There are 449 thoughts on “Joseph Smith: The World’s Greatest Guesser (A Bayesian Statistical Analysis of Positive and Negative Correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya)”.

  1. Accumulating Evidence- Looking Forward to More Fun in the Years Ahead

    It is a general pattern in science that as time goes by, evidence supporting correct scientific hypotheses tends to accumulate. As supporting evidence accumulates, more and more correct details also accumulate. Likewise, evidence contrary to incorrect (or incomplete) scientific hypotheses also accumulates, and contrary details become stronger and more numerous.

    My friend Kirk Magleby suggested that this same pattern of evidence for correct hypotheses becoming stronger with time might be apparent for facts summarized in various editions of The Maya when these facts are compared with corresponding facts in the Book of Mormon.

    I thought this would be an interesting experiment. So I purchased a copy of the first edition of The Maya. The first edition was published by Dr. Coe in 1966, almost 40 years prior to the most recent, or ninth edition. The ninth edition of The Maya was the basis for our recent article comparing it with the Book of Mormon.

    I have now read the first edition of The Maya twice. Of the 131 positive correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya (9th edition) that we found in our recent article, 79 of them are also mentioned in the first edition. In other words, there are 52 new/additional correspondences between the Book of Mormon and the ninth edition of The Maya that were not mentioned in the first edition of The Maya.

    Some of these new correspondences are really remarkable. Two examples are the possible settlement of the Americas by the maritime route (which Dr. Coe strongly denies in the first edition but accepts as a very reasonable possibility in the ninth edition) and also the fact that walking in straight paths symbolized acceptable behavior among the ancient Maya (as it does in the Book of Mormon).

    Of the 79 positive correspondences in the first edition, about 30 of these have added significant new details in the ninth edition that enrich our understanding of the world of ancient Mesoamerica. In every case, these new details line up well with the details in the Book of Mormon. Two examples are the fact that existing native Maya leaders were incorporated into the new power structure after subjugation and that monuments dedicated to prior rulers were systematically destroyed.

    I expect that it will take a year or two for me to write, submit, revise and then publish another paper comparing the first edition of The Maya with the Book of Mormon and with the ninth edition. I am sure you are all looking forward to the next publication and the ensuing discussion. 

    Just a heads up, however. It took some work to find a copy of the first edition of The Maya. You might start looking for your copy pretty soon.

    Oh, wait, silly me.

    Very few of the negative commentators have been interested in comparing facts in The Maya with facts from the Book of Mormon. So maybe those folks don’t need a copy of the first edition after all.
    Anyway, I am looking forward to more fun in the years ahead.

    I even have a tentative title for the next paper. It will be: “Joseph Smith: Still the World’s Greatest Guesser—and Getting Better All the Time” 

    Bruce

  2. Breathing an atmosphere that contained high enough concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in air to prevent combustion would lead to death in short order.

    Concentrations as low 2000 to 5000 ppm can result in CO2 poisoning, the symptoms of which are degradation of neurological function. These may not appear for days or weeks after exposure. Concentrations of 10% (100,000 ppm) or more, would cause convulsions with incapacitation and death soon to follow.

    That’s what happened to more than 1,700 people and hundreds of animals in 1986 when a landslide released CO2 from waters of Lake Nyos in Africa. Waters of the lake had been saturated with volcanic CO2 over time., and the landslide provided the mechanical energy to make the CO2 come out of solution.

    As a alternative fuels engineer, Bruce surely knows that combustion can readily occur in an atmosphere in which CO2 concentrations are well over 10% – a level that would result in death for humans in a matter of minutes.

    • Thanks DrW. That was a devastating rebuttal to the “Volcano Theory” which I’ve heard numerous times throughout my life as the explanation for the 3 days of darkness.

      I look forward to the Dales and/or Allen Wyatt’s response.

      • Hate to disappoint you, Brad. First, I don’t consider DrW’s statements to be a “devastating rebuttal.” He didn’t rebut anything; he stated facts with which I agree.

        To “rebut” he would have to point out how his facts negate Bruce’s original assertion — that it is possible that the CO2 pocketed in low-lying areas. If the high CO2 content is, let’s say, no higher than your knees, it would stop combustion at ground level and still allow people to breath because it doesn’t affect the quality of the air above that “boundary.”

        In the Lake Nyos example provided by DrW (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Nyos_disaster) the CO2 blanket was 50 meters thick. That does not mean that all such blankets have to be that thick, just that the one near Lake Nyos was. If the blanket was much thinner it would, as I pointed out, accomplish what Bruce pointed out.

        So, no response other than to say I agree with DrW. He points out facts that Bruce would agree with, but those facts don’t “rebut” anything Bruce mentioned.

        • You say “Since [CO2] is denser, it falls below the air, collecting near the ground — exactly the place where people in those days would have tried to light fires, but not where they would be trying to breathe.”

          I suppose that would work if there were no breezes for 3 days to cause any mixing of gases. Also, the CO2 would need to “fall” with no significant mixing up to infant height, or all the kids would die. It would require everyone not to lie down to sleep for 3 days, or they would die too. And those who tried to light a fire on the ground would quickly suffer the ill effects of breathing levels of CO2 sufficient to prevent fires from burning.

          Bruce quoted the second part of 3 Nephi 8:21. However, the first part of the verse reads:
          “And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches;”

          But does it not seem strange that apparently nobody to try to light candles or torches above the level of their knees?

          So, if you’re looking for a reasonable physical explanation for 3 Nephi 8, using CO2, as Bruce suggests, I think you may have to look a bit further than knee level.

          • You could be right, except on one point — I’m not “looking for a reasonable physical explanation.” I was trying to explain what Bruce was saying. I think it is possible, but I am VERY open to other possibilities, as well.

  3. Dr. Dale,

    Truly unique Maya cultural traits fail to rise up in your correspondences for a reason. The methodology excluded them IF the BoM was not intended to reference Mayan culture. How could unique Maya cultural elements such as references to the ritual use of sting ray spines meet the unbelievable standard of being both in the BoM and the Maya if the BoM “has nothing to do with the Maya”? That is an example of what I am saying shows bias in the paper. The absence of unambitious, uniquely Mayan cultural references is a problem to be addressed.

    Further, I find this troubling, Dr. Dale, as the intitial posts I and others shared were questions on the lack of shared details included in Coe not reflecting the specific, detailed or unique sorting used to assign a likelihood ratio in your paper. This began with the first one regarding the politics and lack of central identity where the BoM uses phrases such as “the people of the Nephites” or just “the Lamanites” also described as being rules by a single monarch yet you assigned the highest improbability Joseph knew about Mayan political structure because the BoM fails to refer to the Nephites as a nation. Or the last before the one above where the idea Joesph was referring to Mayan covenanting rituals can be seen in BoM statements about Christian covenants to obey Gods commandments and become his people.

    When they get raised you say it isn’t following your process and the person raising issues with your paper should spend the time doing the analysis they propose, have it peer reviewed and published and then you’ll address the issue raised.

    Call it – or me for that matter – what you will. To say no one has engaged your correspondences using the source of the Maya by comparison with the BoM seems disingenuous to me.

  4. Time for a bit of fun.

    The interchanges have gotten a bit tense and I really don’t care for contention. Maybe the remaining commentators will enjoy this post.

    Way back in this comments thread, there was a post that I can no longer find, but which I remember had to do with volcanoes in the Book of Mormon and Coe’s book The Maya. I had suggested that 3 Nephi 8 contains an excellent account of earthquakes and probably an associated volcanic eruption…both of which occur with some frequency in Mesoamerica.

    If I recall correctly, one commentator remarked that he found it difficult to believe the report given in 3 Nephi 8:21 which says that there was no light “neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood”.

    I just finished a series of lectures on geology given through The Great Courses. (Highly recommended!) I am happy to report a possible geophysical explanation for the inability to kindle fire noted in 3 Nephi 8:21 (and objected to by Mr. Dubious Commentator.) 🙂

    As many of you probably know, what actually provides the explosive power in volcanoes is the rapid release of dissolved water (as steam) and carbon dioxide from the magma. But it turns out that carbon dioxide is also often released slowly from magma…without any explosion. This carbon dioxide travels upward through fissures and cracks in the rock strata and is released at the surface.

    Carbon dioxide is more dense than air, and especially when cooler than the surrounding air, carbon dioxide can collect in lower spots. Carbon dioxide does not support combustion and would make it difficult or impossible to light fires. Hence 3 Nephi 8:21 is consistent with physical facts surrounding earthquakes and eruptions.

    This article is a nice summary of the effects of carbon dioxide release from magma, and includes some very interesting pictures, including a lit torch that cannot stay lit in a ground surface “pool” of carbon dioxide.

    https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/vhp/gas.html

    OK, do I get to count this correspondence in spite of Mr. Dubious Commentator? 🙂 What say ye?

    Bruce

    • The people breathed CO2 for three days? I think this solution creates a bigger problem. But I’m just a dubious commentor. 😉

      • You have to be joking, right?

        I’ll take that smiley face as evidence you are joking, but other may not understand your comment that way. They may think that you are serious.

        For those so inclined, I understood exactly what Bruce was saying, and I hope you do as well. The key is this statement: “Carbon dioxide is more dense than air, and especially when cooler than the surrounding air, carbon dioxide can collect in lower spots. Carbon dioxide does not support combustion and would make it difficult or impossible to light fires.”

        Since it is denser, it falls below the air, collecting near the ground — exactly the place where people in those days would have tried to light fires, but not where they would be trying to breathe.

        • Allen, the BoM states there was no light for three days. It may be we can’t take the BoM author at their word but then where does one draw the line? I wasn’t joking that this was a case of swallowing a spider to catch a fly. The problems created by proposing this explaination are worse than the ones it addressed.

  5. I would take #2 further, noting it is a devastating admission that the methodology applied means the the game was rigged from the beginning and should have been addressed during reviews. No matter how weakly the evidence in support of the claimed Mayan connection is weighted would prevent it from overcoming the skeptical prior? No piece of contradictory evidence could be weighted strongly enough to cast doubt bt on the combined weak, superficial evidence? I question the scientific fields that would not find cause for pause in that admission.

    • No Honorentheos, “the game” was not rigged.

      I did not know how all the analysis we have summarized in our article would turn out when I started the work over three years ago. I had no idea then how strong the evidence was.

      The evidence is what it is. The numbers are what they are. You can either deal with that fact or ignore it and change the subject…which is what you have mostly done during the comments portion of this paper.

      This is an accusation with no basis.

      What basis or evidence from my scientific record or my personal life do you have for calling me a liar and dishonest? Do you really think that I am in the habit of rigging the evidence…that that is how I obtained my excellent reputation in my own scientific field?

      This baseless and almost angry accusation from you is yet another indication to me that evidence does not matter to you and that further conversation is a waste of time for both of us.

      No matter how often I ask you to compare the claims of the Book of Mormon with the claims of The Maya, you turn away and avoid dealing with the subject. In one of the latest of your responses (about covenants in the Book of Mormon and The Maya) you note the presence of covenants in the Old Testament, as if that explains their presence in the Book of Mormon.

      It seems impossible to get you to address the purpose of our paper: to compare the Book of Mormon with Dr. Coe’s book The Maya. We are not comparing the Book of Mormon with the Bible. You entirely ignore the clear presence of covenants between God and man in The Maya and the Book of Mormon…a book which Dr. Coe says has no truth in it.

      Well, gee, Honorentheos. I knew about covenants in the Bible and (probably) so did Joseph Smith. How is that relevant? The issue here is covenants in The Maya and the Book of Mormon.

      Too bad. I had hoped to have an honest and straightforward conversation about the article and the evidence. But you, and many others, just refuse to deal with the article. You change the subject instead.

      Bruce

  6. Bruce,

    This comment addressing your 4 questions was posted to another board. I would like to get your opinion on its merits.

    “Are Dales now writing a new paper?

    From the first section of the paper:

    The numbers 2, 10, and 50 are the strength of the evidence for the hypothesis, that is, the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction. The numbers 0.5, 0.1, and 0.02 are the corresponding strength of the evidence against the hypothesis; that is, these are points of evidence that support the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

    H-0: Book of Mormon fiction.

    H-1: Book of Mormon not fiction.

    In light of the Dales’ own hypotheses, I’d like to look at their four questions again, and give my answers:

    1. Do you think that a single reading, over 45 years ago, of the Book of Mormon qualifies Dr. Coe as an expert on the Book of Mormon and how it might relate (or not) to ancient American Indian cultures?

    Answer: This question is utterly irrelevant to the topic, and does not belong in an academic journal.

    2. No matter how weakly we weight the evidence for the Book of Mormon, or how strongly we weight the evidence against the Book of Mormon, our conclusion is unchanged. The Book of Mormon is an authentic record set in ancient Mesoamerica. Do you have a suggestion for a fair and reasonable sensitivity analysis that we have not done?

    Answer: Irrelevant. It is mathematically impossible to conclude the Book of Mormon is nonfiction set in Mesoamerica, by evaluating likelihood ratios of your hypotheses: H-BoM fiction and H-BoM not fiction. If you’ve concluded that “the Book of Mormon is an authentic record set in ancient Mesoamerica,” no matter how weakly or strongly you evaluate your (cherry-picked) evidence in face of your two hypotheses, then you are not doing any statistical analysis at all, and this belongs in the faith and testimony section.

    3. If the Book of Mormon is a product of the 19th century and of that century’s understanding of ancient American Indian cultures, why does the Book of Mormon compare so well with The Maya and why do the two other 19th century books focused on ancient American Indian cultures compare so badly with The Maya?

    Answer: Why do any coincidences happen and others don’t? Why is outside information about other books’ fictional properties being used to evaluate data points with respect to your hypotheses about a separate book?

    And more specifically, why does assessing fictional or nonfictional properties now include the requirement that those properties must also match mesaoamerican properties? In a paper that egregiously overvalues coincidences and defines related events as independent, this question is particularly irrelevant.

    4. If you want to eliminate specific pieces of evidence from Appendix A which you think are NOT valid points of correspondence between the Book of Mormon and The Maya, which specific pieces of evidence are those?

