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Dan Peterson Takes on the "No Evidence At All for The Book of Mormon" Argument


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It's a two-parter:

A Note on Evidence (Part One)

A Note on Evidence (Part Two)

Some excerpts:

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There is a zealous atheist who comments multiple times daily on my blog.  (He’s entirely welcome to do so, by the way.  He’s polite and — by social media standards, anyway — quite respectful.)  One of his recurring themes is that there is no evidence at all to support the claims of theism.

I find that assertion deeply problematic and difficult to take seriously.  As I’ve said here several times before, I can understand people who say that they find the evidence insufficient or unpersuasive.  To say that there is no evidence at all, however, is merely hyperbolic rhetoric.  It’s not true.  There’s evidence for all kinds of things.  Very often, in fact, there’s contradictory evidence.  The daily “rising” and “setting” of the sun, for example, was long reasonably thought to be evidence for a geocentric cosmos.  Giovanni Schiaparelli’s 1877 observations of Mars were plausible evidence, in their day, for what he called canali or “channels” (somewhat misleadingly rendered into English as canals).  There is evidence for the wave nature of light and for its particularity.  There is often evidence pointing to both the guilt and the innocence of a criminal suspect.  There is evidence for William Shakespeare’s authorship of the plays attributed to him, but there is also some intriguing evidence that Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, might have been the author.

One problem is that my blog’s resident atheist appears to conflate evidence with proof.  But they are quite distinct.  Or, perhaps more accurately, proof seems to me to be a subset of evidence — a smaller Venn diagram circle, if you will, within a much larger circle.

DCP is not a lawyer, but he is a wordsmith.  His distinguishing "evidence" from "proof" is pretty good.

Broadly speaking, "evidence" is defined as "that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief."  "Proof," meanwhile, is defined as "evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth" and/or "anything serving as such evidence."

I would have a small quibble with DCP's characterization of "proof" as "a subsent of evidence."  I tend to think of it as a measure or quantum of evidence.  How much evidence is needed to prove or disprove a proposition varies by circumstance.  See, e.g., here:

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I am not sure if this is a matter of "no evidence," but rather insufficient evidence.  Criminal charges require evidence sufficient to meet the "beyond reasonable doubt" standard.  This is the most rigorous and difficult-to-meet quantum of evidence in the U.S. legal system.  There is an intermediate standard for certain other types of non-criminal claims ("Clear and Convincing") and then the "preponderance of the evidence" (aka "more likely than not").

And then there are different types of evidence.  Direct evidence, circumstantial evidence, forensic evidence, character evidence, hearsay, and so on.

A few additional thoughts:

1. The proposition to be established matters.  What is to be proved or disproved is a factor in evaluating the evidence.

2. The context and venue matter.  A scientific theory that can be empirically tested and replicated may therefore be reasonably expected to meet a very high evidentiary standard.  In contrast, a historian's theory about a historical event may be far less empirically testable, but may nevertheless be "proven" under a different evidentiary standard.

3. The type of evidence matters.  What kinds of evidence are available, how much, etc. can vary quite a bit.

4. The provenance and authentication of the evidence matters.  The "chain of custody" of evidence can matter quite a bit.  Evidence can be miscontrued or fabricated.

5. The probative weight of the evidence matters.  A drug-addled homeless guy with cataracts who was standing across the street from a shooting may claim he recognized the shooter.  But if the purported shooter has multiple credible witnesses and GPS data and hotel reservations and plane tickets that put him 1,000 miles away on the day of the shooting, then his cumulative evidence will likely carry more probative weight than the countervailing eyewitness evidence.

6. The requisite quantum of evidence matters.  Legal proceedings use various quanta (preponderance, clear and convincing, beyond reasonable doubt).  Historians use other quanta, and scientists use still other quanta.

