The Spaulding Manuscript as Jeffersonian idealism, and not a Book of Mormon template

(To see Cal Grondahl’s cartoon that goes with this post, click here) Solomon  Spaulding’s “Manuscript Found,” an unpublished novel by the 18th and 19th century minister, is a topic of interest to anti-Mormons. In 1834, Eber Howe, author of “Mormonism Unvailed,” claimed that “The Book of Mormon” plagiarizes Spaulding’s novel. What’s left of the Spaulding manuscript was found in the late 19th century, and cannot support any claim that Spaulding wrote the Mormon scripture. Some still stick to the theory that a lost version of Spaulding’s “Manuscript Found” contains a “Book of Mormon” template.

In the Fall 2012 “Journal of Mormon History,” Adam Jortner, assistant professor of history at Auburn University, posits an alternative reason to value the Spaulding manuscript. (“Solomon Spaulding’s Indians, Or, What the ‘Manuscript Found’ Really Tells Us”) Rather than putting primary emphasis on its relationship to the Mormon scripture, it should be examined as part of a utopian, Jeffersonian vision of assimilating American Indians through moving them from hunting to farming.

Some background on Spaulding. (All information is attributed to Jortner’s article): He was born in 1761, graduated from Dartmouth, and became a minister. He was not a financial success. Late in his life, living in Ohio, Spaulding wrote “Manuscript Found,” which he hoped would make him wealthy. It did not; only one publishing house even had a copy, and that was likely ignored. However, his novel was popular among his neighbors in Ohio. Before dying in 1816, Spaulding often recited, and had friends recite, from his novel. He also apparently produced many drafts of the story, which is why some speculate the one surviving copy is not the finished product.

The novel’s plot involves Romans who are settling to the new world (America). Led by Fabius, the pre-Columbus group lands in America and encounters “the Deliwares” tribe of natives. The Deliwares are described as savages who engage in strange ceremonial dances. Nevertheless, there is little hostility between the settlers and the natives, and Fabius’ group buys land from the Deliwares.

It isn’t long before sex enters Spaulding’s tale. One settler suggests marriage with the Deliware women. The tale becomes infused with racial bigotry. As Jortner recounts, “Fabius and his commander allow this ‘experiment’ to go forward, thus establishing interracial sex as a kind of second-class intimacy, although with considerable reservations and the explicit object of literally ‘whitening’ the resulting children.”

Later in the novel, Fabius travels west and encounters the “Ohons” tribe. The Ohons become more advanced than the Deliware. They have lighter skin, practice farming and animal husbandry instead of primarily hunting, and live, as Spaulding wrote, with an (architecture) “founded upon the true principles of Reason.” The Ohon also have a form of religion traditional to the early 19th century that Spaulding lived in. Much of Spaulding’s novel contrasts the customs, family and religious practices of the Ohon and the Deliware, to the detriment of the Deliwares. Ironically, the Ohon dynasty begins its slow deterioration after an Ohon prince improperly marries a princess from an inferior tribe. The upheavel leads to a more dogmatic theology, that takes reason away from the Ohon culture and beliefs.

What makes Spaulding’s manuscript an example of Jeffersonian idealism is that at the time it was written, there was a theory that American Indians could be assimilated into a western lifestyle through the purchasing of farmland and the subsequent transfer of Indians from hunting to farming.

As Jortner writes, “Much more striking than any parallels to LDS scripture or teachings, however, is the resemblance between the “Manuscript Found” and the idealism of Jeffersonian republicanism. The Jeffersonian dream of assimilation and the fear of prophetic response both appear in “Manuscript Found:” A white man shows up, teaches the Ohons deistic ideas and monogamy , and watches them become civilized — and whiter in color. Jeffersonian assimilation is also the plan of the Romans regarding the Deliware: intermarry, raise the children as Christians, and, in the ugly racist language of the time, ‘wipe clean’ both their savagery and their dark skins.”

Frankly, as racist as that seems today, such a policy with Indians was considered, 200 years ago, a progressive alternative to the prevailing, equally offensive, theory that Indians were incapable of change and needed to be conquered by force.

As Jorner writes, “Manuscript Found” … echoes the events in the Ohio country after Spaulding’s arrival in 1809.” These events included efforts to recruit Indian chiefs to follow the Jeffersonian ideal of moving to farmland and becoming “civilized,” which was defined by following the culture and customs of the white, Christian settlers. Not surprisingly, this effort met with strong resistance from many Indian chiefs. It’s probable that Spaulding, while writing his novel, was influenced by conflict between rival Indian leaders who resisted the Jeffersonian idealism, and other chiefs less resistant to the efforts.

As Jortner writes, “Given the context of the time of its creation, it is difficult not to see in “Manuscript Found” an ideological Jeffersonian commentary on the events of the day mixed in with the romance, adventure, and faux-travel narratives of a nineteenth-century novel.” Spaulding, it seems, was an advocate of a Jeffersonian solution for the American Indians.

“Manuscript Found” disproves most of the claims by Mormon opponents, such as Howe. There are no trips from Jerusalem. No “Nephis” or “Lehis” in Spaulding’s work; only the thin claim that lost versions include these “facts.” A far better historical context for Spaulding’s sprawling novel is offered by Jortner in the JMH. As he writes, “… the ‘Manuscript Found’ dreamed a different kind of dream — a frontier narrative that eulogized a utopian vision of Jeffersonian Indians happily engaged in the civilizing process.”

A racist fantasy? Of course, but a common one during  Spaulding’s era. After 180 years of attempting to tie “Manuscript Found” to “The Book of Mormon,” it’s time to place Spaulding’s manuscript, which earned him fame instead of riches, into its proper context. (To read “Manuscript Found,” go here.)

 

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210 Responses to The Spaulding Manuscript as Jeffersonian idealism, and not a Book of Mormon template

  1. Pingback: 7 January 2013 | MormonVoices

  2. E B says:

    I whole-heartedly agree! Detractors are always grasping at straws to defame the LDS Church. It’s old. But whatever, if they want to waste their time on that it’s their business.

  3. Duwayne Anderson says:

    What a poorly reasoned article. It’s full of one strawman argument after another. Let’s list them:
    1) The idea that if one “anti-Mormon” (Mormon apologists love to use that pejorative term) uses an argument then they must be mostly using that argument.

    2) That the only way for the Book of Mormon to plagiarize is for it to be an exact copy of Spaulding’s document. Take, for example, Doug’s observation that “What’s left of the Spaulding manuscript was found in the late 19th century, and cannot support any claim that Spaulding wrote the Mormon scripture.” See how Doug plays the switcheroo? One minute the claim is plagiarism, the next minute he switches in the strawman argument about being the author of the entire book.

    3) The implication that if an “anti-Mormon” offers a rational explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon, and that argument later turns out to be wrong, then the *irrational* explanations offered by Mormons must be true! This is a common logical fallacy of wacky people the world over (from conspiracy nuts to UFOologists) – it’s not relegated to just the nuts trying to defend the Book of Mormon.

    As far as science is concerned, the Book of Mormon is a fraud. And not just an ordinary fraud — a transparent fake that any reasonably intelligent and honest person could discover. The Book of Mormon claims the ancient Americans smelted steel and made steel swords with which to arm million-man armies. In fact, they did no such thing. The Book of Mormon says the ancient Americans came from Jerusalem, and that the Americas (upon their arrival) were empty, and had been “kept from the knowledge of other nations.” In fact, circa 600 BCE the Americas had thriving civilizations — civilizations that came from Siberia, not (as claimed by the Book of Mormon) from the Middle East. The Book of Mormon says the ancient Americans domesticated Old World crops. In fact, they did no such thing. The Book of Mormon says the ancient Americans domesticated horses, along with cattle, swine, sheep, and goats. In fact, they domesticated (and had) none of these animals.

    Yet Mormons (being religious fanatics) ignore all these evidences. If the Book of Mormon *were* true, we should find evidence of all these things. Instead, the evidence says these things were not there at all.

    The Book of Mormon fails in many, many other ways, too. For example, there is no authentic ancient American text that describes any of the proper names, people, or cities named in the Book of Mormon. I’ve given this challenge to many Mormons (including the nuts at FAIR and FARMS) and the challenge is always ignored (because they simply have no answer). The challenge is simple — cite (from the peer-reviewed scientific literature) an authentic ancient American document that describes (by proper name) the leaders, prophets, or cities described in the Book of Mormon. The answer is always the same — silence; the silence of pseudo intellectuals given over to superstition and ignorance.

    As for who *did* write the Book of Mormon, it was certainly someone from the 19th century. We may not know the author (and we may never know) but we know it wasn’t the Easter Bunny, and we know with even more certainty that it wasn’t actual ancient Americans.

    • LMA says:

      You seem distressed – I hope you’ll feel better soon. Having read the article closely, I find that it contains none of the ideas that you proceed to rebut. Your argument is an example of the straw-man fallacy.

      With respect to science, you may be interested to know that there are interpretations of the Book of Mormon that are not in conflict with science. You should also be cautious about taking scientific investigation as proving anything. For example, they used to say that ancient people could not have migrated to the New World and, if they had, there would be unambiguous genetic traces today. Then the Polynesian migration to South America was discovered.

  4. Collin Simonsen says:

    Duwayne,

    The Book of Mormon does not claim that the Americas were empty. The Americas were kept from the knowledge of other nations, but that does not mean that there were no people in the Americas. No other nations seemed to know of the Americas at the time of the Nephites.

    Furthermore, this article does not set out to prove that the book of mormon is true. It merely debunks one theory. So when you say that the author is engaging in fallacious reasoning you are wrong. You attribute an argument to him that he does not make in this article.

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      I find it really interesting how readily Mormons (in their frantic attempt to defend it) resort to misrepresenting the Book of Mormon and what it says. For example, let’s look at the issue of population in the Americas when Lehi supposedly arrived. From the Book of Mormon it says:

      “Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord. Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever. And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.” [Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi: 6-8].
      Notice the salient points:

      1) The imaginary character Lehi claims to be speaking by the “Spirit.” Thus, this was not simply his opinion, or a problem of limited observation. If the Book of Mormon is true, then the Spirit (a member of the godhead) was making the pronouncement.

      2) The “Spirit” said that the Americas are reserved only for people god brings.

      3) When Lehi arrived, the “Spirit” told him that the land (the American Continent, according to Joseph Smith) had been (at the time) “kept from the knowledge of other nations”

      4) According to the “Spirit,” the Americas were kept from other nations so they would not “overrun” the land, leaving no place for Lehi’s inheritance.

      This doctrine that the Book of Mormon peoples were *the* ancestors of the Native Americans has been taught by every Mormon prophet (including Joseph Smith). The Doctrine and Covenants, for example, “reveals” that the Native Americas are “Lamanites.” The Church has never officially dropped that doctrine. Even the apologists haven’t tried to distance themselves from the doctrine until the evidence against the Book of Mormon became so overwhelming that even they could no longer hold their heads in the sand.

      Yet, as science tells us, the Americas were, indeed, covered with “other nations” when Lehi supposedly arrived. These people were from Siberia, and had arrived over ten thousand years earlier (when Mormon doctrine says Adam was still in the Garden of Eden, and death had not yet come into the world) — proving beyond any credible doubt (on this point alone) that the Book of Mormon is a fraud.

      You are also wrong when you assert that the author “debunks” a particular “theory” for the origin of the Book of Mormon. In fact, as I pointed out already, the author simply raises and knocks down his strawman version of ideas put forward by some Mormon critics. The ideas raised by some Mormon critics is that Smith plagiarized when writing the Book of Mormon, and that one of the sources he plagiarized was Spaulding (there are others). Yet the author (Doug) didn’t discredit that argument – he simply invented the strawman argument about Spaulding writing the entire Book of Mormon.

      Having said that, the application of statistical methods in assessing Book of Mormon authorship clearly points to Spalding, along with other authors. In their seminal paper on Book of Mormon authorship, Matthew L. Jockers1, Daniela M. Witten, and Craig S. Criddle disassemble the shoddy “scholarship” of Mormon apologists, showing that:

      “… likely nineteenth century contributors were Solomon Spalding, a writer of historical fantasies; Sidney Rigdon, an eloquent but perhaps unstable preacher; and Oliver Cowdery, a schoolteacher with editing experience. Our findings support the hypothesis that Rigdon was the main architect of the Book of Mormon and are consistent with historical evidence suggesting that he fabricated the book by adding theology to the unpublished writings of Spalding (then deceased).” [Published by Oxford Journals, Reassessing authorship of the Book of Mormon using delta and nearest shrunken centroid classification, Matthew L. Jockers, Department of English, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA, Daniela M. Witten, Department of Statistics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA,
      Craig S. Criddle , Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA]

      • Poqui says:

        @Duwayne – There are no doubts to statements by early LDS Church leaders that they believed that the Book of Mormon migrations explained the origin of all of the Native Americans. That was their understanding with the knowledge they had. As more knowledge was revealed (both scientific and spiritual) then they realized that this was not the case. Nearly 100 years ago a member of the First Presidency taught in General Conference:

        “We must be careful in the conclusions that we reach. The Book of Mormon teaches the history of three distinct peoples, or two peoples and three different colonies of people, who came from the old world to this continent. It does not tell us that there was no one here before them. It does not tell us that people did not come after. And so if discoveries are made which suggest differences in race origins, it can very easily be accounted for, and reasonably, for we do believe that other people came to this continent” (Anthony W. Ivins, LDS Conference Report, April 1929, p.15).

        Even the outspoken Bruce McConkie stated in 1966:
        “The American Indians…as Columbus found them also had other blood than that of Israel in their veins. It is possible that isolated remnants of the Jaredites may have lived through the period of destruction in which millions of their fellows perished. It is quite apparent that groups of orientals found their way over the Bering Strait…”

      • John Cowan says:

        I had to chuckle when I read your statement: “…Sidney Rigdon, an eloquent but perhaps unstable preacher; and Oliver Cowdery, a schoolteacher with editing experience. Our findings support the hypothesis that Rigdon was the main architect of the Book of Mormon and are consistent with historical evidence suggesting that he fabricated the book by adding theology to the unpublished writings of Spalding…”. As I understand it from my LDS friends, the Book of Mormon was published well before Rigdon came on the scene.

        Indeed, there may have been some migrations from across the straits from Siberia to Alaska. I would think that there have been even more migrations from other places as well, perhaps by land and by sea.

  5. SOF says:

    Duwayne:

    Why are you so obsessed with running down Mormonism? Why is running down this religion so important to you? Why are you so motivated to denigrate someone else’s faith?

    So you don’t agree with their beliefs; move on. I have to question the motives of someone as fanatical as you are on this subject. I have to believe that there is something far more serious going in your life to cause this level of anathema on your part toward Mormons. Why are you unable to rationally state your case without questioning the other party’s mental state or capacity? Doing so only reveals you for the bigot that you are and discredits your arguments

    May I suggest a more productive outlet for your energies, perhaps peace in the Middle East or solving world hunger. I think we can all agree that those things need to happen.

    Bigotry, religious or otherwise, has no place in humanity.

    If the Mormon’s are not hurting you, why do you feel the need to hurt and or discredit them?

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      If you want examples of “bigotry” then you might be interested in the following verse from the Book of Mormon:

      “And he [the Mormon god] had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. [2 Nephi 5:21]

      You might also (in you quest for examples of bigotry) look to the historical Mormon doctrine that Blacks were not “valiant” in their pre-existent life, and were born black so as to carry on the “curse” of Cain. [This was the church doctrine used to disqualify Blacks from full participation in Mormonism until the profit had a “revelation” that cancelled the doctrine in 1978, after years of public protest against their racism.]

      Yet another example of bigotry is the Mormon Church’s persecution of Gays — exemplified in their unlawful conduct while supporting Proposition 8 through the church’s “secret combinations.”

      Those damnable Mormon doctrines and behaviors were demeaning towards people based on how they were born. But what’s *not* bigotry is to ridicule an idea (an idea is not a person). Just because you’ve hitched your wagon to an absurdity doesn’t mean you get to claim “persecution” or “bigotry” when that wagon is exposed as a silly, absurd, ridiculous idea. Given the history of Mormon persecution against others, it’s particularly repugnant when Mormons feign “bigotry” when their cherished absurdities (ideas ) are exposed.

    • Bob Becker says:

      Mr. Gibson posted his reviews in the public prints on line. By so doing, he invited comment, favorable and un, on his column. (I cannot imagine Mr. Gibson would want it any other way.) You seem to be suggesting that those who do not share Mr. Gibson’s faith or do not find his arguments compelling ought to remain silent or be thought bigots. With respect to comments on this column, I think that’s…. well, nonsense. The historicity (or lack thereof) of ANY faith is certainly a topic open for discussion, disagreement and ( civilly conducted) argument by newspaper columnists, and their readers. And should be.

  6. Duwayne Anderson says:

    Oh, please, SOF. Why do you guys always have to jump straight to the ad hominem? Good grief. You have no basis in fact for calling it an obsession. On second thought, I retract that question – we all know why you jump straight to the ad hominem; it’s because you have no credible, rational argument and so the ad hominem is your only recourse.

    Look — if Mormons are going to go out in the Internet and make false representations and lie about what their church teaches and lie about what critics say, then you need to grow a pair and stop accusing people who set you straight of being “obsessed.”

    As for “hurting people,” Mormonism sends our thousands of missionaries to convert people to Mormonism. These are people who are expected to pay 10% of their increase to the Mormon Church, in order to participate fully. These people deserve to know the truth about the religion you guys are selling, rather than being sold a fraud by Mormons who lie about what the church teaches.

    • LMA says:

      Duwayne Anderson referred above to Mormons as “religious fanatics” who “ignore evidence.” Then he referred to those “nuts” at FAIR and FARM (no longer called that btw). Then, he refers to Mormons as “pseudo intellectuals given over to superstition and ignorance.”

      So, now, he wails, “Why do you guys always have to jump straight to the ad hominem?”

      I hope it’s not “ad hominem” to be laughing at him now. :-)

  7. Erick Kuhni says:

    Doug was couteous enough to link to the actual manuscript. Commonly it is asserted that the manuscript in now way resembles The Book of Mormon, and I agree…but that is also in one instance a bit of a technicality. Anyone who follows the link Doug provided can read the Introduction section of Manuscript Found (it’s only two paragraphs), and find a familiar story that resembles Joseph Smith’s retelling of finding the Gold plates. There are a few particularly stand out details that are hard for me to ignore as being very similar to Joseph Smith’s story, namely the use of a lever to remove the rock, and the contrived box made of stones that contained the treasure (Joseph Smith = gold plates, Manuscript Found = concealed cave entrance).

    Technically the story of finding the plates wasn’t part of The Book of Mormon, so it would be easy to dismiss that parallel, except the issue is about alternative authors to The Book of Mormon. I would think this at least keeps Spaulding in the running. Furthermore, it is a bit irrational to expect that the Manuscript Found on file could have likely been the source text to The Book of Mormon, even hypothetically. After all, if Rigdon had taken a document from Spaulding to serve as the manuscript for The Book of Mormon, then we would expect that manuscript to have been with either Rigdon or Joseph Smith, not Spaulding! This is of course not proof in it’s finest form, just reasonable conjecture based on one compelling data point and a little deductive reasoning. For me it lends to the idea that Spaulding has at least not been ruled out reasonably as a possible author…at least he can’t be ruled out without at least contending with the similarities between the two narratives.

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      There are other similarities. From the following website we find:

      http://www.mormoninformation.com/parallel.htm

      The discoverers of both books (the Book of Mormon and the Spaulding Document) claim to have discovered the records by using a lever to remove a rock under which the records were deposited

      Both books depict the goings-on of ancient settlers to the New World

      While making their initial oceanic crossing, the settlers in both books are blown by a fierce storm which makes them fear capsizement

      The civilized segments of the societies in both books are given strict charges to avoid intermarriage with the less civilized segments

      Both books mention horses

      Both books discuss the division of the people into two major civilizations

      Forts in both books are identical in their manner of construction

      The narrators of both books suddenly and inexplicably go out of their way to explain that the earth revolves around the sun

      Both books describe a messiah-like figure who appears suddenly, teaches the people, and ushers in an era of great peace

      Both books describe the settlers as having all goods in common at one point

      Both books, respectively, show the two major civilizations entering into a war of mutual destruction

      Both books at one point describe the populace as making use of elephants

      There should be little doubt that if an authentic ancient American text were discovered, which had as much in common with the Book of Mormon as the commonality it has with the Spaulding document, Mormon apologists would be announcing the find as “proof” that the Book of Mormon is true. Indeed, Mormon apologists *have* used slight similarities in their quest to prove their foregone conclusion, using less relevant texts that have far less in common with the Book of Mormon than the Spaulding document. All of which illustrates the extreme difference with which Mormon apologists treat contrary evidence compared with “faith promoting” evidence. It’s this self-censorship that allows them to maintain the illusion of Mormonism – contrary facts are always swept away (typically with an ad hominem flair) so that all they see is the slight “evidence” that supports their pre-conceived notions. It’s the same formula for self- deception used in virtually every instance of people who “know” what isn’t so.

  8. D. Michael Martindale says:

    Sorry, guys, but Duwayne, although speaking in a rather irreverent tone, is making perfectly good points. And you Mormons are reacting in a typical fashion: anyone who criticizes the church and its teachings must be an anti-Mormon bigot, so let’s just ignore the points he’s making.

    His criticisms are legitimate.

    • LMA says:

      Oh, gee, Michael, thanks for setting us all straight. You’re such an authority on legitimate points, I am sure we should all feel properly chastised.

      (I guess I should add that the above is sacrasm. With some people, you need to add labels.)

  9. laverl wilhelm says:

    It’s interesting to note that the Book of Mormon was printed in 1830 before Sidney Rigdon had ever heard of Joseph Smith. Therefore, the theory that Sidney Rigdon helped write the Book of Mormon can be declared DEAD!

