Against Dale and Dale’s Bayesian analysis of the Book of Mormon – rough draft, looking for feedback

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lodo_the_bear
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Against Dale and Dale’s Bayesian analysis of the Book of Mormon – rough draft, looking for feedback

Post by lodo_the_bear »

The following is a rough draft of a paper that I am preparing to counter Bruce E. Dale and Brian Dale's paper titled Joseph Smith: The World's Greatest Guesser. I am looking for feedback on how to improve the piece for publication. I've posted it at https://lodobear.wordpress.com/2023/12/ ... ugh-draft/, but I'm posting it in full here.

Bruce E. Dale and Brian Dale wrote a paper critiquing Dr. Michael Coe's critique of the Book of Mormon. Coe claims that the Book of Mormon is a grossly inaccurate description of ancient America, so the most likely explanation of its origins is that someone in the 19th century made it all up. Dale and Dale claim that the Book of Mormon gets so many details right about ancient America that the most likely explanation for it is that it is indeed an ancient document, since a modern document couldn't have correct in so many particulars. They employ Bayesian statistics in their argument, claiming that the odds of getting so many things right is virtually impossible for a lucky guess. I am not an expert in Bayesian statistics, but I believe that I can show that their analysis is flawed and that they give far too much credit to the book for what it gets right and not enough discredit for what it gets wrong.

Before I get too far, I want to make clear my own claims. Like Coe, I argue that the Book of Mormon is a 19th-century document. I claim that it draws inspiration from sources in Joseph Smith's own environment, so that the details that it gets right are best explained as Smith drawing inspiration from elements around him that just luckily happen to match the details of ancient America, and that the details that it gets wrong also come from these same sources.

As I said before, I am not an expert in Bayesian statistics, but I think that I can demonstrate that Dale and Dale's particular use of Bayesian statistical analysis is flawed because it proves too much. It "proves" the authenticity of the Book of Mormon in a manner that could be used to prove an obvious forgery to be also true. To demonstrate this, I want to focus on all the similarities between the Book of Mormon and the Bible, especially the King James Version of the Bible, and look at how Dale and Dale treat the details that match those similarities.

Dale and Dale note multiple details in the Book of Mormon that, by their admission, could have been inspired by the Bible. In other words, someone clumsily copying the Bible could have gotten all these details right. Yet, in all of these cases, they give credit to Smith for getting the details right, assigning the likelihood of Smith guessing correctly as less than 1, sometimes much less. Let's consider these details:

Tribute being required of subjects. They assign a likelihood of Smith getting this right as 0.1
Limited number of important patrilineages. They assign this a 0.02
Sacrifice of children and others to gods. They assign this a 0.1
Close association of temples with sacred mountains/hills. They assign this a 0.02
Temple and other religious rituals involve bloodletting. They assign this a 0.5
Pantheistic religion and idols. They assign this a 0.1
Divination: consulting oracles for secular guidance and assistance. They assign this a 0.1
Stones and slings used as weapons for fighting. They assign this a 0.02
Periods of terrible drought separated by decades or centuries with resulting famines. They assign this a 0.1

Again, by their own admission, Smith could have gotten all of these details out of the Bible, which is exactly what I and others accuse him of doing. In spite of this, they give him credit for all of these, and if you multiply all of these together, you get a combined likelihood of 4 x 10^-11, or one in four hundred billion. Again, someone copying details from the Bible might have included all of these, and anyone looking to prove the Biblical nature of the Book of Mormon would point towards all these details and ask what the likelihood was of Smith writing in all of these similarities. So how is it that Dale and Dale come to such a strong conclusion in favor of Smith?

I think that the answer is that they only consider the odds of Smith getting the details right, without ever considering the odds of whether or not he copied the details. In other words, they're only looking at one set of odds. If we're to accurately assess the likely origins of the Book of Mormon, we need to consider multiple theories at once. We need to ask what the odds are of all these details getting into the text without being copied from the Bible or other elements in Smith's own environment. So how are we to consider these odds at the same time as considering the odds that Smith got details right?

Again, I'm no expert in Bayesian statistics, but what I'm going to do is to adjust the likelihood of any detail based on how easily Smith could have gotten 19th-century inspiration for that detail. If the explanation of Smith copying from his environment is as good as Smith getting inspiration from ancient America, then I'm going to assign the detail a likelihood of 1, reflecting the fact that either explanation is just as good. With that said, it's time to re-examine every detail that Dale and Dale provided to see if the details really do justify giving Smith credit for lucky guesses.

Fundamental level of political organization is the independent city-state

This one seems unusual. Dale and Dale give a lot of credit to Smith for never using the word "nation" to describe the Nephite and Lamanite peoples. How much credit should we actually give Joseph Smith for never using a word that didn't apply? I'm no expert here, so I'll stick with Dale and Dale's likelihood of 0.02.

"Capital" or leading city-state dominates a cluster of other communities

Dale and Dale claim that there is "no corresponding political arrangement in Joseph Smith’s time which he might have used as a model". I disagree. Having the capital city be the most important city in a group of cities is an entirely normal arrangement, and I think this undercuts the significance of the previous point. Dale and Dale give this a likelihood of 0.02, but I say that it offers no strong evidence for or against the Book of Mormon. I give it a 1.

Some subordinate city-states shift their allegiance to a different "capital" city

Shifting allegiance isn't unusual at all. Dale and Dale give this one a 0.1, but as they themselves note that this "does not seem unusual to a modern reader and probably would not have seemed unusual even to a country boy", I give it a 1.

Complex state institutions

Dale and Dale's justification for giving this one a 0.02 is that "the British and American civil governments had large, complex state institutions, but the Native American societies certainly did not". The trouble here is that Smith was not describing existing Native American societies. He was describing a supposedly vanished society that was great enough to build wonders that the current population surely could not have built. In describing a great civilization, it would be only natural to ascribe them some level of complexity, and Smith had plenty of inspiration to draw from here. I give this a 1.

Many cities exist

Again, Smith was describing a lost great society, and he was drawing inspiration from sources like the Bible which describe multiple cities, not to mention his own environment of multiple cities. I give this a 1.

City of Laman (Lamanai) "occupied from earliest times"

This one is unclear. Dale and Dale give credit to Smith for naming a city Laman, but whether or not this city was actually "occupied from earliest times" in the Book of Mormon is unclear, not to mention how important the city actually was. As to the odds of getting the consonants correct, I don't know how to measure that, but I will note that Smith was familiar with names like Lyman. Also, he named many cities in the Book of Mormon, and Dale and Dale don't give us the numbers on how many cities have no parallels in Mayan names, so I think that we are entitled to ask what the odds are of Smith randomly getting one name right while throwing out so many names. Still, since I'm no expert on these matters, I'll leave this as Dale and Dale's estimate of 0.02.

