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Book of Mormon Historicity


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1 hour ago, Robert F. Smith said:

There are known instances in which genetic mtDNA just disappears from the record.  Here is one which Rajah Manchou called to our attention:

 

 

How do the autosomal DNA analysis tools factor into this?  Is there hope that the Nephites/Lamanites will be found with these tools?

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24 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

How do the autosomal DNA analysis tools factor into this?  Is there hope that the Nephites/Lamanites will be found with these tools?

it doesn't really matter whether the DNA analysis is autosomal.  The main point is that genetic drift and the bottleneck effect can obscure any earlier patterns we might be looking for.  What is best is to seek ancient DNA from excavations of the likely areas where Jaredites, Nephites, and Mulekites are supposed to have lived.  Early skeletal remains are key.

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25 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

What is best is to seek ancient DNA from excavations of the likely areas where Jaredites, Nephites, and Mulekites are supposed to have lived.  Early skeletal remains are key.

I agree. As noted earlier though, preservation is a problem in heavily forested areas. Every once in awhile we get lucky. 

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27 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

The main point is that genetic drift and the bottleneck effect can obscure any earlier patterns we might be looking for.

From the viewpoint of the Book of Mormon, is a population bottleneck that would wipe out any trace of ancestry even a possibility? I don't really see it. By the time smallpox wiped out 90% of the population, their genes would have spread far and wide. Quick and early genetic drift may be a possibility. 

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1 hour ago, katherine the great said:

Ummm. You are aware (I assume) that we have the technology to analyze the autosomal DNA now. Gone are the days that we have to rely on mtdna and Y chromosome DNA which only trace a maternal and paternal single line. This technology, along with the ability to analyze DNA on ancient remains gives us an astronomically better chance of finding those rare lines from small founding populations.

You are, of course, correct. While that increases the available pool, it doesn't solve the problem of the disappearance of donor DNA over time. The deeper in the timeline, the less secure the results (which is the important disclaimer from the companies tracing one's DNA "history"). The science of tracing lineages is pretty good for three generations, maybe four? 

For the Book of Mormon we have to return to the essential problem. If the Book of Mormon represents history, then it speaks of a very small number of people integrating into a much larger population. There were people already in the New World in any reasonably inhabited place, and places with the cultural descriptions we see in the text had very large populations. Since we wouldn't expect brothers marrying sisters, in the second generation we have reduced the Old World inheritance in half. The longer that process continues, the more diluted the possible DNA contributions. We are discovering DNA after 2500 years. First, what might reasonably continue, and second, to what might we compare it to know what the DNA should have been. Both of those are hard questions. It may have changed since i last looked at this about 10 years ago (a long time for this kind of research, I realize), but one geneticist indicated that it wasn't even an answerable question due to the problems in the unknowns and variables.

Now, I should also say that there have been attempts to say that Old World DNA has been found. Those are not based on sound research. Even though they might seem to say what a Book of Mormon believer might want to hear, junk science is not the the answer.

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53 minutes ago, Brant Gardner said:

The problem isn't the evidence, it is the assumption that the evidence is possible as "one piece." When you are creating a historical case, you build evidence upon evidence. There might be something that looks like evidence, but if it exists in a vacuum, it can just as easily be seen as a coincidence. Therefore, you don't have a case until you have a pretty large set of interconnecting evidences.

For example, the textual statement that Nephi was selected as a king by the people who wanted one is an unusual textual feature. Finding that this is the process happening in the target area at that time is interesting, but could certainly be coincidental. The idea that the same area and time provides the explanation for why Jacob excoriates the search for wealth and polygamy simultaneously is, by itself, very intresesting, but possibly coincidental. The two together are stronger, but perhaps not very convincing.

Finding that at the time the Book of Mormon has Mosiah fleeing the city of Nephi we have evidence of an invasion into that same area which caused a dispersal of both the elite and some of the population gets very interesting because it is another connection between place, time, and known events. By itself, coincidence. Attached to the others which also fit the same time and the changing conditions over time--but still fitting into the timeframe becomes less coincidental.

An so it continues. There isn't one. It is a large set of "coincidences" between place, time, text, and known events that makes the case strong.

But you have to start with one.  If one doesn't hold up, then if two does not, and three and so on, what are you building, except a bunch of assumptions?  It's assumption built on assumption built on assumption.  Once you get a few of those built on each other, then of course it looks like you have a strong case.  

When something is coincidental it hardly means it becomes evidence simply because something else could possibly be coincidence.  

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For example, the textual statement that Nephi was selected as a king by the people who wanted one is an unusual textual feature.

Why is that?  it sounds like a usual textual feature to me.

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The idea that the same area and time provides the explanation for why Jacob excoriates the search for wealth and polygamy simultaneously is, by itself, very intresesting, but possibly coincidental. The two together are stronger, but perhaps not very convincing.

 I honestly can't see how the two are stronger.  They both appear to be nothing but assumption.  It feels like in building this case, all we really have is an attempt to say it's possible.  But finding space to say it's possible is not evidence.