DCP continues:

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There can be valid evidence that points toward the truth of a proposition but that may nevertheless fall short, and perhaps even far short, of demonstrating that proposition to be true.  Examples are not at all difficult to find or to imagine:  For example, a witness comes upon Frank, who is bloody and kneeling beside the dead body of Bob and with the fatal knife within easy reach of his hand.  It may be that Frank is actually guilty of Bob’s murder, of course, and the scene witnessed by the observer would certainly count as evidence tending in that direction.  But other evidence might come forward to suggest, or even to prove, that Frank had in fact been trying to save Bob.  That’s why he was kneeling.  That’s why he was covered in blood.

The available evidence may or may not be sufficient to “coerce” a single conclusion.  Accordingly, juries are instructed to find a defendant “not guilty” — even in cases where most if not all of the jurors suspect that he did it — if the evidence doesn’t demonstrate his guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  They’re told to find against a plaintiff in a civil suit if his complaint is unsupported by “the preponderance of the evidence.”  The standard is not “beyond any doubt at all,” or “decisively proven by every piece of evidence without exception.”

This is a good summary.

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There’s much more to say about such matters, of course, but I would like to move on to another of my atheistic guest’s major and recurrent themes:  The only evidence that really counts, he declares, is “tangible evidence.”  The rest is just “stories.”

(He seems, frankly, by the use of that word, to be obscuring — for illicit rhetorical advantage — the crucially important difference between fictional yarns like those about Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe, and historical narratives like Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War and William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.  And, whether he intends to do so or not, his disdain for “stories” appears to entail the conclusion that, unlike (say) geophysics and plant physiology (which deal in tangible evidence), history and courtroom witness testimony and similar things are not and cannot be sources of genuine knowledge.
...
There is relatively little tangible, physical, material evidence, for instance, for details of the reign of Caesar Augustus or for the age of Justinian and Theodora.  Fortunately, we have such writers as Dio Cassius and Suetonius and Procopius.  Obviously, such sources have to be weighed and judiciously used (particularly in the case of Procopius!).  The memoirs of Albert Speer, a leading figure in Hitler’s Third Reich, are extremely valuable even if sometimes very self-serving.  They must be used with care — as must Flavius Josephus’s narrative of the first Jewish revolt against Rome, in which he was an important and (to my taste, anyway) a very problematic participant.  To dismiss them as worthless because they’re merely “stories” would be silly.  And if that rule were followed very widely, it would utterly destroy most of our understanding of ancient and medieval history.
...
My atheist commenter is, of course, taking particular aim at my claim that the testimonies of the Book of Mormon witnesses have strong evidentiary value.  He has never seriously considered them and knows little or nothing about them, but his response, sight essentially unseen, is that their testimonies have no evidentiary value 
whatever.  They’re just “stories,” he declares, rather oddly adding to that blithe dismissal the claim that they “can’t be examined.”  But,  of course, they can be examined, and they have been examined.

Yep.  When it comes to things like The Book of Mormon, critics want to declare that there is no evidence for its claimed origins at all, but what they really mean is there is not sufficient evidence (in their minds), or that the evidence lacks probative weight, or that only certain types of evidence are allowed and others disallowed, and so on.

It's a persistent sleight-of-hand that I think needs to be addressed.

Why is DCP bringing this up?  Well...

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The best starting point for such examination, incidentally, beyond studying the official testimonies of the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses themselves as they’re reproduced in the front matter of the Book of Mormon, is Richard Lloyd Anderson’s Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, which he supplemented over the next few decades with other vitally important articles.  And many other significant studies can be recommended thereafter.  In fact, we hope that our new Witnesses of the Book of Mormon website will become an indispensable resource for materials from and about not only the Three and the Eight but also the very important informal or unofficial witnesses, as well.

I am hoping that the film, like Murder Among the Mormons on Netflix has done regarding Hoffman, will trigger discussion and curiosity about the witnesses.

Anyway, I encourage you to read both entries (and more appear to be in the works).  Thoughts?