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      I don’t know if Rigdon (or the Easter Bunny) wrote the Book of Mormon, though I do know the Book of Mormon was written by a 19th century author.

      That said, there is a fundamental flaw in your logic — namely the idea that Smith and Rigdon would have to meet for Smith to plagiarize Rigdon (think about it).

      Another problem is that your assertion regarding Smith and Rigdon never meeting before 1830 isn’t without question. The Mormonthnk website has a good discussion on this:

      http://www.mormonthink.com/josephweb.htm

      As I said, this is all very interesting from the perspective of American history, and trying to unwind what is arguably the greatest fraud in American history (the Book of Mormon). But the fact of the Book of Mormon’s fraud is independent of the presentation of a sure knowledge of who actually wrote it. The scientific evidence is beyond reproach (and has been for decades) — the events, origins, people, language, tools, machinery, plants, animals, etc. described in the Book of Mormon were simply not present in ancient America. As Dr. Coe put it:

      “The bare facts of the matter are that nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to a dispassionate observer that the Book of Mormon, as claimed by Joseph Smith, is a historical document relating to the history of early migrants to our hemisphere.”

      When one adds the vast number of 19th century anachronisms to the total lack of non-trivial archeological evidence, the only sane conclusion is that the Book of Mormon was authored by a person living in the 19th century. Textual analysis does implicate Rigdon as a contributor, but this sort of statistical analysis is uncertain enough to allow for the possibility that he wasn’t.

      Incidentally, one of the best (in my opinion) evidences for the fraud of the Book of Mormon rests on a textual analysis of the books month dates. If you pick a bunch of dates of un-related events (the birthdays of your cousins, for example) you will find that they are unbiased with regard to the day of the month on which they land. That’s because real history doesn’t favor the 10th of the month over, for example, the 23rd. If the Book of Mormon were true, we should find that the month dates in the Book of Mormon are not biased (that is, we should find them evenly distributed). In fact, however, they *are* biased — very strongly biased. The bias is so strong that the odds of it happening by chance are less than 1 in about 3,000. This is strong textual evidence that the Book of Mormon was fabricated — that it does not (as it claims) represent a real history of actual events.

      http://lds-mormon.com/numbersinthebookofmormon.shtml

      • LMA says:

        It’s not the translated Book of Mormon that is claimed to have been an historical documents, but the documents from which the Book of Mormon was translated. That distinction makes a difference. The truth of the translation doesn’t require it to be literal, and there is the possibility that Joseph provided 19th Century English words (lacking access to any other) for ancient words in another language, even if the two languages didn’t (and likely wouldn’t) map onto each other perfectly. This can explain the anachronisms thought by Coe to be present in the manuscript.

    • Erick says:

      Of course…one of the assumptions that theory depends on, is the outrageous idea that they actually met prior to that.

      There are enough gaps in the historical record regarding the lives of otherwise regular folks (Particularly those who lived almost 200 years ago), that the possibility isn’t all that absurd. However, I do agree that the objection should not go unscrutinized…it’s just not the slam-dunk you make it out to be.

  10. brian says:

    Have you read the actual quotes of those connecting the Spaulding manuscript to Sidney Rigdon?

    I’m guess no, because in the quotes I read it clearly stated that they were referring to a second manuscript – a different book written by Spaulding that they felt Rigdon had taken, copied, and destroyed.

    To compare the Book of Mormon to “Manuscript Found” is meaningless because the quotes never indicated that was the source.

    Now granted a book that several people claim to have seen but there is no real evidence ever existed is pretty shaky ground as a source document.

    Of course, come to think of it, the Book of Mormon has that same problem.

  11. Rob Bates says:

    The Spaulding Manuscript has always interested me less than Swedenborg , Milton, & Masonry.
    Now there is some straight up plagiarism.
    –The whole pre-existence, war in heaven, character of satan comes straight from Milton.
    –3 degrees of glory, modern revelation, and many other aspects (that I’d have to research) are pure Swedenborg.
    –And obviously the temple ceremony is watered down masonry with a few substitutions (mostly about Satan) [it used to be more pure masonry, but they've changed the ceremony several times]

    The Spaulding argument is far less interesting, as Doug points out, because the debate is focused on an artifact that we do not have & may not exist (a different manuscript or revision of spaulding’s manuscript).

  12. Cludgie says:

    Spaulding’s manuscript is only one of several plagiarisms. Some 25% of the Book of Mormon is copied directly from the 1769 edition of the King James Bible, mistakes and all. Don’t forget that Smith also even plagiarized his own father’s 1805 dream, which became the Tree of Life/Iron Rod dream.

    Plagiarized or not (it is), the Book of Mormon is a poorly-written fantasy that is so pitifully easy to disprove. That some people actually believe in it and think that it contains of relevance at all makes me so embarrassed for them.

  13. I wrote a synopsis of each chapter of “Manuscript Found”, so you can see for yourselves how similar (or not) it is to the Book of Mormon. Seehttp://www.mormonheretic.org/2011/12/04/looking-at-the-spaulding-manuscript/

  14. WilliamRichardsonMesa says:

    I always enjoy seeing Michael Martindale’s posts although I do not agree with him on too much. I have enjoyed Duane’s posts as well on this post. I am wondering what these two gentlemen think about Mormons. Are they more deluded than “Christians” and why do you think the Mormon church persists teaching things that it teaches? What do you two think that the leaders of the church are aiming to accomplish?

    • LMA says:

      Michael Martindale is an ex-Mormon who essentially thinks he’s smarter than the ones he left behind. And he LOOVES to demonstrate it.

      I think it was Bushman who said something about those who leave the Church. It wouldn’t be so bad, he said, if they would just leave us . . . alone.

  15. Bob Becker says:

    Having read Mr. Gibson’s piece twice now, I have one question: his article suggests that the Spaulding manuscript [about which I had never heard until I read this column] should properly be considered a “reflection of Jeffersonian idealism” rather than as a source for the Book of Mormon. But are those two things mutually exclusive? Does its being a reflection of Jeffersonian idealism mean therefor that it cannot have been a source for the BOM? Conversely, if it was a source for the BOM, does that mean it necessarily was not a “reflection of Jeffersonian idealism”?

    Perhaps there are sound reasons to consider the two things mutually exclusive, but from the column and discussion that followed above, I don’t see what they are.

    • Doug Gibson says:

      Bob, the crux is that “Manuscript Found” has always been embroiled in a debate over its claimed connection to the Book of Mormon. In the JMH article, which I agree with, it’s better considered as an example of Jeffersonian idealism, particularly given that there is not enough, in my opinion, to connect it to the LDS scripture. I’d have to do more research to see if the Book of Mormon aligns with Jeffersonian thought. He was not a fan of theology. “Manuscript Found,” for example, embraces a more reason-based religion.

  16. Duwayne Anderson says:

    Interesting questions. The question “Are they [Mormons] more deluded than Christians” brings to mind a linear scale with “least deluded” at one end, and “most deluded” at the other. That, in turn, begs the question as to how “delusion” is measured. Is it measured by the absurdity of what is believed? By the number of absurd things that are believed? By how extensive the belief in absurdities invades an otherwise sane life? Somehow I want to quantify and define all these things – yet, somehow, I get the impression your question was more qualitative than quantitative.

    I guess I’d answer the question this way – it depends. Not all Mormons are equally deluded (a lot of them know the church isn’t true, but they stay in the cult because they know that leaving it would result in the loss of their families – or jobs, in the case of many BYU professors). And not all Christians are equally deluded ether. Some Christians, like many Mormons, believe in a 6,000-year-old earth, instant creation, and no death before the Fall (as taught by the Mormon Church). Those people are, obviously, pretty equally deluded. But I would borrow a page from Cantor by proposing that delusion is based on a correspondence of elements within a set. On that basis, for every delusion that the bat-crazy Christians have there is a corresponding delusion that the bat-crazy Mormons have (young earth, special creation, and all the standard Biblical myths). But then the Mormons have many additional delusions related to the Book of Abraham, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and Church History. So it seems to me that the set of possible Mormon delusions exceeds the set of possible Christian delusions, making the bat-crazy Mormons more deluded than the bat-crazy Christians. For any given Mormon and Christian, however, only personal interviews could lead to an answer.

    As to your second question: “why do you think the Mormon Church persists in teaching things that it teaches?” The answer to that question seems simple enough: “because they have no choice.” Mormon leaders didn’t create the absurdities in Mormonism (like the Book of Mormon) – they inherited them. They view themselves (I think) as corporate officers responsible for taking care of the corporation (Oaks, I believe, has used that exact analogy). As such, their “duty” isn’t to the truth, it’s to the corporation. If you look at the evolution of Mormon doctrine, you do see church leaders trying to get rid of the biggest absurdities (at least as viewed by the Christians that they want to baptize). But it takes time – particularly when the church’s approach to changing doctrine is to simply stop teaching it, hide the history from the up-coming generation, and wait for all the old farts (who were taught the old doctrines) to die off.

    Your final question: “What do you two think that the leaders of the church are aiming to accomplish?” also seems simple enough: “The continued growth of the corporate church –more members, more tithing receipts, more land, more business holdings, more political power.

  17. Anthony says:

    Duwayne, I agree with everything you say. You are obviously very knowledgeable and, in my opinion, do a decent enough job exposing the laughable, Grand Canyonesque holes in the Book of Mormon accounts. Having said that, I gotta take issue of your characterization of their support and activities as “unlawful conduct.” This may not be applicable to you, so this may be neither here nor there, but it’s something worth saying anyhow. The entire Prop 8 fight and LGBT agendas simply illustrates one of the countless, countless contradictions and dichotomous groups–with FUNDAMENTAL opposing goals/agenda–on the Left (an equally fanatical religion for a great, great many believers as well). Ask me for examples/proof of what I mean by countless dichotomies and contradictions (for one, LGBT groups and feminists being not just indifferent to issues with Islam and perpetually demonizing Christians, and when applicable, Mormons instead….not being just frequent apologists of all things Islam….but being among THE biggest apologists and rationalizers of all things Islam and their barbaric views of homosexuality).

    More than any other group, the African-American vote (70% in favor) is what helped Prop 8 go through (ironically enough, due to the record turnout from the Obama candidacy). Yet, you will never, EVER know or hear any criticism of that from the Huffington Post, MSNBC, CNN, etc. You will NEVER see angry fanatics on the Left protesting outside a black church. No, just the blonde-haired, blue-eyed devils in the Mormon church. Which of course, exposes another major reason why the Left has absolutely zero credibility–the perpetual lack of consistency and principles. It’s despicable.

    Further, whatever your issues with the Mormons may be, you cannot deny that, on the whole, there could not be a kinder, more civic-minded group of citizens in America. Hey, all they do is put an emphasis on family, hard work, charity and happiness. Not exactly the most destructive ideals in the world. Be honest. Would you rather live in Utah or ANY one Muslim-dominated country in the middle east. OK, not exactly a fair comparison right” OK, would you rather be surrounded by devout, “fanatical” Mormons in your current neighborhood, or devout, fanatical Muslims. The choice could not (could not) be more clear for both hypotheticals, correct? So hey, however kooky you think their beliefs are, as long as they’re not impinging on your life or beheading, jailing, stoning sinners and non-believers overseas (http://www.jihadwatch.org/muslim-persecution-of-christians/), what’s the big deal?

    • WilliamRichardsonMesa says:

      Thanks Duwayne.

      I take it from your commentaries that you have no religious beliefs. If that is the case, could you please tell me from whence you derive your beliefs as to what is, or is not moral? Or is there nothing that is solidly moral or amoral?

      You strike me as a very interesting and astute fellow. You have apparently done a lot of thinking on whether mormon, christian or other beliefs have any rational basis and, it appears, that you have concluded that although some are more deluded than others, they are all fundamentally deluded. Okay, so again, if I accede to your way of thinking, where would one look to develop moral beliefs? Are yours, just something that you thought up yourself? I guess that works great if those around you either do not interact with you, or hold at least similar values.

      Second, I had some difficulty with your last answer. So do you think that the leaders of the mormon church derive some financial gain from promoting the church’s doctrines or are they like the guy on the beach who simply wants to build the biggest sand castle and who gets some sort of competitive satisfaction from doing so? It seems to me that most of the folks who hold those positions have already proven themselves in the secular world. It also seems to me that there wouldn’t be any real lasting motivation for anyone to knowingly spread falsehoods even if it meant that the person might derive some sense of accomplishment for accomplishment’s sake.

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        Well, first of all I should point out that all moral beliefs are derived from human thought. Mormons get their moral beliefs from a con man named Tom Monson (helped by other con men like D. Oaks). True, Tom tells them the beliefs are coming from god — but god isn’t in General Conference, and he doesn’t sit on the editorial board of any church publications. The only ones that are verifiably doing any talking are the men who lead the Mormon Church.

        Similarly with Catholics, Baptists, Unitarians, Lutherans, etc.; it’s all man-defined morality and ethics. The big difference between those of us who openly acknowledge the humanity of our ethics is that the man-mad morality in Mormonism and other religions goes unquestioned.

        Like Mormonism, my “morality” is man-made. The difference between my Mormon relatives and me is that my moral code belongs to me – not Tom Monson. I actually had to think about it, study my stance on various positions, examine, cross out, re-examine, and study what my basic moral principles are. My Mormon relatives have a much easier time – all they have to do is “follow the prophet.”

        • Erick says:

          There are also two other problems with the question of morality:

          1) What is “morality” and why is it any less arbitrary if it comes from God. Many Mormon women for example, that struggle with the “rightness” of polygamy. I recently heard one active Mormon woman describe as a “on the shelf issue”. She disagrees with it, but is it moral if God commands it? If God commands thirt-five year old men to mary fifteen year old girls, is that moral? Can God command the wholesale slaughter of entire cities, and deem the act “moral”? If so, then I think there needs to be more discussion as to what morality actually is.

          2) Leaving the philosophy behind and getting practical, where are the objective morals declared? It’s easy to talk about “getting our morals from God” in mathmatical language of philosophy, where idea’s are represented as variables and conditions, but even with “God” supposedly being out there, there is broad disagreement over the particulars of morality. In other words, despite all of the philosophical modeling, a simple survey of moral idea’s would demonstrates that even a select demographics have significant variability in some aspects of their moral sensibilities…so the argument sounds nice, but it is nowhere observed in reality.

          • Duwayne Anderson says:

            Well, I’d argue that there is no god-given morality at all. After all, in every verifiable sense, moral rules always come from people. “God’s” morality is no different — it’s still a man doing the talking — he’s just making the assertion that he’s carrying god’s message.

            Personally, I don’t think that obeying god has anything to do with morality – after all, god is just what some guy says he is, and I’m too independent to blindly follow some guy. Many religious wackos disagree with me — for them, if god commands it then it can’t be wrong (Joseph Smith used that argument, and so did the 911 terrorists).

            This forum is too limited for discussing the broad subject matter of morality — I’d be happy to pick it up through private email. duwaynea@hotmail.com

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      It’s a matter of public record that the LDS Church was fined. Here’s the link:

      http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/06/mormon-church-to-be-fined-by-state-political-commission-over-proposition-8.html

      Mormons will argue (correctly) that it wasn’t a big fine. But even if it was only as unlawful as breaking the speed limit, it was still unlawful.

      The LDS Church has lots of lawyers, so I’m surprised that they did anything unlawful. That said, one can do a lot of unethical stuff within the law. So, although the church technically broke the law, and paid a fine (just as I did with my last speeding ticket) the really bad stuff was all related to their unethical treatment of Gays – Prop 8 broke up families. It hurt people. If Gays did to Mormons what Mormons did to Gays, the Mormon Church would rightly call it persecution.

      With regard to your closing arguments, I can think of a lot of organization where the people are as kind and civic minded as your typical Mormon. The folks at Habitat for Humanity come to mind. So do the folks at the Red Cross.

      Having said that – I need to point out your switcheroo. My criticism was with the corporate Mormon Church. I think the corporate Mormon Church is corrupt and does very little good in the world. But I draw a distinction between Mormons in general, and the corrupt corporation that is scamming them. Most of the Mormons I know are great people – and that goes for most of the ex-Mormons I know, as well.

      • LMA says:

        Missing one deadline out of many can scarcely be characterized as “unlawful conduct.” It’s just not the same thing.

  18. Justin says:

    The “Reassessing authorship of the Book of Mormon” paper cited by Duwayne is a joke. Look here for details:

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/?reviewed_author&vol=23&num=1&id=821

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      The paper I cited was published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The rebuttal that you cited was from a Mormon Church-funded organization dedicated to the forgone conclusion that Mormonism is true.

      Citing a religious propaganda outlet in order to discredit an article in a peer-review scientific journal is bad form, Justin.

      • Justin says:

        It doesn’t matter a bit whether or not the paper you cited was in a peer reviewed journal. Every year, many articles that appear in peer reviewed articles are shown to contain factual errors, improper use of research methods, and just bad science. The article you cited manifests all these problems.

        Calling a publication a religious publication a “religious propaganda outlet” is a rhetorical distraction. What matters is the analysis, and only by reading both the pieces can one determine which piece of analysis is more objective and correct. Obviously, honest people can disagree. I’ll leave it to the members of the forum to read both pieces and decide for themselves which piece they want to hitch their horse to.

        • Duwayne Anderson says:

          Oh yes it does matter that the article I cited is from a peer-reviewed scientific journal. It matters a lot. It means the authors complied with basic standards, and that scientific peers agree that it’s worth publication.

          You, on the other hand, referenced a Mormon Church propaganda outlet. FAIR and FARMS are committed to the forgone conclusion that Mormonism is true (it’s in their mission statement, for crying out loud).

          • Justin says:

            Duwayne,

            You don’t address my other point. You like to ask questions, so I’ll ask you one: Is it true or false that many articles that are published in peer reviewed journals turn out to contain conclusions that are later shown to not hold up based upon further study?
            Are you willing to entertain the idea that this paper falls into that category? If not, you are being as dogmatic as any, as you like to call them, “religious wackos”. I provided a piece that critiques the paper you cited for people to review. I find the argument given in my piece rather compelling; not because I’m Mormon, but because the points they make are valid. If you don’t think they are, you can address them here or elsewhere. Again, I’ll leave it to others to read both pieces and come to their own conclusions.

          • LMA says:

            The publication in a peer reviewed journal is irrelevant to the issue of whether the criticisms in the article cited by Justin are well founded. That should have been clear from the beginning. Peer review or not is a red herring – since argument by authority is one of the well-known fallacies.

  19. Justin says:

    Duwayne says: “I don’t know if Rigdon (or the Easter Bunny) wrote the Book of Mormon, though I do know the Book of Mormon was written by a 19th century author.”

    That sounds an awful lot like people who say they *know* the BoM was revealed to Joseph Smith. For the benefit of the forum, could you please explain how you *know* the BoM was written by a 19th century author? I appreciate it…

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      Well, Justin, if you would read my other posts you’d know the answer to that question. Do that (read the other posts) would you? I’ll summarize the reasons, below:

      First: The reasons for specifying the 19th century is that the book was published in 1830. Hence, we clearly know that it wasn’t the product of a 20th century author, and was unlikely to be the product of an 18th century author.

      Second: The Book of Mormon is full of early American anachronisms – including names, places, and parallels with early American history.

      Third: The Book of Mormon is wrong in every non-trivial way with regard to its description of the ancient American civilizations that it supposedly describes. The tools, metallurgy, animals, plants, human origins, societal organization – it’s all wrong. So, we know it’s not a translation of an authentic ancient American text.

      Fourth: Textual analysis of the Book of Mormon points to 19th century men as likely authors – men who were associated with the book’s first publication.

      Fifth: Statistical analysis of the month dates in the Book of Mormon show that it’s not an real history (the historical month dates in the Book of Mormon were fabricated by an author who imprinted his non-random style of picking dates).

      Finally, I should point out that when a scientist uses the word “know” there is a different meaning than when a religious wacko uses the word “know.” The word “know” in science is *always* conditional – and subject to change based on the availability of future evidence. But when Mormons (and other religious wackos) use the word “know” they mean “without a shadow of a doubt.” So, when a scientist says “we know the Book of Mormons was produced by a 19th century author” that’s not even remotely the same as when a Mormon says “I know the Book of Mormon is true.”

      • Justin says:

        Let me address your points one by one:

        One: Just because the book was published in 1830 doesnt mean it was written in 1830. Those who believe the church’s official position regarding the origins of the BoM obviously believe that it was written long before that. So your assertion that just because it was published in 1830 means that it was written in 1830 fails the test of logic.

        Two: I can’t honestly speak to this point. I can study a bit more about it, and then possibly address it. If you have any sources that I could look at, I’d be happy to do that.

        Three: We don’t even know what ancient American civilization the BoM is supposed to be describing. There is no official church position regarding where the BoM took place. Various theories have been put forth, but they all lie in the realm of opinion. There are many examples of “lost” civilizations that have been discovered, and it seems that scientist are quite often “amazed” at how advanced some of these societies are. Just because proof hasn’t been discovered, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Again, your assertion fails the test of basic logic.

        Fourth: This has already been addressed in our previous posts. We simply disagree. Others will have to do their own research, and come to their own conclusions.

        Fifth: I tried to follow your link, but the page wouldn’t load. I’m actually very interested in your argument here, and would love to study this more. Have you tried the link lately? I’ll try it again today.

        Finally, it is my opinion that “good” (a rather subjective term) scientists avoid using the word know at all times. Careful scientists recognize that no matter how *probable* an outcome based on research is, nothing they find rules out that another outcome is *possible*. Careful scientist recognize the limitations of their research, which, when the research is conducted properly, generally show the probability that something is true is high or low based on a very specific set of assumptions that ought to be outlined within the paper itself.

        Thanks for the rigorous debate. It’s invigorating, and you make many good points.

