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Why Not Engage the Evidence for Historicity?


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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

So Hamblin is wrong because he is addressing the situation as it exists, rather than an idealized hypothetical that you propose?  I think not.

I quite agree.  Two plus two equals four, but if we change the problem to two plus three, we get a different answer.  

So it is with the point Hamblin is making.  He's dealing with scholarly indifference as to the Book of Mormon as it actually exists now.  If the circumstances were radically different, if we had the plates, if we had a recorded even, witnessed by thousands, of Moroni descending from heaven and returning the plates to Pres. Nelson, with instructions for him to turn the plates over to scholars for their examination, then I concede your point.  Secular academia would not "yawn" at such developments.

Alas, we don't live in that world, so your point is moot.  And Hamblin's remains pretty cogent.

If, if, if.  We don't live in that world.  An imaginary alternative reality doesn't do much for rebutting Hamblin's point about this reality.

I don't think you grasped the logical structure of my argument. We agree that A (secular academics ignore the Book of Mormon as ancient history) and B (the Book of Mormon story is religious) are both true. Hamblin is claiming "A is true because B is true." My counterargument is of the form, "Here is another scenario where B is true. Would A still be true in that scenario? Of course not. Therefore, A is not true because B is true; i.e. B does not imply A."

If scholars published a strong case for Book of Mormon historicity in real academic journals, they would get the attention of secular scholars. They don't, because the evidence just isn't very good (witness champatsch's arguments in this thread, and compare them to, say, David P. Wright's Isaiah in the Book of Mormon...and Joseph Smith in Isaiah.)

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

And yet they don't pay attention to the Book of Mormon.  Witness the embarassing gaffes shown in Sorenson's open letter to him.  Dr. Coe has plainly given virtually no attention to the Book of Mormon.  He is manifestly ignorant of its substance, and of the ever-growing amount of scholarship being produced by LDS scholars in relation to it.

But why should Dr. Coe give a ton of attention to the Book of Mormon in the first place?

According to Bill Hamblin, "every single BYU administrator on every level of the administration" believes that "no publication on ancient Book of Mormon studies can be acceptable as authentic scholarship at BYU" and that BYU has effectively "destroyed" ancient Book of Mormon studies as an academic discipline. If that is the opinion of "every single BYU administrator on every level of the administration," why should non-Mormon scholars take these guys seriously?

Sure, as Hamblin says, "non-LDS publications generally do not accept ancient Book of Mormon studies as a legitimate discipline." But that's because the proponents haven't presented them with a compelling case. I think Philip Jenkins understands the situation well.

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

There are some pretty substantial pieces of LDS scholarship about the Book of Mormon which are not getting attention.

As ancient history? Published in secular academic journals? Were they even submitted to those journals?

 

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Not because they lack academic rigor, but because the academy is too hostile to the book's religious truth claims to give it serious consideration.

Let me get this straight. You are claiming that high quality scholarship exists that proves ancient Book of Mormon studies is an actual, legitimate, academic discipline. The experts in this academic discipline submit for publication in secular academic journals their publications, but because every single editor of every single journal is "hostile" to the truth claims of the allegedly ancient manuscript, they won't publish this scholarship? That is a strong claim--ancient books are filled with religious truth claims that scholars quite easily ignore. The suggestion that they are systematically suppressing this scholarship because of religious bigotry is offensive.

Has somebody compiled a book of the rejection letters from these editors that demonstrates their bigotry?

 

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

And yet virtually none of them is attempting to test the Book of Mormon along these lines.

And why should they? Book of Mormon proponents haven't made the case that ancient Book of Mormon Studies is an actual academic discipline and that these ideas ought to be taken seriously.

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1 hour ago, blueglass said:

What are your thoughts on why these plates had so much christian prophecy and theology?  Anyway to connect these egyptian writings of Mosiah 1 with reality?  

Robert touched on this briefly, but roughly from the time of Josiah through the exile you had a pretty significant reformation in Jewish religion. All cultic practices were centralized to the temple (causing problems during the exile) whereas before this you had temples in other locations including Egypt. The big changes were to stop sacrifices in locations outside the temple. Uproar over this is mentioned in the book of Jeremiah. You see with Lehi his connection to the pre-centralization practices as he offers offerings on mountains. The big deal of Josiah's reforms which continue with the so-called Deuteronomist and Priestly traditions is weeding out syncretic religious practices. The problem of course is that something might well have been an authentic Jewish practice yet removed because it seemed to close to Canaanite practice. Again in the OT examples are given such as the problem of Moses' serpent staff. You have the removal of a heavenly mother figure and the move towards monotheism by merging El and Yahweh. Some of these trends get reversed both due to the rise of Christianity but also the influence of platonism and the rise of gnosticism.

