Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The possible science behind lighting Jaredite barges

A common critique leveled at the Book of Mormon has to do with the story of the Jaredites and their migration to the New World. In particular, the claim is made that the Jaredites (whom critics presume to be just a few years past the stone age) lighting their barges with glowing stones is scientifically ridiculous.

What I love about studying Book of Mormon apologetics is that, without fail, new evidence comes to light regularly to "confound the wise".

See "The Bologna Stone Was A Mystery For 400 Years".

"Copper ions, denuded of two electrons each, were sprinkled through the baryte. When exposed to light, they would absorb energy, and then slowly emit it over multiple days." (emphasis added)

If you've read the Jaredite account, you know that the Lord asked the Brother of Jared to come up with his own solution to the barge lighting problem. It is entirely possible that the Jaredites were technologically advanced enough to know how to make a similar material. The process is repeatable.

Friday, October 31, 2014

2,000 Year Old Tunnel in Mexico Reveals Startling New Finds

This article, Incredible New Artifacts Found In 2,000-Year-Old Mexican Tunnel, came across my Facebook timeline. Since I haven't written here in a while, I thought I'd share.

Here's one quote that caught my eye:
The archaeologists suspect it could be a tomb of the city's elite. It's there where the rules acquired divine endowment allowing them to rule on the surface, say the researchers. Archaeologists have yet to find any remains belonging to Teotihuacan's rulers.
Not that the LDS endowment would be the exact analogy to what researchers might find in this tunnel, but the form and motif aspect is very interesting.

And from the comments:
So many artifacts and pieces hinting at this complex huge society. There was a lot more going on in Mexico thousands of years ago than people realize.
I'm so glad to see that the public, and the scientific world, is finally shaking loose the shackles of ethnocentric thinking. They are beginning to realize that many, many things previously thought "impossible" for Mesoamericans anciently are now seen as more likely than not. Complex societies that built complex things and had complex lifestyles and beliefs and tools and so forth that we're only beginning to discover and understand? Check.

But we've been saying that since at least 1830. ;)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Pssst. Want to see some golden plates?

Here are three. No, they're not THE Golden Plates, but they're as close to their description as has ever been found.

They're called the Pyrgi Tablets and were found in Italy in 1964. Written in Etruscan and Phonecian, these plates are very similar in size, description, and script to the ones Joseph Smith translated. They are thought to date from around 500 B.C., which is only about 100 years later than when Lehi left Jerusalem for the Americas carrying records engraved similarly on brass plates. The gold plates from which came the Book of Mormon weren't created until after Lehi's arrival in the Americas, but it's rather safe to assume that Book of Mormon gold plates were quite similar to these.

It's fascinating to compare the form and makeup of the characters on these plates with the ones copied to paper and shown to by Martin Harris Professor Charles Anthon at Columbia University. There are many similarities. One could be persuaded that perhaps Phonecian and Etruscan were related to or even a form of the Reformed Egyptian found on the gold plates.

See also: Golden Plates by William Hamblin

Friday, January 10, 2014

Book of Mormon Challenges: Elephants in America?

Could it be there were elephants in ancient America?

Key quote from the article:
While the jury is still out, there are a number of North American Indian traditions which recount legends of giant stiff-legged beasts which would never lie down, had a big head and large leaf-like ears, round footprints, forward-bending knees, and had a fifth appendage coming out of its head.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book of Mormon Challenges: Pre-Columbian horses?

What about "horses" mentioned in the Book of Mormon?

Key quote from the article:
There are at least two possible resolutions to the “horse” problem in the Book of Mormon: (1) definitions were expanded to include new meanings and (2) horses were present but their remains have not been found.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book of Mormon Challenges: Why anachronisms?

Why are there anachronisms in the Book of Mormon?

Key quote from the article:
The Book of Mormon has frequently been charged with containing numerous anachronistic items including certain animals, plants, metals, textiles, and weapons. In all instances, however, there is the possibility that (a) such things were once in the Americas but the evidence has either disappeared or has not yet been found, or (b) Book of Mormon labels are based on the re-labeling of New World items with familiar Old World labels. To claim that things did not exist because they have not been found is to commit the logical fallacy of arguing from ignorance or silence. According to a famous and generally accepted archaeological dictum, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Book of Mormon Challenges: Taken from other manuscripts?

From Book of Mormon 1: Taken from other manuscripts?

