Jenkins Rejoinder 9: He’s Back

This in from Prof. Jenkins.


I am disappointed in Dr. Hamblin.

I kindly tried to give him an out from the impossible situation in which he had found himself. Unfortunately, his ungracious latest screed shows that he is not willing to play nice, and he falsely portrays my gesture as a surrender.

That is unbelievably rude behavior. So here we go again.

Here is the problem. I have spent a great many messages pressing home one question again and again. Give me one piece of credible evidence for the Book of Mormon. If you do that, then that book might be worth reading and discussing. If not, not.

Repeatedly, I have asked for ONE piece of evidence from the Americas, and answer has come there none, for the simple and obvious reason that there is none. There is no other field of academic study in which a situation like this would arise, in which alleged experts would not be able to produce a single fact to support the existence of their boasted field of activity, never mind its value – just its existence.

What I have heard instead from Dr. Hamblin is “Now, hold your horses, we have to discuss rules first, we can’t deal with those vulgar facts!” Then, we move to a good catalogue of reasons why no such answers are possible. Then recently, we get the “OK, now I am going on the offensive! I will discuss pottery evidence.” And a waiting world expects, finally, some attempt at an answer, no matter now credulous or ill-argued. What pottery evidence will be be offering?

But no, his next contribution, astonishingly, is a series of questions designed purely for the purpose of delay and confusing the question: “Is there any archaeological evidence for the existence of Israelites and Judeans in Iron Age Mesopotamia? Or are those tens of thousands of Israelites and Judeans essentially transparent in the archaeological record?”

Pathetic. I imagine that if I answer this, the next question will be “Moses led 600,000 Israelites from Egypt. What were their names and addresses and cellphone numbers?” And at that point, he still will not be offering a single piece of evidence. It is up to him to offer evidence. If he has none, he should be honest enough to admit it.

And now I hear that this constant strategy of flagrant evasion was “in a para-Socratic fashion, attempting to get [me] to reflect on some of his naive assumptions about how we can supposedly “prove” the Book of Mormon.” What arrogant nonsense! 

He is awfully good at deploying impressive sounding academic words to conceal the total vacuity of his argument. You do know there is a difference between “para-Socratic” and “constantly weaseling out of giving a straight answer”?

And you do know that for the rest of the world, seeking historical facts is not considered “naïve”? Nor is seeking corroborating for allegedly historical texts?

This was the point where it was obvious that he was floundering so badly that he needed a diplomatic out, and I tried to give him one, which he has spurned.

If Dr. Hamblin had a shred of worthwhile evidence, he would use it. He doesn’t and he can’t. If he wants to contradict that, then he should cut the continuing garbage and evasion and answer the core question.

Answer please?

No, you do not need to establish all sorts of rules about the nature of the alleged discipline of Ancient Book of Mormon Studies. No, you don’t need to lay the foundation for some hermeneutic he has just invented. And no, we don’t need to have a detailed reading of the tract that Joseph Smith invented in 1830.

We need facts. We need any trace of the archaeological footprint that would undoubtedly exist if hundreds of thousands, or millions, of these people had lived in the Americas at any given time, if they had cities and empires and roads.

We need one thing, namely an answer to this question: Can anyone cite any single credible fact, object, site, or inscription from the New World that supports any one story found in the Book of Mormon? One sherd of pottery? One tool of bronze or iron? One carved stone? One piece of genetic data? And by credible, I mean drawn from a reputable scholarly study, an academic book or refereed journal, not some cranky piece of pseudo-science.

Dr. Hamblin says I have asked this question annoyingly often, and he may be right. His flat refusals to answer the question have been precisely as numerous, as annoying, and as revealing about the total lack of support for a word he says on Book of Mormon issues. He has never made the slightest effort to answer the question. Evasion, evasion, evasion.

The Emperor has no clothes. But he is very good indeed at suggesting why everyone else is dishonest and naïve if they think they see him without clothes.

Answer please?

Also, he should answer this question from several posts back:

“If a view is in any sense scholarly or scientific, then it must be open to verification and falsifiability. There has to be some fact or insight, however hypothetical, that would make an apologist lose confidence in the Book of Mormon. I have already said where my own view might be falsified. So I would ask Dr. Hamblin, or any apologist: what is that potential deal-breaker for you? If you reply that no piece of external evidence could shake your belief, however overwhelming it might seem, then you are stating explicitly that your view is a matter of faith, and not of science, scholarship or history. If that is so, then there is no point in trying to argue the issue in such terms. It is purely internal to you. Just don’t pretend that you have any claim in the realm of science, scholarship or history.”

