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

Thursday, December 08, 2005

On Paradigm Shifts and Negative Evidence: Recommended Reading from Kevin Christensen

The most recent issue of Sunstone Magazine has a short essay from Kevin Christensen, "Determining What is 'Real'." He deals with several key issues that come up regularly on this blog: how does one weigh negative and positive evidence, when is a pipece of negative evidence a "show-stopper" or something to put on the back burner, and, most recently, how should we approach the issue of Mesoamerican culture in the Book of Mormon?

Though it's almost as an aside, here is one interesting passage regarding Alma 32:
I remain mpressed that Alma 32 and Kuhn describe the same epistemology for paradigm decisions, the same values that provide rational constraints on meaning. That is, Kuhn explains that there are no rules that determine paradigm choice, there are constraining values independent of particular paradigms. One can give rational reasons for a paradigm choice—for preferring Copernicus to Ptolemy, or Einstein to Newton—based on values like accuracy of key predictions, comprehensiveness and coherence, simplicity and aesthetics, fruitfulness and future promise. Just so, Alma 32 describes faith decisions in terms of the success of key experiments, mind-expanding enlightenment, the delicious appeal of ideas, fruitfulness and future promise.

But don't stop with this quote. The article is insightful on several levels and deserves some consideration. Thanks, Kevin!

37 comments:

Samuel said...

Thanks for linking to this article, Jeff. Very insightful. One thought I had: if definitive "proof" of the cultures of the ancient Near East in Mesoamerica is required, I wonder how many archaeologists specializing in Mesoamerica would even recognize Near Eastern artifacts or if they would simply be dismissed as artifacts that don't fit the paradigm and are thus ignored. I mean the conventional thinking is no pre-Columban contact between the old world and the new whatsoever.

Mike Parker said...

While you're there, be sure to read Blake Ostler's reply to Simon Southerton.

Ouch.

Anonymous said...

I once pursued a math degree. I have faith in Mathematics. It works- I love math. Math produces theorums and solvents to science, engineering, and philosophy. Math can explain much of this world. By combing these symbols together we are able to explain the very performance of Matter.

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of infinity in math. Many equations use this concept. Infinity is a real concept. And many equations, theorums, theories (stuff that describes how everything in this world works) would be impossible without the use of this important concept; Infinity.

However, if you study momentums, fluxions, or infinitesmials and if you delve deep into mathematics, you will find that there are still many mysteries to be unfolded. Many things that can not be explained.

The greatest Mathmeticians ponder and use great creativity to understand what would happen if there was indeed an Absolute Infinite. Some believe it would be God. Most of these mathmeticians are very spiritual.

Indeed, Socrates once said that the wisest man is the man who knows that he knows nothing. I myself don’t think it takes a genius to perceive that using our brains to understand our brains does in fact limit us as human beings.

Knowing a little about something can make a human being feel that he/she deserves to be proud. There is never any moment or second where humans are worthy of pride. Pride can deter humans from progressing.

When a man truly understands knowledge and the human brain, I think he understands that we are indeed very limited in our understanding.

Math explains everything. There are still many mysteries. One can not see(besides symbols), taste, touch, or hear math. And yet, I do not doubt that 2+2 = 4.

Mike Parker said...

Math explains everything.

Pray, tell: How does math explain love?

Anonymous said...

excuse the generalization. Math does NOT explain everything.

Anonymous said...

Love is a trick that your DNA plays on you in order to replicate itself.*



*from the Tyr Anasazi character on the Andromeda TV series.

Daniel Peterson said...

Tyr Anasazi is essentially quoting Richard Dawkins's The Selfish Gene.

Daniel Peterson said...

Oh yes: Kevin Christensen is always worth reading.

And Blake Ostler's response to Simon Southerton is well worth reading, too.

jeff g said...

I haven't gone through and read the piece yet, but I should mention that I get very nervous when people start using Kuhnian paradigms as "proving" much of anything. While his account of "normal science" and "revolutionary science" is quite good, his going beyong that to establish a philosophy of incommensurable paradigm was way out of bounds in my mind. His view of paradigms is far too holistic in that it doesn't match with the ideal or the practical.

