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smac97

Daniel Peterson's Series on Horses in the Book of Mormon

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10 minutes ago, california boy said:

Yeah I saw her claims, but absolutely no proof. Anyone can make a claim.  Would you really believe a native American telling you something like they used to ride dinosaurs?

What do you find in her statement that makes you think any of that is factual?  Because of a legend she heard  about something that happened hundreds of years ago? Do you know if she is a member or not?

I was challenging your claim the only reason for looking for evidence of horses was the Book of Mormon.  Therefore your questions are irrelevant to what I was discussing.

Do you seriously think only Native Americans who are members see the claims horses in the NW were brought by Spanish as trying to co-opt the cultural accomplishments of NAs?

Edited by Calm

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29 minutes ago, Calm said:

I was challenging your claim the only reason for looking for evidence of horses was the Book of Mormon.  Therefore your questions are irrelevant to what I was discussing.

Do you seriously think only Native Americans who are members see the claims horses in the NW were brought by Spanish as trying to co-opt the cultural accomplishments of NAs?

This is actually what I said;

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The simple explanation is, would anyone be so desperately looking for proof of horses or any of the other long list of things in America between 600 bc and 500 ad if the BoM didn't mention them.  Would any Mormon care one way or the other? 

Would you care if she wrote a dissertation about horses before the Spanish if you weren't Mormon?  What proof does she offer that you find interesting and compelling?  Do you know for sure she is not a member of the Church?

 

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Just now, california boy said:

Would you care if she wrote a dissertation about horses before the Spanish if you weren't Mormon?  

How would I know? Never not been Mormon and have no clue what influence on my various interests it has had.  Maybe if I hadn’t been Mormon I wouldn’t have been interested in weaving because I might not have had the chance to take a class if I hadn’t gone to BYU...or maybe I just like to make things enough with my hands that would be something I would always find a way to do it.

I find the idea romantic (in the original sense of the word) and I am hoping it is true.  It will make the world more interesting if it is imo. I am actually more invested in whether or not Native American culture was formed in part by a long association with the horse than whether or not the horse in the BoM is connected with actual horses as I think there are viable other explanations for the second. There will, imo, be a much greater impact on the perception of Native American culture if it turns out to be true than on the perception of the BoM because horses no longer being an anachronism can be explained away as a lucky guess by Joseph who assumed there were always horses there based on what he saw and heard around him. 
 

Plus we are talking horses. They would exist on the moon and under the seas in a perfect world imo. 
 

Just because I am interested in the idea and the discussion does not mean I am finding the current argument that is in the dissertation compelling, though I am very curious about the timing issue and as mentioned before would like to hear from horse breeders on whether this is a valid problem for the Spanish claim or it is just not understanding reproductive dynamics of horses.
 

I have discussed this topic primarily for pointing out the hypocrisy of those condemning believers in the BoM for usurping the rights of NAs to define their own culture when they turn around and argue against the NA cultural belief of horses always being here. 
 

In no way have I ever used this position as evidence for the continuous existence of the horse in the Americas. 

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2 hours ago, california boy said:

Do you know for sure she is not a member of the Church?

Are you claiming that only LDS Native Americans are arguing for continuous presence of the horse?  That all those she cites for oral and other traditional evidences are Saints?  That all the Native American cultures’ creation stories that reference horses were due to Church membership?  If so, that is one ethnocentric POV. 

If you aren’t claiming that, then why would it matter if she was a member or not?

Given less than 2% of the US are members and 5% of the Church membership are nonwhite, nonhispanic, nonblack...I am guessing random Native Americans are usually not members and I bet there is even a lower percentage of membership among Native Americans who argue for cultural superiority of Native American traditions over those from people of European heritage. 

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7 hours ago, Bob Crockett said:

That just isn't true.  Sorry, your statement is just not remotely true.  True today, perhaps, but not when NWAF was folded into BYU.  See Larson, Stan. "The Odyssey of Thomas Stuart Ferguson" (PDF). Dialogue Journal.  Ferguson convinced BYU to absorb NWAF on the ground that archaeology could support the Book of Mormon.  Way too many letters  support this principle. 

I don't have a problem with people pursuing archaeology to support the Book of Mormon, such as searching for horses, but I think the activity frivolous.  

You are misinformed, Bob.  Certainly Ferguson was a well-intentioned yokel who wanted to put his thumb on the scale, but (thankfully) the NWAF paid him no mind.  He was an excellent fund-raiser, but he had no knowledge whatsoever of science or anthropology, and everyone knew it.  He eventually became simply an embarrassment, especially to himself.

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5 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

You are misinformed, Bob.  Certainly Ferguson was a well-intentioned yokel who wanted to put his thumb on the scale, but (thankfully) the NWAF paid him no mind.  He was an excellent fund-raiser, but he had no knowledge whatsoever of science or anthropology, and everyone knew it.  He eventually became simply an embarrassment, especially to himself.

