Friday, August 12, 2016

Facts, analysis, and criticism

Sometimes I get feedback that I'm being critical of Book of Mormon geography theories that don't put Cumorah in New York. That has not been my intention, at least since the first of June, and let me explain why.

I turn to the dictionary for a definition. "Criticism: the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes."

A more complete definition:

1. the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.
2. the act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding.
3. the act or art of analyzing and evaluating or judging the quality of a literary or artistic work, musical performance, art exhibit, dramatic production, etc.
4. a critical comment, article, or essay; critique.
5. any of various methods of studying texts or documents for the purpose of dating or reconstructing them, evaluating their authenticity, analyzing their content or style, etc.:
historical criticism; literary criticism.
6. investigation of the text, origin, etc., of literary documents, especially Biblical ones:
textual criticism.

I've tried to make it clear that I'm not passing judgment on any geography theories. People can believe whatever they want and I'm fine with that. No doubt, I'm inarticulate sometimes, but I'm writing this so people won't take my posts the wrong way. Anyone who thinks I'm being judgmental should let me know and I'll edit whatever comes across wrong.

Instead of criticizing other theories, I'm trying to clarify implications, assumptions, and points of disagreement.

For example, some scholars reject Oliver Cowdery's Letter VII. That's perfectly fine with me. We can agree to disagree about that. I'm not passing judgment on them or on their theories, neither on a personal basis nor on their motives, etc. I just want it clearly understood what acceptance and rejection mean in terms of implications.

The other day I posted about false and misleading geography theories. I noted the obvious fact that if Cumorah is in New York, a theory that puts it somewhere else is false and misleading. I noted as well that if Cumorah is not in New York, a theory that puts it in New York is false and misleading. (By definition, an abstract map cannot represent a real-world setting and in that sense is false; whether it is misleading depends on its purpose and disclosures associated with it. So long as the map is intended merely as an aid to understanding the text by depicting relative distances, and is accompanied by a clear statement that it reflects one of many interpretations of the text, it would not be misleading.)

In my view, the evidence supports the New York Cumorah. Others disagree. We can set out the evidence and let people decide for themselves, with no hard feelings, no sense of being offended or judged. But surely everyone involved with this topic agrees with the proposition set out in the previous paragraph about Cumorah. It's not a false dichotomy. It's not a misstatement. It's not a logical error. And it's certainly not passing judgment.

This is an example of clarifying the issues.

In a separate post scheduled for Aug 13, I explore that in more detail.

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