Saturday, May 29, 2010

Book of Mormon Place Names in New York?

There is a theory out there about how Joseph Smith came up with some of the place names in the Book of Mormon by copying (and changing slightly) a few town names from around where he lived in New York. I have heard this theory mentioned a few times but I have never had anyone actually offer a list of the names in the Book of Mormon and the corresponding place names in New York, that is until I happened to be reading some of the comments posted by readers after an opinion piece in The Deseret News.

There was one comment that mentioned this theory and actually offered a list of corresponding names in the Book of Mormon and the supposed town name in New York that it was derived from. This got me interested so I started looking up some of the names on the list (the New York list) to see where they came from. It very quickly turned into a very amusing search. Here is what I found.

First the list:

Book of Mormon place name: New York place name

Alma : Alma Mounatin [sic]
Angola : Angola
Antum : Antum
Anti-Anti : Antioch
Boaz : Boaz
Comner : Conner
Ephraim : Ephrem
Helam : Hellam
Jacobugath : Jacobsburg
Jerusalem : Jerusalem
Jordan : Jordan
Kishkumen : Kishkimineta
Lehi : Lehigh
Manti : Mantua
Moroni : Monroe
Minon : Minoa
Morianton : Moraviantown
Moron : Morin
Noah : Land of Noah Lakes
Onidah : Oneida
Onidah : Hill Oneida Castle
Omner : Omer
Ramah : Rama
Ripliancum waters : Ripple Lake
Sidom : Sodom
Shilom : Shiloh
Land of Midian : Land of Midian
Teancum : Tenecum

Of the 345 proper nouns (place names, personal names etc.) in the Book of Mormon, this guy could only come up with 28 that might be derived from place names near by to where Joseph Smith grew up (though he does throw out the rather weak "Here are just a few examples" but let's play along and look at his "few examples"). Granted the 345 number includes names such as: Sam, Jerusalem, Sarah, Babylon, Eve and many more, but even if we account for those names there are still ~200 unique proper nouns in the Book of Mormon. Even still, the list provided by this guy includes nine biblical names that Joseph Smith would not need to copy from nearby place names in order to "make them up". Of these nine names we can eliminate five of them (Boaz, Jerusalem, Jordan, Noah and Land of Midian), because there is no difference (or very little difference) between the Book of Mormon name and the corresponding "New York" name. I am keeping the rest of them because the names are either spelled different, or are different enough that they warrant looking into.

So let us look at what we have so far. The basis of the theory is that Joseph Smith derived place names in the Book of Mormon from the names of towns or other places around where he grew up in New York. Only 28 names are offered as being candidates for copying by Joseph Smith. This leaves 317 names that need to come from some place else. If we eliminate biblical names that leaves us with 23 (19) on his list and ~200 names in the Book of Mormon (with the four interesting names that I will address). The man posting this list did not offer any verification, source or explanation. He just ended with, "If one were to calculate the odds of this just being a coincidence, it would be astronomical." So let us look into these "astronomical odds". First I should mention that the Book of Mormon was published in 1829.

Starting at the top of the list:

Alma : Alma Mounatin [sic]

There is a place called Alma Mountain (or more commonly called Alma Hill) in Allegany County in New York. The hill is associated with the nearby town of the same name. It is not clear which one was named first, the hill or the town, but in any event the area was first settled in 1833 and the town was officially named in 1854. Prior to 1854 the area was associated with the town of Willing.

OK this is not starting out so good. The place now called Alma, New York which is in the general vicinity of Palmyra, New York (only about 100 miles away), was settled in 1833, about four years after the Book of Mormon was published. It may not have been named Alma until 1854. But let us continue and maybe our guy will be lucky.

Angola : Angola

From Wikipedia, "The community was previously called "Evans Station." In 1854 or 1855, a post office was established there, bearing the name Angola. The first postmaster was John H. Andrus, who later became county clerk. At this time, the community's name was changed to "Angola." The new name was apparently chosen because, at that time, local residents (primarily Quakers) were supporting missionary efforts in the Portuguese colony of Angola in Africa."

This is not looking so good for this theory. Perhaps we should continue.

Antum : Antum

I could not find a location named Antum in New York (or Pennsylvania either). Perhaps a more though historical place name search is needed, but based on the previous two examples it may not be worth it.

Anti-Anti : Antioch

Antioch is a well known biblical name (and one of the four that I chose to keep from the nine biblical names) so it would not be surprising that it would show up, except for one thing, Antioch does not appear in the BoM. The proposed corresponding name to Antioch is Anti-Anti, which also does not appear in the BoM, though there is an Ani-Anti (along with Antiomno, Antion, Antionah, Antionum, Antiparah, Antipas and Antipus). But let us look for Antioch anyway. I was able to find several churches in New York City named after Antioch, but no town or hill or place name.

Comner : Conner

Try as I might, I could not find a Conner, New York. (also, there is no Comner in the BoM, but there in a Comnor).

Ephraim : Ephrem

Here is another overtly biblical name, but still let us look for Ephrem, New York.... and nothing.

Helam : Hellam

I could not find a Hellam, NY but there was a Hellam, PA which might be a possibility. It was named in the 1700's so it might just work. But it is quite a ways away from Palmyra (it is in southern Pennsylvania), which is central to the original theory, that ALL BoM names came from place names close to Palmyra.

Jacobugath : Jacobsburg

I could not find a Jacobsburg, NY but there was a Jacobsburg, OH.

Kishkumen : Kishkimineta

This was my favorite, because the only place Kishkimineta turned up in a Google search was in this guy's comment on the Deseret News site. And now that I have a post including it, this post will eventually turn up in a Google search about Kishkimineta. Kishkimineta. Just messing with the Google robot. Kishkimineta. I bet if I include Kishkimineta enough times in this post I can make this post higher rated in the Google search returns than the original comment. Kishkimineta.

Kishkimineta.

Lehi : Lehigh

Yes there is a Lehigh, NY. Could not find any information about it. It is closer to Palmyra than previous towns found in NY. No information as to when it was named. I'll put this down as a definite unverified maybe. Kishkimineta.