    Answer: This question is also irrelevant, because it bypasses the issue completely. Cherry-picking fewer data points, out of a set of data points chosen because they were all true statements in the Maya that the authors assumed were also in the Book of Mormon, and then insisting that all true points are by definition counted in favor of ‘H -BoM not fiction,’ is not any more mathematically sound than the original cherry-picking.

    So in the end, none of those questions are related to the paper in question, and question one is completely and embarrassingly unprofessional. I just cringe inside at that. The reputation of the Interpreter Journal is taking hit after hit after hit with this paper and now these comments.”

  7. “In the two different scientific communities to which Brian and I belong, if you want your own opinions to be taken seriously, you must competently address the findings of those who may disagree with you. Apparently, this is not a requirement among critics of the Book of Mormon, or that of many of the critics of this article.”

    I don’t believe that I’m properly qualified to address the 4 questions that you would like to critics tackle.

    However, I think that many people, including myself, can comment sensibly on the quoted paragraph. Here are my comments.

    1. Perhaps some “critics” deserve the implied insult in the last sentence, but I don’t think that necessarily “many” of them do. Several have made reasoned arguments, and appear to have spent some time and effort to do so.

    I think that it would encourage more thoughtful discussion to emphasize this, rather than suggest that critics of the Book of Mormon are not engaging in a serious manner.

    2. I’m not sure that the first sentence is true. It is conceivable that “findings” may be based on a methodology so flawed that, until the methodology is fixed, criticism of the findings is moot.

    For example (if an example is needed), if it appears that data points have been cherry-picked for a study, surely the fix is to ensure that the data is valid first, and then to address findings based on valid data, rather than to address findings that were based on biased data.

    I see critics have called into question your methodology, but I don’t see where these questions have been addressed. I doubt, for instance, that reading a poetic parallelism version of the Book of Mormon would address the points raised by Billy Shears in his last comment.

    I might go as far as to say that not addressing serious criticisms of your methodology puts you in the category of people who do not “competently address the [questions and comments] of those who may disagree with you”.

    I am willing to be convinced/corrected on these points.

    Thanks.

    • I believe I overstated my point above: “I see critics have called into question your methodology, but I don’t see where these questions have been addressed.”

      I don’t see where **all of** these questions have been answered – especially the most recent ones by Billy Shears.

  8. July 22, 2019
    To whom it may concern:

    As Brian and I prepared our article, we hoped that commentators would respond to four specific features of the article:

    1. The fact that Dr. Coe read the Book of Mormon only once, over 45 years ago. His knowledge of the Book of Mormon on which he has based his claim that “the Book of Mormon has no truth in it” is therefore minimal. For example, during the podcasts, Dr. Coe seemed surprised to learn there was war in the Book of Mormon. I am tempted to say “duh!” but I won’t. 🙂

    2. None of the sensitivity analyses we did changed our conclusions. No matter how strongly we weight the evidence for the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is fiction, or how weakly we weight evidence for the Book of Mormon as an authentic book, our conclusion remains unchanged: the Book of Mormon is an authentic document with strong cultural, geographical, political, social, religious, military, technological, etc. roots in ancient Mesoamerica.

    3. The results from analyzing the two control books (Manuscript Found and View of the Hebrews) strongly reinforce both the value of our Bayesian approach and also of our conclusions. The Book of Mormon compares very well with The Maya…but these other 19th century books do not.

    4. Our article never claimed that correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya were unique, never found in all human history. All we claimed was that these were valid, real correspondences between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. These correspondences (positive and negative) are the foundation of our article.

    I am nearly done reviewing and trying to respond to all of the comments on the article. We have received well over 400 comments on our paper, and almost no mention has been made by any of the negative commentators concerning these four features of the article.

    I guess silence on these points is an answer all by itself.

    Only one person has taken me up on my offer to provide commentators with a free copy of The Maya to verify correspondences with the Book of Mormon. It is strange to me that more commentators do not seem to be interested in checking the correspondences for themselves.

    In the two different scientific communities to which Brian and I belong, if you want your own opinions to be taken seriously, you must competently address the findings of those who may disagree with you. Apparently, this is not a requirement among critics of the Book of Mormon, or that of many of the critics of this article.

    So I would like to invite anyone who wishes to do so to respond to these specific questions:

    1. Do you think that a single reading, over 45 years ago, of the Book of Mormon qualifies Dr. Coe as an expert on the Book of Mormon and how it might relate (or not) to ancient American Indian cultures?

    2. No matter how weakly we weight the evidence for the Book of Mormon, or how strongly we weight the evidence against the Book of Mormon, our conclusion is unchanged. The Book of Mormon is an authentic record set in ancient Mesoamerica. Do you have a suggestion for a fair and reasonable sensitivity analysis that we have not done?

    3. If the Book of Mormon is a product of the 19th century and of that century’s understanding of ancient American Indian cultures, why does the Book of Mormon compare so well with The Maya and why do the two other 19th century books focused on ancient American Indian cultures compare so badly with The Maya?

    4. If you want to eliminate specific pieces of evidence from Appendix A which you think are NOT valid points of correspondence between the Book of Mormon and The Maya, which specific pieces of evidence are those?

    And please don’t bring up (again) correspondences between the Book of Mormon and other cultures or books. Our article was not about those hypothetical other cultures or books, as I have so often had to reiterate in these comments. Just let me know which of the pieces of evidence in Appendix A you think are not valid.

    Obviously, no pressure from me. You can respond or not as you choose. But I want to invite everyone to respond. And if you wish to respond, I hope you will address these questions.

    Bruce

    • Dr. Dale,

      Being “unique” was one of three criteria used to establish the likelihood ratio assigned to a correspondence. Of course you claimed a large number of the correspondences were “unique” and assigned them a 1 in 50 chance of having been guessed at by Joseph Smith. As has been noted repeated in the comments regarding your paper, the flaws in your methodology include failing to define what terms such as unique might include. For example, starting with the first one, you assigned to lack of the use of “nation” by the BoMs author to describe the Nephites as “unique” despite the BoM specifically describing the Nephites and Lamanites as a people which is not how The Maya describe how the ancient Maya would have self-identified. If we were to now narrow the term to characteristics that only are found in legitimate Mayan culture, we may find references to the use of stingray spines to let blood in an authentic Maya source. This would show up in multiple correspondences you claim, such as the use of paired concepts, in ritual covenants and in religious behaviors. The BoM including such references would truly be evidence of unique knowledge. But the paper’s methodology fails to allow for a way to score the misses of truly unique info as they don’t show up in both the BoM and The Maya, but just The Maya. Some may realize the implications of this, as apparently did Dr. Coe when he stayed the BoM has nothing to do with the Maya people.

      So in regards to the four points above, it seems that the best answer for each involves acknowledging the BoM simply fails to include truly uniquely Maya details so perhaps the paper itself needs reworked.

      It’s worth considering anyway.

    • Also, I believe Billy Shears must own a copy of The Maya given the responses he provided to each of your correspondences raised in the comments. I own a copy of the ninth edition whose page numbers seemed to have remained with those used in the paper. I don’t believe you have taken and critical argument from The Maya seriously as doing so in most cases would require acknowledging the correspondences are largely superficial as becomes immediately evident whenever one follows up in reviewing what Dr. Coe described.

      The issue isn’t that critics of the paper are largely uninterested in Coe’s own words. Rather, it seems The Maya is merely a pretense for pushing forward superficial claims of Mesoamerican culture in the BoM. Anyone reading through these comments and reviewing the replies to the correspondences that were singled out should see this as being the case.

    • Several of us have pointed out the bias introduced by your selection process, which addresses question 3 and renders questions 2 and 4 premature. It appears to me that you still haven’t responded to this, although I may have missed your response.

      This reminds me of the Monte Hall problem. To summarize that problem: A contestant on Let’s Make a Deal is presented with three curtains. Behind one of them is a new car, and behind the other two are goats. The contestant picks a curtain. Monte Hall says, “Okay, you seem nice, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll open a different curtain, which has a goat behind it. Then you can decide whether to stick with your chosen curtain or switch to the remaining closed curtain. That way you’ll have a 50/50 chance of getting the car instead of a 1 out of 3 chance.” Then Monte opens a curtain and reveals a goat.

      The question is: Did Monte state the odds correctly? A second question is: Are the odds affected by the fact that Monte knows where the goats are and intentionally opened a goat curtain, rather than randomly opening a curtain and just happening to get a goat?

      In answer to the latter, the question of how Monte selected a goat curtain does affect the odds. If someone were to answer that it doesn’t, they would be wrong. If a statistician were to peer review and approve that answer, it would still be wrong.

      Your analysis doesn’t take into account how you selected your data points. Your analysis is wrong.

  9. Hi Bruce,

    Unfortunately, I am swamped with some other commitments for the foreseeable future, and probably won’t be able to comment here much going forward. But before I become scarce, I’ll respond to your latest questions and comments and summarize my position.

    You said, “What permeated [19th Century] Protestant Christianity of that day was salvation by grace alone.” I agree. As one 19th Century book says, “it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.” (2 Nephi 10:24)

    You asked, “What skeptical prior did you apply to View of the Hebrews being an authentic record of ancient Mesoamerica?” That question has no bearing on the fact that your “weighted strength of evidence” indicates that there is “strong evidence” that View of the Hebrews is an ancient Mesoamerican document.

    You said, “Contrary to your claim, there is no strong evidence (or even weak evidence) that View of the Hebrews is of ancient Maya or Mesoamerican origin. We examined that hypothesis in Appendix D and rejected it for the reasons summarized there.” I agree that there is no real evidence that View of the Hebrews is of ancient Mesoamerican origin. But according to your analysis in Appendix D, the “weighted strength of evidence” indicates that there is “strong evidence” that the View of the Hebrews is an ancient Mesoamerican document. In your analysis the strong evidence of historicity ultimately wasn’t enough to overcome the arbitrarily high billion-to-one odds against historicity that you began with before considering the evidence, but that doesn’t change the fact that your analysis indicated that the evidence in aggregate is “strong” in favor of historicity.

    You asked, “Please name me any 19th century work that you think agrees in the details with Coe’s book.” There is no 19th century book that agrees with the specific, detailed, and unusual points in Coe’s book, including the Book of Mormon. That said, if one applied your flawed and biased methodology with the commensurate biases of your subjective judgements to the Bible, that would be indicate the Bible is also of ancient Mesoamerican origins.

    Correspondence 3:10: “Humans obligated to abide by covenants, God usually involved.”

    Analysis: The concepts of “covenants” might be specific and detailed, but they are not unusual. The Bible is about God’s covenant people. If somebody familiar with the Bible were writing fiction about how God led some people to a new land, you would fully expect them to talk about Biblical covenants. So this isn’t the least bit unusual. But even if “covenants” are incredibly specific and detailed, that doesn’t indicate that a Bayesian likelihood ratio should be anything other than 1.00. Somebody writing speculative fiction about a Biblical people would in all likelihood include covenants in his fiction. Thus, this detail fits in with the “it was made up” hypothesis just as well as the “it is ancient Mesoamerican” hypothesis. This point illustrates how fundamentally flawed your “specific, detailed, and unique” scoring system is.

    Summary
    1- Your heuristic of “specific, detailed, and unique” as an approximation of Bayesian likelihood ratios is fundamentally flawed, and your subjective judgment as to what constitutes something being “specific, detailed and unique” is incredibly biased—especially by how you insist that under the “fiction” hypothesis the author was making guesses about the Maya rather than writing fiction inspired by the Bible and speculations about the mound builders.

    2- Your assumption that these various points are statistically independent exasperate the above problem exponentially.

    3- The way you insist that only details mentioned in both books may be included for analysis causes your results to systematically biased in favor of historicity. This bias is illustrated by how your analysis of the View of the Hebrews indicating that the entirety of the evidence indicates “strong evidence” in favor of historicity.

    • Hi Billy,
      I understand the time constraints. I feel them myself. 🙂

      Thank you for your respectful interactions over the past weeks. Perhaps we will have a chance someday to sit down and talk about the Book of Mormon.

      You have read the Book of Mormon a dozen times, so obviously you have some interest in the book. As you probably have gathered, I love the Book of Mormon. But more than that, I love my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon has brought me to rejoice in Him, my Redeemer.

      May I suggest that the next time you read the Book of Mormon, you get a copy that is written in the form of poetic parallelisms? It is a delightful and very interesting way to study the Book of Mormon.

      But mostly reading the Book of Mormon in poetic parallelisms is a great way to be impacted by the primary message of the Book of Mormon: Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. The Book of Mormon is truly a witness of Him and for Him.

      There is no longer a free downloadable PDF version of the Book of Mormon in poetic parallelisms but I would be happy to send you a PDF version that I have. I promise to maintain your anonymity.

      My sincere best wishes to you in your next reading of the Book of Mormon. 🙂

      Bruce

  10. OK, I finally have some free time during our move back to Michigan to offer another correspondence for your responses.

    While we are on the subject of poetic parallelisms, including chiasms, it is probably a good time to bring up another very important correspondence between The Maya and the Book of Mormon—that of covenants.

    Some of the most beautiful parallelisms in the Book of Mormon are connected with covenants. This chiasm from 3 Nephi 5: 24-26 is a good example. (I am sorry that the formatting limitations do not seem to allow for tabs, which would make the chiasm clearer…but if you have done your homework about parallelisms, you should be able to see this chiasm quite easily.)

    A And as surely as the Lord liveth,
    B will he gather in from the four quarters of the earth all the
    remnant of the seed of Jacob, who are scattered abroad upon
    all the face of the earth.
    C And as he hath covenanted with all the house of Jacob,
    D even so shall the covenant wherewith he hath
    covenanted
    E with the house of Jacob be fulfilled in his own due
    time,
    E unto the restoring all the house of Jacob unto the
    knowledge
    D of the covenant that he hath covenanted with them.
    C And then shall they know their Redeemer, who is Jesus
    Christ, the Son of God;
    B and then shall they be gathered in from the four quarters of the
    earth unto their own lands, from whence they have been
    dispersed;
    A yea, as the Lord liveth so shall it be. Amen.

    The Book of Mormon mentions “covenant” or “covenants” 131 times versus 23 times in the New Testament…the Book of Mormon is replete with covenants and covenant language.

    To provide a bit more context about the importance of covenants in the Book of Mormon and The Maya, this brief citation from the Encyclopedia Judaica written Moshe Weinfeld seems highly relevant.