Parts of the land were very densely settled

Dale and Dale again reference existing Native American populations, saying that "Native Americans with whom Joseph Smith had direct contact did not have cities, let alone cities so densely settled" but I again note that Smith was describing a great lost civilization, consistent with what he heard about in Mound Builder tales, and that he had inspiration from his own environment and texts like the Bible. I give this a 1.

Large-scale public works

Again, Smith was describing a great lost civilization, and whoever heard of a great civilization without large-scale public works? Smith had ample inspiration for this one. I give it a 1.

Some rulers live in luxury

Dale and Dale are at least decent enough to give this just a 0.5, but I see no reason to give this any more than a 1.

Elaborate thrones

Since Dale and Dale themselves note that "Joseph might have known about the elaborate throne of the British royal family, so it was perhaps not unusual", I won't give this one the 0.1 they assign it, especially since thrones feature prominently in the Bible in multiple places. This one gets a 1.

Royalty exists, with attendant palaces, courts and nobles

Yes, of course royalty exists. I see no reason to give this anything better than a 1.

Royal or elite marriages for political purposes

Since Dale and Dale note that "Joseph might also have been aware of the political marriages in the royal houses of England and Europe", I give this one a 1.

Feasting for political purposes

Feasts have been a common feature in civilizations across history. I rate this a 1.

Gifts to the king for political advantage

Currying favor is an obvious feature of politics everywhere. Dale and Dale rate this is a 0.5, but I rate it 1.

Political factions organize around a member of the elite

Dale and Dale note that "in the early 19th century, the party system had already been born, and the party often pivoted around a key political figure like Thomas Jefferson or John Adams, so this idea was not unusual to Joseph", so I see no reason to give this any credit, no matter how specific and detailed it is. It's simply too obvious a feature of humanity to miss. I give it a 1.

Foreigners move in and take over government, often as family dynasties

Again, this is a common feature of humanity, and places like the Bible have stories of people moving in and taking charge. Dale and Dale give this a 0.1, but I give it a 1.

City administrative area with bureaucrats and aristocrats

This, too, seems like an obvious feature of human government, and anyone with any passing familiarity with how humans organize would describe cities like this. I give this a 1.

Records kept specifically of the reigns of the kings

The Bible keeps records of kings, so why not the Book of Mormon as well? I give this a 1.

Native leaders incorporated in power structure after subjugation

The Bible appears to feature this kind of power structure, so I don't rate this as unusual. I'll give it a 0.1.

Tribute required of subjects

Since Dale and Dale note that "it is possible that Joseph had heard about this practice either through the Bible or other sources", I give this a 1.

Limited number of important patrilineages

Dale and Dale note that "Joseph Smith might have picked up this idea from reading the Bible (that is, the tribes of Israel)" but consider this "very unlikely". They don't explain why. Considering how familiar Smith was with the Bible, and considering how common it is for a limited number of hereditary elites to be in charge of things, I give this a 1.

King and "king elect"

Kings are common to the Bible, and elected leaders were common to Joseph's environment. This is not specific enough to count in favor of the ancient America hypothesis over the 19th-century hypothesis. Dale and Dale give this a 0.5, but I give this one just a 1.

There are captains serving kings

Where would Joseph Smith have come up with the idea of having people serving kings? Presumably from common sense. I rate this a 1.

Political power is exercised by family dynasties

This appears to be a restatement of the detail of having a limited number of important patrilineages. Since it's redundant, it counts as no better than a 1.

Kings rule over subordinate provincial or territorial rulers, some of noble blood (subkings)

This is a natural feature of aristocracies. I rate this as no more specific than a 1.

"Seating" means accession to political power

The Bible makes numerous references to seats of power, judgment seats, and sitting on thrones. Someone copying the Bible would use this kind of language. I give this a 1.

Separation of civil and religious authority

This was common in Smith's environment, and someone in that environment trying to come up with a civilization's details might easily have given this specific detail. Since it doesn't stand out from Smith's environment, I give it no better than a 1.

Those of noble birth aspire to power

Dale and Dale themselves note that "seeking after power seems to be part of human nature", so why should this count for anything special? I give it a 1.

Royal courts imitate their enemies

This one does seem odd to me, and to Coe, so I'll go with Dale and Dale's rating of 0.1.

Royal courts function as "great households"

Unlike Dale and Dale, I don't think this is specific enough to count for anything. I give it a 1.

Candidates for high office had to possess hidden knowledge

Here, I disagree with Dale and Dale's take on the Book of Mormon. Their argument is that phrases like "he caused that they should be taught in all the language of his fathers" from Mosiah 1:2 imply some secret knowledge passed from father to son. I say that this kind of language is too common in the Book of Mormon to imply any such thing. Consider 1 Nephi 1:1, which begins with "I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father". Being taught in the language of fathers is presented as part of a good education, not a secret one. Since this detail doesn't actually feature in the Book of Mormon, it gets no better than a 1.

Abrupt breaks in dynasties

Since Dale and Dale note that "Joseph might well have known about the many European wars, with multiple rulers bent on deposing each other", this one is not specific to the Book of Mormon. I give it a 1.

Subservient peoples are said to "possess" the land while ruled by a dominant power

Speaking of "possessing" a land seems to be quite common in the Bible, as Dale and Dale note when they say that "that same word possess was the relationship the Israelites were to have with their lands of promise, under God's rule". This fits well with the hypothesis that Smith copied the Bible, so it doesn't count as specific to the ancient America hypothesis. I give it a 1.

Possible ancient origin of Mesoamerican cultures

Here, again, I disagree with Dale and Dale's take on the Book of Mormon. They argue that the Jaredites fit well with the model of an especially ancient culture inspiring later ancient American cultures, but the Jaredites destroyed themselves before they had the chance to pass anything on to the Nephites. Since this doesn't match well with the Book of Mormon, I give this a 1.

Active interchange of ideas and things among the elite

Active interchange of ideas is common to all humans, not just ancient elite ones. Dale and Dale give this a 0.02. I think they're being absurdly generous to Smith here. I give it a 1.

Foreign brides for elites

As Dale and Dale note that "Joseph might have been aware of the intermarriages among the royal houses of Europe, where elites also had foreign brides", this feature of the Book of Mormon does not stand out. I give it a 1.

Slavery practiced

This is all too common to humanity, including humanity as described in the Bible. I give it a 1.

Different languages found in pockets

Dale and Dale note that "Joseph Smith might have reflected on the intrusion of English into the French peoples of Canada, or on the immigration of so many Germans during the Revolutionary War" and then immediately write this off as "unlikely in the extreme". I say that they are not justified in writing this off as unlikely. I give it a 1.

In their creation stories, a great flood caused by human wickedness

This is very common in ancient creation stories, including the Bible. I give this one a 1.

Possible settlement of the Americas by seafarers

Joseph's own ancestors settled America by sea, so he had ample inspiration to draw on for this one. I give it a 1.

Steep decline and disappearance of an ancient culture a few hundred years BC

Here, again, I disagree with Dale and Dale's take on the Book of Mormon. The Jaredites suffered more than a steep decline; they had a massive civil war of extinction. Dale and Dale give this a 0.02. Since it's not that great of a fit with the Book of Mormon itself, I give this one just a 0.1.