My comment to you was not about Ferguson. 

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On 1/22/2020 at 2:59 AM, Calm said:

For those critics that complain the Book of Mormon imposes its beliefs on Native Americans taking away their special accomplishments and yet insist they got the horse from the Spanish as the horse is an anachronism in the BoM... :P

Want to see this documentation.  This is similar to the Johnson paper Dan is referencing.

I found a PDF of the Yvette Collins dissertation:

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/The-relationship-between-the-indigenous-peoples-of-Collin/71f4eff06d8cab7a62108c418bc24450ee79b173

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12 hours ago, california boy said:

Yeah I saw her claims, but absolutely no proof. Anyone can make a claim.  Would you really believe a native American telling you something like they used to ride dinosaurs?

What do you find in her statement that makes you think any of that is factual?  Because of a legend she heard  about something that happened hundreds of years ago? Do you know if she is a member or not?

This reviewer also seems to see her paper as lacking in scientific evidence:

https://ahotcupofjoe.net/2019/07/pseudoarchaeological-claims-of-horses-in-the-americas/

He seems to into more detail than the blog post, and he provides references including a link to her dissertation. That link is a library behind membership wall, but I found a public link to the pdf and posted it above.

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17 hours ago, smac97 said:

Nobody is suggesting that.

Nobody is suggesting that, either.

You are substantially mischaracterizing things.  A lot.  A lot.

No, it's not.

I'd explain further, but I'm not persuaded that further efforts to discuss this are worthwhile.

Again, sounds like we agree.

Circumstantial evidence has a rich pedigree.  In historiography.  In law.  In discussions of religious doctrine.

And you are the only one carping about "assumptions."  I am advocating for testing.  Analysis.  Study.  Reasoned conclusions.  

Nahom is pretty good evidence for the Book of Mormon.

Thanks,

-Smac

Nahom is not even evidence for the BoM.  Other than that, I'm comfortable saying we've exhausted this.  I'd be happy to learn there were horses here from 10,000 B.C. to present.  Happy as the clams, as they say.  I'm sure everyone would be.  Humans love learning new stuff.  

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2 hours ago, stemelbow said:

Nahom is not even evidence for the BoM. 

Yes, it is.

I am reminded of what Daniel Peterson said in his "Why I Can't Manage to Disbelieve" essay (which we discussed at some length ont his board here😞

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I want to suggest something like that in this case, that to me, the explanation of Joseph Smith is simple and elegant, and the alternative explanations just don’t work and they get more and more complex and it’s just too much for me, and so I’ve said sometimes that I simply don’t have the faith to disbelieve Joseph Smith’s story. I just can’t get there. I can’t do it. And I’ve tried. I’ve really tried to give it a serious look. I cannot put together hallucinatory explanations of the witnesses and stealing from Solomon Spaulding and stealing from Ethan Smith, and I’m just mentioning a few, and putting it all together. Joseph Smith, this incredibly learned young man who’s sitting there on the frontier.

...

I remember my friend Bill Hamblin once being in communication with a one-time, fairly prominent, ex-member critic of the Church and of the Book of Mormon. And he said, “Look, let’s assume for a moment that you’re right and that Joseph Smith did not have plates. Did he know that he didn’t have plates or did he think that he had the plates? In other words, was he a conscious deceiver, or was he in some sense mad?”

To which this critic responded: “I don’t have to lower myself to your simplistic little dichotomies.”

Well, see, I think it’s intellectually incumbent upon people like that to, come on, give us an answer to this. Otherwise it’s like guerrilla warfare. You attack and attack and attack, you always withdraw, you never defend territory. You never have to stake out your own explanation, which then will be subject to criticism and attack.

Well to me, that simple-minded little dichotomy that this person refused to give an answer to. or refused to take part in, is still a really important question. If Joseph Smith didn’t have the plates, did he know that he didn’t have plates, or did he think that he did?

Daniel Peterson and others (such as Bill Hamblin and Ryan Dahle) are addressing the evidence (which you somehow continue to insist does not exist).  They are addressing the ramifications of divergent opinions about the origins of The Book of Mormon.  The LDS Church is that Joseph Smith was telling the truth.  That explanation, while audacious, is nevertheless "simple and elegant."  In contrast, alternative naturalistic explanations "just don't work and they get more and more complex," to the point of implausibility (and operating well beyond any notions of supporting evidence).  Dr. Peterson, noting this implausibility to a critic, got a response of "I don’t have to lower myself to your simplistic little dichotomies.”

Of course, the critics/opponents of the Church are not obligated to provide a coherent counter-explanation for The Book of Mormon.  But the point is, they have not been able to.  We're coming up on nearly 200 years since the original publication of the text, and yet when the chips are down, and when a well-informed person like Daniel Peterson (or Ryan Dahle) argues for the plausibility of the LDS position, we don't get reasoned responses and rebuttals.  We get glib sarcasm.  We get curt dismissals.  We get anything but an engagement of the evidence.