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Finding that at the time the Book of Mormon has Mosiah fleeing the city of Nephi we have evidence of an invasion into that same area which caused a dispersal of both the elite and some of the population gets very interesting because it is another connection between place, time, and known events.

But all this amounts to is assumption, it seems to me.  What time and place?  The text certainly isn't specific about place.  What evidence of invasion into what area, causing the dispersal of both what elite and some of what population?  

Drawing a possible parallel from the text with a possible known event in the real world doesn't really supply evidence for a text that does not particularly purport to be tied to that time and place.  One could drop the events in other parts of the world and see other vague sounding parallels, chances are.  If each "coincidence" built upon a few assumptions build on each other, then it really amounts to assumption built upon assumption, it seems to me.  

 

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Attached to the others which also fit the same time and the changing conditions over time--but still fitting into the timeframe becomes less coincidental.

An so it continues. There isn't one. It is a large set of "coincidences" between place, time, text, and known events that makes the case strong.

And if someone starts to build these coincidences with say Italy, Malaysia, Japan, North America, South America, England?  Is that evidence for the historicity of the BoM?  

I don't see how it makes sense to say, "well there's no single evidence for the historicity, but if you add all of these possible scenarios together then that means there really is evidence.  We simply can't identify something that is evidence on its own".  

I don't see how that makes sense.  

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3 hours ago, katherine the great said:

From the viewpoint of the Book of Mormon, is a population bottleneck that would wipe out any trace of ancestry even a possibility? I don't really see it. By the time smallpox wiped out 90% of the population, their genes would have spread far and wide. Quick and early genetic drift may be a possibility. 

Simon Southerton (no friend of the LDS Church or BofM) agreed on the bottleneck effect, genetic drift, etc., which are inevitable with the Limited Geography model: “In 600 BC there were probably several million American Indians living in the Americas.  If a small group of Israelites entered such a massive native population it would be very, very hard to detect their genes 200, 2,000, or even 20,000 years later.”   http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon391.htm .

Naturally, since Dr. Southerton rejected the limited geography, and assumed that all Amerinds must be Lamanites, the bottleneck effect (1492), and genetic drift would be irrelevant.

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3 hours ago, katherine the great said:

I agree. As noted earlier though, preservation is a problem in heavily forested areas. Every once in awhile we get lucky. 

Maybe the altiplano of Guatemala, or of Oaxaca.  Olmec bones have been found from Honduras to Puebla, Mexico -- they traded widely.

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39 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Simon Southerton (no friend of the LDS Church or BofM) agreed on the bottleneck effect, genetic drift, etc., which are inevitable with the Limited Geography model: “In 600 BC there were probably several million American Indians living in the Americas.  If a small group of Israelites entered such a massive native population it would be very, very hard to detect their genes 200, 2,000, or even 20,000 years later.”

I wonder if he made that statement before the explosion of whole genome analysis. It would certainly be true if the research were limited to mt and y-chromosome DNA. Heck, since the "out of the box" thinking geneticist Svante Paabo came along from Max Planck institute,  we have been able to find Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA that passed into our ancestors in small populations tens of thousands of years ago. Modern people still have these segments. They had to look pretty deep into the genome to find them because they were so old. I do agree with you though that looking at ancient DNA would be more likely to yield obvious evidence of Lehi's DNA than looking at living people. If they intermarried with an existing local population (they would not have dispersed into the entire millions of people on both continents) and their offspring continued to marry into that population, those admixed genes should still be there but they may have to look very hard to see the evidence. Its possible that evidence will still be found. 

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20 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Were such maps available in 1540, or otherwise in the EModE era?  Were any of the Jewish accounts of their people living in Yemen available in European languages?  Seems to me these are far more relevant questions.

In the 1500s cartographers were still trying to figure out where the dragons were. Maps were a mess. One of the more popular maps placed America in the middle of the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and the Malay Peninsula, known then as Lochac. That's how confused things were in the 1500s.

To understand how an early modern author might have viewed the world the better methodology is to look at the literature. If we are looking for a Hebrew author or someone who was well-versed in Hebrew literature, the best starting point would be Abraham Farissol's Iggeret Orhot Olam (Letters from all the world), composed in 1524 and widely circulated before publication in 1586. It is the earliest Hebrew work containing a description of America. Farisol reports on "the distant islands recently discovered by the Portuguese; on the River Sambatyon and the Jews who lived beyond it; the boundaries of the Land of Israel ... and the earthly Garden of Eden." 

This text is not only important because it was the first account of Columbus and the Americas in Hebrew, but also because it was the most popular Hebrew "geography" text for the next two centuries. The Iggeret was translated into Latin in 1691 and English in 1793. Farisol dedicates a full chapter to the speculation about Israelite migrations and "Jewish Indians". He concludes that Native Americans were not Jews and that Israelite migrations stopped in the islands of Asia, where the River Sambatyon and the Garden of Eden were located. 