Thanks,

-Smac

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I tend to treat everything everyone else says as hearsay when I am not able to see or experience whatever they are talking about, but you're right counselor, whatever they're saying should still be considered to be a form of evidence whether or not they are telling the truth.  Some thoughts to ponder, at least, which I can then check out for myself when given the opportunity.

And yes, I even consider what God tells me to be hearsay from my point of view.  He is simply telling me what he thinks and what he feels, and then it is up to me to choose whether or not to believe what he tells me.  And by "God" I'm talking about the person I refer to as my/our Father in heaven, whether he speaks to me personally or through someone else I know as one of his messengers.

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8 minutes ago, Ahab said:

...................................

And yes, I even consider what God tells me to be hearsay from my point of view.  He is simply telling me what he thinks and what he feels, and then it is up to me to choose whether or not to believe what he tells me.  And by "God" I'm talking about the person I refer to as my/our Father in heaven, whether he speaks to me personally or through someone else I know as one of his messengers.

This becomes even more problematic if we ourselves and everything we know is merely a computer game or holographic simulation run by very advanced beings.  Kind of like the Holodeck on the Enterprise ("Star Trek").  Are those advanced beings god?  Clara Moskowitz, “Are We Living in a Computer Simulation?” Scientific American, April 6, 2016, online at  https://getpocket.com/explore/item/are-we-living-in-a-computer-simulation?utm_source=pocket-newtab .

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55 minutes ago, smac97 said:

.................................

When it comes to things like The Book of Mormon, critics want to declare that there is no evidence for its claimed origins at all, but what they really mean is there is not sufficient evidence (in their minds), or that the evidence lacks probative weight, or that only certain types of evidence are allowed and others disallowed, and so on.................................

You are being charitable, Spencer.  Some of them do indeed mean that there is nothing at all to be said on behalf of the BofM.  What I like, instead of the endless back and forth between the polemicists and apologists is to consider what some non-Mormon scholars have to say, such as Margaret Barker, Willis Barnstone, Ernst Benz, David Noel Freedman, William F. Albright,  et al.  Places the whole discussion on a higher plane.

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19 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

This becomes even more problematic if we ourselves and everything we know is merely a computer game or holographic simulation run by very advanced beings.  Kind of like the Holodeck on the Enterprise ("Star Trek").  Are those advanced beings god?  Clara Moskowitz, “Are We Living in a Computer Simulation?” Scientific American, April 6, 2016, online at  https://getpocket.com/explore/item/are-we-living-in-a-computer-simulation?utm_source=pocket-newtab .

Ah, yes, the "if" game.  What if this is really that...yada yada?  What if you are only convincing yourself of whatever you want to believe?  I of course know what the truth is... what reality is... even if you do not know because I know how to know what reality is.

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39 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

That continuing Peterson blog was dealt with to some extent very recently at

 

From your comments there:

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As you know, Mark Bukowski is quite comfortable with a personal, nontransferable testimony via the Holy Spirit.  But that is not objective evidence of anything for others, or for a court of law. 

I agree it's not sufficient or appropriate "for a court of law."

I also agree that it's not objective evidence.  But that doesn't mean it's not evidence at all, or that it cannot carry any probative weight.  I think it can.  If there is a person I know well, whom I find to be honest, mentally competent, thoughtful, intelligent, and so on, and whom I feel has good motives, and if that person comes to me and shares their personal experience about a given thing, I would likely lend that statement some probative weight.  Not necessarily definitive or sufficient, but I wouldn't say it's not evidence at all.

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Thus, relying on the testimonies of the Three and the Eight is like carrying coals to Newcastle

I had to look this up

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Do or bring something superfluous or unnecessary, as in Running the sprinkler while it's raining, that's carrying coals to Newcastle. This metaphor was already well known in the mid-1500s, when Newcastle-upon-Tyne had been a major coal-mining center for 400 years. It is heard less often today but is not yet obsolete.