Strong class distinctions based on noble birth, wealth and specialized learning

Another detail that's all too common to humanity. I give this a 1.

Sacrifice of children and others to Maya gods

As Dale and Dale note that "the practice of sacrificing children and infants is described in the Bible", I say that this is not good enough to separate the ancient America hypothesis from the 19th-century hypothesis. I rate this a 1.

Multiple correspondences with Egyptian culture and concepts

Here, I greatly disagree with Dale and Dale. They note that there are similarities between the Maya and the Egyptians, but I say that these similarities imply commonalities between all human cultures. If these massively separate cultures could come up with the same idea, Smith could come up with it as well. I give this a 1.

Mobile populations, founding new cities

As Dale and Dale note that "Joseph Smith and his family were themselves part of a highly mobile American frontier population", this one once again does not differentiate ancient America from 19th-century America. I give this a 1.

Menial workers, extreme inequality, ignorance and oppression

Once again, this is all too common to humanity everywhere. I rate this a 1.

Marketplaces exist

Yes, in fact, they do exist. They exist everywhere. I give this a 1.

People driven from their homes wander searching for a new home

This is common to Smith's history (Europeans leaving their homeland for a better home abroad) and to the Bible, starting with the creation story of Adam and Eve being driven from their first home. Dale and Dale give this a 0.02, and I think they're being absurdly generous again. I give it a 1.

Wasteful architectural extravagance

This is common to rich people everywhere, and it can be found in the Bible. To be ignorant of this feature of humanity, Smith would have had to be ignorant of the very existence of rich people. He was not that ignorant. Dale and Dale again give this 0.02, and I once again disagree and give this a 1.

Large northward migrations specifically mentioned

Dale and Dale call this a "a specific, detailed and unusual correspondence", but I disagree. Having a generalized north land to flee too is not detailed or unusual. They give this one a 0.02, but I only rate it a 0.1.

Constant migrations

Since Dale and Dale note that "Joseph Smith and his family were part of a mass westward migration of Americans that had been going on for a very long time", this one fits just as well with the 19th-century hypothesis as it does with the ancient America hypothesis. As such, I give it a 1.

Cities and lands named after founder

This one seems too common to humanity in general to be worth mentioning. I give it a 1.

Maya say their ancestors came from the west, beyond the sea

Joseph's own ancestors came from the west, beyond the sea, so once again, it's not a distinguishing detail. I give it a 1.

Their sacred writing has poetic parallelisms, repetitions

This one merits some special examination. Dale and Dale note the existence of chiasms in Maya literature and in the Book of Mormon, but they give a lot of credit to the Book of Mormon for having chiasms and not much credit to possible inspirations for having similar chiasms. They claim that "Hebrew chiasms and poetic parallelisms in the Old Testament were largely erased by the scholars who translated the King James Bible into English". The people at https://www.chiasmusxchange.com/ disagree. They point to the existence of dozens of chiasms throughout the Old and New Testaments, even in the existing English translations. Smith, being familiar with the Bible and wanting to emulate it, could have easily imitated this poetic form deliberately or by chance.

Dale and Dale pay special attention to the large chiasm in Alma 36. Other people don't see that one as compelling evidence. In Alma 36: Ancient Masterpiece Chiasmus or Modern Revivalist Testimony?, Robert M. Bowman Jr. makes the case that Alma 36 is a poor example of chiasm. I find Bowman's case more compelling than anything cited by Dale and Dale, undercutting their case that these details are "unusual in the extreme" as they claim.

Dale and Dale think that they are generous by giving this one a 0.02 as opposed to a higher weight such as one in a billion. I say that they are being too generous to Smith again. I rate this one as a 0.1.

Corn first among grains

Dale and Dale note that even View of the Hebrews mentions the primacy of corn among the Native Americans, so this one can easily be explained by Smith's environment. I give it a 1.

Multiple wives/concubines especially among the rich

Again, this one is common across cultures and found in the Bible. I give it a 1.

Important to trace one’s genealogy to a prominent ancestor

This one is common to monarchies and aristocracies everywhere, and it features in the Bible. Dale and Dale rate this as a 0.02, and I again call them absurdly generous. I give it a 1.

Genealogies kept very carefully by the priests

If doing genealogy work has taught me anything, it's that churches are excellent sources of ancestral records. They kept them in Joseph Smith's day just as they had kept them for centuries before in Europe. Detailed genealogies are also found in the Bible. I rate this one as a 1.

Homosexuality probably practiced

Another feature found across all of human culture, and the best that Dale and Dale can say is that "the Book of Mormon’s reference to homosexual practices is veiled, but clear enough". It fails to stand out from any environment. I rate this as a 1.

Arcane sacred or prestige language

Once again, I disagree with Dale and Dale's take on the Book of Mormon. Being taught in the language of fathers best fits the pattern of receiving a good education in the Book of Mormon's context. It is not referenced as secret knowledge, and Dale and Dale are wrong in describing it as such. This detail is missing, so it gets a 1.

Practice of repopulating old or abandoned cities

This one does strike me as unusual, but there does seem to be some precedent in the Bible of repossessing cities, such as the taking of Jericho. Still, the way this is presented in the Book of Mormon doesn't quite seem to match anything that I'm aware of in Joseph's environment. I will concur with Dale and Dale in giving this a 0.1.

World divided into four quarters or quadrants

The Bible speaks both of the four quarters of the earth and the four quarters of heaven, and other traditions reference the four corners of the world. I give this a 1.

Maya fascinated by ancient Olmec culture

This feature is common to humanity. Joseph Smith and his contemporaries were fascinated by ancient Biblical culture and by the ancient culture of the supposed "mound builders". Smith seems to have simply given the Nephites a detail that he had in himself. I rate this a 1.

Lineage histories dominate the written records

This detail again seems to be common to the Bible. I give it a 1.

Central role of temples (ritual centers) in society

Dale and Dale say that "Joseph Smith might - perhaps, possibly, conceivably - have gotten the idea from View of the Hebrews" but I think it more likely that Smith got the idea from the Bible, with the tabernacle and the temple being so central to worship in the Old Testament, not to mention being a central site of Jesus's ministry in the New Testament. I give this a 1.

Strong Christian elements in Maya religion

Here, I very strongly disagree with Dale and Dale's take. They note certain resemblances between Maya and Christian practices, but I say that the Book of Mormon makes such a strong claim here that these resemblances do not go far enough. The Book of Mormon claims that its ancient peoples were explicitly Christian, not just Christian-like, and it features many aspects of Christianity that were common to Smith's day. Alexander Campbell, in his book "Delusions", notices that the Book of Mormon discusses "all the great controversies – infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of freemasonry, republican government, and the rights of man". In other words, the Book of Mormon is much more explicitly Christian than the Maya ever were. Even worse, it describes a people who were explicitly Christian before the time of Jesus. As such, instead of calling this a lucky guess, I call it completely off the mark. Dale and Dale rated this one a 0.02. I do the exact opposite, and rate it a 50.