    “The Origin of the Covenant
    The idea of a covenant between a deity and a people is unknown from other religions and cultures. It seems that the covenantal idea was a special feature of the religion of Israel, the only one to demand exclusive loyalty and preclude the possibility of dual or multiple loyalties; so the stipulation in political treaties demanding exclusive fealty to one king corresponds strikingly with the religious belief in one single, exclusive deity.”

    Weinfeld, Moshe. “Covenant.” Encyclopaedia Judaica, edited by Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, 2nd ed., vol. 5, Macmillan Reference USA, 2007, pp. 249-253. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/apps/doc/CX2587504681/GVRL?u=msu_main&sid=GVRL&xid=3162d0ba. Accessed 9 July 2019.

    With that as background, here is our correspondence 3.10.

    3.10 Humans obligated to abide by covenants, God usually involved.

    Coe’s standard: “Ultimately, humans were obligated to abide by covenants. A covenant, as defined by the ethnographer John Monaghan, is a binding contract that explains how one should behave. Gods were usually involved, as in the case of maize production” (p. 242).

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See Mosiah 5:6‒8; Mosiah 6:1‒2; Mosiah 21:31‒32.

    Analysis of correspondence: The Maya and the Book of Mormon share a common understanding of covenants as a binding contract or agreement between God and man. This correspondence is specific and detailed. It is also unusual. What existing model or pattern did Joseph Smith rely on to correctly “guess” that covenants between God and man existed among ancient Mesoamerican Indians? In the conventional Christianity of Smith’s day, the importance of covenants was very much downplayed if not absent altogether.

    So it appears there are at least two exceptions to Moshe Weinfeld’s claim: “The idea of a covenant between a deity and a people is unknown from other religions and cultures”. One exception occurs among the ancient Maya…and the other among the Nephite peoples of the Book of Mormon.

    The Book of Mormon correctly “guesses” that the idea of a covenant was held by some of the ancient American Indian cultures, one more instance in which Dr. Coe’s claims about the Book of Mormon do not match the facts given in his own book.

    According to the weighting scheme used in our article, we view this correspondence as specific, detailed and unusual, for a likelihood of 0.02.

    What do you think, commentators?

    • Given the amount of material that Joseph Smith Jr. copied from the the Old Testament for the Book of Mormon, attributing covenants to the Nephites in his historical fiction is not surprising – its expected

    • I’m not sure the Mayan mythology that ties humans being created from maize that obliges them to draw blood from their bodies, including penis piercing, is reflected in the BoM.

      I am sure, however, that claiming the Maya were given their mythology from Old World civilizations is a problem.

  11. All,
    I have been packing our household items over the past week and starting our move back to Michigan. I hope to have both the time and internet access to rejoin this discussion sometime after the Fourth of July. Please be patient…I have some good stuff to add. 🙂
    Bruce

  12. Laying aside the Bayesian analysis, not conforming to the req, the hypothesis being tested here is unrelated to the truth of the narrative contained in the Book of Mormon, the text of which makes no claim of taking place anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. What is actually being tested is a claim made for the Book of Mormon – that its narrative took place in Mesoamerica, which is downstream from the issue of whether the events occurred in reality.

    It is logically possible for the narrative of the Book of Mormon to be true – a factual recounting of events which occurred in the real world – and yet none of those events have taken place anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. All we know from the narrative is that if it actually happened then it mostly did not take place around the land of Jerusalem (Lehites) or around the Tower of Babel (Jaredites).

    It is logically possible for the Book of Mormon to be true and Joseph Smith simultaneously not have been a prophet. If the Book of Mormon is true, then at best it shows Joseph may have been a translator, at worst a thief (he could have stolen the book from someone else). Thus even if the Book of Mormon is true, it is logically possible the D&C is false. To be sure, if the D&C is true, the Book of Mormon must also be true, but the reverse does not follow.

    I suggest testing claims the Book of Mormon makes for itself instead of testing claims made for it.

    • Errata: “Laying aside the Bayesian analysis, as the hypotheses being tested do not conform to the requirements for a valid Bayesian analysis to be performed…”

      “It is logically possible for the Book of Mormon to be true – a factual recounting of events which occurred in the real world – and yet for none of those events to have taken place in the Western Hemisphere.”

  13. Drs. Dale,

    From what I can see, you have yet to address an issue that seems uncontroversially problematic:

    Consider each of the items for which the BoM agrees with Coe. In each of those cases, you’re saying that odds of the hypothesized fiction writer contradicting Coe, as opposed to agreeing with him, are 49:1, 9:1, or 1:1. Do you really believe this?

    For example, which of the following do you think a writer is more likely to mention in a counterfeit history:

    a) A city with consonants LMN
    b) The fact that there were no cities with consonants LMN.

    You have claimed that the writer is 49x more likely to mention (b) than (a). I don’t think you really believe that, so I suspect that you’re not aware that you’ve claimed it, or you haven’t given it much consideration.

    Regardless, I submit that this problem applies to most of the positive correspondences between the BoM and Coe, which would invalidate the bulk of your analysis. Is this something you’ll be addressing?

  14. Hi Bruce,

    You said, “Under the Book of Mormon as fiction hypothesis, what the author of the Book of Mormon might have known about ancient Mesoamerican Indians, their politics, geography, culture, technologies, religion and so on, and what he actually knew are two very different things.”

    I agree that they are two different things, however they both have one important thing in common: both questions are irrelevant to the ‘Book of Mormon is fiction’ hypothesis..

    The broadest, most likely “Book of Mormon is fiction” hypothesis is that it is fiction written by Joseph Smith and/or one of his contemporaries, who were riffing off of the speculation that the American Indians were a remnant of a great civilization of mound builders, who in turn were the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. According to this hypothesis, the only source he needed was the Bible.

    You said, “Let’s try instead for explicit, open analysis of these two sequential likelihoods: 1) that Joseph Smith did know a particular fact, and 2) that he also knew to include that fact in the Book of Mormon. “

    Okay. Starting from the introduction of Coe’s book, Coe says, “All the Mesoamerican Indians shared a number of traits which were more or less peculiar to them and absent or rare elsewhere in the new world: hieroglyphic writing, books of fig-bark paper or deerskin that were folded like screens, complex calendar, knowledge of the movements of the plants (especially Venus) against the dynamic background of the stars, a game played with a rubber ball in a special court, highly specialized markets, human sacrifice by head or heart removal, an emphasis upon self-sacrifice by blood drawn from the ears, tongue, or penis, and a highly comple, pantheistic religion which included nature as well as deities emblematic of royal descent.”

    I think the probability that the author of the Book of Mormon knew each of these nine particular facts was about 0%, and 0%^9 is still 0%.

    So what? The fact that the book doesn’t mention any of the traits that “all the Mesoamerican Indians shared“ is totally consistent with the hypothesis that he made it up without having any references or specialized knowledge about anything specific about Mesoamerica.

    Your list of 131 alleged hits is weak. Most of them don’t match in the details. None of them are things that are really unusual, such as the things Dr. Coe mentioned in the above list. Any one legitimate hit from that list would be more impressive than your 131 quasi-hits put together.

    Remember, according to your methodology we are accepting that the statements in fact in The Maya are essentially true. Of course you are going to try and fall back on your claim that “only statements of fact which are dealt with by both books can be rationally admitted to the analysis,” as if we could pretend that like all other Mesoamerican Indians, the ancient Nephites practiced human sacrifice by head or heart removal and emphasized upon self-sacrifice by blood drawn from the ears, tongue, or penis, but they didn’t happen to mention these details in their record for whatever reason.

    • “… deerskin …”

      Manuscript Found, unlike the BoM, mentions writing on parchment. For this, MF gets a 50x penalty.

  15. Jared, Honorentheos, Billy et al,

    As you know, Brian and I have taken quite a bit of flak about our Bayesian probability/likelihood analysis. I have responded to those criticisms elsewhere in this series of posts and will summarize our response to the critics in a later post.

    But what I want to point out now is that, whether you know it or not, the three of you are already doing a probability analysis. Our Bayesian likelihood analysis is open and the assumptions are clear. Your probability analysis is not open and the assumptions are not made clear.

    I am going to try to correct those errors now.

    Under the Book of Mormon as fiction hypothesis, what the author of the Book of Mormon might have known about ancient Mesoamerican Indians, their politics, geography, culture, technologies, religion and so on, and what he actually knew are two very different things.

    We cannot reasonably conclude that because someone might have known something, he actually did know it. But that is your underlying assumption, and it has not been made clear. I am making it clear now. Because of my educational resources, I might know a good deal about Thai history. In fact, I know nothing about it.

    It is common among contemporary Book of Mormon critics to assume that because (they think) Joseph Smith could (might) have known something, he actually did know it. Those are not the same thing at all. For this assumption to be true would require Joseph Smith to have a first-rate research library—and to know things about the Maya area that Dr. Coe says no one could know in 1830.

    It is very interesting that this wonderful research library owned by Joseph Smith has remained hidden all these years. None of the early Book of Mormon critics knew anything about the fabulous library at the Smith home. (At least such a library would account for the near-poverty of Joseph’s family…every spare penny must have gone into feeding Joseph’s book habit.)

    In fact, no such library existed. That is simply silly.

    Well, back to my point.

    Critics of the Book of Mormon are often doing an unacknowledged, naive probability analysis, as are the three of you. Knowingly or not, they/you are making two big, unwarranted assumptions.

    First, they/you are assuming that the probability that Joseph Smith actually knew something that he might have known is 100%. How naïve is that?

    Second, they/you are assuming, with 100% likelihood, that because Joseph Smith did know a particular fact, that he would also correctly include it in the Book of Mormon. Again, how naïve is that?

    In both cases, your assumptions are also hidden from view…they are not made explicitly and openly.

    Well, both assumptions are wrong. Such critics are performing a naïve, unacknowledged probability analysis. They are assuming two consecutive likelihoods, each rated at 100% probability, multiplied by each other to give 100% probability overall.

    Nonsense.

    Neither one of these assumptions rates a probability of 100%. Do you remember 100% of the facts from the last book you read? Would you know what facts to include in a book about Thailand based on your reading of books about India and Vietnam?

    No, you would not.

    Let’s try instead for explicit, open analysis of these two sequential likelihoods: 1) that Joseph Smith did know a particular fact, and 2) that he also knew to include that fact in the Book of Mormon. Rate the probability of both steps at 99% and calculate the product of these two probabilities (it is 98%). Raise that product to the 131st power. That gives us an incredibly optimistic, but at least explicit and open, value of 7% likelihood or 7 in 100.

    Let’s try another explicit, open analysis, using very optimistic probabilities of both steps, this time 95% for each step: 1) Joseph Smith did know what you assume he knew, and 2) he knew he should include that fact in the Book of Mormon. (To be clear, I think the probability that Joseph Smith did know what you assume he knew was actually very, very small…not 95%)

    Calculate 0.95 x 0.95 = 0.90. Raise 0.90 to the 131st power equals about 1 in a million.

    Take comfort…at least it is not one in a hundred billion billion or so.

    • “Let’s try another explicit, open analysis, using very optimistic probabilities of both steps, this time 95% for each step: 1) Joseph Smith did know what you assume he knew, and 2) he knew he should include that fact in the Book of Mormon. (To be clear, I think the probability that Joseph Smith did know what you assume he knew was actually very, very small…not 95%)

      Calculate 0.95 x 0.95 = 0.90. Raise 0.90 to the 131st power equals about 1 in a million.”

      I wish you were this explicit when estimating the probabilities that make up the Bayes factors in your paper, because your above calculation exhibits the same kind of problem that several of us have been pointing out:

      1) The 131 items that you included in your calculation were chosen by you specifically because they were included in both the BoM and The Maya.
      2) You propose, optimistically, that each item had a 95% chance of being included in the BoM (assuming Joseph Smith knew about them).
      3) You find significance in the fact that all 131 items were included in the BoM, considering the low probability (1/1000) of this happening.

      I trust you see the problem. As is typical with statistical analyses, yours was done on a sample of the overall corpus. What is not typical is that your sample was selected deterministically, and you’ve made no attempt to show that your selection criterion didn’t introduce bias.

      I would bet good money that you (the authors) are quite intelligent and honest. But, like all of us, you have blind spots. If I were involved with The Interpreter, I would be disturbed that the reviewers didn’t catch this particular blind spot.

  16. It’s worth remembering that Joseph Smith lived through a war (The War of 1812) and the young nation of The United States of America had seen warfare of many different types within the generation alive at the time. The description of a fortification in the BoM is very much that of many contemporary fortifications of this period such as this one at Cape Fear in North Carolina:

    https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/485755509799931560/

    One will note the cross section showing the moat and embankment, the plan showing the controlled points of ingress/egress, the watchtowers at intervals along the length of the embankment. Similar fortifications were built by the British to defend against native American and French attacks during the century before the BoM was authored. One need not look beyond Smith’s narrow world to see where the BoM claims originated. But more so, the 19th Century is an exact cultural match where any attempt to place the BoM in the ancient Americas has to stretch and contort itself to make the barest of overlaps seem plausible. That’s not to say the BoM describes the 19th Century. Rather, it exactly matches what people thought about the world in the early 19th Century. That included the concepts regarding warfare between a civilized white, old world race that was destroyed by the savage redskins. Why Christianity is described of a type that predated the evolution in Mormon theology but matches what Smith and others believed in the 1820s. Why the telling attempts to answer the questions of importance to the religious seekers and questioners of that day. Put The Maya up against the beliefs found in the frontier US in the late 1820s and it wouldn’t be close. The BoM is clearly a product of the 19th Century.

    • Honorentheos:
      I will be writing more later, but it looks like I have to point out again that you are not addressing the issue here. This is not new–this has been your usual practice over the past six weeks or so. You continue to evade the issue.

      The issue is: Dr. Coe has claimed that 99% of the details of the Book of Mormon are false. But he is wrong. According to his own book there are many points of evidence for which the Book of Mormon and The Maya agree very well. This is one of them.

      But you don’t address this deep and detailed point of agreement. You don’t compare the statement in The Maya with the Book of Mormon. Instead, you change the subject. You point to British fortifications and in effect you say “no big deal”, this is where Joseph Smith got the idea.

      You don’t have an ounce of proof for that conclusion; you just put it forward as fact.