If the Book of Mormon was written by a 16th or 17th century author, they were almost certainly placing the text in this mythical space between the River Sambatyon and the Garden of Eden known as Lochac in European geographies and Rahma and Kamara in Arabic geographies. Even John Dee was anxious to get around the American continent to the vast riches of Lochac.

John Dee and the Map of North-East Asia

IMO the perfect geographical match between Lochac and the internal geography of the Book of Mormon is a strong argument for 16th/17th century influences on the text.

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8 hours ago, katherine the great said:

I wonder if he made that statement before the explosion of whole genome analysis. It would certainly be true if the research were limited to mt and y-chromosome DNA. Heck, since the "out of the box" thinking geneticist Svante Paabo came along from Max Planck institute,  we have been able to find Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA that passed into our ancestors in small populations tens of thousands of years ago. Modern people still have these segments. They had to look pretty deep into the genome to find them because they were so old. I do agree with you though that looking at ancient DNA would be more likely to yield obvious evidence of Lehi's DNA than looking at living people. If they intermarried with an existing local population (they would not have dispersed into the entire millions of people on both continents) and their offspring continued to marry into that population, those admixed genes should still be there but they may have to look very hard to see the evidence. Its possible that evidence will still be found. 

I agree, even though we do know of the complete disappearance of some DNA which we know for certain was once present.  That is why I am so interested in early skeletal remains.

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2 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Indeed, the scientific case for the BofM is not made in only one instance such as this, but rather on a multiplicity of features taken in combination.  The more the better.

This is, of course, the case of Early Modern English in the Book of Mormon: a few dozen coincidences with early modern usage that are unexpected — ranging from somewhat unexpected to highly unexpected — in a book of 1829.

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15 hours ago, stemelbow said:

But you have to start with one.  If one doesn't hold up, then if two does not, and three and so on, what are you building, except a bunch of assumptions?  It's assumption built on assumption built on assumption.  Once you get a few of those built on each other, then of course it looks like you have a strong case.  

There are many reasons that attempting a sophisticated argument on a message board is futile. This is a clear demonstration. This is precisely the methodology that is used in linguistics to examine, test, and then document a genetic connection between two languages. If it is built upon assumptions only, it falls apart fairly quickly upon examination. If the data continue to build in correct (non-coincidental) ways, then you have created an argument that can become accepted. That is not to say that it won't be questioned, but the methodology is the only one possible in this particular case of establishing historical linguistics. It is a useful model given the problem of testing a text against a plausible time and place.

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But all this amounts to is assumption, it seems to me.  What time and place?  The text certainly isn't specific about place.  What evidence of invasion into what area, causing the dispersal of both what elite and some of what population?  

This is a reasonable question, and of course discovering a plausible place is an argument in and of itself. My references follow (in general outlines) Sorenson's model which places Book of Mormon action in Southern Guatemala and Chiapas Mexico from most of the text. Time is included in the text, so the difficult time issue lies on the side of linguistics and archaeology. For those, I follow the scholars' indications of time. As for the details of all of these, they require papers, not paragraphs. In my case, a book .

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Drawing a possible parallel from the text with a possible known event in the real world doesn't really supply evidence for a text that does not particularly purport to be tied to that time and place.  One could drop the events in other parts of the world and see other vague sounding parallels, chances are.  If each "coincidence" built upon a few assumptions build on each other, then it really amounts to assumption built upon assumption, it seems to me.  

The parallels I listed might appear to sound vague, because they reference the more complete and detailed discussion of the details. This is a recursive issue, where a case is built for a location, and then the known history of that location is compared to the text that established that location. Data build upon data. None of this is vague except in the necessarily foreshortened way it has be presented for a message board.

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3 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

You are misunderstanding Brant.  He isn't stringing together a bunch of assumptions.  He is taking actual statements made in an actual text.  Any single claim in that text could be just coincidentally the same as a known feature of actual archeological/cultural detail which appears in the professional, non-Mormon literature.  The statistical likelihood that just one item is important or convincing is very small.  For the archeologist, it is multiple points of contact which are more statistically convincing.

The same applies to a murder investigation:  The detective must establish motive, opportunity, and means (MOMS).  Any single item might just be coincidence, but together they can put one particular person on the suspect list.  At trial, we fully expect the defense attorney to speak as you do here, but the jury is going to judge whether it is all just coincidental or part of a pattern.

The problem with your analogy is we have a murder.  Of course if we can prove it's murder then looking for reason, looking for cause, looking for evidence is reasonable.  In the case of the BoM we have nothing but a book, one of many millions, not one other of which was composed by the magical process that the BoM was allegedly born from.  Building a case for the BOM is exactly like building a case that undetectable ghosts murdered the victim.  I mean we have a murder, it couldn't have been Jimmy because he simply couldn't have done it.  He's too nice. He doesn't have the capacity within him, so it must have been God sending ghosts.  You see, even if Jimmy has a knife with blood on it, it wasn't him, that was planted by the ghosts.  We know that because for one God said so.  For two there was a murder.  For three, God told some others that Jimmy didn't do the murder but it was ghosts and they all have stayed true to that claim.  For four, the victim's house was undisturbed and ghosts can move through walls and objects, so even though we know there was a struggle all the struggle evidence shows is one person.  Not two.  I mean I guess we could go on.  