How is lending probative weight to percipient witnesses "superfluous or unnecessary."

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The same applies to the Gospels or to many of the fabulous stories in the OT.  Our personal belief or faith in those stories is ours alone and cannot be transferred to someone else. 

I'm not sure about that.

"In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established."  (2 Cor.13:1.) 

"To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.  To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful."  (D&C 46:13-14.)

"And king Mosiah went and inquired of the Lord if he should let his sons go up among the Lamanites to preach the word.  And the Lord said unto Mosiah: Let them go up, for many shall believe on their words, and they shall have eternal life."  (Mosiah 28:6-7.)

"And it came to pass that Jesus departed out of the midst of them, and went a little way off from them and bowed himself to the earth, and he said: Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world.  Father, I pray thee that thou wilt give the Holy Ghost unto all them that shall believe in their words.  Father, thou hast given them the Holy Ghost because they believe in me; and thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them, and they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them.  And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one."  (3 Nephi 19:19-23.)

It seems like listening to and accepting witness testimony is an integral part of the plan.

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They can only seek to know for themselves -- whether by direct prayer, or by the experimental method suggested in Alma 32 (which you summarized so well).

In the end we do indeed need to "seek to know for ourselves."  Personal revelation should be the pinnacle of the conversion process.  But listening to prophets and apostles, listening to witnesses, and lending credence to their testimonies is part and parcel of coming to know for ourselves.

"Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets."  (Amos 3:7.)

"Behold, verily I say unto you, I have reserved those things which I have entrusted unto you, my servant Joseph, for a wise purpose in me, and it shall be made known unto future generations; But this generation shall have my word through youAnd in addition to your testimony, the testimony of three of my servants, whom I shall call and ordain, unto whom I will show these things, and they shall go forth with my words that are given through you.  Yea, they shall know of a surety that these things are true, for from heaven will I declare it unto them."  (D&C 5:9-12.)

We do need to "know for {our}selves" through personal revelation.  But know what?  Most of the foundational data from God comes through the witness statements of prophets and apostles, the truth and divinity of which we thereafter confirm through direct prayer, Alma 32, etc.

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Paul's encounter on the Road to Damascus is just such a meaningful experience which is non-transferable. 

I think it is to some extent.  He told others about.  Those others can then take that information and discern for themselves whether it is real and good and true.

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We talk about it and pass it on to others in order to give them the opportunity to ask God for themselves.  It is not in itself evidence.  So for the Three and the Eight.

I think that the theophanies recorded in scripture are evidence, which can and ought to then be confirmed and validated and corroborated through personal revelation.

I think we are saying pretty similar things.

Thanks,

-Smac

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9 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I'm not sure about that.

"In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established."  (2 Cor.13:1.) 

"To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.  To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful."  (D&C 46:13-14.)

"And king Mosiah went and inquired of the Lord if he should let his sons go up among the Lamanites to preach the word.  And the Lord said unto Mosiah: Let them go up, for many shall believe on their words, and they shall have eternal life."  (Mosiah 28:6-7.)

"And it came to pass that Jesus departed out of the midst of them, and went a little way off from them and bowed himself to the earth, and he said: Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world.  Father, I pray thee that thou wilt give the Holy Ghost unto all them that shall believe in their words.  Father, thou hast given them the Holy Ghost because they believe in me; and thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them, and they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them.  And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one."  (3 Nephi 19:19-23.)

It seems like listening to and accepting witness testimony is an integral part of the plan.

I notice the word "on" in the phrase "believe on their words" in statements like that.  A bit different than if they...our Lord through Joseph, Mosiah, Nephi, etc... had said "believe their words" without the word "on" stuck in that statement.  Some words to ponder which can grow to become something we believe based on those words and the thoughts those words convey.

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It annoys me to no end when people confuse evidence with proof.  Its a losing battle trying to teach that to people.

