to thinking, this is a classic clash between different worldviews. Let's say that Nathan and Ben subscribe personally to a minimalist worldview, and for the sake of argument, that I am a reader who subscribes to one of the other world-views. Nathan and Ben say "We have determined that YOUR worldview, that you believe in, is 'mythology'." I respond "You mean, 'according to your worldview', it is 'mythology', since we follow competing worldviews." They reply with "No, your world view IS mythology, because only OUR worldview is accurate or legitimate, and all the others are called 'mythology'. Therefore, we are being neutral." Note that:

  • They haven't succeeded in convincing me of anything at all, they've only succeeded in pissing me off, with what appears like name-calling
  • I am very unlikely to want to hear anything else they would have to say after that kind of start; I would rather change the channel, if possible.
  • There are many amazing and informative facts that I could learn from the article below, that might shape my view of the story. However, if I read in the very first sentence that the "Council of Vicipaedia" has declared my world-view to be a heresy or a myth, I'm more liable just to stop reading right there, and not read any further.

So if you really want to reach your audience with the actual facts, and not antagonize them in the very first breath, then please think about this. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 12:56, 7 January 2009 (UTC)


Let me engage in a little 'thought experiment' here. Let us assume that Ben is acting in good faith; that he sincerely believes that 'mythology' is the correct, neutral word to describe the story of Noah's Ark. Let us, for the moment, put aside other considerations such as alternative POVs and concentrate on what Ben proposes:

His original proposal reads "In Judeo-Christian and Islamic mythology, Noah's Ark was a large vessel ..."

What does this actually say? Well, the texts concerned are found in the Bible and the Quran, so if we apply simple logic

In Judeo-Christian and Islamic mythology, Noah's Ark was a large vessel ...

becomes

In the Bible and the Quran, Noah's Ark was a large vessel ...

therefore

the Bible and the Quran both = mythology

Somehow, I cannot believe, assuming good faith, that this is what Ben meant. The only way around this is something like

In a mythological story found in the Bible and in the Quran, Noah's Ark was a large vessel...

which is very wordy and unwieldy.--FimusTauri (talk) 15:09, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

Not to mention, it's still a disputed POV assessment, as I have done my utmost to demonstrate. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 15:35, 7 January 2009 (UTC)
Could you just clarify one thing for me, Til: If (and its a HUGE 'if') the only definition of 'mythology' were the 'academic' one that Ben and others are insisting on, would you have any objection to its use in this context? In other words, is the basis of your objection the fact the alternative definitions are most clearly offensive to other POVs. (I am happy to supply my own view: which is that I would have no problem with the word if the academic definition were the only one - and the word was used correctly (see above).)--FimusTauri (talk) 16:06, 7 January 2009 (UTC)
From my understanding of the major dictionaries and thesauruses, etc., that is just a hypothetical question that I don't know how or why to answer. The more common, everyday definition may be "beneath contempt" for a very few academics and other people, but surely that's subjective; it's still obviously a valid English definition - since its first appearance, from the original Greek meaning of muthos 'something spread by word of mouth, a rumour, hearsay', through its use in the Greek New Testament to mean 'fable'. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 16:51, 7 January 2009 (UTC)