This is part of why Daniel Peterson "can't manage to disbelieve," and why he suggests to critics (correctly, in my view) that "it’s intellectually incumbent upon people like that to, come on, give us an answer to this. Otherwise it’s like guerrilla warfare. You attack and attack and attack, you always withdraw, you never defend territory. You never have to stake out your own explanation, which then will be subject to criticism and attack."

This is likely why Ryan Dahle seems to be suggesting, in the absence of a coherent counter-explanation re: historicity, "the evidences in favor of faith are collectively better than the current competing arguments."

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Other than that, I'm comfortable saying we've exhausted this. 

Same here.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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On 1/20/2020 at 8:27 PM, ERMD said:

"Tapir-back writer."

😄

 "Tapir-back rider"

You're dating yourself. 😜

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2 hours ago, smac97 said:

Yes, it is.

I am reminded of what Daniel Peterson said in his "Why I Can't Manage to Disbelieve" essay (which we discussed at some length ont his board here😞

Daniel Peterson and others (such as Bill Hamblin and Ryan Dahle) are addressing the evidence (which you somehow continue to insist does not exist). 

Apologies but no they are not "addressing the evidence".  They are trying to make the case that something, perhaps like Nahom , is evidence.  But it is not.  I've already linked to a good explanation for why it is not, though, and I read Brant's concern there.  But in the end, it's still not evidence.  

2 hours ago, smac97 said:

They are addressing the ramifications of divergent opinions about the origins of The Book of Mormon.  The LDS Church is that Joseph Smith was telling the truth.  That explanation, while audacious, is nevertheless "simple and elegant."  In contrast, alternative naturalistic explanations "just don't work and they get more and more complex," to the point of implausibility (and operating well beyond any notions of supporting evidence).  Dr. Peterson, noting this implausibility to a critic, got a response of "I don’t have to lower myself to your simplistic little dichotomies.”

Of course, the critics/opponents of the Church are not obligated to provide a coherent counter-explanation for The Book of Mormon.  But the point is, they have not been able to.  We're coming up on nearly 200 years since the original publication of the text, and yet when the chips are down, and when a well-informed person like Daniel Peterson (or Ryan Dahle) argues for the plausibility of the LDS position, we don't get reasoned responses and rebuttals.  We get glib sarcasm.  We get curt dismissals.  We get anything but an engagement of the evidence.

This is part of why Daniel Peterson "can't manage to disbelieve," and why he suggests to critics (correctly, in my view) that "it’s intellectually incumbent upon people like that to, come on, give us an answer to this. Otherwise it’s like guerrilla warfare. You attack and attack and attack, you always withdraw, you never defend territory. You never have to stake out your own explanation, which then will be subject to criticism and attack."

The problem with Dr Peterson's scenario is, the plates have no purpose or meaning at all when it comes to he BoM.  When I asked Dr. Peterson about the point of why the plates, because apparently they weren't used when translated, he responded that apparently the plates needed to be pretty close to Joseph for the magic stone to work.  When I asked him why that was he gave no response.  This whole point appears to be nothing more than a few arms flailing around.  If the book was dictated by Smith while plates lay hidden or under a cloth in some cases, then the plates were of no use anyway.  So it doesn't matter if they existed or not.  It doesn't matter if Joseph thought he really had plates or if he was just imagining them.  They were of no use or purpose at all.  

2 hours ago, smac97 said:

This is likely why Ryan Dahle seems to be suggesting, in the absence of a coherent counter-explanation re: historicity, "the evidences in favor of faith are collectively better than the current competing arguments."

 

The problem is there is no evidential case to be made.  It's just a bunch of guesswork and presupposition.  And when someone objects it appears the response is, "well you don't want to offer an alternative.  What really happened then?"  Why does it matter?  So far we have no reason to think the BoM story ever happened.  Did Joseph make it up, steal it, get inspired by fairies and witches?  Doesn't matter, stories and books are a dime a dozen.  

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21 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Apologies but no they are not "addressing the evidence". 

I guess we're just reduced to trading assertions.  Okay.

Yes, they are addressing the evidence.

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They are trying to make the case that something, perhaps like Nahom , is evidence.  But it is not. 

You are not addressing the evidence.  You are asserting the evidence does not even exist.

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I've already linked to a good explanation for why it is not, though, and I read Brant's concern there.  But in the end, it's still not evidence.  

Didn't see the link.

And yes, Nahom is evidence.

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The problem with Dr Peterson's scenario is, the plates have no purpose or meaning at all when it comes to he BoM. 

Yes, they do.

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When I asked Dr. Peterson about the point of why the plates, because apparently they weren't used when translated, he responded that apparently the plates needed to be pretty close to Joseph for the magic stone to work. 

The reality of the Plates, and hence the creators of those plates, was evidenced by the presence of the Plates.