        • Duwayne Anderson says:

          All the evidence needs to be examined as a whole, and when arriving at a rational decision it’s applicable to us Occam’s Razor in conjunction with the fact the book was published in 1830. Sure, the Easter Bunny (or Mormon) could have written it 1600 years ago, but that sort of supposition isn’t part of rational thinking.

          As for 19th century anachronisms, here’s a link:

          http://www.mormonthink.com/book-of-mormon-problems.htm

          Your third point is actually an argument against the Book of Mormon. According to every Mormon prophet, as well as the Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Mormon was written by the principal ancestors of the Native Americans. According to the Book of Mormon itself, there were no nations in the promised land when the Lehites arrived (2 Nephi 1). Yet, as you pointed out – there is no ancient American civilization that looks even remotely like the ones described in the Book of Mormon. If the Book of Mormon were true we should be able to easily find such civilizations. But we don’t – and so we rationally conclude that the Book of Mormon is a fraud.

          You did address the fourth point, but you did it badly – by citing Mormon propaganda from a Mormon-supported organization dedicated to the un-scientific premise that they know the answer before they ask the questions. So in spite of the fact you ignore it, the textual analysis (published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal) that shows 19th century men as the authors of the Book of Mormon stands.

          Sorry about the link. You could buy the book (Farewell to Eden: Coming to terms with Mormonism and science). I understand your reluctance to read anything that’s not faith promoting, however – so if you send a request to duwaynea@hotmail.com, I’ll email a pdf copy of the analysis.

          As for scientists using the word “know,” you’ll find that we do it all the time. And it never causes a problem until someone with a religous ax to grind gets involved in the discussion. We all know what we mean when we use the word “know,” and any rational person (but not religious wackos) know that it’s always conditional.

          As for considering other possible outcomes – I’m going to call hypocrite. I was born Mormon, and left because I did consider other, and more rational, possibilities. Mormons, on the other hand, refuse to consider any possibility other than that their church is true (this is what makes FAIR and FARM propaganda outlets).

          So, here is my challenge to you – describe what verifiable/objective evidence (if it existed) would be sufficient for you to conclude that the Mormon Church is false.

          I’ve asked this question of hundreds of Mormons – the answer is always the same; silence. At the end of the day, no amount of evidence will ever convince them for the simple reason that their faith is irrational – they believe in spite of the evidence, not because of it.

          • Justin says:

            Okay, I’ll respond one more time, and then let you have the last word, if you like.

            I looked at your link about anachronisms, and my thought on that is that any honest, believing member of the church will gladly admit that there are many things that appear to be anachronisms in the BoM. The flip side of that is that when the BoM was published, there were many more things that appeared to be anachronisms that, with further study, have shown to not be anachronistic at all. Storing metal plates in stone boxes is a good example. For over a hundred years, critics of the BoM scoffed at this idea. Then, many examples of this practice were found in both the Old World and Mesoamerica. And these were discovered not by Mormons, but by those “real” scientists that you love so much. The same is true of many other apparent anachronisms. The fact is, the trend is for BoM “anachronisms” to be shown by later evidence to not be anachronisms. I expect this trend will continue, although I also expect that not all apparent anachronisms will be resolved.

            Your reading of 2nd Nephi appears to be off to me. The text, if I’m reading the part you’re referring to, reads: “it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.”
            Where does this say or imply that there were no other nations in the Promised Land when Lehi arrived? The text, strictly interpreted, says that knowledge of the land had been kept from other nations. Think of it this way. I stumble across a gold mine. Other people are there, but I say to my friends, “It’s a good thing that other people don’t have knowledge of this place, otherwise it would be overrun and we wouldn’t be able to access the resources here.” Please correct me if I’m not referring to the text you were referring to.

            We’ve exhausted the fourth point. I’ll leave it to the others to come to their own conclusions on the merits of our argument.

            I’ll send you an email right away about the link. I’m truly interested in reading that piece.

            We’re splitting hairs on the use of the word “know”. Just because scientists understand what they mean when they use the word doesn’t mean that the public they present their findings to understands it. Using the word “know” to present your findings is misleading at best and intellectually dishonest at worst. When a good scientist presents his findings, he/she will always tell his audience the probability that his finding are true, and what assumptions he made when performing his work.

            You say that I’m reluctant to read materials that are not faith promoting. That’s odd, because I’m reading your posts, which aren’t faith promoting. I’ve read and will read the papers and links you’ve sent me – those aren’t faith promoting. And for all you know I spend all day reading anti-Mormon literature. What the general tone of your responses tells me is that you’re not open to an honest, fair discussion, but that you’re much more interested in trying to draw people into a polemicized, contentious rhetorical debate.

            On the same note, I don’t know why you’d call me a hypocrite; it adds nothing to the conversation and is based on, well, I don’t know what. You know nothing about me save what you’ve read in these posts. You don’t even know if I’ve always been an active member of the church, or if I’m active right now. Your assertion that Mormons as a whole refuse to consider any other idea than the church is true is ludicrous on its face, and I’m surprised you’d throw out such a blatant misrepresentation as part of your argument.

            Your challenge is fair. As a scientist, I’m sure you understand that science has never proven *anything* to be true or false; it has only shown that certain phenomena have a high probability of being true based upon current observations. So, for me to decide that the church is false would lie in my feeling that the evidence suggests that the probability that the church is false outweighs the evidence that the probability is that the church is true. There have been times in my life where I’ve felt that way. But as you know, a testimony is based on more than the presence or absence of empirical evidence. It’s based on a spiritual witness. You can argue until you’re blue in the face that there is no such thing as spirit since it can’t (yet) be measured by the instruments we have at our disposal, but as I’ve said many times, the fact that something hasn’t yet been observed doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I, and billions of other people throughout the history of mankind, have had direct experience with the spiritual realm of our existence. We know that spiritual confirmations happen, just like we know that we can experience things like happiness and love, which also can’t (yet) be measured or proven to exist. And this, although you aren’t willing to entertain the possibility, is evidence, so it figures in the equation when I do my calculations.

            So there you have it. We’ve both made our arguments, and everyone can make their own decisions based upon the merits. As I said, I’ll let you have the last word…

  20. Tom says:

    Mark Twain on the BoM:

    “All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the ‘elect’ have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so ‘slow,’ so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle — keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate. If he, according to tradition, merely translated it from certain ancient and mysteriously-engraved plates of copper, which he declares he found under a stone, in an out-of-the-way locality, the work of translating was equally a miracle, for the same reason.

    “The book seems to be merely a prosy detail of imaginary history, with the Old Testament for a model; followed by a tedious plagiarism of the New Testament. The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James’s translation of the Scriptures; and the result is a mongrel — half modern glibness, and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained; the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern — which was about every sentence or two — he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as ‘exceeding sore,’ ‘and it came to pass,’ etc., and made things satisfactory again. ‘And it came to pass’ was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet.”

    • Decider says:

      What could be said better than a Mark Twain condemnation like that ! — perhaps, only Hamlet’s final, “the rest is silence” — to honor the Master . . . .

    • LMA says:

      And yet many since Twain (Clemens, actually) have found subtle truth and even beauty. From where, one wonders, did Smith steal the phrase, “sing the song of redeeming love.” There is considerable Christian theology and ethics in the Book of Mormon which can’t possibly be said to have been plagiarized from the New Testament (because they lack a close analog there), and it then becomes difficult to square those passages with Clemens’ portrait of Smith as a literary hack. For example, the theology of the Fall of Adam in the Book of Mormon offers a radically different understanding of the purposes of Creation than could be found in contemporary understanding. I suspect that Clemens only skimmed the Book of Mormon, and that his reviewer’s eye was influenced by the fact that Smith’s “chloroform in print” was already outstripping Clemens’ own work in cultural significance.

      • Erick says:

        “I suspect that Clemens only skimmed the Book of Mormon, and that his reviewer’s eye was influenced by the fact that Smith’s “chloroform in print” was already outstripping Clemens’ own work in cultural significance.”

        This may be partly true…but. The “cultural significance” of The Book of Mormon is that of an icon of Mormonism. In other words, the significance is in the Book itself, its existence, rather than it’s contents. If you mention The Book of Mormon to most people, they will know something about it’s history (the Mormon Bible, or the Gold Bible), but next to nothing of it’s contents. I would wager that there is little to no evidence of the literary impact of The Book of Mormon on culture. It’s strangely like the Bible in that it is a book that is well known but quite hardly read. It certainly isn’t generally studied in literature, and its concepts and idea’s can’t be said to have impacted anything other than Mormon culture where a thoughtful of the book is more or less institutionally mandatory.

        So in sum, yes the Book has influenced society, but when I say “book” I’m literally referring to the paper and the cardboard, not the idea’s and narrative that are written there (of course with the caveat being Mormon culture).

        • LMA says:

          The distinction between a book and its contents is absurd. But if you think that the influence of the Book of Mormon is “strangely like the Bible,” I suppose I can accept that. And both the Bible and the Book of Mormon are read more often than you think, and I daresay more often than Huck Finn.

          • Erick says:

            Those really aren’t good comparisons. Short of literature classes in high school or college, Huck Fin doesn’t have the same kind of institutional reinforcement as either The Book of Mormon or the Bible. At Church we have been admonished to “make our study of The Book of Mormon a lifelong pursuit”. So even for a Mormon who has read both the BoM and Huck Finn, they are most likely to read more of the BoM simply on account of a mandate. However, the broader society seems to have very little interest in the BoM. So, of the people who read The BoM, I would agree with you, but I would disagree that it has had the broader cultural penetration and influence that you are saying it has. It’s broader cultural significance has nothing to do with its narrative and everything to do with it’s status as an icon of Mormonism.

  21. WilliamRichardsonMesa says:

    One final question for D. Michael and DuWayne: Is there any room for faith in rational thinking?

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      That depends on what you mean by “faith.” Rational thinking isn’t about absolutism — it’s about fact based reasoning that optimizes the probability of an outcome. In some cases there may be only one “rational” option, but in many cases there are different rational options, each based on one’s estimate of un-known variables.

      Take two farmers, for example, who are trying to decide when to plant their winter wheat. Each of them studies the NOAA climate forecast. Each of them includes historical analysis in their estimate. Neither of them flips a coin or prays to the Easter Bunny. One decides to plant on September 15, the other plants on October 1. They may have arrived at different dates, but each has employed rational thinking.

      Irrational thinking occurs when one ignores evidence or (* much* worse) when one takes a point of view that is directly *contradicted by* evidence.

      Going back to the two farmers — if one of them looked at the scientific data and decided to plant on September 15, you could call that a rational decision. But suppose one of them stripped naked and danced around a pole while calling out to the Easter Bunny and pouring corn syrup all over his body. While in the process he falls into a trance and receives a revelation that he should plant his winter wheat July 15. Well, that would be irrational behavior. Other examples of irrational behavior include a solemn gathering where clean-cut men in suits rub a little consecrated oil on the scalp of a young child and invoke the priesthood of an un-seen god as they proceed to pronounce a “blessing” in order to cure the cancer that has invaded the child’s bones. Both are equally absurd and irrational – though one (being a little less close to cherished cultural norms) is a little easier to spot than the other.

      Now to your question about religion and rational thinking – it depends (obviously enough) on the religion and on the person who is practicing the religion. Some religions (Mormonism, for example) maintain faith in things in spite of the scientific/historical evidence (just like the naked farmer dancing around the pole). These Mormons, obviously, are not thinking rationally when they (for example) insist on the historicity of the Book of Mormon, or the sanitized and historically inaccurate version of the “First Vision.” I should qualify this by saying that I’m drawing that conclusion on the assumption that these folks aren’t ignorant of the facts. If they are ignorant of the facts then perhaps they are acting rationally on the basis of falsehoods they perceive to be factual – in which case I wouldn’t say they are irrational, just stupid (where stupid is as stupid does – and stupid is unrelated to IQ).

      I know many Mormons who have rationally decided that the church isn’t literally true. They remain in the church because they were born to Mormon families, married Mormon spouses, and raised Mormon children – and because the Mormon Church is organized in such a way that familial stress (often resulting in divorce) is the inevitable outcome of “leaving the church” (one of the reasons I think the Mormon Church is a cult – in my opinion, legitimate religions don’t hold families hostage in order to coerce members to stay in the church, and to continue paying money to the church). Those people are (in my opinion) acting “rationally.”

      I also know church employees whose job is to lie for the Mormon Church through church-sponsored propaganda and church-sponsored lies (to members) about church history and certain aspects of science. They do this because they have been employees for a long, long time, and are essentially compelled by the church to behave unethically or lose their jobs (another reason for calling the Mormon Church a cult). These people are *also* acting rationally, although I would characterize their behavior as unethical (one can be rational and unethical at the same time).

      Many religions allow members to openly behave rationally, and ethically – making no particular requirements that would compel (as the LDS Church does) members to behave unethically or irrationally. For obvious reasons, participants in those religions *can* clearly behave rationally, though they (like anyone anywhere) don’t necessarily behave rationally.

      The subject of all religions is way too broad to cover in a short post, and I suspect your question was more specific to Mormonism, anyway. So I’d sum it up this way:

      It’s not possible to be rational, informed, honest, and a true-believing Mormon.

      If someone is a true believing Mormon, at least one of the other three characteristics is missing (at least while they’re practicing their religion – after all, few people are honest, rational, and informed all the time).

      • WilliamRichardsonMesa says:

        Duwayne,

        Thank you for your post. Could you focus, for a moment on beliefs in general? Thus, would it be correct to say that any person who believes (or has faith) in Christ’s resurrection is deluded (or, as you put it, irrational)? Aren’t they all “maintain[ing] faith in things in spite of the scientific/historical evidence.” Or is your point that one is irrational in his thinking when his belief remains despite contrary evidence? Is no evidence for a particular creance sufficient to determine that a particular belief is irrational? Must there be some sort of measurement in order to make an assessment as to the rationality of a particular belief?

        Same question for those who believe that Moses parted the Red Sea. Are those folks deluded? I am not concerned about degree here. You posted earlier and criticized mormons in particular because many of their beliefs are (in you view) belied by provable facts — perhaps because of the relatively recent history of the mormons. But it seems to me that Jews and Christians alike might have a similar problems (in your mind) with the many “miracles” that are chronicled in the Old (Pentateuch) and New Testaments.

        So is there a religious viewpoint that is acceptable in your mind? Or is there no room for religion in a rational world? Is there such a thing as a soul? Is there any more purpose in this world for human beings than there is for say a dog or a cat?

        I’d be very interested to hear from you.

        • Duwayne Anderson says:

          William asked “Thus, would it be correct to say that any person who believes (or has faith) in Christ’s resurrection is deluded (or, as you put it, irrational)? Aren’t they all “maintain[ing] faith in things in spite of the scientific/historical evidence.”

          The short answer is “yes.” Now, let me explain why.

          Let’s reword the question, and ask it this way: “Would it be correct to say that any person who believes (or has faith) in the Easter Bunny’s resurrection is deluded?” If the statement looks a little more foolish, then there must be something significantly different between the resurrection of the Easter Bunny and the resurrection of Jesus. If you look objectively at the physical evidence, though, you’ll find there is exactly the same amount of evidence either way. If you look at accounts of first-hand witnesses, the evidence is (again) the same (there are no first-hand accounts – every account is second, third, … hand). And, I should note, there are no verifiable examples of human resurrection (or the resurrection of any other animals, either).

          In other words, there is no verifiable and objective evidence to support the resurrection of Jesus or the Easter Bunny, and some pretty good evidence that “resurrection” doesn’t happen.

          Yes, I know that comparing Jesus to the Easter Bunny seems irreverent, yet this sort of irreverence is exactly what’s needed to look at the situation objectively. The only way one can believe in Jesus’s resurrection is if they treat Jesus with greater respect than the Easter Bunny. The exercise of invoking the Easter Bunny helps see how really silly the whole idea is – it helps unmask the idea from the social bias that causes us to treat Jesus “respectfully” and thus to lower the evidentiary bar for him.

          A Muslim would have less of a problem with the question about Jesus, and more of a problem (obviously) with similar questions about the Prophet Mohamed. And, in like matter, Mormons have little trouble dismissing Mohamed and more of a problem dismissing Jesus.

          Personally, I like to treat *all* hypotheses equally – and I assume they are all wrong until there’s sufficient evidence to warrant conditional acceptance.

          William asked: “Or is your point that one is irrational in his thinking when his belief remains despite contrary evidence? “

          Irrational thinking (in my opinion) is when belief remains despite contrary evidence – which is the case in both the situation involving the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of the Easter Bunny.

          William asked: “Is no evidence for a particular creance sufficient to determine that a particular belief is irrational?”

          That’s a good question, and I think the answer has something to do with how incredible the claims are. For example, I think someone would be deluded if they thought there were dinosaurs in Central Park, even if there was no direct evidence one way of the other. The reason is that Central Park is full of people and I’d expect, if there really were dinosaurs there, that there would be something about it in the newspapers. I also know there’s a wealth of information about dinosaurs going extinct – and living dinosaurs in Central Park would be at odds with all that data.

          In other words, when evidence for a hypothesis should exist, but doesn’t exist, that lack of evidence argues against the hypothesis. Every good scientist knows this – one of the most common ways of disproving a hypothesis is to examine it closely for things it predicts, and then to look for the predicted things. If the predicted observation is not found, then the hypothesis is discredited.

          A historical example would be one of the first tests of General Relativity. The theory predicted that gravitational fields bend light. An experiment was conducted (using a solar eclipse) that would show light bending if General Relativity were true. The light was bent! Had the light not been bent, it would have been a serious blow against GR.

          When FAIR and FARMS argue that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” they are putting their scientific and intellectual ignorance on display – absence of *expected* but unobserved evidence is one of the most common techniques for disproving scientific hypotheses.

          William asked: “Same question for those who believe that Moses parted the Red Sea. Are those folks deluded?

          As deluded as the ones who think the Easter Bunny parted the Red Sea. I’m being serious, here – and I’m being irreverent on purpose. The idea of a guy parting the sea, as Moses supposedly did, is laugh-out-loud funny. The only way anyone can seriously propose the absurd idea is if they’re in a society where the silly idea is treated reverentially. As soon as a person stops treating the idea reverentially they can see through the emotion and think rationally about it.

          You don’t really believe that Thor’s hammer causes thunder, do you? Of course not. You have no reverence for Thor. And since you have no reverence for Thor, you can think about Thor and his hammer a little more rationally. If a person strips their emotions for Jesus, Jesus stands as naked a god as Thor. And that’s one reason I insist on *not* treating Mormonism (or any idea) reverentially. Ideas should never be honored or respected – they should always be under suspicion.

          William asked: “But it seems to me that Jews and Christians alike might have a similar problems (in your mind) with the many “miracles” that are chronicled in the Old (Pentateuch) and New Testaments. “

          I agree. They can, and they do.

          William asked: “So is there a religious viewpoint that is acceptable in your mind?”

          That depends on your definition of “religion.” Mormons have a very unique/literal/one-dimensional view of “religion.” For them, religion necessarily involves a personal god and literal communication with that god through things like prayer, priesthood, etc. I find that irrational.

          Other “religions” are far more flexible and (I think) less intrusive in one’s rational thought. For them, possibly, a person can be “religious” and rational at the same time.
          William asked: “Is there any more purpose in this world for human beings than there is for say a dog or a cat?”

          Huh? I really don’t see the implied connection between “don’t believe in religion” and “have no purpose in life.” Oh, wait. I know where that came from – you’ve been indoctrinated with that POV, haven’t you? That’s okay. I’ve been there, and done that.

          The short answer to your question is “yes,” followed by a simple note that the question is built on a false premise. When I left the Mormon Church I was terrified by the fact I no longer had someone to tell me how to live, and no god that I couldn’t live without. But when you stop and think about it, why does anyone need a god in order to have purpose? In fact, I’d argue that if a person’s only purpose is to obey a god, live with a god, or spend eternity worshipping some god – then that person is the one who has no real purpose in life. What a boring, sad existence — to spend eternity that way! When I look back on my life as a Mormon, I see a one-dimensional, monochrome canvas with a pencil sketch drawn by a corporate lawyer (or business man) in Salt Lake City. Since leaving Mormonism that canvas has been replaced by a colored three-dimensional work of art.

          • WilliamRichardsonMesa says:

            Mr. Anderson, you are making assumptions about my “indoctrination” that are not correct. I asked a simple question yet, I don’t think you answered it. Rather, you assumed that I had a set of preconceived notions that I do not have. I wasn’t asking you if “god” had a purpose for man but rather, whether you believed there WAS / IS a purpose.

            I will state the question more simply. I will state it in three parts. The first: Do you believe that there is a specific purpose for man’s existence? The second: If so, what do you think that purpose is? The third: Where (or how) did you derive the answer to question 2?

            In an earlier post, you used the term “legitimate religion.” I don’t gather from your posts that any religion is legitimate in your mind. Am I wrong?

  22. WilliamRichardsonMesa says:

    And if so, how can rational thinking and faith be reconciled?

  23. Duwayne Anderson says:

    Justin said (January 10, 2013 at 10:52 am) “Is it true or false that many articles that are published in peer reviewed journals turn out to contain conclusions that are later shown to not hold up based upon further study?”

    Sure it’s true, Justin — and nobody said otherwise. Science isn’t perfect — and nobody said otherwise.

    The whole point of having peer-reviewed science journals isn’t for the *elimination* of errors (though we would love it that were true) — it’s to reduce and hopefully minimize errors.

    That said, the error rate for scientific journals is far less than the error rate from propaganda outlets like FAIR and FARMS. After all, FAIR and FARMS have charters that specifically commit them to a forgone conclusion. Like religious wackos, FAIR and FARMS decide what is true, and then set out to prove what they already believe. Actual truth isn’t part of the equation for FAIR and FARMS — they will always spin their arguments, twist the evidence, lie about the evidence, or omit the evidence if they think it will further their goal of defending Mormonism. It’s what they do – it’s what they were created to do.

