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The God of Gaps


cdowis

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I was recently reading Alister McGrath's "The Dawkins Illusion", and excellent Christian apologetic work, and he had a section of "the God of the gaps", which criticized the technique of pointing out the failure of science, and evolution specifically, for being able to explain certain questions. The logic is that if you cannot explain certain questions, you then need God to fill in the gap.

The problem with that technique is that as science progresses, new discoveries are made, those gaps get smaller and fewer in number. You leave yourself vulnerable to scientific progress.

It is interesting that one of the principle arguments of the antimormons is the use of science, specifically archeology. Among the favorites is steel swords, horses, chariots, etc.

The problem with that argument is that they leave themselves vulnerable to new discoveries in archeology. Many of these "missing things" have been discovered, so these gaps get smaller and fewer in number as archeology advances. One of the antis recently stated that the BOM "contradicts what we know of the history of mesoamerica". I pointed out there is a difference between "contradict" and "unsubstantiated". For example, at first glance the DNA argument contradicted the BOM story, but the claim for BOM time period horses is unsubstantiated.

I then asked him for a list of those specific contradictions, excluding undiscovered steel, horse bones, etc. So far he has been silent.

While I think there will always be a lack of such things as horse bones, I believe that other side of the equation where archeology has moved closer to the BOM text has accelerated over the decades. Acceptance of transmigration has probably been the most exciting in the recent decade. Regarding the BOM, we now have now proposed several probable geographic locations for BOM events.

Perhaps the antis will always have their "missing horses, steel, and chariots", but that argument is getting to be very weak and unpersuasive.

"Is that the best you can do?"

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I was recently reading Alister McGrath's "The Dawkins Illusion", and excellent Christian apologetic work, and he had a section of "the God of the gaps", which criticized the technique of pointing out the failure of science, and evolution specifically, for being able to explain certain questions. The logic is that if you cannot explain certain questions, you then need God to fill in the gap.

While I wouldn't consider myself an "anti", i'll respond as one who doesn't believe in mormonism. A bigger problem, for me, with advancing God as the answer to complex life on this planet, is the problem of irreducable complexity.

It is interesting that one of the principle arguments of the antimormons is the use of science, specifically archeology. Among the favorites is steel swords, horses, chariots, etc.

Right, I would simply say that based on our current understanding of the Americas, the BoM does not seem to represent a real history of the region.

The problem with that argument is that they leave themselves vulnerable to new discoveries in archeology. Many of these "missing things" have been discovered, so these gaps get smaller and fewer in number as archeology advances. One of the antis recently stated that the BOM "contradicts what we know of the history of mesoamerica". I pointed out there is a difference between "contradict" and "unsubstantiated". For example, at first glance the DNA argument contradicted the BOM story, but the claim for BOM time period horses is unsubstantiated.

I agree with you here

I then asked him for a list of those specific contradictions, excluding undiscovered steel, horse bones, etc. So far he has been silent.

The mesoamerican LGT theory requires a very particular reading of the BoM. this reading was not typical historically in the church and still has many doubters, even among believers.

While I think there will always be a lack of such things as horse bones, I believe that other side of the equation where archeology has moved closer to the BOM text has accelerated over the decades. Acceptance of transmigration has probably been the most exciting in the recent decade. Regarding the BOM, we now have now proposed several probable geographic locations for BOM events.

That's the problem with the BoM text, it is vague enough to be squeezed into any number of places. It sure would be nice if we had prophetic revelation and teachings on where it all occured......

Perhaps the antis will always have their "missing horses, steel, and chariots", but that argument is getting to be very weak and unpersuasive.

"Is that the best you can do?"

For me, these arguments are not at the top of my list of evidence against mormonism. More persuasive are:

- The Book of Abraham evidence

- The evolution of the priesthood from one to two

- Polyandry, which does not make sense to me in light of current teachings on eternal marriage

- Wordprint analysis indicating Rigdon as the main author

- Changing first vision accounts and teachings on the nature of god

- Kinderhook plates

- Lack of evidence supporting BoM narrative in the united states, which I think was meant as the location. I disagree with the disregarding of revelation and teachings of church leaders, which placed the events in the eastern states.

etc. etc.

I realise that I will now be bombarded with CFR's, however, just thought it was important to point out that not all of us unbelievers base our unbelief on the lack of horse bones.