      Bruce

      • Dr. Dale,

        You went outside of the Maya. I pointed out there are better examples outside of the Maya that match Alma. Billy pointed out The Maya limit the descriptions of the fortresses you cited in Alma to a period centuries later. Jared pointed out there are many similar descriptions of fortifications in other periods of human history and other geogrpahies. You seem to feel that the Cortez reference should be treated as included in The Maya. We’re all working outside the sources you claimed to have bound the study. Mine has the advantage of being contemporary to Joseph Smith in time and geography. I appreciate your concern that I’m not playing by your rules, but really, who is?

        • I want to add to this. The theory the BoM is a product of the 19th Century was presented with evidence that there was a wide spread belief the people who built the mounds/fortifications in North America were a civilized race that was wiped out by the savage “redskins”. If I were to compare the Maya to this claim, the Maya refutes it, as does modern archeology as a whole. Of we compare the Book of Mormon to this claim, it is not only included but is the central narrative of the BoM. It’s a perfect match.

          Now, you find the physical description of fortresses by Cortez 1000 years after the BoM timeframe to be compelling, yet struggle to make a similar match in the Maya in terms of time and place as Billy has shown. I’d point out you note in the correspondence on Gold/silver that the BoM isn’t claimed to describe the lowlands Maya yet your off timeline examples are lowland examples. OTOH, fortresses in the America’s built by the British IN AMERICA for defense from the French and native americans is another match to the BoM. That’s a correspondence with the 19th C. setting Smith lived in and drew from. You want to assign a likelihood ratio how probable Smith, who lived with an uncle in Massachusetts as a boy recovering from his leg surgery during the War of 1812 would describe a fort as having a moat, berm, controlled ingress/egress and towers? Well, the info is in his environment, he lived during a war, and it’s been shown what such forts looked like and they align with the description in Alma. So, seems pretty likely. Specific? Sure. Detailed, yeah in the sense it was describing the features of an earthen fort. Unusual? No, because it’s describing a fort design repeated pretty much everywhere where projectile weapons were used. Like Cortez describes. So your scale for that is 10 to 1 in favor of Smith having not guessed this. Recognizing you weren’t able to fit this into the Maya in the time frame of Alma, that’s a miss (Smith described something that wasn’t consistent with The Maya) or The Maya was silent. Either way, point for the 19th C. authorship theory.

    • Honorentheos:
      No, the Book of Mormon is clearly not a product of the 19th century. See, I can make flat statements also.

      We compared two 19th century works, Manuscript Found and View of the Hebrews, with The Maya. Both failed the test the Book of Mormon passed so well. You and the other critics continue to ignore that fact.

      So prove your point. Compare the Book of Mormon with what you think is a typical 19th century religious document, or any other document you think “represents” the 19th century. State your hypothesis. State your Bayesian skeptical prior. Identify all the evidence, pro and con, relevant to your hypothesis. You must include both positive and negative correspondences…not just a handful of cherry-picked points. Weight the evidence. Do a rigorous statistical analysis of your findings, as we have done.

      When you have done so, then publish the results for everyone to see and discuss, as we have done.

      Until then, your flat statements are just noise, verdicts without evidence.

      Bruce

      ps. I think my next correspondence will demonstrate very clearly that the Book of Mormon is not a 19th century production. Stay tuned.

      • Hi Bruce,

        You didn’t compare either alternative text nor the Book of Mormon with a 19th Century understanding of the origins of the people’s of the Americas. You compared them to a book about the Mayan people. Take all three (the Book of Mormon, VotH, and MF) and compare them to a detailed review of historical sources on what people believed about the Native Americans, the Bible, the history of the world, Christianity, etc. and the Book of Mormon is a stand out match. The other two would match as well. Your proposed approach is a red herring and se Ms to poorly comprehend the critical position which is likely fatal to your ability to conduct a reasonable statistically valid assessment as proposed in the paper. But in the end, I’m glad the paper was put out for publication as it serves as a nice focal point for glaring issues in the underlying views of BoM apologetics and the appraisal of evidence. I for one hope it enjoys a long period of public attention.

        • Honorentheos:
          You make yet another unsupported claim that the Book of Mormon would correspond as well to another authoritative review as it does to The Maya as if it were an accomplished fact.

          It is not an accomplished fact. It is just talk on your part.

          You keep brushing aside the comparison that was actually done in our article. For the thousand and first time, please focus on the facts summarized in Coe’s book and the fact claims of the Book of Mormon…which Coe says “has no truth” in it. Well, if that is true, then Coe’s book is also full of errors.

          We have shown that Coe is just wrong in his claim. And not a single negative commentator seems to think that Coe’s decades long false claim is worthy of mention.

          That is a pretty revealing omission, isn’t it? Just about as revealing as the fact that none of the negative commentators have taken me up on my offer to give them a free copy of The Maya so that they can make the comparisons for themselves.

          But as far as your unsupported claim is concerned, please go ahead and pick the authoritative review that you think the Book of Mormon should match and do the work we have done to compare Coe’s book with the Book of Mormon. Set your skeptical prior. Weight the evidence. Be honest, please, and include both positive and negative evidence.

          Then submit your work for peer review, make the revisions the reviewers require, as we have done, and respond to the critics when you publish. Be prepared for it to take a long, long time. A good part of my “free time” over the past three years has gone into writing and publishing this article.

          Until you do that, your claims are just that…claims without evidence. Just air.

          Bruce

          • Dr. Dale,

            I have to admit, your persistence in denying the counter-evidence and use of detail from Coe to illuminate the weakness of the superficiality of the supposed correspondences is quite facinating in and of itself.

            How does one insist that the BoM including Christian expressions of covenanting with the Christian god to obey his commandments is a specfic, unusual, and detailed correspondence to Maya mythology-based ritual covenant that included blood letting and penis piercing in the face of those being facts contained in the two sources you insist act as the limits of the discussion? If you want the discussion to be limited to Coe and the BoM, then ok. But be consistent. And address the conflicting details they contain if you would.

  17. Follow up on Correspondence 4.2

    So far, Honorentheos and Jared Manning have avoided discussing Correspondence 4.2 and Billy has mostly tried to avoid it.

    For those who are new (or old) to this discussion, the only question of interest here is: “is Correspondence 4.2 between the Book of Mormon and The Maya specific, detailed and unusual?” If so, then it counts as evidence for the converse hypothesis. That is all that matters for the purposes of our paper. Everything else is smoke and mirrors. OK?

    So, please, commentators, do you think this point of evidence is specific, detailed and unusual, or not? No need to dodge or throw up smokescreens or infer racism as a motivation for your intellectual sparring partners.

    As follow up on Correspondence 4.2, let me provide this additional information from Kirk Magleby at Book of Mormon Central.

    “Takeshi Inomata is one of the leading dirt archaeologists in Mesoamerica today. He is the lead author of an article entitled “High-precision radiocarbon dating of political collapse and dynastic origins at the Maya site of Ceibal, Guatemala” published January 23, 2017 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The article describes precisely the kind of fortifications Captain Moroni built, just as the Dales have pointed out from Coe and Webster. But, Inomata also reports the likely date the Ceibal fortifications were constructed – 75 BC – a chronological bulls eye for Alma chapters 49 & 50.”

    OK, comments ya’ll?

    Bruce

    • Hi Bruce,

      You said, “For those who are new (or old) to this discussion, the only question of interest here is: ‘is Correspondence 4.2 between the Book of Mormon and The Maya specific, detailed and unusual?’ If so, then it counts as evidence for the converse hypothesis.”

      That is false. Full stop. That is not the only question of interest. If we are trying to evaluate whether or not Joseph Smith was the world’s luckiest guesser, we need to apply valid Bayesian reasoning. Bayesian likelihood ratios are not measures of how specific, detailed, and unusual correspondences are. They are, according to your paper, “the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is true divided by the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is false.” (That quote is from your paper, Bruce. If you’d like further quotes from the references you cite in your footnotes, let me know and I’ll provide them.) Notice there are two questions implied there. “What is the likelihood of the evidence if the hypothesis is true?” and “What is the likelihood of the evidence if the hypothesis is false?” Your question of how specific, detailed, and unusual a piece of alleged correspondence is does not adequately capture both questions. If we want to do this the right way, we need to ask both questions.

      If a correspondence between the Book of Mormon and The Maya meets some threshold of being specific, detailed, and unusual, and the same correspondence between the Book of Mormon and commonly-held speculations about the mound builders of North America is equally specific, detailed, and usual, then it counts as neither evidence for nor against historicity.

      That isn’t smoke and mirrors. It is the fundamental nature of valid Bayesian reasoning.

      In this particular case Honorentheos has argued with evidence that “the wide spread view of his time was that the mounds left by the mound builders were fortifications built by a lost race overrun by the native American tribes.” If he is right about this, then this particular correspondence matches the “he made it up” hypothesis at least as good as, “it is an ancient record of Mesoamerica” hypothesis.

    • Hi Bruce,

      Please see my post above noting that it is bad form to claim liberties for oneself such as jumping about between sources far outside the BoM and The Maya while claiming foul play when your humble critics follow suite. Perhaps it would be fair to reframe and return according to the rules you wish to follow for everyone?

      • Hi Honorentheos:
        Good point. I should not have introduced the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences data in support of the Book of Mormon’s timing on these defensive fortifications, should I?

        Ooops, I did it again. 🙂 Anyway, fair point. I won’t do it again.

        I can only hope that the critics will respond to the claims of our article and not introduce claims we have not made…as nearly all of the negative commentators have done so far.

        And would it be OK for me to point out that you keep introducing hypothetical sources that you think may explain Joseph Smith’s correct “guesses”? Those supposed sources are irrelevant to the purpose of our article.

        The purpose of our article is to test Coe’s claim that the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient Indian cultures. But we have shown that the Book of Mormon has a great deal to do with ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures.

        Where you think Joseph Smith might have gotten source material for his scores and scores of correct “guesses” is entirely irrelevant. The fact is that he actually made those correct “guesses”.

        So can I ask you to please focus on the correspondences themselves? That is the discussion I am trying to have with the commentators…but with very little success in getting ya’ll to stick to the point. It is a bit frustrating.

        Bruce

    • I’m happy to play ball. But since the context here is a Bayes’ analysis, I’m going to play by those rules. This means that I can counter your proposed correspondence by hypothesizing someone other than Joseph or one of his friends as a possible author. An exhaustive analysis demands this be done anyway.

      The defensive earthworks described in the Book of Mormon are identical to fortifications described by Julius Caesar in his account of the war against the Gauls. Here are a couple of quotes so you get the gist of it.

      “He commanded the camp to be fortified with a twelve-foot rampart, a breastwork to be built on in proportion to the height of the same, a double trench fifteen feet wide in each case to be dug with perpendicular sides, turrets three stories high to be set up at frequent intervals and connected by covered cross-bridges, having their front faces protected by a breastwork of wattles. His object was to hold the camp against the enemy by the double ditch and a double rank of defenders: one rank, posted on the bridges, from the greater safety afforded by height, could hurl its missiles with greater range and confidence; the other, posted on the actual rampart nearer the enemy, would be covered by the bridge from the showers of missiles.”

      “Behind the trenches he constructed a ramp and palisade twelve feet high; to this he added a breastwork and battlements, with large fraises projecting at the junctions of screens and ramp, to check the upward advance of the enemy; and all round the works he set turrets at intervals of eighty feet.”

      I’ll list the similarities for anyone who didn’t bother reading the Book of Mormon verses cited.

      1) deep trenches
      2) next to high earthen walls
      3) topped by palisades
      4) and sharpened stakes
      5) protected by a series of towers
      6) which towers had protections against missiles
      7) from which stones and arrows are cast

      Since I’ve brought up Julius Caesar, I feel I ought to mention a few things about him. 1) He was a great general, 2) He was a great historian, and 3) He was Pontifex Maximus, Rome’s highest religious official. Does this sound like anybody in the Book of Mormon? Maybe a certain father-son duo at the end?

  18. Very interesting article with a great amount of information, along with a large quantity of responses. As I read through all of these, it dawned on me that it must drive those who don’t believe, crazy to see the so-called inconsistencies in the Book of Mormon and yet not be able to truthfully explain where and how the book actually came to be. I mean, on a logical basis only, it’s obvious that it’s more than just a romance or historical novel. The internal consistencies are overwhelming if truthfully considered, and yet, here and there are these unexplained inconsistencies that just drive people crazy. It reminds me an awful lot about what Paul wrote about people who just had to “kick against the pricks” of the Gospel. They can’t leave it alone and they can’t bear to consider that even with its supposed inconsistencies, it might just be true, and so they’re left to “kick against the pricks.” Unfortunately, because all they can do is “kick against the pricks,” they never get anywhere, really. Their arguments just keep going round-and-around-and-around. Sometimes the ability to suspend one’s disbelief in order to allow the glimmer of the Holy Spirit to shine through is more impossible than for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle. And yet, the amazing thing to me is the knowledge that I have that the Book of Mormon is true. Shucks, I didn’t see a light or have an angel declare it to me, but every time I pick up that book, it speaks truthfulness to my soul. I don’t have the words or know how to describe truth any better than that. I suppose that truth for me is what my perception of truth happens to be, and in this case it is that the Lord used a young farm boy to translate a book by the gift and power of God. On the peril of losing my soul I personally could not dare, –because of this testimony which I bear– I could not dare to ascribe to God what He can and cannot do, regardless of supposed inconsistencies or not.

  19. Brant,

    My proposed author has not been scrutinized yet. In time he will be. I look forward to your input.

    Joseph’s contraption could have been made from scraps laying around a cooper’s shop. At some point I will make a prototype and film a demonstration of the process. I will show the perspective from the scribe’s side of the table and from Joseph’s side of the table. The device will be easy to set up and capable of being stashed with the manuscripts in a box the size of the plates.

    I’m interested in which eye-witness accounts you think make this scenario impossible. Accounts which mention being behind the table during the transmission process or first-hand accounts of seeing something on the stone would be of particular interest.

    • Well, Jared. You have put forward the hypothesis of another author for the Book of Mormon. It is up to you to prove or disprove that hypothesis. No one else is under the slightest obligation to do so. Ball in your court.
      Bruce

      • If you want to do a Bayes’ analysis to support your point you are obligated to make an exhaustive comparison. I put forward my hypothesis only to show that you have not done so. You keep wanting to change the subject but this is a fatal flaw in your analysis.

