[Sca-cooks] Questions on coffee

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Sat Jan 30 16:42:51 PST 2010

> Urtatim posted:
>> Stefan forwarded some wild fantasies about coffee from another list.
>> First, many scholars today are leaning toward what is now
>> Ethiopia, formerly known as Abyssinia, as the place from
>> which coffee originated, although the Yemen has also been
>> under consideration.
>> That whole dancing goats and their goat boy herder story is
>> complete fantasy, although all over the web.
> Hmmm... Alright, had to jump in here.  It's legand, that's not the same 
> thing
> as fantasy.  Many stories which are legand have some root in reality.  How
> much the legand coincides with the data varies greatly.  Let's remember 
> that
> the existance of city of Troy was legand until the archeological 
> discoveries
> of the late 19th, early 20th century.  And that's not unusual.

The first known appearance of the tale of Kaldi is in De Saluberrima potione 
Cahue nuncupata Discurscus (1671) and, to my knowledge, does not have an 
Islamic source.  This suggests that the tale is a fabrication, a fantasy, of 
the author, Antoine Faustus Nairon.  The story is definitely considered 

Troy is a slightly different case.  It is the key location in the Illiad, a 
work of fiction, that may or may not be a fictionalized account of a Bronze 
Age War.  It is also the opening locale of the Aeneid.  Troy as presented in 
these works is a fiction, but a fiction that may be based on an real place. 
Heinrich Schliemann used the descriptions of the Illiad to roughly locate 
the general area where Troy should have stood, the followed standard 
archeological practice to locate a site to dig, Hissarlik.  While it is 
generally accepted that this is the site of Troy (there is disagreement), 
there are multiple cities layered on the site.  Schliemann's excavation was 
of a later city than the Troy of Homer, so did he actually find Troy?

> The fact that the argument for something is not true does not mean that 
> the
> thing itself is not true. That's a fallacist's fallacy. The fact that
> something has not been proven does not mean that it's not true. That's 
> also
> faulty logic.  Just as faulty as assuming causality when you see causation 
> or
> assuming it's true because a lot of people say it's true.

The problem with the story of Kaldi is that the observations and the 
conclusions are inseperable, the argument is the thing and its source is 
questionable making the observations (goats eating coffe berries and 
dancing) unreliable.  Since the coffee addicts I know don't react like Kaldi 
is alleged to have reacted to the coffee berries, I have further reason to 
doubt the veracity of the observations.  Now we could observe goats eating 
coffee berries and if they went "dancing" around, then the story might be 
possible.  On the other hand, if nothing occurred, we can't definitively say 
the story is impossible, only that it is improbable.  My opinion is the 
story is bogus.  Maybe we can get Mythbusters to test it.

> One thing that I see a lot of in the SCA is a presump tion that if one 
> cannot
> prove it, it cannot be so... And at the same time, we fall in the trap of
> "Appeal to authority" fallacies all the time by assuming that if someone 
> we
> take as an authority says it's so, then it is so. When I first joined the 
> SCA,
> my mother, who is sometimes ignorant (in the sense of less educated than
> others) but also often wise, pointed out, when I was expounding on 
> something
> "historical" I had learned in the SCA, that I couldn't know, because I 
> wasn't
> *there*.  As I have advanced in my study of logic and epistimology, I've
> learned just how right she was.  More right than she actually knew, 
> because my
> being "there" would not necessarily have helped either ;-)  We can 
> conclude,
> and we want to make sure that the data, our sources, on which we base our
> conclusions, are as sound as possible, but absolute statements are 
> generally
> false by their very nature.
> My point is simply this.  It's all well and good to research what was 
> written
> by period contemporaries, while remembering that not everything was 
> recorded,
> and not everyone recorded accurately (nor without bias), and to come up 
> with
> our own theories of how it must have been.  But we lose perspective, and 
> close
> off avenues of learning and research when we decide that if we can't find 
> it
> or support it, then it's not possible.  There's a big leap between "we 
> don't
> know" and "it can't be."  The first is a quite rational, and academically
> sound position.  The later closes the door to discovery.

The other side of the coin is losing perspective and closing off avenues of 
research by producing theories that do not take into account all facts in 
evidence or creating theories without enough research to make a 
circumstantial case for their validity.

> Anyway, sorry for going off on my own little rant... It triggered one of 
> my
> own "pet peeves."   And while I also tend to expect that the legend of the
> goat herder boy is most likely just a nifty story... Without knowing that 
> it
> was intentionally authored (i.e., fictional), I have to leave it firmly in 
> the
> "legend" column :-)
> The rest of Urtatim's post shared some great resources, so let's say 
> thanks!
> But let's keep an open mind that what we can't prove, and what we don't 
> know,
> is just that... What we can't prove, and what we don't know. And the rest 
> is
> just what we *think* we know, until someone shows us the error of our ways 
> ;-)
> In service,
> Celia

I have a similar beef with inadequately supported flights of fantasy 
masquerading as fact.


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