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Horses in Ancient America?


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This question is more directed at Beastie than anyone, but any critic may feel free to jump in.

On another thread, there is an on-going dispute about the existence of horses in ancient america and whether the mention of horses in the B of M is anacronistic or simply a relic of translation.

My question is this: What if evidence of horses was in precolumbian america was found? I am taling about horses that existed in the right time frame, not the pre-historic variety that have discussed and dismissed?

Would such a discovery radically alter your view of the Book of Mormon? Why or why not?

C.I.

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My question is this: What if evidence of horses was in precolumbian america was found?

It wouldn't mean much other than proving that particular argument against the BOM false. It wouldn't make the BOM a shred more likely.

Unfortunately, this doesn't work both ways. One mundane aspect of mesoamerica that lines up with the BOM, but that also lines up with Joseph's time is hardly impressive. In fact, any number of mundane aspects together of this same kind gather virtually zero force in favor of the BOM. But, one single ity bity, mundane detail clearly expressed in the BOM, something that just simply could not have been the case for that time in that place might bring the card house down.

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This question is more directed at Beastie than anyone, but any critic may feel free to jump in.

On another thread, there is an on-going dispute about the existence of horses in ancient america and whether the mention of horses in the B of M is anacronistic or simply a relic of translation.

My question is this: What if evidence of horses was in precolumbian america was found? I am taling about horses that existed in the right time frame, not the pre-historic variety that have discussed and dismissed?

Would such a discovery radically alter your view of the Book of Mormon? Why or why not?

C.I.

Did somebody find horsies?

:P

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sidewinder is correct - the problem with the claim of historicity of the BoM is not just one issue - horses - although obviously it is one (along with metals) that I find particularly interesting, probably because both are technologies that had a major impact on the evolution of culture.

So if evidence of horses were discovered in the right time and place, that obviously would no longer be a point of discussion for me. But would that, alone, automatically convince me the BoM is historical? No.

The irony of this is that the problems with the BoM really didn't play a large part in my loss of faith. In fact, when I first left the church, I still "believed" in the BoM as a spiritually true document, although not necessarily an historical one. I did not seriously study the problems of the BoM until I was already a nonbeliever, although it is now my primary remaining LDS interest.

What caused my loss of faith is similar to the problems of the BoM in that there wasn't just one issue, but these various problems were definitely centered on church history, not the BoM. My first crisis was discovering how JS practiced polygamy - it just was not possible for me to believe that God wanted JS to marry other men's wives. (I do not mean to turn this thread into a discussion on that point, hopefully) But still I believed in the church - I had had a very intense spiritual confirmation that the BoM was "the word of God" when I was investigating the church. The problem was that I could never receive that same testimony of JS' role as prophet, or of the church, in general, as being the 'one true church'.* So when my faith began to shake, I returned to that basic request in prayer - was JS a true prophet? And the more I studied church history the more obvious it was that prophets make lots of mistakes, some of them very serious in nature, and theological in nature. Remembering that the church never taught that the prophets are infallible, I came to the conclusion that JS had, indeed, been callen of God to translate the BoM, or possibly to write it, and to restore the church but that he had transgressed in polygamy and fallen. So the next issue became whether or not that affected the status of the church as the 'one true church'. So I changed my prayer quest to "is the CoJCoLDS the one true church on the earth, the only church with the authority of the priesthood of God"? After many months of prayer on that topic, with no answer, and increasing "issues" with other events in church history, when I was praying one day during a run, I was suddenly filled with the knowledge that I already "knew" the answer, and that the answer was no. It was an epiphany.

It took several more years for me to lose belief in God altogether, and come to the conclusion that we, as a species, have the ability to create "realities", that include spiritual events, that serve the purpose of binding us together as tribal members, but that are not necessarily indicative of any external reality.

So many things would have to happen to restore my faith in the church, if that is what you were really asking, not simply a validation of existence of horses.

*an aside - when I still believed in a God that would communicate to human beings in this manner, I believed that he felt it was important to my spiritual journey to be LDS for a while, and that is why he answered "yes" to the BoM - because it could reasonably be considered the "word of God" - I didn't ask if it were historically true - but would not answer the prayer about JS. He wanted to give me an entrance to the LDS church but also provide an exit for the future, when I needed to spiritually evolve in a different way. Of course, I no longer believe in a God that communicates and manipulates peoples' lives that way, but it was an interesting segue.