Manti : Mantua

There is a city in Italy named Mantua. Couldn't find a place in NY by that name.

Moroni : Monroe

There is a town named Monroe in NY, and it was named in 1818! So far this is the best candiatate. Still you have to get Moroni from Monroe...Kishkimineta.

Minon : Minoa

This is GREAT! There is a town named Minoa in New York. Perfect... OK, looking, looking, Oh! the official town website. Seems like a nice place. OK let's find out the history of Minoa. From the town website:

"Did you know that from the first settlers here in the early 1800's, this was called Manlius Station? It is told that in 1895 Dr. Arthur B. Rood (a physician in town in the late 1800's until 1914) was tired of having his mail ending up in Manlius, Manlius Center, North Manlius, Manlius Four Corners, and the Town of Manlius, that he decided a name change was the answer and was instrumental in the renaming of our village, Minoa."

Hmmmm....1895. Not good. Kishkimineta.

Morianton : Moraviantown

I could not find a Moraviantown, but there is a Moravia, NY. From Wikipedia, "The first settlers arrived around 1789, while the natives still lived in the area. The town was formed in 1833 from the Town of Sempronius." (Fun fact!: The town of Moravia was the boyhood home of Millard Fillmore, John D. Rockefeller and John Wood.)

Moron : Morin

Could not find a Morin, NY.

Onidah : Oneida

There is an Indian tribe called the Oneida. And there is a town in New York called Oneida, which got its name from the Oneida community, which was founded in 1848, four years after Joseph Smith died. The best bet here is the Indian tribe (see below)

Onidah Hill : Oneida Castle

Oneida Castle was the last location of the independent Oneida tribe. It is located just east of the city of Oneida, and was probably the inspiration for the name of the community and city. So far this is the best candidate (even better than Monroe).

Omner : Omer

I can't find an Omer, NY, but omer is a biblical term (though not too common).

Ramah : Rama

I couldn't find a Rama, NY (but plenty of Sport-o-rama, Disc-o-rama, Wood-o-rama, Groom-o-rama and Sign-a-rama's). Rama is a Hindu deity, but not very likely an influence on Joseph Smith. Kishkimineta.

Ripliancum (waters) : Ripple Lake

I found a Ripple Lake in Minnasota, Texas and Massachusetts, but not New York.

Sidom : Sodom

Sodom is a well known place name in the bible (and not associated with the best things) so I was supprised when I actually found a Sodom, NY. Though I couldn't find much else.

Shilom : Shiloh

Shiloh is another biblical name, which if Joseph Smith was making up names he would not need to borrow this name from a nearby town. As it is, I can't find a Shiloh, NY.

Teancum : Tenecum

On this one I looked long and deep. Still I could not find a Tenecum, NY. Apparently there was a Dutch colony of the same name in modern day Pennsylvania, but it seems to have been renamed when taken over by the British. There is still a creek and an island of the same name in PA.

So let us recap. Of the 28 names offered, we eliminated five because of their prominent biblical source, and we can assume that Joseph Smith did not need any inspiration from local towns named after those five (for those that are interested, the five are Boaz, Jerusalem, Jordan, Noah and Midian. Jerusalem and Jordan, not surprisingly, are towns in New York the other three are not). This leaves us with 23 possibilities from the list. Of those, nine were found to be actual places in New York, 14 were not. Of the nine that were found five of them were named after the Book of Mormon was published, two of them the date of their naming was uncertain and the remaining two are possible candidates for this theory. These include Monroe and Oneida Castle (I am excluding the city of Oneida, because that was named for the Oneida Community founded in 1848).

To be more thorough we would have to look at the historical place names and find out what they were called back in the 1820's to make sure, but given the verified parts of the list it may not be a particularly rewarding exercise. Even if some of the 14 unknown "town" names did prove to be historical town names around Palmyra in the 1820's, this still leaves more than 150 names in the Book of Mormon that need to be accounted for under this theory. While at first this theory may appear to be very persuasive, it steadily gets more and more ridiculous the more "pesky" facts keep intruding on the scene.

Kishkimineta.

24 comments:

LL said...

People like this can only feel good about themselves when they throw spaghetti against the wall and walk away, not knowing whether or not it stuck.

They're annoying. But they are legion.

Zelph Kinderhook said...

Sorry, with all due respect, you haven't done very good research. First of all, no one claims that he got all of the place-names from around the area where he lived. He did have access to maps and books and probably found many names that way. Contrary to popular LDS belief, he was actually very literate, having been home schooled.

Furthermore, you certainly didn't look very deep to counter these claims. For example, Kiskiminetas is a river in nearby Pennsylvania. He would have certainly known about that. And many of the other place names derive from other areas in New England, not just New York. Had you expanded your research, you would have found more matches.

There's also many other things wrong with the Book of Mormon, for example the many, many anachronisms, the lack of DNA evidence, as well as the lack of archeological and linguistic evidence.

In the end, there's just TOO much to explain away. It's one thing after another after another.... many doubts that lead most to the conclusion that it's just too incredible to be true.

Cheers...

Quantumleap42 said...

Hi Zelph, thanks for commenting.

I realize that my research was short on depth, but then again so was the original subject. Mostly my searching consisted of Google searches, but as I concluded in my post there is very little motivation to do a more serious search into the place names in and around New York. (As a note, the original claim that I was presented with stated that all of the place names came from New York. Also as I noted in my post most of the names given could not be found in New York, but I did find a few outside of New York. So I was just working on the original claim that they all came from New York.)

At your suggestion I looked up the Kiskiminetas River in Pennsylvania. Yes it does exist. It was named by the Indians who lived in the area and one of the early explorers to pass through there picked up that name and included it in his book (also interesting he met several Indians who knew English, which is how he found out what the Indians called everything). The Kiskiminetas River is a tributary of the Allegheny River, and it only stretches for 27 miles from source to mouth. There is a Kiskiminetas township in Armstrong county but that was named in 1831.