I recommend serious caution in using such a "weapon" against any well trained scholars.

Logan Aggie said...

I need more RFP!

me said...

Logan Aggie, I am not sure she is coming back. Her work here is done. It was nice of her to visit and it certainly livened up the place for a while.
I would argue that although many here read what she wrote, they were not really listening and understanding. Kinda like all those mesoamerican scholars that don't read the BoM seriously and ponder its meaning.
Hey if that logic works for Jeff, should apply across the board I would say.

Anonymous said...

My use of Kuhn over the years has been towards understanding the structure of debates, rather than proving anything LDS.

And regarding Kuhn on "incommensurability", on that point, I lean towards Ian Barbour's take that: "even though data are theory laden, it is possible to make pragmatic distinctions between the more theoretical observational terms inany particular context. Rival theories are not incommensurable if their protagonists can find an overlapping core of observation statements on which they can concur." (Ian Barbour, Myths, Models, and Paradigms: A Comparative Study of Science and Religion (New York: Harper & Row, 1974) 9.

Thanks to Jeff for the plug, and to Daniel and Samuel for the comments.

Best,

Kevin Christensen
Bethel Park, PA

Mormanity said...

Kevin, many thanks for dropping in. Care to share with us what you are currently working on, or what work of yours might be especially worth thinking about these days?

logan aggie said...

RFP.... (cry echoing into stillness)

Anonymous said...

Jeff asked what I'm working on these days. Working as a technical writer and commuting and being a husband cuts into the degree of immersion I like. But besides the Sunstone essay, I have been writing a series of essays for the Meridian Magazine, introducing Margaret Barker to that readership. "Plain and Precious Things Restored." Margaret likes what I'm doing. I just sent part 5, on The Queen of Heaven to the editor. I don't yet know when it goes up.

This came about serendipitously. Scott Card was doing a book signing in Pittsburgh. We went out for ice cream with Scott and his wife. Scott had read and reviewed The Great Angel, and later read my Paradigms Regained. Scott recommended me to Kathy Kidd, who co-wrote Lovelock with Scott and is an editor at the Meridian. Kathy, in turn, is married to Clark Kidd, who my wife used to know at BYU.

Best,

Kevin Christensen
Bethel Park, PA

Mormanity said...

So it's not just what you know, but also who you know?

BYU alter ego said...

I read Ostler's Sunstone article and could find nothing new to be added to the debate. He simply rehashes borrowed apologist arguments while writing in the usual confrontational tone.

It's filled with gross conjecture, taken as substantiative, the usual red herring or two as well as a huge double standard for evidence.

Ostler repeatedly acuses Southerton of glossing over the fact that Lehi's small group, entering a very large Amerind population would be very difficult/improbable to detect.

Enter the red herring.

That conclusion is not relevant, nor is that assertion disputed. The debate on this point is whether Lehi et al walked into a mob of Indians and were just assimilated, almost borg like. Or did they establish a larger population before admixint began?

Frankly any argument on this subject almost immediately falls into conjecture.

Ostler called the assertion that there has been scientific consensus about the origin of Amerinds "Wildly untrue." He states that recently the view has been that of a single migration event with the first settlement in Clovis, New Mexico.

More red herring, also mingled with a lot of errors.

First off the debate recently has focused on the multiple migration events not ORIGINS! Big difference.

While it's true that some believe the Solutreans (from France) could have bounced along the then present iceshelf along the Northern Atlantic Ocean to the Americas(Enter mtDNA "X" marker), I have never read anywhere anyone stating that precluded the vastly overwhelming Asian origin of the Americas.

By the way it appears that the Solutreans where the real inventors of the "Clovis Points."

Also, Clovis, New Mexico has no evidence of "settlement" anywhere. There are spear points and fire pits, but we find those all across North America in the same time frame.

Ostler treats his framework of logic as evidence enough for his assertions.

Enter the double standard.

Ostler said:

"The fact that the Nephites do not inter-marry, though there are Native Americans who live among them, explains why the Lamanites always outnumber the Nephites invirutally every battle between them for six hundred years."