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When I asked him why that was he gave no response. 

I'm not sure the absence of a response means much.  Online inquiries go unanswered all the time, for a variety of reasons.

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This whole point appears to be nothing more than a few arms flailing around. 

I disagree.

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If the book was dictated by Smith while plates lay hidden or under a cloth in some cases, then the plates were of no use anyway. 

Again, not so.

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So it doesn't matter if they existed or not. 

It matters a lot.

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It doesn't matter if Joseph thought he really had plates or if he was just imagining them. 

That matters a lot.

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They were of no use or purpose at all.  

Not correct.

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The problem is there is no evidential case to be made. 

Yes, there is.

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It's just a bunch of guesswork and presupposition. 

No, it's not.

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And when someone objects it appears the response is, "well you don't want to offer an alternative.  What really happened then?"  Why does it matter?  So far we have no reason to think the BoM story ever happened. 

Yes, we do.

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Did Joseph make it up, steal it, get inspired by fairies and witches?  Doesn't matter, stories and books are a dime a dozen.  

Yes, it matters.  A lot.

Why Not Engage the Evidence for Historicity?

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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10 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

They are trying to make the case that something, perhaps like Nahom , is evidence.

I was under the assumption the NHM was evidence of the ancient origin of the sacred text "The Secret of Nihm".

 

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1 hour ago, stemelbow said:

The problem is there is no evidential case to be made.  It's just a bunch of guesswork and presupposition.

I think that maybe a further exploration of the nature of evidence might help: 

https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/power-evidence-nurturing-faith 

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The word evidence derives from the Latin ex videns, meaning anything that comes from seeing and also from seeming. Evidence is literally what meets the eye and, more than that, what seems to be from what we see. Evidence is based on hard facts, but even under the best of circumstances it works less automatically and more subjectively than many people realize. If evidence were not such a complicated matter, many things would be much simpler in our courtrooms, legislative sessions, and corporate board rooms as well as in our lecture halls and Gospel Doctrine classrooms.

Though this complexity may present problems in many cases, it also allows evidence to combine with faith, because in its complexity evidence is both a product of empirical data attractive to the mind amenable to study and the result of personal choices generated by the Spirit in faith. Not only is seeing believing but believing is seeing, as has been often said. Philosophical worldviews that would have it only one of these two ways offer us a model that limps on one leg.

In exploring the workings of evidence, I have found that the practice and study of law is a valuable experimental laboratory. Every legal case requires judges, lawyers, jurors, witnesses, and parties to define the issues, to organize evidence relevant to those issues, and to reach conclusions about the relative persuasiveness of the evidence.43 This wrenching world of legal experience—as problematic as it may seem to the general population after the advent of public television in the courtroom—is a furnace of realities that can teach us many things about the use and abuse of evidence. From these experiences, several operational rules emerge that illustrate the combination of objective and subjective elements in evidence, opening the way for one to add reason to one’s faith and to engage faith in one’s reason.

1. Any piece of evidence is deeply intertwined with a question. No real evidence exists until an issue is raised which that evidence tends to prove or disprove. By choosing what questions we will ask, we introduce a subjective element into the inquiry—seeking and asking begin in faith. At the same time, our questions in turn determine what will become evidence—faith begins with asking and seeking.

Some questions are relatively simple and mostly objective: Where was Tom on the day of the crime? Other questions are more difficult and intermediate: What was Tom thinking? Ultimate questions frame the crux of the case and are largely subjective: Did Tom commit murder? Evidence may answer the simpler questions, but it rarely settles the ultimate issues. Judges and jurors adopt “findings of fact” and “conclusions of law” that are based on evidence, but those findings do not emerge spontaneously. They are separate, subjective formulations made by them in response to the evidence.

Similarly, we approach religious matters by asking different levels of questions. Certain queries ask ultimate questions: Did Joseph Smith tell the truth? Did Jesus appear to the Nephites? Such questions are usually tackled by breaking the question down and asking intermediate and easier questions: Is it reasonable to think that Lehi came from Jerusalem around 600 BC? Does it appear that many authors contributed to the writing of the Book of Mormon? To answer the intermediate questions, we start looking for specific bits of data. Was there timber in Arabia suitable for shipbuilding? (Indeed there was.) In what style did the Jews write around 600 BC? (They used many varieties of parallelism.) In response to such evidence, we then voluntarily form our own “findings of fact,” or opinions relative to the questions we have asked.