3 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

A very specific example in the BofM is the weights & measures in Alma 11.  On its face, it might just be gibberish.  Pure invention.  After all, nothing like it is found in the Bible, not to mention the absence from the Bible of any suggestion that Israelites kept any records in Egyptian, or used hieratic Egyptian at all.  Alexander Campbell, who carefully read the entire BofM before attacking it as silly nonsense, could have pointed out these very notions which I have just expressed.  These facts remained true for over a century and a half after publication of the BofM.

 

3 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

In recent decades, however, an actual Israelite weights & measures system has been fully recovered through archeological excavation.  Not only does that Israelite system match the mathematical relationships in Alma 11, but even some of the names appear to be cognate with Hebrew names which have those very relationships.  Moreover, the Israelite system is uniform and all weights used in commerce are marked with the Egyptian hieratic numbers matching their weight-ratio.  The scholars reporting on that Israelite system also show that it is derived directly from ancient Egypt, with whom the Israelites regularly traded.  That Egyptian system was known for decades before it became apparent from excavation that the Israelites had borrowed that Egyptian system.  Finally, that system flourished precisely at the time of Lehi and Nephi, which would have been the ultimate source of Alma 11.  The case for that discovery is not made on only one facet of the ancient Israelite system, but rather on the totality of the facts.  http://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/PREPOSTEROUS-BOOK-OF-MORMON.pdf .

Indeed, the scientific case for the BofM is not made in only one instance such as this, but rather on a multiplicity of features taken in combination.  The more the better.

Thanks Robert.  I admit I'm feeling pretty skeptical.  At first glance it sounds like a fair comparison.  But if you start looking things up you get things like:

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However, it is difficult to determine the value of this shekel, since the Bible says that many merchants had two kinds of weight, one for buying and one for selling.

Since the shekel was the basic measure of weight, it is important to determine the value of the shekel (Vaux  1965: 203-205). This unit of weight was common to most societies in Mesopotamia. The book of Ezekiel provides the value of the shekel: “The standard unit for weight will be the silver shekel. One shekel will consist of twenty gerahs, and sixty shekels will be equal to one mina” (Ezekiel 45:12 NLT). Another translation of the same passage in Ezekiel better reflects the Hebrew text: “The shekel is to consist of twenty gerahs. Twenty shekels plus twenty-five shekels plus fifteen shekels equal one mina” (Ezekiel 45:12 NIV). This division of the mina into three different categories may indicate that there were weights of 25, 20, and 15 shekels.

Another value for the shekel is given in Exodus 38:25-26: “The silver obtained from those of the community who were counted in the census was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel–one beka per person, that is, half a shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, from everyone who had crossed over to those counted, twenty years old or more, a total of 603,550 men” (Exodus 38:25-26 NIV).

Which era of Israel are you using to come up with your Israel equivalents?  I fear you may be taking certain weights and measures from Israel as they possibly could align with the weights and measures found in the BOM.  Meaning you are adding a few assumptions together to force a match.  I could be wrong, but I"m not seeing any reason to name this evidence yet. 

So, first question I have is, what standards of measures are you using for your Israelite comparison?

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32 minutes ago, Brant Gardner said:

There are many reasons that attempting a sophisticated argument on a message board is futile. This is a clear demonstration. This is precisely the methodology that is used in linguistics to examine, test, and then document a genetic connection between two languages. If it is built upon assumptions only, it falls apart fairly quickly upon examination. If the data continue to build in correct (non-coincidental) ways, then you have created an argument that can become accepted. That is not to say that it won't be questioned, but the methodology is the only one possible in this particular case of establishing historical linguistics. It is a useful model given the problem of testing a text against a plausible time and place.

Ok.  But in linguistics we have a reasonable starting point.  There are two languages and it's reasonable to try and determine if the have connections.  I wouldn't say it's completely unreasonable to make assumptions in evaluating the Book of Mormon.  But, again, if that's all there is, then there is no evidence.  

32 minutes ago, Brant Gardner said:

This is a reasonable question, and of course discovering a plausible place is an argument in and of itself. My references follow (in general outlines) Sorenson's model which places Book of Mormon action in Southern Guatemala and Chiapas Mexico from most of the text. Time is included in the text, so the difficult time issue lies on the side of linguistics and archaeology. For those, I follow the scholars' indications of time. As for the details of all of these, they require papers, not paragraphs. In my case, a book .

The issue I have here is writing a book to make the case may possibly be assumption built upon assumption until the reader is convinced.  If we have no one particularly piece of evidence to point to, then what is the starting point?  An assumption?  That gets built upon another assumption?  And so on?  As I said, doing that certainly appears to create a strong case.  A book is a good way to make it appear a strong case can be made after we establish a number of assumptions, built on each other.  