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4 minutes ago, Danzo said:

It annoys me to no end when people confuse evidence with proof.  Its a losing battle trying to teach that to people.

People can be taught the difference.  People just can't be forced into believing what they are taught.

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5 minutes ago, Danzo said:

It annoys me to no end when people confuse evidence with proof.  Its a losing battle trying to teach that to people.

Yeah. It’s like the frustration encountered when trying to teach people the correct meaning of “beg the question” vs the colloquial meaning. 

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1 hour ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Yeah. It’s like the frustration encountered when trying to teach people the correct meaning of “beg the question” vs the colloquial meaning. 

Which begs the question, when people beg the question does that mean they are begging to know what the question is or what the correct answer to the question is?

Edited by Ahab
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To me, it's the difference between what Alma 32 points to as "knowing", perfect knowledge, versus imperfect "cause to believe."  There is something wonderfully ironic about those who claim that there can be no grounds for faith in the absence of perfect knowledge.  Faith, by definition, involves imperfect knowledge.  But faith is always accompanied by, and flourishes best, when involved with ongoing, and growing, "cause to believe."   I may not have the tree and fruit in hand, but I do have seed, stems, shoots, and roots, and what I have now is far more than what I started with.  

In the absence of perfect knowledge, even the most skeptical, positivisitic, Post Enlightenment Rationalists, have to have a degree of faith in their ideologies, even if they will not acknowledge that faith as such. 

The forthcoming Midgley Festshrift will have a long paper of mine on the topic.  "Notice and Value."

https://interpreterfoundation.org/books/remembrance-and-return/

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

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2 hours ago, smac97 said:
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Paul's encounter on the Road to Damascus is just such a meaningful experience which is non-transferable. 

I think it is to some extent.  He told others about.  Those others can then take that information and discern for themselves whether it is real and good and true.

    This may be nitpicking, but the experience itself is not transferable. The recounting of that experience, just like the recounting by Joseph Smith of his First Vision experience can either fall upon deaf ears who do not care to believe or fall upon the ears of others who are led to believe and some of who will actually seek to have confirmations via the Holy Ghost.

Glenn

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2 hours ago, smac97 said:

........................I agree it's not sufficient or appropriate "for a court of law."

I also agree that it's not objective evidence.  But that doesn't mean it's not evidence at all, or that it cannot carry any probative weight.  I think it can.  If there is a person I know well, whom I find to be honest, mentally competent, thoughtful, intelligent, and so on, and whom I feel has good motives, and if that person comes to me and shares their personal experience about a given thing, I would likely lend that statement some probative weight.  Not necessarily definitive or sufficient, but I wouldn't say it's not evidence at all.............................

How is lending probative weight to percipient witnesses "superfluous or unnecessary."................

"In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established."  (2 Cor.13:1.) 

Intersubjective discussion and agreement is nice, but it has little value in serious epistemological terms.  Innocent people are sometimes convicted on such evidence, and guilty people sometimes go free.  You take your chances and you pay a price.

2 hours ago, smac97 said:

.........................It seems like listening to and accepting witness testimony is an integral part of the plan.

In the end we do indeed need to "seek to know for ourselves."  Personal revelation should be the pinnacle of the conversion process.  But listening to prophets and apostles, listening to witnesses, and lending credence to their testimonies is part and parcel of coming to know for ourselves.............................

We do need to "know for {our}selves" through personal revelation.  But know what?  Most of the foundational data from God comes through the witness statements of prophets and apostles, the truth and divinity of which we thereafter confirm through direct prayer, Alma 32, etc.

I think it is to some extent.  He told others about.  Those others can then take that information and discern for themselves whether it is real and good and true.

I think that the theophanies recorded in scripture are evidence, which can and ought to then be confirmed and validated and corroborated through personal revelation.

I think we are saying pretty similar things.................