Just to explain: I am trying to narrow down the argument in an effort to find where there is consensus and where, therefore, we need to find compromise. So, in fairness, I should ask Ben, or anyone else who supports the inclusion of the word 'mythology', this question:
Do you accept that there is a significant number of people in the world who believe that the essence of the story is true (not necessarily literally so)? In other words, do you object to the existance of an opposing POV because you do not believe that such people exist?--FimusTauri (talk) 16:46, 7 January 2009 (UTC)
Yes to the first question. And I don't oppose any notable POV being presented in this article, provided due weight is given, so I can't really answer your second question. Ben (talk) 09:25, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
In order to try to get a consensus on just the opening sentence, I have list suggestions on Vassyana's suggestion page. All are welcome to comment add comments and suggestions and choose their top 3 in order of preference. That way we may get an opening sentence that is at least acceptable to everyone. Martin Hogbin (talk) 09:32, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
Trying to reduce over a month (in my case, 3 years in Til's) of discussion to a simple vote is not the way to go about this, imo. In fact, no matter how many people 'voted' for your number 7, it would not be put in place, which demonstrates this is hardly a numbers game. Cheers, Ben (talk) 09:42, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
On the contrary it is a way to reach some kind of compromise or consensus. Despite all the discussion, no one has changed their opinion, everyone is sticking firmly to their preferred choice. What I am hoping is that, if editors would be prepared to accept their second or third choice of opening sentence, we might be able to make some progress. Those that will not even give this idea try merely show their intransigence. Martin Hogbin (talk) 21:45, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
I'm willing to consider any number of phrasings of the introductory sentence, but I'm not willing to hide its well established classification because some editors don't like it. I'm not going to take part in a poll because I don't think this issue should be reduced to one. As I said at the beginning of this section, I think the arguments should be weighed up in terms of policy, and a final decision based on that. Ben (talk) 23:25, 8 January 2009 (UTC)
It is obvious, not the least from your own comments above, that we are never going to reach an agreement on the opening sentence by just discussing it. You absolutely insist on the use of one particular word, others completely refuse to consider it; that is never going to change. Only by considering our second choices can any progress be made. Martin Hogbin (talk) 09:22, 9 January 2009 (UTC)
When it comes to describing Noah's Ark as a myth, there are only two choices: Yes, or no. Once this has been decided, there are many phrasings we could work on. I very carefully tried to separate these issues above, but after that, it was clear that the 'myth question' was not going to be properly addressed in the ridiculously biased 'poll' you created. Now it seems you've again taken the lead in creating another biased and poorly framed 'poll' (your option 7 with commentary is amusing), utterly failing to distinguish the two issues by talking about second choices, avoided mention of any policy or guidelines or how other sources treat the subject, and you accuse me of intransigence? I think you need to step back and consider how you're looking at this problem before throwing that accusation around. Perhaps your efforts to try and mediate are to be commended, but they're falling way short at the moment. My opening reply to this thread still stands. Cheers, Ben (talk) 11:29, 9 January 2009 (UTC)
In this respect, I have to concur with Ben, at least insofar as a poll is a bad idea. see WP:NOTDEMOCRACY--FimusTauri (talk) 11:49, 9 January 2009 (UTC)
My poll is an attempt to reach a consensus. We have had discussions about policies, the meaning of words, and how reliable sources treat the subject but nobody has changed their mind one bit. We will never reach a consensus unless people are prepared to move. Martin Hogbin (talk) 19:15, 9 January 2009 (UTC)
I would add to that the insisting that the word myth (or mythology) must be used in the opening sentence does represent an extreme view that could be ignored by the majority. Martin Hogbin (talk) 10:36, 10 January 2009 (UTC)

So far, most of my arguments against the word ‘mythology’ have been issues of semantics and nuance, but I am also trying to understand the issue of POV, which seems to have been the main centre of the argument in the past and clearly remains the bone of contention between Til and Ben (and others, but these seem to be the main protagonists at the moment. Every time I use ‘Ben’ or ‘Til’, below, plesae assume I also mean ‘and others who share their opinion’). Please correct me if I have got any of this wrong, but my understanding of the argument (in simple terms) is this:

  • Ben believes that ‘myth/mythology’ is the word used by the majority of academics to describe the story of Noah’s Ark. This word does not convey (in its academic use) any implication as to the veracity of the story.
  • Til argues that there is a significant number (millions) who hold the belief that the story is not myth and that to use the word in this context is denying their point of view and may well be offensive to them.

It seems to me that, if the academic meaning were the only meaning, then almost no-one would be offended by its use. Also, Ben acknowledges the existance of a wide-spread POV that the story is, in essence, true. Therefore, it seems to me, that the crucial points of the discussion are these:

  • The meaning of the word. Because it is used in mainstream literature in this context, Ben believes it is correct to use it here. On the other hand, Til believes that, because so many people would read it to mean ‘falsehood’, it should be read as point-of-view and thus is not neutral.
  • Who holds the story true. Because there is such a large number who hold the story to be true (to whatever extent), Til believes their point of view to be significant. Ben would argue, on the other hand, that there are virtually no academics who are arguing this point of view, resulting in a dearth of required citations. This leads to the third point:
  • The ‘value’ of opinions. Whilst there are many, many people (many of them ‘scholarly’) who hold to the truth of the Ark story, Ben has reason to question the validity of all those presented so far.

