It is academic dogma that any prehistoric migration from the Middle East to the Americas never happened, nor could it ever have happened. Any scholar’s work would be anathema if it made such a claim. Some say Stubbs’s work is anathema — but only at the expense of ignoring the breadth and depth of the actual data. There is actually existing evidence that favors such a migration — not an archeological artifact, nor a recorded manuscript — but evidence in the form of factual, predictive, lawful linguistic data found in Stubbs 2015. Such evidence of borrowing exists in abundance, available for proper review and criticism.
Those first two sentences constitute a bold and perhaps even unfair claim. First of all, it is no longer the case that no one is willing to entertain seriously the possibility of a pre-Nordic voyage from the Old World to the New. To cite one example, Dr. Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian Institute has argued for Neolithic travelers reaching the Americas by boat. Although this hypothesis has not been universally embraced, it has also not been universally rejected.
Robertson constructs this straw man because he wants his LDS reader to believe that non-LDS scholars are being unscientific, unfair, and even irrational. Surely, so his rhetoric suggests, if these scholars weren’t beholden to an irrational bias, they would give Stubbs a fair reading and embrace his positive findings as evidence of pre-Nordic contact between the Middle East and America.
But might one not say the same thing of Barry Fell’s work on ogham script in New England? Why do scholars not recognize the evidence of early migrations of Celts to the New World? Is it because of the same dogma that Robertson describes? Of course, we would have to tweak the dogma to include Celts from places other than the Middle East. We might also have to admit that maybe bias against miracles and new religions is not at the root of the problem, since no angels were involved in the discovery of the purported Celtic site of “America’s Stonehenge.”
And, as it so happens, a few archaeologists have, in fact, recognized some of the epigraphy Fell studied as genuine ogham script.
Could it be that what scholars want to see is sufficient evidence to demonstrate the probability of such a voyage, and that, until enough evidence emerges, then the majority of scholars and scientists will continue to be doubtful? Could it be that tenuous/dubious linguistic evidence does not carry the same weight as other forms of evidence (archaeological, textual)?
What, after all, would it really mean for Fell and Stubbs to be right? Would that mean that the Book of Mormon is true? Could we expect the coming forth of a Gospel of the American Druids?
No. Any scholar worth his salt knows that the antiquity of the Book of Mormon does not hinge on Stubbs’ thesis being correct. That being the case, Stubbs thesis is also not a threat to non-Mormons of the kind apologists want us to believe it is. Stubbs is rightly suspected of being motivated and influenced by his desire to support his religion’s beliefs. That said, if Stubbs came forward with ample evidence in a work that was methodologically above reproach and adequately scrutinized by his peers, it would be taken seriously, regardless of his religious motives.
The problem here is not, as Robertson claims, the obstinacy of a recalcitrant and irrational scholarly community. The problem here is a desperate-acting, thin-skinned Mormon scholarly element that takes any pushback against its novel theories, unorthodox vetting processes, and unusual methodologies as evidence of anti-religious bigotry and persecution.
There may well have been Old World travelers to America before the Norse. Personally I am inclined to believe there were. But any claim that a specific group came at a specific time must be supported by adequate evidence such that a consensus in favor of it begins to emerge. Resistance up to that time, and even after, cannot be dismissed as mere bias or bigotry.