  20. Bruce,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to me and others with inquiries and criticisms. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think Joseph authored or even co-authored the Book of Mormon. I don’t think any of his close (known) associates did either. The complexity of The Book of Mormon on many different levels suggests to me it was authored by a very well-educated person.

    We have to consider the possibility that Joseph read an existing work to his scribes that had been previously created by a very well-educated person or persons. The principal of exhaustion, in fact, demands we consider this. You cannot simply assert that it didn’t happen that way and then expect others to accept you have been sufficiently rigorous in your analysis.

    • Jared,

      It might not have been covered in the paper, but it is certainly covered in the literature. There is zero evidence for Joseph reading a manuscript. Even if there were a way to hide a page in the hat, there was no light to read it. That was the function of putting the stone in the hat. If there were multiple pages, it would have been obvious. There is no affirmative evidence for such a thing, and specific statements that there was not.

      It is one thing to think some well educated person wrote it, but quite another to support that hypothesis. That hypothesis has so little confirmation that skipping mentioning that possibility is hardly a criticism.

      • Brant,

        I think too much is made of Emma’s very problematic 1879 testimony regarding the translation process. I’ve read all of the known testimony and I see nothing that decisively precludes Joseph from having had a concealed manuscript behind the table. Illusionists of his day were known to use hats and tables as props for concealment when presenting illusions.

        The other options are 1) that Joseph had memorized it or made it up as he went along. These I find extremely improbable, although between them, memorization seems more likely and, I note, would still require a pre-existing manuscript; or 2) that he had supernatural help, which I know you are advocating.

        In order to be exhaustive we must consider all rational options. A scientist does not have the luxury of interpreting the evidence like an apologist. It just isn’t proper in the context of this paper to say we know for certain how the transmission process did or did not occur. There is nothing close to enough evidence to provide scientific certainty on that issue.

        In my view, the apologist’s role is to provide plausibility for the truth of religious claims. Trying to go beyond plausibility–especially if claiming virtual certainty–will only bring criticism, as it should

        • Jared,

          That is a lot of supposition with no supporting evidence. We now have to have Joseph as an expert illusionist (not mentioned in any source), but he has to acquire a manuscript and have no one know about it. He has to find a way to have all kinds of people watch the process, but never see any paper. He has to read a paper while his face is in a hat, and then find a way to change the sheets without anyone knowing.

          That is difficult. Next, however, we have to find anyone who could have written the manuscript. So far, all who have been proposed have been disqualified. So, proposing an unknown person with sufficient education (and I would suggest that is impossible, since much of what we know of the text is much more recent), and then have that person in contact with Joseph–and no one every mentioned anything.

          The golden plates are much easier to believe, and have much more evidence behind them.

          • The content of the BoM and it’s generally recognized lack of correspondence/perceived correspondence to ancient America is the primary evidence for any theory regarding BoM authorship. All statements about it’s authorship, absent the plates for study, are difficult to assign a value to that could possibly swing the needle beyond what the BoM has to defend on it’s own merits.

            It’s difficult to differentiate between statements made about the process used to create the 116 pages we don’t have and the BoM content we do have. The faithful version of the story includes Smith losing the tools for translations andnswitch them around that time. We have a meaningful, measurable change in the pace of content generation with the arrival of Oliver Cowdery that is suspect if Smith is the main engine if production one way or the other.

            In the end, what matters is the content, because the rest is opaque and behind the veil of time.

          • Brant,

            If one is making an apologetic argument, then what you’ve said is perfectly adequate. As I’ve mentioned, I think the bar for apologetics is plausibility. But the authors chose a rigorous scientific method for their analysis. This demands they consider even those things that are hard to believe or not considered likely. Proper scientific investigation does not begin with eliminating the possibilities you don’t like.

            Regarding whether or not Joseph was an “expert illusionist” we know that he was able to convince people he could see things on a stone in a hat. How do you suppose he was able to do that?

            It is a simple matter to sit behind a table and pretend to look into a hat while leaving space to look at something placed in or near your lap. (Try it.) Then all he would have needed was a pair of spools that could be mounted to the underside of the table or his belt. A manuscript wrapped around the spools like a scroll could be advanced with one hand while the other hand held the hat.

            Now imagine Joseph dictated by reading a single line of manuscript, having the scribe repeat it back to him, and then advancing the spools one line. Imagine how easy it would be to leave right in the middle of the dictation, come back the next day, and continue at precisely the spot the scrolls had been advanced to the previous day.

            As far as a proposed author, I do have one in mind that would have been qualified and able in every way to produce the Book of Mormon. But I’d rather not go down that particular path in this discussion. I have already veered too far off course.

            • Jared,

              Yes, this is a detour, but then much of the discussion is somewhat of a detour. In this case, you have suggested that there is a reasonable alternative. I disagree. To date, all attempts to involve someone other than Joseph Smith have been unable to withstand scrutiny.

              You have a method Joseph could have used, but it is pure speculation (and contrary to statements of those who witnessed the process). Assuming that Joseph duped the witnesses in the way you suggest, could it have happened that way? Since there is zero evidence to support the hypothesis, we can only deal with plausibility. Was it plausible? In order for the scroll idea to work, Joseph have to install it in the table of different people’s homes where the translation occurred, without their knowledge. That does not seem plausible. Given his lack of finances, just acquiring the needed materials would have been noticed.

              Then, he has to find a way to remove it with no one seeing, or someone make it so that no one could see it as they passed the table–especially when not in use.

              So is it possible? Possible in the same way nearly impossible things are technically possible.

            • Jared,

              I didn’t answer your question about Joseph convincing people he could see things with a stone in a hat. That is actually something on which there is available literature. A fascinating book is Dr. Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer’s Extraordinary Knowing: Science,Skepticism, and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind. The short answer is that he convinced them because they were able to test him and prove it to themselves.

  21. Some notes on 4.2…

    In context, Coe says, “…proof of warfare is remarkably difficult to derive from ‘dirt’ archaeology. A vivid exception to this rule is provided by Becan in the Chenes region just north of the Peten, which was completely surrounded by massive defensive earthworks sometime between the second and fourth centuries AD.”

    And in context, the Book of Mormon says, “Thus Moroni did prepare strongholds against the coming of their enemies, round about every city in all the land.”

    Forgetting for the moment that the Becan site was constructed about 300 years too late, isn’t it odd that if every city in all the land had such fortifications, that there is only one such city where evidence of these massive “heaps of earth” still remains?

    The Book of Mormon describes savages attacking white Christians who are bunkered up in forts (Where could a fiction writer on the American frontier come up with that imagery?). Of course if Joseph Smith had the mound builders in mind it isn’t that unlikely he would have said they would “dig up heaps of earth round about all the cities.” Further, this idea isn’t that foreign to Joseph Smith’s world in any case; according to Wikipedia, “While moats are commonly associated with European castles, they were also developed by North American Indians of the Mississippian culture as the outer defence of some fortified villages. The remains of a 16th-century moat are still visible at the Parkin Archeological State Park in eastern Arkansas. Further, the term moat was used to describe dry ditches surrounding forts built by colonials or Americans to protect important landmarks, harbors, or cities.”

    In any case, if the main purpose of the paper is to compare the fact claims of the Book of Mormon with the fact claims of Dr. Coe’s book, then the one city that has mounds is a point of correspondence (while all of the others are points of disagreement).

    On the other hand, if the main purpose of the paper is to conduct a Bayesian analysis of the evidence to determine the probability that the Book of Mormon has its roots in ancient Mesoamerica rather than in 19th-century America, the analysis would be along these lines:

    1- If the Book of Mormon is historical and the ancient inhabitants of Mesoamerica built up motes and mounds “round every city in all the land,” what are the chances that The Maya would say only one city now has mounds? Perhaps 0.01.

    2- If the Book of Mormon is speculative fiction about how a group of proto-Christian Jews immigrated to the Americas before the siege of Jerusalem, turned into the great mound building civilization, and then collapsed leaving the Indians as a remnant, what is the probability the author would have said that the mound builders built mounds and forts as a military defense against savages? Perhaps 0.01.

    Thus, the likelihood ratio for this point is 0.01/0.01 = 1.00.

    • Second to fourth century AD is 300 years too late? Not in the Book of Mormon I’ve read. As for indications of warfare, it is true that some of them are hard to find, but one of the reasons is that the excavations have been in the city centers. Other techniques are showing walls farther out–beyond where they have been digging.

      • According to the versus Bruce cited, the high earthen banks described in the Book of Mormon were constructed in the year 72 B.C. According to Coe, the mounds at Becan were constructed between the 2nd and 4th centuries A.D. Yes, this is during Book of Mormon times, but it is centuries after the specific dates when the Book of Mormon mounds were built.

        If our methodology is to look at the correspondences and see how specific, detailed, and unusual they are so that we can score the correspondences with Bayesian likelihood ratios, to give a high score (e.g. 0.1) in favor of historicity based upon correspondences being specific and detailed, the specific details must match. If a correspondence is described in detail and the details don’t match, it doesn’t constitute strong evidence of historicity.

  22. All, here is another correspondence for your comments.

    4.2 Defensive earthworks with deep ditches, breastworks and palisades

    Coe’s standard: “Becan … was completely surrounded by massive defensive earthworks sometime between the second and fourth centuries AD. These consist of a ditch and inner rampart, 38 ft (11.6 m) high, and would have been formidable, according to David Webster, if the rampart had been surmounted by a palisade” (p. 122). “Warfare had in fact become a real
    problem to all the major Petexbatun sites, and a system of defensive walls … topped by wooden palisades was constructed around and within them” (p. 151).

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 49:4, 18‒22; Alma 50:1‒5; Alma 53:4.

    Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, it matches perfectly in the details, and it is highly unusual. What military example had Joseph Smith ever heard of or seen that was anything like this defensive arrangement? According to David Webster, the Conquistador Hernan Cortes marveled when he saw the Maya towns defended in exactly this fashion (details below).

    We would like to give this correspondence a weighting of a million to one against the likelihood that Joseph Smith guessed it, but our data-weighting approach does not permit a likelihood of 0.000001; instead it is likelihood = 0.02.

    For those who are interested, here are some additional details from Dr. Webster’s work that show how exactly Joseph “guessed” this correspondence, and how impressed Cortes was:

    “Conquistador Hernan Cortes described fortified cities in the Maya lowlands, as quoted by Dr. David Webster of Pennsylvania State University. Here is Cortes’s description of the defenses he encountered among the Lowland Maya: “There is only one level entrance, the whole town being surrounded by a deep (dry) moat behind which is a wooden palisade as high as man’s breast. Behind this palisade lies a wall of very heavy boards, some twelve feet tall, with embrasures through which to shoot their arrows; the lookout posts rise another eight feet above the wall, which likewise has large towers with many stones to hurl down on the enemy. … Indeed, it was so well planned with regard to the manner of weapons they use, they could not be better defended”

    Dr. Webster also wrote another relevant, interesting study. Here are some of Dr. Webster’s findings from his study regarding the dry moat or defensive ditch that surrounded the city of Becan, in the Yucatan Peninsula of southeastern Mexico:

    “The ditch and parapet derive their main defensive strength from sheer size. What I call the ‘critical depth’ of the fortifications (the vertical distance from the top of the embankment to the bottom of the ditch would have averaged something over 11 meters (about 36 feet)… The steep angles of the inner ditch and wall and parapet slope could not have been climbed without the aid of ladders; an enemy force caught in the bottom of the ditch would have been at the mercy of the defenders, whose most effective weapon under the circumstances would have been large rocks. … To throw ‘uphill’ from the outside is almost impossible. Defenders…could have rained long-distance missiles on approaching enemies using
    spear throwers and slings.”

    Thus the Maya at the time of the Spanish Conquest used the same kind of city defense that Moroni had used about 1600 years earlier, namely (1) a single entrance to the city, (2) very deep ditches around the city, (3) banks of earth built above the ditches, (4) strong works of timbers built on top of these banks of earth above ditches, and (5) even taller towers built on the timbers. From these works of timbers and from the towers, the defenders could rain down arrows and especially rocks, on their attackers. And the attackers couldn’t effectively get at the defenders— so they were slaughtered.

    So Joseph Smith was either a military genius himself, or he guessed it. Yes, he guessed it in all this detail. A 24-year- old farm kid from upstate New York invented this superb defensive military arrangement, totally unlike anything in the warfare of his time, and which greatly impressed an experienced soldier like Hernan Cortes.

    David Webster, “The Not So Peaceful People: A Review of Maya War,”
    Journal of World Prehistory 14, no. 1 (March 2000): 80.

    Best wishes,
    Bruce

    • The wide spread view of his time was that the mounds left by the mound builders were fortifications built by a lost race overrun by the native American tribes. For example consider this except from the poem The Prairies from 1832:

      I think of those
      Upon whose rest he tramples. Are they here—
      The dead of other days?—and did the dust
      Of these fair solitudes once stir with life
      And burn with passion? Let the mighty mounds
      That overlook the rivers, or that rise
      In the dim forest crowded with old oaks,
      Answer. A race, that long has passed away,
      Built them;—a disciplined and populous race
      Heaped, with long toil, the earth, while yet the Greek
      Was hewing the Pentelicus to forms
      Of symmetry, and rearing on its rock
      The glittering Parthenon. These ample fields
      Nourished their harvest, here their herds were fed,
      When haply by their stalls the bison lowed,
      And bowed his maned shoulder to the yoke.
      All day this desert murmured with their toils,
      Till twilight blushed, and lovers walked, and wooed
      In a forgotten language, and old tunes,
      From instruments of unremembered form,
      Gave the soft winds a voice. The red man came—
      The roaming hunter tribes, warlike and fierce,
      And the mound-builders vanished from the earth.
      The solitude of centuries untold
      Has settled where they dwelt. The prairie-wolf
      Hunts in their meadows, and his fresh-dug den
      Yawns by my path. The gopher mines the ground
      Where stood their swarming cities. All is gone;
      All—save the piles of earth that hold their bones,
      The platforms where they worshipped unknown gods,
      The barriers which they builded from the soil
      To keep the foe at bay—till o’er the walls
      The wild beleaguerers broke, and, one by one,
      The strongholds of the plain were forced, and heaped
      With corpses.

      https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/55341/the-prairies

      This wasn’t a remarkable guess, and a comprehensive study would have assigned a higher probability this is favors the BoM being fiction rather than fact given its a product of the deeply flawed mound builder mythology that has been refuted by modern archeology. Because it was racist, and still is when is shows up in BoM apologetics.