    Just look at the history of your church. The Book of Mormon – a fraud. The Book of Abraham – another fraud. The Kinderhook plates – a fraud “translated” (in part) by Joseph Smith.” Church history denied. Church doctrine covered up and denied. Practices of church leaders lied about (as with Joseph Smith and polygamy). How could any organization that has a forgone commitment to the literal truthfulness of a church like that be given any credibility at all?

    As for dogmatism, I’m perfectly happy to describe exactly the sort of evidence that would convince me that Mormon is true. [Keep in mind, though, that the LDS Church is an apostate version of the church Smith organized. If the Book of Mormon is true, then Smith was a prophet and the fundamentalist Mormons are true – the LDS Church would still be false). Here’s a partial list:

    1) An example of a scientifically authenticated ancient American document, written in Hebrew and/or Egyptian (or their derivatives), with at least two dozen instances with the same proper names of prophets and politicians described in the Book of Mormon.

    2) The book described above, which also describes at least two dozen of the same animals and plants named in the Book of Mormon.

    3) The opinion of at least three qualified Egyptologists, attesting that Joseph Smith’s “translation” of the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham are correct.

    Lacking (as I’m sure you will be) those three items, I’d be willing to also accept the following:

    1) God, on command of a Mormon Elder, starting my lawnmower

    Now, you may not like my list – but at least I’m willing to stick my neck out and *give* you a list. Are you willing to do as much? Are you willing to describe exactly the sort of verifiable and objective evidence that would be required for you to agree that Mormonism is false?

    I doubt it — I’ve asked that question of hundreds of Mormons and the answer is always the same — silence. Mormons believe in the Book of Mormon in *spite* of the evidence, not because of it. And because Mormons spite the evidence they are completely unaffected by it. And because they are unaffected by the evidence, there is no objective/verifiable evidence that will convince them otherwise. Thus the silence when I ask the question.

    But go ahead — surprise me. Be the first to outline the specific verifiable and objective evidence that would, if it existed, prove to you that the Book of Mormon is true.

    If your answer is the empty set then you are thinking irrationally.

  24. Duwayne Anderson says:

    Justin wrote: “The flip side of that is that when the BoM was published, there were many more things that appeared to be anachronisms that, with further study, have shown to not be anachronistic at all. Storing metal plates in stone boxes is a good example. For over a hundred years, critics of the BoM scoffed at this idea. Then, many examples of this practice were found in both the Old World and Mesoamerica.”

    Actually, writing on plates is not an example of an anachronism. Remember – an anachronism is something that was known at the time – reflective of the time. Since you claim that writing on plates wasn’t known, it wouldn’t be anachronistic. Having said that, it was known. In fact, writing on metal plates is described in the Bible (one of the sources Smith was known to plagiarize). This is why you shouldn’t rely on the arguments made by FAIR and FARMS. Pretty much all their arguments are dishonest and omit important pieces of information.

    Justin wrote: “For over a hundred years, critics of the BoM scoffed at this idea. Then, many examples of this practice were found in both the Old World and Mesoamerica.”

    That’s a quaint story – did you get that from FARMS, too? Note the ambiguous term “critics.” What? No names? Notice also the implication of a false dichotomy, that if a critic is wrong, the Book of Mormon must be true. Finally, FARMS has tried (once again) to lower the evidentiary bar – a con man could easily be expected to write a novel that includes gold plates, horse, cattle, swine, and steel swords. Finding any of those things in ancient America would be no proof for the Book of Mormon, anymore than finding them would be proof of The Lord of the Rings.

    Justin wrote: “Your reading of 2nd Nephi appears to be off to me. The text, if I’m reading the part you’re referring to, reads: “it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.” Where does this say or imply that there were no other nations in the Promised Land when Lehi arrived?

    The part where it says they would (if they were there) overrun the land, along with the part where Lehi says “… this land should be kept as yet….” Note the phrase “as yet.” Additionally, every Mormon prophet has said that the Lehites were the principal ancestors of the Native Americans. The Mormon god even calls the Native Americans “Lamanites” (it’s in the D&C). The church used to have a racist program called the “Lamanite Placement Program” where they removed Native Americans from their native homes and put them in good Mormon homes, where they could be indoctrinated. Multiple Mormon prophets have predicted (based on the Book of Mormon prophecy) that the Native Americans would turn white when they joined the Mormon Church.

    It really should set of bells in your head when the Mormon Church tries to lie about and cover up these doctrines – only after (of course) DNA evidence proved the Native Americans came from Siberia, and not Jerusalem.

    I don’t believe we’re not splitting hairs on the meaning of the word “know.” One group (scientists) uses the word “know” in a rational, conditional way. The other group (religious wackos) uses the word “know” in an absolute “you’ll never change my mind with facts” sort of way. The two uses are entirely different.

    Justine wrote: “… your question is fair…”

    Yes, it is a fair question: What verifiable/objective evidence (if it existed) would be enough to convince you that Mormonism is false? I notice that you didn’t answer that fair question. I’m not surprised. Mormons never do.

    Justin wrote: “I, and billions of other people throughout the history of mankind, have had direct experience with the spiritual realm of our existence.”

    A lot of them have direct experience with UFOs, too. I’m laughing at you, Justin. Seriously – truth isn’t based on popular vote or that special feeling in your tummy. You wouldn’t dare even think of designing an electronic circuit that way, either. You should know better – there is a wealth of scientific information showing how easy it is to fool the human brain with “spiritual” experiences.

    Justin wrote: “And this, [Justin’s spiritual experiences] although you aren’t willing to entertain the possibility, is evidence, so it figures in the equation when I do my calculations.”

    I asked for verifiable and objective evidence. You say you are a “scientist” (I doubt it). If you really are a scientist then you should know what “verifiable and objective” means. If someone were to give you a “spiritual” assurance that the Book of Mormon is *false,* you would reject it. It’s hypocritical of you to answer my question with your own un-verifiable “spiritual” experiences and expect me to simply say – “oh, gosh, Justin – since you give me your personal testimony, it must all be true. I guess I’ll just ignore all the physical evidence to the contrary and convert back to Mormonism.”

  25. Stephen M. Cook says:

    Nice thread.

  26. Lasvegasrichard says:

    Duwayne ; I don’t know how objective this is , but it is verifiable . The Book of Mormon pulls heavily from Isaiah . One such quote comes from the 14th chapter of Isaiah , where a specific proper noun is used , that comes from the KJV . Where I see the problem is in the original Hebrew the word(s) are in adjective form . Also that proper noun is a transliteration that in the closest English is ‘phosphorus ‘ . The objective part is the verse is part of a lamentation of the fall of the King of Babylon , not an other worldly being as per the KJV translators. The verifiable would come from the 11 known copies of this book in the Dead Sea Scrolls (also the oldest known ) where also the proper noun is no where to be found . Am I the only person to have picked up on this ?

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      I’m not sure I see your point. How does what you are describing (whether true or false) relate to the Book of Mormon being true or false?

      • Decider says:

        Duwayne — please explain the methodological discipline you use to determine whether the Book of Mormon is True or False. The Scientific Method, Inductive logic, can ascertain probability extraordinarily well, but NO ONE has ever used it to determine Big ‘T ‘Truth — there is excedingly high probability that water will boil at 100 C at sea level, but an infinite number of experiments verifying it, will never derive Truth.
        Deductive Logic DOES derive True and False, but can never reveal anything about the empirical world, because deduction can render statements that are True, but empirically absurd !
        It appears that all you are left with is a FAITH that Science and Logic can reveal whether the Book of Mormon is True or False — a FAITH no more justifiable than the Religious Faith you so vehemently deplore in your comments here.

        • Decider says:

          Also, I have never discussed ‘Scientific Obectivity’ with an Empiricist before — please explain why you have so much FAITH in it !

          • Duwayne Anderson says:

            Gladly. I’m typing this comment using a computer that was invented and designed using scientific objectivity. It’s going out to you on the Internet — also designed using scientific objectivity.

            I drove to work in a car that was designed using scientific objectivity — after I had prepared my lunch in a kitchen full of marvelous machines — all designed by scientific objectivity.

            I read a book last night about quantum physics — the basis for all modern electronic gadgets. Thanks, again, to scientific objectivity.

            In fact, in every verifiable sense, scientific objectivity has provided us with the knowledge to build the marvels of the modern age.

            This stands in stark contrast to the desert that is Mormonism — Mormonism has given the world *nothing* that is verifiably true and original.

        • Erick says:

          “The Scientific Method, Inductive logic, can ascertain probability extraordinarily well, but NO ONE has ever used it to determine Big ‘T ‘Truth”

          Are you offering a verifiable alternative?? After all, you were at least willing to concede that the scientific method is able to establish a probability, so do you have a testable method that eliminates or sufficiently reduces the margin of error? If not, what measurements are you relying on to say that the two “faiths” are equal in their justifcation?

          I think it’s healthy to recognize the limitations of scientific logic, but your argument seems to suggest that the “bet’s” we make in science are equal to the bet’s we make intuitively. In other words, I could justify any outrageous claim, UFO’s for example, by exactly the same reasoning. So, to put a finer point on it, your argument doesn’t really strengthen the case of Mormonism…but rather set’s it on par with every possible belief, in any possible thing, and simultaneously disarms us from any kind of practical discernment.

      • Lasvegasrichard says:

        What I’m saying is that the Book of Mormon is represented to be an ancient record . The proper noun ( name ) found only in the KJV ( Lucifer ) simply does not exist in truly ancient documents ( Dead Sea Scrolls ) . But Joseph Smith inserted this name into the B of M . Not realizing that his source ( KJV ) contains a mistake . Thereby he has proven that the B of M is NOT an ancient record .

        • ZEN WORDSMITH says:

          First off, “Oh yea little flock!”
          The 15 books compiled in “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”, should serve the investigator… akin to a roadmap and/or compass. This “Cross-Reference” methodology extracts, brings into a MOR fuller focus, the writings, and “Abridgment” of the [King James of England]. 1611 C.E.
          This complimentary Hebrew [Hasid/Jane] transliteration, voted }Readers Digest{ most “popular-book” of 1986; I attest was compiled with what is known as the [Isaiah-Affects] at [George-Mason University-USA].
          This in utilization of the primitive records from the “School of the Prophets”, and records that “trekked the plains”, from [Council Bluffs, Nebraska-Winter Quarters] in the cold, dreary Winter, and upon the death of [Roman Pope Alexander 6th] in 1846 C.E.
          Thus, Oh “House of Joseph”, the [Mormon Church] is true to form:
          …”A “Brain-Child” of Rome”…
          If inquiring, review “Living Scriptures” telecoarse, “Legacy”, regarding a patriarical blessing bestowed “upon the head” of [Joseph Junior and Hyrum Smith.]
          This under the auspices of [Joseph Smith Senior], a member of the [Methodist Clergy].

          …”Heed Moroni’s Promise, Pray and Search it through, and the Spirit Will Bear Witness that the [Book of Mormon's] true…”
          May God Richly Bless.

          • Duwayne Anderson says:

            I’ve read the Book of Mormon, cover to cover, over 17 times. I have employed Mornoni’s promise many, many times. When I left Mormonism I had about 30% of the Book of Mormon committed to memory. I’ve also read the OT, NT, D&C, and PofGP many times (all cover to cover, of course). I went on a mission for the Mormon Church, graduated from BYU, and married in the temple. I’ve been an Elder’s Quorum President in several wards. I’ve been fully indoctrinated into Mormonism.

            I testify (since you guys like that sort of thing) that the Book of Mormon is a fraud. It was written by a 19th century author and is such a clumsy fraud that anyone with a three-digit IQ and an ounce of personal integrity can figure out that it’s a fraud within an hour’s worth of research in a reasonably well-equipped library.

            The “promise” in Moroni is typical of emotive scams that harp on known susceptibilities of human cognitive dissonance. You can find similar “promises” in most multi-level marketing schemes.

          • Tom says:

            Duwayne

            You bring out some very compelling points in your arguments. Hard to counter them although several here have made valiant efforts to do so.

            If, as you imply, anyone with at least a three digit IQ could tell the BoM was a fraud after reading a few pages, did it take a person like you, with obviously a high IQ, years of involvement with the Church before you discovered said fraud?

            Interesting that you also connect Mormon think to Multi Level marketing! Seems like the majority of that kind of sales scam has flourished in Utah County/BYU/return missionary circles the last couple of decades which certainly lends credence to your statement. I had always assumed it was because of the networking that returned missionaries do that accounted for this, not the intellectual disconnect that you attribute it to. Very interesting concept fer sure.

            It would be interesting to observe an extensive debate between you and some of the Church’s intellectuals.

            I was raised in the Church – but never believed any of it. I do however have a great respect for the good the Church has done over the years with their social and charitable activities, and as the old saying goes: “Some of my best friends are…..”

  27. Decider says:

    Thank you for your comments —
    I will make some points in return.
    As to whether I am “offering a viable alternative” to Induction/Scientific Method, the answer is NO ! I will point out that my response was to Duwayne’s comment of “How does what you are describing relate to the Book of Mormon being true or false?” — my critique of rationality/Induction/Scientific method and Duwayne’s FAITH in them was NOT meant to “suggest a viable alternative”
    On the contrary, I was describing the hypocrisy of the all too human tendency of exploiting and denigrating another’s professed FAITH while not being at all conscious and systematically unkind to one’s OWN FAITH.
    You seem to think that “the bets we make scientifically” are superior to the bets we make “Intuitively”. Given that intuition is such an instrumental part of the ‘inductive leap’, and that Induction itself cannot happen without the “I L”, then it is absurd to make them opposites.
    Your FAITH in Induction tends to rely uoon the probability and reliability which Inductive generalizations have — simply, their pragmatic workability I too bow in wonder at the gifts of Technology, Science and Rationality. However, there are as many , or more, who bow and have FAITH, equally or exclusively, in the workability of non-rational spiritual solutions.
    “Of course the laws of Science contain NO MATTER and have NO energy either and therefore do NOT EXIST in people’s minds. It’s best to be completely scientific about the whole thing and REFUSE to believe in ghostes (spirits/souls) OR the laws of Science. That doesn’t leave you with much to believe in, but that’s Scientific too.” -R Pirsig

  28. Duwayne Anderson says:

    Belief in rationalism and logic can rightly be described as “rational” faith. After all, we don’t know that rationalism and faith *always* work — but it’s a verifiable fact that it does work, and has provided society with the mind boggling array of technological marvels — including the computers and the internet which (ironically) superstitious people use to denigrate rationalism and logic.

    On the other hand, Mormonism is an example of *irrational* faith. As Justin so nicely demonstrated, no amount of verifiable and objective evidence will ever change his mind. [This conclusion drawn from the fact that I asked Justin what verifiable and objective evidence, if it existed, would be sufficient to change his mind and he refused to list any -- opting, instead, to explain how his emotional mind-based "testimony" was simply unshakable by rational/logical observations.]

    I’ll put the same question to you that I put to Justin. And, I’ll bet I get the same answer. In fact, I’ve never found a true-believing Mormon who would describe in detail the verifiable and objective evidence that would be sufficient to change their mind, and sufficient for them to denounce Mormonism.

  29. Duwayne Anderson says:

    With pleasure. (I’ve already done it, in this thread, but I’ll do it again).

    First, the Book of Mormon makes statements about ancient America that are not true. The Book of Mormon describes the origins, cultivated plants, domesticated animals, machinery, metallurgy, languages, and governments of the ancient Americans. And, in every non-trivial way, the Book of Mormon is wrong.

    Second, textual analysis shows that the Book of Mormon was likely written by known 19th century authors (see my earlier post in this thread for the reference).

    Third, textual analysis shows that the Book of Mormon is a fabricated history (the month dates are highly biased – again, see my earlier post in this thread for the reference).

    Fourth, there are no authentic ancient American texts that are written in the languages described by the Book of Mormon that use the same proper names for prominent people or cities in the Book of Mormon.

    Fifth, Joseph Smith was a known liar and con man – a money digger who lied to the people he scammed an adulterer who lied to his wife about his adulterous liaisons. It makes perfect sense that a con man like Smith would be associated with a prominent fraud like the Book of Mormon.

  30. Duwayne Anderson says:

    Tom asked: “If, as you imply, anyone with at least a three digit IQ could tell the BoM was a fraud after reading a few pages, did it take a person like you, with obviously a high IQ, years of involvement with the Church before you discovered said fraud?”

    You may want to re-read what I said. I said that a person needs a three-digit IQ and personal integrity. I also said they need access to a reasonably well-equipped library.

    The point being, it doesn’t take a *smart* person to figure out that the Book of Mormon is a fraud (after all, half the population has a three-digit IQ). What it really takes is a little research and (most importantly) some personal integrity.

    The real problem with Mormonism is that it’s so steeped in indoctrination that members are afraid to look objectively at the evidence. If the evidence doesn’t support the church, they label it “anti” and run from it like frightened little rabbits (just the way the prophet tells them to).

    Like I said — a person doesn’t have to be all that smart to figure it out, but they do have to do a bit of research, and they have to be honest enough to follow facts, rather than ignoring them and/or twisting them into pretzels.

  31. LMA says:

    Ask him to answer your question without being pompous about it. He’d have to re-write the whole thing.

    Consider the statement: “there is no verifiable and objective evidence to support the resurrection of Jesus.” So, that’s silly. See, by using the phrase “verifiable and objective,” he meant to rule out the category of evidence called “eyewitness.” This is some of the most reliable evidence around, but, through misdirection, Anderson admits that he ignores it completely.

    Before anyone jumps in to make this point, I’ll agree that our knowledge of first-person reports is secondary; that is, we don’t possess any original first-person sources. But this is not unusual in the study of history.

    There is also the problem that methods evolved for, say, deciding when to plant crops aren’t necessarily directly applicable to figuring out the meaning or purpose of life. I was an atheist until I considered that however reliable the scientific method might be, it doesn’t (and can’t) claim to be the exclusive path to truth. It is a path to categories of truth, but doesn’t help us decide whether there are other categories or how to find them.

    If you stop to think about it, the caterpillar never does perceive the butterfly.

  32. Decider says:

    Duwayne:
    If I were to turn your argument into YOUR describing in detail a SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE sufficient for YOU to denounce rationality and the Scientific Method; then I think you would be more likely to understand how your argument is a specious false dilemma upon which you have contrived some very inaccurate generalizations about people who don’t “change their minds” about their FAITH.

    • Decider says:

      Another False Dilemma is to divide FAITH into two parts, ‘rational’ and ‘irrational’.
      ‘Irrational faith’ is repetitive because ALL FAITH is non Rational. However, ‘rational faith’ is a paradox of contradiction, because the two words have mutually exclusive definitions that are literally meaningless together — I don’t think you were being figurative by using the terms as an oxymoron either.

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      Oh, that’s an easy question to answer. And, unlike Mormons who cannot answer my question, I’ll readily answer yours.

      For me to decide that “spiritual experience” is more valid than the scientific method, I’d have to see the same wealth of verifiable benefit that comes from the “spiritual experience” as comes from the scientific method.

      For example, the scientific method has given us cars, bicycles, airplanes, jets, rockets, computers, washing machines, dryers, toasters, watches, notepads, pocket knives, radios, Walkman’s, CD players, cassette players, eye glasses, heart surgery, antibiotics, organ transplants, …. and the list goes on and on and on and on.

      Bottom line: science works. It works in wonderful and verifiable ways.

      But now let’s look at the “spiritual experience.” It doesn’t work at all. The world is full of religious wackos claiming all manner of “spiritual experiences,” and all contradicting each other. There are some people with a spiritual experience that Mormonism is *false,* while others have a spiritual experience that it’s true. Worse, you guys can’t even agree on what a spiritual experience *is.* One of you will say it’s such and such, and another will say it’s this and that. You can’t agree on what it is, you can’t agree on what the outcome is — and there isn’t a single instance where it gave humanity any “truth” that isn’t more than personal opinion.

      If things were the other way around, and rationalism was a mess and “spiritual experience” was the origin of all our great inventions, then (of course) I’d subscribe to “spiritual experience.” But that’s not the case — not even close. “Spiritual experience” is a mess. More importantly, science can quantify how messed up the “spiritual experience” is, and can tell us some of the specific evolutionary defects in the human mind that lead to “spiritual experiences” in the first place, and all their attendant goobers.

      Okay — just to make sure we all know the score, here. My question to Mormons is this: What verifiable and objective evidence, if it existed, would be sufficient to convince you that Mormonism is false. I answered your question — can you answer mine?

  33. Erick says:

    “I was an atheist until I considered that however reliable the scientific method might be, it doesn’t (and can’t) claim to be the exclusive path to truth. It is a path to categories of truth, but doesn’t help us decide whether there are other categories or how to find them.”

    Like Decider’s comment, what this comment fails to appreciate is that the scientific method is subject to thoughtful criticism because it is far more precisely defined than the spiritual methods it is being implicitly compared against. We are using very vague terms, like “spiritual witness”, to defend religious reasoning. I don’t know exactly what that means…not because I’m new to the Mormon vernacular, but because even there these concepts are more ambiguous than most discussions on the subject acknowledge. So, for the sake of the discussion (unless it’s passed its course I suppose), I would be interested in a precise explanation for how spiritual methods work. I am personally convinced that this is where the rubber meets the runway in this (these) ongoing discussions about religion, science, etc.

    • LMA says:

      Since the comment was mine, I’ll respond. I agree that using spiritual means to find spiritual truth is less cut-and-dried than many scientific endeavors. But that doesn’t invalidate using spiritual means to find spiritual truth. The means aren’t subject to “precise explanation” (sorry) although there are sources of guidance all around. To deny yourself the search is to deny much of what life is for.