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While I wouldn't consider myself an "anti", i'll respond as one who doesn't believe in mormonism. A bigger problem, for me, with advancing God as the answer to complex life on this planet, is the problem of irreducable complexity.

Not familiar with that argument.

Right, I would simply say that based on our current understanding of the Americas, the BoM does not seem to represent a real history of the region.

Unfortunately we have almost no written records which would give us a better picture of that history. We are left with enscriptions and artifacts. And the problem with artifacts is identification.

The mesoamerican LGT theory requires a very particular reading of the BoM. this reading was not typical historically in the church and still has many doubters, even among believers.

The LGT is superior to any other theory. Every advance, even in science, leaves a group of skeptics regardless of the evidence. See, for example, the flat earth Wiki here

But this has been discussed extensively on this forum.

That's the problem with the BoM text, it is vague enough to be squeezed into any number of places. It sure would be nice if we had prophetic revelation and teachings on where it all occured......

I agree but the BOM is a religious book, and such cultural and geographic details are found in the large plates of Nephi.

For me, these arguments are not at the top of my list of evidence against mormonism. More persuasive are:

- The Book of Abraham evidence -- I think the recent resarch from Will Schryver has changed this discussion.

- The evolution of the priesthood from one to two -- Not familiar with that one.

- Polyandry, which does not make sense to me in light of current teachings on eternal marriage -- Not familiar with this.

- Wordprint analysis indicating Rigdon as the main author -- If you are talking about Dale's research, even he admits that his research methods have not been validated. This has been dealt with on several threads.

- Changing first vision accounts and teachings on the nature of god -- I find no contradictions.

- Kinderhook plates -- OK, if you are not convinced by the contra evidence.

- Lack of evidence supporting BoM narrative in the united states, which I think was meant as the location. I disagree with the disregarding of revelation and teachings of church leaders, which placed the events in the eastern states. -- There has been revelation regarding BOM geography. It is not a doctrinal issue, but you already knew that.

etc. etc.

I realise that I will now be bombarded with CFR's, however, just thought it was important to point out that not all of us unbelievers base our unbelief on the lack of horse bones.

I think most of the issues you mention above have been addressed extensively and perhaps you have missed those discussions. You obviously have given this a great deal of thought, but I think you have been mislead.

But that is my opinion, and we can see things very differently.

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I think you misunderstand God of the Gaps a bit.

God of the Gaps is a special kind of argument from ignorance. The arguments end up taking the form

You cannot explain X

God accounts for X

X exists, therefore God.

It works, or rather it doesn't, because you can define God as accounting for any possible configuration of the world. If the world was Y instead of X, you could simply say God accounts for Y since a supernatural God can do and want anything. The mere fact that someone can't offer a better explanation does not support the God account that, at the end of the day, is trivially building into its hypothesis what it seeks to explain.

What historically has happened with God of the Gap arguments is that as our knowledge has progressed all those gaps where something cannot be explained has shrunk. Until gravitational theory took off, the inexplicably of the (roughly) circular motion of the planets was widely believed to prove God exists, for instance. Now imagine if you believe in God because something cannot be explained. When that thing gets explained, doesn't that take away your reason for believing in God? Yeah, it does. That's one of the pitfalls of hiding your God in Gaps. You're putting your belief at risk as our knowledge, real knowledge, marches on. Mind you, much of what passes for theistic justification are actually god of the gap arguments, some more sophisticated, some less so.

Now this has precisely nothing to do with Mesoamerican archeology not matching up well with BoM claims. That argument is that the BoM is a poor fit for a purported time and place. Invariably there is the companion argument that it is a sound fit for a 19th century American production. Further, you shouldn't just expect horses to be found in the relevant time in place anymore than you should expect Nessie to be found in Loch Ness. Absence of evidence is evidence of absence when one can reasonably expect to have found said evidence given the efforts to do so. As time passes, further work is done and nothing is found, the case for a pre-BoM horse extinction gets stronger.