Brigham Young was deeply concerned with too easy an acceptance of someone's word:

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“…I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken the influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not…”  (Prophet Brigham Young Journal of Discourses, IX:150)

 

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“We have heard men who hold the Priesthood remark, that they would do anything they were told to do by those who presided over them, if they knew it was wrong: but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, unless he turns from his folly.”

“… the question is sometimes asked–to what extent is obedience to those who hold the Priesthood required? …willing obedience to the laws of God, administered by the Priesthood, is indispensable to salvation; but…none are required to tamely and blindly submit to a man because he has a portion of the Priesthood.”  (BY, Millennial Star “Priesthood” 1852)

 

And others of the General Authorities:

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“Do not, brethren, put your trust in a man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone…”  (Apostle George Q. Cannon, Millennial Star 53:658-659 quoted in Gospel Truth I: 319)

 

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“And while all members should respect, support, and heed the teachings of the authorities of the church, no one should accept a statement and base his or her testimony upon it, no matter who makes it, until he or she has, under mature examination, found it to be true and worthwhile…”  (Apostle Hugh B. Brown “A Final Testimony” from An Abundant Life 1999)

 

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Upon further reflection, it seems like many of the things we "know" ultimately rely to some extent or another on testimonial evidence. For instance, in regard to science, not everyone has a chance to personally perform experiments or analyze and record the raw data straight from the scientific instruments themselves. Nor do most of us have the background to understand the implications of the data. Likewise, most scholars of ancient history rarely get to personally examine most of the archaeological and historical data upon which their theories rest. At nearly every turn, they are forced to trust someone else regarding the provenance of artifacts, the accuracy of transcriptions, the appropriateness of translations, and a host of other historical details that they don't have the background, expertise, time, or physical ability to personally verify for themselves.

In the context of a legal case, someone might think that forensic data is inherently more valuable than the testimony of an eyewitness, but it should be remembered that the data itself doesn't just magically appear. We have to trust the "testimonies" of the personnel who gathered the data. We have to trust their competence, and that they aren't lying or mistaken about what they deliver to the court as evidence. I guess I just don't think that testimonial evidence should be seen as some sort of a sub-standard form of evidence. It is absolutely essential in virtually every field of knowledge, and so widely depended upon that it seems strange to categorically devalue it.

Certain circumstances could render testimonial evidence as being highly reliable or highly questionable or something in between, but isn't that the case for nearly all types of evidence. I guess what I'm saying is that the ultimate strength of any piece of evidence has less to do with its type or category and more to do with the network of relevant data surrounding it. There are probably some general strengths or limitations inherent in certain types of evidence, but what really matters is how the evidence looks in its specific context. 

 

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4 hours ago, Ahab said:

Which begs the question, when people beg the question does that mean they are begging to know what the question is or what the correct answer to the question is?

Neither. To beg the question is to assume the conclusion. IOW Circular reasoning. 

The common misuse is to understand BTQ as "raising the question." E.g. "Ahab is a comedian, which begs the question, is he truly funny?" The correct use is to replace "begs" with "raises".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question?wprov=sfla1

Edited by Stargazer
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8 hours ago, smac97 said:

It's a two-parter:

A Note on Evidence (Part One)

A Note on Evidence (Part Two)

Some excerpts:

DCP is not a lawyer, but he is a wordsmith.  His distinguishing "evidence" from "proof" is pretty good.

Broadly speaking, "evidence" is defined as "that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief."  "Proof," meanwhile, is defined as "evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth" and/or "anything serving as such evidence."

I would have a small quibble with DCP's characterization of "proof" as "a subsent of evidence."  I tend to think of it as a measure or quantum of evidence.  How much evidence is needed to prove or disprove a proposition varies by circumstance.  See, e.g., here:

And then there are different types of evidence.  Direct evidence, circumstantial evidence, forensic evidence, character evidence, hearsay, and so on.