Key quote from the article:
Even many years later, after Rigdon had apostatized from the Church, he denied ever having seen the Book of Mormon until it was introduced to him by the Mormon missionary Parley P. Pratt. Somehow the Spalding manuscript was lost and then resurfaced in 1884 in a pile of papers belonging to a man who had bought Howe’s business. Examining Spalding’s actual novel proved that the Mormons had been right all along; any similarities between the manuscript and the Book of Mormon were superficial.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why hasn't more compelling archaeological evidence surfaced of the Book of Mormon?

I get this question occasionally (not usually in a sincere way, and usually from folks who are trying to "catch me" in my words). The answer is that there is already a lot of archaeological evidence out there, but it has not been correlated to Book of Mormon texts by "mainstream" science. Secular scientists have no real compelling reason to examine Book of Mormon claims in light of accumulated archaeological findings because, well, the Book of Mormon is a spiritual text. They just don't see a need to delve into that relationship. They certainly cannot publish it and expect to have a career within the secular scientific community. The two are like oil and water.

That's why voices like mine and other faithful LDS apologists and scholars are necessary to the search for this knowledge through our interpretation of secular findings. And it's an important question to answer because the Book of Mormon has time and time again been proven to show that its origins can only have one of two explanations: either it is the most ingenious fraud ever concocted by one man (remarkable in itself), or it is the very word of God to people in the ancient Americas, recorded by the same.

Of course, I am irrevocably convinced of the latter explanation, with or without archaeological evidences, because the Holy Ghost has testified to me of its truth.

But one big reason we don't have more compelling physical evidences stands out in my mind. It has to do with the encroachment of modern civilization on the ancient remnants of American ruins.

It started with the Conquistadores, who brought Catholic missionaries with them who sought to bring the light of Gospel knowledge and salvation to whomever they could find. Their intentions, noble or not, were tarnished by their overzealous efforts to stamp out any remnant of pagan beliefs among the native Aztecs and Mayans. All but a few precious codices of the Mesoamerican people were burned to ashes and lost forever. Some oral traditions were later written down, several of which have astonishing parallels to and are riddled with motifs of Bible traditions. Some missionaries were intrigued by these stories and wrote them down to preserve them for study. Others, however, stopped at nothing to erase them from the collective conscious of the people they encountered. Even if that did lead to genuine faith in Jesus Christ among the natives, it was a crime against humanity to have censored all of that valuable history and those intricate origin stories.

An excavator destroys the main
structure at an archaeological
site in Caye Caulker, Belize. The
material excavated was used
for highway road bed fill.
As for artifacts, take, for example, this frustratingly tragic story from Caye Caulker, Belize. For convenience, here are the relevant quotes from the article:

Today we learned that a major Mayan Monument had been bulldozed for roadfill aggregate. 7news went to Orange Walk District, near the northern district boundary to find out that Noh Mul – or at least a large part of it – is no more. It’s a stunning development – and Jules Vasquez reports.
To give a broader sense of context – the site known as Noh Mul or “Big Hill” is scattered over a wide area about 12 square miles – and is estimated to have been home to 40,000 people between 500 and 250 BC. There are about 81 separate buildings – all on private property. But the one that has been destroyed is the namesake, the Big Hill – as it was the ceremonial center and main structure. 
"...this was around maybe 250bc and it would have been part of the ceremonial precinct, this would have been probably a public building or a building where the Nobels or the High Priest would have occupied. This building would have been probably the focal point. These mounds you are seeing around here and another group over there – they might have had connectivity between ceremonial administrative religious function here. This was sort of the epi-center of this settlement."
"Like a huge palace or building or a huge temple it would have had many rooms in there, multi-layered rooms so you have rooms for people living and you would also had several tombs in there of the people who lived in this area here."
"Belize is 8,867 square miles of jungle. We are only around 16 personell in the department. We can’t be in the Chiquibul and at the same time being at La Milpa. We applaud whoever can help us. It is our herritage and we all have to chip in and when things like this happen – it affects all of us."

I'm sickened that this happens. I also know it's inevitable and that God has a plan to eventually reveal to us what was lost. But, I can't help but wonder in dismay at who knows how many pages of scholarship this site could have generated. Its main center of worship, and likely "library" of useful cultural knowledge, is wastefully and tragically gone.

There are thousands more sites just like Noh Mul in Mexico and Central America that are in similar danger. I just hope that enough young people, especially LDS youth, will get into the field of archaeology, and enough concerned (and wealthy) individuals and governments will come together to help save what knowledge we have left.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Mayans and the Cahokia Mounds

I had prepared a blog post to tell you all about my trip to Cahokia mounds

But Google's Blogger.com ate it.