      • Honorentheos:
        It is really remarkable how long you and a few other commentators dodge the issue. The issue before us is whether the Book of Mormon has many, many correspondences, including some really remarkably detailed correspondences, with Coe’s book.

        You are unwittingly acknowledging the strength of the evidence by refusing to deal with it, aren’t you?

        This is one of those really detailed correspondences, and you and Billy and Jared deal with it by changing the subject. (And you also want to call other people racist without an ounce of evidence.)

        Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon give a very detailed description of a particular type of defensive warfare arrangement that agrees perfectly. It is NOT the earthen walls of the mound builder culture, but something very different and something that amazed Cortez.

        You just blow past that piece of evidence. Afraid to address it?

        Bruce

        • Hi Bruce,

          How so? The majority of this correspondence as cited is not from The Maya and makes rather large leaps outside of the bounds you supposedly used to otherwise constrain and he comparisons. If I may, a poem published two years after the BoM was published, penned by one of the early greats of American poetry, is far closer to the two sources you chose as limits than an account from Cortez describing a fortification from the post classic period. An embankment with a single entrance cites a thousand years after BoM times is your best correspondence? Perhaps you ought to consider if you really want someone performing a detailed review of how well The Maya and the chapters in Alma align. Oh, and the fact your examples are from the lowlands…I seem to recall something about that you may want to reflect on as well.

          Mound builder mythology was pervasive in Smith’s time. It was racist. It’s been swept out of modern archeology for good reason. The LDS faith would do well to do the same by recognizing the Maya are a people who do not need an old world ancestor to explain the immensity of their achievements. Which is the purpose of your paper is it not? To show the BOM people’s overlap with the Maya contrary to what the professionals in the field attest?

          Anyway, if you’d like to constrain your correspondence to the content of the Maya and reframe it, I’ll view that as a reasonable concession to the proposed limits and refrain from posting the much more obvious influence on Smith which was the mound builder mythology. Even if the poem described exactly the very things claimed occured in the BoM but which have proven wrong at multiple levels.

          All the best!

          honorentheos

          • Hi Honorentheos:
            This discussion has gotten so long and has so many people involved that I am having real trouble keeping everything straight…particularly when I only have time once a week or so to follow up.

            So, just a few final comments about the fortification issue. I can’t find your comment but I recall that you sent me a Pinterest link showing fortresses from Joseph Smith’s time that you think he might have used as a model for his description of Moroni’s novel forts.

            I looked those fortresses up and studied them a bit. They differ markedly in the description we have of Moroni’s fortified cities.

            First of all, the modern forts were built as military outposts…not as a means of fortifying a city. In most cases, Moroni was fortifying a city as a defensive measure against a much more numerous, invading enemy. The forts you showed me were primarily to house troops in hostile territory. Big difference, and it shows in the rest of the design.

            Second, the pictures of the forts you sent me all have multiple entrances. The Book of Mormon is very careful to point out that Moroni’s fortified cities only had one entrance. If you had to defend a city against huge numbers of invaders, that is what you would do…only one entrance to defend.

            Third, while the forts you sent me obviously have walls, there is no special emphasis on the height of the walls or the depth of the ditch around the forts. That height is a critical feature of Moroni’s defense and is likewise emphasized in Dr. Webster’s discussion of these Maya forts. Webster says “it is almost impossible to throw uphill” and both the Maya forts and Moroni’s forts are specifically designed to render useless any hand weapons hurled from outside.

            Fourth, let’s talk briefly about fort design and contrast 18th and 19th century North American fort design with Moroni’s design. Please look carefully at all the fort designs you sent me.

            What do they look like? Nice guy that I am, I will tell you. 🙂 They are called “star forts” and they are called that for a reason. They were designed with two purposes in mind: 1) to present angled walls as much as possible to attackers so that cannon balls would be deflected and 2) to allow overlapping fields of cannon fire from the fort to repel attackers.

            The key point here is “cannons”. Fort design in the modern era had to take cannons into account and the star fortress design was that response to cannons.

            If Joseph Smith had just adopted the design of forts around him in the Book of Mormon, as you seem to imply, then he would probably have said something about the star design…a total anachronism and point against the Book of Mormon.

            But Joseph Smith did not make this big mistake. Moroni’s forts have exactly the features Webster talks about among the Maya, and no anachronisms. So Joseph Smith is still the world’s greatest guesser.

            Bruce

  23. All,
    Looks like Interpreter is catching up with my comments from last week. I will keep looking for all of my comments/responses to appear and resubmit if needed. Be patient. 🙂

    In the meantime, here is another point of evidence regarding defensive structures in the Book of Mormon and in Coe’s book.
    Bruce

  24. Response to Jared, et al, about “exhaustive” Bayesian treatments.

    Jared’s point about the need for an “exhaustive” treatment is correct, and we did not address it particularly well in the text of the manuscript. We appreciate the opportunity to better address it now. However, this is also an exceedingly minor point as far as the conclusions of our article are concerned.

    For those who may be unfamiliar with Bayesian terminology, “exhaustive” means that the set of hypotheses considered must cover the entire space of possibilities, i.e. be both exhaustive (covers everything) and exclusive (no overlapping). You can think of it in terms of a Venn diagram, there is some space of possibilities and each hypothesis covers some region of that space.

    You want your set of hypotheses to cover all of the space and to not overlap. Our set of hypotheses is that the Book of Mormon is either fiction or it is non-fiction. That is an exhaustive and exclusive set, and that type of partitioning of the space is common (A or not A), since it is the easiest way to form an exhaustive and exclusive set with two hypotheses.

    For the “Book of Mormon as fiction” hypothesis we have named Joseph Smith as the author since under that hypothesis he clearly had an authorship role, but whether or not he worked with any unnamed co-authors is irrelevant to the question of whether the Book of Mormon is fiction or non-fiction. Any co-authors that Joseph Smith could have plausibly worked with would have had a very similar background to his.

    Our assigned Bayesian likelihoods were based on generic considerations of what information could have come to a typical person in Joseph Smith’s historical time and place. They were not based on detailed analysis of letters, meetings, communications, school curricula, or other things that would have tied the analysis specifically to Joseph. Therefore the analysis would cover any plausible coauthors equally.

    The coauthors had to be close acquaintances of his, and none of his close acquaintances were scholars at all…let alone Mesoamerican scholars. (In fact, Dr. Coe says that as of 1840—ten years after the Book of Mormon was published, that “no one knew anything about the Maya area”.)

    It would be equally probable or improbable for Hyrum Smith, or Oliver Cowdery, or anyone else Joseph Smith knew to make those guesses regarding the fact claims of the Book of Mormon. Thus we specified that it was for Joseph. Therefore our weightings (assignment of probability ratios) would not have changed if we considered other individuals as authors.

    So, although we didn’t talk in depth about this “exhaustive” treatment issue in the paper, it is certainly not a weakness of the paper or the methodology.

    Jared, can we suggest that perhaps you are making a mountain out of a molehill? You apparently want us to further partition the “fiction” hypothesis into “fiction written by Joseph Smith” and “fiction written by person , or Y or Z” etc. That could be done, but it is not necessary—not at all. Fiction vs non-fiction, as we have set up the analysis, is already both exclusive and exhaustive. This approach satisfies the statistical requirements and is a common approach to Bayesian analysis.

    Bruce

    • Hi Dr. Dale,

      Thank you for your patience in responding to the many postings, in addition to your sincere and valiant effort to produce and publish the paper. Here is another question, if you could please help clear this up in my mind.

      I am having some trouble following the discussions about your intended hypothesis. If I understood some of your prior responses correctly, the paper was intended to simply address the issue of correspondence between Coe’s description of the Maya and the people described in the Book of Mormon. But in the paper and in this thread you talk in length about the probabilities of Joseph Smith guessing facts about the Maya. Now, if we were to strictly focus on correspondences and the degree to which they match, to respond to Dr. Coe’s statements about the Book of Mormon, why is it necessary to estimate probabilities of Joseph Smith, or anyone for that matter, guessing? Couldn’t, shouldn’t, we set aside questions of origin, authorship, and claims and just focus on the issue of correspondence? And then to throw in the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is/is not fiction confuses me even more. I have a hard time seeing all these as equivalent. So maybe you can explain it to me.

      And another big question I have, how can we justify making valid comparisons between descriptions of the Book of Mormon society in the years BC and the Maya as they were many centuries later, even a millennium and a half later, and then assign such extreme Bayesian factors to these correspondences?

      • Rick,

        The Dales can respond to your first question. I can take the second. I don’t know where you are getting your dating, but you appear to believe that there were no Maya during Book of Mormon times. That is incorrect. There were Maya before and after Book of Mromon times.

        A possible related question could more reasonably ask how well Classic era Maya data might apply to pre-Classic (after the Book of Mormon to Book of Mormon times). That would be a better question. The answer is that there are some things that are known archaeologically from the pre-Classic. Other things are known only from the Classic, because writing on imperishable stone postdated the Book of Mormon. What ethnohistorians do in such cases is to examine how well the later information might be applied to the earlier. In pre-industrial cultures, things changes at a much more leisurely pace than in the modern world, so it is assumed that in at least overall cultural pictures, there is a persistence through time. That becomes bolstered when we find depictions that appear to be related to the Popol Vuh, even though that document is only known after contact. That suggests that major aspects of religious thought persisted for a very long time.

        The comparisons between the Book of Mormon and Maya culture are appropriate in time, and (according to a couple of hypotheses for the Book of Mormon), appropriate to place. Thus the possibility of correspondence is a reasonable hypothesis. Demonstrating the validity of the hypothesis is, of course, a different task.

      • Rick,
        Our paper does indeed address the correspondences between Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon. That is the paper’s primary focus. There are 131 positive correspondences against a handful of negative ones.

        The fiction vs. non-fiction paired hypotheses are necessary for the Bayesian analysis to be “exhaustive”. The Bayesian approach we took also required numerical values of the likelihood, which we have discussed extensively in the paper. We hypothesize Joseph as the guesser to help set these likelihoods.

        You may be having trouble following the paper because of the repeated attempts on the part of some of the commentators to change the subject. I can see how that might muddle things for you.

        May I respectfully request that you reread the paper, and also read the intro to Appendix A where some of the chronological issues are discussed.

        My thanks to Brandt for also addressing the chronological issues…much better than I have done.

        Bruce

    • Hi Bruce,

      You are simply wrong on this point. The way you interpret the evidence, assign the probabilities, and decided that the “guesses” were independent is in fact based upon a devastatingly inexhaustive space of hypotheses. You consistently asked questions like, “Why would Joseph Smith have ‘guessed’ that the ancient Mesoamericans had strong elements of Christianity in their religious practices?” That question is based upon the narrow, specific hypothesis that Joseph Smith was deliberately guessing about what ancient Mesoamerica was like.

      The hypothesis that Joseph Smith was making guesses about ancient Mesoamerica is mutually exclusive from the far more likely hypothesis that Joseph Smith believed that Christianity was true and wrote speculative fiction about how the ancient mound builders of North America were immigrants from Israel. The question “Why would Joseph Smith have ‘guessed’ that the ancient Mesoamericans had strong elements of Christianity in their religious practices?” is from an entirely different part of the space than the question, “What is the probability that Joseph Smith would have included elements of Christianity in his book, assuming that he was a believing Christian who was writing speculative fiction about how God led some proto-Christian Jews out of Israel before the siege of Jerusalem, that this body of Jews settled the new world and became a mighty mound-building civilization that eventually fell and left the north-American Indians as their remnants?

      Can you see how, “What are the chances Joseph would have guessed X about the Mesoamericans” could have a very different answer than the question, “What are the chances Joseph would have speculated X about an imagined group of proto-Christian Jews who came to the new world, developed a magnificent mound-building civilization that collapsed and left the North-American Indians as a remnant?”

      If those two questions have different probabilities, it proves that your space of hypotheses is in fact materally inexhaustive.

      Regards,

      Billy

  25. As an active Church member for many years, I have a deep appreciation for the amazing depht and power of the Book of Mormon. I would love to be further convinced by the reasons presented in the article.

    As I see it, the core of the matter is the (6+12)/131 figure. We can discuss the pertinency of each correspondence found. We can discuss the priors used. It’s easy to get lost in the details.

    What really disturbs me (forgive me if this has already been addressed, I read most of the comments but I didn’t see it) is the possibility of easily getting a very different figure of matches and mismatches. This is where I feel the need for more convincing explanations. For instance, I guess there are many names of places and persons in Coe’s book, as there are many names of places and persons in the Book of Mormon. Could I say that a name in the Book of Mormon that does not find any correspondence in Coe’s book is a mismatch? And if can’t say it, why not?

    Thank you for the all the work done.

    • Estimado Jose:
      Regarding the city “Laman”, I wrote the following in a post on June 1. I hope this helps.

      I am the only coauthor able currently to respond to posts. Mi hijo Brian anda bien ocupado con sus deberes familiares. Excuse me if I have made an incorrect assumption that you are a native Spanish speaker. 🙂

      Anyway, here is the post about the city named Laman. If you will let me know what other things concern you, I will do my best to respond…but it is a real challenge to keep up.

      “Both Mormon and his son Moroni, the principal editors of the Book of Mormon, state specifically that not only would victorious Lamanites destroy the Nephites as a people, they would also destroy their records. Certainly the naming of towns and cities with Nephite names would be a record that the Lamanites could and would wipe out.

      So, I would expect that the victorious Lamanites would make sure that not a single Nephite-named city would survive with that name. And all the records that could be found of the Nephites would be destroyed. (Coe in fact refers to the practice of systematic destruction of monuments whereby “the eyes and mouths of rulers are often pecked out, as if to cancel their power”. )

      Given this background, I think not a single Nephite city name would survive the destruction of the Nephite people described in the Book of Mormon at the end of the 4th century AD. And apparently none did…although the absence of such names is not really very good evidence.