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Ideally, this pre-Columbian horse should be found in Mesoamerica in the context showing that it was domesticated. Nevertheless, my position is similar to Sidewinder's. The idea that one anachronism would have to be taken off the list of Book of Mormon problems should not be transformed into the suggestion that all such anachronisms would meet a similar fate given a complete knowledge of ancient America.

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What if evidence of horses was in precolumbian america was found? I am taling about horses that existed in the right time frame, not the pre-historic variety that have discussed and dismissed?

Instead of thinking of the impact of such a discovery on modern day critics of the Book of Mormon, why not think of the impact having domesticated horses would have had on the pre-columbian Americans? Would their lives and civilizations, as far as we understand them, have been significantly different?

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ABout what I expected.

I spent a few minutes w/ John Clark in D.C., this past weekend. He indicated that research is forthcoming that indicates the presences of horses as late at 2000 years ago in Texas and Wyoming.

Obviously, this means ver little as the posts on this thread prove.

Howver, I must say that I find \the dichotomy telling. For example, the charge is often made on this list that Smith "could" have used certain books to cull information found in the Book of Mormon. When it is pointed out that the said book was almost certainly not in Joseph's possession, that doesn't seem to matter. There mere fact that bok exists is sufficient to call into question his claims.

But show that he quite possibly got something right...some that, as beastie has continually insisted, go contrary to all accepted scholarship to this point, and it's blithely dismissed.

<sigh> Oh well.

May we at least assume that the thread w/ Brant and Ben is now a dead issue?

C.I.

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Instead of thinking of the impact of such a discovery on modern day critics of the Book of Mormon, why not think of the impact having domesticated horses would have had on the pre-columbian Americans? Would their lives and civilizations, as far as we understand them, have been significantly different? 

Apparently not, since, as I noted, research is forthcoming that posits their existence yet doesn't follow the Diamond model that Beastie is so fond of.

BTW, the research is not Clarks, he merely aware of it and noted that it should be out soon but he did not know exactly when.

C.I.

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I look forward to hearing the new evidence.

CI, your reasoning is odd. You seem to believe that, if critics are sincere, evidence of horses being in the correct time frame should resolve all their issues with the Book of Mormon. You consider the critics "dismissing" evidence, despite the fact that we stated new evidence could resolve the issue of HORSES, but it wouldn't resolve other issues. That's quite a twist you're performing.

Howver, I must say that I find \the dichotomy telling. For example, the charge is often made on this list that Smith "could" have used certain books to cull information found in the Book of Mormon. When it is pointed out that the said book was almost certainly not in Joseph's possession, that doesn't seem to matter. There mere fact that bok exists is sufficient to call into question his claims.

The fact that the understandings of the lay people of his time period included horses in the BoM time period is what is significant, CI. I don't know what book you're referring to that has been demonstrated "almost certainly" to not be in JS' possession, either. Please clarify and provide this almost certain evidence.

Aside from this point, you seem to want to posit JS lived in a vacuum. He lived in an area in which there was quite a bit of interest in primitivist Christianity and the idea of a restoration. He attended numerous church services and revivals. He lived in an area and time in which books were being published, practically in his own neighborhood, that posited the Indians were from the tribes of Israel. By his own admission, he was interested in these topics. So why is it logical or reasonable to assume that unless a book can be placed in his hands, he would not have been affected by popular ideas of the time and period?

May we at least assume that the thread w/ Brant and Ben is now a dead issue?

I hope not. I believe I asked legitimate questions that deserve answers, in addition to asking for evidence to support assertions.

At any rate, I should have known better than to take your question at face value, and actually take the time to respond honestly. Clearly, your question was not sincere, since you have creatively ignored and twisted our responses, and demonstrated that your question did not deserve that attention and time. My answer specified that the problems with the BoM weren't even what resulted in my loss of faith. Yet, according to you, I can be dismissed as insincere (I realize you didn't use that word but that is the clear implication) due to the fact that a discovery of horses in the correct place and period would not immediately convince me the BoM is historically true.