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The most significant god of the gap argument, and one that seems frequently endorsed in these parts ironically enough, is the argument that science cannot explain biodiversity, therefore it was designed by a god. There was a time, well over a hundred years ago, where it was true enough that science could not explain biodiversity in a compelling way. Then Origin of Species was published and the rest as they say was history. This was a major moment in the history of religion precisely because so many people rested their belief god in this particular gap in knowledge. Once it because clear that the diversity of life could be accounted for with a scientific explanation, it dawned on some people that maybe concluding God from the fact there are cats and dogs wasn't such a great idea in the first place. It remains an issue because there is a large movement of fundamentalist believers who still argue that evolution cannot account for biodiversity. Every piece of the story of evolution that isn't worked out in exact detail becomes a gap where god is invoked. And as those gaps close, god vanishes with then. But even if it were true that evolution was inadequate, that wouldn't make the argument from ignorance good. But that's the state of affairs. It's complicated by the fact that apologists can be sophisticated in how they hide their argument from ignorance such that unless you have a precise grasp on how the argument works, you might be dazzled.

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I think you misunderstand God of the Gaps a bit.

God of the Gaps is a special kind of argument from ignorance. The arguments end up taking the form

Yawn, we can change the title of the thread if that would make you happy.

But the point is the same. Lack of evidence is not evidence, and as time goes on and new discoveries are made, this argument vanishes in significance.

But read my post, and get over the title.

snip

Now this has precisely nothing to do with Mesoamerican archeology not matching up well with BoM claims.

Get over the title. I am using artistic license to make a point.

That argument is that the BoM is a poor fit for a purported time and place. Invariably there is the companion argument that it is a sound fit for a 19th century American production.

This is a very different argument than "missing horse bones". If you want to talk about parallelisms, wonderful. Let's open up another thread, and I will demonstrate that, using parallels, it was written in the 20th century -- al Quaida, the war in Afghanistan, the Mafia, TV preachers, even a direct reference to Darwinism, etc etc. The BOM fits very well as a 21st century production.

Further, you shouldn't just expect horses to be found in the relevant time in place anymore than you should expect Nessie to be found in Loch Ness.

Interesting argument. You apparently were not aware that horses actually existed and inhabited the Americas -- that horse fossils were found in mesoamerica. The issue is when horses went extinct, not whether they actually existed.

Your ignorance breathtaking, your logic tortuous.

Absence of evidence is evidence of absence when one can reasonably expect to have found said evidence given the efforts to do so. As time passes, further work is done and nothing is found, the case for a pre-BoM horse extinction gets stronger.

Thanks for giving us a model illustration of the OP.

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Not familiar with that argument.

Sorry, i meant infinite regression, not irredubible complexity. lol

Unfortunately we have almost no written records which would give us a better picture of that history. We are left with enscriptions and artifacts. And the problem with artifacts is identification.

Agreed

The LGT is superior to any other theory. Every advance, even in science, leaves a group of skeptics regardless of the evidence. See, for example, the flat earth Wiki here

Agreed, the problem for me is that the Mesoamerican theory contradicts revelations and teachings of prophets. Kind of defeats the point of being mormon, imo.

- The Book of Abraham evidence -- I think the recent resarch from Will Schryver has changed this discussion.

That's possible, but remains to be seen.

- The evolution of the priesthood from one to two -- Not familiar with that one.

I think Palmer illustrated this issue well. One of the few points I think he illustrated in his book.

- Polyandry, which does not make sense to me in light of current teachings on eternal marriage -- Not familiar with this.

You're not familiar with polyandry?

- Wordprint analysis indicating Rigdon as the main author -- If you are talking about Dale's research, even he admits that his research methods have not been validated. This has been dealt with on several threads.

I was referring to the Criddle wordprint

- Changing first vision accounts and teachings on the nature of god -- I find no contradictions.

Fair enough, I do.

- Kinderhook plates -- OK, if you are not convinced by the contra evidence.

I haven't been to date.

- Lack of evidence supporting BoM narrative in the united states, which I think was meant as the location. I disagree with the disregarding of revelation and teachings of church leaders, which placed the events in the eastern states. -- There has been revelation regarding BOM geography. It is not a doctrinal issue, but you already knew that.

I think there has been too

I think most of the issues you mention above have been addressed extensively and perhaps you have missed those discussions. You obviously have given this a great deal of thought, but I think you have been mislead.

I have taken part in many discussions on these topics and don't think that I have been misled. I simply view the evidence differently than you and others.

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The most significant god of the gap argument, and one that seems frequently endorsed in these parts ironically enough, is the argument that science cannot explain biodiversity, therefore it was designed by a god.

To refer to Ralph's argument:

As time passes, further work is done and the answers to these questions are not found, the case for ID gets stronger.