      This Anderson fellow derides spiritual experience denying that he has ever had one. That’s too bad. Others will tell you that they have had spiritual experience often. It isn’t particularly rational to deny them the validity of their experience, however loudly (and snidely) Anderson wants to shout that they’re worthless. You can say that a variety of individual spiritual experiences point in many different directions, but I actually doubt that that is so. The two anthropological universals are a belief in God or other supernatural deities and a belief in life after death. There might be a reason why those things are so.

      Or, rather, there clearly is a reason, but there are competing explanations for what the reason is. Say what you want, there is no scientific (empirical) reason for preferring one of those explanations over the other. In the realm of Mormon belief, it is intended that the choice between spirituality and non-spirituality be unclear, else mortality could not serve as the spiritual proving ground intended by the Plan of Salvation. Outside of Mormon belief, other religions likewise acknowledge that the proof of the religion’s tenets would eliminate the role of faith.

      I hope that’s helpful. Yes, it’s messy. But it turns out to be wonderful if you let it be.

      • Erick says:

        I understand that DuWayne Anderson has been something of a dominant voice during this discussion, but it is not my intention to either “atta-boy” him, or try to speak for him. I’ll let him speak for himself, and I will assume the same privilege.

        I agree in part with this statement:

        “I agree that using spiritual means to find spiritual truth is less cut-and-dried than many scientific endeavors. But that doesn’t invalidate using spiritual means to find spiritual truth.”

        I agree in the sense that it is logically consistent, but I disagree with the implication that “therefore, spiritual truth is as valid (or more so) than scientific methods”. To put a finer point on it, I can’t invalidate an undefined “messy” concept precisely because it is ultimately empty. That renders the practical application of the logic quite useless. True, I can’t invalidate the methodology, but that’s because no methodology has been described. Yet, by the same token, I also can’t validate “spiritual truth”, which is highly problematic for those advancing “truth’s” that are claimed to have been derived “spiritually”. So, with all due respect, it’s hard to take serious the assertion that “To deny yourself the search is to deny much of what life is for”, because after all, how would you know that? By your own admission, the epistemology that governs your ability to “know” what life is about is…well…messy! In fact, you still haven’t even begun to explain the process in any detail, you’ve just admitted to messiness about it, and then conjectured that “it’s all part of God’s plan”.

        I’m not sure how to respond to the “anthropological universals”. I am aware that religious beliefs are part of most cultures, but I also don’t recollect this reduction from my anthropology course in college. Speaking generically of course, the anthropological argument must account for the significant variation in religious practice and belief across cultures, if the argument is to have any relevance. Suffice it to say, I am uncertain as to what can be reasonably inferred from this argument.

        I find this part of your response the most tenuous:

        “In the realm of Mormon belief, it is intended that the choice between spirituality and non-spirituality be unclear, else mortality could not serve as the spiritual proving ground intended by the Plan of Salvation. Outside of Mormon belief, other religions likewise acknowledge that the proof of the religion’s tenets would eliminate the role of faith.”

        A cynical reponse to your last sentence would be to point out that faith is the necessary requirement for people to believe in a fallacy, so it is natural that all false religions would depend on this “virtue”. A more cautious response would be to question why “faith” should be a desirable virtue. In my estimation, Mormonism has an almost better answer for this mainstream Christianity, simply because they have a more cohesive explanation for the purpose of mortality. That is, ultimately life is a test…but test for what? That’s sort of where the ball get’s dropped for me. The salvation model is to become like God, to see if we will be good without supervision, aside from some generic attribute definition of “God”, that is sort really an ambiguous goal? The big problem with this rationale (aside from the obviously bigger problem that is all an assertion in the first place without any real evidence) is that the principle of revelation sort of kick’s that whole explanation in the teeth. It also fails to adequately explain why one of the purposes of mortality is to find the right Church…and fails to consider how Church/religion might interfere with the test to see how we behave”. So, here also I’m left rather skeptical as to why faith would be an obvious virtue.

        • LMA says:

          Most of your response seems messy to me, but I suppose it’s my own fault. ;-)

          Faith may be a virtue, but I don’t think that was my argument here. I think that my argument here is that many find spiritual experience to be a guide to spiritual truth. The middle of your reply is a sort of murky response to that concept, in which you acknowledge that the concept can’t readily be invalidated, on one hand, until you suggest on the other hand that the fact that it can’t be invalidated is … invalidating. This goes to prove that even champions of rationality can’t necessarily think clearly.

          But thanks for saying, “Mormonism has an almost better answer for this mainstream Christianity, simply because [it has] a more cohesive explanation for the purpose of mortality.” (I fixed the grammar a bit.) I’m happy to agree with you about that. But then you sort of lose the thread of things when you meander off into the question of whether becoming a joint heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17) is ambiguous. I don’t know what you mean by ambiguous in this context but I think that it is certainly a reasonable understanding of purpose.

          • Erick says:

            I’ll put it in more direct form then:

            The matter of validating or invalidating spiritual experience, in the context of this conversation, is nonsensical. Simply because we have no reasonably agreed upon definition of what that actually even means. I will freely admit to being skeptical about knowledge derived from “spiritual experience”, but I would not personally use terms such as “validity” to express that skepticism, simply because validity implies that I have performed some kind of rigorous study on “spiritual experience”, from which I draw my conclusions. My objection is that a study on “spiritual experience” isn’t even possible until we have a working definition of what that means. I have specifically asked for a definition, and the best response I was given was:

            “The means aren’t subject to “precise explanation” (sorry) although there are sources of guidance all around.”

            It was also described as “messy”, and defended with the assertion that there are a lot of people who claim “spiritual experience”. Yet, there is wasn’t any accounting for the great variance in what constitutes “spiritual experience”, including the varying context’s and interpretation’s of said experience’s.

            So, I don’t accept “spiritual experience” as a good explanation for belief, but recognize that while I have a bias against unarticulate claims, I can’t necessarilly refute them rigorously without knowing more precislely what they are first. I hope that is more clear.

            As for the second part, I’m simply acknowledging that Mormonism has a better (not good) explanation for “mortal probation” than simply we are here to accept Jesus then go to heaven. I realize that is a bit of a trivialization of the broader Christian worldview…but it still seems to reduce to that from my point of view. Life as a test, at least attempts to better explain why God would even waste his time with our mortality. It almost even attempts to explain problems of evil, and “why do bad things happen to good people” (starving children in Africa, etc)…but there are still problems with it. First, quite frankly, it would seem more appropriate that this would be a defense of Deism, but Mormonism has revelation, prophets, priesthood, commandments, etc. So if faith is important to God’s test, then how does revelation factor in??? There are other problems with the “life is a test” defense in the context of Mormonism, but I’ll spare muddying up the waters any further…

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        A lot of people who say they have spiritual experiences testify those experiences told them Mormonism is false. It seems really pompous for Mormons to explain that their “spiritual experiences” trump verifiable and objective evidence — and doubly pompous when they insist that their “spiritual experiences” trump other people’s “spiritual experiences” — especially while pontificating on the impropriety of denying Mormon spiritual experiences!

        • LMA says:

          You didn’t like being referred to as pompous did you? But if the shoe fits, ya know?

          I don’t know when I ever said that “’spiritual experiences’ trump verifiable and objective evidence.” I don’t think I did. But you probably had a spiritual experience telling you that I said that.

          You can’t very well cite the spiritual experience of others as evidence of anything when you elsewhere deny that the spiritual experience of others constitutes evidence at all. Or that there is any such thing as spiritual experience as distinguished from hallucination. (Such as all those visitations of the Easter Bunny you keep reporting. You might want to check your meds.)

          • Duwayne Anderson says:

            If you don’t believe that spiritual experiences trump verifiable and objective evidence, then answer the question that you (and all the other Mormons in this thread) have been dodging — What verifiable and objective evidence, if it existed, would be sufficient for you to renounce Mormonism?

          • LMA says:

            “If you don’t believe that spiritual experiences trump verifiable and objective evidence, then answer the question that you (and all the other Mormons in this thread) have been dodging — What verifiable and objective evidence, if it existed, would be sufficient for you to renounce Mormonism?”

            The above is a non-sequitur. Anderson either knows this, in which case he’s deliberately propounding a fallacy, or he doesn’t, in which case he’s nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is. I’m betting on the latter, since (1) it makes sense and (2) it doesn’t require me to judge his honesty, but one or the other has to be true.

            Some might ask why it’s a non sequitur. (Anderson doesn’t care, so I’m addressing others now.) It’s a non sequitur because it is possible to believe that spiritual experience doesn’t “trump” (that’s a metaphor, but I understand it) verifiable and objective evidence (that is what most people simply call facts, but Anderson is a bit pompous, as we know) without thinking that faith in spiritual matters reduces to a testable or falsifiable hypothesis. I hope that’s helpful to anyone who might have wondered about that.

            So, disposing of the non sequitur and just getting to the question Anderson accuses Mormons (or the religious generally, I suppose) of evading, my answer is two fold. First, I don’t think that religious faith must necessarily reduce itself to a testable hypothesis. In fact, that’s really the whole point. Atheists like Anderson – and indeed, such as I used to be – want to insist that there is nothing knowable outside that is not subject to scientific investigation, measurement and replicable experimentation. But stamping one’s foot never made anything so. One’s epistemology may very well teach that nothing else is knowable, but then nothing binds others to that particular epistemology. Right?

            But to deal with the specific case, my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is built on a long and ongoing series of spiritual experience and spiritual investigation. It would defy summary, although I attempt it once in a while on the first Sunday of the month. I suppose that if I ever felt some overwhelming contrary spiritual impression, I would change my mind. I would do that only after the same sort of spiritual experience and spiritual investigation that led me to my present testimony in the first place.

            This can’t be used to justify an atheist position, simply because an atheist position denies that there is an external source of spiritual experience. But many religious beliefs are founded on a search for the divine and seek to benefit from communion with it. Mormonism works better than others in my experience for reasons I can partially articulate, but I am very understanding when other persons of faith express preference for their own doctrines and traditions.

            If Anderson wanted not to be a bully, he could get to an answer like this from pretty much any faithful Mormon, but there you go.

  34. Duwayne Anderson says:

    There is nothing more “pompous” than someone who thinks they speak with god, or pretends to tell others what god thinks. Mormons wrote the book on “pompous.”

    Eye witnesses, by the way, are notoriously bad. Controlled experiments show that they are poor at recognizing events they see, poor at remembering them, and that their memories can be altered. And since nobody can access the original images/sounds that the eye witness had, they are not verifiable.

    Second, if you knew anything at all about Jesus’ supposed “resurrection,” you’d know that none of the accounts that describe it were written by the supposed “eye witnesses.” It’s all hearsay — typically after more than a dozen copies.

    Just to illustrate the hypocrisy of your appeal to “eye witnesses,” I saw (just this morning) the Easter Bunny a hop hop hopping along the trail through the woods. I’m a self-proclaimed eye witness. Do you believe in the Easter Bunny, now? Probably not.

    • LMA says:

      Oh there you go. You’re not pompous, it’s all those other guys.

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        Specifically the guys that pretend to speak for god.

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        Specifically the ones who pretend to speak for god.

        • LMA says:

          Well, I agree that pretending to speak for God is a Bad Thing. Probably more deceptive than pompous, but I can tell that your English-language vocabulary is a little shaky, so I don’t hold it against you.

          • Duwayne Anderson says:

            What is it that you don’t “hold against” me, and what makes you so pompous as to hold anything against anyone, or think that anyone would care what you hold or don’t hold “against” them?

  35. Duwayne Anderson says:

    Faith just means belief in something for which we lack a “perfect knowledge.” And since we never have “perfect knowledge,” we all exercise faith every day. For example, the farmer who plants his seeds is exercising faith that rains will come, and the plants will grow. Planting seeds is an example of “Faith,” but it’s not the same “faith” as that exercised by religious wackos because the farmer’s faith is rational — it’s based on verifiable and objective data.

    Faith in Mormonism, however, is irrational. It is not simply belief without a perfect knowledge, but belief in spite of, and contrary to, verifiable and objective data. The best way to illustrate the irrationality is to simply ask the Mormon what verifiable and objective evidence (if it existed) would be sufficient for them to denounce Mormonism as false. When asked this question (as with you, Mr. Decider) the Mormon will either ignore the question, or admit that *no* rational/verifiable evidence would ever be sufficient to change their mind.

    When you have faith in something to the point that all facts and evidence are irrelevant, then you are definitely practicing “irrational” faith.

    • LMA says:

      That’s what “faith” means? Are you sure?

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        If Mormonism was based on rational faith, it would be possible to describe verifiable/objective evidence that (if the evidence existed) would be sufficient to justify rejecting Mormonism. Yet, as demonstrated here, Mormons will resist describing any such evidence.

  36. Duwayne Anderson says:

    WilliamRicharsonMesa said: “I asked a simple question yet, I don’t think you answered it.”

    Sorry. I’ll try again.

    William asked: “I wasn’t asking you if “god” had a purpose for man but rather, whether you believed there WAS / IS a purpose. “

    Okay – who decides what the purpose is? I mean, the question is nonsensical, isn’t it? What is the purpose of a rock? What is the purpose of a tree? Outside the context of a sentient being who supposedly *assigns* purpose, there is no purpose because “purpose” is what sentient beings assign to things.

    Suppose I’m climbing a mountain and I find a bolder – what is it’s “purpose?” Well, if I sit on it, its purpose is to sit upon. If I roll it down the mountain, its purpose is to make a great noise. But before I came along and decided to do something with it – as long as it was a naked bolder just sitting on the mountain side – it’s meaningless to ask what it’s “purpose” is.

    As I said, “purpose” isn’t an inherent attribute of the thing (like location, mass, color, etc.). Rather, “purpose” is a characteristic that is bequeathed by humans (or gods, or some other sentient being). So, when you ask if there is a purpose for man, do you mean my personal purpose? Frankly, that seems like a really silly question. I don’t own anyone, and wouldn’t begin to assign my own “personal” purpose to any other human being.

    William asked: “I will state the question more simply. I will state it in three parts. The first: Do you believe that there is a specific purpose for man’s existence?”

    When you ask that question, who would be the person assigning “purpose?” It could be me (question already asked). It could be the individual, in which case each person has their own person. It could be a slave owner, in which case the purpose might be to dig a ditch.

    William asked “The second: If so, what do you think that purpose is?”

    The second question begs the first. But I’ll assume you mean to ask me what *my* purpose is. In that regard, I suspect that my purpose is the same as yours – to be happy. Or, in the words of the adulterous prophet (Joseph Smith) “man is that he might have joy.” [Smith didn’t originate that idea, by the way – he “borrowed” it.]

    William asked: “The third: Where (or how) did you derive the answer to question 2?”

    It’s personal prerogative. It’s like asking a person what color they like best, and then saying “where did you derive the answer to that question.” Or asking them what flavor they like best, and then insisting upon proof.

    Before moving on, I recall an earlier comment about whether a person’s purpose is any different than a cat or a dog. I have both kinds of pets, and it seems to me that Mormons have the same purpose in life as my dog. Let me elaborate –

    Upon close examination, it appears that I am god to my dog (he’s a black Labrador Retriever) and that he wants nothing more than to adore and please me. Nothing seems more precious to Duke than a pat on the head, from his god, or a few table scraps. Duke’s day is made with any kindness or smile from his god (me). Mormons seem to act the same way – they seem unable to have any purpose in life without their god. They seem struck with terror at the thought that their god might not exist. Like my dog, they seem to exist only for the prospect of some gift, or kind word from their god.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I think my dog has a pretty good life. If worshipping his god (me) makes him happy, and gives him joy, then I’d say it’s a good fit for the dog. And I’d say the same for Mormons, too. I wouldn’t begrudge them the opportunity to (like my dog) gain happiness and joy from worshiping their god – so long as they don’t try to sell their religion to others (all for the price of 10% of one’s income) under false pretenses.

    For me, though, it’s still about having joy. But unlike my dog (and Mormons) I don’t find a lot of joy in worshiping a higher being (even if god existed, I’d be miserable worshiping the guy – too many other, more interesting things to do). For me, joy is in my family, my job, and my hobbies. There’s nothing I like better than combining them, too. Few things give me more joy than climbing mountains with my sons, kayaking with my wife, or taking a long century ride on a sunny weekend.

    William asked: “In an earlier post, you used the term “legitimate religion.” I don’t gather from your posts that any religion is legitimate in your mind. Am I wrong?”

    I think there are “legitimate” religions, and I don’t define a “legitimate” religion as “true,” but rather as honest. Mormonism is illegitimate because it lies about its history, its doctrines, and the fraud (Book of Mormon) upon which it is founded. It’s even more illegitimate because it defrauds members of money and holds families hostage in order to coerce members into remaining within the cult. No legitimate religion (in my opinion, of course) would ever do such things.

  37. LMA says:

    Did you think that was responsive to my question? It doesn’t seem to me that it was. Maybe that’s just me.

    • LMA says:

      Somehow that comment, directly above, posted to the wrong spot on this board. So I reposted it where I thought it should go. Apologies are offered for the duplication.

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        For some reason, my reply was posted at the end of the thread. Sorry about that. Pardon the re-post.

        Why is the question such a problem for you (and other Mormons) anyway?

        When one thinks about it, it’s a very fair and neutral question. If someone were to ask me a similar question about General Relativity, or Quantum Physics, I wouldn’t hesitate to answer. Indeed, that’s what scientists do with theories, they imagine experiments that are capable of discrediting a theory, then they perform the experiments, and if the results discredit the theory they either modify the theory so it’s in conformity with the experiments, or they discard it and create a new theory that explains all the experimental evidence.

        The difference between the scientist and the religious wacko, obviously, is that the scientist wants to know the truth of how things really are, and the religious wacko just wants to know that their religious mumbo-jumbo is true. That’s why (I suspect) Mormons won’t (can’t) answer the question – first, because they’ve never really thought about it, and second, because their “faith” is “unshakable.” That is, there really is (for all the Mormons that I know, anyway) no verifiable and objective evidence that will change their “testimony.” Their testimony is irrational – it’s based on mental delusions (they call them “spiritual experiences”) that always trump all verifiable and objective evidence.

        That’s why (as we’ve seen in these discussions) Mormons will always refuse to answer the rational question: “What verifiable and objective evidence, if it existed, would be sufficient for you to denounce Mormonism?”

  38. LMA says:

    “What is it that you don’t ‘hold against’ me, and what makes you so pompous as to hold anything against anyone, or think that anyone would care what you hold or don’t hold ‘against’ them?”

    Mind your blood pressure there fella. No one wants you to have a stroke. It’s not worth it. Seriously.

  39. Decider says:

    Traditionally, Logical Positivism denies the validity of ANYTHING, ANYTHING, ANYTHING held by FAITH.
    Your ‘make it up as you go along’ definition of FAITH — “Faith just means belief in something for which we lack a ‘perfect knowledge’” — is just self serving claptrap. Carving up ‘peculiar’ definitions for words that you then can use to bolsters your non-sensical, unprovable, unscientific assertions about FAITH is what you accuse others of doing, but with great abandon, practice yourself.

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      I’m not particularly interested in arguing semantics, so (for the sake of the discussion at hand) let’s adopt your apparent definition of “faith” as belief in something where there is *no* (absolutely none) verifiable and object evidence (VOE).

      If you have “faith” (using the above definition – where there is *no* VOE for the belief) in something for which there is VOE against it, then the faith is irrational.

      Examples of irrational faith (belief) include:
      1) Man never landed on the moon
      2) Vaccinations don’t work
      3) Santa lives at the North Pole
      4) The Book of Mormon is a history written by ancient Americans.

      • Decider says:

        Examples of FAITH in Science and Technology include:
        1) Technological development of Weapons of Mass destruction suffucient to destroy the Earth hundreds of times over.
        2)Technological advances in bio-engineering that will soon be able to COMPLETELY alter the human DNA sufficient to REDEFINE what a human being is. Extended life, immortality, super-increases in intelligence and super-physical-anatomical attributes will soon be capabilities. Science and Technology WILL eventually make these things possible, but only spiritual/religious/values can express the VALUES to CONTROL Technological innovation.
        3) EVERY Scientific/Technological ‘advancement’ comes with a Cultural/Social price to pay.
        Is the treadmill of making human life ever more comfortable and easy by Technology REALLY IMPROVING human life? Science can only do MORE Science and Technology — it is VALUES FREE !

        • Decider says:

          Mankind needs to be able to ask, “What is GOOD and What is NOT GOOD and be able to determine an answer.
          Science and Technology can create such things as Weapons of Mass destruction, but can NEVER EVER answer the question of how or whether such things should be used.
          Put THAT in your Scientific Method Pipe and Smoke it !

          • Erick says:

            Decider – everything about your last comment is simply untrue…including the implication that religion somehow protects us from WMD’s. I’m not going to try and suggest that religion is the source of all or most wars, blah, blah…but let’s just not pretend that religion is some kind of social safeguard against it either.

        • Duwayne Anderson says:

          Huh? This makes no sense. Science fiction isn’t science. And, at any rate, projections of future scientific advancements are hardly without any basis in fact (your definition of faith).

  40. Duwayne Anderson says:

    LMA wrote: “The above is a non-sequitur”

    The “above” to which LMA referred was this comment, from me: “If you don’t believe that spiritual experiences trump verifiable and objective evidence, then answer the question that you (and all the other Mormons in this thread) have been dodging — What verifiable and objective evidence, if it existed, would be sufficient for you to renounce Mormonism?”

    The claim of “non-sequitur” doesn’t hold. The reason (as we’ve seen through this thread) is that Mormons ignore/reject/deny verifiable and objective evidence that says the Book of Mormon is a 19th century fraud in favor of “spiritual experiences” (i.e., mental delusions) that tell them the Book of Mormon is “true.” Thus, in this example, the “spiritual experiences” trump the verifiable and objective evidence.