So what happens is people see the change from the 2cd temple period to the Christian/gnostic period and assume that 2cd temple Judaism was "authentic" Judaism. That's problematic for a variety of reasons. First off there wasn't a single strain of Judaism and likely never was. (Just as there's theological diversity in Mormonism despite having a central authority - unlike Judaism which had no central authority once it lost its King) Second if you look at early Judaism it has a lot of characteristics similar to its neighbors. Canaan is the obvious example given the proximity. (Most scholars see early Judaism more as a type of Canaanite culture and any division as artificial) However you also have Egypt to the south and the broader Ugarit and Babylonian traditions to the north and north east. So unsurprisingly you find a lot in the Old Testament that is outright copying from these other traditions. (Some of this, to be fair, happens in the exile, but there's a lot of evidence for it before) 

When you look at early so-called syncretic Israel you find more elements that seem similar to Christianity rather than what was in the orthodox tradition of the late 2cd temple period. There's no monotheism for instance.

Now critics can of course still dispute Book of Mormon "anachronisms" and argue they're a better fit for 18th and 19th century Protestantism (especially Arminianism) or that the Satan/devil figure is closer to Milton. However if this is really looking at 2cd temple Judaism and especially mainstream (non-mystical) Rabbinical Judaism then that's a problem. If you look at Babylon, Egypt and Canaan for parallels they are there. Of course proving it is an other issue entirely. However given the paucity of pre-exilic texts, and the fact most of pre-exilic Israel is speculatively recreated from texts compiled (and heavily edited) during the return from exile, it ends up being an argument from silence.

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11 minutes ago, StevenJetts said:

What is this blog post going to be on? Malaysia similarities? Or connection with those people you listed?

I'm looking at the Rechabite, Bene Israel and Sons of Moses traditions. (1) When and where these traditions emerged, and (2) how they influenced the American missionary movement to natives in both American and Burma circa 1812. I argue that the claims of Mormonism are not as unique as we think, and the Book of Mormon has a broader range than we've allowed.

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3 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

I'm looking at the Rechabite, Bene Israel and Sons of Moses traditions. (1) When and where these traditions emerged, and (2) how they influenced the American missionary movement to natives in both American and Burma circa 1812. I argue that the claims of Mormonism are not as unique as we think, and the Book of Mormon has a broader range than we've allowed.

And the blog?

 

and where can I learn more about those three movements you listed?

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25 minutes ago, cinepro said:

While I am not a non-Mormon scholar of ancient America, let me suggest a reason that non-Mormon scholars totally ignore the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon doesn't seem to offer any advantage to Mormon scholars. 

And yet many of them, those interested in and trained and experienced in relevant fields, have nevertheless published substantial scholarship on the Book of Mormon.  Using the same methods and standards as are applied as to other ancient texts.

25 minutes ago, cinepro said:

There is no advantage to believing it from a historical perspective.  So there is no disadvantage to ignoring it.  Compare that to, say, the Dead Sea Scrolls.  If a group of Biblical scholars chose to totally ignore it because they just didn't think valuable scrolls could be found in caves by poor shepard boys, they would be at a disadvantage in the field of Biblical studies.  Their scholarship would be inferior.  But Mormon scholars have been unable to show a similar advantage even after having access to a 500+ page book about the history of ancient America, written in English and delivered by God!

You may have a point.  But this seems more or less a variation on what Hamblin is saying.

25 minutes ago, cinepro said:

Ultimately, The Book of Mormon has no explanatory power to explain otherwise unexplained evidences.  

I think it does.

25 minutes ago, cinepro said:

While apologetics has done a great job of pivoting the argument towards fitting The Book of Mormon to otherwise known evidences, in the process they have made it irrelevant to mainstream scholarship. 

I don't think so.  "Relevance" is a subjective thing, and can include such things as those considerations Hamblin points out.

25 minutes ago, cinepro said:

For example, Alma 11 describes unique, named pieces of valuable metal that have uniform appearance and weight, and are used as money.  In other words, coins. 

Or not coins, but rather "a surprisingly sophisticated system of weights and measures that is consistent with Mesoamerican proto-monetary practices."

25 minutes ago, cinepro said:

So in a normal world, you would expect Mormon scholars to be standing up in front of the regular scholars and saying "Hey!  These people used coins as money!" 