Fact? Okay if reading the BOM is a standard for fact gathering. Then, surely isotope based, DNA based and geological based dating methods can enter the fray right?

With the same mind that Ostler acuses Southerton of not engaging all the relevant issues. Ostler conveniently glosses over what the available dating methods concur on:
America is an old, old place.

If you thought that Lehi's party walked into a wall of Indigenous people. The Jaredites would have as well.

Never mind that all people were supposed to be killed by the Noah's flood. But whatever. Ostler does a feeble job of defending Nibley's even more feeble theory that the Jaredites passed through Asia.

That is NOT an explanation for the DNA evidence, and it has to disregard a huge weight of dating evidence.

In the end, Ostler only takes pot shots. Which sadly is what the vast majority of apologists do. Very few even speak the relevant scientific language, and those who do, rarely present a cogent argument for why DNA evidence shouldn't concern the faithful LDS people.

Samuel said...

Alter,

Hehe, nice to have you back. I almost missed you.

"That conclusion is not relevant"

How exactly is the idea that a small group of people with Lehi entered the New World and mixed with a much larger group rather than Lehi being the progenitor of almost the entire Lamanite population not relevant to the science at hand?

BYU alter ego said...

Samuel,

The issue of a small party getting assimilated is not relevant in the sense that it's not being debated. I wouldn't, and I don't believe that Simon either argues against it.

It is of course scientifically very relevant.

Nice to see you too! :)

Massive Mormon MegaMan 7000 said...

BYU AE:
DNA evidence is irrelevant. If the Lord could confound everyone's tongue at the time of the Brother of Jared, then it is infinitly possible he could hide any trace of genetic evidence providing an Amerindian/Hebrew link.
The Lord has never made concession to appease the weak and unbelieving, especially the intellegently hollow ones. Why would a need exist for a 'supreme being'/savior, if all things spiritual were proven with overtly obvious proofs and evidences? Hence, the huge quantities of proof surrounding the parting of a Red Sea, or any proof of a Hebrew civilization in Egypt anytime. Or better yet, the plethora of tangible knowledge that God and His Son even exist outside of our imaginations or some warped need for worship.
I know I am not an overly-intellectualized scholar and 'word-master' (yet my thesaurus is probably the same as yours), and that my manners and thinking might be obviously shallow: maybe that's the key to understanding the difference between being spiritually prompted/taught, and having an emotionally induced arousal while listening to 'Dragula'!
Step off your soap-box, it's tiring!

Walker said...

Whoa, friend. Easy there. It looks like you're new to the blog though, so it's understandable (unless you're under a diff't moniker now). I guess you have to know AE to appreciate him ;)

I've had my tussles with hiim before, and generally I've found him to be quite civil (of course, we all --including myself--have our moments). Certainly, I disagree with most of his views. But compared with some recent posters (oy vey), he's pretty civil to talk to, provided we all keep ourselves on an even keel.

Daniel Peterson said...

In BYU AE's world, "apologists" don't have the scientific expertise required to discuss the DNA issue -- except for those who do. But those who do are (even with Ph.D.s and international scientific reputations) either grossly incompetent, or flatly dishonest, or, if need be, completely lacking the specific DNA expertise that Tom Murphy (the social anthropologist) and Simon Southerton (the plant geneticist) and BYU AE (the recent recipient of a bachelor's degree) apparently have. Or something. This is shown by the fact that the credentialed Mormon believers fail to arrive at the same conclusion that Murphy, Southerton, and BYU AE have reached. They are thus proven incapable of accurately judging the merits of the case -- unlike Murphy, Southerton, BYU AE, and anybody else who holds the Correct Opinion.

Samuel said...

Wait a second...I thought Murphy and Southerton were human geneticists? They aren't???

A relevant quote from BYU-AE:

"Whiting knows a lot about the evolution of flies and fleas. If the discussion turned that direction, he'd be qualified as an authority."

Why is this then not appropriate to say?:

"Southerton knows a lot about the evolution of plants. If the discussion turned that direction, he'd be qualified as an authority."

