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.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The partiality of paternalism

Now that people recognize the mark of M2C as the antithesis of intellectual pursuit and a direct repudiation of the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, many people are wondering why LDS intellectuals adopted the mark of M2C in the first place.

These intellectuals are smart, credentialed and well intentioned. Some (but not all) of them ostensibly recognize the importance of an open mind. What would lead them to adopt a logo that declares as a fundamental premise that the only permissible discussion of Book of Mormon geography is in the context of a Mayan setting?

There's a simple explanation. These intellectuals simply assumed the prophets were wrong about Cumorah and they fell in love with their theory.

In technical terms, M2C (the Mesoamerican/2 Cumorahs theory) is an example of "the habit of precipitate explanation." 

The reason so many people become emotionally attached to "hastily born theories" such as M2C was explained in 1890 by the geologist T.C. Chamberlin. His paper was reprinted in Science magazine in 1965. A pdf is available here: 


Chamberlin explained how affection for one's theory create a "blinding influence."

For a time these hastily born theories [such as M2C] are likely to be held in a tentative way with some measure of candor or at least some self-illusion of candor. With this tentative spirit and measurable candor, the mind satisfies its moral sense and deceives itself with the thought that it is proceeding cautiously and impartially toward the goal of ultimate truth. 

It fails to recognize that no amount of provisional holding of a theory, no amount of application of the theory, so long as the study lacks in incisiveness and exhaustiveness, justifies an ultimate conviction. It is not the slowness with which conclusions are arrived at that should give satisfaction to the moral sense, but the precision, the completeness and the impartiality of the investigation.

It is in this tentative stage that the affections enter with their blinding influence. Love was long since discerned to be blind and what is true in the personal realm is measurably true on the intellectual realm. Important as the intellectual affections are as stimuli and as rewards, they are nevertheless dangerous factors in research. All too often they put under strain the integrity of the intellectual processes.

The moment one has offered an original explanation for a phenomenon which seems satisfactory, that moment affection for his intellectual child springs into existence, and as the explanation grows into a definite theory his parental affections cluster about his offspring and it grows more and more dear to him.

While he persuades himself that he holds it still as tentative, it is none the less lovingly tentative and not impartially and indifferently tentative. So soon as this parental affection takes possession of the mind, there is apt to be a rapid passage to the unreserved adoption of the theory. 

There is then imminent danger of an unconscious selection and of a magnifying of phenomena that fall into harmony with the theory and support it and an unconscious neglect of phenomena that fail of coincidence. [In the case of M2C, it started with "unconscious neglect" but now the M2C citation cartel not only neglects but actively suppresses, attacks, and censors facts that "fail of coincidence" with M2C.]

The mind lingers with pleasure upon the facts that fall happily into the embrace of the theory, and feels a natural coldness toward those that assume a refractory attitude. Instinctively there is a special searching-out of phenomena that support it, for the mind is led by its desires. There springs up also unwittingly a pressing of the theory to make it fit the facts and a pressing of the facts to make them fit the theory. [A perfect description of Book of Mormon Central.]

When these biasing tendencies set in, the mind rapidly degenerates into the partiality of paternalism. 

KEY POINT that explains M2C:

The search for facts, the observation of phenomena and their interpretation are all dominated by affection for the favored theory until it appears to its author or its advocate to have been overwhelmingly established.

The theory then rapidly rises to a position of control in the processes of the mind and observation, induction and interpretation are guided by it. From an unduly favored child it readily grows to be a master and leads its author whithersoever it will. The subsequent history of that mind in respect to that theme is but the progressive dominance of a ruling idea. 

Briefly summed up, the evolution is this: a premature explanation passes first into a tentative theory, then into an adopted theory, and lastly into a ruling theory.

When this last stage has been reached, unless the theory happens perchance to be the true one, all hope of the best results is gone. To be sure truth may be brought forth by an investigator dominated by a false ruling idea. His very errors may indeed stimulate investigation on the part of others. But the condition is scarcely the less unfortunate.

As previously implied, the method of the ruling theory occupied a chief place during the infancy of investigation. It is an expression of a more or less infantile condition of the mind. I believe it is an accepted generalization that in the earlier stages of development the feelings and impulses are relatively stronger than in later stages...

The defects of the method are obvious and its errors grave. If one were to name the central psychological fault, it might be stated as the admission of intellectual affection to the place that should be dominated by impartial, intellectual rectitude alone.


M2C promoters (and Book of Mormon Central employees) will claim that my views (Moroni's America, etc.) are just as defective.

There's a big difference, though. I accept the teachings of the prophets that the New York Cumorah is a fact. When we start with a fact, we avoid "the habit of precipitate explanation."  That's why it is crucial to recognize that Oliver Cowdery was not merely speculating or proposing a theory.

He declared the New York Cumorah was a fact.

By insisting that Oliver merely speculated that it was a fact, the M2C promoters implicitly recognize the fundamental weakness of their position.

Denying facts is the "tell" that M2C is a hoax. 

But plenty of people lead productive lives while believing in hoaxes, and I'm fine with people believing whatever they want. 


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