A few additional thoughts:

1. The proposition to be established matters.  What is to be proved or disproved is a factor in evaluating the evidence.

2. The context and venue matter.  A scientific theory that can be empirically tested and replicated may therefore be reasonably expected to meet a very high evidentiary standard.  In contrast, a historian's theory about a historical event may be far less empirically testable, but may nevertheless be "proven" under a different evidentiary standard.

3. The type of evidence matters.  What kinds of evidence are available, how much, etc. can vary quite a bit.

4. The provenance and authentication of the evidence matters.  The "chain of custody" of evidence can matter quite a bit.  Evidence can be miscontrued or fabricated.

5. The probative weight of the evidence matters.  A drug-addled homeless guy with cataracts who was standing across the street from a shooting may claim he recognized the shooter.  But if the purported shooter has multiple credible witnesses and GPS data and hotel reservations and plane tickets that put him 1,000 miles away on the day of the shooting, then his cumulative evidence will likely carry more probative weight than the countervailing eyewitness evidence.

6. The requisite quantum of evidence matters.  Legal proceedings use various quanta (preponderance, clear and convincing, beyond reasonable doubt).  Historians use other quanta, and scientists use still other quanta.

DCP continues:

This is a good summary.

Yep.  When it comes to things like The Book of Mormon, critics want to declare that there is no evidence for its claimed origins at all, but what they really mean is there is not sufficient evidence (in their minds), or that the evidence lacks probative weight, or that only certain types of evidence are allowed and others disallowed, and so on.

It's a persistent sleight-of-hand that I think needs to be addressed.

Why is DCP bringing this up?  Well...

I am hoping that the film, like Murder Among the Mormons on Netflix has done regarding Hoffman, will trigger discussion and curiosity about the witnesses.

Anyway, I encourage you to read both entries (and more appear to be in the works).  Thoughts?

Thanks,

-Smac

That works great in "factual matters" in a court of law but does not work at all in religious discussion and you commit a category error simply by arguing it.

Wikipedia actually defines the core of the religious evidence problem pretty well when we see it as a philosophical issue.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category_mistake

 

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A category mistake, or category error, or categorical mistake, or mistake of category, is a semantic or ontological error in which things belonging to a particular category are presented as if they belong to a different category,[1] or, alternatively, a property is ascribed to a thing that could not possibly have that property. An example is a person learning that the game of cricket involves team spirit, and after being given a demonstration of each player's role, asking which player performs the "team spirit": team spirit is not a task in the game like bowling or batting, but an aspect of how the team behave as a group.[2]

To show that a category mistake has been committed one must typically show that once the phenomenon in question is properly understood, it becomes clear that the claim being made about it could not possibly be true.

Gilbert Ryle[edit]

The term "category-mistake" was introduced by Gilbert Ryle in his book The Concept of Mind (1949) to remove what he argued to be a confusion over the nature of mind born from Cartesian metaphysics. Ryle argued that it was a mistake to treat the mind as an object made of an immaterial substance because predications of substance are not meaningful for a collection of dispositions and capacities.[citation needed]

The phrase is introduced in the first chapter.[3] The first example is of a visitor to Oxford. The visitor, upon viewing the colleges and library, reportedly inquired "But where is the University?"[4] The visitor's mistake is presuming that a University is part of the category "units of physical infrastructure" rather than that of an "institution". Ryle's second example is of a child witnessing the march-past of a division of soldiers. After having had battalions, batteries, squadrons, etc. pointed out, the child asks when is the division going to appear. "The march-past was not a parade of battalions, batteries, squadrons and a division; it was a parade of the battalions, batteries and squadrons of a division." (Ryle's italics) His third example is of a foreigner being shown a cricket match. After being pointed out batsmen, bowlers and fielders, the foreigner asks: "who is left to contribute the famous element of team-spirit?"[3]

He goes on to argue that the Cartesian dualism of mind and body rests on a category mistake. 