This has not been said. Perhaps because he agrees with AE's position?

I thought Murphy and Southerton were human geneticists...I really did. I am crushed.

However, on another site, Southerton addresses the very issue of how his academic qualifications (non-human DNA related) prepare him for the foray into a study of human DNA. The relevant quotation:

"The principles of DNA analysis are applicable to all living things so it was relatively easy to jump from the plant to the animal kingdom."

Doesn't BYU-AE know this? If this is true, why isn't Whiting also an authority in this discussion?

Another choice quote from AE (I remembered these were made, so I found them so as not to misquote him.):

"What geneticist, scientist or other cognecenti that disagree with me do you know that are not Mormon?"

So is it now appropriate to bring up the fact that Murphy and Southerton are disaffected former Mormons? I don't expect that would color their conclusions; I am sure that only happens to the bad, bad Mormons.

Daniel Peterson said...

Nope. Neither Murphy nor Southerton is a specialist in human genetics. In fact, Murphy isn't a geneticist at all.

BYU alter ego said...

LOL. Samuel, Samuel... I love how friendly gestures here have the half life of a fart in the wind. You're excluded Walker... :) Massive Mormon, take Walkers advice...please.

So in that spirit...

If you remember, the post that you quote me from, I was citing articles not by Southerton, but by scientists with far greater credentials such as Hammer.

I completely agree that Southerton is no better qualified than Whiting on the subject other than the fact that Southerton has probably spent more time in the relevant literature preparing his book.

Both have done no research of their own in the area. Frankly neither have I. But like that previous post tried belatedly to point out, the consensus opinion among those who DO specialize in the field is a single origin, perhaps multiple migration event (but still same origin.)

Please, if you're going to take this vein, at least pay attention.

To Danny boy, you're "cute," as you like to put it, when you show your gross inability to post anything pertinent to this discussion. You can still read right? So read up on what the experts say. Those who are neither Mormon, nor disaffected exmos. I've posted links to at least five peer reviewed articles on this blog and cc'd you an email with them.

If it's over your head, well, maybe you should hold off on the bluster, hard as that is for you.

By the way, I've never mentioned Murphy ever in any of my posts. Please get together with Samuel and try to pay better attention if you care so much.

ltbugaf said...

BYU AE: Please continue to make your arguments more convincing through name-calling such as "Danny boy." It really adds dignity to the discussion and a cachet of maturity to your posts.

Daniel Peterson said...

BYU AE: If you remember, the post that you quote me from, I was citing articles not by Southerton, but by scientists with far greater credentials such as Hammer.

It's your application of the articles by scientists such as Hammer to the claims of the Book of Mormon that is problematic. Does Hammer expressly consider and reject the possibilty that a small party of, say, two or three dozen people might have entered the Americas in historic times? Is that even on his radar screen? Even Simon Southerton has publicly acknowledged that "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." Does Hammer refute Southerton?

BYU AE: I completely agree that Southerton is no better qualified than Whiting on the subject other than the fact that Southerton has probably spent more time in the relevant literature preparing his book.

Which of them, I wonder, has the superior international scientific reputation?

BYU AE: Both have done no research of their own in the area. Frankly neither have I. But like that previous post tried belatedly to point out, the consensus opinion among those who DO specialize in the field is a single origin, perhaps multiple migration event (but still same origin.)

I'm intrigued that you're willing to say that the international scientific consensus directly contradicts Simon Southerton. If you go public with your rejection of his argument, he'll find himself fighting a two-front war. I don't think he'll like that.

BYU AE: To Danny boy, you're "cute," as you like to put it, when you show your gross inability to post anything pertinent to this discussion.,

I'd like to say, BYU AE, that you're cute when you're ill-tempered and personally insulting. Unfortunately, though, you're not.

BYU AE: You can still read right?

I . . . I think so. You intimidate me so much, intellectually, that I can't rightly say just now.

BYU AE: So read up on what the experts say. Those who are neither Mormon, nor disaffected exmos. I've posted links to at least five peer reviewed articles on this blog and cc'd you an email with them.