Change in popular cults; decline of a great city in the highlands in the Late Preclassic

I'm not sure what to make of this one, so I'll leave it as Dale and Dale's estimation in favor of Smith, as 0.1.

Close association of temples with sacred mountains/hills (pyramids)

The Bible makes this same association, with Isaiah explicitly referring to the "mountain of the Lord". Dale and Dale give this a 0.02, claiming that Smith could only have gotten the idea from a "careful reading of the Bible" uncommon to his day. I say that Smith was clearly a careful reader of the Bible, so I give this a 1.

Seers and seer stones exist

Seer stones were a common practice in Smith's environment. I rate this a 1.

Temple and other religious rituals involve bloodletting

Dale and Dale note that bloodletting practices "would probably not be unusual to a Bible-reading individual". They give this a 0.5, but I don't think it deserves even that in light of what they acknowledged. I give it a 1.

Belief in resurrection

Belief in coming back from the dead is common among human cultures. Dale and Dale claim that "doctrine of a literal bodily resurrection had been in retreat in Christianity for centuries", but in so doing, they acknowledge that the claim was already there in Christianity, just as Alexander Campbell pointed out. Smith could easily have gotten this one from the Bible. I give this a 1.

Baptismal rite among the Maya

In Dale and Dale's defense, they quote Coe in saying that "the Spanish Fathers were quite astounded that the Maya had a baptismal rite". But were the Spanish fathers actually justified in being astounded? Baptism-like initiation ceremonies are common among many human cultures. As for where Smith got the idea, he was already committed to the idea that the ancient Americans were all Christians, even before the coming of Jesus, so why wouldn't he say that they were practicing baptism? It would have been stranger if he claimed that they weren't baptizing. I give this a 1.

Ritual walking in straight roads symbolizes acceptable behavior

The Bible says that "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it", so why should we be surprised when a book based on the Bible makes reference to straight roads? I give this a 1.

Humans obligated to abide by covenants, God usually involved

The idea of making covenants with God is written all through the Bible. Dale and Dale claim that "in the conventional Christianity of Smith’s day, the importance of covenants was very much downplayed if not absent altogether" but I think they're completely wrong here. Christianity at any time has centered on making promises to God and doing God's will. I give this one a 1.

Hereditary priests and Chief Priests

Dale and Dale make a poor case for the office of priest being hereditary in the Book of Mormon. As for how Smith guessed at a model of priests that didn't quite match his day, he had the Bible for inspiration. I do not see how Smith's description of priests is a poor match for the Bible or a good match for Coe's description of Mayan priests. I rate this a 1.

Existence of opposites is an essential part of creation

In the article Alma 42 and the Atonement, the author makes the case that Smith got his ideas about "opposition in all things" from Greek philosophy. On this one, it's hard to say what kind of inspiration Smith had access to here, but the author makes the case that many thinkers have said that opposites are an essential part of creation. As such, this one is not that unique to Smith, so it is not so strange that he wrote it. Dale and Dale give this a 0.02, but I argue that we should give this one a more conservative 0.1.

Pantheistic religion and idols

The existence of idol worship was a big deal throughout the Old and New Testament. It is no surprise to see a Bible-based book continue with that same focus. I give this a 1.

Sorcery, magic and witchcraft practiced

Dale and Dale note that "belief in the practice of evil magic... would probably not be unusual to Joseph Smith", so this one again fits well with Smith's existing environment. I give it a 1.

Ritual for the renewal of the community, including transfer of sacred objects

Others have made the case that Benjamin's gathering of his people closely resembles a spiritual revival meeting. As for the transfer of objects, that has parallels both in royal coronations transferring objects such as a crown, or in Bible stories such as Elisha taking up the mantle of Elijah. Smith had plenty of inspiration for this one. I rate this a 1.

Blurring/combining priestly and political roles

This is another common feature in human cultures, and you can find it in the Bible as well. I give this a 1.

Divination: consulting oracles for secular guidance and assistance

Dale and Dale note that "this practice is also mentioned in the Bible (for example, Saul and the witch of Endor)" so it isn't good enough to count as evidence only in Smith's favor. I give it a 1.

Calendars kept by holy men/priests

This is not described in great detail in the Book of Mormon, as Dale and Dale acknowledge. I don't think there is anything in the Book of Mormon to distinguish this kind of record keeping from that done priests and monks up to Smith's time. I rate this one as just a 1.

Virtuous persons "confess"

Dale and Dale give this one a 0.02 on the grounds that "while confession is a prominent part of the Roman Catholic faith, it was not prominent in any Protestant tradition in frontier America". I think they've got it all wrong. Confessing your sins and repenting of them has been part of Christianity from the beginning, as well as in other cultures. I give this a 1.

Extreme cruelty to enemy captives

This one is sadly common to humanity, and cruelty to captives is a thing that people often accuse their enemies of. We can find these kinds of accusations in The Late War, among other places. I rate this as only a 1.

Defensive earthworks with deep ditches, breastworks and palisades

Dale and Dale give great credit to the Book of Mormon in describing ditches and walls, concluding that "Joseph Smith was either a military genius himself, or he guessed it". I say that you don't have to be a genius to come up with the idea of ditches and walls, and that The Late War describes this exact sort of arrangement, with forts having walls in front of them and ditches around them. With The Late War as context, I give this one only a 1.

Walled cities, especially during wartime

Having walled cities is both Biblical and just good common sense. I give it a 1.

Thick clothing used as armor

What's so unusual about thick clothing? This seems like another detail that you could arrive at by common sense. I give it a 1.

Fighting with "darts"

The Bible makes references to fighting with darts, so this one isn't a stretch. Since it could be equally ancient America or 19th century, I give it a 1.

Endemic, internecine warfare destroyed the societies

Unless I'm mistaken, this one isn't Biblical, but it was a common idea in Smith's day, with people supposing that the "savages" living in the present had exterminated the great lost civilization of the mound builders. I give this a 1.

Warfare with ambushes and traps

Dale and Dale note that "the Indians of North America were also masters of ambush, and Joseph would have known this", so I say that we're not even justified in giving this a 0.5. I give it a 1.

Raids to take captives/slaves

I quote Dale and Dale: "Indians also raided the whites and each other to take captives/slaves. Joseph Smith would likely have known of this practice." They proceed to give this a 0.1 for being specific and detailed, but it can be specific and detailed about Smith's environment just as well as it can be specific and detailed about ancient America. I give it a 1.

Warriors dressing to inspire fear

As Dale and Dale note that "Indian warriors, for example, used war paint in part to inspire fear", I give this one only a 1.

Stones and slings used as weapons for fighting

Slings are regularly mentioned as weapons in the Bible, so it's no surprise to see them regularly mentioned in a text inspired by the Bible. I give this a 1.

