long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

FairMormon and Archaeological Evidence and the Book of Mormon

FairMormon does a pretty good job addressing a variety of issues, but when it comes to archaeology and the Book of Mormon, their obsession with Mesoamerica forces them to write nonsense.

Here's a good example. The article by Michael R. Ash is titled:

Archaeological Evidence and the Book of Mormon

I'll quote some of it, with my comments in red.

“Why is there no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon?” This common query (Common, for sure. More likely, universal. How could anyone read the Book of Mormon and not wonder where the events took place? Does anyone think Joseph Smith didn't wonder--or that Moroni did not tell him, even before he got the plates?) often expresses the questioner’s incorrect assumptions about archaeological methodology–assumptions usually based the questioner’s lack of knowledge about a very specialized academic area. (Notice two things about this response so far. First, Ash avoids the obvious answer: there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica because none of the Book of Mormon events took place there! Second, Ash blames the questioner for making "incorrect assumptions about archaeological methodology" and having "lack of knowledge." This is a typical response from Mesoamericanists to a simple question. They denigrate questioners and claim superior knowledge, while also displaying defensiveness.) The purpose of this article is to shed some light on not only the subject of archaeology, but also on the reality of both biblical and Book of Mormon archaeology. (After reading this article, I think the purpose of the article is to obfuscate; Ash is basically telling his readers not to expect any archaeological evidence of the Book of Mormon. And he's right--so long as the "experts" keep insisting it took place in Mesoamerica, no archaeological evidence will ever be found.)

Evidence, Proof, and Belief

Before delving into archaeological matters, it is helpful to take a step back and consider what archaeological evidence means in relation to the Book of Mormon. A reasonable question for those suggesting that there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon would be “What archaeological evidence might be considered the minimal irrefutable proof needed to convince a non-believing world of the authenticity of the Nephite scripture?” (This is not a reasonable question in any sense of the term. People want archaeological evidence, not irrefutable proof. Ash is posing a red herring to mask his inability to answer the original question that most readers of the book, believers and non-believers alike, ask themselves. Besides, his standard is irrational; "minimal irrefutable proof" is what someone needs to satisfy his/her own subjective standard. For some, no physical evidence is sufficient; for others, no physical evidence will ever be sufficient.)
Some people might suggest that finding the existence of horses or chariots would constitute proof for the Book of Mormon. This is doubtful. (Notice the subtle shift from "minimum irrefutable proof needed to convince a non-believing world" to simple "proof" now. The existence of horses or chariots would constitute archaeological evidence--which was the original question. Whether it would constitute proof is a subjective question to be answered by each individual.)  Finding such items would merely demonstrate that such things existed in the ancient New World, and while such discoveries may be consistent with the Book of Mormon, they hardly amount to “proof.” (Here he shows he has completely abandoned the original question. He is not going to answer the question about why there is no archaeological evidence of the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica; instead, he's going to embark on a nonresponsive excursion into the nature of "proof" that most readers don't need. All people want is evidence that Book of Mormon people existed. There is abundant evidence in North America, but none in Mesoamerica. That's why Ash won't answer the question.)
As an example, the Book of Mormon mentions barley which, until recently, was thought not to exist in the ancient Americas. Critics considered barley to be one of the things that “Joseph Smith got wrong.” However, pre-Columbian New World barley has now been verified, without people flocking to join the Church because of this discovery. 
(I'm going stop here for now because the rest of the article is more of the same. My comment to this paragraph begins with Michael Ash's response from another forum to show how absurd it is to continue to promote the Mesoamerican theoryUntil recently the critics were sure that barley and wheat were unknown in the ancient New World. An article in Science 83, however, revealed that pre-Columbian domesticated barley had been discovered by archaeologists at an ancient Hohokam Indian site in Arizona.[455] The non-LDS author of this article suggested that the barley might have been imported from Mexico at a very early date. It is interesting that Alma 63:6–10 describes various Nephite migrations to the North. It is possible that such migrations (and other similar ancient Mesoamerican migrations) might have influenced North American cultures and crops. To the surprise of many, the find at the Hohokam site in Arizona was a first only because it yielded cultivated or domesticated barley. Biologist Howard Stutz explains, “three types of wild barley have long been known to be native to the Americas.” Furthermore, scholars now report that other examples of what may be domesticated barley have been found in eastern Oklahoma and southern Illinois, dating from 1 to 900 A.D.[456]
Notice what's going on. Ash admits domesticated barley has been found in "eastern Oklahoma and southern Illinois" dating to Book of Mormon time periods. southern Illinois is inside the Book of Mormon lands, according to the American (or Heartland) theory; eastern Oklahoma is as well. Yet Ash finds it more significant that there was also a site in Arizona, that might have been brought from Mexico earlier, which might be related to Alma 63. So instead of using the actual findings in southern Illinois, which is evidence (but not proof) of the Book of Mormon, to support the Mesoamerican theory, Ash has to pile conjecture on top of a finding in Arizona. This conjectural approach is why people don't think there is any archaeological evidence of the Book of Mormon. 

Meanwhile, those who accept the North American setting can simply accept the discovery in southern Illinois as evidence, without the compound conjecture required for Mesoamerica.

The bottom line here is that, as Ash correctly notes, there never will be convincing proof of the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica. The evidence in North America is convincing proof for those who accept it, but it will remain ambiguous for those who want to reject it. One can find "correspondences" between the Book of Mormon and any culture, which is all the Mesoamericanists have and why their arguments are unpersuasive. This is also the reason why prophetic insight is so important, and as I've shown, Joseph Smith was unequivocal and clear, throughout his life, on the point that the Cumorah in New York was the Book of Mormon Cumorah, that the North American Indians were descendants of the Book of Mormon people, etc. 

So the sooner FairMormon abandons the Mesoamerican theory, the better for everyone.


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