But, you see -- or, rather, you plainly don't see -- that, on the counsel of, among others, my idiotic and dishonest friends Dr. Parr, Dr. Whiting, Dr. McClellan, Dr. Woodward, and Dr. Butler, the conclusions advocated by your five peer-reviewed articles are of no particular relevance to the issue of the Book of Mormon. I'm perfectly content to accept what your articles say. For, as Dr. Simon Southerton has observed, "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."

BYU AE: If it's over your head, well, maybe you should hold off on the bluster, hard as that is for you.

I see only one disdainful and uncivil blusterer here, and . . . well, it isn't me.

BYU AE: By the way, I've never mentioned Murphy ever in any of my posts. Please get together with Samuel and try to pay better attention if you care so much.

It's of precisely no interest to me that you've not mentioned Tom Murphy. The issue doesn't revolve around you, and it isn't likely to do so no matter how childishly you behave. Stamping your feet and throwing tantrums just makes you look silly.

Incidentally, I came across a couple of nice links about Dr. John Butler, one of the incompetent and dishonest FARMS writers on DNA, just yesterday. Some might find them interesting:

http://tinyurl.com/9vjlt

http://tinyurl.com/an88s

BYU alter ego said...

I'm a little surprised by the new found, and one sided sensitivity found here lately.

(Except for you Walker...[salute])

Based on some of the responses, I think it has more to do with the anathema that dissent and dissenting opinion are to Mormons.

Believe me, I could do much, much worse. Civility is all about limits and boundaries. The first person who can point out what boundary of signifigance I've traversed gets a cookie... :P

To Daniel,

I really get bored of your very repetitous, and very unrelevant points on this DNA issue. (your rehashing of the Southerton quote in your last post was particularly illustrative...you miss the boat entirely)

No critical thinker is going to accept without prejudice what those who are, well...prejudiced, have to say. A balanced, first person review of the body of evidence is required.

All parties get included in that, Southerton, Murphy, Parr, Butler etc...

So save the bleeding heart, defense of your buddy's honor rendition. It's a weak diversion, nothing more.

Also, perhaps an end to the constant citation of only those on your half of the field is in order? It's a really poor way to support an argument.

Last I checked, there was no "international...reputation" meter invented to quantify Whiting's standing. Referring to it as often as you do says a lot about your own critical thinking skills.

Mormon Mega Man 8000 said...

Dan has no critical thinking skills, that is part of his charm. I get the feeling that Dan just likes to talk and posting here gets him away from wife and family.

ltbugaf said...

Wow, Mega Man 8000--who can argue with devastating evidence and logic like yours? Thanks for offering another mean-spirited and utterly unfounded personal attack. I'm sure we're all intellectually richer for it.

MormonMegalomaniac said...

Thanks, Itbughdeks,
I will stick around since you were so kind.
How are them see the world thru fantasyland glasses working out for you?

ltbugaf said...

Once again, I'm floored. You're so intellectually intimidating, I just don't know what to do with myself! Your comment is so incisive, so powerful in its reasoning! I guess I'll have to go and cower in shame.

Daniel Peterson said...

I think you've found an e-soulmate, BYU AE. Congratulations!

Daniel Peterson said...

The simple fact, BYU AE, is that Dr. Ryan Parr (Genesis Genomics, Canada) and Dr. John Sorenson (BYU) and Dr. Michael Whiting (BYU) and Dr. John Butler (National Institute of Standards and Technology) and Dr. David McClellan (BYU) and Dr. Scott Woodward (Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation) and even Dr. Simon Southerton (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia) agree on the absolutely key proposition that "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."

You disagree. And reading Dr. Southerton's important comment more than once enrages you. But, other than waving your irrelevant and already familiar Five Peer Reviewed Articles in the air, you've done nothing to demonstrate that a nonspecialist such as myself ought to take the word of a recent undergraduate on this matter over the verdicts of Drs. Sorenson, Whiting, Woodward, Butler, Parr, Southerton, and McClellan (whose views, incidentally, are buttressed by other writers such as Roper, Stubbs, Tvedtnes, and Ostler). Claiming that they're all either incompetent or dishonest, and calling me names, isn't entirely convincing. Not even with the able assistance of your newfound friend.

