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Ryan Dahle

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  1. Oh, just because I spent a good portion of a thread trying to talk to Ben on a very basic level of evidence, and all he wanted to do was jump into the thick of specific Book of Mormon claims. So I found it ironic that he is now telling you that you guys need to back up and discuss these issues at a more basic level.
  2. Oh, we might be talking about the same data, but he as already shown that he is unwilling to discuss, or really make much effort to understand, "evidence" on my terms. What we mean by "evidence" and what criteria we use to evaluate that so-called evidence are clearly very different.
  3. I've concluded by now that your evaluation of evidence is fundamentally flawed on multiple levels. You have presented inconsistent criteria and flip-flopped multiple times already in your discussion of very basic examples and principles of evidence. So, yes, I'm not really interested in engaging with you about specific claims in relation to the Book of Mormon's authenticity. We have very different views of evidence, and you don't seem willing to continue the discussion at the general level. Which is telling. Furthermore, to me, this discussion is about whatever I think it is about. That is how dialogue works. We all engage in it for our own reasons.
  4. I think, for me, it is about what details have probative value. The text is very specific in some regards and vague in others (3 days to Valley of Lemuel which has water continually flowing into the Red Sea, 4 days to Shazer, long journey south east to a place called Nahom, east from there to a place with fruit, honey, ore, mountain, cliffs, etc). When it comes to the specifics, the details are often plausible in light of what is known about the region anciently, sometimes surprisingly so. When the details are vague, it doesn't really provide evidence either way. So I'm not sure why "apologists have their work cut out for them." There is plenty of corroborating data and the vague sections of the text are not inconsistent with that corroborating data. I think when placed in the whole context of everything you might know and believe about the Book of Mormon, I can understand why you might not find it compelling. I myself don't really find it "compelling." In other words, if this was all the Book of Mormon had going for it, I wouldn't feel compelled to believe it. I think I would find the data impressive in its own way, despite its limitations. I think that Nahom really is a good correlation, but there is no way of statistically knowing how good (at least not with precision). Even if the odds are only 1 in 50 or 1 in 100 for Joseph to have guessed such a plausible succession of details or derived some of them from known maps or texts, or perhaps some combination of these factors, it still helps the overall case. I personally think that these guestimates aren't strong enough (in the BofM's favor), but I don't see the unlikelihood as being astronomical. There are too many unknowns still for that type of claim. The location of Ruwaik isn't the only possibility: https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/an-ishmael-buried-near-nahom/ I actually think that the argument for intentional wordplay is stronger than most people realize. See here: https://evidencecentral.org/recency/evidence/wordplay-on-nahom What this proposal lacks in direct correspondence (meaning it must be assumed that the sound of foreign word brought the association to mind, for which there is proposed precedent in the Bible, pp. 177-178) it makes up for in the multifaceted convergence of relevant themes. Again, we are all playing a guessing game for which we can't provide specific data. But my best guess is that you won't find another name in the Book of Mormon that has anything close to this convergence of relevant themes in immediate proximity. You only find it in association with NHM. Here is the chart from the appendix in the EC article: Semitic Root Meanings Language Connection to Nahom in 1 Nephi 16 nhm “to mourn” Hebrew “And it came to pass that the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly, because of the loss of their father” (v. 35) (compare with Ezekiel 24:23 and Proverbs 5:11) “to growl, to groan, to growl with hunger” Hebrew “they did murmur against my father … saying: … we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue” (v. 35) “And thus they did murmur against my father, and also against me” (v. 36) “to complain, to groan, to suffer from hunger” Arabic “they did murmur against my father … saying: … we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue” (v. 35) “And thus they did murmur against my father, and also against me” (v. 36) nḥm “to be sorry, to comfort, to console” in association with: mourning coming to terms with death plotting vengeance (often through murder) repentance (especially of killing) relief through forgiveness of sin Hebrew “And it came to pass that the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly, because of the loss of their father” (v. 35) “Our father is dead; yea, … and we have suffered much affliction” (v. 35) “And Laman said unto Lemuel and also unto the sons of Ishmael: Behold, let us slay our father, and also our brother Nephi” (v. 37) “and after they were chastened by the voice of the Lord they did turn away their anger, and did repent of their sins” (v. 39) (compare with Genesis 27:42) nwḥ “to mourn, to mourn publicly” (In the Hebrew Bible, nwḥ is often associated with the similar-sounding nḥm.) Old South Arabian “And it came to pass that the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly, because of the loss of their father” (v. 35)
  5. I'm really not that interested in hashing it out. I think I have a pretty good grasp of your criteria and method of evaluation at this point. Which is what I was really interested in testing, from my perspective. Let's just say I found it wanting and that we will probably never reach agreement on these matters.