Cannibalism practiced on captives

Dale and Dale note that "Joseph Smith may have heard of the ritual cannibalism practiced by the Iroquois", and it fits all too well with the narrative of cruelty towards captives mentioned earlier. With that in mind, I give it a 1.

Deliberate destruction of the records/monuments

Dale and Dale ask where Smith might have gotten this idea, but I think it fits well with idea of "savages" destroying the advanced civilization. Still, I can't find too many examples of it in Smith's environment, so I'll go with Dale and Dale's weight of this one as 0.1.

Highlands and lowlands exist within the relevant geography

Having highlands and lowlands isn't specific to any kind of geography at all. I rate this one as a 1.

Accurate description of a volcanic eruption

Dale and Dale give great credit to Smith for this one. I say that they're wrong. Smith's description matches pretty well with the kind of destruction described in Revelations (thunderings, lightnings, earthquake, great hail). It also matches well with a description of a dynamite explosion as given in The Late War. For both of these similarities, I give this one a 1.

Periods of terrible drought separated by decades or centuries with resulting famines

Years of famine separated by years of plenty are described in the Bible, and they're common enough in human history. I give this one only a 1.

Venomous, aggressive snakes present

Aggressive snakes are described in the Bible as a plague sent by God, which is also how they're presented in the Book of Mormon, so once again, this one can't separate the ancient America hypothesis from the 19th century hypothesis. I give it a 1.

Easy to get lost, very thick wilderness, cities hidden in the wilderness

Being lost in the wilderness does seem to feature in the Bible (consider the children of Israel being lost in the wilderness for forty years) but the thick wilderness doesn't seem to match the Bible, and I can't find much in the existing literature that describes lost cities, so I'll leave this one as is. I'll stick with Dale and Dale's 0.02.

Powerful, ancient central city and culture in the highlands

This one has me a little baffled, so I'll leave it as Dale and Dale's value without comment. They give it a 0.02.

Earthquakes present and important

Earthquakes are present and important in the Bible, just as they are in the Book of Mormon. I give it a 1.

Deforestation of large areas

As Dale and Dale note that "Joseph Smith and everyone around him were also busy deforesting the land", this one doesn't stand out from the 19th century hypothesis at all. I give it a 1.

Areas set aside for forest regrowth and/or timber shipped in from a distance

This one strikes me as specific and detailed, but not unusual, since setting areas aside for forest regrowth seems like a common-sense idea after deforesting an area. I give this a 0.1.

Precious stones exist (but they are not diamonds, rubies, and pearls)

Dale and Dale give the Book of Mormon great credit for not naming the precious stones used. I don't think the book deserves any credit for not naming things, especially since the phrase "precious stones" appears very often in the King James Version. Since this could have easily resulted from copying the KJV, I give this one a 1.

Submerged cities

Dale and Dale note that "Joseph Smith may have known of the story of Atlantis", but the thing that makes this detail not stand out to me is that it arises in the context of multiple cities being destroyed in different ways. Some sink, some are burned, some are shaken, and some people are carried away in a whirlwind. It sounds to me like Smith was just trying to find more interesting ways to describe the destruction, and he happened to describe the destruction in a way that matches some cities that were actually destroyed. With that in mind, I rate this as a 1.

Perishable writing materials

Dale and Dale note that "paper books and documents in Joseph Smith’s day would also burn or decay", which really underscores how obvious this one is. I give Smith no credit for describing the obvious. This gets a 1.

Refined gold present

Dale and Dale say that "Joseph Smith may well have heard of the treasures of gold plundered by the Spaniards". To that, I add that the Bible also mentions refined gold and silver, so anyone describing a Biblical civilization would probably mention refined gold and silver. I give this a 1.

Millions of inhabitants in the area

Dale and Dale note that "in 1830, the U. S. census gave a population of about 13 million". So, in describing a population of millions, Smith was simply describing a population similar to his own. This fits within the idea that he was inspired by his own environment, making that explanation as likely in this case as the explanation of getting divine inspiration. I give this a 1.

Calendar kept by day, month and year

Smith's own calendar was kept by day, month, and year. It may be that he simply couldn't imagine any other way of tracking time. This gets a 1.

Multiple calendars kept

To support this detail, Dale and Dale cite 3 Nephi 1:1, which I quote in full: "Now it came to pass that the ninety and first year had passed away and it was six hundred years from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem; and it was in the year that Lachoneus was the chief judge and the governor over the land." They also cite 3 Nephi 2:7-8, which I quote in full: "And nine years had passed away from the time when the sign was given, which was spoken of by the prophets, that Christ should come into the world. Now the Nephites began to reckon their time from this period when the sign was given, or from the coming of Christ; therefore, nine years had passed away." Dale and Dale argue that these are evidence of multiple calendars being kept. I think that these are just instances of the same calendar being kept. 3 Nephi 1:1 is an instance of the author telling us how many years had passed away since a certain event had happened (specifically, since the reign of the judges began) and 3 Nephi 2:7-8 is the author again telling us how many years have passed since a certain event, and noting that the Nephites have restarted their calendar. This does not match the multiple calendar system that Coe describes at all. I count this one as evidence against the ancient America hypothesis, since we have no evidence of the Maya starting their calendar around 600 BCE or restarting it around 0 CE. To reflect the fact that this one counts against Smith, I give this one a 2.

Bee keeping, domesticated bees, honey

In pointing to this detail, Dale and Dale ask: "What Indian tribes did Joseph Smith know of that practiced beekeeping?" I say that they're asking the wrong question. Beekeeping is a common human activity, practiced by people in Smith's time and place. How did Smith guess this one correctly? I say that he simply inferred it from what he saw around him. I give this a 1.

Art including carving, painting, dancing, metalwork, music

Art is a feature common to all human cultures, including the culture described in the Bible and Smith's own culture. I give this a 1.

Knowledge of the movement of the stars, planets and moon

Smith's own civilization had knowledge of astronomy, and so did the people of the Bible. I give this a 1.

Writing is present, but its genealogy is complicated and poorly understood

Writing is common to the Bible and to Smith's own time and place. Dale and Dale also try to make the claim that the genealogy of Book of Mormon writing is complicated and poorly understood, but the book itself claims all the way until the end that it is written in reformed Egyptian, based on Hebrew. I give this a 1.

Engraved writing on stone

Once again, writing was not unusual to Smith or to the Bible, nor was writing on stone (consider the tables of stone with the commandments written on them). I give this a 1.

Many books present, some were kept in repositories

Since the Bible is composed of many books, and since Smith's time and place had many books, it would not be odd for Smith or someone like him to imagine a civilization with many books. This gets a 1.

Trading in a variety of goods

Trading is an exceptionally common human activity. I give this a 1.

Many merchants

This is just restating the past detail. This gets a 1.

Roads and causeways built

Many great civilizations built roads, so it would make sense for Smith to assign road production to a great lost civilization. I give this a 1.

Houses with attached gardens

This detail seems trivial. Houses in Smith's day had attached gardens, so why wouldn't he ascribe this feature to past civilizations? This gets a 1.