The study of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon illustrates in more detail this interaction of questions and data in the operation of evidence. One might ask: What does the presence of chiasmus in a text prove?44 Chiasmus is usually thought of as evidence of Hebrew style, which it is, but it may be evidence of many other things as well, depending fundamentally on what question a person asks. For example, is the English text of the Book of Mormon orderly, complex, precise, and interestingly composed in purposeful units, or is it dull, chaotic, and redundant (as some have suggested)? Chiasmus gives evidence to answer that question. What is the meaning of a text? Form is often linked with content,45 as in Alma 36, in which Alma meaningfully places the turning point in his life at the chiastic turning point of his beautiful chapter.46 Were Book of Mormon authors well trained and careful in using their skills? Did they revise and rework their own earlier texts? The abrupt antithetical parallelisms in Mosiah 27:29–30 that were reworked into the chiastic pattern of Alma 36 offer internal evidence of the skill and care of these authors. Because all authors did not use chiasmus in the same ways, this literary element also provides evidence of multiple authorship and historical development in the Book of Mormon. King Benjamin is quite classical in his use of chiasmus. Alma the Younger is more creative and personal in his use of chiasmus.47 Chiasmus also provides evidence that the Book of Mormon was translated from an underlying Hebrew text, as is seen especially in Helaman 6:10. Chiasmus may further prove something about the precise nature of Joseph Smith’s work as translator. Each time a word appears within these given frameworks, it seems to have been rendered by the same English word.

Each of these bits of evidence is interesting in its own right, but these points do not begin to function as evidence until we have provided the question we seek to answer. Thus, we are involved in the inception and conception of evidence by the questions we choose to raise.

Some of the questions are simple, and objective answers to those questions from the realm of evidence may, to a large extent, confirm faith or make faith plausible. But the ultimate questions are more subjective, and although influenced by reason, their answers remain predominantly in the realm of belief.

2. Just about anything can serve potentially as evidence, depending on what a person wishes to emphasize. Some have viewed violent opposition to the Book of Mormon as evidence of its divinity.48 Others see evidence of the same in its acceptance worldwide. Some rightly find evidence for the spiritual truthfulness of the Book of Mormon in its clarity, plainness, and expansiveness.49 Others rightly find evidence for its miraculous origins in its complexity, subtlety, and precision. Some properly find persuasiveness in its uniformity and its conformity with eternal truths, whereas others appropriately find confirmation in its variety and cultural idiosyncrasies.

When we seek evidence of something, we are prospecting, looking around at just about anything to see what we can find. Of course, not everything we find will ultimately amount to useful evidence, but just because some people may go overboard and wish to see every hole in the ground in South America as evidence of pre-Columbian baptismal fonts, that does not mean we should reject all evidence as worthless. Thomas Edison had several silly ideas before coming up with his many inventions.

3. For this reason, evidence can almost always be found or generated for and against just about any proposition. Only a very impoverished mind cannot find evidence for just about anything he or she wants. Once again, this points out that evidence is not only discovered but also created. That creation is not arbitrarily ex nihilo, but neither is it impersonally predestined.

4. Different kinds of legal evidence evoke different kinds of responses. The law allows physical evidence, written documents, oral testimony, and so on. But at the same time, different people or legal situations may require or prefer to favor one kind of evidence over another. No rules automatically determine how one kind of evidence stacks up against another or what kind of evidence is best.

Many different types of evidence likewise exist for the Book of Mormon: internal and external, comparative and analytic, philological and doctrinal, statistical and thematic, chronological and cyclical, source critical (the seams between the texts abridged by Moroni in the book of Ether are still evident)50 and literary. Its historical complexity and plausibility are supported by the study of warfare in the Book of Mormon (including remarkable coherence in its martial law, sacral ideology of war, and campaign strategy, buttressed by archaeological evidence regarding weaponry, armor, fortifications, and seasonality).51 Evidence is found to enrich the prophetic allegory of Zenos by researching the horticulture of olives (it is evident that whoever wrote Jacob 5 had a high degree of knowledge about olives, which do not grow in New York).52 Numerous legal practices in the Book of Mormon presuppose or make the best sense when understood against an ancient Israelite background. And so on, many times over. It objectively boggles the mind: How could any author keep all of these potential lines of evidence concurrently in his head while dictating the Book of Mormon without notes or a rough draft? It also subjectively engages the Spirit: How should all these different kinds of evidence be received, assessed, and evaluated?

5. Legal evidence is often circumstantial. The more direct the evidence, the more probative it usually is, and in some courts “circumstantial evidence only raises a probability.”53 But on the other hand, people may also choose to view circumstantial evidence as desirable and even necessary in certain situations. Indeed, the circumstances surrounding a particular event or statement are usually essential to understanding the matter. To quote Henry David Thoreau, “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”54 A dictum from the United States Supreme Court explains the power of circumstantial evidence: “Circumstantial evidence is often as convincing to the mind as direct testimony, and often more so. A number of concurrent facts, like rays of light, all converging to the same center, may throw not only a clear light but a burning conviction; a conviction of truth more infallible than the testimony even of two witnesses directly to a fact.”55 Accordingly, the convergence of huge amounts of circumstantial evidence, such as in the astonishingly short time in which the Book of Mormon was translated,56 may be viewed quite favorably, if a person’s spiritual disposition inclines one to receive and value such evidence.