    But the situation is actually much broader than just the Book of Mormon. As LMA has demonstrated, there is not even any *hypothetical* verifiable and objective evidence (VOE) that, if it existed, would be sufficient to renounce Mormonism. By refusing to identify any VOE – even hypothetical VOE — LMA has demonstrated that the basis for Mormonism is a “spiritual experience” (i.e., mental delusion) that always trumps any verifiable and objective evidence.

    • Decider says:

      “Religion somehow protects us from WMD’S” ??? . . . THAT is the convoluted ‘reductio ad absurdum’ you understood ME to say???
      I know I emphasized the use of VALUES to re-orient Science and Technology to the need for human GOOD. I only mentioned Religion as a POSSIBLE conveyance of values, because Religion has a long-standing framework for doing so — the point of my post, however, was ANTI Science /Technology and PRO Values.
      You must understand, I am NOT an apologist for Religion or Any Religion — I am an advocate for the GOOD — but I don’t proselyte.
      Sorry to dissapoint you.

      • Erick says:

        “but only spiritual/religious/values can express the VALUES to CONTROL Technological innovation.”

        Decider – This was your statement. It doesn’t list religion as a “POSSIBLE” conveyance of values, rather it was that religion alone is the only way to “CONTROL Technological innovation”.

        Still there are other problems with your argument. True, the scientific method doesn’t give us our values, but that doesn’t grant an automatic default to religion. I am cautious about arguments that attribute war and genocide in a zero-sum fashion to either religions or secularism, but I am perfectly comfortable accepting that religious ideologies have scored points at both ends of the court. In other words, I can find examples of great humanitarian efforts managed by religious ideals, and great violence as well. I don’t like how these things are generally tallied against each other, but the evidence is sufficient to argue that sincerely religious people and societies can wield power as corruptly as non-religious.

  41. Duwayne Anderson says:

    I do. Why is the question such a problem for you (and other Mormons) anyway?

    When one thinks about it, it’s a very fair and neutral question. If someone were to ask me a similar question about General Relativity, or Quantum Physics, I wouldn’t hesitate to answer. Indeed, that’s what scientists do with theories, they imagine experiments that are capable of discrediting a theory, then they perform the experiments, and if the results discredit the theory they either modify the theory so it’s in conformity with the experiments, or they discard it and create a new theory that explains all the experimental evidence.

    The difference between the scientist and the religious wacko, obviously, is that the scientist wants to know the truth of how things really are, and the religious wacko just wants to know that their religious mumbo-jumbo is true. That’s why (I suspect) Mormons won’t (can’t) answer the question – first, because they’ve never really thought about it, and second, because their “faith” is “unshakable.” That is, there really is (for all the Mormons that I know, anyway) no verifiable and objective evidence that will change their “testimony.” Their testimony is irrational – it’s based on mental delusions (they call them “spiritual experiences”) that always trump all verifiable and objective evidence.

    That’s why (as we’ve seen in these discussions) Mormons will always refuse to answer the rational question: “What verifiable and objective evidence, if it existed, would be sufficient for you to denounce Mormonism?”

    • Decider says:

      Your ‘question’ Begs the question, Duane. It is like the falacious question, “When are you going to stop beating your wife?” because it assumes (begs) that you DO beat your wife, which, of course, has NOT been established.
      “What verifiable and objective evidence” ASSUMES that there IS verifiable and objective evidence that “would be sufficient for a person to denounce Mormonism”, which I would assume most Mormons would NOT agree to.
      In a previous post I tried to get you to understand the falacious nature of your question, but you are not the first to justify the perceived superiority of your ‘faith’ by constructing falacious non-sense statements.

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        Nonsense, there’s no “begging the question” at all.

        It’s a simple question without any pre-existing assumptions. It’s simple: What verifiable and objective evidence, if it existed, would be sufficient for you to renounce Mormonism?

        Notice that the question does not assume that such VOE exists — it asks what VOE *if* it existed would be sufficient. And the question doesn’t assume that any hypothetical evidence would be sufficient, either — you could always answer “there isn’t any.”

        And there’s the rub. The answer for Mormonism really is “there isn’t any.” The reason, obviously, is that faith in Mormonism is irrational; Mormons have faith in their religion in spite of any VOE (now or in the future) that might argue otherwise. Their minds are made up, and *no* VOE of any sort will ever change their minds. The conundrum for Mormons is that even in their irrational stupor they seem to sense that they are being irrational, and there seems to be an element of public embarrassment for the absurdity of their “faith.” Thus, they seem too embarrassed to actually come out and admit that no VOE, if it existed, would ever change their mind, yet since no VOE ever would change their mind they obviously can’t name any. Thus they’re left wiggling and squirming like a worm on a hook – caught on the horns of a dilemma.

        One could hardly ask for a better example or irrationality than the display of Mormons in this thread as they wiggle and squirm over that simple question.

        • LMA says:

          This from the guy who protests against “ad hominem.” (I put the term in quotes because ad hominem is such a frequently misused phrase. It is intended as a shorthand reference for argumentum ad hominem and means something different from what most people mean when they complain about “ad hominem.” But I digress.) So, that’s kind of funny.

          But Anderson insists that rationality requires a testable hypothesis. It doesn’t. Anderson also insists that rationality requires objective physical evidence. It doesn’t. He’s just wrong about those things, as so much else.

          Anderson denies that anything spiritual can exist because claims of spiritual truth are frequently not amenable to disproof by physical or scientific means. But that is ontological hogwash. If you don’t believe me, read W.V.O. Quine, Two Dogmas of Empiricism (1951). Quine was an atheist but he knew fallacious reasoning when he encountered it.

          I didn’t want to devote any more time to this conversation at all today; Matt. 7:6, you know. But then I thought it would be easy enough to clarify what rationality means and doesn’t mean. I’ll let others have the last word, though.

          • Duwayne Anderson says:

            Ad hominem means “to the person.” It’s a type of argumentative style where one stops talking about the subject matter, and tries to change the subject “to the person.” A good example would be your recent post where you ignored all the salient points I raised, and instead tried to change the subject to me, by telling me to watch my blood pressure.

            I will note another type of fallacious argumentative style that you are using — the strawman argument. You use that when you, for example, misrepresent as “Anderson insists that rationality requires a testable hypothesis.”

            Science certainly makes that requirement (there is no science without testable hypotheses). However, one may form purely abstract constructs (mathematics is a good example) where no statement about the “real world” is made, and no test of postulates is possible.

            What *is* irrational is a belief system that persists in contradiction to verifiable and objective evidence. This type of irrationality has been nicely displayed by the Mormons in this discussion, through their refusal to describe any verifiable and objective evidence that would be sufficient for them to denounce Mormonism. As “Decider” so nicely illustrated, the irrationality is so deep that he would rather conclude God was tweaking the evidence than change his mythological beliefs. Persistent belief in things contrary to VOE is practically the definition of irrationality.

            Finally, if you assert that “spiritual” stuff exists, it’s your job to prove it — not anyone’s job to disprove it. From your display in the discussion, “spiritual” seems indistinguishable from deluded. In fact, I would ask that question — how can we tell whether or not the “spiritual experiences” you are talking about are simply delusions?

  42. Decider says:

    “There isn’t ANY objective verifiable evidence” that would force a Mormon, any Mormon, to renounce his/her religion is somehow a new insight/revelation to you??? — seems like a no brainer to me.

    A religion that has a steadfast FAITH in Miracles and God’s power to manipulate observable Nature to His will would have NO problem conceiving ALL ‘objective scientific laws’ to be ephemeral and transitory.
    So, asking a Mormon HYPOTHETICALLY to consider IF God were NOT all powereful and objective/verifiable Scientific Method WERE all powerful, would they renounce their belief in Mormonism??? Hugh???

    Every Mormon Article of Faith begins with “We believe” — not one of them asserts anything about the Formal Scientific Method or that which is observable/verifiable.
    Sure it’s irrational — just like your FAITH in Science.
    It is begging the Question because the answer is contained within the question — making it hypothetical just makes it more absurd.

    • Erick says:

      Decider:

      The articles of faith were not declarations of “belief”, they were set of doctrinal statements. It is the Mormon Creed, if you will. Joseph Smith was not supposedly appealing to some tingling sensation for his authority. His claim was that he was a Prophet who had literally interacted with God(s) and angels in the flesh. Giving him the benefit of the doubt for a moment, there would be nothing irrational about that claim, were it true. Short of doubting his senses, he should have had perfect confidence that the Articles of Faith were facts.

      In other words, the rational defense for the Articles of Faith would not be anything empirical about the articles themselves, but that source of the articles was God/Jesus, who Joseph Smith occassionally communed with.

      The irrationality comes from the conflict in how concrete the revelatory experiences that underpin Mormonism were supposed to have been, compared to ambiguity in which they presently described.

      • Decider says:

        In spite of the fact that ALL THIRTEEN Articles of Faith begin with “We believe”, you would still like to argue that “they were not declarations of belief”. — not exactly an intuitive agument you have there is it?

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      Nicely said. You’ve made up your mind — and no VOE (either existing or hypothetical) can change it. I could hardly have asked for a better example of the fanatical irrationality at the heart of Mormonism.

      Thanks!

  43. Decider says:

    It seems you have a personal ax to grind with the Mormon Church — not everone who disagrees with you is an “example of the fanatical irrationality at the heart of Mormonism” OR your mortal enemy.
    I am NOT a Mormon nor even very much Religeously inclined.
    Socrates/Plato are heroes of mine, however.
    Read a few Socratic dialogues, I think you especially would appreciate them.

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      Decider wrote : “It seems you have a personal ax to grind ….”

      The ad hominem is poor form, Decider.

      The whole idea of being so committed to an idea that no amount of contrary VOE can change one’s opinion is, essentially, *the* definition of irrationality.

      • Decider says:

        I deduced that “you had a personal ax to grind with the Mormon Church” because for EVERY ONE of my posts on this thread you’ve read a bias and affinity for Mormonism that IS NOT THERE — I even pointed that out for you in my last post.
        In NOTHING I have written have I declared or indicated that I was LDS — it’s only your delusion.
        I have expressed sympathy with Spiritual VALUES, especially against the onslaught of Logical Positivism and the smugness of those who toe the line of modern Scientific Rationalism — once more, I AM NOT A MORMON.

        • Duwayne Anderson says:

          How do you know that the “spiritual experience” isn’t actually a mental delusion?

          Not that it really matters, but (since you are making such a big deal of it) how can you prove you are “not a Mormon?”

  44. Duwayne Anderson says:

    LMA said: “But to deal with the specific case, my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is built on a long and ongoing series of spiritual experience and spiritual investigation. It would defy summary, although I attempt it once in a while on the first Sunday of the month. I suppose that if I ever felt some overwhelming contrary spiritual impression, I would change my mind.”

    How do you know that your “spiritual experiences” are not simply delusions? There is a vast body of scientific literature on the subject. And (like all good science) it’s reproducible in the lab. Scientists can, by manipulating the brain (chemically, with electrodes, etc.) reproduce many of the so-called “spiritual experiences,” including the “white light” and sensation of floating above the floor and looking down on one’s body. They can induce various emotions, too, as well as optical illusions. In fact, the human brain and the human body are really, really, *really* easy to fool.

    Yet, your entire world view of “spiritual experiences” is built on the premise that it’s not possible that you’ve interpreted mental delusions as god’s truth!

    One of the reasons that science values *verifiable* and *objective* data is precisely because science recognizes how easy it is for the human mind to be fooled. What you’ve done with your “spiritual experiences” is to build your worldview on a known fallacy (absolute trust in one’s mind). That which science rejects as verifiably untrustworthy you have installed as the cornerstone of your “faith.”

    • Decider says:

      If the “human brain is really, really, really, easy to fool” then please explain how objectivity attains objectivity, and at what precise instant a human mind goes from “really, really, really easy to fool to being OBJECTIVE.
      Can objectivity be measured or scientifically determined, or perceived by instruments? What are the tell-tale indicators of objectivity that separate it from a “fooled” perspective?
      Please be thoroughly Scientific about the existance of objectivity and how it can exist independent from human percetion and its foibles — I want verifiable experimental data NOW.
      Or a concession that you are talking irrational gibberish.

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        Oh, that’s easy, “Decider.”

        “Objective” and “verifiable” mean that *other* people can see it *too.*

        Suppose you are walking down the street and you see someone apparently talking to themselves. Being inquisitive you stop and ask them who they’re talking to.

        They say, “I’m talking to the Easter Bunny. He’s standing right next to you.”

        You look left. You look right. You see no Easter Bunny. You are unable to “objectively” and “verifiably” confirm the man’s observations, and (I’ll bet even you would do it) you conclude that the Easter Bunny isn’t really standing on the street corner.

        But suppose the man says: “I’m talking on my Bluetooth headset.”

        You look at the man’s ear. You can see the Bluetooth headset in his ear. Being technologically savvy, you know all about Bluetooth. You know Bluetooth headsets are common, and that people use them all the time. It’s not surprising to see a guy with a Bluetooth headset. Just the same, you say “Can I talk to the person you are talking to?”

        The guy looks annoyed, but holds the Bluetooth headset up to your ear and you can talk to the other person. Just to make sure, you grab a passerby and ask them to listen. They hear the other person talking, too.

        That’s an example of verifiable and objective evidence, so you conclude that the second guy (the one talking on the Bluetooth headset) is sane – but the guy talking to the Easter Bunny (or Jehovah – same difference) is suffering from some sort of mental delusion.

        That’s how science works. When a researcher says they’ve discovered something, they publish it in a peer-reviewed journal. The reviewing process makes sure they have followed proper procedure and haven’t made any obvious experimental screw-ups. The paper also describes how other researchers can reproduce the experiment and get the same results. Science follows this sort of protocol because there’s recognition that verifiable and objective results are less prone to problems associated with cognitive malfunctions.

        Mathematically this is easy to understand. Let’s assign the variable P to the probability that cognitive malfunction adversely affects the outcome of an observation. The probability that it affects two people is P^2. The probability that it affects three people is P^3, and so on. Even if P is relatively large, once it’s been verifiably and objectively confirmed by a dozen or so people, the probability of the outcome having been caused by cognitive malfunction becomes very small.

        Of course, the probability of cognitive malfunction never goes away altogether – nothing is ever certain (except with religious wackos, like Mormons, who hold their faith in Mormonism as absolutely certain).

  45. Duwayne Anderson says:

    Decider wrote: “There isn’t ANY objective verifiable evidence” that would force a Mormon, any Mormon, to renounce his/her religion is somehow a new insight/revelation to you??? — seems like a no brainer to me.”

    I’m pretty sure I never said it was “new insight” to me. In fact, I’m pretty sure I said that I’ve posted the question to hundreds of Mormons, and the answer is always the same – no amount of verifiable and objective evidence (VOE) will ever cause them to denounce Mormonism.

    In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve said (more than once) that is my *point.”

    My other point is that such dogged devotion to ideology, and contempt for VOE, is the very definition of irrationality.

    Think about it — Would you consider them rational if they persistently believed that the Easter Bunny brings candy eggs on Easter, in spite of all evidence to the contrary – and to affirm that they would never change their mind about the Easter Bunny, not matter what VOE is ever presented to them?

    The very definition of rationality is the use of logic and reason when weighing evidence. The fact that Mormons will never change their minds, no matter what VOE exists (today, or in the future) is the very definition of irrational.

    The fact that they dress their irrational fanaticism in rags, and call it their “faith,” or their “religion” doesn’t make it any less irrational or any less absurd.

    • Decider says:

      You’ve posted the question, many, many, many times — the “THERE ISN’T ANY verifiable Objective evidence . . . part that you suggested as a possible answer was just before my post that described this answer to your own question as seeming to be a revelation or new insight — it sure was NEW !
      Inductive logic ‘weighs’ probabilities and evidence — Deductive logic DOES NOT.
      Could you give the Easter bunny analogy a rest?
      You are enamored with it because it seems so deliciously insulting and demeaning to your Mormon adversaries, but I think you use it as distraction from your inability to make sound responsive arguments — also, it makes you look bitter and insincere.

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        Yeah, I know I’ve posted the question many times, but it looks (from your answer) like you still haven’t read it. Since the main points of the question continue to elude, let’s look at it again. Recall that this is a question to all the Mormon apologists, and true-believing Mormons.

        Question: What verifiable and objective evidence, if it existed, would be sufficient for you to denounce Mormonism?

        Now, clearly, this question covers existing VOE. But it also is a question about VOE that doesn’t exist yet, but might exist in the future [Your comment "“THERE ISN’T ANY verifiable Objective evidence" is illustrative that you don't understand the basic logical structure of the question.]

        For example — If I were a *rational* Mormon, I might respond this way: “Well, if the gold plates were produced by the President of the Church, and a group of scientists examined the plates, and proclaimed the plates were 19th century fakes, with nothing to do with ancient America, I’d toss in the towel and repudiate the Mormon Church.”

        But Mormons don’t do that. Their response is either silence or outright admission that no VOE — nothing — will *ever* be sufficient for them to denounce Mormonism. In other words, their minds are made up, and verifiable and objective evidence is completely irrelevant to them. It’s literally a case of “made up my mind and refuse to be influenced by any facts.”

        If someone said they believe in the Easter Bunny, and that no VOE — nothing — would ever convince them otherwise, I doubt you’d have any trouble calling them irrational (or, would you?). Yet there’s no objective difference between belief in the Easter Bunny and belief in the Mormon Church — both belief systems are held by people who eschew VOE and rely instead on mental delusions (called “spiritual experiences”) that are held absolutely without question — even though mental delusions are well known and relatively common.

        Which, of course, proves my point — Mormons are irrational in their beliefs about their church.

  46. Erick says:

    Decider -

    Did you not read my comment, or are you just proof texting the Articles of Faith? I explained clearly why “we believe” in the context of the Articles of Faith, was allegedly based on something observable, ie, the First Vision.

    This is important point for the sake of the discussion. Mormon epistemology, as far as Joseph Smith is concerned, does not hinge upon ambiguous notions of “spiritual experience”. Everything from the First Vision, to the Gold Plates/Book of Mormon, to the Priesthood restoration, to the revelations, to modern Prophets, etc, is based upon a claim of literal revelations and visitations. These are debatable claims, but they are not ambiguous. Either the First Vision happened, or it didn’t. There is nothing ambiguous about it, until we deal with the difficulties of modern people trying to lay claim to those same kinds of experiences!

    • Decider says:

      Yes, I read your dismissive equivocation, attempting to explain why the Mormon “Articles of Faith” are NOT about Belief. And, why, ALLEGEDLY, the first two words introducing each article of Faith should be ignored or reinterpreted as something else.
      I responded appropriately the first time.

      • Decider says:

        Man talks with God, but, according to Eric, that is NOT a “Spiritual experience” — even in the presence of the Holy ‘Spirit’ ???
        If THAT is not a ‘Spiritual experience’ what else could be???
        All be it, Dewayne is waiting in the wings to drag in the Easter bunny once more . . . .

        • Duwayne Anderson says:

          How do you know man talks with god?

          If someone said they talked with the Easter Bunny you probably wouldn’t have any trouble saying they were mentally deluded. How do you know that the “spiritual experience” isn’t a mental delusion?

        • Duwayne Anderson says:

          Since my analogy of the Easter Bunny seems to bother you, would you mind telling me (objectively and verifiably, of course!) what is the difference between the Easter Bunny and your god? It’s not obvious to me that either of them exists exist anyplace other than human imagination. How might I test for the existence of your god, to see if he/it exists anywhere other than in your head? And how does the test preclude the possibility that any presumed “spiritual experience” isn’t simply the result of a cognitive defect or delusion?

          • Decider says:

            Logical Positivists/Scientific Rationalists are uniformly mute about the existence of God, that is why the agnostic philosophy is so popular amongst Empiricists.
            Of course, if a Scientist took the position that he/she KNEW that God DIDN’T exist, he would have to Scientifically account for his “knowledge” according to his chosen discipline — don’t you think that proving God DOESN’T exist is just as futile as trying to prove God DOES exist???
            Sooooo, your last post seems to indicate that you have adopted an Atheistic position — if that is true, how do you KNOW God does not exist? If you are a theist, how do you KNOW God does exist? — I don’t think you are Agnostic.
            You use the term, “your god” when you recklessly conjecture about my personal beliefs — I don’t understand –am I supposed to be insulted? — is there a better purpose for doing so?

        • Erick says:

          Decider:

          Up until now in the conversation, the phrase “spiritual experience” has been a place holder for “undefined” (that’s a key word) religious experiences that religious people use to justify their belief’s. The Joseph Smith First Vision experience was, by comparison, a well defined religious experience. I make this distinction because you claimed that the Articles of Faith were not based on some kind of observable evidence, and I am arguing that you are absolutely wrong on that point. A distinction in Mormonism was that Joseph Smith actually attempting to provide tangibles to his claims. The Book of Mormon is a tangible, and the First Vision was a tangible. Now granted, we can’t “test” the First Vision, but the nature of the claim ups the ante so that the issue is simply a matter of credibility rather than interpretation. So, you can strain all you want over the wording of the Articles of Faith, but it is a fact that Joseph Smith justified himself by making direct and unambiguous claims to justify his authority.

          If you don’t understand this then I am afraid the conversation can’t continue.

          • Duwayne Anderson says:

            We can apply a test of sorts to the “First Vision,” namely the fact that Smith gave multiple versions of it. One of the classic telltale signs of a con man selling a lie is that they often have a tough time keeping their story straight, and end up telling different (often contradictory) versions. That’s exactly what we find in the telling of the “First Vision.” In fact, the sanitized version promoted by the LDS Church is largely a thinly veiled fabrication – having very little to do (especially in the particulars) to the earliest telling of the story by Smith.

