Amorphous Intelligence

Leap of Faith: My Facebook Conversation with Jim Bennett

Posted in Rationalism, Reason, Science, Skepticism, Theology by amorphousintelligence on September 5, 2009

I was on Facebook the other day.

I happen to be “Friends” with one Jim Bennett, second son of the junior U.S. Senator from Utah, republican Bob Bennett.

(I’m also “Friends” with the senator himself. I put “Friends” in quotation marks to emphasize this is a Facebook designation, which definition seems to be broader than the traditional one. In reality, I’m merely an acquaintance with the Bennett family. I have not seen or spoken with them in person for years. Having said that, though, to be clear, I have always liked the Bennetts, and still do to this day. Years ago, members of my family were close friends with members of their family, and probably still would be if not for time, distance, and sundry responsibilities. I have no personal animosity towards the Bennetts whatsoever; nor them, as far as I know, towards me. Only fond memories.)

So I saw that Jim Bennett had posted on his Facebook wall a “Life On Gold Plates” book review of his father’s new book Leap of Faith: Confronting the Origins of the Book of Mormon, published this year by Deseret Book. I assumed since Jim had posted the link with no further commentary, that he considered the review at least mostly favorable, if not reasonably accurate. There was, so far, only one “Friend” comment, which said: “Wow, this sounds like a book I would like to read!”

So, I clicked the link myself and read it. This is the first I had heard of this book. I knew nothing more.

I decided to make a comment on Jim’s wall as to what seemed to me a thought worthy of consideration. Believing that Jim is a believing Mormon, portions of my language were intentionally simplified based on an understanding of what I suspect him to already know. My comment went as follows:

According to this reviewer, [Senator Bob] Bennett’s [book] title, “Leap of Faith,” is based on the conclusion that there is no solid empirical evidence for or against the authenticity of the BofM [Book of Mormon]; therefore, [Senator] Bennett claims, it is just as much a leap of faith not to believe as it is to believe. But consider Bertrand Russell’s parable of the celestial teapot: There is no 100% empirical evidence to prove or deny the existence of a teapot floating in orbit around earth. [Russell presented this idea before human space travel, so perhaps it is more appropriate now to say the teapot is in orbit around the solar system.] Is it just as reasonable to believe such an object exists as it does not exist? Is the “leap of faith” a 50/50 equiprobable consideration in either direction? I think not, because in order to believe in such an object one has to reject the more probabilistic and parsimonious evidence that such an object is unlikely. While the celestial teapot’s existence is not impossible, it is, rather, improbable, making the “leap of faith” far greater for the believing side than the non.

Jim shortly thereafter responded as follows:

[Amorphous Intelligence], your analogy is deeply flawed. Unlike the celestial teapot, the Book of Mormon is here, real, and visible to all. The question is not, like the teapot, whether or not the Book of Mormon exists, but how it came into existence.

The book establishes that to believe that it did not come into existence by the means Joseph Smith claimed, you have to ignore a great deal of internal and external evidence that suggests otherwise.

I found it silly that he tried to pin me to such a ludicrous position as denying even the very existence of the Book of Mormon. If I was in his shoes and truly thought my opponent believed such an absurd delusion, I would not have even bothered to respond. I don’t think Jim really believed I thought that, though, but was more going for a laugh at my expense. (He has close to 800 Facebook “Friends” to giggle—or rage—at his joshing.) And what I don’t think he realized is his (possible) jovialness was committing the “straw man” logical fallacy, which is where one argues a much weaker—or in this case, a totally absent—position the opposition is making. (You can read more about the fallacy here, here, and here.)

Nonetheless, the format of Facebook is such that one can only convey so much information per post; i.e., the amount of characters per comment is some finite number. (I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not large.) So, in my limited response space, and rather than try to appear like I was posturing to attack Jim by pointing out his logical fallacy—as what I was really interested in here was an honest, sensible dialogue on this issue—I responded in a positive, common-ground-establishing way that I felt would be conducive to that:

Jim, I agree with you. It’s a good thing I was not arguing whether or not the Book of Mormon exists, as that would be deeply flawed indeed. (I happen to own several copies myself.) My first sentence about the “authenticity of the BofM [Book of Mormon]” was merely another (perhaps, admittedly, oversimplified) way to ask what you said, “how it came into existence,” not whether or not it does exist. I did not intend the parable of the celestial teapot to be analogous to the existence of the Book of Mormon, but [rather] to the “leap of faith” of believing in one claim of how it came to be versus another claim in the absence of solid empirical evidence either way, as the reviewer of Leap of Faith suggested why the book was given that title. Thanks for helping me to clarify.