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Apparently not, since, as I noted, research is forthcoming that posits their existence yet doesn't follow the Diamond model that Beastie is so fond of.

An odd remark for someone who knows absolutely nothing of significance regarding this future evidence to make. IOW, how in the world would you know what model it follows or does not follow?

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But show that he quite possibly got something right...some that, as beastie has continually insisted, go contrary to all accepted scholarship to this point, and it's blithely dismissed.

<sigh> Oh well.

I don't think you're getting it. It would be quite an important find for historians. And anti-Mormons would have to admit that it's no longer an argument for their side. But of course, think about it, that find would carry virtually no weight whatsoever as what some might call a "positive" evidence in favor of the BOM. What you need is something that if it were the case for an ancient setting, would have been hard for a forger to predict or would have been very strange for him to include. You'd want to show a correlation that would be hard to dismiss as a completely uninteresting coincidence.

Let's say, JS was known to have a very good understanding of ancient america. That he knew, with little doubt, that all the current science points to an ancient america without horses and steel (if in fact it did, I personally have no idea what was known about horses and steel in JSs time, if someone wants to fill me in.) Then, if against all his scholarly wisdom, he claimed to have translated an ancient document that talked about horses and steel as regular features of the civilization, and if later discoveries proved the existence of such features in the way he described, that might justifiably raise an eyebrow.

But there would be even better scenarios for an apologist. Maybe he was just being crazy, loony, a prankster or whatever? In such a case, he just intentionally painted a blithe picture of ancient america as awfully similar to his new england background, and who would of thought -- it turns out that ancient america just happened to have all these features too. To really get some attention, he'd have to have invented structures of his ancient civilization that were a little more weird when considering his own culture, or the fiction, and biblical knowledge he had from his time.

Let's say JS described the Lamanite kings piercing their genitals with an object followed by a string to draw more blood which is then used in some sacraficial ceremony, and then a recent discovery proves that an ancient American civilization did just that. That would really raise an eyebrow, since it's going to be difficult to explain as coincidence. And if you then had numorous examples just like that, the anti-Mormons would have to do some serious thinking.

It's not Beastie's fault that it's an open and shut case.

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Its like... even when we win... they win.

No it's not.

See, it's just that BOM skeptics are fortunate that JS created a document falsifiable in principle, but BOM defenders aren't so lucky, since there doesn't seem to be any acid tests available to give it credibility. There are some serious flaws, and the book seems easily rejected on those grounds. Absent those serious flaws, the book isn't all of a sudden credible.

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Would such a discovery radically alter your view of the Book of Mormon? Why or why not?

No. They will simply move on to the next "missing" proof in an area that cannot be proved and never will be. That is the point for the last of the Enlightenment flagbearers ...the impossible dream.

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See, it's just that BOM skeptics are fortunate that JS created a document falsifiable in principle, but BOM defenders aren't so lucky, since there doesn't seem to be any acid tests available to give it credibility. There are some serious flaws, and the book seems easily rejected on those grounds. Absent those serious flaws, the book isn't all of a sudden credible.

I rest my case. :P

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No. They will simply move on to the next "missing" proof in an area that cannot be proved and never will be. That is the point for the last of the Enlightenment flagbearers ...the impossible dream.

I wonder if you include EV antis like Ed Decker or the Tanners in that category. You seem to forget that materialists aren't the only ones who find the BoM less than credible.

It's kinda funny....LDS mock materialists for not believing in the supernatural, and they mock EVs for "hypocritically" believing in supernatural events in the Bible but not the Book of Mormon.

Well....I think it's funny. :P

As for the topic of the thread--I concur with the previous skeptics' posts. Instead of having 20 BoM anachronisms to choose from, skeptics will only have 19. Hardly a paradigm shift. When all 20 are accounted for, then we'll have something to discuss. (Personally, I think the lack of evidence for metallugical processes is more compelling than the lack of horse fossils. Fossils can be pretty difficult to find. Evidence of metallurgical technology, on the other hand, is not. )

Incidentally, the horse issue is really about more than horses. The horse has just been adopted as a sort of shorthand symbol to represent ALL the BoM anachronisms. Critics could just as easily focus on chariots or swords or sheep or goats or....well, you get the point.