Actually, in a normal world, you would expect Mormon scholars to scrutinize the text and see if it fits in a new world setting.  This is why FAIR can have the following bibliography:

  1. MormonThink.com page "Book of Mormon Problems" http://mormonthink.com/book-of-mormon-problems.htm
  2. See "The Numerical Elegance of the Nephite System": Table 1 and Table 2, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/2 (1999); John W. Welch, "Did the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica use a system of weights and scales in measuring goods & their values?," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/2 (1999): N/A–N/A. off-site wiki; John W. Welch, "Weighing & Measuring in the Worlds of the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/2 (1999): 36–46. off-site wiki
  3. Marion Popenoe de Hatch, Kaminaljuyú/San Jorge: Evidencia Arqueológica de la Actividad Económica en el Valle de Guatemala, 300 a.C. a 300 d.C (Guatemala: Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, 1997), 100.
  4. Daniel C. Peterson, "Chattanooga Cheapshot, or The Gall of Bitterness (Review of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mormonism by John Ankerberg and John Weldon)," FARMS Review of Books 5/1 (1993): 1–86. off-site, see especially p. 55.
  5. Mark McConkie (editor), Doctrines of the Restoration: Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1989),289–290. ISBN 978-0884946441. GL direct link
  6. John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 [1985]), 232–233.

In a normal world, people like you would address the writings of Welch, Peterson, and Sorenson examining Alma 11's references to weights and measures.  But that doesn't seem to happen.  Because . . . well, see Hamblin.

In a normal world, there would be a back-and-forth about the quality and competency of the points and authorities raised by Welch et al.  But has than happened?  Not that I know of.

25 minutes ago, cinepro said:

Instead, they attempt to try and make the text of Alma 11 fit what scholars already think about ancient America (i.e they didn't use "coins.").

The same could be said of your statement.  That you are attempting "to make the text of Alma 11 fit" with with the concept of "coins" ("In other words, coins").

The text does not mention "coins," so we're left with the text.  And the text describes "a system of weights and measures that is consistent with Mesoamerican proto-monetary practices."

Is that statement incorrect?  If so, I'd like to see some scholarship rebutting Welch et al.  

25 minutes ago, cinepro said:

So that's extremely useful from an apologetic standpoint for helping to salvage belief in the Book, but absolutely useless from a scholarly standpoint.

I actually chuckled when I read this.  I could just as easily say "Critics attempt to try and make the text of Alma 11 fit with what they think of in terms of 'coinage.'  So that's extremely useful from an anti-Mormon standpoing for helping to undermine believe in the Book of Mormon, but is absolutely useless from a scholarly standpoint."

The difference is that you have no scholarship to rebut the foregoing statement, but I have scholarship from Welch and Peterson and Sorenson to rebut yours.

25 minutes ago, cinepro said:

If you look at the trend of Book of Mormon scholarship over the last 50 years, it is in this direction.  Again, tremendously useful for salvaging belief.  But totally useless to non-Mormon scholars.

"Totaly useless" because of what Hamblin is saying.

Meanwhile, the substantive scholarship of people like Welch and Peterson and Sorenson and Gardner is out there.  Dangling.  Unaddressed.  Unrebutted.  Unchallenged.

25 minutes ago, cinepro said:

It should also be noted what percentage of Book of Mormon scholarship and evidences focus on tying the book directly to the culture of the ancient Middle East.  As Ryan and champatsch have shown, these arguments can be fascinating for believers, but they are totally useless for scholars of ancient America.

Again, "useless" only because of what Hamblin is saying.  A priori dismissals and indifference.

I readily concede that the Mormons have the burden of proof here.  They have presented a text which purports to be a translation of an ancient historical document, likely from Mesoamerica.  This provenance is strongly disputed, but the disputations often originate in a priori dismissals and ignorance.  Nevertheless, some scholars (who are decidedly partisan, like everyone else) have been examining the text to see if it could fit within a Mesomerican setting.  There are some arguments that it can.  For example, Alma 11 was previously construed by some as describing an ancient form of coinage.  However, several scholars have re-examined that assumption and found that Alma 11 may instead describe "a surprisingly sophisticated system of weights and measures that is consistent with Mesoamerican proto-monetary practices."

Are these scholars wrong in their assessment?  Well, let's turn to the writings of other scholars who have examined this issue and rebutted the published stuff put out by the LDS scholars.  Oh, wait...

So have the Mormons established a prima facie showing for the proposition that Alma 11 describes a "system of weights and measures that is consistent with Mesoamerican proto-monetary practices?"  I think so.  Have any other scholars rebutted this prima facie showing?  I don't think so.

According to you, this issue is "totaly useless to non-Mormon scholars."  What do they have to get out of examining this issue?  Well, knowledge.  Information.  Validating or challenging one small question as pertaining to the Book of Mormon.  Somehow, this is "useless."  Mormonism has been the subject of thousands of books and articles and websites and videos and so on, but examining the merits of LDS scholarship is "useless."

Oh.

To the extent you are correct, you are only validating Hamblin's point. 

25 minutes ago, cinepro said:

And this is ultimately the problem of the "we can't tell if it's a Nephite artifact" theory.  For some reason, it sounds wonderful to apologists to imagine museums filled with Mesoamerican artifacts that also happen to be Nephite artifacts (i.e. imaginary evidence). 