Jim immediately responded:

I’m not sure if you did clarify, though. I’m now very confused as to your position. With the teapot, disbelieving is easy. With the Book of Mormon, if you consider it on its merits, you have to have faith in some wild coincidences to discount it.

What I had realized from his first response, but was now more convinced of from this second, is that he seemed to be arguing a position different from his father (or at least different from his father’s book, or at least different from the position the book review lead me to believe it was taking). I found this peculiar in light of the fact that as recently as the day before our back-and-forth, Jim’s Facebook status said, “Jim Bennett, according to some random commenter on the Deseret News website, is an attack dog! I’ve never been an attack dog before! You gotta admit, that’s pretty cool.” I read the Deseret News article, and the random commenter specified Jim (who is his father’s campaign chairman) as an attack dog for his father: “[Senator Bob] Bennett must be worried if he is sending out his attack dog son….” Jim’s response to this sounds like he took pride in the designation, which further lead me to surmise that he and his father share quite similar if not near identical positions on issues of this nature (i.e. politics, religion, science, etc.). But perhaps not, as heaven knows that as much as my father and I love each other and get along splendidly and will protect each other to the death, we have many differing views on politics, religion, science, etc. Regardless, my comments were not directed to any claim to any position Jim had made, but really only to the position that I derived from the book review (that Jim positively presented to all 800 of his Facebook “Friends.”) But for the second time, Jim defended a position that was not even being discussed by me; namely, whether or not there is more empirical evidence for or against Joseph Smith’s claim of the ancient and supernatural origins of the Book of Mormon.

Again, I didn’t want to sound negative or appear like I was posturing to attack, because in my mind I was not. I felt I was just amicably chit-chatting. Just considering other possibilities for anyone willing to consider. So I responded in, again, what I thought was a positive and honest tone. At the same time, without overtly saying it (partly because of space restraints, partly to not come across like a douche bag), I subtly tried to impress upon him that he was arguing a position different from what appeared to be his father’s position:

Obviously this is not the format to discuss all possible evidence for and against the [ancient and supernatural] origin of the Book of Mormon. I was merely commenting on the review of the book Leap of Faith, which says: “[Senator Bob Bennett’s] argument is that he can discover no definitive empirical evidence for that claim [of Joseph Smith’s origins of the BofM]. At the same time, he feels that no smoking gun has been discovered showing the Book of Mormon is a fraud. Thus, a decision either way requires a ‘leap of faith,’ hence the title….When [Senator Bennett] uncovers a seeming ‘draw’ he notes the need for critic and believer alike to make a ‘leap of faith.’” I was simply commenting that it seems to me that this “leap of faith” argument is not as equiprobable as this review (and possibly the actual book itself) leads us to believe. The celestial teapot was my reasoning for that. Hopefully that is clearer.

I think by quoting directly from the book review—rather than paraphrasing as I had been, which I assumed was all that was needed since I figured Jim had read it, but maybe he hadn’t, which would be a questionable tactic—Jim was more aware of the distinction between the position he was taking with me versus the position his father was allegedly making and whose position I was actually commenting on. And because I, intentionally, pointed this out as gingerly as I could think at the moment, this allowed Jim to process it better (I think) since he probably did not feel like I was attacking. And it appears he may have, at that point, realized the differences, as his final succinct response to me was:

I suppose it is, although the point of the book is to make the case for equiprobability.

I took from this that he supposed my position was clearer for him. I also took from this that by acknowledging the book’s case for equiprobability, he was—perhaps—acknowledging the distinction of arguing about faith claims versus arguing about empirical-evidence claims.