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No. They will simply move on to the next "missing" proof.."

No, we will go on to the next most obvious evidence against the BOM. The fact that you would call this "missing proof" shows that you might not understand the argument. The whole point is, demonstrating horses wouldn't be a "proof" that is missing. The BOM isn't waiting to be true, provided the opposition can show there were horses, pigs or whatever. The stakes of the case aren't equal for both sides on this particular argument.

Didn't CI say somewhere he's a prosecutor?

CI has a case where he's got murder weapons, a knife, a club, a motive; he's got threatening phone calls on tape, letters, and some eye witnesses that place the suspect more or less at the right place at the right time. There are no other suspects.

But the case gets appealed over and over, and years later, it's somehow determined that the DNA tests done on the knife blood were wrong, and the knife was not part of the crime. Does CI now say, "Well, looks like he was innocent all along!" Does he even say, "Wow, there is a much higher probability now that the suspect is innocent!" Of course not.

But now let's say, the defence previously having nothing other than the suspects word, happened across video from surveillance tapes from multiple angles within the 7-11 the suspect claimed he was in, showing clearly, the suspect buying a coke slurpee just as he claimed. Now CI might have to at minimum, break a sweat.

And with all Juliann's talk about the "enlightenment" and "postmdernism," I recognize her anti-enlightenmentism to be nothing more than a convenient ploy to dismiss any reason to have to defend the church. She would not take postmodern deconstructions of typical western notions of justice seriously, and put the truth of a crime, or even what it means to be a criminal in the class of the "enlightenment dream." postmodernists if right, undercut the science behind historical investigation with no more force than the science of criminal investigation or anything else. Such as, science as applied to determining vegetative states. She had one of the best posts on the Terry Shiavo thread pointing out the simple tests that easily falsify the idea that Shiavo was conscious. Of course, her opponents, and the neurologists "on the side of life" did exactly what she does in the BOM cases. They fought for the mere plausibility, that Terry Shiavo could be in a minimally conscious state. And it's highly unlikely, that there are any tests that could have been done to falsify that claim -- since for among other things, consciousness and idendity are two of the most interesting mysteries in science and philosophy, and science just can't say exactly what consciousness is. There is no way, to entirely rule out the possibility that Shiavo was in a minimally conscious state.

But moving beyond all that, toward postmodernism, it's of course a relic of the enlightment that Juliann could even believe in folk psychology such as "consciousness" and states of the ego to begin with. If there has ever been a science that's seen the wrath and undercuting postmodernism has to offer, it's psychology and identity. Oh the enlightenment dream of believing there is a metaphysically present, "Terry Shiavo" to begin with.

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CI,

I spent a few minutes w/ John Clark in D.C., this past weekend. He indicated that research is forthcoming that indicates the presences of horses as late at 2000 years ago in Texas and Wyoming.

The mere finding of horse bones in the correct timeframe still leaves lots of questions for Mesoamerica.

Obviously, this means very little as the posts on this thread prove.

However, I must say that I find \the dichotomy telling.

The idea that this situation is unique with critics of the BofM is not true. Nevertheless, both apologists and critics are in a predicament because there is no direct evidence for the Book of Mormon. So we are relegated to making inferences from indirect evidence. In this game, negative evidence is more weighty than positive. Positive evidence can become stronger through complexity, but something as singular as a horse is less compelling. For one thing, it was the assumption of Joseph Smith

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Juliann,

No. They will simply move on to the next "missing" proof in an area that cannot be proved and never will be. That is the point for the last of the Enlightenment flagbearers ...the impossible dream.

The idea that nothing can be proved or disproved must give you security, but that position is also a thesis that can

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Absent discovery of in situ evidence in the form of a freeway sign saying "Zarahemla, next 3 exits," some will never be convinced by the evidence.

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So assume we begin w. 20 perceived anacronisms. Over time, how many of those would have to be overturned (ala the horses issue) before, in the critics view, the scale tips?

At what point do these begin to be more than mere "lucky guesses?"

For one thing, it was the assumption of Joseph Smith’s contemporaries. Spaulding assumed it for his romance of ancient America. This simply might be an example of getting the right answer for the wrong reasons.