So even though Kishiminetas is real, it is a river, not a place (at least until 1831, after the BoM was published). This still leaves the spelling variation with Kishkumen (that is, you still have to get from Kishiminetas to Kishkumen, and that is a bit of a stretch).

In my original post I failed to mention that this is simply an uninformed variant on the Vernal Holley map. The Holley map was an attempt to show that Joseph Smith came up with place names for the BoM from place names in the New England/Quebec/Mid-Atlantic area. At first glance it may seem like a good criticism but as I demonstrated in my post the theory can't even withstand a simple Google search. The fact that many of the places mentioned on the list do not exist in New England (or the surrounding area), or were named after the BoM was publish, or were small and inconsequential (i.e. they did not appear on any maps at the time, and thus how would JS know about Ste Agathe in Canada, or Jacobsburg in Ohio). This is to say nothing of the 150+ names in the BoM still unaccounted for by this theory.

So in the end, do I need to do more research into this theory? No. There is no need. It is painfully obvious that it is false.

In the end, yes I agree there is TOO much to explain away. The Book of Mormon is too rich, too complex, too deep and has had and will continue to have too great an impact to be explained away by simple theories like this.

Kerry said...

I have a map of New York State from 1839 and there is no Lehigh or anything like it. This map is very detailed and has Alden, Batavia Darien, Alexandre, Brookville but absolutely no Lehigh. If you want a copy of the map you can request at my email kjw@aimweb.com.

Kerry said...

Zelph Kinderhook is a shotgun anti-mormon. They fire a question then while you are answering it they load up ready to fire again not having even listened to the answer. They are not interested in answers just questions. So do not waist time with him.

Anonymous said...

As a former mormon, I saw the map that compared names of modern places with BOM places (Vernal Holley Map) and, sadly, just accepted it as just another reason to be embarrassed that I used to believe. However it seems you've really just shown many of them to be possibly plagiarized from the Bible or other sources. As for the other names of places, well, probably any person reading this blog could come up with 150 make believe words and say they are the names of places.

Hognum
Ginglisu
Bitmert
Childweenen
Oofp

Just made those up as fast as I could type them. They might be names of Australian places and I could be accused of plagiarizing them. Making up 150 or even 1500 names isnt some fantastical, only with God's divine inspiration possible, achievement.

BUT you have me convinced that the Vernal Holley Map is likely bogus. If correct, as a former mormon and hater of all lies, it will sadden me if I eventually find out the map was a fabrication made up to discredit a different fabrication.

Zelph did bring up DNA. Since you are an Astrophysicist, it would be stupid of me to dismiss your opinion on Space, Physics, etc. I'm also not an archaeologist or geneticist, nor are you to the best of my knowledge. I go along with the consensus when it comes to archaeological opinion on whether or not the Book of Mormon is an actual Historical Document and the consensus of DNA analysis that Native Americans are not of Jewish descent. Do You accept the opinion of your academic peers who have expertise on the topic? Btw, the consensus of those asked is that it is fiction.

Quantumleap42 said...

Anonymous,

When I wrote this three years ago I did not make the connection that the person who provided the list was supposedly taking it from the Vernal Holley map. This list here is not the exact same list that was used by Vernal Holley, but it is obviously the basis for this list. The original map only had 18 names listed on it as candidates for Book of Mormon "locations". So this expanded list only includes 28 possibilities. I don't know where he got the extra 10 names.

But in the Book of Mormon there are 188 proper nouns that are unique to the Book of Mormon. There are also 149 proper nouns that are found in both the Book of Mormon and the Bible. The vast majority of these 149 nouns are found only in direct quotes from the Bible (96 of the 149, Isaiah really uses a lot of names). The rest (53) are names that are used in both the Book of Mormon and the Bible, but not in direct quotes.

In the passages from Isaiah that are quoted in the Book of Mormon, there are 87 proper nouns used. Of those 87, 18 are used in other places in the Book of Mormon (names such as Abraham, David and Eden).

So returning to the list, as I mentioned in the post only 23 of the 28 names in the list are non-Biblical. Of those 23 not all of them are valid. I will be generous and say that 16 of the 23 are possibilities, mainly because I could not verify 14 of those as actually existing. That still leaves 172 names unique to the Book of Mormon.

In addition to that the names found in the Book of Mormon and internally consistent (i.e. not random names jotted down like you said), many of them have apparent Hebrew roots, while others have either Egyptian, or other uncertain origins, but still follow apparent linguistic forms.

If you want more information on Book of Mormon names then I would suggest checking out this site that contains a Book of Mormon Onomasticon [fancy word for list of proper nouns in a historical document and their meanings].

As for DNA, I may not be an expert on genetics but I have read about it and I have learned enough to know that there is no good evidence one way or the other. I am aware of some studies that have claimed to "prove" that there is no Jewish DNA anywhere in the Americas, but the genetic markers that they used in those studies are not found in all Jews, let alone in all Israelites. The problem is we have no idea what genetic markers to look for, and even if we did, that is no guarantee that those markers even survived the 1600 years since Moroni.

In this case I actually do side with the general consensus of geneticists who have looked into this issue. There really isn't enough evidence one way or the other.

Doug (no longer anonymous) said...

"No good evidence one way or another"….

Do you see the problem here? If the Book of Mormon were a historical document, there would be good evidence that native americans were of hebrew descent. Your argument does not support your claim. At best, it only adds MORE uncertainty to the mess that is Book of Mormon claims.

Since Your job requires you to be competent with math at a level many times that which I achieved, perhaps we can have some fun here. I am not capable of applying Baye's Theorem to the probability that the Book of Mormon is a Historical Document. I do understand the basic premise though: That one can calculate the Probability of the veracity of the BOM with what we do know.

We know that:

Archaeologists with expertise in BOM topics reject it as a historical document unanimously (almost? All?)
No evidence of Elephants have been found
Or horses
Or goats
Or cattle
Or sheep
Or Steel (and all the things that would go with it like ore mines and furnaces)
Or Chariots (children's toys do not show evidence of wheel-rights)
Or Grapes
Or Barley
Or Wheet
Or Bees
AND that the Tower of Babel is fiction so the Jaredites couldn't have existed
AND the genetic evidence does not support Semitic origin (as you have stated)

This isn't an exercise in apologetics. That we didn't find evidence for one of these… no big deal. We haven't turned over every stone. Fine.