This experience strikes me as a good example of how easy it is to be misunderstood, especially if the opposition feels he/she is being attacked. I got the impression Jim felt, at first, I was attacking him or his father’s book. So rather than honestly consider what I was saying, he immediately attacked me with jokes and logical fallacies. (Admittedly, not severe attacks by any means. No harm done. No feelings hurt. No financial ruin. Bennetts and Intelligences [pseudonym, obviously] can still be friends—without quotation marks. No worries there, as far as I’m concerned.) While I did point out, what appears to me, to be a flaw with the book’s reasoning on the equiprobable nature of claims of faith, I tried hard to make that clear and I honestly think I was being clear. I think I was being misunderstood not for lack of clarity on my part, but for the initial lack of willingness to understand on Jim’s part. Such is frequently the case when one has a knee-jerk, emotional reaction. It’s human nature to dig in and unfairly argue rather than honestly discuss and understand.

At that end there, though, I think Jim finally may have understood me. If so, I give him credit for fighting beyond the initial knee-jerk reaction of the misperceived attack. I applaud him for ultimately coming to, perhaps, understanding. (I also applaud Senator Bob Bennett for writing a book that allegedly acknowledges no empirical evidence for the ancient and supernatural origin of the Book of Mormon, even if I disagree with his equiprobable faith claim. This is a rare feat of acknowledgment by most believing Mormons, in my experience. Jim Bennett’s position that there is ample scientific evidence for the ancient and supernatural claims of the Book of Mormon is much more the norm among believers, rather than his father’s claim that it should be believed based exclusively on faith since the empirical evidence is not there.) In the end, I doubt Jim agreed with me, but at least I think he finally sort of understood me. And that’s a good start, especially with such highly-charged, emotional matters as faith—or the lack thereof.

(For a more in-depth explanation of the non-equiprobable nature of faith claims, see Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, particularly chapter 2 “The God Hypothesis,” and more specifically pages 49 to 54 in hardback, 69 to 77 in paperback.)

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17 Responses

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  1. BHodges said, on September 5, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    I am the author of LifeOnGoldPlates and wanted to make a quick point. I haven’t read this entire response but wanted to make a clarification: there have been “empirical” discoveries that lean to an authentic Book of Mormon. Bob Bennett discusses several of these in his book, including the discovery of actual golden or otherwise metallic plates with writing on them buried in stone boxes; something that was ridiculed when Joseph Smith first told his story. The discovery of NHM and the accurate description of the travel away from Jerusalem are also two solid hits for the Book of Mormon. I have found that many of those who criticize the Book of Mormon on historical or archeological grounds are generally ill-informed in both areas. There are exceptions to that rule of course, but in general I have not been impressed, only disenchanted, by the simplistic dismissals of the Book of Mormon on “scientific” grounds.

    One last remark: comparing the Book of Mormon to the Celestial Teapot is an egregious category error, a fallacy, in that a celestial teapot is not around to look at whereas a Book of Mormon is, and moreover, witnesses testified to seeing and handling physical metallic plates. The Book of Mormon record is here to examine while the teapot isn’t. (And what has a teapot done for me lately? Nothing. Who actually believes in this teapot? No one). Russel’s argument is out-dated and fallacious, especially in trying to make a comparison to the Book of Mormon.

    Best,

    BHodges

  2. BHodges said, on September 5, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    One more point: in my review I specifically noted that I felt Bennett missed some opportunities to underscore more points in favor of the Book of Mormon, and that critics would likely make the same comments, IOW, that he missed their best or newest points. The utility of the book is in the approach, a novel one, and seeing how Bennett reasoned through the aspects of forgery in connection with the BoM. If the review didn;t make that sufficiently clear I hope my comments here do.