Not really.  What is "wonderful" about "imaginary evidence?"  Who'd get excited about that?

No, what you call the "problem" with Hamblin's point is that it is a sober statement of fact.  We don't know what Nephite artifacts would look like.  We presently lack information sufficient to allow us to differentiate such artifacts from any other in Mesoamerica.  If you disagree, then I am open to correction.  How would you propose to identify "Nephite" artifacts?  What does a Nephite pottery sherd look like?

I would be thrilled if we found a carving that said "Korihor was here."  Or a pottery fragment stating "Thus saith Pahoran, the chief judge..."  But we don't have any such things (yet).  Instead, we have scholars like Hamblin and Gardner and Peterson telling us the reality of the situation.  It's not what faithful Mormons want to hear, but archaeological artifacts from Mesoamerica are, in essentially all respects, impossible to specifically attribute to the peoples mentioned in the Book of Mormon.  They are acknowledging the limitations of where that sort of evidence can take us.

25 minutes ago, cinepro said:

But to scholars and normal people, it is devastating to the argument for a historical Book of Mormon to say "we can't tell the difference." 

I'm not sure I understand.  How is that "devastating?"  If you give me a nondescript quarter, and put in a bag filled with 500 other quarters and shake the bag about, in my view it would be difficult or impossible to say that we could, with any measure of accuracy or confidence, pour out the bag and specifically identify your quarter.  Life would go on for me, but for you that reality would be "devastating?"  This would be "devastating" for "scholars and normal people?"

Why?

25 minutes ago, cinepro said:

It is the most direct argument for irrelevance that has been made. In the spectrum of apologetics, I'm pretty sure that's the last step before just throwing up your hands and saying "We give up.  Just have faith!"

Funny, then, that LDS scholars are doing nothing like this.  They are instead churning out more and more scholarship.  It's not getting much attention outside of Mormonism, perhaps in part because people like you declare that examining such things is "useless."

But that just makes people like me smile.  

Thanks,

-Smac

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36 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I'm not sure I understand.  How is that "devastating?"  If you give me a nondescript quarter, and put in a bag filled with 500 other quarters and shake the bag about, in my view it would be difficult or impossible to say that we could, with any measure of accuracy or confidence, pour out the bag and specifically identify your quarter.  Life would go on for me, but for you that reality would be "devastating?"  This would be "devastating" for "scholars and normal people?"

Why?

 

Long post, lots of good points, but I think I can summarize my point by answering the "why" of your analogy.

The reason is that in your analogy, the fact that I gave you a quarter is not only indistinguishable, it is meaningless.  You may be able to claim to the world that Cinepro gave you a quarter (or that an angel gave you a quarter), but to the world, once you tell them you can't tell that quarter apart from the others in your bag, the logical response is "who the heck cares?"  It's up to you to show them that you can tell the difference and why it matters.

The only possible meaning that could be derived would be that you were 25¢ richer after I gave you the quarter, and you could show people ("Before cinepro gave me the quarter, I only had $11.50 in quarters.  Now I have $11.75.")  So this also raises the other question that is never addressed by Book of Mormon defenders.  If the Book of Mormon peoples had never migrated to the New World, what would be different about the current evidence?  How would the "bag of quarters" of modern scholarship be 25¢ poorer if the Book of Mormon had never happened? 

Modern scholars would probably say it would be 0¢ different.  Book of Mormon scholars need to make the case that no, this part of the evidence is only explained by the Book of Mormon, and that is why it is important.

Obviously, you would always believe that I had given you the quarter.  Your faith and belief isn't what we're talking about.  We're talking about why others wouldn't believe or care.  Which in the case of the quarters and the case of Book of Mormon scholarship is pretty easy to figure out. 

Edited by cinepro
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3 hours ago, Rajah Manchou said:

Unless you are saying the sheep died off. These are the kind of things that shouldn't be brushed aside as exceptions:

Ether 9:18 And also all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man.

I'll fully admit I don't quite know how to interpret Ether 9:18 other than we have a text going through multiple layers. Remember that we don't have the Jaredite text but rather Moroni's summary of events by writing in this shorthand Hebrew/Egyptian mix. Further it appears Moroni didn't read Jaredite. If he's using a seer stone of some sort, that means we have a very loose translation of what was itself a very loose translation likely compounding errors. So, as I think Sorenson noted, the question is what Hebrew word to use for a species Hebrew didn't have reference for. 

While it's plausible sheep were brought and died off, I find it extremely unlikely. That's mainly due to the problem of transporting livestock across the pacific. Polynesians did successfully transport chickens and pigs, but it reported was quite difficult. More significant there's no sign that the Jaredites successfully brought any. So I suspect it's a semantic shift.

