August 26, 2003

Causabon & the Book of Mormon

In a comment to a recent post on the Qur'an, Razib of the always engaging Gene Expression questioned the oft-stated opinion that the Qur'an is beautiful.

when i recited surahs and stuff, the passages had a hypnotic quality to them. but, so does a lot of religious chanting in whatever language, and a lot of indigenous "world music."

I should add that certain disco and pop tunes, played at ear splitting volume in a club, can have the same effect (most likely Razib includes them in the "world music" category).

Razib adds,

many of my mormon friends asserted that the book of mormon was so long, so detailed, and so poetic & plot-thick that Joseph Smith couldn't have made it up. is the book of mormon poetic? well, i think it's far, far crappier than the [King James Version] that it tries to mimic, but my mormon friends thought they were listening to the tabernacle choir singing when they read it....

My own experience of the Book of Mormon is rather limited -- while I've read a few pages here and there, I much prefer Swedenborg, whose revelations were personal rather than the elaborate historicism concocted by Joseph Smith. I also prefer Fenimore Cooper.

In the introduction to American Apocrypha, a collection of skeptical essays on the Book of Mormon, editors Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe write,

Historical anachronisms [in the Book of Mormon] are plentiful. For instance, such things as steel, horses, and wheat were first imported to the Americas by the Spaniards. Apologists counter with ad hoc hypotheses: steel is actually iron; horses are deer; wheat is amaranth; goats are brockets; cows are deer, brockets, camelidae or bisons; tents are makeshift huts. In short, things are not what they appear. Never mind that Mesoamerica had no metallurgy to speak of until after Book of Mormon times, that the Nephits used the horse to pull chariots in battle over long distances...

Again, the nature of faith is not what is at question here, but rather the structure of reason and theory. Some people would like to erect a closed system that admits only "positive" evidence. If apologists had their way, there would be no way to refute their theory and hence no method by which to fairly evaluate the Book of Mormon's historical claims.

This page has some interesting links to sites evaluating the historical ideas of the Church of Latter Day Saints against archaeological and anthropological evidence; I also recommend the collected essays in American Apocrypha, which assume a far higher familiarity with the Book of Mormon than I possess, but are interesting nonetheless.

Posted by Ideofact at August 26, 2003 11:15 PM

historical anachronisms never shook the faith of my mormon friends-and the religion is one of the fastest growing in the world.

Posted by: razib at August 27, 2003 05:56 AM

Yes, and apropos another discussion you're involved in, regarding Islam and evolution, I've met a fair number of Christians (a half dozen or so) who would tell you that God created brontosaurus remains and hominid skulls in order to test men's faith.

I think it's in Genisis: "In the beginning, God created the fossils in the earth..."

Posted by: Bill at August 27, 2003 11:16 PM

I'm a fundlementalist Mooslim and believing in evolution is sort of required in Islaam Allah being Al Baaree(the evolver). We also believe fully in other scientific venues as we are recomoneded to take part in such in the Qooraan.

Posted by: J`FAR S. A. B. N. W. at March 14, 2004 11:22 PM