I see no reason to disagree with these scholars and scientists that the debate is no longer really about DNA. Their consensus is that the genetic data kills a certain reading of the Book of Mormon (one long since left behind by serious believing academic scholarship on the Book of Mormon) but essentially leaves another reading of the Book of Mormon untouched and intact. (This latter reading has long been favored by serious believing academic scholarship on the Book of Mormon, as well as by me.) So the question, for seemingly everybody but yourself, has become one of textual interpretation rather than of genetics.

You may now insult me.

BYU alter ego said...

Daniel,

Your wrong in your assumption that I disagree with the quote at hand. Thirty, being directly mixed into millions makes detecting the thirty nigh impossible. This comes with a great deal of caveats however.

What makes you look foolish is that you breathlessly accept the statement with no knowledge of the caveats.

First, it's huge assumption that Lehi's party would have met indigenous people immediately, let alone ever.

Second, how many Amerinds would have been at the meeting site? Millions? ...um...no.

Third, the Mulekites would have been a second contribution, in a geographically distinguished area.

No indication exists that I'm aware of, that gives a clue to how large their party would have been.

Fourth, our idealized scenario doesn't take into account geography, population density, social barriers, Sexual selection.

I mean, dark skin was a curse right? The faithful would have wanted to remain white?...right?...or am I crazy?

So the very large hypothetical that is our disputed quote is completely true as long as we stay in the hypothetical.

Indeed, drop 30 people into the greater Salt Lake City area and they would likely disappear genetically.

Drop 30 people into some coastal village of 1000, most of whom will never make contact with anyone more than 100-200 miles distant in their lifetimes and voilà a very distinct impact is made that scales proportionally over time.

That is of course, if the Lehite's would breed with them at all.

Simon's whole point from that quote was that the argument for genetic dilution from various technical principles is an apologetic red herring.

This is fitting as the scenario described would be uncommon indeed. A complete admixture of thirty into a concentrated population numbering into the millions? Come on.

That did not happen.

Daniel Peterson said...

BYU AE: Your wrong in your assumption that I disagree with the quote at hand.

I suspected as much, actually. It's pretty obviously true.

But I'm pleased to add your pseudonym to Dr. Southerton's real name on the list of those who agree with the fundamental contention advanced by Drs. Parr, Sorenson, Woodward, Whiting, McClellan, and Butler. Thank you for your support.

BYU AE: Thirty, being directly mixed into millions makes detecting the thirty nigh impossible. This comes with a great deal of caveats however.
What makes you look foolish is that you breathlessly accept the statement with no knowledge of the caveats.


Before proceeding, I would like to compliment you on your relatively near approach to civility. Apart from suggesting that I'm ignorant, manufacturing out of thin air a supposedly "breathless" acceptance on my part of Southerton's important admission, and outright calling me "foolish," the sentence above is very nearly polite.

BYU AE: First, it's huge assumption that Lehi's party would have met indigenous people immediately, let alone ever.

Not really. Not to anybody who knows anything about pre-Columbian America. There were plenty of people in the western hemisphere in 600 BC.

BYU AE: Second, how many Amerinds would have been at the meeting site? Millions? ...um...no.

And, um, irrelevant. A red herring and a straw man. Unless sexual reproduction occurred in a fundamentally different way 2600 years ago, thirty people could probably not have mated immediately with several million others. Nobody has ever suggested -- and surely even the plant geneticist Simon Southerton wasn't suggesting -- that the DNA of those thirty immigrants could have been immediately dissolved into the genes of several million indigenous Amerindians.

BYU AE: Third, the Mulekites would have been a second contribution, in a geographically distinguished area.
No indication exists that I'm aware of, that gives a clue to how large their party would have been.


Which means, of course, that it could have been quite small. And, since no mass migration is mentioned from Jerusalem immediately before the Babylonian conquest, it probably was quite small. Perhaps roughly the size of the Lehite party.

