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This question relates to the Skeptics question Tensile strength of bone & the bible Which has been closed. The stated reasoning for closing it is that it is outside the purview of science. Allegedly "No amount of "scientific discussion"could answer "How strong is a bone wielded by a man infused with the spirit of God?" Is that really so?

Why could it not? From my reading of the scripture it appears as if the man had the supernatural influence, not the bone. All you have to do is assume the bone is as strong as any other bone and see what you come up with. I don't even think the apparent supernatural is out of the purview of science, isn't that what science is about? Finding and developing knowledge to explain observations of the real world. To a skeptic, is anything really supernatural? Is the supernatural a taboo subject for skepticism?

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I put the question on hold as off topic.

Firstly, the question has an obvious strawman fallacy: the onus is on you to convince us that there are a significant number of people believing that exactly 1000 men were literally killed with a single jaw bone by a single individual. Even Bible literalists pick their fights on more significant matters than this.

Secondly, any experiment we could do today would tell us nothing about the specific example: we could for example prove that bones break on average after 100 kills and not 1000, but this wouldn't exclude that a particular case could be exceptionally different.

Finally, I don't understand your "quote" which has a link pointing to a completely unrelated question.

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    you didn't close it as off topic, but as not notable. I provided notability. I didn't realize that I was 'picking a battle' by attempting to answer Eastwood's question. Your discussion seems to suggest that nobody believes a word of what is written in the bible. If I need to I can provide a referance for that. I thought that I had stumbled onto a board for discussion of scientific skepticism, not a place where anti-theists use their administrative power to stamp out any discussions they don't like. – Mauser Mar 27 '14 at 17:45
  • The link to a completely unrelated question is referring to a comment I put on that question. – Oddthinking Mar 27 '14 at 21:54
  • @Mauser: Yes, you provided a reference, which I noted in the comments. I explained why I didn't open and then reclose it. Your allegation of anti-theism is rather confused, in that we declined to allow an anti-theistic strawman to be answered. So, I think you should accuse us of being theists, if you are going to accuse us of bias. – Oddthinking Mar 27 '14 at 21:58
  • @mauser you are inferring things I never said. Please bring the the tone back to a reasonable level. – Sklivvz Mar 28 '14 at 0:03
  • I suppose that you are right. I am sorry for causing any offense. If you so desire I think I can delete the above comment by clicking on the x next to it. – Mauser Mar 28 '14 at 3:33
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This meta-question throws around a lot of sub-questions (which explains why different mods have tackled different parts in the answers.)

Is the supernatural a taboo subject for skepticism?

Taboo, in the sense that we are embarrassed to discuss it in polite company? No.

Taboo, in that some aspects of it are off-topic for the site: Yes, but only some aspects.

The Help Center explains that we are about applying scientific skepticism. Science is about explaining the natural world. So, if an answer relies on supernatural claims, it is outside of science, outside of scientific skepticism, and off-topic for the site. No supernatural in the answers please.

In the questions, we do tackle supernatural claims - and look for natural explanations. (This leads to skeptics being attacked by supernaturalists for being close-minded, in that we don't look for supernatural explanations; nothing is "really supernatural". In the defence of science, when there is good evidence for a phenomena outside its definition of natural, it attempts to extend its theories to include it.)

In such cases, we stumble a little when asked broad questions, like Do ghosts exist?, but excel when asked specific questions like Is this a ghost?. Both of these questions demonstrate, the supernatural is not a taboo topic here.


From my reading of the scripture it appears as if the man had the supernatural influence, not the bone. All you have to do is assume the bone is as strong as any other bone and see what you come up with.

I don't believe that is a fair reading, or a fair assumption, which brings us into a nest of problems about where this question is leading.

The original question read to me as an attempt to prove that this biblical passage was untrue. If that was the intent, it was misguided. Both the believers and the disbelievers agree that such a feat is beyond what is naturally possible. (Where they differ, is some say this is evidence that God was involved, and others say this is evidence it never happened.) Showing it is not naturally possible does not disrupt the original claim; hence my point that it is a strawman.

From here, there are a number of directions to take it further:

  • "Settle an argument between OddThinking and me: When the spirit of the Lord infested Samson, could it have affected the strength of the jawbone?" - Off-topic on Skeptics, because no natural answer can address it. Probably on-topic: Christianity.SE, Judaism.SE, Hermeneutics.SE, Scifi.SE.

  • "Suppose the jawbone is supernaturally affected. How strong is it?" Off-topic on Skeptics, because no natural answer can address it. Unlikely to be on-topic in Christianity.SE/Judaism.SE except perhaps to address the theological question of whether it is infinitely strong.

  • "Suppose the jawbone is not supernaturally affected. How strong is it?" Off-topic in Skeptics (not notable). Maybe Physics, but I think they would prefer to talk about the stuff that is published in journals.

  • "Does the Bible originally say Samson killed 1000 people with a single jaw-bone?" - Probably On-Topic on Skeptics. Hermeneutics.SE would be a much better community to give an answer.

  • "Historically, did Samson kill 1000 people with a jawbone?" On-topic on Skeptics, but History.SE would be a better community to give an answer.

  • "Both the believers and the disbelievers agree that such a feat is beyond what is naturally possible." -- Really. I am a believer in scripture, but have no point of reference for how many people a jawbone could kill, having never killed a man. Do you think it at all possible that an common jawbone could cause fatal injuries to a thousand people before failure. I think the answers to such a question could be framed in such a way as to avoid the strawman of trying to prove or disprove a given verse of scripture. – Mauser Mar 28 '14 at 3:43
  • @Mauser: Sorry, perhaps that was poorly worded. Should it be shown that it is impossible that a jawbone could be used to kill 1,000 without supernatural intervention, I think it is reasonable to assume that it will not change your belief in the relevant scriptures, just as dozens of other events described in the Bible are not possible without supernatural intervention haven't stopped other believers. If the purpose of the question is NOT to support or disprove the given claim, then it isn't on-topic. – Oddthinking Mar 28 '14 at 6:01
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By definition, science deals with the natural. You cannot scientifically study “supernatural”.

To a skeptic, is anything really supernatural?

No, of course not. But as a consequence a true sceptic rejects the supernatural. If you reject the existence of a heavenly infused bone, the question of its tensile strength becomes moot, and if you refuse to reject the divine influence you cannot aproach the question scientifically.

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    ahh but you can. The question was weather a jawbone could sustain those forces. I believe that I can answer that without going into any supernatural. Does a skeptic really reject the supernatural, or try to explain apparently supernatural occurrences using what he knows about science. – Mauser Mar 27 '14 at 17:49
  • @Mauser Depends on the skeptic and what exactly you are talking about, as the saying goes "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." – rjzii Apr 2 '14 at 4:32

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