  3. amorphousintelligence said, on September 6, 2009 at 3:15 am

    Mr. BHodges, thank you for your comments. I must admit, I’m a bit surprised you found my humble little blog, and commented on this specific post so quickly. I’m flattered. Now, having said that, it’s a pity you didn’t read the entire post before commenting, as your issue with what you perceived was my comparison of printed-and-bound copies of the many Book of Mormons in circulation with the parable of the celestial teapot is not a comparison I made at all. In fact, Jim Bennett leveled that accusation on me already. My post spends a great deal of time correcting that “straw man” logical fallacy, so it’s unfortunate you missed it. As far as empirical evidence in support of and against the ancient and supernatural origin claims of the Book of Mormon, this post doesn’t address that topic, so your comments, like Jim Bennett’s, are a bit off topic. I was trying to have a conversation on the equiprobability of faith claims, the alleged premise of Bob Bennett’s Leap of Faith, and I’ve been very clear on that—repeatedly. If his book was exclusively on accepting the LDS-believed origins of the Book of Mormon because of the empirical evidence, I wouldn’t have bothered to start the conversation as that is not a unique LDS stance. I’m perfectly aware that believing Mormons think there is scientific evidence to support their story of the Book of Mormon. Many books and articles have been written on that subject. Unfortunately, those books and articles are largely convincing to those who already believe and does little to convince those who don’t. They are particularly unconvincing to the majority of scientists, which majority certainly is capable of being convinced and capable of changing—or refining, really—its theories so long as the preponderance of evidence meets the stringent criteria of the scientific method. The majority of the scientific community currently does not accept any supernatural claims because there is no way to test such claims. If there was, scientists would gladly—gladly—test them. As far as ancient history, the story presented by Mormons differs substantially by the story presented by the scientific community. Follow the evidence. Don’t’ start with a belief then do all you can to prove it because you likely end up trying to square the circle. And that’s not science.

  4. BHodges said, on September 6, 2009 at 9:48 am

    I saw the argument that the response was a straw man, but since I believe you already made a category error in your comparison I feel it stands as is.

    I doubt the “majority of scientists” have given the Book of Mormon a second glance, and it remains to be seen why the “majority of scientists” should be the ultimate authority in matters religious. Further, there are quite brilliant scientists who believe in the Book of Mormon’s authenticity, so unless you are planning on going toe to toe to see who can gain more adherence and postulating a truth by majority stance I don’t see the point of your comments.

    Finally, there actually are scientists who start with a belief then do all they can to prove it. Darwin was much that way, and though it turns out he had some very good beginning assumptions it still demonstrates that in the realm of science there is no detached objectivity, though there are expectations that help achieve the end goals. But the end goals aren’t always or maybe even often the same end goals of religion. So again, we are talking past each other.

    PS- The reason I found your blog is because you posted a link to my own, which shows up on my data capture. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to blog your thoughts, it is nice to get different perspectives. Like you I am not sure an equiprobable view is the most accurate stance, but I liked the book for other reasons.

    Take care!

  5. Jettboy said, on September 6, 2009 at 10:02 am

    I think the point of “Leap of Faith” is that evidence and counter evidence can only go so far and then you have to make up your mind one way or another. There are those who will simply say, all things equal I will deny the teapot floating in space. On the other hand, there are those who will say, much like me, there is enough evidence to convince me discounting the teapot might not be a good idea. They then research the thing to discover its power. Interesting enough, I think the “teapot” analogy should be replaced with “dark matter” theory or even black holes. These are discovered not by actual sight, but by the effects they have on things that can be seen.

  6. amorphousintelligence said, on September 6, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Mr. BHodges, 1) when you accuse me of a comparison I did not make, and I clearly point it out (multiple times, mind you), then you continue to stand by that accusation with “I feel it stands as is,” it shows a disingenuous attempt to understand my position. 2) As far as using science to discuss religious matters, when religions (or any belief systems) make testable claims (and they do; i.e., the age of the earth as 6,000 years versus 4.5 billion years, or geocentric planetary orbits versus heliocentric ones, etc.) it is fair game to test those claims. Science is not a “belief” (as religions are, and thus many of the religious mistakenly assume science is), but a “methodology.” To discredit what the “majority of scientists” think is not to discredit another belief system, but to discredit a rigorous methodology of examining evidence. Since you yourself have claimed “evidence” as a basis for your religious belief, then clearly you think there is some—at least “some”—validity to that methodology. But it seems you choose to discount the methodology when its conclusions don’t support your belief, and accept it only when you think it does. This is an inconsistent and disingenuous way to get at truth. You can’t have your cake and eat it. If you are going to accept the methodology, then you have to accept its conclusions even if you don’t personally like the conclusions. If you don’t accept the methodology, then your beliefs are exclusively in the realm of faith. While it doesn’t seem to me that pure faith claims have much probability to them, I certainly cannot disprove another’s faith and am courteous enough to let it go at that.

