Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Ancient Americans: Still a Mystery

Modern knowledge about the ancient inhabitants of this continent is still in its infancy compared to knowledge of ancient Old World peoples in Bible lands. As one example, consider the state of ignorance regarding the ancient inhabitants of the Amazon forest (from an article in the San Francisco Chronicle - thanks to Mark Foree). Did vast civilizations exist with massive construction projects and sophisticated agricultural techniques, including methods for creating rich soil in vast stretches of what is now poor soil in wild jungle? The very existence of the debate points to how little we know about the ancient peoples of this hemisphere. For the time being, too little is known to answer some of the questions that we would like to answer about the Book of Mormon and its peoples. Patience!

4 comments:

Robert Boylan said...

On the matter of BOM historicity and DNA studies, I think I should bring to your attention that Simon Southerton admits, as did Murphy in American Apocrypha, that the "limited geography" understanding of the genetic infleuence Lehi et al would have had on the DNA of Amerindians is supported by science! However, he makes the claim that the Limited Geography model is not consistent with the teachings of leaders for the past 175 years and the BOM text itself, contra evidence to the opposite.

Here is Southerton's quote on the issue -

1. Bottleneck effect, genetic drift, Hardy-Weinberg violations and other technical problems would prevent us from detecting Israelite genes.

I agree entirely. In 600 BC there were probably several million American Indians living in the Americas. If a small group of Israelites entered such a massive native population it would be very, very hard to detect their genes 200, 2000 or even 20,000 years later. But does such a scenario fit with what the Book of Mormon plainly states or what the prophets have taught for 175 years? Short answer. No! Long answer. Nooo!

This was from http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon391.htm
(be forewarned that Southerton does use, on once occasion, some mild language)

Mike Parker said...

Southerton has posted his official response to LDS apologists on his publisher's web site (this version doesn't have the [ahem] profanity.)

His entire argument falls down with his point #7:

"The bottleneck effect, genetic drift, and other technical problems would prevent us from detecting Israelite genes." In 600 BC there were probably several million American Indians living in the Americas. If a small group of Israelites, say less than thirty, entered such a massive native population, it would be very hard to detect their genes today. However, such a scenario does not square with what the Book of Mormon plainly states and with what the prophets have taught for 175 years.Latter-day Saint scholars agree with Southerton's science; they disagree with his interpretation of what the Book of Mormon says. And his argument about what LDS prophets have said about the Book of Mormon is a red herring -- LDS don't claim prophets are infallible or have a perfect understanding of scriptural geography.

Robert Boylan said...

Mike Parker is 100% correct. LDS have never claimed that LDS laders have been 100% infallible. This is a common theme in the DNA criticisms I have read from Southerton, Murphy, Sharon Doty, Living Hope Ministires et al.

Contra popular belief and critics, the Book of Mormon supports a limited geographical scope. Moreover, other people were adopted into the Nephites and Lamanites and both these terms reflected use of the terms "Israel" and "house of Israel," which reflected a covenant people, not necessairly shared genes.

Rob Watson said...

Reading further down in the article, I found this part telling of what is wrong with archaeology today as a microcosm of academia in general.

"The idea that the indigenous population has secrets that we don't know about is not supported by anything except wishful thinking and the myth of El Dorado," said archaeologist Betty J. Meggers, who is the main defender of the idea that only small, tribal societies ever inhabited the Amazon. "This myth just keeps going on and on and on. It's amazing."

Meggers, who is director of the Latin American Archaeology Program at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History in Washington, has spent her life trying to prove [probably disregarding evidence right in front of her] that the Amazon jungle is a uniquely untrammeled and hostile wilderness. Now 82, her impact on the field dates to the late 1940s, when she began pioneering field work on Marajs Island at the mouth of the Amazon River.

Her 1971 book, "Amazonia: Man and Culture in a Counterfeit Paradise," converted her views into gospel for a generation of Amazonian archaeologists. In it, she argued that modern Amerindian groups, generally made up of a few hundred people, follow ancient practices of infanticide and other population- control measures to exist in a hostile environment.

"It had a huge impact. Virtually every Anthropology 1 class read that book," said Susanna B. Hecht, a geographer at UCLA...


I wonder how many game-changing discoveries have been overlooked in the name of this type of dogmatic thinking. I thought the point of science was to always ask more questions.

It'll be interesting when (not if) a flood of discoveries are made that offer even more proof of the Book of Mormon's authenticity.