What is the PROBABILITY that the BOM is a Historical Document knowing each of these facts.



Quantumleap42 said...

I don’t know how I, or anyone else, could calculate the probability here based on the list that you provide. Calculating probability does not work that way. Also you must keep in mind that the Book of Mormon is not a book on agriculture or animal husbandry and thus whether or not it is inspired by God is not determined by how accurately it reports facts about animals or crops. Also keep in mind that many of these terms have very well defined and generally accepted meanings today, but the equivalent words in other languages, such as Hebrew, Egyptian, Mayan etc. have changed greatly over time, and were never used with the exactness of language that we have today. Our language is unique in human history for its exactness and uniformity, so we cannot impose such a strictness on terms used. That is, we cannot impose our modern concept of strict definitions to ancient word uses.

But let us go down the list.

Quantumleap42 said...

Elephants: There were elephants, or elephant like animals, in the Americas. The only question is when they went extinct. The current scientific consensus is about 4000 BC, but there is still many places to look to find more evidence that they lasted longer. (There also used to be camels here too by the way.) I’ll put this at inconclusive.

Horses: There were pre-columbian horses, and like the elephants the questions is when they went extinct (or perhaps they didn’t). The general assumption among archaeologists is that there were no pre-columbian horses. How do they know this? Because no one has “found” evidence of horses. But there have been horse bones and teeth found in archeological digs but they discounted it as site contamination because they “knew” that there were no pre-columbian horses. I’ll put this at inconclusive.

Goats: There are mountain goats, and big horn sheep. I’ll put this at inconclusive.

Cattle: What we now call Baird’s Tapir is/was called a “mountain cow”. (Other places in Central America they used the same word for horse as they used for tapir.) I’ll put this at inconclusive.

Sheep: See goats. Wool has also been found in archeological digs. I’ll put this at inconclusive.

Steel: Steel is perhaps the interesting one. Steel has been found in Canaan the Old World dating from before 600 BC. But if you look at the Book of Mormon carefully you will find that steel is only mentioned among certain groups and after a certain point it is no longer mentioned. We know that Nephi smelted iron tools, and he may have known how to make steel, but that information may have been lost, so evidence of steel may not be so easy to find. I’ll put this a positive hit.

Chariots: If you are looking for a Roman chariot you will never find it. If you are looking for a drawn litter that the king sat on then you will find those. (Though other ceremonial options have been suggested motivated by Mayan drawing found in tombs.) I’ll put this at inconclusive.

Grapes: The Book of Mormon does mention grapes three times, but two of those come from Isaiah quotes and the other comes from the Sermon on the Mount. So there is no evidence from the Book of Mormon or elsewhere that grapes were cultivated in the Americas. The BoM does mention wine, and when the Spanish arrived the Mayans were fermenting fruit and the Spanish did call it wine, so there is that. I’ll put this a positive hit.

Barley: There was pre-columbian barley being cultivated in Central America. I’ll put this a positive hit.

Wheat: It is only mentioned once and we do not know what kind of grain it was referring to. I’ll put this as a Negative.

Corn: You left this one off the list. Corn was first cultivated in Mesoamerica. I’ll put this a positive hit.

Bees: Cortez reported the Aztecs used honey and beeswax as a commodity to trade with. There are several honey producing bees native to the Americas. I’ll put this a positive hit.

Tower of Babel: The Akkadian empire is considered to be the first true empire in history. What is unique about them is that they were the first political unit that had more than one language in general use within the empire. They are considered to be the traditional location of what we call the Tower of Babel. Interestingly enough the Book of Mormon never calls it the Tower of Babel. It just refers to it as “the great tower”. I would also emphasize that what set the Akkadian empire apart from everything that came before was its multi-lingual environment. After about 150 years the empire was overrun by barbarians and its people were scattered. Hmmm, interesting coincidences. They also were known for building huge temples in the form of very large towers. The Babylonians later copied their temple style and you can still go see the remains of their largest temple. I’ll put this at inconclusive.

DNA evidence: While it is true that there is no DNA evidence that supports the BoM there is also no evidence that proves it wrong. At most this has the be left as inconclusive. I’ll put this at inconclusive.

Quantumleap42 said...

So lets look at the talley: 13 (+1) things to look at.

No Evidence and no possibilities: 1
Inconclusive/possible explanations: 8
Positive hits: 5

I would say those are pretty good odds.

For something that involves actual statistics I would suggest this paper (sorry it is behind a paywall, but you can read a summary by the authors here).

Short summary of the paper:

Jockers et al. argue that Sidney Rigdon wrote the Book of Mormon. They use statistical analysis of writing styles and word counts to make their case. Schaalje et al. respond and say that the work of Jockers is wrong since their statistical analysis tools were ill suited for the purpose (the math they used were developed for genetics, not writing style analysis). Schaalje shows why the analysis of Jockers was wrong and also prove that based on their (Jockers) own analysis Sidney Rigdon also wrote the Federalist Papers, and even wrote the paper published by Jockers. The problem was that Jockers used a kind of statistical analysis that basically asked the question, “Out of this list of people whose writing style comes closest to the style of the Book of Mormon?” They do their analysis and conclude that Sidney Rigdon wrote the Book of Mormon. This is kind of like asking the question, “Out of these cities: Rome, Cairo, Tokyo, Moscow; which city is closest to Los Angeles?” And then concluding that Tokyo is the closest city, in the entire world, to Los Angeles. This completely ignores every city immediately around Los Angeles, and every city in North America and the whole of Western Europe. So Jockers asked the wrong question. They asked, “Of this list of 19th century people, whose writing style came closest to that of the Book of Mormon.” They then concluded that because Sidney Rigdon came out on top that he wrote the Book of Mormon. But they were using statistics the same way a drunk man uses a lamp post, for support instead of illumination.