            We can also test the Book of Mormon against internal claims. The Book of Mormon claims to be a history written by ancient Americans. Yet, in every non-trivial way, the people, their origins, languages, cultivated crops, domesticated animals, and technologies in the Book of Mormon are unlike any known ancient American civilization. This, in spite of the fact that the Book of Mormon itself says there were no other nations present when the originals arrived from Jerusalem, and in spite of the fact that the Mormon god (in the D&C) specifically calls the Native Americans “Lamanites” (one of the groups in the Book of Mormon). Even more telling, no scientifically authenticated ancient American text has any of the same proper names of prominent people and cities described in the Book of Mormon.

            As if that were not enough, textual analysis of the Book of Mormon clearly shows that it was written by at least some of the people associated with its publication, and statistical analysis of the month dates in the Book of Mormon are highly biased – showing that it’s very unlikely to represent a real history at all.

            Given the extent of evidence against the Book of Mormon, and the multiple versions of the “First Vision,” why shouldn’t rational people simply conclude that Smith’s “spiritual experiences” were nothing more than mental delusions?

          • Decider says:

            About the Mormon Articles of Faith:
            I make no claims one way or another, other than to point out that EACH one of the thirteen begins with the qualifier WE BELIEVE. So I take that at face value, consider that they ARE entitled ‘Articles of Faith’, acknowledge to myself that Faith followed by Thirteen prefaces of ‘We Believe’ must mean SOMETHING pretty serious about what Mormons believe and have Faith in, and then read further that the Mormons have elevated these statements to scriptual status about what they believe.
            So, therfore, I conclude that the Mormon Articles of Faith are thirteen statements about what they believe.
            Eric comes along and says the Articles of Faith are about “observable evidence” and not belief — I am dumbfounded by this convoluted interpretation.
            Considering that Erik has chosen to reiterate his previous arguments and COMPLETELY IGNORE my rebuttals I think the CONVERSATION cannot continue because, really, it never began.

  47. Decider says:

    My God Duwayne, I have written over and over that the Mormons are irrational about the Church !
    My point, MY POINT, MY POINT!!! is that YOU, YOU, YOU ARE EQUALLY IRRATIONAL ABOUT YOUR BELIEF AND FAITH IN SCIENCE !!!
    The WHOLE blessed thing is . . . wait for it . . . HUUUMAAANNN PERCEEEEPTION, includung SCIENCE AND THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD, also including the idea that it is NOT human perception.
    I am not a solipsist, but . . . it would be better if you were.

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      Irrational belief isn’t subject to modification, no matter what verifiable and objective evidence is presented.

      Since my belief in science *is* subject to modification, based on verifiable and objective evidence, it’s hardly irrational.

      On the other hand, your belief in god appears to be completely intractable and un-modifiable by any verifiable and objective evidence – and thus as irrational as Mormons. For example, I’ve asked you how you know that your “spiritual experiences” are “real” and not simply mental delusions — a question you have resolutely ignored. Since many mental delusions are well known to science, and can be replicated and studied objectively, it seems a better “bet” to assume you are nuts, than to think you actually communicate with a super being called “god.”

      As to the point of human perception — it appears (once again) that you failed to read one of my posts, to you, dealing with the subject specifically. Science addresses the problem of human perception by requiring evidence to be objectively and independently verifiable by different observers; the premise being that problems with human perception are less likely to contaminate results if there are lots of independent observes that agree on the evidence. Your superstitious beliefs and “spiritual experiences,” on the other hand, are nothing but your personal “human perception.” There is no way to independently verify your “spiritual experiences” – accepting them requires 100% confidence in *your* human perception.

      Pardon me, but you don’t seem rational enough to warrant 100% of my confidence in your ability to tell the difference between a god that exists in the real world, and a mental delusion that exists only in your head. The problem of “human perception” and the fallible human mind is exactly why rational people don’t put much value/credibility on the “spiritual experiences” of superstitious people.

      • Decider says:

        If the human brain is “really, really, really easy to fool” then please explain how OBJECTIVITY is attained? At what precise instant does a human perception go from “really, really, really easy to fool” to being an OBJECTIVE perception?
        Can OBJECTIVITY be measured OBJECTIVELY?
        Can OBJECTIVITY be determined or perceived or measured by instruments?
        What are the tell-tale indicators of OBJECTIVITY that separate it from a “fooled” perspective?
        Please be thoroughly Scientific about the existance of OBJECTIVITY and how it can exist outside and independent of human perception and its well-known foibles.
        In your answers to these questions be sure to provide only verifiable Scientific data from reputable Scientfic sources. I will regard anything else as you merely baring your testimony again about the reliability of OBJECTIVITY.
        Remember ACTUAL VERIFIABLE, SCIENTIFIC DATA that confirms OBJECTIVITY apart from “really, really, really easy to fool — or a concession that you are talking irrational nonsense !

        • Duwayne Anderson says:

          I already replied to that question — the answer is, they use the scientific method in which we verify observations by making sure that other people can see them.

          The mantra “verifiable and objective” is used specifically to reduce the possibility that beliefs are based on the products of a mental delusion.

          And speaking of mental delusions — you seem to place a lot of stock on “spiritual experiences.” But how do you know those “spiritual experiences” are not simply mental delusions?

      • Decider says:

        “Irrational belief isn’t subject to modification???
        Duwayne, are you baring your testimony again? I guess old habits die hard.
        Weren’t you just protesting and mocking all the irrational MODIFICATIONS that the Mormon Church has made about Joseph Smith and his misadventures?
        But, YOUR BELIEF in SCIENCE, all be it, just as irrational as the Mormon’s belief in Joseph Smith, is of a “rational” dispensation and can be modified at any time as YOU see fit, entierly on your OWN say so — pardon me, I need to sneeze . . . . . . . . . . . . . .BLUUUUUESHEEEET.
        There now, I feel much better.

        • Duwayne Anderson says:

          Yep — when a person is irrational, they are incapable of changing their mind, no matter how much verifiable/objective evidence is presented to them, they persist in their beliefs.

          By the way, I’m still hoping you will try and explain how you know that “spiritual experiences” are not delusions.

          • Decider says:

            My spritual experiences are personal and experienced by me ALONE.
            How could ANYONE else properly judge another’s Spiritual experiences and denigratie those experiences as being delusional?
            Duwayne, it is possible that you have a spiritual confirmation that you have NO spiritual experiences. Now, I do not judge you as being delusional, I take it as a verbalization of your personal spiritual state that I have absolutely no way to understand, appreciate or confirm — Some might be frustrated that your Spiritul experiences aren’t like theirs, but that is a kind of Spiritual bigotry in which I won’t participate.
            Sooooo, I do not know or care if YOUR Spiritual experiences are delusions and, if I thought my own experienes were delusional, I guess I would opt to have other Spiritual experiences that I felt weren’t delusional. I know that is tautological, but that’s the IRRATIONAL nature of Spiritual experiences — mine anyway.

  48. Erick Kuhni says:

    Best of luck Decider. I’ve stated facts and why those facts refute your understanding of what was meant by “we believe”. What more can be said?

  49. Duwayne Anderson says:

    Decider wrote: “About the Mormon Articles of Faith:
    I make no claims one way or another, other than to point out that EACH one of the thirteen begins with the qualifier WE BELIEVE.”

    Yeah. Question is, though, is that belief rational or not.

    In the case of Mormonism we’ve seen that Mormons are unwilling to change their beliefs no matter what verifiable and objective evidence exists to the contrary — the virtual definition of irrationality.

    • Decider says:

      Only in YOUR head — All statements of BELIEF are IRRATIONAL. Including statements of BELIEF in Science.

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        If all statements of belief are irrational, then your last post (which explains your belief about beliefs) must be irrational!

        Well, on that point, at least, we can agree.

        By the way … are you ever going to explain how you know that your “spiritual experiences” are not mental delusions? Without that certainty, how can you place so much credibility on them?

  50. Duwayne Anderson says:

    Decider wrote: “Logical Positivists/Scientific Rationalists are uniformly mute about the existence of God,”

    You wish. I have a question for you — how about defining what you mean by “God.” I’ve yet to find two people who say they belief in God who even agree what “God” means.

    Logical Positivists/Scientific Rationalists find the whole idea of affirmative belief in an un-defined entity an absurdity.

    • Decider says:

      You don’t think the majority of Scientists are Agnostics? Please explain why !
      Do you think they are theists? atheists? mongrels? What?
      What, and of course why?
      Now, don’t crank up all that pontificating testimonial stuff about what YOU BELIEVE and your Easter bunny analogy fetish — I would like you to persuade me that Scientists are NOT Agnostics but something else. OK?

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        I notice that you completely ignored my question. I’m not surprised at all. I hardly ever find a theist who can define the god they say they believe in.

        At least someone who believes in Easter Bunny can explain what they believe in — in that respect, those who believe in the Easter Bunny are less irrational than the theist who is sure they believe in god, but can’t explain what god is.

        • Decider says:

          How many people above the age of three do you KNOW believe in the Easter bunny and can explain why???
          Perhaps some new friends and associates might help dispel this strange fetish — better to work on one fantasy at a time Duwayne.
          Does this Easter bunny have a name? It’s not Jimmy Stewart is it?

          • Decider says:

            Harvey?

          • Duwayne Anderson says:

            What’s the difference between your god and the Easter Bunny? Can you explain the differences?

            And why won’t you explain how you know that your “spiritual experiences” are not mental delusions?

    • Decider says:

      OK. I WISH Duwayne would come up with a rebuttal to my argument about Scientists being Agnostics — didn’t work this time either?

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        It’s a strawman argument (I never made a claim one way or the other).

        Okay. Seriously. Stop with the fallacious arguments. You’ve been explaining all about the wonderful knowledge that these “spiritual experiences” give you — but how do you know your “spiritual experiences” are not mental delusions?

  51. Duwayne Anderson says:

    Decider wrote: “…how do you KNOW God does not exist?”

    How are you using the word “know?” In the absolute manner used by superstitious people? Or in the conditional manner used by rational people?

    I “know” god doesn’t exist in the same way I “know the Easter Bunny” doesn’t exist. If I said I “know” that the Easter Bunny doesn’t exist, you wouldn’t get all twitterpaited, would you? Then you shouldn’t get anymore twitterpaited when I say I “know” that god doesn’t exist; both conclusions are based on the same rational evaluation of evidence and the same type of conditional conclusion.

    If you believe in god (and apparently you do) then as the person making the affirmative statement it’s *your* job to prove it – just as anyone who wants me to believe in the Easter Bunny needs to prove the existence of the Easter Bunny.

    You can start by defining god – what is it? What are its defining characteristics? How might one reliably test for the existence of this god?

    Baring that – if all you’ve got is a tingling in your tummy and a “spiritual experience” then why should any sane person think that you really “know” god, and are not simply delusional?

  52. Decider says:

    I am using the word KNOW in the Inductive Empirical Scientific sense.
    It is extraordinarily difficult for Science to KNOW that something exists, and THAT knowledge is only a probability assurance. The mountains of experimental evidence accounting for ALL the variables to validate the smallest principle of knowledge is excruciatingly difficult and time consuming — Scientific knowledge accumulates like a glacier moves, not as an avalanche.
    Denied experimental data and verifiable experience about God, Science has not issued forth with ANY knowledge about God. Therefore the agnosticism.
    Now, Duwayne’s idea that Science would make claims, generalizations hypothesises in determining something DOESN’T EXIST, betrays a profound ignorance of Scientific KNOWLEDGE and the Scientific Method.
    It seems Duwayne is more interested in imagining a Scientific ‘attack dog’ that he can manipulate to assault the Legions of Mormons he halucinates arrayed against him.

    • Decider says:

      Whether I BELIEVE in GOD, or DO NOT BELIEVE in GOD, I feel no compulsion what-so-ever in “proving” it — which is impossible to do rationally/Scientifically anyway.
      I don’t know what “Spritual proof” would be — Duwayne thinks irrational, personal assurance testimonials about the veracity of Science are credible — nope — no warm fuzzies here!

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        I’m not surprised you cannot prove your bellicose claims about the existence of your god. However, that’s not exactly what I asked you to do. I asked how you know that your “spiritual experiences” are not mental delusions.

        I’m also not surprised that you can’t answer that question, either.

        • Decider says:

          I can’t prove ANY, because I’ve not made ANY — bellicose or humble !

          • Duwayne Anderson says:

            It seems bellicose to assert the truth of a “spiritual experience” if you can’t even explain how you know your “spiritual experience” isn’t a mental delusion.

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      If someone asked you if you believe the Easter Bunny exists, how would you answer them?

      If they asked if you believe god exists, how would you answer them?

      If the answers to both questions are not the same, then why not? What is the difference between the Easter Bunny and your god?

      And how do you know your “spiritual experiences” are not mental delusions? Why is that question so impossible for you to answer? Remember — you are the one making such a big deal out of “spiritual experiences.” Since you have made “spiritual experiences” such a central theme of your belief system, how do you know they are reliable, and not simply a mental delusion?

  53. Duwayne Anderson says:

    Decider wrote: “My spritual experiences are personal and experienced by me ALONE.”

    That’s the point, Decider. They’re all in your head. They can’t be verified.

    Decider wrote: “How could ANYONE else properly judge another’s Spiritual experiences and denigratie those experiences as being delusional?”

    Don’t play the victim, Decider. I asked *you* how *you* know your “spiritual experiences” are not delusions. I notice that you cannot answer the question, either.

    • Decider says:

      Duwayne — and where do you think your BELIEF in Science is located — your big toe?

      Name one human perception that “doesn’t begin in your head”.

      Of course, you have to BELIEVE that Science is Objective or you would be faced with proving that Scientific Objectivety is Objective — which is a ‘bootstrap Operation’. (lifting yourself up by your own bootstraps — a more colorful designation than just declaring it tautalogical nonsense)

      “Delusion” or “delusional is Post Hoc, after the fact terminology affixed to DENIGRATE personal perceptions that seem disimilar to one’s own ! See Religious bigotry

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        The verifiable and objective perceptions that form the basis of science can/do occur in many different minds — that’s why they’re called “verifiable and objective” — everyone can see them.

        Now, are you *ever* going to explain how you know that your “spiritual experiences” are not mental delusions?

        • Decider says:

          Hmmmm?
          Now Dywayne would like to bare his TESTIMONY that “objective perceptions that form the basis of Science can/do occur in many different minds”.
          Duwayne, you see, is a Spiritual mentalist who CLAIMS to be able to read another’s mind to determine whether his/her “delusions” are as verifiable and objective as his own.
          By what SCIENTIFIC procedure must we procede to VERIFY these phenomenon? — the Vulcan “mind meld”?, “the laying on of hands”? “speaking with Salamanders” ?channeling Einstein???
          Duwayne, you have all the makings for a new Religion, combining pop Science and embittered Mormonism; testified to and revealed only by yourself.

          • Duwayne Anderson says:

            Decider, the ad hominem is bad form.

            Now, seriously, as a “spiritualist” my question to you is very simple: How do you know that your “spiritual experiences” are not mental delusions?

  54. Erick says:

    The notion of “mental delusions” is a bit too tenuous, as any experience could be a delusion. I prefer to think of it more in terms of ambiguity, though admittedly that’s still quite subjective. Still, I think it can be a bit more managable, and prevents us from getting stuck in a philosophical loop about existentialism and conciousness.

    For example – The First Vision could have been a mental delusion, a real event, a fabricated story, or some amalgam of all three. If we doubt Joseph Smith’s senses, then we must likewise question our own, and hence the loop.

    For practical purposes we only need to know if it is likely that the event really happened or didn’t, and this does not require us to explain what motives Joseph Smith actually had. He offered a cogent story, with great detail, that relies upon a conventional dependence on his sensory experience. He claims that he saw God and Jesus, they stood before them, and he conversed with them. Compare this with “feeling the spirit”. In very vague language, modern spiritual experiences are described in far less precise detail. “I felt a prompting to go down this street”. Religious or non-religious, all of us are familiar with “intuition”, which is a process we rarely question, that aides us quick decision making. Often what is described as “spiritual experience” seems to resemble “intuition”, where we are simply asserting the source to a divine externality. When this idea is challenged, we are pushed back with assertions about individual “experience”, that are largely unsatisfying. Logically it is safe territory, because indeed, I can’t know what exactly another person is experiencing…I can only assume that the way we experience sensations, is similar or different. In other words, the way in which contemporary religious experiences seem to be described, is to intentionally rob the skeptic of concensus measurement. “I saw an angel” places a greater strain on persons credibility, whereas “I felt the spirit” isolates spiritual claims from a rigorous critique from others. In other words, there is far more concensus on what two people who share a similar experience, “see”, and can effectively communicate through description, than what those same two people might “feel” from that same experience.

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      Eric, I agree with a lot of what you said, but have some subtle disagreements (I think) and some additional elaborative thoughts.

      Eric wrote: If we doubt Joseph Smith’s senses, then we must likewise question our own, and hence the loop.”

      If I were to see a cat walk by, and say “Hi, Duwayne” I’d certainly doubt my senses. And if there were other people standing nearby, I’d say “hey, did you guys just hear that cat talk?” And if they looked at me like I was nuts, I’d be pretty sure I’d just had a delusion. Frankly, I’d be very suspicious of anyone who couldn’t doubt their own senses.

      Eric wrote: “He [Smith] claims that he saw God and Jesus.”

      Not quite. While it’s true that’s the story that the Mormon Church tells today, Joseph Smith told different, contradictory, versions of the “first vision.” God and Jesus didn’t show up in the story until it had evolved over quite a few years.

      As for the question I’ve been asking — I don’t think it makes any claims about spiritual experiences actually being mental delusions. In fact, I think the question is completely unbiased. The superstitious person asserts that they have special knowledge via something they assert is a “spiritual experience.” It’s completely reasonable to ask them (since they bring it up and assert that it’s valid) how they know that their “spiritual experience” isn’t just a mental delusion (or any other type of brain malfunction).

      Notice that I haven’t even gotten to the point of having them explain to *me* how *I* can know whether or not they are delusional (that would be a different discussion all together).

      Eric wrote: “In other words, there is far more concensus on what two people who share a similar experience, “see”, and can effectively communicate through description, than what those same two people might “feel” from that same experience.”

      But consensus doesn’t mean non-delusional. If you take 100 people and put them in a sweat lodge and pump in some peyote smoke they will probably all have a “spiritual experience.” They may even have consensus regarding the essential nature of the experience. But the experience is still based on mental delusion.

      Without a cogent explanation of how *they* know *they* are not delusional, it seems the entire foundation of “spiritual experience” is based on the premise of the infallible mind. And I find that ironic. After all, superstitious/religious people love to tell rational people not to “trust on the arm of man” (or similar wording to the same silly idea). Yet their entire premise – the incorruptible “spiritual experience” – is based on the presumption that *their* minds are infallible.

      Talk about creating god in one’s own image!

      • Erick says:

        “If I were to see a cat walk by, and say “Hi, Duwayne” I’d certainly doubt my senses. And if there were other people standing nearby, I’d say “hey, did you guys just hear that cat talk?” And if they looked at me like I was nuts, I’d be pretty sure I’d just had a delusion. Frankly, I’d be very suspicious of anyone who couldn’t doubt their own senses.”

        Yes it’s good to cross check our experience with others to avoid sense error, but grant the hypothetical for a moment. If Joseph Smith truly had the experience described in his 1838 account (I recognize that there are other conflicting accounts, but I can only tackle one issue at a time, and right now I’m talking about sensory experience and how that relates to mental delusions or spiritual experiences), then given previous experiences with his senses, he would be left to assess the validity of his experience, solely based on his faith in his senses. I recognize that this isn’t an absolute measure of discernment, but frankly it’s good enough for government work, and it’s how most of us actually operate. Besides, find a workable rigorous test that could be applied in such a situation.

        My point however, was not about mental delusions, but the dichotomy in how spiritual experiences are described. If someone claims to have had a visual or direct auditory experience, I place greater weight on those claims which holds stronger implications for how I measure that persons credibility.

        Using your talking talking cat example: The cat walks by and say’s hello, and you insist that the experience happened. I say, “okay, tell me then, what did the cat say”. You respond, “he briefly said hello, it was ever so faint, yet, he seemed say hello”. At this point I question your assessment of things. Perhaps you are deluded? Perhaps your just, well, stupid. In other words, I am doubtful of your experience, I may even think your deluded, but I don’t question your integrity…just perhaps your sanity and/or critical thinking skills. Now, some time passes and others claim to hear the cat too, and so I conclude that perhaps the cat has a unique defect that causes it to pronounce a sound similar to “hello”. In this case I become more sympathetic to the misunderstanding, while still holding some reservations about your ability to solve problems and think critically. Perhaps, no defect is discovered, and yet others hear the same thing. I accept that a sound is being made, and still hold questions about meaning. In other words, should I conclude that the cat is trying to carry on a conversation, etc. I am skeptical about the idea that the cat is communicating complex thoughts, but can’t actually invalidate that idea completely.

        Now, consider another example. This time when I ask the question, “what did the cat say”, the person responds “well, he said, “Good afternoon. Do you happen to have the time? It appears that I am running late for a grooming appointment. I spent a little too much time on the internet following an engaging discussion about spiritual experience, the scientific method, and epistemology.”" Now what do I conclude? The likelihood that there was a unique vocal defect seems unlikely as an explanation. At this point, the most likely conclusions are that the person is deluded, full of crap, or literally “first man on the moon” with regards to human and animal communication. If the person is deluded I expect more indications of delusion and strange behavior. If I don’t find that, then I become highly skeptical. If I look for corroborating evidence and find none, I begin to question their integrity. I might look for things in their background to support this. I don’t know, did they ever run a for-profit treasure seeking enterprise through crystal-gazing? You know, thing’s of that nature. On the other hand, what if other’s begin telling the same experience? Who are they, what do they have to gain? Can I have this same experience?