Foreigners/new rulers introduce/impose a new language/writing system on indigenous peoples

Dale and Dale's reason for giving this a 0.02 is that Smith surely could not have seen any examples of this, since "European settlers in North America were not trying to impose a new language on the Native Americans, they were trying to take get rid of the Indians and take their lands". To them, I say: look up the history of American Indian boarding schools. This practice has an unfortunate parallel in Smith's time, so it does not stand out. I give this a 1.

Writing system changed significantly over time

Dale and Dale say that Smith "might perhaps have known about significant changes in spoken English from the time" but that he couldn't have guessed that this would extend to written English. I don't find this very convincing, but I may be biased against Smith here. I will leave this at a 0.1.

Buildings of cement

Dale and Dale again reference the practices of existing American Indian populations while forgetting that Smith was describing a great lost civilization. Smith himself obviously knew what cement was, so he could have easily learned about this one from his environment. I give this a 1.

Great skill in the working of cement (stucco)

This is just restating the previous point to try to get more points of it, and I will not allow that. I give this a 1.

Excellent workmanship practiced

I find it silly that Dale and Dale thought this detail worth mentioning. Of course Smith ascribed excellent workmanship to his great lost civilization. Everyone who cared about the "mound builders" thought that they must have been pretty great, and Smith was basing his version of them on the Bible, which regularly speaks of excellent workmanship practiced by its people. Dale and Dale gave this a 0.02, their maximum value of weight for a detail. I give it a 1.

Trade goods traveled by sea

Shipping was a common practice in Smith's time, and Dale and Dale acknowledge that "Joseph Smith may have known something of the trade between the Iroquois and other northeastern tribes carried on by canoe". They defend their focus on this detail by saying that this trade was over freshwater lakes instead of the ocean, but again, Smith had his own environment to draw inspiration from. This gets a 1.

Books stored underground in lidded stone boxes

Smith had an easy parallel to draw on for this one: digging for treasure. He was a known treasure digger, and such people believed that precious objects from times past were hidden underground. Finding a stash of plates of gold fits perfectly well with Smith's environmental influences. I give this a 1.

Towers built, some very tall, possibly watchtowers

Towers are a common feature in the Bible, and they remain a common feature today, so this feature does not stand out. I give it a 1.

Multiple formal entrances to villages

This one hardly seems worth mentioning at all. Dale and Dale note that "small towns on the American frontier had more than one entrance", so this again fits well with Smith's environment. I give this a 1.

Fine fabrics and textiles, elaborate clothing

To this point, I refer you to what I said about excellent workmanship being practiced. This gets a 1.

That covers all the positive correspondences that Dale and Dale find between the Book of Mormon and the Maya. We now move on to the negative correspondences. For these matters, I would frequently like to give them a more negative weight than just 50, but Dale and Dale are already giving billion-to-1 odds against the Book of Mormon, so I'll just copy them there and try not to pile on.

Horses existed during Book of Mormon (Lehite and Jaredite) times

It's well established that horses did not exist during Lehite times. This one stays at a 50.

Elephants existed during Book of Mormon (Jaredite) times

Dale and Dale point out that "elephants may indeed have been killed off before the Nephites arrived", so having elephant-like creatures among the Jaredites isn't out of the realm of possibility. This one stays at a 10.

Iron existed during Book of Mormon (Lehite and Jaredite) times

If iron were used at all, we would find remains of it somewhere, and Dale and Dale acknowledge that we have found none. This one stays at a 50.

Steel existed during Book of Mormon (Lehite and Jaredite) times

I complement Dale and Dale for noting that steel technology is distinct from iron technology, and that we haven't found any evidence for steel, either. I concur with them that this counts as a 50.

Copper existed during Book of Mormon (Lehite and Jaredite) times

Interestingly enough, there is evidence of the use of copper among the mound builders, and Smith may have been aware of that. Still, since we're discussing the Maya specifically, we'll go by Coe's objection, and leave it at what Dale and Dale gave it: a 10.

Refined gold and silver existed during Book of Mormon times

I know less about this one, so I'll stay with Dale and Dale's evaluation of it as a 10.

Brass existed during Book of Mormon (Lehite and Jaredite) times

Once again, I agree with Dale and Dale in granting this one heavy negative weight. Like them, I give it a 50.

Chariots existed during Book of Mormon (Lehite) times

The lack of wheeled vehicles among the Maya is strange, as Dale and Dale notice, but the evidence is well-founded. They had no chariots. I agree with Dale and Dale in weighting this one as 50.

Sheep existed during Book of Mormon (Jaredite) times

Dale and Dale give this one low weight, but in their defense, they note that the "flocks" referenced in the Book of Mormon have no specified animal. I leave this one at a 2.

Goats existed during Book of Mormon (Jaredite and Lehite) times

I again agree with Dale and Dale in giving this one a weight of 50.

Swine existed during Book of Mormon (Jaredite) times

Given the possibility of using the peccary, I leave this one at Dale and Dale's estimate. Like them, I give it a 2.

Wheat existed during Book of Mormon times

Dale and Dale curiously acknowledge that "the Lehite colony specifically mentions bringing "seeds" with them, so it is likely that Old World wheat was among those seeds" while also acknowledging that no wheat has been found in Mesoamerica. The Book of Mormon names wheat specifically twice, and it was apparently common enough that when Jesus came to teach the Nephites, he could reference wheat without anyone getting confused by it. I give this one more weight than Dale and Dale did. I give it a 10.

Barley existed during Book of Mormon times

Dale and Dale note that barley was the basis of the Nephite monetary system, but then say that it might not have been a principal crop. If it was important enough to be associated with their money, then it would have been fairly widespread. They give this a 2, but with what I just said in mind, I give it a 10.

Cattle (oxen and cows) existed during Book of Mormon times

I agree with Dale and Dale's weighing of this. We give it a 50.

Silk existed during Book of Mormon times

Dale and Dale say that "silk" could be referring to some other kind of fine fabric, but if Smith meant some other kind of fine fabric, why not say "fine fabric" instead of specifically naming silk? They gave this one a 2, but I give it a 10.

Asses (donkeys) existed during Book of Mormon times

I agree with Dale and Dale's assigning this one a full weight of 50.

Hybrid Egyptian/Hebrew language/writing system

Here, again, Dale and Dale argue that the language on the plates was "obviously not the common language", and here again I disagree. They argue that Moroni 9:34, in which Moroni says that "none other people knoweth our language", is evidence of this, but I say that this is simply an acknowledgement that their language has drifted away from its origins and become something that no other culture has now. Dale and Dale give this one only a 2, but I give it a 10.