6. Another fascinating and crucial question is, How are we to evaluate the cumulative weight of evidence? Some compilations of evidence are strong; other collections are weak. Yet once again, in most settings, no scale for evaluating the cumulative weight of evidence is readily available. No canons of method answer the question, How much evidence do we need in order to draw a certain conclusion? Answering this question is another choice that combines and bridges faith and evidence.

An interesting scale has developed in the law that prescribes specific levels of proof that are required to support certain legal results. The world of evidence is not black and white; there are many shades of gray. Ranging from a high degree of certitude on down, standards of proof on this spectrum include:

1.     Beyond a reasonable doubt, dispositive, practically certain

2.     Clear and convincing evidence, nearly certain

3.     Competent and substantial evidence, well over half

4.     Preponderance of evidence, more than half, more likely than not

5.     Probable, as in probable cause, substantial possibility

6.     Plausible, reasonably suspected

7.     Material, relevant, merely possible.

Thus, for example, a person cannot be convicted of a first-degree murder unless the prosecution can prove its case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A civil case, however, between two contesting parties to a contract will be decided by a simple preponderance of the evidence. A grand jury can indict a person on probable cause.

But even within this spectrum, as helpful and sophisticated as it is, no precise definitions for these terms exist. Lawyers and judges still have only a feeling for what these legal terms mean, and their applications may vary from judge to judge. For example, a survey conducted in the Eastern District of New York among ten federal judges determined that the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” ranged from 76 percent to 95 percent certainty (although most were on the high end of this range). “Clear and convincing evidence” covered from 60 percent to 75 percent.57 Obviously, a degree of subjectivity is again involved in deciding what level of certitude should be required or has been achieved in a given case.

In a religious setting, no arbiter prescribes or defines the level of evidence that will sustain a healthy faith. All individuals must set for themselves the levels of proof that they will require.58 Yet how does one privately determine what burden of proof the Book of Mormon should bear? Should investigators require that it be proved beyond a reasonable doubt before experimenting with its words to learn of its truth or goodness? Should believers expect to have at least a preponderance of the evidence on their side in order to maintain their faith? Or is faith borne out sufficiently by a merely reasonable or plausible position, perhaps even in spite of all evidence? Few people realize how much rides on their personal choice in these matters and that their answer necessarily originates in the domain of faith.

7. Different legal cases call for different configurations of evidence. Some matters of common law or statute are what one might call single-factor cases: the presence or absence of a single factor is dispositive of the matter. More often, however, legal rules call for a number of elements that must be proved in order for a claim to be established. In such cases, every element is crucial, and each must be satisfied for the legal test to be met. In other cases, however, several criteria are recognized by law, none of which is absolutely essential but, given the facts and circumstances of the particular case, may be an indicative factor. Thus, for example, in determining whether a person is either an independent contractor or an employee, more than twenty factors have been recognized by law as being potentially significant in resolving the issue, but none of them is absolutely essential.59 Similarly, Book of Mormon evidences may come in all three of these configurations.

In ultimate matters of faith, however, the individual must decide what configuration of evidence to require. Is the ultimate issue of Book of Mormon origins to be answered by a single-factor test, by satisfying the requirements of a multiple-element set (and if so, who defines what the essential elements are to be?), or by drawing on various facts and circumstances accumulated through spiritual experience and research? Individual choice on this matter will again affect how the objective evidence works in any given individual’s mind and spirit.

8. In certain cases, the sum of the evidence may be greater than the total of its individual parts. “Pieces of evidence, each by itself insufficient, may together constitute a significant whole, and justify by their combined effect a conclusion.”60 The cumulative effect of evidence is in some ways perplexing, but again reflects the role of the observer’s preference in how evidence works. Individual pieces of evidence, each of which standing alone is relatively insignificant and uninteresting, may take on vast importance in a person’s mind as they combine to form a consistent pattern or coherent picture. It is in some senses ironic that a few strong single facts can be overwhelmed and defeated by a horde of true but less significant facts, a strategy I used in winning several tax cases. But should one give greater credence to a wide-ranging accumulation of assorted details or to a few single strong factors? Only personal judgment will answer that question.

9. Another interesting effect occurs when a good case is actually weakened by piling on a few weak additional points. A bad argument may be worse in some minds than no argument at all if the weak arguments tend to undermine confidence in the strong points. But who can tell what will work or not work for one person or another? The degree of confidence a person is willing to place in any evidence is another manifestation of faith or personal response.

10. Similarly, advocacy and rhetoric are virtually part of the evidence. The techniques of presenting evidence are often as important as the evidence itself, and the subjective decision to feature certain points in favor of others can be the turning point of a case. Important facts forcefully presented take on added significance; crucial evidence overlooked and underused will not always even be noticed by the judge or jury.

Again, it is a sobering reality that the apparent victory in debates often goes to the witty, the clever, the articulate, and the overconfident. Hopefully, good arguments will always be presented in a clear manner so as not to obscure their true value; but because this does not always happen, prudent observers need to be careful to separate kernels of truth from the husks they are packaged in.