32 minutes ago, Brant Gardner said:

The parallels I listed might appear to sound vague, because they reference the more complete and detailed discussion of the details. This is a recursive issue, where a case is built for a location, and then the known history of that location is compared to the text that established that location. Data build upon data. None of this is vague except in the necessarily foreshortened way it has be presented for a message board.

I think what you are describing would work if there are identifiable evidence connecting dots.  If there is something specific placing the book in ancient Americas.  But there doesn't seem to be.  The only way that can be maintained is by suggesting "well it's possible..." and then building a bunch of assumptions on that.  The BoM is unique if it is ancient, in that it simply appeared through a man's head.  There's no trace to anything other than to what came out of his head.  

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On 8/12/2020 at 3:00 AM, Meadowchik said:

 And so, a very serious problem with The Book of Mormon and its claims, of which historicity is a part, is where it is lacking in self-awareness as a spiritual and intellectual object. To be clear, I  mean that it seeks to stake claim to pieces of knowledge without sufficient evidence. I think the sermon on faith is much better than Moroni's promise, and alot of what I am saying is very like the sermon faith and the interplay of faith and knowledge.  I would say that the sermon on faith would be quite complete with a fuller, clearer appreciation of science and reason. On the other hand, Moroni's promise tends to a very lopsided reliance on feelings, which of course can be extremely faulty, much moreso than science and reasoned study of all kinds.

And so, although an affirmative physical evidence would not be enough (since it obviously cannot confirm claims of a supernatural nature), it is still integral to good belief. You may not need science to believe in an afterlife, but I am going to assume you use science to great benefit, including in your attempts to live a life that would be closer to the Giver of Eternal Life. Is that assumption wrong?

The bolded parts aren't self evident though, they are opinions, which is fine.  We all have our opinions and beliefs on things.  I think they only fall apart when opinion alone is presented as fact.   

I agree with the underlined part.  I think that's why Dallin H. Oaks taught that scholarship, especially as it deals with the BOM, plays an important role in our testimonies. 

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1 hour ago, stemelbow said:

The problem with your analogy is we have a murder.  Of course if we can prove it's murder then looking for reason, looking for cause, looking for evidence is reasonable.  In the case of the BoM we have nothing but a book, one of many millions, not one other of which was composed by the magical process that the BoM was allegedly born from.  Building a case for the BOM is exactly like building a case that undetectable ghosts murdered the victim.  I mean we have a murder, it couldn't have been Jimmy because he simply couldn't have done it.  He's too nice. He doesn't have the capacity within him, so it must have been God sending ghosts.  You see, even if Jimmy has a knife with blood on it, it wasn't him, that was planted by the ghosts.  We know that because for one God said so.  For two there was a murder.  For three, God told some others that Jimmy didn't do the murder but it was ghosts and they all have stayed true to that claim.  For four, the victim's house was undisturbed and ghosts can move through walls and objects, so even though we know there was a struggle all the struggle evidence shows is one person.  Not two.  I mean I guess we could go on.

Science doesn't deal with ghosts and such, so I don't understand why you insert that nonsense.  The scientist isn't concerned with whether he is dealing with a murder case, or an archeological excavation.  The same rules always apply -- hard science and logic.  You seem to abandon them at the outset.  Why?

If I am reading Homeric Epic, for example, the scientific questions still obtain.  For example, the heroic era described in the poetry of the Iliad and Odyssey takes place in the Mycenaean world of the 2nd millennium B.C.  The text describes many details of that culture and civilization, including literacy.  Enlightenment scholars denied that the Mycenaeans could possibly have been literate.  There was no evidence of such literacy, and even Homeric Epic was transmitted orally, not in writing.  Not only that, but the Mycenaeans could not have been Greek.  Yet, with the discovery of Linear A and Linear B it is now certain that the Mycenaeans were literate (at least their scribal elite), and DNA studies have now proven that they were Greek.  http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/08/greeks-really-do-have-near-mythical-origins-ancient-dna-reveals (Ann Gibbons,  Science, Aug 2, 2017).

Science does not care which document or case it is examining.  The rules are always the same.  You really need to take that to heart.

1 hour ago, stemelbow said:

Thanks Robert.  I admit I'm feeling pretty skeptical.  At first glance it sounds like a fair comparison.  But if you start looking things up you get things like:

Which era of Israel are you using to come up with your Israel equivalents?  I fear you may be taking certain weights and measures from Israel as they possibly could align with the weights and measures found in the BOM.  Meaning you are adding a few assumptions together to force a match.  I could be wrong, but I"m not seeing any reason to name this evidence yet. 

So, first question I have is, what standards of measures are you using for your Israelite comparison?

All the Israelite standards are those recovered in archeological excavations, at Israelite sites contemporary with Lehi & Nephi (and their immediate ancestors).  The data is not drawn from the Bible, which gives no hint of such a system.  I laid it all out for easy examination for you in the source I cited.  The scholars who did the work are all non-Mormon.