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While I wouldn't consider myself an "anti", i'll respond as one who doesn't believe in mormonism. A bigger problem, for me, with advancing God as the answer to complex life on this planet, is the problem of irreducable complexity.

?

Irreducable complexity is commonly used to argue that an intelligent designer must have been involved in the creation of life. I'm not familiar with an argument using irreducable complexity to disprove God.

Right, I would simply say that based on our current understanding of the Americas, the BoM does not seem to represent a real history of the region.
It the BoM intended to be a real history of all of the Americas covering 2500 BC to AD 421, or is it intended to provide a religious history of a limited geographical area with nearly all of its detail covering a relatively short period?
The mesoamerican LGT theory requires a very particular reading of the BoM. this reading was not typical historically in the church and still has many doubters, even among believers.
So? Which matters more, that it has always been believed or that it is a more accurate reading?
That's the problem with the BoM text, it is vague enough to be squeezed into any number of places. It sure would be nice if we had prophetic revelation and teachings on where it all occured......
What purpose would such a revelation serve?

If the President of the Church said tomorrow "Zarahemla was located at such and such a place," and an archaelogical expedition was immediately dispatched and uncovered a sign that said something like "the Nephi memorial theater in Zarahemla", would you then believe the President of the Church is a prophet?

Or would you more likely believe that some form of trickery had taken place? Or even argue that proof that there was a city named Zarahemla still doesn't prove the rest of the BoM?

I realise that I will now be bombarded with CFR's, however, just thought it was important to point out that not all of us unbelievers base our unbelief on the lack of horse bones.

But you do apparently base it off of things that are just as ridiculous, from a logical perspective.
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Interesting argument. You apparently were not aware that horses actually existed and inhabited the Americas -- that horse fossils were found in mesoamerica. The issue is when horses went extinct, not whether they actually existed.

Your ignorance breathtaking, your logic tortuous.

I am aware of that. I'm also aware of an overwhelming body of evidence that suggests they went extinct well before the BoM narrative is purported to have taken place. You are aware, of course, that Nessie-like creatures also once existed right? There's no question over that. That doesn't mean those who think Nessie likely does not exist today are engaging in reasoning analogous to god of the gaps. Rather they are correctly concluding that the lack of Nessie evidence coupled with the theoretical poor fit of a currently existing Nessie means it is likely that Nessies went extinct. That reasoning isn't any different from more recent extinctions like horses in the Americas. The difference is matter of degree, not type. It's not like someone dug a few holes, saw no horses, and concluded that horses must've not existed. The aggregate lack of horse finds, archeological evidence of horses, or anthropological impact of horses in the relevant time in place despite reasonably expecting them really is good evidence against their existence in that time and place. It isn't an argument from ignorance.

You seem to be positing the inevitablity of being vindicated by future evidence that does not exist today in order to make your reasoning turn. But that's no more proper than thinking that it's only a matter of time that we find the alien spacecraft that built the Great Pyramids in Eygpt. Lack of evidence really is evidence against in that case, not an argument from ignorance.

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The case for ID doesn't get stronger simply because another explanation doesn't exist. (Though evolution gets worked out in more and more detail as time goes on.) The problem with god of the gaps, the fundamental problem, is that it's an argument from ignorance. It doesn't matter how long that ignorance remains. It's an illicit inference to go from "you can't explain X" to "therefore my explanation of X, which I also have no actual evidence for, is correct."

I still don't think you understand why there isn't the analogy in reasoning you think there is.

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?

Irreducable complexity is commonly used to argue that an intelligent designer must have been involved in the creation of life. I'm not familiar with an argument using irreducable complexity to disprove God.

Yeah, that was my bad. Infinite regression was what I meant.

So? Which matters more, that it has always been believed or that it is a more accurate reading?

I don't agree that it is a more accurate reading.

What purpose would such a revelation serve?

If the President of the Church said tomorrow "Zarahemla was located at such and such a place," and an archaelogical expedition was immediately dispatched and uncovered a sign that said something like "the Nephi memorial theater in Zarahemla", would you then believe the President of the Church is a prophet?

Or would you more likely believe that some form of trickery had taken place? Or even argue that proof that there was a city named Zarahemla still doesn't prove the rest of the BoM?

I was referring, sarcastically, to revelations Joseph Smith had that placed BoM events and locations in the eastern states.