  7. amorphousintelligence said, on September 6, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Mr. Jettboy, thank you for your comment. While an interesting thought, I don’t think the teapot should be replaced with dark matter or black holes, because dark matter and black holes, as you said, actually have testable effects. The teapot parable is to illustrate not necessarily an actual physical object (such as the Book of Mormon, Mr. BHodges take note), but rather an “idea” or a “thought” or a “belief” that has no testable evidence, including, even, the testable evidence of “effects.” It is merely to illustrate that no idea, thought, or belief can be 100% disproven, but if there is no or very little evidence for it either, it can largely be discounted as improbable (a likelihood of 49% or less) unless or until good testable evidence is brought forth. Since the hypotheses of dark matter and black holes have testable effects, they are placed into the probable category (a likelihood of at least 51% or greater). But if I hypothesized to you there was, like the celestial teapot, a planet somewhere in the universe called Kolob which is near where God resides, you couldn’t disprove it, but there is no testable evidence for it, either. So if one chooses to believe that idea, it would be believed strictly on faith.

  8. Anon said, on September 6, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Amorphous, I hope you haven’t bitten off more that you can chew. When you go after the “Crazies” with logic and reason it’s a bit like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger for a wedge and a pumpkin for a beetle. You can show them all the evidence against magic dragons and floating castles you want, and they’ll keep coming back with “well, that’s your opinion,” and then hope that their side had an “equiprobable” chance of being right (this is known as the coin-flip method of debating.)

    The Book of Mormon has lost so much ground in terms of the overwhelming scientific/historic/genetic/and factual evidence against it as to reduce it to a curious footnote in history. It used to be the “Keystone” (or was it the cornerstone?) of their religion, now they claim that there is not enough evidence either way (as long as you willfully ignore all the stupidity and historical inaccuracy in it.) It sounds to me like they are loosing ground fast, and every time I see the word ‘equiprobability’, I hear John Cleese shouting out, “All right then, we’ll call it a draw!” For the record, Egyptian (reformed or otherwise) was never used in Jerusalem, even among the “sages” in 600 B.C.

    Their strongest argument is the number of different “voices” it uses (Mormon, Nephi, Jacob, etc.) as though even beginning writers haven’t been using that technique for the last five millennium. Hermione doesn’t sound anything like Hagrid, but nobody is claiming that J.K. Rowling is a prophetess because of it.

    If Joseph Smith was a complete moron, than maybe their argument might have some merit. However, since his IQ was up there with some of the greats like Einstein, Mozart and Walt Disney… and, since it is more than likely he suffered from schizophrenia (think John Nash in A Beautiful Mind) it is quite probable he “saw” and “heard” all the things he said he did. It was his genius that allowed him to incorporate his own “visions” into the dominant mythological world-view of his time and make sense of it all. I don’t think Joseph Smith was a liar, or a con-artist, but I don’t think he was a prophet either. He was one of those rare enigmas (like Moses, Jesus, or Mohammad) that can’t be placed easily into any existing categories and consequently, new religions are founded upon them. Fortunately, today, we have lots and lots of drugs to stamp out this kind of free-thinking, revolutionary behavior. Excelsior!

  9. BHodges said, on September 6, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    “But it seems you choose to discount the methodology when its conclusions don’t support your belief, and accept it only when you think it does.”

    But I haven’t done that, your accusation notwithstanding. For a fellow who clamors that people don’t pay attention to his points well enough and warns against attacking straw men it is rather odd to see this sort of thing. You seem to believe in a sort of chemical test or something that one can perform on the Book of Mormon, which was the original subject of the discussion. Or maybe we can use math to prove it is true.

    You’ll point to archeology and you are more than welcome to do so; but you are also encouraged to learn the complexities involved and acknowledge them. To not do otherwise would be, as you say, disingenuous. I have no problems trying to verify and test verifiable and testable things. But as I have stated from the outset, your testing commits category errors. My problem with many Book of Mormon critics is the question begging that goes on. (Another problem is the snide condescension from folks like “Anon,” who evidently don’t like to put their names behind their assertions).

    As for “losing ground fast,” Bennett’s book discusses that claim quite directly, and though he could have made the case stronger than he does (in my view) adequately and reasonable approaches many considerations much better than you or “Anon” have. But this is what one can expect from those who don’t take affirmative positions, only posture as “debunkers.”