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3 hours ago, stemelbow said:

Ok.  But in linguistics we have a reasonable starting point.  There are two languages and it's reasonable to try and determine if the have connections.  I wouldn't say it's completely unreasonable to make assumptions in evaluating the Book of Mormon.  But, again, if that's all there is, then there is no evidence.  

I don't know if you don't understand linguistics, or if it is because you miss the application of the methodology to a different historical connection. All linguistic hypotheses of genetic connection begin with a hypothesis. Then examination is made, and the connection only appears once there are multiple cognate sets, and typically the indication of how normal sound shifts account for the differences.

Applied to a historical connection, we begin with the hypothesis that there is a connection between a text and a particular time period. The examination of the elements of the text must be connected to history in non-random ways, and similarly to historical linguistics, depends first upon the accumulation of the inter-connected data. At some point, the connection is sufficient that non-obvious cognates might be examined based on the strength of what was already learned. The connections are therefore productive in explaining contexts and perhaps the timing of divergence of the language. In the case of the text, we find productivity when the restored context supplies information about the text that would not be available without the correct context.

It is a particularly detailed process which can be disproved at several instances. However, connections between text and archaeology are necessary an uncomfortable fit based on the nature of the data encoded in each. For that reason, possible exceptions must also have coherent explanations, in much the same way that potentially contrary data must be accounted in any scientific experiment.

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The issue I have here is writing a book to make the case may possibly be assumption built upon assumption until the reader is convinced. 

Hence the reason that the book is publicly available, including (of course) all supporting data. The ability of a reader to discern the quality of an argument is always part of the resulting equation of whether or not an argument supports the hypothesis or is considered to be rejected. The key is examining the evidence rather than simply suggesting that maybe, perhaps, something not read might not be accurate.

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If we have no one particularly piece of evidence to point to, then what is the starting point? 

Back to the starting point. I will simply repeat the impossibility of the one piece of evidence argument.

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I think what you are describing would work if there are identifiable evidence connecting dots.  If there is something specific placing the book in ancient Americas.  But there doesn't seem to be.  The only way that can be maintained is by suggesting "well it's possible..." and then building a bunch of assumptions on that.  The BoM is unique if it is ancient, in that it simply appeared through a man's head.  There's no trace to anything other than to what came out of his head.  

Ironic that you worry so much about assumptions, and the make assumptions about arguments you have not read. I find that undercuts your argument. You say "The only way that can be maintained is by suggesting 'well it's possible...'" I agree that if that were my methodology it would be highly suspect. It isn't.

I suggest that rather than assumptions about what I have said, you might try reading something I have written. I agree that it is unlikely that you would like to purchase the book, but there are articles online that are either referenced in the book, or reworked into the text. So, you can get the complexity of specific arguments even if you don't care to see the entire picture. 

Edited by Brant Gardner
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After approximately a millennium of rivalry and conflicts between the Lamanite and Nephite factions, of Lehi’s posterity , the Nephites were driven  entirely from their southern ancestral lands, into the region we know as Nicaraguan, which was then called the Land Desolation.
This name being derived from the desolate state of the region, when first discovered by the  Nephites. Here on the western coast of Nicaragua, on the narrow neck of land, between Lake Nicaragua and  the Pacific Coast, the Nephites met their “Waterloo” , repeating the fate of the “Jaredites“ whose bones they discovered, centuries before, and whose history they included into their own.

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1 hour ago, Brant Gardner said:

I don't know if you don't understand linguistics, or if it is because you miss the application of the methodology to a different historical connection. All linguistic hypotheses of genetic connection begin with a hypothesis. Then examination is made, and the connection only appears once there are multiple cognate sets, and typically the indication of how normal sound shifts account for the differences.

Applied to a historical connection, we begin with the hypothesis that there is a connection between a text and a particular time period. The examination of the elements of the text must be connected to history in non-random ways, and similarly to historical linguistics, depends first upon the accumulation of the inter-connected data. At some point, the connection is sufficient that non-obvious cognates might be examined based on the strength of what was already learned. The connections are therefore productive in explaining contexts and perhaps the timing of divergence of the language. In the case of the text, we find productivity when the restored context supplies information about the text that would not be available without the correct context.

It is a particularly detailed process which can be disproved at several instances. However, connections between text and archaeology are necessary an uncomfortable fit based on the nature of the data encoded in each. For that reason, possible exceptions must also have coherent explanations, in much the same way that potentially contrary data must be accounted in any scientific experiment.

Thanks.  Do we have a non-LDS linguist who can confirm, as a peer, any of the LDS defenses using linguists as evidence for historicity?  

1 hour ago, Brant Gardner said:

Hence the reason that the book is publicly available, including (of course) all supporting data. The ability of a reader to discern the quality of an argument is always part of the resulting equation of whether or not an argument supports the hypothesis or is considered to be rejected. The key is examining the evidence rather than simply suggesting that maybe, perhaps, something not read might not be accurate.