Answer please?

There are no Ancient Book of Mormon Studies because the book was cooked up in 1830. It reflects no reality in the ancient Americas. If it is ancient, it is not Book of Mormon. If it is Book of Mormon, it is not ancient. Don’t you want to hear that? Then convince me otherwise. Give me facts. If you had the slightest confidence in your claims, you would be falling over yourself giving me this archaeological site and that inscription and this Mayan text. You aren’t because none exists.

Oh, there is so much else we will be discussing over the coming months. Writing of Precolumbian transoceanic contact with the New World, Dr. Hamblin writes that “Sixty or seventy years ago that possibility was almost universally rejected by scholars of Precolumbian America.  (The Viking site at L’Anse aux Meadows was discovered only in 1968.)” Now, there are two possibilities here. Either he knows that is wholly bogus, or he does not. Either way, he has no right to be discussing such things if he knows nothing about them. There has always been a sizable body of opinion supporting the plausibility of a Norse landing in the Americas, which was recorded in a strictly contemporary source. You know the definition of “contemporary source”? Something totally unlike the Book of Mormon.

L’Anse aux Meadows confirmed expectations, it did not revolutionize them. How can you not know that?

The last refuge of the desperate is his claim that doubt about the Book of Mormon arises from its religious context. “The problem with the Book of Mormon is that it claims Jesus visited the new world.  These claims—rather than its claims about Precolumbian American archaeology—are the fundamental reason it receives almost no serious attention by Precolumbian scholars.” Preposterous, utter baloney, and you know it. The reason nobody believes it is that there is zero positive evidence in its favor. If you believe that statement is wrong, then give me the evidence. One piece.

Will I be reading my way through the assorted cranks of Ancient Book of Mormon Studies? No, and let me explain by an analogy. There is a contemporary writer called David Icke, a former footballer, who has produced a number of books that achieve remarkable sales. His views are somewhat unconventional:

In four books published over seven years – The Robots’ Rebellion (1994), And the Truth Shall Set You Free (1995), The Biggest Secret (1999), and Children of the Matrix (2001) – he set out a worldview that combined New-Age spiritualism with a denunciation of totalitarian trends in the modern world. At the heart of his theories lies the idea that a secret group of reptilian humanoids called the Babylonian Brotherhood (including George W. Bush, Queen Elizabeth II, Kris Kristofferson and Boxcar Willie) controls humanity, and that many prominent figures are reptilian. He further proposes that the Moon is an artificial construct — “probably a hollowed-out planetoid” — from which the reptilians broadcast an “artificial sense of self and the world” that humans mistakenly perceive as reality.

Personally, I find this views extremely improbable, and most regular people who take the trouble to note them dismiss them as worthless garbage. But his work raises interesting questions about the burden of proof. I am not going to waste my time trying to disprove anything Mr. Icke says, because it is a waste of time. Actually, I can’t disprove anything, even about Boxcar Willie: he (Icke, not Willie) has to prove it. If he wishes to establish his views, he should do so in reputable outlets, not just self-published books. That seems obvious to me, but the distinction seems lost on many commenters, who don’t understand why the burden of proof lies on the person presenting the self-evidently flaky and radically counter-intuitive view.

Extraordinary views demand extraordinary evidence.

Nor do I have to read every word Icke has written in order to form a pretty good opinion of his views. They are, as I say, prima facie outrageous, and I will wait until they are presented in a proper format with a couple of convincing and credible items supporting his beliefs. It is not legitimate to say that I can form no opinion until I have read every page of his oeuvre. Nor do I have any patience with comments that I therefore forfeit any right to comment on the issues at hand, on the basis that just possibly a worthwhile argument might lurk on page 335.

Nor, similarly, do I intend to struggle through the collected nonsense of the non-academic non-discipline of Ancient Book of Mormon Studies. That is not prejudice on my part. It just reflects the observation that for all the assembled efforts, writings and so-called research of these folks, they can’t produce one single solitary piece of evidence to support their cause.

What do these ABMS people do at their conferences, anyway? Play Parcheesi?

Well, that’s a start. I will be following every one of the posts in which Dr Hamblin evades any attempt to give an honest answer to my basic and very simple question. Give me one piece of New World evidence to support the Book of Mormon.

As the old phrase has it: put up or shut up.