Again, I think it completely understandable why early Mormons would assume things were like their own environment. While I noted the distinction between flock and sheep and the possibility of deer, I actually doubt it's deer. My point was just to suggest things are more open than they appear. (I usually try to find the range of defensible readings - particularly when there's not one obvious way to read the text) The problem with deer textually is that we already have a word that covers both domesticated animals and deer: herd. Flock applies to either sheep or birds. We know that the mayans domesticated turkeys by at least 300 BCE. The term for a group of turkeys is flock (although for domesticated turkeys the word rafter or gang are also used). Sheep aren't mentioned, as I said, in Alma 17. While deer is a possibility, I think turkey simply fits much better. I'm sure there are other ways to read the text as well.

I confess I just don't have access to all of Sorenson's writing anymore so I don't know his argument for deer over turkey. He doesn't mention it in his latest book. 

Edited by clarkgoble
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Just now, cinepro said:

Long post, lots of good points, but I think I can summarize my point by answering the "why" of your analogy.

The reason is that in your analogy, the fact that I gave you a quarter is not only indistinguishable, it is meaningless.  You may be able to claim to the world that Cinepro gave you a quarter (or that an angel gave you a quarter), but to the world, once you tell them you can't tell that quarter apart from the others in your bag, the logical response is "who the heck cares?"  It's up to you to show them that you can tell the difference and why it matters.

The only possible meaning that could be derived would be that you were 25¢ richer after I gave you the quarter, and you could show people ("Before cinepro gave me the quarter, I only had $11.50 in quarters.  Now I have $11.75.")  So this also raises the other question that is never addressed by Book of Mormon defenders.  If the Book of Mormon peoples had never migrated to the New World, what would be different about the current evidence?  How would the "bag of quarters" of modern scholarship be 25¢ poorer if the Book of Mormon had never happened?

Obviously, you would always believe that I had given you the quarter.  But that's not what we're talking about.  We're talking about why others wouldn't believe or care.  Which in the case of the quarters and the case of Book of Mormon scholarship is pretty easy to figure out. 

A few years ago, you said that too often the aim of apologetics seems to be to reduce the footprint of the Nephites and Lamanites to an area the size of the printed Book of Mormon. I think the "well, we shouldn't look for evidence because we can't tell the difference" pretty much fits that.

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5 minutes ago, cinepro said:

We're talking about why others wouldn't believe or care.  Which in the case of the quarters and the case of Book of Mormon scholarship is pretty easy to figure out. 

You seem to be implying that the quality of the evidence favoring the Book of Mormon's historicity isn't good because outside scholars typically aren't interested in carefully looking at it and evaluating whether or not it is good? Is that correct?

 

 

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55 minutes ago, Rajah Manchou said:

I'm looking at the Rechabite, Bene Israel and Sons of Moses traditions. (1) When and where these traditions emerged, and (2) how they influenced the American missionary movement to natives in both American and Burma circa 1812. I argue that the claims of Mormonism are not as unique as we think, and the Book of Mormon has a broader range than we've allowed.

While I'm skeptical of your location for the Book of Mormon (and agree with JKWilliams that it doesn't resolve as many textual issues as you think) I do enjoy many of the elements you've found about Judaism in the region. We know of potentially three groups coming to the Book of Mormon land but it also strongly suggests there were many others going around the world. There's also well known prophecy that these will come to knowledge prior to the second coming. I suspect some of the things you're finding are examples of that. We just need the records translated.

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13 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

You seem to be implying that the quality of the evidence favoring the Book of Mormon's historicity isn't good because outside scholars typically aren't interested in carefully looking at it and evaluating whether or not it is good? Is that correct?

 

 

No, I'm saying that it isn't good because it isn't good.

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22 minutes ago, cinepro said:

No, I'm saying that it isn't good because it isn't good.

Meaning that you yourself have performed the exhaustive and thorough analysis to fairly evaluate it? Your discussion of issues like coins strongly suggests otherwise. Or is your pronouncement based on the consensus of non-LDS scholars who haven't taken the time to fairly evaluate it? I'm not really sure how you are reaching your conclusion. 

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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11 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Meaning that you yourself have performed the exhaustive and thorough analysis to fairly evaluate it? Your discussion of issues like coins strongly suggests otherwise. Or is your pronouncement based on the consensus of non-LDS scholars who haven't taken the time to fairly evaluate it? I'm not really sure how you are reaching your conclusion. 

I think he's relying on a weird confluence of argumentum ad populum (aka appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to democracy, appeal to popularity, argument by consensus, consensus fallacy, authority of the many, bandwagon fallacy, vox populi, and in Latin as argumentum ad numerum ("appeal to the number"), fickle crowd syndrome, and consensus gentium ("agreement of the clans")) and and argument from authority.

Lots of scholars don't pay attention to or interact with LDS scholarship and evidence about the historicity and the Book of Mormon, ergo that scholarship/evidence "isn't good."