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Sorry, i meant infinite regression, not irredubible complexity. lol

Yeah, that was funny. But I am not familiar with infinite regression -- are you speaking about the concept that there is no beginning? We all have a problem with that one, but I think it will become clear when we leave mortality. We will see things very differently then.

Agreed, the problem for me is that the Mesoamerican theory contradicts revelations and teachings of prophets. Kind of defeats the point of being mormon, imo.

Can you give me that specific revelation. When you say "revelation and teachings", I would use "illustrations, speculation, assumptions". It was generally accepted that the hill in NY was the same hill where the war of extinction occured, and the prophets went along with that assumption. But there were no revelation where the NY hill was identified as the BOM hill.

Anyway, if you make another assumption, and consider the possibility that there were two hills, that changes the whole picture. We go from a theory that is very problematic to a theory that fits the BOM text very nicely. As recently as 1980 we were unable to locate any specific BOM location, and today we have suggested many which fit the text.

You're not familiar with polyandry?

I am not familiar with the idea that it contradicts the doctrine of eternal marriage. Polygamy is practiced today, in the temple, when a widower is sealed to his second wife. It is permissable if the first wife is deceased.

snip

I have taken part in many discussions on these topics and don't think that I have been misled. I simply view the evidence differently than you and others.

Fair enough. From the ones you mentioned, the Kinderhook plates is the most problematic, and wordprint is still up for discussion.

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Irreducible complexity has two main definitions in the Behe sense that he goes back and forth between depending on what is convenient.

The first is a working system of multiple parts where if you take out one or more parts of the system the function collapses.

The second is a system of multiple parts that could not/was very unlikely to have naturally evolved.

Behe will claim something is IR in the first sense and argue that therefore it couldn't have evolved. However such systems are easily evolvable through processes like scaffolding and coopotion of function. But Behe also will switch to the second sense and claim a system is IR. But that merely begs the question since he hasn't and cannot establish that. But notice that this hallmark of design really is just a fancy way of saying "cannot be explained by evolution." So a system that allegedly could not have evolved means it was designed? Well, no. That's why it's an argument from ignorance. When that "designer" is god, as it almost universally is code for among ID advocates, then it's classic god of the gaps. It's just an updated version of "what good is half a wing?"

I haven't the slightest idea what this notion has to do with God not being able to design something.

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Yeah, that was my bad. Infinite regression was what I meant.

That is more understandable.
I don't agree that it is a more accurate reading.
So you believe the book requires a hemispherical reading?
I was referring, sarcastically, to revelations Joseph Smith had that placed BoM events and locations in the eastern states.

Which doesn't really answer my question, but alright.

Oh, and CFR of course.

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The strongest claims against the Church has always come from the secular, never the sectarian.

Fortunately science is but one way to explain the world. It does a pretty good job of doing so. What science can never do is give meaning as to the why of that explanation. Or as a very wise man once told me. I look to the sciences to tell me the how, and to my religion to tell me the why God did what he did.

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The case for ID doesn't get stronger simply because another explanation doesn't exist.

I agree. I was illustrating that your argument was very silly. Fossils are preserved under special circumstances and, as you say, not finding them doesn't make the case against the BOM any stronger.

Archeologists have been finding increasing evidence compatible with the BOM text as new discoveries have been made, evidence much more significant than the possible discovery of any bones.

The gaps are getting smaller, and fewer in number.

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Yeah, the case for the BoM as an antiquity document is not pulsing with more and more strength as the few gaps are closed with each passing day, but I guess if you were seeped in nothing but Mormon apologetics I could see how it might seem that way. Besides, I'm sure God wouldn't want FARMS to destroy your free will by providing too much evidence, eh?

I guess I can only reiterate that one line of reasoning is an argument from ignorance, by definition actually, while the other is not an example of it. You still seem to think they are analogous when they are not. If I deny there is a pink elephant in my house because I looked and did not see one, I have not engaged in something analogous to god of the gaps reasoning.

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One of the biggest problem with people is the tendency to make things too complicated.

I got become acquainted with a man who became quite wealthy that talks about the surprise he had when he went for a much anticipated session with a big time tennis pro. He kept looking for the secrets he was going to teach him, but instead he was told, "Let's see how you hold the racket".

One of the greatest things about the gospel, i.e. as restored to us in these last days, is that we are given the simple truth.

I heard a talk by one of the Miami Dolphins who was called to the front of the plane by Don Shula. Don addressed the trouble this player was having this day saying, "When you find yourself struggling, get back to the basics".