Except that, unlike Spaulding, the "use" that horses are put to in the Book of Mormon simply don't coincide w/ what you "exoect" from someone with a 19th Century perspective. No one rides them. They are never used in battle. In fact, as Brent has pointed out, except in a very brief occurrence in Alma, they are described more as a food source than anything else.

Spaulding, as I recall, had people riding the horses in his narrative.

Thus, I think your assertion that it's an example of a lucky guess is significantly weakend.

Beastie,

I did not mean to demean your reasons for leaving the Church. HOwever, I think the B of M issue has some bearing upon that. IF (and I realize that it's a big IF for you) the Book of Mormon is actually ancient, then the chances that Smith was an actual prophet are greatly enhanced. Wouldn't that shine new light on his actions in undertaking plural marriage which you found so disturbing?

Or would you still consider it to be a "fallen prophet" type scenario?

Finally, here is the the issue I was trying point out. Mormon apparently seem to be shooting at a moving target. I'll give another example. For a very long time it was asserted that the ancients never wrote on metal plates. When it was demonstrated that this was not so, the argument has now "shifted" to say that "they may have used metal plates, but they never did no as extensively as they claim to have done in the Book of Mormon." (See the New Mormon Challenge for an example of this argument (I think :P )).

Same w/ horses. First, the claim is that horses simply didn't exist in that point in time in ancient america. Now, it appears that this claim is about to be over turned. So, now the target seems to have shifted in that not only must the presence of horses be demonstrated, but a bevy of other information must also be deomonstrated, (domestication, herding, etc.).

No matter evidence is presented, the critics simply call for greater and greater levels of surity.

On the other hand, to "prove" that Smith simply wrote it, it appears to be sufficient to show that such ideas were simply "in his environment." It is, apparently, completely unnecessary to show that Smith had any access to these idea or that they affected him in any way.

C.I.

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First, Dan's analogy to the holocaust deniers is sound (other than the emotional connotation, of course). The fact is that the holocaust deniers actually DO get some facts correct. Michael Shermer wrote an interesting essay about just that point. But simply the fact that the deniers get SOME facts correct does NOT mean that their entire argument is correct, as long as significant evidence still exists to contradict their claims, and it does.

The BoM obviously gets SOME things correct. There were people living in that time period (in Mesoamerica, if you accept LGT). They had lots of wars. But simply the fact that the BoM gets SOME facts correct does NOT mean that its entire argument is correct, as long as significant evidence still exists to contradict its claims.

Does that make it more clear?

Except that, unlike Spaulding, the "use" that horses are put to in the Book of Mormon simply don't coincide w/ what you "exoect" from someone with a 19th Century perspective. No one rides them. They are never used in battle. In fact, as Brent has pointed out, except in a very brief occurrence in Alma, they are described more as a food source than anything else.

This repeated claim is exactly why I asked, at the end of the last thread, for citations to specific passages that demonstrate this signficant difference.

Moreover, your claim that they are never used in battle and are "described more as a food source" goes FAR outside the actual text, which is exactly what apologists are chastising us for doing when we assume horses WERE ridden and DID pull chariots. If apologists are going to insist on not allowing reasonable conclusions based on things such as horses being consistently mentioned in conjunction with chariots, and being mentioned as being moved in large groups (ie, herds) and being mentioned as "many" and everyone got theirs together (ie,more than elite ownership), then you can hardly justify saying they are "described as a food source." If unless and until I can cite a passage that says "Nephi got on the back of his horse and rode away", then I cannot infer that horses were ridden and pulled chariots, then unless and until you can cite a passage that says "Nephi ate his horse", you can't make the assumption you are eager to make.

I did not mean to demean your reasons for leaving the Church. HOwever, I think the B of M issue has some bearing upon that. IF (and I realize that it's a big IF for you) the Book of Mormon is actually ancient, then the chances that Smith was an actual prophet are greatly enhanced. Wouldn't that shine new light on his actions in undertaking plural marriage which you found so disturbing?

Or would you still consider it to be a "fallen prophet" type scenario?