11. Not all evidence ultimately counts. In a court of law, the judge and jury will eventually decide to ignore some of the evidence, especially hearsay, mere opinions, or statistical probabilities. Similarly, in evaluating Book of Mormon evidence, one needs to be meticulous in separating fact from opinion. Likewise, fantastic statistics can be generated by either friends or foes of the book. This does not mean that statistical presentations should be ruled out of Book of Mormon discussions; some wordprinting studies, for example, have achieved noteworthy results.61 But such evidence must not be exaggerated and must be approached with sophistication.

12. Constraints on time and the availability of witnesses or documentary evidence may be completely fortuitous yet also very important. If a witness is unavailable to testify in court, the case may be lost. Documentary evidence known or presumed once to have existed is scarcely helpful. To reach a legal decision, time limitations are imposed on all parties; and in most cases, evidence discovered after a decision has become final is simply ignored.

In much the same way, important evidence relevant to religious matters will often be perpetually lacking. Thus, a person must subjectively choose at what point enough has been heard. Further historical or archaeological discoveries may eventually surface, but in the meantime, one must choose. In this regard, Elder Richard L. Evans counseled, “And when we find ourselves in conflict and confusion, we can well learn to wait awhile for all the evidence and all the answers that now evade us.”62 And President Hugh B. Brown recommended: “With respect to some things that now seem difficult to understand, we can afford to wait until we have all the facts, until all the evidence is in. . . . If there seems to be conflict, it is because men, fallible men, are unable properly to interpret God’s revelations or man’s discoveries.”63

 

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

I think that maybe a further exploration of the nature of evidence might help: 

https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/power-evidence-nurturing-faith 

I think Stemelbow is operating with his own, special, ideosyncratic definition and use of "evidence."

It is a substantial impediment to discussion.

Thanks,

-Smac

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On 1/20/2020 at 5:32 PM, smac97 said:

Dr. Daniel Peterson's blog is an enjoyable resource for learning more about the Church and its doctrines and history.  I particularly like how he mixes things up in terms of topics and approaches thereto, and also provides updates and links to additional resources.

Recently, Dr. P has started a series on the topic of horses in the Book of Mormon.  Here are the entries so far:

The first post pertains to a 2015 article about Pre-Columbian horses: Daniel Johnson, “‘Hard’ Evidence of Ancient American Horses,” BYU Studies Quarterly 54/3 (2015)

Interesting stuff.  Any thoughts?

Thanks,

-Smac

Didn't Nephi and his descendants have some pigs or know what pigs were?  A tapir looks more like a pig than a horse to me, because of its head, but I could see how maybe the body of the tapir could remind Nephi of a horse more than a pig so that he called it a horse instead of a pig.  I would have maybe called it a pig horse.  And I would have probably called a hippopotamus a pig, too, or maybe a water pig, or maybe a water pig horse.  A really big water pig horse with really big teeth and a really big head. But maybe that's just me.  I do think Nephi should have used more adjectives, though.  A weird looking pig that looks something like a horse, rather than to just call it a horse, as if a tapir looks like a regular horse.

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3 hours ago, smac97 said:

I guess we're just reduced to trading assertions.  Okay.

Yes, they are addressing the evidence.

You are not addressing the evidence.  You are asserting the evidence does not even exist.

Didn't see the link.

And yes, Nahom is evidence.

Yes, they do.

The reality of the Plates, and hence the creators of those plates, was evidenced by the presence of the Plates.

So you are saying assuming the plates were in Joseph's hands that they are evidence there was really Nephi?  

3 hours ago, smac97 said:

I'm not sure the absence of a response means much.  Online inquiries go unanswered all the time, for a variety of reasons.

I disagree.

Again, not so.

It matters a lot.

How so?  

3 hours ago, smac97 said:

That matters a lot.

Not correct.

Yes, there is.

No, it's not.

Yes, we do.

Yes, it matters.  A lot.

Why Not Engage the Evidence for Historicity?

Thanks,

-Smac

I'll see about checking your link later. 

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On 1/22/2020 at 6:07 PM, stemelbow said:

Why would you question the scientific consensus based on something other than a scientific finding?  

First of all, what is a scientific finding?

In 1912 Alfred Wegener hypothesized that the continents are slowly drifting around the Earth. He first thought of this idea by noticing that the different large landmasses of the Earth almost fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.  Was this a scientific finding?  Heck no.  It was an observation, and so he proposed a hypothesis.  His hypothesis wasn't accepted in his lifetime (in fact he was laughed at by other scientists), mainly because there was little scientific evidence for it, or whatever evidence did exist was not accepted as supportive.  He was dead well over 30 years before his idea became enshrined as a geological fact: Continental Drift.