Lack of Middle Eastern DNA in the New World

Here, I strongly disagree with Dale and Dale's take. They cite Ugo Perego's work on Book of Mormon DNA, but I point to Simon Southerton's critique of Perego. The Book of Mormon makes no mention of people existing in America when Lehi's group arrive, except for the last survivor of the extinct Jaredites. It heavily implies that the descendants of Lehi and Mulek were the most important inhabitants if not the only inhabitants. In spite of this, there is no trace of old Middle Eastern DNA among any indigenous American people. Where did it go? I grant this one the maximum weight of 50.

Now, I also want to add a few more negative correspondences between the Book of Mormon and the Maya. Oddly enough, Dale and Dale mention these in the context of View of the Hebrews, but not the Book of Mormon, even though they apply.

The ancestors of the American Indians observed the Law of Moses

The Book of Mormon states multiple times that the Nephites observed the Law of Moses until Jesus came. Dale and Dale note that there is no evidence that they did so. This one counts against the Book of Mormon as well as View of the Hebrews. It gets a 50.

They have acknowledged one, and only one God

Everyone in the Book of Mormon is either monotheistic or atheistic. I give this one the same weight against the Book of Mormon as Dale and Dale did against View of the Hebrews. This gets a 10.

Indians called on the name of Jehovah

The name Jehovah is mentioned twice in the Book of Mormon, once near the beginning and once near the end. It is reasonable to infer that the Nephites used the name Jehovah for God, but Dale and Dale note that they do not used this name. I apply this to the Book of Mormon with the same strength that Dale and Dale applied it to View of the Hebrews. It gets a 50.

We are now finally ready to multiply all the appropriately weighted positive and negative correspondences together. We get 0.02^4 x 0.1^11 x 2^3 x 10^8 x 50^12 = 3.125 x 10^11

This counts as strong evidence against the Book of Mormon. I think this is a fair analysis. It counts only the evidence that Smith could not have gotten by blatantly copying his own environment, and it properly weighs the evidence that Smith got wrong by copying his environment. It does not give Smith any credit for trivial details, which is my biggest critique of Dale and Dale's analysis.

This concludes my rough draft. How can I improve this piece? Please let me know in the comments.
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Nation

Post by Shulem »

lodo_the_bear wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2023 8:13 pm
Fundamental level of political organization is the independent city-state

This one seems unusual. Dale and Dale give a lot of credit to Smith for never using the word "nation" to describe the Nephite and Lamanite peoples. How much credit should we actually give Joseph Smith for never using a word that didn't apply? I'm no expert here, so I'll stick with Dale and Dale's likelihood of 0.02.
The Church Website informs us “In 1879, Elder Orson Pratt divided the Book of Mormon into small chapters and verses for easier reference. His numbering system became the standard for all later Latter-day Saint editions.”

Apparently, chapter headings for Mormon and Ether includes the very concept that a Nephite or Jaredite nation was a “nation.”
Chapter 6 wrote:The Nephites gather to the land of Cumorah for the final battles—Mormon hides the sacred records in the hill Cumorah—The Lamanites are victorious, and the Nephite nation is destroyed—Hundreds of thousands are slain with the sword. About A.D. 385.
Ether 15 wrote:Millions of the Jaredites are slain in battle—Shiz and Coriantumr assemble all the people to mortal combat—The Spirit of the Lord ceases to strive with them—The Jaredite nation is utterly destroyed—Only Coriantumr remains.
And how did Orson Pratt determine that the Nephites or Jaredites were nations unto themselves? He read the Book of Mormon and learned that first hand from Moroni:
Moroni 8:27 wrote:Behold, my son, I will write unto you again if I go not out soon against the Lamanites. Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction except they should repent.
Thus we see, the pride of the Nephite nation has caused their utter destruction and the apologists are wrong because they fail to read the text in the intended manner in which Joseph Smith expressed it:
Bruce E. Dale and Brian Dale wrote:
  • Throughout the Book of Mormon itself there is never a reference to “Nephite nation” or to a “Lamanite nation.”
  • There is not a single reference in the text of the Book of Mormon to “Nephite nation” or “Lamanite nation.”
“this nation, or the people of the Nephites” = Nephite nation
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Re: Against Dale and Dale’s Bayesian analysis of the Book of Mormon – rough draft, looking for feedback

Post by Doctor CamNC4Me »

Bruce E. Dale and Brian Dale attempted to use Bayesian analysis to assess the likelihood of events in the Book of Mormon being true based on historical and archaeological evidence. Their approach relied heavily on assumptions and subjective priors, making it prone to bias. One key flaw was the reliance on speculative probabilities and assumptions that lacked empirical support. Sure, Bayesian analysis is a ‘powerful tool’ (I guess, I dunno, I’m not a statistician), but its effectiveness depends on the quality of the input data and the prior probabilities, and in this case, there were substantial limitations in both areas. Additionally, the interpretation of historical events is obviously subjective, which introduces significant subjectivity and potential errors in the analysis.

I suppose, the challenge lies in determining the initial probabilities (prior probabilities) for events or claims in the absence of conclusive evidence. As I alluded above, assigning probabilities to events mentioned in the text requires a fair assessment of historical, archaeological, and linguistic evidence, NOT wishful thinking. As such, the Dales’ Bayesian analysis is highly dependent on the quality and reliability of the data and assumptions made. The inherent subjectivity in determining prior probabilities and assigning it value makes it susceptible to bias and differing perspectives. Obviously.

tl;dr - why is a bee a 50 instead of a .01?

- Doc
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Capital

Post by Shulem »

lodo_the_bear wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2023 8:13 pm
"Capital" or leading city-state dominates a cluster of other communities

Dale and Dale claim that there is "no corresponding political arrangement in Joseph Smith’s time which he might have used as a model". I disagree. Having the capital city be the most important city in a group of cities is an entirely normal arrangement, and I think this undercuts the significance of the previous point. Dale and Dale give this a likelihood of 0.02, but I say that it offers no strong evidence for or against the Book of Mormon. I give it a 1.
The apologists feel safe because they know the Bible offers no comparison in which critics can simply point out and say, “Smith got it from the Bible.” So in this case, we must leave the Bible out of the picture. But we can refer to Webster’s Dictionary and see if a basic meaning of the word in and of itself could have influenced Smith to establish his new “nation” for the Book of Mormon.
Webster’s Dictionary 1827 wrote:CAPITAL

A capital city or town is the metropolis or chief city of an empire, kingdom, state or province. The application of the epithet indicates the city to be the largest, or to be the seat of government, or both. In many instances, the capital that is, the largest city, is not the seat of government.
It’s reasonable to believe that Joseph Smith knew the first capital city of the United States of America was based in Philadelphia and later moved to Washington DC in 1800. Hence, the idea of a capital city presiding over government affairs of an entire nation and that a capital can be moved to another location was basic common knowledge for every early American, including Joseph Smith.

I can easily see how this terminology could influence the narrative in the Book of Mormon beginning with Zarahemla as the chief capital and Bountiful becoming another capital, perhaps with spiritual emphasis because of Jesus’s appearance and with temporal emphasis due to close proximity of the narrow neck which afforded an escape route in time of war.