If the BoM were proven to be ancient, then several of my beliefs would change. I would believe in a revelatory God, and I would believe he called JS to translate the BoM, and I would believe that the Bible is the word of God again. Whether or not I would choose to worship the God described therein is another question, because He seems fairly demented to me.

HOWEVER, I would absolutely still believe JS was a fallen prophet. Why? JS changed many of his revelations after the fact, without explanation. The most significant change, in regards to this question, was that the original revelation in the Book of Commandments stated that JS was given the gift to translate the BoM and he should pretend to no other gift. However, after the BoM was completed, he retroactively changed that revelation to read that he should pretend to no other gift until after the BoM was completed (paraphrasing by memory). That alteration changed the entire meaning of the passage, in a way that is crucial to this point.

The fact is that there is a difference between these two jobs: translating the BoM, and restoring the ancient church with true priesthood authority and assuming role of prophet of that church. Even as a nineteen year old investigator, I understood the difference between those two roles, which is why I almost didn't join the church when I could never get an answer to my prayer about JS being a true prophet, despite getting an answer to my BoM prayer. Despite spending over 15 years in the church as a active, devout member, I never could get an answer to that JS prayer. The only time I received ANYTHING that felt like an epiphany that could be called an answer to the prayer was the incident I previously cited - when out running, I was praying, as I had daily for so many months, "is the CoJCoLDS" the one true church" and suddenly I was filled with the knowledge that I ALREADY KNEW THE ANSWER, and it was no. It was an exhilerating moment. So if I use the method outlined in the BoM, my conclusion would be that yes, God called JS to translate the BoM, but no, he did not call him to be a prophet to restore the "one true church".

On the other hand, to "prove" that Smith simply wrote it, it appears to be sufficient to show that such ideas were simply "in his environment." It is, apparently, completely unnecessary to show that Smith had any access to these idea or that they affected him in any way.

CI, this is like demanding for exact proof that an American, living in today's environment, has been affected by the current ideas regarding terrorism. We are ALL products of our culture, including JS, whose culture was intensely religious, very interested in the mounds, convinced that the Indians were from the house of Israel, and believed that primitivist Christianity needed to be brought back into Christianity.

But it is interesting how the standards have changed. The claim used to be that there was no possible way JS could have had the knowledge to write the BoM - now it seems to be conceded that it is possible he could have obtained the knowledge, but we must be able to place certain books right in his hands.

Same w/ horses. First, the claim is that horses simply didn't exist in that point in time in ancient america. Now, it appears that this claim is about to be over turned. So, now the target seems to have shifted in that not only must the presence of horses be demonstrated, but a bevy of other information must also be deomonstrated, (domestication, herding, etc.).

Don't get too excited until you see the evidence. Remember how excited Jeff Lindsay seems to be on his site because of the new evidence of smelting? These type of evidences seem to be fairly weak, when brought out in the daylight. This includes some of the "evidences" for horses Sorenson suggests - I will make a post about that on the other thread later tonight, when I finish typing it. (it involves the horse's teeth that other apologists like to mention, as well, which were actually found to date much earlier than the rest of the artifacts, proving that these were from a much earlier time period and had probably been saved by the Mayans in question like we save dinosaur fossils.)

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C.I.: I think the point here is quite simple. If critics make an argument which turns out to be unsound, the fact that they were wrong on that point is not evidence of anything at all. They were just wrong.

If it were established that horses were in fact used in Central America in precisely the manner described in the Book of Mormon, this would indeed be very interesting. It certainly takes away what has been, to date, an important argument used by critics. But the fact that horses were used would not count as positive evidence in support of the Book of Mormon. I suppose it could be used as support for the Book of Mormon if it was clear that there was a widely accepted view in the early 19th century that there were no horses, and Joseph stuck his neck out to contradict the conventional wisdom and was later proven correct. But I don't think that is the case.

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Beastie wrote:

sidewinder is correct - the problem with the claim of historicity of the BoM is not just one issue - horses - although obviously it is one (along with metals) that I find particularly interesting, probably because both are technologies that had a major impact on the evolution of culture.
The challenge with this - (the issue of the horse as Beastie portrays it) is that there isn't any sufficient reason (in my estimation) to assume that its existence in mesoamerica would have had the same impact on the evolution of culture there as it did elsewhere.

Ben

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