This is what it seems Ben and Til are saying. This is a fairly simplistic view (I am not trying to re-hash all of the arguments), but seems to cover the most salient aspects of the debate. I present this because I (and I assume others) wish to properly understand the POV debate in this issue. I also feel that, by narrowing the debate down to specific points we can focus the argument.--FimusTauri (talk) 11:11, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

Given the lack of voices stating otherwise, I shall assume the above to be an accurate reflection of the debate about POV with regard to use of the word 'mythology'.
This being the case, it would seem that
If it can be demonstrated that a significant number of people would read 'myth/mythology' as 'false'
or
A significant number of academics can be cited that hold the view that the story is essentially true and those academics can be shown to be 'valid' references
then Ben should back down from his insistance on the use of the word.
Similarly,
If it can be shown that no significant numbers exist who would read the word as false
and
It can be shown that there are no significant numbers of academics who hold the story to be true or any academics who do hold such an opinion can be shown to not be valid sources
then Til should withdraw his objection to the word.
I should stress that this refers only to the debate about POV. I firmly believe that there are issues of semantics and nuance that would make it a bad idea to include the word.--FimusTauri (talk) 09:22, 9 January 2009 (UTC)
Please see what I wrote about using the word truth above (a search for the word 'wolf' should find it). Also, finding out how many people would think the word myth means false, one way or the other, in a formal context like an encyclopaedia is almost certainly going to be impossible. At best, we can consider if other sources use the same terminology, so perhaps you can rephrase your first and third points? Ben (talk) 11:36, 9 January 2009 (UTC)
Can I stress that I am trying to simplify the debate. I understand that it may not be possible to verify any of the statements above. However, that impossibility (should such be the case) would serve to prove that this debate cannot be resolved. I would hope that some means of proving one or more of the possibilities can be found. Can you, Ben (and Til), at least affirm that the above is an accurate summary of the situation, without prejudice as to the 'proveability' of any of the statements and also without implication that such an affirmation is a 'promise' to abide by any 'proof' of those statements (that may sound like 'legalise', but I am trying to find a neutral approach to this issue without 'pushing anyone into a corner'). If you can both do that, then everyone will know which specific issues to concentrate on. --FimusTauri (talk) 11:57, 9 January 2009 (UTC)
I'm all for simplifying the problem and I've been trying to do this for some time now. Of course, in doing so we should be careful to stay on target. What I wrote about the word truth above is important (and helpful), so did you read it? Cheers, Ben (talk) 12:07, 9 January 2009 (UTC)

Arbitrary section break

OK. Trying to take on board what you are saying, Ben, does this read better:

If it can be demonstrated that a significant number of people reading 'myth/mythology' would take it to imply 'falsehood'
or
A significant number of academics can be cited that hold the view that the story is not mythology and those academics can be shown to be 'valid' references

then Ben should back down from his insistance on the use of the word. Similarly,

If it can be shown that no significant numbers exist who would read the word as implying falsehood
and
It can be shown that there are no significant numbers of academics who hold that the story is not mythology or any academics who do hold such an opinion can be shown to not be valid sources
then Til should withdraw his objection to the word.

Can you and Til at least agree that this is the essence of the argument?--FimusTauri (talk) 12:56, 9 January 2009 (UTC)

Can we mention context please? The definition, and our argument, depends on it. For instance, if someone talks about an urban myth, you know they mean an invented story. So if we have something like
If it can be demonstrated that a significant number of people reading 'myth/mythology', in the context of a sacred story, would take it to imply 'falsehood' ...
and similarly for your second version, I think we would be getting close. Cheers, Ben (talk) 13:15, 9 January 2009 (UTC)
Now...
This in some ways may be where the heart of the problem lies. Would someone, upon seeing the opening sentence, automatically assume that the context is a sacred story? Surely this goes back to your original reasons for changing the opening sentence: clarity. We cannot assume that the reader would automatically know that the word 'mythology' in this context is being used to describe a sacred story. Therefore, it seems to me that we must retain a broader definition of context when examining what the reader will assume is the implication behind the word 'mythology'. --86.150.229.66 (talk) 13:23, 9 January 2009 (UTC)
Is my PC having a fit? I signed that last comment in the usual way, but its showing as an anonymous IP. FimusTauri - in case this one gets screwed as well.--86.150.229.66 (talk) 13:25, 9 January 2009 (UTC)
It's a story involving God. How is it not totally obvious it is a sacred story? Ben (talk) 00:21, 10 January 2009 (UTC)