That's what it looks like he's doing, anyway.  

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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4 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

I thought that we wee having an intellectual discussion.  I did not say of imply that you said those things.  Instead I cited research which counters those silly notions, which lie at the base of nearly all anti-Mormon propaganda.  When we consult with normative scholarship and science, we find that it is simply not true that the Mormon belief system is contrary to historical fact, natural history, or science.  Nor is it evident that Mormons seem to be making Pascal's Wager, or that they compartmentalize or shelve beliefs which seem not to fit the natural world.  I am arguing specifically that the Mormon belief system is entirely coherent with a naturalistic world, and that this makes it unnecessary to constantly equivocate in one's understanding of reality. 

I'm at a bit of a loss as to what you mean. I could offer any number of examples of huge discrepancies between what modern, mainstream science tells us and traditional Mormon doctrine. Examples could include the existence and nature of God, Jesus and the Resurrection, communication from the Holy Ghost, the idea that we have a spirit (i.e. mind-body dualism), the idea that Adam existed and was the literal child of God, death before the Fall, etc. I could go into detail about these things, but it would feel like I'm taking cheap shots and being disrespectful of your religious beliefs.

Perhaps a way to understand what I'm getting at is to read a book like The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll, and compare that view of the world taught in the correlated church manuals. Paraphrasing Joseph Fielding McConkie, the theories of science are not compatible with the doctrines of the Church. You can tug, twist, contort, and sell your birthright, but you cannot overcome the irreconcilable differences between the theories of science and the doctrines of the Church (compare to Joseph Fielding McConkie, Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998),  page 158, where he addresses the question, " Is the theory of evolution compatible with the doctrine of the Fall?")

If you strictly believed normative science, you would be an atheist and your beliefs would be like Sean Carroll's. If you agree that Carroll is accurately representing mainstream normative science and agree with the correlated lesson manuals about what the Church teaches, you have two different pictures of the world in two different paradigms--two different internally coherent compartments in your brain. At that point you can leave it there without giving it a second thought, or you can try to harmonize the two, or you can speculate and put the differences on a shelf.

 

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Again you miss the point.  Virtually every biologist teaching at BYU believes in and teaches evolutionary theory.  They have a biological belief system which is concordant with scientific reality, but is likewise concordant with their entirely naturalistic Mormon belief-system.  Describing Adam in a narrow and superficial way does nothing to encourage the notion that we have come to terms with actual LDS theology, any more than baying at the moon solves any hard questions about reality.

Dismissing what is taught in the Church's correlated materials as being narrow and superficial and something that doesn't come to terms with "actual LDS theology" seems disingenuous. Don't get me wrong--I don't believe the narrow and superficial teachings, and if you and I are on the same page there that is great. But if we can't turn to the Church's correlated manuals to get a handle on "actual LDS theology", what does that phrase even mean?

 

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Using Clark Goble as your main whipping boy (instead of addressing the Mormon belief system as defined by me, Mark Bukowski, Terry Givens, et al.) does have the selective advantage of continuing to miss the point, which is that a contorted and incoherent belief system is not likely to survive well over time.

By no means did I mean to pick on Clark Goble to the exclusion of you, Bukowski, Givens, et al. All I intended to do was point out that traditional, correlated Mormon thought is at odds with mainstream science. That is absolutely true. Regarding your assertion that contorted and incoherent belief systems are not likely to survive well over time is unsupported by the evidence. There are so many cognitive biases that are hardwired into our brains, it is clear that they must in fact have survival advantages

Edited by Analytics
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Strangely, I have never met a Christian who approached the Bible/Book of Mormon or even the reality of Jesus Christ through first appealing to what science dictates or how it evaluates the topic.  It seems rather bizarre to even attempt doing so, yet I have many Christian friends that are scientists by both education and profession.

I have two undergraduate degrees - one in Chemistry and one in Finance. I have a relatively good understanding of both Faith and Reason. When the topic is spiritual I tend to let the Spirit guide and when I am talking about science then I let science guide. However, I continue to keep a jaundiced eye on science because I know how often humans have been wrong. 

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6 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I think he's relying on a weird confluence of argumentum ad populum (aka appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to democracy, appeal to popularity, argument by consensus, consensus fallacy, authority of the many, bandwagon fallacy, vox populi, and in Latin as argumentum ad numerum ("appeal to the number"), fickle crowd syndrome, and consensus gentium ("agreement of the clans")) and and argument from authority.

Lots of scholars don't pay attention to or interact with LDS scholarship and evidence about the historicity and the Book of Mormon, ergo that scholarship/evidence "isn't good."

That's what it looks like he's doing, anyway.  

Thanks,

Right. At some point the logic shifted from "here are the main reasons non-LDS scholars don't seriously investigate the evidences for Book of Mormon historicity" to the bald assertion that "the evidence isn't good because it isn't good." 