I was going to tell you all about how there are some interesting links between the Cahokian civilization and the Mayan civilization of the Yucatan, only 1,200 miles to the south, including Cahokian belief in a "Pale Prophet" who taught them Judeo-Christian commandments.

But Google's Blogger.com ate it.

I wanted to show how modern science acts like some dogmatic religions with detail about a conversation I had with a museum docent at Cahokia Mounds State Park who said there were "absolutely no links to the Mayans" rather than "no links have yet been found". 

But I can't retrieve the work Google's Blogger.com and it's lame "undo" feature took from me when I was inserting one last image.

Instead, I'll provide some video and images below to let you draw your own conclusions.

While you do that, I'll start working on moving my blog to Wordpress and a new domain name.

Signs of Mayans in Georgia, USA?

Drawing of Cahokian Chunkey (tchung-kee) player

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why the debate about Book of Mormon DNA is FAR from over

Today, during an unrelated Google search session I was doing, I came across an article from the blog of Discover Magazine. The article summarizes (rather lengthily) the research done up to 2010 regarding the tracking of ancient Jewish populations to modern-day locations after the Diaspora.

What caught my eye was the headline: "Genetics & the Jews (it's still complicated)"  That certainly sums up the argument of LDS apologists. They continue to defend the Book of Mormon origins in spite of some of our detractors.  Those seeking to disprove a divine origin for the Book of Mormon insist that because no clear genetic link exists between modern bloodlines of native American populations and any tribe of the Jews, then no link ever existed.

To further expose the logical fallacy that flawed thesis presents, here are some of the concluding statements from the Discover Magazine blog post.
So what’s the bottom line here? I think the bottom line is that there isn’t a bottom line, and that we need to proceed on a case by case basis. I’ve focused on Middle Eastern Jews in this post, but let’s put the spotlight on the Indian Jews, the Bene Israel of Bombay, who were separated from the Jewish Diaspora, and the Cochin Jews, who were more well integrated... 
What likely occurred in India was that generations of admixture between Jews and non-Jews resulted in the elision of differences between the two groups, despite the persistence of a cultural distinction. 
I suspect that it has to do with the relative lack of a special relationship between Jews and the host culture in India as opposed to the world of Islam or Christendom. In India Jews were just another group, not subject to particular exclusion or marginalization. Non-Jews could, and did, move into the Indian Jewish community, while this was taboo in the Islamic or Christian world. A similar process seems to have occurred to the Jews of Kaifeng, who intermarried and eventually lost their identity because of their greater eventual isolation from the Jewish Diaspora in comparison to the Indian Jews, especially those of Cochin.
What anti-Mormon DNA "researchers" often cast aside is the additional complexity of tracking more than just the tribe of Judah. In our case we're tracking mostly the tribe of Manasseh through the house of Joseph of Egypt (his wife was Egyptian, so his offspring were half-Egyptian, and no record exists of all the combinations that likely happened thereafter). We're also tracking a superimposition of the unknown genetic makeup of the people that likely already existed in the Americas upon Lehi's arrival, plus their interbreeding with the even more ancient Jaredite (likely Olmec) population, also of unknown genetic makeup. Now throw in the mind-bogglingly large principles of chance where millions of genes are mixed with mutations, haplotypes, dominant and recessive genes, etc.

As the gene network visualization graph (snapshot above) clearly shows, just for one species of the genus mus (musculusthe common house mouse), the Foxa2 gene that dictates the cell maturation and endocrine system development of this tiny creature exhibits a dizzying array of complexity. There are just way too many variables for anyone to state that the science is settled. I expect it will remain that way for decades, if not centuries, to come.

Extrapolating that level of complexity to the scale of tracking ancient migrations of unknown population sizes of homo sapiens for whom we have no original genetic samples, it appears, as we've stated in the past...that not enough genetic information exists in populations today to make conclusions about populations thousands of years ago. Nobody has the evidence or tools to make a definitive claim one way or the other as to the genetic linkage between modern native American populations and migrations of Jews from the Holy Land.

Again, the Book of Mormon, being a spiritual record, as is the Bible (if one only looks at it objectively as true science demands) challenges us to accept its provenance based on faith and not on external evidences alone.

But that is what God intended for both books. As confirmed by Matthew 16:17...

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

...the act of believing by faith is much more sufficient to create strong conversion that leads one to salvation than is the act of believing by sight alone.