When we make things too complicated is when we get into trouble.

I remember in college I took a class called critical thinking. The teacher told me once when we were working a logic problem that I was "over-thinking it". I thought that was strange advice to be given in a class that was supposed to be about critical thinking!

It occurs to me that people must think that it must be harder than that.

I know, when I worked in a thing that they used to call electronics, that the solution to the hardest problems were easy once you got back to the basics and trudged through. I think a lot of people might be surprised at some of the basic techniques of electronic troubleshooting like look to see if you see anything that doesn't look right, make sure it's plugged in or feel the components and see if something is hot.

In part, it must be an ego thing; we can't be highly intelligent intellectuals if things are simple and uncomplicated, but how many times have you discovered something that you thought was tough then laughed when you understood the truth of it and how simple it was?

Like they say, "It's easy when you know how".

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Ralph Man:

Evidence is never proof. When the BoM was published the list of evidences for it were quite short. The critics had an easy time. That list is quite long now. Is it complete proof. No, and it never can be. But the evidences are there.

http://www.jefflindsay.com/BMEvidences.shtml

http://www.cephas-library.com/mormon_apologetics_losing_battle.html

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One of the biggest problem with people is the tendency to make things too complicated.

I've heard quite a few believers say this and I think it is quite interesting. I think it would depend on your definition of 'complicated.' It also appears to have a lot to do with a misunderstanding of the natural (ie not supernatural) solution. A neurological explanation for seizures can appear to be quite complicated vs the demon-possession explanation. However, it is less complicated because the explanation requires less assumptions.

Now I don't know much about neurology and the explanation for seizures, but the evidence is there. Doctors know what's going on. There is no evidence for demon possession. The assumptions are many and they are huge. Demon possession sounds like a simple explanation but it isn't.

Now this is just an example. But I think it is an example that both believers and non-believers can sometimes agree on. I know many believers that will treat a seizing person with natural methods and not with supernatural methods.

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Yeah, the case for the BoM as an antiquity document is not pulsing with more and more strength as the few gaps are closed with each passing day, but I guess if you were seeped in nothing but Mormon apologetics I could see how it might seem that way. Besides, I'm sure God wouldn't want FARMS to destroy your free will by providing too much evidence, eh?

I think that you will find that the so-called soft sciences, such as archeology, sociology, etc are built on theories which have various forms of evidence but very little proof. This happens even in the hard sciences -- dark matter in astronomy, for example. But the hard sciences normally have an abundance of direct observations, while archeology is stuck with observations which are seemingly random, almost inadvertent.

Anyway, we have an increasing number of evidences which almost contradict the previous conventional wisdom -- concrete cities, the Valley of Lemuel, pre-clovis inhabitants (prior to the bering strait), transmigration, the warlike nature of the mayan, etc etc. These discoveries are not just footnotes, but significant advances in finding confirmation for the BOM. Perhaps not the quantity and speed that you demand, but significant evidence.

We have also made advances in the text of the BOM, especially evidence of antiquity in the names, such as Pahoran, Paanchi, sheum. These are not 19th century productions but authentic ancient near eastern (egyptian) names.

The evidence continues to flow in and the antimormon arguments, such as the DNA argument, are diminishing into insignificance. The antis hold onto their horse bones more and more tightly.

They continue unabashed in their assertions, "the BOM contradicts the history of this region", but when I ask for a list of those contradictions, they are silent. They can only talk about not finding horses, chariots and steel swords in a mantra-like manner.

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First, the issue here is whether arguing that arguments about Book of Mormon anachronisms are analogous to god of the gaps reasoning. If cdowis's reasoning was taken seriously, then anytime scientists give a date range for extinction of a species in a given area they would be doing something analogous to fallacious god of the gap reasoning. After all, the idea that horses went extinct in the Americas well before BoM times isn't some byproduct of criticism of the LDS religion. It's just the standard scientific picture that happens to make the BoM look anachronistic. The mere fact that a later discovery can upturn established science does not make inferring an extinction event a form of argument from ignorance. Indeed, all scientific ideas, every last one of them, could theoretically be disproven by some future evidence. That's just the problem of induction. That doesn't make all science like god of the gaps reasoning.

Second, when it comes to things like metallurgy, horses, and the like, those notions weren't anachronistic to an 1830 audience familiar with mound-builder myths. It's only later science that rendered such ideas as anachronisms.