I think the problem ultimately is that using an appeal to authority or popularity doesn't work very well when one relies on "authorities" who aren't actually familiar with the content that they are supposed to be authorities on. It should go without saying that in order to authoritatively comment on any debate, one must understand both sides. If you preclude yourself from fairly evaluating the best arguments from both sides, like Jenkins opted to do, then you preclude yourself from being an authority. 

 

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6 minutes ago, Analytics said:

If you strictly believed normative science, you would be an atheist and your beliefs would be like Sean Carroll's.

Out of curiosity, why Sean Carroll instead of say Roger Penrose or some figure like say Gerald Cleaver who is Christian? There are a fair number of Christians who are well known physicists after all. I assume you'll say that all of those who don't adopt a nominalist atheism like Carroll are compartmentalizing. Just a suggestion, but maybe what's empirically establishable in science isn't as big as you think and questions on topics like atheism actually go beyond science. It's just that you've picked some scientists who adopt such beliefs over others as a way to justify your own beliefs while dismissing those who view things differently.

Now I'd certainly agree that among scientists atheism is far more common than in society at large. But it's not quite as universal as you seem to believe. (If you're interested I'd written on the topic over at my old blog a few years back)

15 minutes ago, Analytics said:

I could offer any number of examples of huge discrepancies between what modern, mainstream science tells us and traditional Mormon doctrine. Examples could include the existence and nature of God, Jesus and the Resurrection, communication from the Holy Ghost, the idea that we have a spirit (i.e. mind-body dualism), the idea that Adam existed and was the literal child of God, death before the Fall, etc. I could go into detail about these things, but it would feel like I'm taking cheap shots and being disrespectful of your religious beliefs.

I think you're conflating what's science with what's ontology. Comments like the above suggest a commitment to scientism which is itself a pretty philosophically suspect position. If you're interested, I'd suggest some articles on scientism. I rather like this short one by philosopher of science Massimo Piugliucci (himself an atheist). "The Problem with Scientism

There's nothing wrong with being an atheist or agnostic. However I think we should be pretty careful about what science does or does not say. Thus far science can't really even say what a mind is let alone its ontological nature. It can't establish whether God exists (even if some scientists have strong opinions on the subject). And so forth.

20 minutes ago, Analytics said:

Dismissing what is taught in the Church's correlated materials as being narrow and superficial and something that doesn't come to terms with "actual LDS theology" seems disingenuous. Don't get me wrong--I don't believe the narrow and superficial teachings, and if you and I are on the same page there that is great. But if we can't turn to the Church's correlated manuals to get a handle on "actual LDS theology", what does that phrase even mean?

I think this conflates two senses. That is our current understanding of things with what our eventual understanding will be. Mormons are fallibilists and recognize "we see through a glass darkly." One needn't read much history to recognize that theology (as understanding) changes. What critics want to do is take normative understanding - often determined by frequently out of date manuals - and say that's the only Mormonism that counts. Put it an other way, imagine an Evangelical skeptic turning to old high school manuals about science and saying that's science. We (or at least anyone with an experience with real science and horrible school texts) would laugh at such an idea. If the person then said something along the way of what could science mean if it's not what's in the manuals then we'd really know they were rather confused on the topic. It's just that some want religion to be a set of infallible dogmas rather than a set of practices that lead to evolving views. They don't realize that they're just as confused. 

Now what usually happens in these sorts of discussions is that a person replies, well we just mean well established science - that's what you should believe. But of course anyone working in science recognizes that by definition to pose a new theory one has to go beyond what's acceptable science. So that definition can't work. No one who thinks about science carefully thinks we know it all. 

I think you'll find that the people who actually work on the Church's correlated materials are themselves most aware of their limits. Further, one doesn't have to be terribly old to notice that the materials change with time. 

28 minutes ago, Analytics said:

By no means did I mean to pick on Clark Goble to the exclusion of you, Bukowski, Givens, et al. All I intended to do was point out that traditional, correlated Mormon thought is at odds with mainstream science. That is absolutely true. Regarding your assertion that contorted and incoherent belief systems are not likely to survive well over time is unsupported by the evidence. There are so many cognitive biases that are hardwired into our brains, it is clear that they must in fact have survival advantages

If you just mean issues of evolutionary history and flood, I'd agree. I think the correlated material in those cases is wrong. If you mean more than that then I suspect you're confused about what science is. (History is in the humanities and isn't a science) But heaven knows I'll agree with you that there's been some bad history in correlated materials as well. So what?

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1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Meaning that you yourself have performed the exhaustive and thorough analysis to fairly evaluate it? Your discussion of issues like coins strongly suggests otherwise. Or is your pronouncement based on the consensus of non-LDS scholars who haven't taken the time to fairly evaluate it? I'm not really sure how you are reaching your conclusion. 