Schaalje then propose a similar set of statistical analysis tools that allow them to ask the question, “Out of this list of 19th century people, whose writing style is close enough to that found in the Book of Mormon that they could have written it.” The answer they got was that no one in the 19th century wrote the Book of Mormon, but that it was written by an unknown author who was not included in the list of possibilities. So using actual statistics they proved that Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Solomon Spalding, and others associated with them could not have written the Book of Mormon. So if you wanted a statistical answer to the probability that the Book of Mormon is what it says it is then that is the closest you will get right now.

Anonymous said...

I'm rather impressed on what you consider a hit and inconclusive. It's also quite impressive what apologetic lengths believers will go to make, what was accepted as doctrinal when I was young, simply a possibility.

Instead of going point by point of the apologetics, I'll recommend you read Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel". It's a great read about why Europeans were able to conquer the new world and will explain domestication of plant and animal species and other technologies. It will also make it clear why the apologetics regarding BOM anachronism explanations are unlikely in the extreme.

I will tackle a couple of the apologetics though.

Corn: Seriously? After-the-fact stating they had corn where corn was originally domesticated as a hit? It's the ONLY object that isn't an anachronism.

Bees: The Jaredites brought them according to the BOM. That would mean middle-eastern domesticated bees would be found. Not native species. It would also limit the regions where the Jaredites could have settled initially. Then again, you'll need to read "Gun's.." to get a good understanding. TOTAL MISS

DNA evidence: It's far more conclusive than you will accept. Even your own argument leaves you at "possible" and not "probable". This isn't a coin toss.

You are the first Mormon to ever say to me that the Jaredites were not a product of the Tower of Babel, but from an actual Empire of which we have secular record. Stunning.

Like the tithing issue, I didn't leave the church due to BOM difficulties. They just came clearly into focus once I left. When one accepts the fictional nature of the BOM, mental gymnastics to make tapir shaped pegs fit into horse or cattle shaped holes are no longer even entertained. I can entertain the theories of the majority of anthropologists, geneticists, archeologists and paleontologists with the intent only of learning new things, and not have to filter and mold it through presupposed dogmatic claims so my faith isn't damaged.

In my lifetime I've seen the doctrine change from Native Americans being 100% Lamanite to accepting that at best they are Partly Lamanites. By the description of yourself on the Blog page, you're a little younger than I was when I left the church. I'll just suggest you watch for the changes in the Gospel that is supposedly Eternal during your own lifetime.

Quantumleap42 said...

I love Guns, Germs, and Steel. I also have read Jared Diamond’s other book Collapse very illuminating. You just reminded me that I should finish my book review for Guns, Germs, and Steel. I read the book several years ago and I even have my unfinished review in draft form. Maybe I should finish that.

One of the things that I liked about Guns, Germs, and Steel was how it gave me greater insight into how God works in His plan for His children. Few other secular books have strengthened my testimony more than that book did. If Jared Diamond can figure out that geography is a major driver of which societies can fail or succeed then sure God can figure that out and use it to His advantage, and I would say that He did know it and has used it. But I digress. I wouldn’t say that Guns, Germs, and Steel is quite the death knell for the Book of Mormon that you think it is. Far from it, it gives an explanation as to how God knew that the Native Americans would be dislocated by other people rather than the other way round.

The reason why I included corn was that you asked for a probability (even if it is impossible to calculate in this case). If you want a probability then you have to include a complete sample otherwise you are left with a biased sample. If you select your sample a priori so that only those things that it automatically supports a certain conclusion then it will bias your conclusion.

What is remarkable about all the other things mentioned is that at first they seem like anachronisms but on closer reading of the Book of Mormon or with additional information they turn out to be confirmations of the Book of Mormon rather than problems.

Take bees. You assume that the Book of Mormon states that the Jaredites took bees with them across the ocean into the Americas. But if you read where the bees were mentioned you will find that they are only mentioned in an Old World context. The Jaredites carried them with them when they left the city of Babel, but it makes no mention of them when they crossed the ocean. So it is doubtful that they transported bees across the ocean to the Americas. Even if they did there is no guarantee that the bees were able to survive in the new environment, or able to survive interbreeding with the local bees producing a new native variety.

But then we may ask, how did Moroni know about honey bees? Well there are varieties of bees in the Americas that are cultivated for thier honey. So far from being a total miss it is either confirmation of the Book of Mormon, or at the very least inconclusive. In order for it to be a total miss you first have to project some assumptions into the text that most likely are not true.

Don’t worry everyone has projected their own assumptions on the the text of the Book of Mormon, including Joseph Smith. (He first assumed that the story first took place all over the Americas, along with just about everyone around him. They later figured out that they were wrong in that assumption. Which is an interesting point, if Joseph Smith and everyone around him assumed that the story of the Book of Mormon took place all over the Americas at first, then why did they write a book that clearly disproves that hypothesis? It’s as if they didn’t understand what they had “written”. Something to think about.)

Quantumleap42 said...

As for DNA, as someone who has heard many different arguments on this matter I don’t think that there is anything that can either prove or disprove the Book of Mormon. If you go to just about any geneticist and ask them, “Is there genetic evidence of a Jewish colony in the Americas?” They will tell you, “No.” And I agree with them. If you rephrase the question and ask, “Is there evidence of genetic mixing between an unknown but decidedly Middle Eastern gene pool of indeterminate genetic lineage though possibly related to the gene pool that we currently know as Jewish (you have to take into account approximately 2,600 years of genetic drift and mixing with a wider Middle Eastern, European and Asiatic population) with an unknown Native American gene pool that has been subjected to significant genetic loss through death and mixing with a much larger and dominant gene pool of very different composition? Also keep in mind that the gene pool you are looking for has gone through several periods of significant depopulation and then significant mixing with European populations, which incidentally have also gone through significant mixing with the source of the original gene pool that we are looking for.” Just about any geneticist will look at you cross eyed at the prospect of unpacking such a complicated question, but the general consensus will be, “We have no idea how to answer such a complicated question.” It’s worse than trying to find a needle in a haystack. It’s like trying to find a nickel-copper alloy needle of a specific mixture ratio in a haystack sized stack of needles. With no guarantee that the needle you are looking for is actually in the stack to begin with.