  6. So, my definition of evidence is obviously more expansive than yours, which I think is much more appropriate for most of the fields in which the Book of Mormon's specific claims relate. Here is a description from the Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy which I think encapsulate some of my ideas of evidence pretty well: This is the way in which I understood that the student's paper included evidence of plagiarism. Before I read the paper, I knew that one typical sign or indicator of plagiarism was a sudden shift in writing style, especially from less advanced to highly advanced. If you search the internet you will see that this is commonly found on lists of what to look for as signs of plagiarism, so it isn't like I was just making this up. It is fairly common knowledge. Of course, I didn't see the sudden shift in style as direct proof of plagiarism. I knew that evidence could possibly be accounted for by other claims (i.e., it could be evidence of different things). Yet under my definitional framework, that doesn't disqualify the data as evidence for each of the things which it might logically support. It does just the opposite. That data becomes evidence of all of the logically relevant claims simultaneously; it just provides stronger support for some of them more than others. This is typically what happens in a courtroom or in competing historical theories. Two sides of the debate will take the same piece of data or evidence and try to demonstrate that it better supports their own conclusion. And then the jury or the reader of a history book gets to decide what conclusion better accounts for the available evidence. This definitional framework has utility because it recognizes that there may be multiple legitimate evidentiary relationships between a single piece of data and various claims, thus each of them can and must be evaluated and weighed according to their respective merits. This is the way that I tend to view evidence in general. Ideally, if I had the time and interest, I would attempt to look at all the relevant and known data related to a given claim, and any of the data which seems to support the claim to any extent or degree, I will label as evidence of that claim. Thus if a victim was shot with a 9mm and it can be proven that the defendant (accused of shooting the victim) in a criminal trial was known to possess a 9mm, I would see it as increasing the plausibility that the defendant shot the victim. On its own, it wouldn't amount to anything like proof that the defendant shot the victim, intended to shoot the victim, had malice toward the victim or anything else that might be relevant to the overall case. But the plausibility of the defendant shooting the victim with such a weapon naturally increases somewhat when it can be demonstrated that he owned such a weapon. The plausibility of the claim would increase even further if the defendant could be forensically linked to the crime scene, shown to have motive, shown to be violent in the past. And so on and so forth. Furthermore, I don't believe something is necessary to be proven in order for it to be seen as evidence in these logic chains. For instance, if a historian has three documents that all independently support a certain historical claim, but which each have a slight chance of being forgeries, the historian may very well move forward with a theory that rests on the assumption that those documents and the claims that they independently make are most likely valid, despite the lack of certain proof about their provenance and internal claims (obviously much more reasoning would be needed to justify the belief in the internal claims, but that is not necessary to delineate at this point). In other words, a valid and reasonable argument doesn't have to be built on facts. It can integrate things that are not strictly fact, but which are reasonably likely to be true, into the overall framework. As far as I can tell, that is typical in the fields of history, law, anthropology and so forth. Of course, the theories in these fields will always be based on facts at the lowest level of analysis. That is true for each piece of Book of Mormon evidence that I pointed to as well. It is the relationship between the fact and the claim that matters. And that relationship often is not and cannot be proven in these fields, despite how integral it may be to a theory's overall integrity and logical framework. Evaluating the available evidence can get very complicated when you have large sets of competing data and claims. Again, here is how the Stanford encyclopedia entry describes this phenomenon: This is why I have been uninterested in discussing the merits of Nahom. If you disagree with my evidentiary framework (which you clearly do, despite the fact that it better corresponds to the fields most closely related to the Book of Mormon's claims), then you will naturally disagree with most of my statements regarding the various evidences for the Book of Mormon, which are exceedingly complex if one works under the assumption that one's total evidence has a bearing on each of those claims.
  7. No. That's not what I am suggesting. What I am saying is that your stated standard for disqualifying something as "evidence" in relation to a hypothesis would disqualify both of these observations, despite the perceived differences in the degree to which they support the hypothesis. If your rationale was applied consistently, you wouldn't be able to say that the word strings were actually evidence of plagiarism. You would only be able to say that they amount to evidence of an intertextual connection. The following scenario may help further illustrate why your criteria is being applied arbitrarily. Imagine if I the first thing I had discovered were the word strings themselves (thereby placing this data in a different position in the scientific method, where it acts as the initial observation rather than data collected to help confirm a hypothesis generated in response to that observation). Let's say I had been reading some of the online literature in relation to the writing assignment, and I noticed that the student happened to be pulling large amounts of text (multiple lengthy word strings) from that same source. According to your criteria, the word strings couldn't actually amount to evidence of plagiarism. They could only amount to a mere observation because they could be explained by multiple causes other than plagiarism. Do you see the problem? You haven't yet been able to articulate a clear and consistent standard for what does and doesn't count as evidence in relation to a given hypothesis. The same data can be evidence or not evidence depending on an arbitrary factor, such as whether it was discovered first or second in the scientific method.
  8. I think you are just evading my point. You must also know that a substantial amount of "history" rests on historical statements that are far from proven. Yes, there are some historical statements that we know are dubious. But there are many others which historians tentatively use in their theories, despite their lack of verification. The same goes for testimonial evidence. Many legal arguments rest on testimonial evidence that doesn't rise to the level of fact. Many anthropological arguments do the same thing, such as with interpretations of iconography that seem plausible but which can't be verified. And so on and so forth. You must know that this is true. You must know that the notion that evidence = facts in these fields is just demonstrably false.
