The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. - Jonathan Edwards “The Book of Mormon does not supplant the Bible. It expands, extends, clarifies, and amplifies our knowledge of the Savior. Surely, this second witness should be cause for great rejoicing by all Christians.” - Joseph B. Wirthlin

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

M2C is pure confirmation bias, but M2C scholars don't realize it

Beliefs are impervious to facts
I've spent several years trying to achieve a consensus about the geography and historicity of the Book of Mormon. Others have done so as well.

I've concluded that there can be no consensus among members of the Church about Book of Mormon geography because there are completely different and incompatible approaches to the issue.

Confirmation bias makes beliefs so much stronger than facts that facts have become irrelevant.

Having once been a promoter of M2C, I understand the mindset. But I don't understand the intransigence of the intellectuals who continue to promote it.

Everyone agrees with two principles.

1. All participants believe in the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon; i.e., it's a real history of real people that leads people to Christ.

2. All participants agree that physical evidence is important for many people. Without it, the Book of Mormon cannot achieve its full potential. All agree that the text (actually, their respective interpretations of the text) is consistent with with relevant archaeology, anthropology, geography, geology, etc. IOW, each individual and group thinks these sciences support his/her/their respective interpretations of the text.

So why is a consensus impossible?

There are two categories of differences. One category could lead to consensus, but the other is irreconcilable.

1. Because the interpretation of the text is interconnected with the relevant sciences, each element drives the other. Thus, each side interprets the text and the science in a manner that confirms its respective biases. This leads to fundamental differences that could still be reconciled by an open, honest and serious examination and recognition of the respective biases.

2. However, there is an irreconcilable difference. One side accepts the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, but the other side rejects these teachings, claiming the prophets were wrong. The New York Cumorah is incompatible with theories that put Cumorah elsewhere, so this is a fundamental difference that cannot be reconciled.

You see what you're looking for:
the old woman and the young woman
in the same image
Here's the amazing realization I've had: the first difference (interpretation) drives the second difference (acceptance of prophets)--and the first difference is really an illusion.

IOW, once both sides recognize that they are engaged in confirmation bias, they can set aside their differences about interpretation of the text and about the evidence that drives those interpretations. Then everyone can focus first on the question of whether or not to accept the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.

Another way to say it is this: there are textual interpretations and evidence to support the teachings of the prophets, and Also textual interpretations and evidence to repudiate the prophets. Anyone who thinks otherwise is living in a delusional state of confirmation bias.

That's why the first decision must be whether or not to accept the prophets.

No longer can we pretend the prophets have not taught that Cumorah is in New York.

We each must make a personal decision whether to accept or reject the prophets. 

Those who try to split the difference by resorting to the "it's their opinion" rationalization are not only rejecting the prophets who have taught the New York Cumorah, but they are also rejecting the prophets who have condemned those who use that very rationalization.

There is no law against repudiating the prophets.

But it's dishonest to repudiate the prophets while pretending to believe the prophets. 

Especially when you are employed by BYU/CES and you hypocritically teach your students to believe the prophets.

Because I'm one who accepts the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, it may seem as though I have a thumb on the scale. But those who know me and have read my work know that I treat confirmation bias the same way whether I am assessing confirmation bias on my part or on the part of others.

I freely admit that I seek to confirm my bias that the prophets are right, but I also have a bias for accuracy, facts and reality.

With that in mind, we can all recognize that, at its core, the purpose of M2C is to confirm its bias that the prophets are wrong.

We've seen that, by its own admission, the purpose of M2C is not to seek the truth. 

I went through that analysis here:

I don't think M2C started with that objective. It actually started with the same objective I have; i.e., to confirm its bias that the prophets were correct. But in the case of M2C, the assumption was that the anonymous articles in the Times and Seasons were correct. Those articles claimed the Book of Mormon took place in Central America, although everyone in the Church at the time also knew that Joseph and Oliver consistently taught Cumorah was in New York.

Preferring the anonymous articles over the teachings of the First Presidency and members of the Twelve, the M2C advocates calculated that the distances described in the text were too small to accommodate the New York Cumorah. From there, they concluded the prophets were merely expressing their opinions, speaking from their ignorance and speculation.

Therefore, according to the M2C intellectuals, the prophets were wrong.

The arguments go like this:

1. The prophets who have taught that Cumorah is in New York are wrong.

2. Because the prophets are wrong, we have to look at scholarly interpretations of the text as the sole guide for determining the geography.

BYU fantasy map that repudiates the prophets
3. The Book of Mormon took place in a limited area because the distances are described in terms of a few days of travel on foot.

4. The only area that "fits" the text is Mesoamerica, so the real Cumorah (Mormon 6:6) is located in Southern Mexico. The Church still calls the New York hill "Cumorah," but that's based on a false tradition. Hence, there are "two Cumorahs." The "real" Cumorah is in Mexico, and the "false" Cumorah is in New York.

5. The evidence of M2C consists of a series of correspondences between the M2C interpretations of the text and the geography, archaeology, anthropology and geology of Mesoamerica.

That all sounds great, doesn't it? 

Once you rationalize away the teachings of the prophets, you can engage in normal academic inquiry. 

Well, not really.

To people outside the citation cartel, it is apparent that every one of these "correspondences" is pure confirmation bias, as I'll show in future posts. I think once the M2C advocates acknowledge that their M2C correspondences might be illusory, they will consider re-evaluating their original premise.

If they were actually engaged in normal academic inquiry, they would have done this a long time ago. They would welcome contrary views. They would participate in a robust debate and discussion. They would welcome challenges to M2C. They would engage in actual peer review.

But they don't.

Instead, the M2C citation cartel follows the classic definition of a cult, as I'll explain in upcoming posts.

That's why a consensus is impossible, at least for now.

The reason I retain some hope is that every participant in the citation cartel whom I've met is a wonderful person. I think it's still possible that they can set aside their bias against the prophets and take a fresh look.

At that point, they will examine the teachings of the prophets again and see whether a new bias--one that affirms the teachings of the prophets--can be confirmed by the evidence and by textual interpretation.

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