I'm relying on the experts who insist that the artifacts are indistinguishable from non-artifacts. 

If that's the case, it's terrible evidence.

Edited by cinepro
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43 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Right. At some point the logic shifted from "here are the main reasons non-LDS scholars don't seriously investigate the evidences for Book of Mormon historicity" to the bald assertion that "the evidence isn't good because it isn't good." 

I think the problem ultimately is that using an appeal to authority or popularity doesn't work very well when one relies on "authorities" who aren't actually familiar with the content that they are supposed to be authorities on. It should go without saying that in order to authoritatively comment on any debate, one must understand both sides. If you preclude yourself from fairly evaluating the best arguments from both sides, like Jenkins opted to do, then you preclude yourself from being an authority. 

 

I would suggest that "authorities" who began their investigation of The Book of Mormon having first firmly believed  that it is true are at least as biased as those who don't investigate it all because they are unconvinced by what they have heard.

That being the case, the most reliable authorities would be those who didn't start out believing it was true, but instead came to that belief after becoming an expert in the field of ancient American studies.

Can you provide a list of such experts?  And conversely, would you accept the opinion of any scholar of ancient America who at one time believed the Book of Mormon was true, but changed their minds?

 

Edited by cinepro
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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

I think he's relying on a weird confluence of argumentum ad populum (aka appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to democracy, appeal to popularity, argument by consensus, consensus fallacy, authority of the many, bandwagon fallacy, vox populi, and in Latin as argumentum ad numerum ("appeal to the number"), fickle crowd syndrome, and consensus gentium ("agreement of the clans")) and and argument from authority.

Lots of scholars don't pay attention to or interact with LDS scholarship and evidence about the historicity and the Book of Mormon, ergo that scholarship/evidence "isn't good."

That's what it looks like he's doing, anyway.  

Thanks,

-Smac

I would be interested to see your response to my comment about your "bag of quarters" analogy.  Do you agree that if the quarter I gave you is indistinguishable from other quarters, it is meaningless as evidence?

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20 minutes ago, cinepro said:

 

Can you provide a list of such experts?  And conversely, would you accept the opinion of any scholar of ancient America who at one time believed the Book of Mormon was true, but changed their minds?

 

What happened to Gareth Lowe?  I went to see him in Tucson, AZ but only had a chance to speak with his wife.  He wouldn't come to the door - I had questions about his interview with Hampton sides (doubletake).

Edited by blueglass
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14 minutes ago, cinepro said:

I'm relying on the experts who insist that the artifacts are indistinguishable from non-artifacts. 

If that's the case, it's terrible evidence.

Everyone in the debate accepts that there is no supporting inscriptional data--at least not verifying the names of Book of Mormon people or places. However, it's not "terrible" evidence; it's just non-evidence. If LDS scholars were claiming to have valid inscriptional data that supported the historicity of the Book of Mormon, and if that claim was disputed by non-LDS scholars, that would be one thing. Yet that is not what is happening. Moreover, critics can't logically use the lack of inscriptional evidence as counter evidence because most pre-Classic inscriptions still can't be deciphered. So the problem isn't even that there is a lack of evidence. The problem is that no one can decipher most of the evidence that we have. 

The main problem with Jenkins' whole approach was that archaeologists rely on other data, besides inscriptions, all of the time. Jenkins arbitrarily excluded many other types of data that would normally count as valid evidence in this broad field of research. The Book of Mormon has lots of these other types of valid evidences, so I'm really not seeing the problem here. Jenkins refused to engage these other evidences, and so have virtually all other non-LDS Mesoamerican scholars. These evidences apparently are just "not good because they are not good."

 

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49 minutes ago, cinepro said:

I would suggest that "authorities" who began their investigation of The Book of Mormon having first firmly believing  that it is true are at least as biased as those who don't investigate it all because they are unconvinced by what they have heard.

That being the case, the most reliable authorities would be those who didn't start out believing it was true, but instead came to that belief after becoming an expert in the field of ancient American studies.

Can you provide a list of such experts?  And conversely, would you accept the opinion of any scholar of ancient America who at one time believed the Book of Mormon was true, but changed their minds?

The problem with an appeal to bias is that we all have biases, even those those who switch ideologies or beliefs. Resorting to this line of reasoning is a cop out argument made by those who aren't willing to take the time to deal with substantive evidence and argumentation. Don't like what an opposing authority on a topic says. Just accuse him or her of being biased. No evaluation of evidence is needed. Whalla! This is still dealing with fallacies, in this case, ad hominem

As for your requested list of experts, it is still tangential. Would you care to look at the credentials and number of LDS scholars with Mesoamerican expertise who have remained faithful compared to those who have for whatever reason distanced themselves from the church. I know which side would have more legitimate scholars with legitimate credentials on it. 

 

 

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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