So far from being conclusive, we simply cannot answer the question of DNA at the present time. That is why I put it at inconclusive and not in a “possible” or “positive hits” category.

Also my point with bringing up the Akkadian empire was to give a plausible location for the tower of Babel. The fall of the Akkadian empire fits with the timeframe. It suffered from problems of many different languages being used within a single political unit (i.e. confounding of languages), they built high towers for their temples, and when the empire failed its inhabitants were scattered by invading barbarians and other internal pressures. So I put it out there as a very likely candidate for the location of the tower of Babel and the origin point for the Jaredites. So I find it pretty cool that a possible location for the tower of Babel is in an actual empire of which we have secular record. Stunning.

Quantumleap42 said...

There are many things that people, including some church leaders assume are central and integral to the doctrine of the gospel, and when they find out that those things are not actually central or in some cases incorrect that may cause them to question the things that are actually central to the gospel. There are so many things that I have learned over the years that I am no longer surprised when I learn something that challenges what I previously thought to be unchallengeable. If there is one thing that I have learned is that the way God views the world and how He interacts with it is so much more amazing than we realize. I fully expect our understanding of God to grow, and how He does His work to grow with it. It is an exciting future with great possibilities.

Some people point to all the changes that take place in science and say that is a case that any scientific conclusion can be discarded. Many more people try to do the same with religion. I have learned that even though certain ideas change in science, others stay the same. After all is said and done it is the things that do not change that turn out to be the basis of truth. I have found that the same applies to religion and my religion in particular. When I do science and I am confronted with something that seems inconsistent I do not treat it as something that will destroy science, but rather as a problem to be solved. I treat my approach to my religion in the same way.

I just choose not to reject everything I do know to be true just because I am uncertain of or don’t understand other things. I also don’t reject what I currently know just because of the prospect of a possible fuller understanding that might come somewhere down the road. It would be irrational for me reject truth because of what is unknown in science, and it would be irrational for me to do the same in religion. I have found that even in the scientific and religious revolutions that have changed the way I see the world there are things that have stayed the same. The new paradigm just added to what was there before without destroying what we already knew.

Doug T said...

As I said earlier, I hoped we could have focused on the math and not the apologetics. I proposed you apply Baye's Theorem to the probability of Book of Mormon being true. The apologetics focus on the "possibility", leaving lots of room for the believer to claim that their argument is just as valid and justified as one who thinks it is false. Probability, not possibility, is the answer we need.

You don't need actual numbers for any of the unlikely claims. You only need to understand how the formula works. Each claim is a factor that increases or decreases the likelihood of the original premise. Let's work on it a little.

-Domestication of some relict population of Pleistocene era Horse Species. Unlikely but possible.
-Domestication of some relict population of Pleistocene era Elephants (Orson Pratt said Mammoths were Cureloms… oops). Extremely unlikely but possible.
-Plasticity of Doctrine, or Modern Revelation, to revise previous beliefs when modern evidence counters prior belief set. Well, Magical Powers are extremely unlikely but possible.

EACH of these is a factor to be considered. By your training, you can check my math. If we assign each of these apologetics a .5 probability, or flip of a coin for a non-college grad like me, the probability of the Book being a Historical Document is .125. So with just 3 apologetics given VERY generous individual probabilities, we have a very low probability. So now do the same with Bees, Tapirs, Cureloms, Cumons, Seer Stones, Book of Abraham, Homo sapiens only 6000 years old, and every other apologetic.

The "Possibility" of the Book of Mormon being a historical document is 1. The "Probability" is mind-bogglingly small.

I appreciate you taking part in the dialogue. Challenging one's belief set against factual evidence is not fun regardless of what you believe. The cognitive dissonance these discussions create will lead only to a less convoluted, more evidence based world view.

If You're ever interested in discussing the racist nature of The Book of Mormon, we can wander through that minefield too.

I wish you the best. Search for me on Facebook if you want to discuss any of this less publicly.

Doug Taylor

Quantumleap42 said...

Doug,

You are a firefighter so let me use this analogy: Suppose someone came running up to you and frantically asked if you could put out a fire. You being the helpful person that you are go running to help. When you get to the scene of the “fire” and observe the “burning” that is happening you find that the “fire” you are call on to put out is someone who is sick, in bed, with the flu and is “burning up with a fever”. You turn to the person who brought you to the scene and say, “Sorry wrong type of burning. A fire hose won’t help you here. You need a doctor not a fireman.” The person who brought you insists that you do something since “You are trained to put out things that are burning.” To which you reply, “Yes I am, and I am very good at it. But in this case neither a fire hose, nor an ax, nor a pike, nor a hook or any of the tools that I have will help. This is the wrong type of fire and the wrong type of burning.”

To apply Bayes’ Theorem to the question of the probability of the Book of Mormon being true or false makes as much sense as fighting a fever with a fire hose. If you do try it then in the end we all just get hosed and you still have a fever. But if you insist then I’ll turn a fire hose on this question and put some numbers in an equation. I should warn you upfront that you will not like the result.

First lets start with your original list:

Elephants
Horses
Goats
Cattle
Sheep
Steel
Chariots
Grapes
Barley
Wheat
Bees
Tower of Babel
DNA

We have 13 items and we have to assign some sort of probability to these so I will use the following: Positive proof that these are found in the Americas or are consistent with known historical facts will be given a value of 1. If there is evidence, but not firm evidence the value will be ½. For everything else the value will be zero (this includes things that has no evidence one way or the other such as DNA).

But we have to consider the fact that the Book of Mormon was first published in English in 1830 so to do this properly we need to figure out the probability of these things being proof positive in 1830. That is, what was the general consensus at the time. Let’s go down the list and assign values.