BYU AE: Fourth, our idealized scenario doesn't take into account geography, population density, social barriers, Sexual selection.

John Tvedtnes and Matthew Roper and Brian Stubbs and Trent Stephens and Jeffrey Meldrum and others have demonstrated how very complex "Lamanite" and "Nephite" and other relevant identities actually are, according to both the texts and the relevant logic. We have certainly not been the ones who have been oversimplifying here.

BYU AE: I mean, dark skin was a curse right? The faithful would have wanted to remain white?...right?...or am I crazy?

I won't presume to comment on your mental health.

The Mulekites give us no reason to believe that they were ever faithful to the covenant, let alone that they remained faithful to it during the roughly 350-500 years between their departure from Jerusalem and their merging with the Nephites. They had, by that time, lost both their language and any traces of belief in a divine creator. (Orson Scott Card has even suggested, tantalizingly, that their claimed Near Eastern origin may have been a political ploy, a myth devised in order to gain favored treatment from the Nephites.)

Moreover, the term Nephite changes quite frequently in its meanings over the course of the Book of Mormon. It often represents ideological allegiance as much as or more than descent. (See Matt Roper's studies on this topic.)

BYU AE: A complete admixture of thirty into a concentrated population numbering into the millions? Come on.

That did not happen.


I like Brian Stubbs's "Elusive Israel and the Numerical Dynamics of Population Mixing" and Matthew Roper's "Swimming in the Gene Pool: Israelite Kinship Relations, Genes, and Genealogy," both of which are up on the FARMS web site (under the "DNA" rubric).

Blake Ostler said...

After reading BYU AE's confrontational comments here, I chuckled to myself because he had accused me of approaching the discussion in my "usual confrontational tone." Well, I supppose it takes one to know one.

How is the admitted fact that we cannot reasonably expect to find DNA evidence among present Amerindians not be relevant when the argument is that the BofM is false because we can't find traces of Hebrew DNA (whatever that is supposed to be) among Amerindians? Apparently BYU AE doesn't recognize what a rebuttal to an argument looks like. The demonstration that the major premise of an argument is (admittedly) false is pretty strong indication that the argument is: (a) unsound; and (b) that the admission is relevant to the argument.

Frankly, after having read BYU AE's exchange here, I wonder if s/he is interested in doing anything other than calling names and making arguments that are logically unsound on their face. BYU AE asserts that my argument isn't relevant because it is admitted by Southerton and not disputed. Now I get it, the fact that we shouldn't expect to find DNA evidence of Hebrews among Amerindians even if the BofM is true is, as s/he admits "of course scientifically very relevant," but it becomes irrelevant because Southerton admits it and doesn't dispute it? Is that supposed to be an argument? If that is an argument, it is the worst one I have ever seen (and I've seen some doozies teaching first year logic).

First, Southerton didn't mention or admit any such thing in his Sunstone article -- he argued that DNA evidence demonstrated that the BofM is not possibly historical or what it claims to be. Second, admitting that an argument is unsound doesn't make the admission irrelevant.

BYU AE also accuses me of taking pot-shots -- which made me chuckle again after reading BYU AE's world-class pot-shots here. What pot-shots do I take? OK AE, you've made the assertion, now back it up. (Time top get out the mirror and take a good look).

So I ask BYU AE to explain to me one more time how it is irrelvant to point out that the DNA argument cannot carry the weight of the burden placed on it to disprove the BofM because it is perfectly compatible with all DNA evidence that the Lamanites would have been assimilated into the existing population without leaving a DNA trace? This should be interesting. I'd also like to know how we should expect to find DNA traces of cultures that were the victims of genocide like the Jaredites and Nephites.

You do make one comment that is actually deserving of a response: BYU AE: "Third, the Mulekites would have been a second contribution, in a geographically distinguished area."

The Mulekites were assimilated into the Nephites ... and the Nephites and Mulekites were obliterated by the Lamanites. The Lamanites had quickly assimilated with the pre-existing culture through intermarriage. So the Lamanites alone would leave DNA and that small number would easily be lost in the larger population. So no problem here.