  9. I think you are missing my point. Sorry if I wasn't clear. I'm trying to be. I'm also sorry you went through all of that. My point wasn't about plagiarism specifically. I wasn't asking for a lesson on all the considerations that go into questions of plagiarism in different contexts. And, yes, for the most part the specifics you delved into aren't especially germane to my classroom example (where baked into my starting assumptions was the fact that she explicitly claimed no help from any source in any way and that she had a sufficiently clear understanding of plagiarism). So, this is the type of statements I was looking to examine. In previous comments, you have said things very similar: In other words, you seem to be saying that if multiple causes can explain an observation, then the observation can't qualify as evidence because it hasn't yet been proven which cause the evidence actually supports? If so, this standard would actually disqualify the very thing that you just claimed was evidence of plagiarism. Remember, you said: Do you see the problem? In one statement, you disqualify my initial observations as "evidence" on the grounds that they could be explained by multiple causes, but then you randomly turn about and say that a substantial word sequence is indeed evidence of plagiarism, even though you readily admit that the word sequence could also be due to some other cause. It looks very much like an arbitrary double standard, where one observation is counted as evidence while another isn't, simply because one follows after the other in your understanding of the scientific method. Yet there is nothing substantively different about the two observations in relation to the hypothesis. Neither of them can completely rule out competing explanations. (By the way, I'm just adopting your nuanced understanding and considerations of plagiarism for the sake of simplicity. I don't think most of the issues you brought up really apply to my specific classroom situation. As far as I could tell, in my specific context, the long word sequences essentially acted as proof of plagiarism, as it met both of the additional criteria you pointed to. But that is sort of beside the point at this stage of the discussion).
  10. The distinction really isn't an important one in my scenario. This is because the conclusion that she didn't write it and the conclusion that it was plagiarized actually have the same fundamental limitation: I couldn't initially prove either one. Other conclusions could possibly explain the same textual data. Good luck with the peppers.
  11. You are getting too deep into the weeds. I haven't even outlined how I think this relates to specific Book of Mormon claims. We are still trying to figure out what evidence means. You said: I explained to the student what plagiarism was. And I specifically asked this student if she had any help writing her paper or if she relied on any source when composing it. She said no and claimed the work as her own. So the evidence that she "didn't write the text" would categorically qualify as plagiarism.
  12. Of course. I was just curious what you thought. Benjamin is insisting otherwise. He is saying that the data wouldn't count as "evidence" of plagiarism. So that might help you understand the nature of our debate. It is about semantics and definitions of evidence. Oh, woops. Disregard the bolded text. I was going to make a different point about that, but then said something else.
  13. Well, let's see what you think. In this scenario, I (as the teacher) explained to my class what plagiarism was. I then found unusually advanced writing in one of my student's papers. I directly asked the student if she could attribute the contents of her paper to any other source other than herself. She said that she wrote it without any kind of help from any source whatsoever. Naturally, as a teacher, I saw her advanced writing as evidence of plagiarism. I definitely didn't see it as proof of plagiarism. But I saw plagiarism as the most likely conclusion based on the observable data. Sure, she might have had a sudden increase in ability for whatever reason or set of reasons. I couldn't discount that possibility. But every alternative explanation I could think of seemed far less likely to me than plagiarism. In this situation, would you agree that the suddenly advanced writing in the student's paper acted as evidence of plagiarism, in the sense that it dramatically increased the plausibility or likelihood of that conclusion (despite it not amounting to proof of that conclusion)?
  14. Okay, let's test your claim. Hypothetically speaking, what do you think would count as legitimate evidence of plagiarism but not proof of plagiarism in a situation where all other possible explanations (those different from the conclusion of plagiarism) are so statistically unlikely that they don't constitute viable alternatives? Remember, under your criteria, if multiple possible explanations exist then the observed data can't act as evidence for any of them because it isn't yet proven which conclusion the data are actually evidence of. Good luck. No. Something definitely doesn't have to be established as a fact to be used as evidence. This is so easy to demonstrate in the fields of literary studies, law, history, anthropology, etc. For instance, both history and law rely heavily on testimonial evidence. And testimonial evidence is, by its very nature, not factual. Sure, the instance of an individual claiming a certain thing may be a fact, just like any legible and clearly identifiable words and letters in a document are a fact. But what a witness claims to be true is not made factual by the claim itself, neither is what a historical document claims about the past. And yet witness testimonies and claims made in historical documents are used all the time as evidence in legal cases and historical theories, despite their unproven status. Generally speaking, legal cases and historical theories depend on complicated networks of evidences and sub-evidences, many of which have not be proven as facts and have a likelihood of truthfulness that isn't (and in many cases can't be) known with statistical precision. Furthermore, testimonial evidence isn't the only category that fits this description. Examples where non-factual data are counted as evidence of claims in these fields are nearly endless. Thus, you are imposing a strict definition of evidence that runs contrary to the normative semantical usage in these fields.
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