Back to the starting point. I will simply repeat the impossibility of the one piece of evidence argument.

Ironic that you worry so much about assumptions, and the make assumptions about arguments you have not read. I find that undercuts your argument. You say "The only way that can be maintained is by suggesting 'well it's possible...'" I agree that if that were my methodology it would be highly suspect. It isn't.

That's good to hear.  I'll have to give it more consideration.  

1 hour ago, Brant Gardner said:

I suggest that rather than assumptions about what I have said, you might try reading something I have written. I agree that it is unlikely that you would like to purchase the book, but there are articles online that are either referenced in the book, or reworked into the text. So, you can get the complexity of specific arguments even if you don't care to see the entire picture. 

Thanks.

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3 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Science doesn't deal with ghosts and such, so I don't understand why you insert that nonsense.  The scientist isn't concerned with whether he is dealing with a murder case, or an archeological excavation.  The same rules always apply -- hard science and logic.  You seem to abandon them at the outset.  Why?

I"m drawing a parallel.  For some reason it seems people are accepting all the assumptions required to believe the historicity of the BoM all because of a ghost (being God). 

3 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

If I am reading Homeric Epic, for example, the scientific questions still obtain.  For example, the heroic era described in the poetry of the Iliad and Odyssey takes place in the Mycenaean world of the 2nd millennium B.C.  The text describes many details of that culture and civilization, including literacy.  Enlightenment scholars denied that the Mycenaeans could possibly have been literate.  There was no evidence of such literacy, and even Homeric Epic was transmitted orally, not in writing.  Not only that, but the Mycenaeans could not have been Greek.  Yet, with the discovery of Linear A and Linear B it is now certain that the Mycenaeans were literate (at least their scribal elite), and DNA studies have now proven that they were Greek.  http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/08/greeks-really-do-have-near-mythical-origins-ancient-dna-reveals (Ann Gibbons,  Science, Aug 2, 2017).

So you're saying there's a chance.  Gotacha.  

3 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Science does not care which document or case it is examining.  The rules are always the same.  You really need to take that to heart.

All the Israelite standards are those recovered in archeological excavations, at Israelite sites contemporary with Lehi & Nephi (and their immediate ancestors).  The data is not drawn from the Bible, which gives no hint of such a system.  I laid it all out for easy examination for you in the source I cited.  The scholars who did the work are all non-Mormon.

I don't think it matters if they were Mormon or not.  

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On 8/11/2020 at 6:54 PM, Robert F. Smith said:

We all bring a POV to everything we read.  Each of us has an opinion.  There is not only one, totalist POV applicable to all literature.  We are all free to make assertions, with the understanding that not everyone (perhaps no one) will share our POV.  You believe that my opinion is immaterial.  We all have our strong beliefs, but you might want to broaden your purview just a bit, James.

Then leave out the vinegar, Ben.

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stemmelbow asked

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Do we have a non-LDS linguist who can confirm, as a peer, any of the LDS defenses using linguists as evidence for historicity?  

Whenever I see this line of thought, I can't help but think of this passage from John 7:48:

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Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?

What's interesting is the supposition that LDS experts cannot be trusted unless validated from outside (nevermind that the most impressive LDS experts got their Ph.D.s from outside institutions and publish regularly in professional journals without controversy), whereas, whatever anyone from the outside says must be correct since as professionals, they must be totally objective and omniscient, even if, in many cases, they demonstrate that they don't know much about the Book of Mormon and LDS scholarship, even when they have read it (Coe, for instance), or make their pronouncements without having read it (McMurrin and Bloom).

In Myths, Models, and Paradigms: A Comparative Study of Science and Religion, Barbour talks about the debate on the existence of God like this:

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The point of departure must be the page of Wittgenstein’ s Philosophical Investigations on which appears a famous sketch which can be seen as a rabbit or as a duck.1 Wittgenstein says that we do not simply see; we ‘see as’, interpreting according to a pattern. John Wisdom applies the phrase to the world in its totality, which can be seen in more than one way. He tells a now-classic parable about two men who return to their long-neglected garden, in which both flowers and weeds are growing. One man is convinced that ‘some gardener must tend this plot’; he points to evidence supporting his view. The other is sure that there is no gardener, and points out opposing evidence. Similarly throughout their lives, people use ‘models with which to get the hang of the patterns in the flux of experience’ 2

Later comments by Flew and others on Wisdom’s parable have dwelt on one point in it: the two men do not differ concerning the facts about the garden. But Wisdom himself went on to say they do differ concerning their interpretations, and that the difference is significant and discussable. Each can try to help the other person to see the garden as he himself does by drawing attention to certain patterns among the facts, by connecting them up in distinctive ways and by mentioning features which might have been overlooked. Like a judge trying to decide in a law court whether there was negligence in a controversial case, the men in the parable must weigh the cumulative effect of many factors. ‘Reasons for and against may be offered.’ The men differ not simply in attitudes but in beliefs. ‘It seems to me’, writes Wisdom, ‘that some belief as to what the world is like is of the essence of religion.’3 Religious models, then, serve an ‘attention-directing’ function, accentuating the patterns which we see in the facts.