You can propose anything you like as a hypothesis with little more than a hunch or an observation.  You don't need to find a "scientific finding." In many if not most cases, you look for findings after making your hypothesis.  Don't get the cart before the horse.  

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7 hours ago, smac97 said:

I think Stemelbow is operating with his own, special, ideosyncratic definition and use of "evidence."

It is a substantial impediment to discussion.

Thanks,

 

Edited by Gervin

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17 hours ago, smac97 said:

Of course, the critics/opponents of the Church are not obligated to provide a coherent counter-explanation for The Book of Mormon.  But the point is, they have not been able to.  We're coming up on nearly 200 years since the original publication of the text, and yet when the chips are down, and when a well-informed person like Daniel Peterson (or Ryan Dahle) argues for the plausibility of the LDS position, we don't get reasoned responses and rebuttals.  We get glib sarcasm.  We get curt dismissals.  We get anything but an engagement of the evidence.

This is part of why Daniel Peterson "can't manage to disbelieve," and why he suggests to critics (correctly, in my view) that "it’s intellectually incumbent upon people like that to, come on, give us an answer to this. Otherwise it’s like guerrilla warfare. You attack and attack and attack, you always withdraw, you never defend territory. You never have to stake out your own explanation, which then will be subject to criticism and attack."

No no, that's not how it always plays out.

For example, this discussion following Dr. Paul Owen's attempts to engage Book of Mormon scholars without sarcasm or dismissal: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/enigmaticmirror/2015/04/03/the-real-issue-on-paul-owen-and-the-maxwell-institute

Hamblin withdraws from Owen with two questions: (1) why follow through with scholars (like Paul Owen) whose "arguments and conclusions undermine fundamental faith claims of the LDS Church"? And (2) why engage with scholars (like Paul Owen) whose argument is "so idiosyncratic that no one else accepts it"?

And that's how most challenging counter-arguments are effectively defused.

Edited by Rajah Manchou
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Sometimes this place reminds me of this (not directed at anyone in particular, so chill out people):

84021048_10162834411225273_6425703917325

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This is hilarious! :D

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7 hours ago, Rajah Manchou said:

No no, that's not how it always plays out.

For example, this discussion following Dr. Paul Owen's attempts to engage Book of Mormon scholars without sarcasm or dismissal: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/enigmaticmirror/2015/04/03/the-real-issue-on-paul-owen-and-the-maxwell-institute

Hamblin withdraws from Owen with two questions: (1) why follow through with scholars (like Paul Owen) whose "arguments and conclusions undermine fundamental faith claims of the LDS Church"?

I'm not sure I understand what you are saying here.  Hamblin states:

Quote

The first issue at hand is whether BYU, and by extension the LDS Church, should publish articles—by Mormons, non-Mormons, or anti-Mormons, it makes no difference—whose arguments and conclusions undermine fundamental faith claims of the LDS Church: such as the reality of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling (as opposed to him being a religious genius), the ontological existence of Golden Plates (as opposed to Joseph lying, or hallucinating about such things), and the historicity of the Book of Mormon.  There are numerous venues such as Sunstone and Dialogue where such articles can be published; it’s not clear why we need another at BYU.

That's a pretty fair question.  BYU is not, or should not be, nonpartisan when it comes to the "fundamental faith claims of the LDS Church."

And it does not seem like Hamblin was asking the question you impute to him ("why follow through with scholars (like Paul Owen) whose 'arguments and conclusions undermine fundamental faith claims of the LDS Church'").  

7 hours ago, Rajah Manchou said:

And (2) why engage with scholars (like Paul Owen) whose argument is "so idiosyncratic that no one else accepts it"?

Again, this does not seem to be an accurate characterization of Hamblin's argument, which is not a generalized question about "engag{ing} with scholars (like Paul Owens)."  Instead, Hamblin states:

Quote

The real issue, however, is why would the Maxwell Institute choose to publish idiosyncratic and poorly conceived articles, by either Mormons or non-Mormons.  So let me ask one simple question: Is there anyone besides Paul Owen—Mormon, non-Mormon, or anti-Mormon—who accepts Owen’s theory and explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon?  I suspect there is not, but if anyone would like to defend Owen’s position (in their own name), I’d be happy to let them make their argument here.  If I am correct that Owen’s argument is so idiosyncratic that no one else accepts it, why would the Maxwell Institute choose to publish it?  Do they have any scholarly standards or peer review on such matters?

He is speaking of the MI publishing one article by one scholar.  How is it you transmute that into Hamblin asking "why engage with scholars (like Paul Owen)"?

7 hours ago, Rajah Manchou said:

And that's how most challenging counter-arguments are effectively defused.

I don't understand.  Are you saying Paul Owens' article is a "counter-argument"?  If so, it is a counter-argument to what?

Also, you seem to be suggesting that Owens' article is a "most challenging" counter-argument.  Is that your position?  What do you mean by "most challenging"?

Thanks,

-Smac

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