The apologists have scored zero points on that one!
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Re: Against Dale and Dale’s Bayesian analysis of the Book of Mormon – rough draft, looking for feedback

Post by lodo_the_bear »

Thanks for the feedback! I'll make sure to incorporate these into the next draft. I'll also try to explain more of why I gave a 1 to so many of the details, the short version being that they're just too vague to actually count for anything.

As an aside, I'd love to eventually have this published in a place like Dialogue. Has anyone here published in Dialogue or a similar journal before? If so, do you have any tips on how to prepare this for publication?
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Re: Against Dale and Dale’s Bayesian analysis of the Book of Mormon – rough draft, looking for feedback

Post by Doctor CamNC4Me »

lodo_the_bear wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2023 11:12 pm
Thanks for the feedback! I'll make sure to incorporate these into the next draft. I'll also try to explain more of why I gave a 1 to so many of the details, the short version being that they're just too vague to actually count for anything.

As an aside, I'd love to eventually have this published in a place like Dialogue. Has anyone here published in Dialogue or a similar journal before? If so, do you have any tips on how to prepare this for publication?
I’d also recommend addressing all the evidences they left out, to include counter-evidence that’d undermine their analysis.

Also, see:

viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1084&hilit=Bayesian

viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1011&hilit=Bayesian

and using the search feature for topics that include ‘Bayesian’ or ‘Bayes’ or ‘Kyler’ for more ideas ref your paper.

- Doc
Hugh Nibley claimed he bumped into Adolf Hitler, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Gertrude Stein, and the Grand Duke Vladimir Romanoff. Dishonesty is baked into Mormonism.
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Re: Against Dale and Dale’s Bayesian analysis of the Book of Mormon – rough draft, looking for feedback

Post by Marcus »

From reddit, a very accurate summing up:
...You're definitely on the right track rebutting their stupid math within their wild misunderstanding of Bayesian statistics, and showing how more objective application of their version of that math does not make the Book of Mormon look very good.

Unfortunately they and their intended audience are wildly ignorant, willfully so, and so rebutting them will only have the effect of making them feel that depending on interpretation and weighting, there's still a case to be made for the Book of Mormon...
[bolding added]
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Throne

Post by Shulem »

skipping ahead, merrily on my way...
lodo_the_bear wrote:
Wed Dec 27, 2023 8:13 pm
Elaborate thrones

Since Dale and Dale themselves note that "Joseph might have known about the elaborate throne of the British royal family, so it was perhaps not unusual", I won't give this one the 0.1 they assign it, especially since thrones feature prominently in the Bible in multiple places. This one gets a 1.
The apologists insult my intelligence just as Joseph Smith does when he gives his translations and interpretations for Facsimile No. 3 which he got 100% wrong. Is there a Bayesian analyses for that? But the apologetic offering to present Book of Mormon thrones as a hit is utter nonsense. Smith was telling a story and in telling that story it is perfectly natural to include thrones when you have kings. What king never had a throne or what son never had a father? They go hand in hand. When there is a king there is also a throne. Where there is a son, there is a father. That is basic Joseph Smith doctrine!

The dictionary available in Smith’s time perfectly describes the type of throne built in Mosiah 11:9 in the midst of the palace “which was of fine wood and was ornamented with gold and silver and with precious things.” Note the throne was made of WOOD and was gilded with precious metal and was not made of stone as suggested by apologists in their Toltec example which was hundreds of years after Book of Mormon times. The apologists are liars and love to make stuff up to impress their readers. I am not impressed with their lies.

Furthermore, we can conclude the throne mentioned in Ether 10:6 was not made of stone because it was erected and built rather than fashioned or chiseled from stone -- thus it was built as were the salve labor prisons of king Riplakish. Smith was clearly imagining a Jaredite throne “which was of fine wood and was ornamented with gold and silver and with precious things,” the same as king Noah’s. No stone is mentioned!
Webster’s Dictionary 1827 wrote:THRONE, noun [Latin thronus.]

1. A royal seat; a chair of state. The throne is sometimes an elegant chair richly ornamented with sculpture and gilding, raised a step above the floor, and covered with a canopy.

THRONE, verb transitive To place on a royal seat; to enthrone.

1. To place in an elevated position; to give an elevated place to; to exalt.
The apologists and Dan Peterson get a big fat ZERO. Period.
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Re: Against Dale and Dale’s Bayesian analysis of the Book of Mormon – rough draft, looking for feedback

Post by Shulem »

Marcus wrote:
Thu Dec 28, 2023 5:52 am
From reddit, a very accurate summing up:
...You're definitely on the right track rebutting their stupid math within their wild misunderstanding of Bayesian statistics, and showing how more objective application of their version of that math does not make the Book of Mormon look very good.

Unfortunately they and their intended audience are wildly ignorant, willfully so, and so rebutting them will only have the effect of making them feel that depending on interpretation and weighting, there's still a case to be made for the Book of Mormon...
[bolding added]
The wildly ignorant readers are being willfully lied to by the apologists -- case in point, Daniel C. Peterson is a liar for the Lord. Mormons have a terrible habit of lying and justifying that which they know is not true. The whole thing is rather sick. Mormon apologists remind me of Donald Trump who has lied so many times in life that he now believes anything he says is true no matter what. He is never wrong!
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Re: Against Dale and Dale’s Bayesian analysis of the Book of Mormon – rough draft, looking for feedback

Post by Physics Guy »

There are so many things wrong with that paper that there may well be room for many critiques of it, and they may all speak more strongly to different readers. My own feeling is that descending into a point-by-point rebuttal is likely to give the paper more legitimacy than it deserves, and give the impression that it is only wrong in detail, when in fact its basic method is ridiculous.

The problem is that the paper relies entirely upon multiplying many probabilities together in long chains of factors. The individual probabilities are assigned crudely, and correlations among the items are apparently ignored. In fact correlations are used surreptitiously to deadly effect, mainly in how the items are grouped or split. Since the probability assignments aren't allowed to go lower than a certain minimum, but probabilities for explicitly identified items are multiplied without regard to correlation, lumping of items can vastly suppress adverse evidence while splitting favourable issues up into many items vastly enhances their apparent weight.

This is no technical quibble that could be patched over. It's an enormous issue that renders the whole paper utterly worthless. The authors assume blithely that any errors they make in their many subjective judgements are likely to average out and make little difference to the conclusion, yet at the end the authors rejoice that their long multiplications have turned a set of modestly low probabilities into incredibly tiny odds that the Book of Mormon is fake. If they weren't so out of their depth in this kind of statistical analysis, however, they would have noticed that as a contradiction.

Their multiplicative method amplifies everything. That's how it gives them their strong conclusions. It also amplifies all of their biases, however. Their fudges don't average away at all. They multiply exponentially, literally. The final net fudge factor can easily be enormous enough to overwhelm even the long odds that the authors claim to find.

This is the huge and basic problem with this paper, and I would make sure to emphasise it clearly, rather than cloud it with wrangling over individual historical details.
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