Coming from the Positivist/Empiricist tradition, in the 1950s Anthony Flew argued that there must be falsifying conditions.

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During the 1950’s positivism came under increasing attack, but many of its assumptions were perpetuated in the empiricism which came to replace it as the dominant interpretation of science. Among the empiricist claims were the following. (1) Science starts from publicly observable data which can be described in a pure observation-language independent of any theoretical assumptions. (2) Theories can be verified or falsified by comparison with this fixed experimental data. (3) The choice between theories is rational, objective and in accordance with specifiable criteria. Philosophers under the sway of such empiricism continued to say that religion can legitimately make no cognitive claims. We will look particularly at the protracted debate concerning the falsifiability of religious beliefs which has occurred since I955, when Antony Flew issued his challenge to the theist: What would have to occur to constitute a disproof of the existence of God? Flew held that religious statements are not genuine assertions because the observable conditions which would falsify them cannot be specified.

Barbour makes a case that this sort of thinking doesn't hold up:

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2. Flew’s demand that the theist should specify falsifying conditions for religious beliefs seems unreasonable if such falsifying conditions cannot even be specified for comprehensive scientific theories. I will submit that though no decisive falsification is possible, the cumulative weight of evidence does count for or against religious beliefs, but with greater ambiguity than in science. Religious paradigms, like scientific ones, are not falsified by discordant data but replaced by promising alternatives. Commitment to a paradigm (understood, again, as a tradition transmitted through historical exemplars) allows its potentialities to be systematically explored.

3. There are no rules for choice between religious paradigms, but there are criteria of assessment. The application of such criteria is even more subject to individual judgment in religion than in the controversies between competing paradigms during a ‘scientific revolution’. Moreover religious faith includes personal trust and loyalty; it is more totally self-involving than commitment to a scientific paradigm. Nevertheless the existence of criteria means that religious traditions can be analysed and discussed. Religious commitment is not incompatible with critical reflection. It is my hope that the new views of science described here can offer some encouragement to such a combination of commitment and enquiry in religion.

https://www.religion-online.org/book-chapter/chapter-1-introduction-3/

Further, there is the issue of thinking of the problem in terms of a philosophical discussion about whether or not there was once a garden in a particular spot. In that model, nothing is at stake.  Whether or not there was a garden doesn't matter as much as whether Joseph Smith really did receive real inspiration, if, for instance, Moroni was a real resurrected being who came to Joseph Smith with an authentic account.  If so, it calls for wholesale changes to a person's life and society.  So, treating one set of commentators as though they must be wrong because everything is at stake for them, and another set  as correct because nothing is at stake except social ostracism if they take Joseph Smith seriously, overlooks the reality that the ongoing stakes heighten the need to get things right.  Barbour refers to a rival parable of "The Partisan" in which setting is WWII in the Resistance, rather than philosophers discussing a garden, and the stakes about who to trust involve life and death.  A similar conflict and similar stakes arise in the Harry Potter books around Dumbledore's declaration that "I trust Severus Snape" and Harry's ongoing experience and grounds for mistrust (even, counting instances where the mistrust seems to have been dead wrong, as in the first book). Does Harry's experience mean Dumbledore is wrong, or does Dumbledore know something that Harry does not?  Is Professor Lupin wrong to say, "I trust Dumbledore?" when Lupin doesn't know everything Dumbledore knows, based on his experiences.

Can I decide who to trust in the absence of absolute certainty and in the absence of all the information that I might want?  The thing is, I must decide, and I have to be open to the possibility that I might have more to learn.  So faith goes with the territory.  And over the years, I manage to learn a lot more about the territory from the inside, taking a faith position, than I would if I left, and had just let Brodie, or the Tanners, or Dehlin, or Metcalfe, or Vogel, or Runnells, or whomever, tell what they see as most significant about the Book of Mormon.

Again:

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Commitment to a paradigm (understood, again, as a tradition transmitted through historical exemplars) allows its potentialities to be systematically explored.

So Barbour says, and Alma 32 agrees.   While we might have all of the information we want, I have continually found the search fruitful, surprising, enlightening, and frankly, more than enough to justify my continuing commitment. And it's nice that while I have crawled around a bit on my own, there are shoulders of giants that I can climb to, and stand on, and see further than I could on my own.  There are many of them now, with talents unimagined in Joseph's day, and it's interesting when the different kinds of expertise not only reveal much that I would not find on my own, but as they begin to intersect, and provide mutual illumination.  Sorenson and Poulson and Gardner and Wright, meeting Stubbs, and Grover and Welch and Nibley, and Peterson and Goff and Tvedtnes and Hardy, and McGuire and even Barker.  I don't feel forced, but the invitation is wonderfully attractive.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

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