Third, I'm not one to confuse a growing body of apologetic arguments for the BoM as an ancient document as a body of growing evidence in favor of that position. The way you talk you'd think historians/archeologists were more and more accepting of and completing the picture of the BoM as ancient history.

Fourth, there's a perfectly acceptable sense of the word "proof" that just means having sufficient reason to compel a rational person to belief. Evidence is proof in that sense when there is enough of it that a rational person who is familiar with it should be persuaded by it. Proof in the absolute, deductive sense doesn't exist for any idea based on observation. There's no proof that the earth exists if you are looking for absolute certainty.

Finally, I think the reason you have confused this situation for god of the gaps reasoning is because you think there is a parallel between skeptics of evolution who hang onto gaps in evolutionary history being worked out to unreasonably conclude that evolutionary theory is unwarranted to skeptics in the BoM as ancient history hanging on to what you see as the last pieces of evidence to come together. One problem with this is there is a mountain of compelling evidence and plausible theoretical background undergirding belief in evolution and belief in the BoM as ancient history based on secular evidence is positively batty. But I think that problem is really beside the point. It isn't god of the gaps reasoning to merely disbelieve in evolution because of the gaps. It's wrong, but that's a separate matter. It's god of the gaps to then infer the lack of an evolutionary explanation means "god did it." There's no analog to that here. And no, it's not "therefore, J. Smith did it." That has it's own positive case to be made. It just so happens that it's really easy to explain the poor fit of the BoM as ancient history in terms of a hypothesis that its a work of fiction produced in the time that it allegedly was miraculously translated.

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I was recently reading Alister McGrath's "The Dawkins Illusion", and excellent Christian apologetic work, and he had a section of "the God of the gaps", which criticized the technique of pointing out the failure of science, and evolution specifically, for being able to explain certain questions. The logic is that if you cannot explain certain questions, you then need God to fill in the gap.

The problem with that technique is that as science progresses, new discoveries are made, those gaps get smaller and fewer in number. You leave yourself vulnerable to scientific progress.

It is interesting that one of the principle arguments of the antimormons is the use of science, specifically archeology. Among the favorites is steel swords, horses, chariots, etc.

The problem with that argument is that they leave themselves vulnerable to new discoveries in archeology. Many of these "missing things" have been discovered, so these gaps get smaller and fewer in number as archeology advances. One of the antis recently stated that the BOM "contradicts what we know of the history of mesoamerica". I pointed out there is a difference between "contradict" and "unsubstantiated". For example, at first glance the DNA argument contradicted the BOM story, but the claim for BOM time period horses is unsubstantiated.

I then asked him for a list of those specific contradictions, excluding undiscovered steel, horse bones, etc. So far he has been silent.

While I think there will always be a lack of such things as horse bones, I believe that other side of the equation where archeology has moved closer to the BOM text has accelerated over the decades. Acceptance of transmigration has probably been the most exciting in the recent decade. Regarding the BOM, we now have now proposed several probable geographic locations for BOM events.

Perhaps the antis will always have their "missing horses, steel, and chariots", but that argument is getting to be very weak and unpersuasive.

"Is that the best you can do?"

I think I understand your argument. Let us apply it to the Loch Ness Monster.

  • With each passing year, science improves.
  • We project that science will continue to improve.
  • Better science gives us better methods to detect the Loch Ness Monster.
  • With each passing year, our ability to detect the Loch Ness Monster improves.
  • It is silly to assert that the Loch Ness Monster doesn't exist based on scientific evidence, since the probability of discover actually increase every year!

There are two problems with the argument. First, the actuality of the existence of the Monster is fixed. Our science does not increase the likelihood of the existence of the monster. If the monster does not exist, no amount of progress will ever produce the monster.

Secondly, and more importantly, one must not take the probability increase due to scientific progress alone, one must use the probability given the research that has already been done.

Let us use another example. Our ability to discover gold has increased as the scientific research into geology, metallurgy, etc. has increased. We are thus better able to find gold today. This statement is all true, but it is not true if you go to gold mines that have already been played out. It is true that our ability to find gold is better than the 49ers, but if you go to an old 19th century mine your probability of finding gold is diminished even though they did not have our technology.

So indeed, with each passing year of no chariots, scimitars or machinery discovered, the probability of each existing in the archeological record diminishes even though the probability of finding them increase.

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