Elephants - 0
Horses - 0
Goats - 0
Cattle - 0
Sheep - 0
Steel - 0
Chariots - 0
Grapes - 0
Barley - 0
Wheat - 0
Bees - 0
Tower of Babel - 1/2
DNA - 0

Now let us put these numbers in a magic number crunching machine and let us get another number out. The number we get is P = (½)/13 = .038. So based on this abbreviated list there is a 3.8% probability of the Book of Mormon being true.

“Ha!” you say, “This is shaping up to what I hoped it to be. He is finally admitting that there is a low probability that the Book of Mormon is true. If we just add to this list then the probability will go down and I will be vindicated! Wait why is he smiling?”

You see this is a joke and I know the punchline. When you read about this stuff on anti-Mormon websites or other places you didn’t know that they were telling you the first part of a joke and omitting the punchline. They also weren’t laughing, probably because they lost their sense of humor. But now I am going to have to ruin the joke by first explaining the punchline.

Let us consider the book 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clark (huh? what does this have to do with the Book of Mormon? Hold on let me explain.) You see in the book 2001 there were several predictions made about the future. A future with space stations, video conferencing, manned space missions to Saturn, talking computers, autopilot, moon bases etc. We could do something similar with 2001 that we are doing with the Book of Mormon. We set up a list of predictions made in the book that should come true by the year 2001. Since the book was published in 1968 we could work out a probability at that time that the predictions made in the book would come true 33 years later.

Quantumleap42 said...

So let’s make up some numbers here because we are doing statistics where everything is made up and the numbers don’t matter. We put numbers into our magic number machine and get a probability of 34.7% that in 1968 the book 2001 will still be true when 2001 comes around. As we get closer and closer to the date that the book was supposed to happen the probability of it coming true will necessarily go down, until we get to the year 2001 and we don’t have manned moon bases, manned missions to Saturn, contact with alien monoliths etc.. Thus the probability of the book as a whole being an accurate prediction of the future goes to zero.

The key here is to look at the probability over time. If a book gives an accurate portrayal of the future or the past then the probability of it being true should go up over time. If not then the probability should go down and in some cases the probability should go to zero.

When we started out we arrived at a probability of .038 that the Book of Mormon is true based on the general understanding at the time it was first published. So now we have to revisit the list and see if anything has changed in the 183 years since it was published. This is where that annoying “apologetics” come in. You see it is impossible to focus “on the math and not the apologetics” because without the apologetics there is no way of determining what the “math” is, even if this “math” doesn’t mean anything. But you insist on having math so let us do one more calculation.

Elephants - 0 There are possibilities, but none have been confirmed.
Horses - 0 There are possibilities, but none have been confirmed.
Goats - 1/2
Cattle - 0 There are possibilities, but none have been confirmed.
Sheep - 1/2
Steel - 1
Chariots - 0 There are possibilities, but none have been confirmed.
Grapes - 1 While grapes are technically not mentioned, there are grapes native to the Americas.
Barley - 1
Wheat - 0
Bees - 1
Tower of Babel - 1/2
DNA - 0

Again we put the numbers in the magic number machine and get: P = .423. That is a 42.3% probability that the Book of Mormon is true just based on the above list. So in 183 years we have gone from a 3.8% probability to a 42.3% probability. This is the exact opposite of what is supposed to happen if the Book of Mormon were a work of fiction. If it were made up then the probability should go down over time, not up.

Now we may quibble on some of these numbers but no matter how you cut it the probability is going up and not down over time. As we gain more knowledge about the ancient Americas we find out more things that seemed extremely implausible before but now are rather well founded.

As a matter of fact John E. Clark, Wade Ardern and Matthew Roper back in 2005 put together a list of 60 common criticisms of the Book of Mormon that were considered to anachronisms. Their list included several things from your list such as wheat, barley, horses etc. along with many more. They first looked at how many of the 60 supposed anachronisms were confirmed by 1842 and then they looked at how many had been confirmed by 2005. In 1842 only 8 of the 60 were confirmed. Using the same criteria as before this would give us P = .133 or 13.3% probability. In 2005 the number stood at 10 undetermined but definitely possible, 35 confirmed and 15 unconfirmed. Again using the same method this gives us P = .667 or 66.7% probability. You can read their full presentation here.

Quantumleap42 said...

Again we have two data points to compare. In both the limited sample and in the larger more comprehensive sample the probability has continued to increase over time in direct opposition to what should happen if the Book of Mormon were a work of fiction. Now as I said we could tweak the numbers and assign a different amount for each probability and get the probability down to something mindboggling small like you wanted, but that does not change the fact that there is now more, much much more, evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon now than there was in 1830.

So this probably (ha! a pun!) wasn’t the result you were expecting and I warned you of that at the outset. In this case numbers can be thrown back and forth but it is like fighting a fever with a fire hose. We all just get hosed and no one feels any better. I think that the biggest test of whether or not the Book of Mormon is true is how it can impact your life. I know that it has impacted mine and it has allowed me to understand things in such a way that it has made me happier, more at peace with myself, kinder to those around me. It has changed my life and it has born fruit as is promised (Alma 32).

I’ll admit that proof of the veracity of the Book of Mormon is not readily apparent, but that does not mean that proof does not exist. All that means is that there is a space where doubt and faith can coexist until a choice is made. When we choose faith the proofs will come and any apparent problems can be resolved. But we must first make the choice to believe.

Doug T said...

So many things to say. So little space-time (a little astrophysics humor… sorry)

Props to you for having some fun with the math. As you said, we can quibble about the numbers, and we can quibble about each of the anachronisms. You've made an important step though in that You've shown a willingness to test claims with real world methods, although you feel that it isn't an appropriate test in this specific case.

I agree with you in a sense, in that the nature of apologetics is to rationalize maintenance of a belief set and not search for verifiable, testable, reproducible knowledge. So applying math to a system that is based on faith means the proponents of opposing viewpoints can skew the results however they want, regardless of whether or not they are actually correct.

Let's discus a comparison you made. 2001 and the BOM are different in a very important way that I should point out: 2001 made predictions about human achievements that could happen, while the BOM made claims about achievements that had actually been made. Your point about 2001 would make more sense if it was written in 2013 and claimed that we already had all the technological advances needed for manned missions to Saturn over a decade prior. If we just keep the faith, we'll find the evidence for manned missions to Saturn. It will turn up over time, just have faith.