    And to what can I attribute Anon’s strange comments to? Perhaps some sort of dissociative mind disorder. That’ll do. 🙂

    Anyway, good luck and take care, amour.

    One more quibble: God isn’t said to “reside” on Kolob. A sloppy reading, but expected.

  10. BHodges said, on September 6, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Oops, forgot to throw in some random Latin:

    Citius, Altius, Fortius!

  11. amorphousintelligence said, on September 6, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Mr. Anon., I appreciate your comments. Wells said. Well written. Excellent points. While clearly you and I mostly agree, your tone towards those you (and I) disagree with is a bit condescending (i.e. “Crazies”). While those who agree with you can laugh, it is probably a quick way to completely turn off those who don’t. You may be right that I have bitten off more than I can chew (and nice use, BTW, of the arcane and un-credited Joseph Smith quote of hemlock knots, corn-dodgers, and pumpkins), I still choose to believe (perhaps exclusively on faith) that sensible dialogue is possible. Maybe not probable—but at least possible.

  12. amorphousintelligence said, on September 6, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Mr. BHodges, the first few paragraphs of your last comment are pretty undecipherable. So I don’t know how to respond. As far as your last accusation that I sloppily read facsimile no. 2, it appears you sloppily read what I wrote. Allow me to re-write it: “Kolob which is near where God resides.” Now directly from the explanation note of facsimile no. 2: “Kolob…nearest…the residence of God.” I fail to see how I read that wrong, not that it really matters. Regarding Anon’s use of Latin, I suspect he was simply paying homage to Stan Lee who used the “Excelsior!” word at the end of his Spider-Man comics. Just merely a unique way of acknowledging the conclusion of the writing, so it probably wasn’t as random as you thought. And BTW, I could care less if comments are made anonymously or not. Who said them is not so much what’s important as what is being said. I try—not that I’m perfect at it, but try—to focus more on the message rather than the messenger.

  13. BHodges said, on September 6, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    I’ve found the possibility of a sensible dialogue to be difficult depending on individuals, not merely ideologies. So I have discussed things with Fundamentalist Christians and thorough-going skeptics or even atheists all of whom exhibit the same confidence in their position and rigidity in the face of contradicting evidence that Anon appears to detect in myself. So while you chastise the poor fellow for not being quite charitable enough for your taste, your closing statement on probability sort of does you in, amorph. The funny thing is we both seem to be walking away saying “geez, that guy had no clue what I was talking about.” A shame, to be sure, but not too terrible given that this is just some random Internet banter.

    As for anonymous messengers, I just have lower respect for those without the courage to stand behind their convictions. But I also recognize the possibility that situations may make it prudent to remain anonymous. I just find it particularly cowardly when the anonymous one brings insult to the table.

  14. BHodges said, on September 6, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Oh, I forgot to make one more quick point. My continuing theme (which I don’t think has been adequately responded to–or responded to at all, actually) is that your analysis of the Book of Mormon, in response to Bennett’s, is problematic because it is undefined and unstructured. Clearly there are different ways to analyze a book and some methods will answer certain questions better than others. So the trick is to explain what one is trying to answer and then clearly define the parameters and how the evidence discussed will apply. But, as David Fischer has entertainingly argued:

    “Sound evidence consists in the establishment of a satisfactory relationship between the factum probandum,, or the proposition to be proved, and the factum probans, or the material which is offered as proof. That is sufficiently obvious. But it is not so obvious to many scholars that the criteria for a satisfactory factum probans depend in large degree upon the nature of the factum probandum,”

    That is to say, the standard for evidence depends largely on the nature of the proposition being examined. I think this is a point you and I can agree on rather easily. What we might still disagree about is the weight of certain evidence either way in regards to the Book of Mormon. And that is a different conversation, but in order to get there we would need to get on square one by looking more closely at the questions and the relevance of the evidence we want to bring to the table. And that takes a lot of time, and that is something I am not able to contribute for a while given other responsibilities. (Incidentally, Bob Bennett’s book does of good job of following this standard even though it is not expressly described as doing so. It seems it was simply the natural thing for Bennett to do. Not too shabby.)

  15. BHodges said, on September 6, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Oops, forgot the reference:

    See David Hackett Fischer, “Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought,” (HarperPerennial, 1970), p. 62.