      Although we know very little about the Lamanite cities (the Book of Mormon is primarily a Nephite record, after all), we do know that one was named Laman. Since Laman was the leader of the anti-Nephite faction from the beginning, it is certainly reasonable for the principal city of the Lamanites to be called Laman, and the chances are good that that name would survive.

      Since I accept a limited geography (and therefore limited power) model for both the Lamanites and the Nephites, it is certainly reasonable to suppose that only one city name would survive, and it would most likely be the principal city of the Lamanite confederation. Which is what we observe, at least by the way that I understand the evidence.”

      Bruce

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  27. Have you done an analysis of the “Heartland Model” by Rod Meldrum which strongly suggests that the Book of Mormon lands were not in MesoAmerica but were in the Great Lakes region of the Midwest of the USA? How about doing the same kind of analysis using that as your basis? https://bookofmormonevidence.org/ There are proofs that totally negate MesoAmerica as the Book of Mormon lands. For instance, No tornadoes (whirlwinds that took people away), no migratory animals in Central America, no DNA matching the Holy Land, etc. And a personal letter written in Joseph Smith’s own hand wherein he says to Emma, “We have been traveling through the plains of the Nephites and seeing the remnants of their civilization.” Also, Joseph Smith found the skeleton of Zelph, “a white Lamanite” who died in the last battle. and by revelation Joseph was given to know who he was. Please check it out. Maury Jones, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

    • Hi Maury,
      No, I haven’t done such an analysis. I do know about the Heartland Model and I am not convinced by it. I am not going to argue that model in these pages but I would just point out that hurricanes and the tornadoes they spawn are more than strong enough to carry people away. 🙂

      To do the same kind of analysis for the Heartland model that we have done for the Mesoamerican model you would need a similarly authoritative meta-study like Dr. Coe’s book as an independent summary of relevant facts, positive and negative, relevant to the Heartland area. I don’t know of such a meta-study, but if you do, I hope you will undertake the same comparison we have done.

      Bruce

    • Maury,
      I have studied the “Heartland Model” in some detail, and I am not convinced. There are a few positive points of evidence in its favor, and many more negative ones.
      Bruce

    • Maury,
      I replied to your post on Wednesday this week, and also earlier this morning. So far, neither have been posted. In fact, there are about 10 of my responses and posts that have not been put up yet by the Moderator–either that or I don’t know how to click a mouse.

      So I am sorry to you and others who are awaiting responses from me. I don’t know what has happened, but I am trying to fix it.

      As for Rod Meldrum’s work, yes, I have read some of his work. But I am not convinced. I think there is a lot more negative evidences than positive ones.

      Best,
      Bruce

    • Maury,
      I have been trying to respond to past comments. In doing so I found this post by Mark Parker back in May that is relevant to the Heartland Model.

      “The Heartland model is a poor fit in comparison to Mesoamerica, it lacks the population density, nor does it have evidence of ‘buildings covering the whole face of the land’ that Mormon describes, nor does it have elevated highways between large cities, there are some fortification, but not on the scale the Book of Mormon describes built in the 1st century BC and the 4th Century AD. Nor is there evidence of literacy as in the Maya region with no record nor evidence suggesting a great war of conquest, and the overthrowing of fortified cities in the late 4th century, which is present in the Maya Lowlands and Book of Mormon. Cahokia is lowlands and matches in that respect, but estimated population, even at it’s height in the 13th Century, is low compared to Book of Mormon population descriptions. It’s development is also post Book of Mormon era, being 600AD. With an estimated population of no more than 1000 till around the year 1050 AD, according to studies.”

      Hope this useful.

      Bruce

  28. #3. The way that a “statement of fact” is circumscribed can affect whether it is part of a correspondence, and whether the correspondence is positive or negative.

    Example: As quoted in 6.9, Coe mentions that a “lidded limestone box from Hun Nal Ye cave” is among “a few probable coffers” for books. The BoM, of course, came from plates buried in a stone box (not mentioned in the BoM proper, but discussed in the introductory Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith). The titular manuscript in MF came from an “earthern box” (I assume this means clay) in a cave. By defining our “statement of fact” to include the material from which the box is made, the BoM gets a positive correspondence with a score of 2, and MF gets a negative correspondence with a penalty of 50x. But what if we excluded the material from our statement of fact, and instead included the fact that it was in a cave? Would that give the BoM a negative correspondence and MF a positive correspondence?

    #4. What constitutes a correspondence? Does it require a possibility that the statements from Coe and from the other subject might have the same referent, i.e. the same event, custom, location, etc.? Or is enough that they’re similar, even if their referents are widely separated by time, location, or other details? Should correspondences inform the hypothesis that the BoM is historical, or only the hypothesis that the BoM has similarities with Coe’s book?

    Example: Point 3.6 — Mayan ritualistic bloodletting, both human and animal, is somewhat similar to the practices of animal sacrifice (explicitly mentioned in the BoM) and circumcision (not mentioned, but inferred). Does the Law of Moses, which the Nephites observed, constitute a correspondence with Mayan bloodletting, even though they are clearly not referring to the same thing? The authors say yes, and they award the BoM a 2x gain. (Ironically, VotH is docked 50x for saying that the Indians observed the Law of Moses, and another 50x for saying they practiced circumcision, for a total penalty of 2500x.)

    #5. If statements of fact are similar but not identical, is the correspondence positive or negative?

    Example: Consider 4.12, which compares the destruction of monuments in The Maya with the destruction of records in the BoM, and gives a BoM a 10x gain. This seems to fall in the same similar-in-some-ways-but-different-in-others category as the lidded box and Law of Moses comparisons mentioned above, which are considered positive for the BoM but negative for the control studies. This seems inconsistent.

    #6. The adjectives “specific”, “detailed”, and “unusual” can be interpreted and applied in different ways, allowing for considerable flexibility in estimating magnitudes.

    Example: In 2.22, we learn that “all three times corn is mentioned in the Book of Mormon, it is the first or the only grain mentioned”, earning the BoM a 10x boost, because it is “specific and detailed”. By comparison, MF matches Coe by listing not only corn, but also beans and squash. And corn is likewise always the first or only grain mentioned. And in MF it’s mentioned 5 times, compared to the BoM’s 3 times. For this, MF earns only a 2x boost, because it is “specific but not detailed or unusual”. Given this inconsistency, it’s hard to see the “specific”, “detailed”, and “unusual” criteria as objective and well-defined.

    • Honorentheos:
      Just to clarify, if someone in this exceedingly long discussion claimed that all that Joseph Smith needed to write the Book of Mormon was a copy of the Bible, then that person certainly was not either Brian or me. The facts say otherwise.
      Bruce

      • Hi Dr. Dale,

        First, I hope you and your family had an enjoyable 4th, and the time away from this subject was reinvigorating.

        The question that needs addressed isn’t if all Smith needed was the Bible to compose the BoM. Rather, if he needed anything more than would be reasonably available given the context he lived in. Comparing VotH and MF do not address this question, even if we were to rework your control analysis to be consistent with how the correspondences were decided for the BoM. Simply looking at the correspondences you selected typically results in a strong probability that Smith could have developed the content of the BoM knowing nothing of the Maya but instead drawing from the myths of his era regarding the origins of the native Americans, the beliefs about the original Christian Church, and pre-Sidney Rigdon views about the godhead. BTW, I think the later is reasonable evidence against Rigdons involvement.

  29. First, I sincerely applaud the authors for publishing this with their names attached, likely knowing that they would receive significant pushback. They’re the ones showing courage, while anonymous critics like me are playing the coward.

    Having said that, I see several problems in the paper. I think all of them have been mentioned by other commenters, but I’m going to restate them in a way that’s helpful to me, even if it’s useless for everyone else.

    What I see as systemic problems, which I’ll discuss below:

    #1 The authors don’t take into account the bias introduced by their selection criterion.
    #2 The problem in #1 isn’t replicated in the control studies (Manuscript Found and A View of the Hebrews) because the authors seem to apply different standards in those cases. This flexibility in standards is described in #3-#6.
    #3 The protocol doesn’t specify which details to include or exclude when identifying a statement of fact.
    #4 The protocol isn’t clear on what constitutes a correspondence.
    #5 The protocol doesn’t specify how to determine whether a correspondence is positive or negative.
    #6 The protocol doesn’t clearly specify how to determine a correspondence’s magnitude.

    And some problems that I’ll just mention:

    #7 The authors often point out differences between the relatively advanced Nephites/Maya and the more primitive American Indians. Are they tacitly assuming that if Joseph Smith invented the Nephites, he would be likely to pattern them after the American Indians?
    #8 Through logic I don’t understand, the authors claim that the magnitude of a negative correspondence “must be the reciprocal” of what it would be if it were positive.
    #9 The authors are inconsistent in describing the scope of the analysis and results.
    #10 Other miscellaneous problems specific to various data points (“seating”, north, whoredoms, etc).

    Explanations and examples problems #1-#6:

    #1. In order to qualify for analysis, a statement of fact must be mentioned by both Coe and the subject of comparison. This is a tacit condition in all of the probability estimations. The authors have stated their reasons for imposing this condition, but I haven’t seen them argue that it doesn’t introduce a bias (although I may have missed it). I submit that this condition is heavily biased against negative correspondences.

    Example: Point 5.4 deals with the mention of aggressive snakes in the Book of Mormon and The Maya. If the likelihood ratio is .02, then the numerator, i.e. the probability of the positive correspondence given the “guessing” hypothesis, is at most .02. Since the selection criterion dictates that there *is* a correspondence, and the correspondence must be either positive or negative, it follows that the probability of a negative correspondence is at least .98 (again, assuming that Joseph Smith was guessing). This is at least 49x the probability of a positive correspondence.

    So when they say that the likelihood ratio is .02, they’re also saying the following: Given that Coe mentioned that there were aggressive snakes in Mayan country, and if we assume that Joseph Smith invented the BoM, then he was at least 49x more likely to mention in the BoM that there WERE NO aggressive snakes than to say that there WERE aggressive snakes.

    I suspect that the authors don’t really believe that, and yet it follows from their likelihood ratio estimate.

    #2. If the selection criterion is heavily biased against negative correspondences, as asserted in #1 above, then why are there so many negative correspondences in VotH (A View of the Hebrews) and MF (Manusdcript Found)? I submit that the authors didn’t apply the same selection criterion to the two controls that they did to the BoM.

    The negative correspondences between Coe and BoM all deal with statements made by Coe that contradict the BoM. (Most of these statements were made outside of The Maya.) In contrast, almost all of the negative correspondences in VotH and MF correspond to something Coe DIDN’T say, or something he said that doesn’t actually contradict VotH or MF.

    Example: VotH negative correspondence 9 — the Maya didn’t worship Jehovah. The problem with this alleged correspondence is that Coe didn’t SAY that the Maya didn’t worship Jehovah. If this is a correspondence for VotH, then why is it not also a correspondence for the BoM? (Likewise, Coe said nothing about Latin, New England dress, coins, wheelbarrows, shovels, the Law of Moses, Hebrew, circumcision, or a priestly tribe, all of which are counted as negatives against MF or VotH.)

    • Canopy,
      I think we have previously answered all or nearly all your questions. Perhaps you have not taken the time to read the entire paper and the comments? I will repeat a few key points.

      Yes, exactly the same criteria were applied to correspondences between View of the Hebrews and The Maya, and between Manuscript Found, and The Maya. So you are mistaken in this point.

      We deal with the issue of correspondences perhaps not being completely independent in the discussion above. This is a valid criticism, and we have done our best to deal with it by grouping the correspondences by topic and eliminating the weaker ones.

      We have also described our methodology in detail above. I regret that you do not find it clear…or perhaps have not read it carefully. We discuss each and every point of evidence and how we weighted each point in the Appendices.

      The commentators thus far have not dealt with the fact that neither of the two 19th century “control” books (Manuscript Found or View of the Hebrews) corresponds at all well with The Maya. Apart from incompetence or prejudice on our part (the authors of the article), what explanation do they have for that fact?

      Finally, even if we were incompetent or prejudiced, the commentators do not deal with the sensitivity analyses. Even when we give evidence for the Book of Mormon the minimum weight and evidence against the Book of Mormon the maximum weight, our conclusion is unchanged: the Book of Mormon is an authentic record set in ancient Mesoamerica.

      Bruce

      • Dr. Dale, sorry I missed that you had responded to my comment. Thank you for taking the time.

        “Yes, exactly the same criteria were applied to correspondences between View of the Hebrews and The Maya, and between Manuscript Found, and The Maya. So you are mistaken in this point.”

        The comment above mentions one specific way in which your treatment of VotH and MF differs from your treatment of the BoM. I’ll repeat it:

        — The negative correspondences between Coe and BoM all deal with statements made by Coe that contradict the BoM. (Most of these statements were made outside of The Maya.) In contrast, almost all of the negative correspondences in VotH and MF correspond to something Coe DIDN’T say, or something he said that doesn’t actually contradict VotH or MF. —

        I gave a specific example of this: VotH and BoM both mention Jehovah, while Coe does not. I asked why this is a negative correspondence for VotH, but not a correspondence for the BoM. I’m still hoping you’ll answer.

        I also gave more examples in the second half (below) of the above comment. It would help if you would address the examples so I could know exactly how I’m mistaken.

        “We deal with the issue of correspondences perhaps not being completely independent…”

        If you think I brought up this issue in my comment, then I invite you to reread it.

        “We have also described our methodology in detail above. I regret that you do not find it clear…or perhaps have not read it carefully. We discuss each and every point of evidence and how we weighted each point in the Appendices.”

        Yes, you individually justified your weighting of each point, but that’s not the issue. The problem is that the operational definitions of your terms are so ambiguous that you end up applying them differently to the control books than you do to the BoM. I have given specific examples of this in my comments, and I’m happy to provide more if you’d like.

        “The commentators thus far have not dealt with the fact that neither of the two 19th century “control” books (Manuscript Found or View of the Hebrews) corresponds at all well with The Maya. Apart from incompetence or prejudice on our part (the authors of the article), what explanation do they have for that fact?”

        My comment above, and the second half of it below, deal with that specific issue.

  30. Friends,
    Last week was a demanding one for my wife and me in our missionary service. Both of us are “oldish” and I didn’t have time or much remaining energy to devote to responding to comments.

    This coming week should be less demanding, and I hope to “catch up” somewhat with past comments.