        Let’s put a final point on it. Let’s pretend that 180 years later, many people are claiming that veil between animal and human communication has been lifted, and that all people can communicate with animals. This is news to me, and so I want to learn more. A couple of these enthusiasts tell me this interesting and powerfully emotive conservation about “first-dialogue”, of course referring to the story in the previous paragraph. They then tell me that we can all communicate with cat’s. Wow! So I say, to these ambassadors, “have you ever spoken to a cat”? “Why of course” they respond. So I ask the same question, “well what did your cat say to you”? This time however, they stumble a little when trying to describe the experience, and then come back with “well, it’s so much what they said, but how they said it”. Well that seem’s a bit confusing, so I ask them to elaborate. “Well, you see, getting the cat to talk back is actually a rare experience, reserved for those very special moments”. “Well, how do you know then that your cat’s can talk”? They respond, “well, you see we talk to them, and then look into their eye’s to see if they understand. When I say thing’s to my cat, I just look into his eyes, and you know…I can really tell that he know’s exactly what I’m saying”. Oh.

        Sorry for belaboring an analogy, but yes, we can question sanity…but that’s not really the point. If the person who talks to cat’s really believes they are talking to cats, even if they are deluded, then they are working with the best they have, and rhetorical arguments aren’t going to fix that problem. On the other hand, if those people want to convince others, then we have to determine what kind of evidence will satisfy us. This becomes particularly taxing when arguments are designed in such a way as to remove every possible test, so that faith is the only means for “knowing” the truth. I personally find this very convenient. I can’t invalidate the argument that a cat understands what is being said to it. But, I’m not particularly compelled by that assertion either. Ultimately, this is how spiritual experiences come across to me. Yes, there is some level of irrational bias…but where I bristle against that acknowledgement is in the idea that all irrationalities are equal.

        • Duwayne Anderson says:

          Eric wrote: “If someone claims to have had a visual or direct auditory experience, I place greater weight on those claims which holds stronger implications for how I measure that persons credibility.”

          What does that mean? Does it mean that, if you have a digital recorder in the room, and it’s recording sounds, and the person says they hear god talking, but the recorder doesn’t record any conversations, that you assume the recorder is broken? How far would you take that? Suppose there were two recorders, and neither of them recorded any conversations. Would you assume they were *both* broken?

          Eric wrote: “but I don’t question your integrity…”

          My question to the spiritualists has nothing to do with their “integrity.” You should stop trying to read between the lines, and just take the question at face value. The question is really, really simple. My question to the spiritualist is this: “How do you know that your “spiritual experiences” are not the result of mental delusions (defects)?”

          Eric wrote: “Sorry for belaboring an analogy, but yes, we can question sanity…but that’s not really the point.”

          You’re right, Eric. That’s *not* the point. My question isn’t about questioning the sanity of the spiritualist, but whether the spiritualist can question their *own* minds – whether or not they ever entertain the possibility that their mind is malfunctioning.

          See the difference?

          For what it’s worth, I *do* question their sanity. But that is *not* what the question is about. And based on the aversion tactics and refusal to address the question at all, it appears that “spiritualists” are *not* willing to question the veracity of their own minds. They are unwilling to consider the possibility that their minds are malfunctioning during these “spiritual experiences.” In other words, they believe their minds are infallible.

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      Eric wrote: “The notion of “mental delusions” is a bit too tenuous, as any experience could be a delusion.”

      True. Any experience could be delusional. That’s why it’s so important to have “verifiable and objective” data. Verifiable and objective data is that which is viewable/confirmable by other people.

      The probability that one person screws up their experiment, or has a delusion, is vastly larger than the probability that many people have the same delusion, on different continents, on different days, etc. The whole *point* of science is to minimize the possibility of individual mistakes and “delusions” getting injected into the body of scientific knowledge. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, or doesn’t happen — only that we recognize the potential problem and try to avoid it.

      The wacked out crazy superstitious people, on the other hand, setup their institutions to encourage the problem. A good example is “fast and testimony” meeting where Mormons gather to share, distribute, and reinforce their mental delusions, anecdotal stories, or outright fabrications (as in the case of Paul Dunn).

  55. Decider says:

    It is interesting, that in the old Soviet Union, any talk or discussion AGAINST the State was regarded by State Authorities as symptoms of DELUSION or part of the morphology of INSANITY.
    There should be no surprise that different CULTURES, world-wide, hold each other DELUSIONAL — Science is held “delusional” by those who practice Zen, or Tao. or Oriental mysticism — possibly MORE people worldwide have such affinities over those persuaded by Science.

    • Decider says:

      Scratch “persuaded” add “deluded”.

      • Erick says:

        Yes, which is why I’m not inclined to think that accusations of delusion are helpful in argument. The claim of “delusion” takes many forms as well. We accept that the human mind can be fooled, but how to convince a deluded mind that it is…well, deluded, is another matter.

        Recently Elder Uchtdorf spoke to a group young adults, and perpetuated a religious notion about delusion that is even more problematic. That is, Satan goes about purposefully deluding/decieving/confusing (insert any similar adjective here) those who have concerns about Church history. I just don’t see this as a helpful way to persuade.

        • Duwayne Anderson says:

          Erick, perhaps you and the “Decider” should go back and read my question again.

          My question to spiritualists is, how do *you* know that *your* “spiritual experiences” are not mental delusions.

          Notice that the question is neutral. I’m not asserting that their experiences *are* mental delusions, I’m simply asking the spiritualists know that their “spiritual experiences” are not the result of some mental defect.

          The fact that the spiritualists can’t answer the question — indeed, refuse to even *try* to answer the question — is very revealing. It would appear that spiritualism is based on the premise of the infallible mind; that the spiritualist considers their mind unsusceptible to any sort of mental delusion or malfunction. However, since mental delusions are known and mental malfunctions reproducible in the laboratory, it seems that spiritualism is clearly based on a false premise.

          • Erick says:

            DuWayne:

            I understand your question, but allow me to play devils advocate for a moment. Were I in Deciders position, the honest would have to be…I don’t. Why? Well in your analogy about the cat you argue from a point of concensus. In other words, if I solicit the opinions of others, then the probability error factor is reduced by a mulitple of the individual error factor of each “peer”, times the number of actual “peers”. I get that, and agree that this is the logic of the scientific method. Here is the big but…the peer review process was not designed to be a check against mental delusions or defects. It was intended to be a check on scholarly rigor, methodology, and implications of scientific research. The reason being is that inherently, the arguments of mental delusions will always lead to an infinite regress of uncertainty. If for example, I seek concensus on an opinion and get it, is it possible that I am so deluded that I am only imagining that concensus on an opinion was reached. In the peer review process we assume that sane people are coming together and that our sense experience is reasonably indicative of our surroundings social experiences, hence the religious advocates insistence that science depends on “faith”.

            Additionally, it is hard to argue that someone is “deluded” about their experiences, when those experiences have, as of yet in this conversation, not been defined!!! That is the greatest argument here. It makes no assumptions about the experience, but is the justification for skepticism. The skepticism is irrational, ie, non-rigorous, but that is simply because the subject matter prohibits rational inquiry. The claim that “spiritual experiences” confirm certain religious world-views, without precise explaination on what a “spiritual experience” is, and how it follows that such a thing can “confirm” anything, is more irrational because it is asserting things as fact. This argument has a burden of proof. Skepticism about this claim is likewise irrational, but it is less irrational because it is an excercise of prudence that refuses to embrace these world-views until evidence can be furnhished. Particularly when it seems to contradict observable reality, and provides no rational mechanism for reducing uncertainty, but rather seems to run from such an approach.

    • Duwayne Anderson says:

      Propagandists misuse words all the time, and add pejoratives to personal dislikes with abandon. In addition to your example of the soviets we might also add Mormonism and BYU, where the party leaders in the LDS Church supported shock therapy in order to cure the “mental illness” of homosexuality.

      While such examples of propaganda and ideology are interesting, they are completely irrelevant to the question that I’m asking of the spiritualists. My question to them is, how do *you* know that *your* “spiritual experiences” are not mental delusions.

      Notice that the question is neutral. I’m not asserting that their experiences *are* mental delusions, I’m simply asking the spiritualists know that their “spiritual experiences” are not the result of some mental defect.

      The fact that the spiritualists can’t answer the question — indeed, refuse to even *try* to answer the question — is very revealing. It would appear that spiritualism is based on the premise of the infallible mind; that the spiritualist considers their mind unsusceptible to any sort of mental delusion or malfunction. However, since mental delusions are known and mental malfunctions reproducible in the laboratory, it seems that spiritualism is clearly based on a false premise.

  56. Duwayne Anderson says:

    Decider wrote: “if I thought my own experienes were delusional, I guess I would opt to have other Spiritual experiences that I felt weren’t delusional.”

    Your “spiritual experiences” are self-created? You pick and choose among a smorgasbord of “spiritual experiences?” When you think that one of your “spiritual experiences” might be a delusion, what cognitive process do you use to arrive at that conclusion?

    If your “spiritual experiences” are self-fabricated, how is that any different than just telling yourself stories, and how can telling yourself stories be a viable alternative to the scientific method?

    • Decider says:

      Some “Spiritual experiences”, might, over time, to those who experience such things, prove to be, inadequate, unuseful, illegitimate “delusional” (realizing I am conjecturing and not presenting a testimonial). I am aware of no conclusive Scientific evidence that Spiritual experiences are NOT volitional and thereby changeable or deniable.
      As an example, I could present Duwayne’s self professed “spiritual experiences WITHIN the Mormon Church that he has now recanted and holds to be Scientifically “Delusional”. I would like to ask if he CHOSE to do such a thing or was he ACTED UPON — his Spirituality being overcome by some outside force — God, Satan, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud?
      In this case study, anyway, all the choices seem SELF inflicted , , , ,

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        Decider wrote: “Some “Spiritual experiences”, might, over time, to those who experience such things, prove to be, inadequate, unuseful, illegitimate “delusional”

        Okay … but you are still dodging my question. How do you know (prove) whether or not your “spiritual experiences” are delusional, or illegitimate, or not?

        Decider wrote: “I would like to ask if he CHOSE to do such a thing or was he ACTED UPON — his Spirituality being overcome by some outside force — God, Satan, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud?”

        I think I choose to stop being superstitious. What sort of verifiable and objective evidence would be sufficient for you to make the same decision?

        • Decider says:

          So you WERE superstitious? — why did you stop? How do you know that you didn’t substitute one superstition for another?
          This stopping, was it YOUR choice or did someone advise or force you to stop being superstitious?

          • Duwayne Anderson says:

            I don’t “know” anything with a perfect knowledge. I’m perfectly willing to entertain any argument you might have regarding the supremacy of “spiritual experiences” over science. Just be ready to make your arguments verifiable.

            Okay. I’ve answered all your questions. I have nothing to fear. You, on the other hand, have continually ignored and dodged my question: How do you know that your “spiritual experiences” are not mental delusions?

  57. Duwayne Anderson says:

    Eric wrote: “Were I in Deciders position, the honest would have to be…I don’t.”

    I’m not sure that Decider would answer that way. He certainly *hasn’t* answered that way. Isn’t it just as possible that he thinks it’s not possible that his “spiritual experiences” could be delusions?

    Eric wrote: “the peer review process was not designed to be a check against mental delusions or defects.”

    I didn’t say the “peer review” process was designed for that purpose. The peer review process is just there to make sure that stupid mistakes are not made, and proper protocol is followed.

    The *scientific* process, however, does serve as a check against mental defects. The reason, obviously, is that the scientific process requires evidence to be objective and verifiable (i.e., observable by more than just the person reporting the claim). And recall, this whole pissing match about “spiritual experience” started when I asked Mormons to explain what “verifiable and objective evidence, if it existed, would be sufficient for you to denounce Mormonism.” In response to that eminently reasonable and rational question, I was informed that “spiritual experiences” trump VOE, thus, *no* VOE is ever enough to cause them to change their wacked out crazy religious opinions.

    Eric wrote: “Additionally, it is hard to argue that someone is “deluded” about their experiences, when those experiences have, as of yet in this conversation, not been defined!!!”

    C’mong, Eric. That’s a strawman. My question doesn’t presume that the person is “deluded,” it asks them how *they* know *their* “spiritual experiences” are not delusional.

    I just love watching people tie themselves in knots over such simple, pragmatic, and relevant questions. There’s really nothing like a simple, succinct, pointed question to shine line on the absurd.

    • Decider says:

      “I just love watchng people tie themseves in knots.”
      Duwayne
      I am having fun too !
      Just don’t let all that joy turn into some kind of “Spiritual Experience” for you — that would blow the whole argument. Wait a minute !
      Is LOVE some kind of irrational Spiritual experience???
      Many people talk about LOVE using irrational expressions like “time and all eternity” and other Scientifically meaningless gibberish.
      When Duwayne uses the word LOVE does he just mean his body is experiencing Biological phenomena that can easily be measured on a device like a lie detector and nothing more?

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        “Love” is a human emotion. But what’s that got to do with information about the “god” of the universe?

        You claim (don’t you?) that you have information about the god of the universe, obtained through “spiritual experiences.” So, my question to you (a question you resolutely evade) is simple: How do you know that your “spiritual experiences” are not mental defects/delusions?

        • Decider says:

          Human emotions and “Spiritual Experiences” are mutually exclusive??? — and Science has objectively measured and verified this with WHAT experimental data?
          That is why Duwayne can proclaim his ‘make it up as you go along’ fantastic assertions WITHOUT Science, WITHOUT explanation, without logic?
          Honestly, Duwayne, Scientists are obsessively cautious about making ANY KIND OF GENERALIZATIONS without a MOUNTAIN of experimental research, and then some.
          However, stupendous, unsupportable, inconceivable GENERALIZATIONS leap out of YOU faster than a sixteen year old on speed –where did you get the idea you know ANYTHING about Science?

          • Duwayne Anderson says:

            Sheesh, Decider. Give the strawman arguments a rest.

            Look, you assert that you know things based on your “spiritual experiences.” It’s perfectly reasonable to ask you how you know that your “spiritual experiences” are not delusions. Why do you keep dodging that question?

        • Decider says:

          Science has no knowledge of “the God of the Universe” — Science therefore, has NO OPINION about God. However, Science would NEVER say that God does NOT exist. Science does not arrive at generaliztions that cannot be SCIENTIFICALLY secured. Also, Science can NOT prove that something cannot exist, and so, once again, Science is without opinion on the subject.
          I HAVE NO SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION ABOUT GOD existing or NOT existing, Duwayne, and NEITHER DO YOU.
          However, I BELIEVE, that there are Spiritual ways of ‘knowing’ that are outside the ken of Rationality and Science. People use the vehicles of Art , Religion and Aesthetics to communicate the irrational to each other. Such people have a long-standing history of finding MEANING in what is immutable to Science — of course, Story and Metaphor predate both Science and Logic.
          Spiritual Experiences are outside of Science and Rationality, therefore, Science STRICTLY HAS NO OPINION — CANNOT HAVE !
          Only an irrational bigot would persist with labeling Spiritual Experiences as ‘Delusional’ or ‘mentally Defective’ while having absolutely NO RATIONAL OR SCIENTIFIC justification for doing so.

          • Duwayne Anderson says:

            Decider wrote: “Science has no knowledge of “the God of the Universe” —

            Science has no knowledge of the Easter Bunny, either.

            Or the dancing unicorns on planet zorog in the Andromeda galaxy.

            When confronted with that sort of silliness, science simply insists that the advocates of such ideas prove their point – and if they can’t prove their point, then their point is irrelevant.

            Science has no knowledge of god because the people who claim god exists can’t give a consistent definition of god, and haven’t got a shred of verifiable and objective evidence that god exists. Exactly the same situation exists with the Easter Bunny – the people who believe in the Easter Bunny (like those who believe in Thor, Jehovah, or Zeus) can’t give a consistent definition of the Easter Bunny, or give a shred of verifiable and objective evidence that it exists.

            Decider wrote: Science therefore, has NO OPINION about God.”

            The opinion of science is that you can’t prove your assertion. People who believe in the Easter Bunny have the same problem. In science, if you can’t prove your assertion, then your assertion is *irrelevant.* Your god is irrelevant to science because your god isn’t defined, and there’s no objective and verifiable evidence to support the existence of your god. Your god is as irrelevant as the Easter Bunny and Santa.

            Which brings to mind that question of mine – the one you keep ignoring; “What is the difference between your god and the Easter Bunny??”

            Decider wrote: “However, I BELIEVE, that there are Spiritual ways of ‘knowing’ that are outside the ken of Rationality and Science.”

            How do you know that your beliefs and “spiritual experiences” are not mental hallucinations?

          • Decider says:

            “If they can’t prove their point, then their point is irrelevant”. -Duwayne

            Determining Scientific veracity sometimes takes decades/centuries to “prove”. Einstein’s theories took decades to “prove” — and when they WERE proven Einstein revolutionized and overthrew Centuries of “proofs” that “verified” Newtonian Physics — science changes its conclusions based on verifications ALL of the time. For example, the incredible changes that occurred with Capernican Physics replacement of Ptolmaic physics.
            The point here is that Scientists don’t pound their fists demanding others,”‘prove their point or be irrelevent” — that’s just a DUMB, theatrical characterization of the Scientific Method that Duwayne likes to use, because he has no REAL knowledge of Science beyond Easter Bunnies and dancing Unicorns — Duwayne you’re as big a necromancer and charlatan as that poser Joseph Smith.
            In this case, the negative has come AFTER the positive — but, anyone can tell IT’S THE SAME PICTURE !

    • Erick says:

      “C’mong, Eric. That’s a strawman. My question doesn’t presume that the person is “deluded,” it asks them how *they* know *their* “spiritual experiences” are not delusional.”

      That was bad wording on my part, I agree that your question presume a person is deluded. Still, once we start talking about validating our sense experience rigorously, you have started the conversation on the long course to epistemological absurdity. How do you validate sense experience without somehow depending on sense experience?? Even in consensus arguments we assume that there is a threshold of consistency between people and how they experience reality. In the real world, I accept this assumption as being practical to functioning in social enviroment (and yes I realize there are philosophical potholes all over that statement if we are discussing formal logic and consciousness). In that setting I also agree with your argument about the diminishing error factor associated with peer opinions, but that argument still rests on the practical, but logically incomplete, assumption about the consistency of our experiences from person to person. For everyday things the system works, but if you are going to challenge sensory experience looking for some kind of guarantee that experiences aren’t delusional, you’re being unrealistic.

      The question that you first asked, was the more brilliant point, even inspite of Deciders philosophical dodge. “What evidence, if it existed, would be proof that the Book of Mormon isn’t true”. Some obvious things come to mind for me. First, if the Book of Mormon can be invalidated as an actual history, then the Church is not “true”. If the divinity or reality of Jesus, or Moses, or Abraham, etc, could be refuted, then the Church isn’t true. If the notion of Adam and Eve as the literal first parents of the entire human race could be invalidated, then the Church isn’t true. These are just a couple that immediately come to mind.

      Finally, the other question that hasn’t been answered, is what constitutes a “spiritual experience”. I know that at the upper limit of these things would be a literal manifestation of God in the flesh, but what is the lower limit? Also, what would be the highest point on the scale, between these two limits, that most people are willing to claim?

      • Duwayne Anderson says:

        Eric wrote: “Still, once we start talking about validating our sense experience rigorously, you have started the conversation on the long course to epistemological absurdity…. For everyday things the system works, but if you are going to challenge sensory experience looking for some kind of guarantee that experiences aren’t delusional, you’re being unrealistic.”

        My question doesn’t have any requirements for “rigor.” Here, let’s have a look again:

        Question to the religious person: “How do you know that your “spiritual experiences” are not simply mental delusions/defects?”

        See? No mention of “rigor.” If you asked a question like that of your mechanic he’s say “I tested the tire pressure with my gauge.” There’d be no mumbo-jumbo about “epistemology.” No debate about “rigor.” And if you asked the mechanic for a “guarantee” the tire was flat, he’d look at you like you had rocks in your head, and probably throw the tire gauge at you.

        Eric wrote: “Some obvious things come to mind for me. First, if the Book of Mormon can be invalidated as an actual history, then the Church is not “true”.”

        I agree with you, but I think most Mormons would not because they will not accept verifiable and objective evidence that invalidates the Book of Mormon. Rather, they will follow the example of the church employees at the church’s apologetic organization and either deny the evidence exists, deny the significance of the evidence, or (when really backed into a corner) assert that nothing is truly knowable, and thus their spiritual “testimony” is as good a bet as any. So, at the end of the day, the historical validity of the Book of Mormon really isn’t relevant to them – they’ve literally made up their minds, and verifiable/objective evidence is irrelevant.

        This is partly what leads me to the conclusion that (for most Mormons, anyway) the “spiritual experience” is based on the premise of the infallible mind. And *that* is one reason that I think Mormonism is fundamentally irrational – after all, there’s just no credible argument (no matter what epistemological position that you take) for concluding that the human mind is infallible.

        Eric wrote: “Finally, the other question that hasn’t been answered, is what constitutes a “spiritual experience”.

        Well, yeah. That and a definition of god. But getting theists to stick their necks out and actually define the terms they are using is about as hard as catching the Easter Bunny.

  58. Duwayne Anderson says:

    Decider wrote: “Determining Scientific veracity sometimes takes decades/centuries to “prove”.

    Don’t flatter yourself. Your god isn’t a scientific theory. Heck, your god isn’t even a scientific hypothesis. Gosh – your god isn’t even *defined.* I’ve asked you to explain the difference between your god and the Easter Bunny. You can’t do it.

    All you have is a nebulous concept of “god” obtained by ill-defined “spiritual experiences.” And you can’t even explain how you know those “spiritual experiences” are not mental delusions.

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