  16. Anon said, on September 6, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    (I can’t believe I’m allowing myself to be dragged into this pointless discussion…)

    I don’t care if I come off as “condescending” to people who utterly close their eyes to the sun and call it night. Call a spade a spade and an idiot and idiot. BHodges says, “You’ll point to archeology and you are more than welcome to do so; but you are also encouraged to learn the complexities involved and acknowledge them. To not do otherwise would be, as you say, disingenuous.” What? So there are some “complexities” that almost 100 years of South American archeology has missed? (Maybe they’re looking in the wrong spot.) Not one piece of DNA has turned up in the Pre-Colombian North or South American gene pool to substantiate a Middle-Eastern migration. We can track families, tribal movements, and pre-historic immigration from Africa to Australia 60,000 years ago, and we’re missing “complexities?” (Do you know how hard I’m trying not to sound even more condescending?!?)

    Apologists for the BoM obfuscate simple facts with empty terminology like “complexities” and “disingenuous” (as though they are not being disingenuous themselves) and then don’t bother to follow it up with anything to substantiate it. Let’s talk about Zelph the Lamanite for a second…

    According to Joseph Smith, ” the visions of the past being opened to my understanding by the Spirit of the Almighty, I discovered that the person whose skeleton was before us was a white Lamanite, a large, thickset man, and a man of God. His name was Zelph. He was a warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Onandagus, who was known from the Hill Cumorah, or eastern sea to the Rocky Mountains.” (History of the Church, Joseph Smith, Deseret Book, 1976, vol. 2, ch. 5, pp. 79-80) Everything else aside (Oh, this is too easy) it is quite clear that Joseph Smith’s “revelation” showed him that the Hill Cumorah was exactly where he originally said it was, namely the Hill Cumorah where the Cumorah Hill Pagent takes place every year. (I am honestly trying to be clear, and not condescending… but I can see how it could seem otherwise.)

    Ok, so if the Hill Cumorah is on the “Eastern Sea” as was revealed to J.S., where are the bodies of Mormon’s 10,000? and Moroni’s 10,000, and Gidgiddonah’s 10,000, and Lamah’s 10,000, and Gilgal’s 10,000, and Limhah’s 10,000, and Jeneum’s 10,000 (hell, I’ll just quote the rest directly from the Book of Mormon inside the Book of Mormon) chapter 6, verse 14, “…and Cumenihah, and Moronihah, and Antionum, and Shiblom, and Shem, and Josh, has fallen with their ten thousand each.” That’s 130,013 men by my count (minus, of course the twenty and four that the Lamanites missed killing in verse 11).

    129,989 is a lot of bodies, weapons and gear for countless generation of Gold Plate seekers to have missed whilst combing over the Hill Cumorah. It seems to have made more than the Golden Plates disappear, maybe it’s some kind of focal point/vortex in the space/time continuum.

    What’s my point? Joseph Smith made it very clear, by revelation, where all the concluding events of the Book of Mormon took place. Try and ask any member of the Mormon church where it was and they might indicate some vague non-descript location somewhere in South America, they might tell you only God knows and He will only reveal it in his own due time and place. But what they won’t tell you is the one place that was “revealed” to the founding member of their church that is clearly disprovable by science, archeology, and common sense. When you do this, you are called condescending and missing the “complexities” of the situation. By the way, my name is John. I don’t see how that is relevant to the discussion, but I don’t want to be accused of not putting my “name behind my assertions.”

  17. BHodges said, on September 6, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Well, there are, after all, only a few John’s out there, so that narrows it down much more than Anon did…

    Don’t bother getting dragged into it, John. Whenever I try to actually get particular (something that requires lengthy analysis) I tend to bore people, or else be accused of “obfuscating” things. It is clear from your points raised that you are either unaware of cogent responses to your objections, or you don’t understand them, or you simply find them not persuasive. I’d wager in your case it is a healthy mix of all three, but regardless, I need not go over these points with you given your determined and confident status. Even scientific hypotheses require leaps of faith, and evidently you are not afraid of making such leaps when it suits your current conclusions. Don’t let us ign’int folk get in your way. (Or maybe we can cushion the impact following that leap?)


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