Galileo understood this well when he famously said that "Scriptures teach us how to go to heaven, NOT how heaven goes"

Where is the factual evidence that murder is "wrong"?   Where is the factual evidence that a given soldier "died for freedom"? 

Where pray tell is there any evidence at all for the concept that human beings should be treated equally?  Or how about hard evidence that mankind SHOULD extend "human rights" to anyone?? 

One could easily argue that humans have NO human rights since the entire notion works against science and against the scientifically proven concept of evolution.

Where is there evidence that animals including humans should be given ANY KIND of "rights" at all?   Why should human or animal life be considered more important that a pile of rocks?  Where is the evidence?

How would one even begin to show scientific evidence for such a belief??

As has been shown here it is clear that there IS evidence for the historicity of the BOM.  Great- and I agree.   

But the real issue is whether or not Joseph's alleged revelations have led people in a direction which enriches their lives, gives them a reason to live, and to become better people- pardon the clearly non-eliminative idea that ANYTHING, especially religion can be logically "better" than anything else?

Yet those who argue against the BOM on the basis of scientific evidence cannot answer these questions. 

Sorry skeptics, but you are WAY behind the times in this relational world and logical positivism has been dead for a long long time.   That is the view that any sentence should have scientific evidence and if it does not, it is "nonsense"

Unfortunately for positivists the proposition that "Every statement which is not supported by factual evidence is nonsense"-   is itself NOT supported by factual evidence! 

And therefore contradictory on its face.

And yet here we are again debating this long-dead topic yet again.

Sigh.

Wake up people!  Yes there is historic evidence for the BOM but that fact is irrelevant to its spiritual value.   Fergitaboutit already!  ;)

You wanna find the truth?  On religious matters, get down on your knees after you study it out in your mind and think through all the philosophy.  ;)

And yes, sometimes God will point to a better path for you as you are right now!   I haven't seen a whole lot of LDS missionaries on LA's skid row- and it would be a waste of time for them unless we were set up to fix that.   If you are in those circumstances I believe that God might very well show you to the Salvation Army where you can at least gain a testimony of Jesus Christ and get you dry better than we can at the moment.

But that is just a transition to something "better" than what you are/have now- pardon the idea that "better" even exists. ;)

But keep on that path and keep praying and see what happens!

 

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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5 hours ago, Ahab said:

Which begs the question, when people beg the question does that mean they are begging to know what the question is or what the correct answer to the question is?

I Agree with Stargazer - that error is appearing more and more.   People think it sounds "intellectual" and then misuse it, displaying their ignorance for all to see.

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3 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Upon further reflection, it seems like many of the things we "know" ultimately rely to some extent or another on testimonial evidence.

Yes that is very true!!

Have YOU personally been to Antarctica ?

Hit the books, hit the internet- great.  But we have to take what is said "on faith", technically, because others have told us what THEY have observed.  We have not experienced it for ourselves.

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59 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:

I Agree with Stargazer - that error is appearing more and more.   People think it sounds "intellectual" and then misuse it, displaying their ignorance for all to see.

Language is usage, however, not prescription. The error is now so prevalent that dictionaries acknowledge how the erroroneus usage is fast becoming acceptable. 

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2 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

I Agree with Stargazer - that error is appearing more and more.   People think it sounds "intellectual" and then misuse it, displaying their ignorance for all to see.

This is one of my pet peeves.

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3 hours ago, Stargazer said:

Language is usage, however, not prescription. The error is now so prevalent that dictionaries acknowledge how the erroroneus usage is fast becoming acceptable. 

Yes, entropy is a little hard to stop ;)

 

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6 hours ago, Stargazer said:

Language is usage, however, not prescription. The error is now so prevalent that dictionaries acknowledge how the erroroneus usage is fast becoming acceptable. 

Merriam-Webster does too much of that. That’s why I hate it and won’t use it, notwithstanding it generally appears first in Google searches for definitions. 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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