I want to visit your Fireman fighting a Fever analogy a little too. You're right in that using a hose to fight a fever would be silly. I am also an EMT and I specifically have used the appropriate application of water on a person in septic shock and a fever approaching lethal levels to lessen the fever and give that person a chance to survive. So perhaps the Fireman fighting a fever analogy is a good one. Proper application of water in both cases MIGHT alleviate the problem.

You've made a testable claim with: "I think that the biggest test of whether or not the Book of Mormon is true is how it can impact your life. " Indulge me in a little Mormon-speak here: I know with every fiber of my being, that I am utterly embarrassed that I once believed the Book of Mormon was a real history. If your test of the veracity you propose is efficacious, then I have definitively proven it fictional. My life is much better having spent some time outside the church. I've proven to myself that I'm a decent person without the religion or book that claimed I needed to be a decent person. I'm going to make the bold assertion that if you weren't a Mormon, you'd still be as good of a person as you are now.

I have a saying that I try my hardest to live by: "I love being proven wrong as it's the first step towards being right". I'm always ready to be proven wrong. It's just I no longer accept feelings as proof.

Thanks for continuing the dialogue.

A couple notes:
-You put up a link that was broken.

-The term "Anti-Mormon" is an unnecessary pejorative. I know you weren't calling me that, but certain websites you described as such. Anti-Mormonism is a better description. When one attacks Your faith, he is attacking only ideas, not people. Mormonism is what is under attack, not Mormons.

Jdropper said...

Quantum, I just wanted to thank you for your blog. No one responding to your posts held a candle to you strength of reasoning, and the same goes for just about every anti-mormonism proponent I have heard or read. Like you, Joseph Smith was an advocate of pure reasoning. I find it significant that most people who have left the church and who choose to actively seek fault in it and attempt to "disprove" the BOM seem a bit bitter, and unopen to the chance that THEY could be wrong. They refuse to acknowledge their is a slight possibility that they messed up! As an astrophysicist, you could probably enlighten us with what the chances are that the Earth was spontaneously created and came to be what it is today. If we go off "probabilities" that something is true, we shouldn't even be alive I would guess!
I have recently heard of quite a sad story, to me, about a man who has recently left the church. He wrote a letter to a CES director listing his top 30 or so problems with mostly the Book of Mormon. What is sad to me is that most of his arguments are pretty famous anti-mormonism theories that have been around for awhile. So, virtually none of his concerns are from himself, but picked up by the ideas that these so called scholars have come up with. Furthermore, many of the theories were pretty much disproven in the series of your posts on this blog, or at least exposed of their obvious weaknesses.
Before I read your blog I actually started my own Google site to attempt to answer his questions, since on his website he says his letter was never responded to (cesletter.com). My site is at: https://sites.Google.com/site/answeringjeremyrunnells
However, now that I have read your blog I would like to request to site your work here because you can explain it quite a bit better than I can.
I would love be for you to look at it though and tell me what you think. I propose a few explanations regarding the infamous "anachronisms" that you may find interesting. One of the issues I find with LDS opponents is that their arguments are very black and white, or even narrow minded. We hear so much about this amazing DNA evidence but shouldn't it be obvious that since the Jaredites exterminated themselves there shouldn't be any surviving DNA? Also, since it is clear that the surviving Native Americans are Asian-European descended it can be surmised that most of the ancient population was also of the same heritage and that perhaps the Lehite and Zoramite races simply assimilated into the genetic pool? The sheer misproportion of genetic information would thus eliminate any trace of Book of Mormon DNA! This and other obvious factors, to me, renders most of these popular anti-mormon theories useless...

Quantumleap42 said...

Hi Jdropper,

Thanks for your comment. I'll take a look at your site. Keep us your research as it will help you and those around you.

To everyone else on this comment thread,

Sorry I kind of abandoned it mid conversation but normal life got busy. Previously I posted a broken link in a comment above. Sorry about that, copy and paste didn't work right. Here is the correct link.

When I get more time I will come back to this thread and finish my comments. I try to do good research when I comment so it takes me some time to read through a lot of material before I comment.

Anonymous said...

My favorite part of the Book of Mormon is how Moroni knew to include mistakes from The King James version of the Bible with his record even though he lived, really lived, so very long before the KJV.

You can sit and calculate from here to eternity, but I worry that even that won't be enough time to deal with all of the legitimate questions people will continue to raise about the Book of Mormon. So pat yourself on the back for "proving" to yourself that the way the world and all things in it is indeed how it was taught to you by the church. Most people don't have the time or inclination to have to work as hard as you seem to be working just to hold onto things that anyone with common sense and a halfway decent nose for bullstuff would never have given the time of day in the first place.

Btw, when is the bank Joseph Smith set up going to fulfill his prophecy regarding its supremacy? And if blacks really were less valiant in the preexistence, then why is that taught as false doctrine today? And if the atonement of Christ really isn't universal and all-powerful as Brother Brigham taught, why do today's church leaders continue to say the opposite? But good luck and have fun making sense of nonsense.

In my experience, when something is REALLY true, its pieces fit together nicely and there aren't a thousand inconsistencies around every corner.

Quantumleap42 said...

Hi Anonymous,

Do you mind if I call you Bruce to avoid confusion? Great.

So Bruce, your comment is what I like to call a "drive by shotgun approach". You swoop in, fire off a number of unrelated assertions/questions and sped off without a rational thought in the world. Unfortunately for your reliability, rather than using buckshot with your shotgun approach it is more along the lines of fleashot. And you're hunting elephants.

So with your fleashot, and a healthy dose of condescending remarks it seems to me that you have no desire to actually consider what the facts are, and to consider that just maybe I actually believe for rational reasons and because I do have common sense. I know what I know, and I have experienced the Divine so it would be irrational of me to act otherwise. I continue to believe because after much study all the pieces still fit together nicely and there are not a thousand inconsistencies around every corner.