    While I am catching up, perhaps you would care to comment on Correspondence 3.12 as I have laid it out below?

    3.12 Existence of opposites is an essential part of creation
    Coe’s standard: “A relevant Maya term from these ceramics is tz’ak, the idea of ordering. A key part of creation was the establishment of opposites. These are presented in alternative spellings for the tz’ak glyph. … The exquisite Tablet of the 96 Glyphs … lays out a long series of such opposed pairs. It begins with sun and night, followed by possibly life and death, then Venus and moon, wind and water” (p. 251).

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 2:11‒15.

    Analysis of correspondence: The words “create” or “creation” are used six times in these five verses in the Book of Mormon, all in the context of opposed pairs (wickedness/holiness, good/bad, life/death, corruption/incorruption, forbidden fruit/tree of life, sweet/bitter and so on). Counting verse 10, the words “oppose” or “opposition” are used four times.

    Here are those verses.

    11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
    12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.
    13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
    14 And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.
    15 And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.

    Please recall that the hypothesis we tested in this paper was that the Book of Mormon has “little to do with early Indian cultures” as Dr. Coe has stated repeatedly over several decades. We accepted the facts summarized in his book The Maya as our standard to test the hypothesis, weighting the evidence both for and against that hypothesis according to three different strengths.

    It seems to me that this idea of establishing opposites as an essential part of creation was clearly held by both the Maya and the Book of Mormon peoples. So in this respect at least, the Book of Mormon has something important in common with at least one early Indian culture.

    What do you think?

    Bruce

    • It’s hard to take seriously your claim that “the Book of Mormon has ‘little to do with the early Indian cultures’” is the hypothesis the paper is testing. This statement appears in the very last paragraph of the paper in the concluding statements. This relates to your conclusion based on the analysis but is demonstrably not the hypothesis being tested (notwithstanding the statements in the abstract and opening paragraph). It’s important we don’t confuse the hypothesis being subjected to Bayes’ with the conclusion (or with pre-existing beliefs).

      The most direct statement of the hypothesis in your paper says:

      The hypothesis (the question of interest to us) in this analysis is the factual nature of the Book of Mormon. The question of interest is: “Is the Book of Mormon a work of fiction, or is it a factual, historical document according to the cumulative, relevant evidence summarized in The Maya?”

      I will quibble a little bit with the second sentence (above) because it is not an exhaustive converse hypothesis since the Book of Mormon could be a factual book set in a location other than Mesoamerica. But I think the first sentence alludes to an appropriate dichotomy occurring many times throughout the paper where you set up a fact or fiction choice for the Book of Mormon that doesn’t specify a location. For instance:

      Pieces of evidence in favor of the hypothesis, that is, that the Book of Mormon is false…

      and

      Points of evidence in favor of the essentially factual nature of the Book of Mormon (called the converse hypothesis)…

      This hypothesis/converse hypothesis IS exhaustive (putting aside for now the possibility it could be a mixture of fact and fiction). I think the paper got off to a good start as far as this issue is concerned. The problem comes when the hypothesis gets reduced from “the Book of Mormon is false” to “Joseph made it up.” And the converse hypothesis gets reduced from “the Book of Mormon is factual” to “the Book of Mormon is factual and occurred in Mesoamerica.” The hypothesis and converse hypothesis tested are subsets of the appropriate, exhaustive ones identified earlier in the paper and therefore not exhaustive in and of themselves.

      Returning now to the claim that “the Book of Mormon has little to do with early Indian cultures” is the hypothesis being tested, I ask: What is the converse hypothesis? Where do you identify the converse hypothesis in the paper? Why are there two sets of hypotheses/converse hypotheses in the paper?

      I realize you would rather discuss the merits of the particular claims made in the paper, and frankly, so would I. I am not as antagonistic to the truth claims of the Book of Mormon as I have surely come across as (my fault completely). But I think it’s appropriate to discuss methodology since so much of the paper hangs on how it has been applied.

    • I recall this being brought up previously. My comment then, from May 12th:

      Concern 1: The skeptical prior is overcome automatically by simply finding and adding correspondences. The approach taken inevitably overcomes an arbitrarily determined likelihood that the Book of Mormon is fiction.

      Given your methodology and the assigned likelihood ratios, if you were to assign all 131 of the correspondences the weakest probability it was based on knowledge rather than a guess (0.5 or a 1 in 2 likelihood), one only needs to propose a small handful of weak correspondences to overcome what you present as a strong skeptical prior. As you pointed out in your section on sensitivity analysis, that number appeared to be 17.

      Concern 2: The correspondences selected to achieve the results did not need to demonstrate actual correspondence to be included.

      The paper does little if anything to demonstrate the methods for identifying the criteria derived from The Maya for each correspondence and stating them in a way that could be used to determine if the Book of Mormon contains an objectively mapped corollary to be evaluated. I’ve noted this elsewhere in these comments, but since 1.1 is chronologically first in your paper it’s convenient to start with it when pointing to examples. In that example, the quote from Coe described Maya society as being formed into city-states without a centralized government over the whole of the Mayan people. It describes the approximate geography of the city-state polities as approximately the distance a person could travel in a day. These criteria, which seem objectively uncontentious if stated as such, aren’t what you used to compare the Book of Mormon with The Maya. Instead, you chose to focus on the absence of a single word being used in reference to the Nephites, “Nation”. Your methodology did not require the demonstration of actual correspondence between the source material and the BoM that maps in a objective manner. I’d argue it appears to fail on the terms you proposed, where the use of, “Nephites”, “Lamanites”, “the people of the Nephites” and other language used in the Book of Mormon serve the same purpose as would the use of, “nation.”

      And that was determined to have a 1 in 50 chance Joseph Smith could have guessed it correctly, while it seems stepping back shows the Book of Mormon got it wrong rather than included an improbable guess.

      Concern 3: The methodology constrains what Coe described as characteristics that applied to the Maya to things you believe serve as hits or misses.

      Using your chosen example above, 3.12 Existence of opposites, could be discussed under concern 2 above, noting that dualism generically is found in most cultural creation myths and used to explain the universe for obvious reasons. Night/day, darkness/light, sun/moon, birth/death, growth/decay, summer/winter, planting/harvest, action/reaction, Yin/Yang, inhale/exhale, creation/destruction – human societies find paired opposites inherent in creation and have created narrative mythologies to explain them across continents and millennia. Eastern religions have these cycles deeply embedded in them. And its part of the Hebrew creation mythology that God the creator ordered the heavens and the earth, with a greater light ruling the day and a lesser light ruling the night, male and female created He his living creations. Cosmic dualism, or the idea that there is a war between good and evil, is also embedded in post-exilic teachings and was behind Cyrus the Great liberating the captive Hebrews when the Persians concurred the Babylonians. As a Zoroastrian, his concern was with good combating evil at cosmic scales. Yet what the Maya tz’ak describes is more of a two-sides required to have a coin concept. Of the items listed in 2 Nephi by the speaker, Lehi (a pre-exilic Hebrew if one accepts the book as history), the examples are philosophical concepts. Not natural pairings as listed in the excerpt from The Maya.

      This raises multiple questions, not least of which is if it really deserves to be considered a “hit”? It’s inclusion as such is entirely contingent on your interpretation of it being one. And as noted in concern 1, accumulating only a handful of supposed hits no matter how tenuous would overcome the skeptical prior. If the methodology for determining something is a hit is essentially subjective, where does that leave the paper?

    • Hi Bruce,

      The Book of Mormon verses you cite speak of the concept of opposition (not opposites). In context, what it is saying is that to bring to pass the purposes of their monotheistic God, there needs to be tension between things—good and bad, wickedness or holiness, sin and righteousness, happiness and misery. If this tension wasn’t there, all things would “compound into one” and be “as dead, having no life neither death.”

      For the Maya, opposites have to do with cause and effect rather than enduring tension. Just as the Book of Mormon lists several things that are in opposition, The Maya lists several things from a glyph that are opposites. Some of them are obvious: sun and night, life and death, lady and lord. Other opposites are more obscure: Venus and moon, wind and water, green growth and harvested crops, sky and earth, cloud and rain, stingray spine and blood.

      If one generalizes these two concepts to the point they are a match, is there any religion that wouldn’t be a match, too? If opposition in the Book of Mormon is the same thing as opposites in The Maya, isn’t it also the same thing as Yin and Yang in Eastern religion, order and chaos in Zoroastrianism, the unity of opposites in ancient Greek philosophy, the light side and dark side of the force in Star Wars, the proletariat and the bourgeoise in Marxism, etc.?

      While it might be fair to say that Book of Mormon opposition and The Maya opposites have something to do with each other, the correlation is superficial and was cherry-picked from a section of The Maya on religion that depicts a religion that does in fact have little to do with the protestant Christianity described in the Book of Mormon.

      To do a reasonable Bayesian analysis on this point, all of the similarities and differences between Mayan religion and the Book of Mormon religion would need to be considered. An analysis in aggregate would show that Coe was right—they have little to do with each other.

      • No, Billy, Jared and Honorentheos. You are misdirected in your own claims and just flat wrong in your interpretation of our paper’s claims.

        You are trying, again, as many others have done previously, to reframe the purpose of our paper and therefore the terms of this discussion incorrectly and inaccurately. I hope not also “dishonestly”. I hope that adverb does not apply here.

        I have repeated this statement many times in our discussion. The task we set for ourselves in writing this paper was to compare the facts about Mesoamerica as summarized in Coe’s book with fact claims of the Book of Mormon, taking Coe’s book as the standard of “truth” about ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures. We said so at the beginning of our paper and all the way through it.

        Coe himself has said and written multiple times that the Book of Mormon has “little to do with ancient American Indian cultures”, and that “99% of the facts claimed in the Book of Mormon are false”.

        So we set out to test Coe’s statements. We read Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon carefully multiple times to try to identify ALL of the facts stated in Coe’s book with comparable facts stated in the Book of Mormon, i.e., those facts that CAN be compared.

        Where one or both books are silent in a given fact area, it is logically impossible to make any comparison. We don’t know enough to make such a comparison. It is dishonest and unscientific to propose that since Book A says something specific about a particular fact area, that Book B must be false because it says nothing about that fact area…and vice versa.

        Brandt pointed out that the Popul Vuh says nothing about the nixtamalization process. Coe’s book does. So does that mean that the Popul Vuh should be tossed out as a false book? Obviously not.

        We found many, many fact claims in the Book of Mormon that correspond positively to facts summarized in Coe’s book plus a few negative correspondences. The two control books give some such positive correspondences, and many more negative ones.

        We did not ever say or imply that the Book of Mormon and Coe’s book contained facts or practices that had no counterpart in ancient history, as Honorentheos and Jared are particularly inclined to claim or suggest on our behalf.

        When you think about it, however, the fact that the Book of Mormon does correspond to many ancient practices is evidence in its favor. The author(s) of the Book of Mormon guessed all this stuff. Right.

        We have set forth in the paper the qualifications we have assumed for the author(s). If someone wants to postulate that the author of the Book of Mormon had a first rate library of classical literature, he is free to do so. That would certainly help explain the poverty of Joseph Smith’s family…they were feeding his reading addiction. 🙂 Again, right.

        But having a first rate library of classical literature would not do anything to explain the complete lack of information about the Maya area prior to 1840…as Dr. Coe has obligingly confirmed.

        Nor did we claim, as Billy strongly implies, that the Book of Mormon religion and the Maya religion are going to correspond in all points.

        Billy, to re-repeat myself, we did not set out to compare the religion set forth in the Book of Mormon with the Maya religion. We set out to compare the fact claims of the Book of Mormon with corresponding facts in Coe’s book when both books say something affirmative about a given fact area.

        For example, there are many Christian religions, with widely varying practices and beliefs. But all of them can plausibly claim to trace their roots to a certain itinerant Jewish preacher from Galilee who lived about 2000 years ago. They all claim to be Christians.

        Later today I will offer another point of evidence, and let’s see again if we can keep the discussion on track. This point of evidence concerns a certain method of defensive warfare practiced among the Maya…and the Book of Mormon peoples.

        Finally, let me respond directly to Billy’s and Honorentheos’ responses to my previous point of evidence regarding the Maya belief in paired opposites as an essential part of creation.

        Billy, you can’t have “opposition” without opposites. And there are many, many opposites that might be paired. This pairing of opposites is clearly part of the Maya creation story and in the Book of Mormon.

        All of the details need not be identical. That was not the task we set for our analysis. We required that the correspondence be specific, detailed and unusual. It is. But maybe those words “creation” and “opposition” don’t mean what I think they mean, to paraphrase Inigo Montoya. 🙂

        Honorentheos, vide supra. The fact that many ancient belief systems consisted of ying and yang pairs or their equivalents is another mark in favor of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. We never said that the Book of Mormon was unique… you apparently want to claim that…

        • Hi Bruce,

          Rather than a library, it’s been suggested the only book needed would be a Bible. You or Brian, I forget which, were quick to claim the Bible would need to prove itself against the Maya, which showed poor recognition of the opposing argument. It appears such poor understanding continues to plague your attempt to defend the overwhelming counter evidence against the BoM being factual which I believe has been settled on as the premise of the paper now.

          Correspondence after correspondence has been shown to be far weaker or contradictory to the likelihood the BoM is factual. Gaps in your approach that needed filled have been met with dismissal as being out of the scope of your paper, while perfectly sound points showing missing counter correspondences that are misses are also dismissed as not being correspondences. The stasticial methods employed and their reasonable interpretation have been shown faulty to the point describing there flaws as fatal seems justifiable.

          Were the honest intent of the paper tonise Baysian inference to sort out the strength of evidence for or against honestly defined hypothesizes I believe these criticisms would be met with acknowledgement of their effect on the purported results.

          But it seems the paper best modeled how the author perceives the strength of the evidences, against which no criticism of the paper could be well received as that is a subject well outside the reach of scrutiny.

          What then is the point of this ongoing discussion?

  31. It would be nice if we had semi-big papers about small subjects, rather than trying to eat the whole elephant in one go. My main critiques:

    1.) Why is this method (the statistics and all the underlying bits) valid in this context? I see mostly nothing to establish this rather basic question, other than a handful of footnotes.

    2.) The language is hardly neutral. This isn’t just about sounding “scientific”, it’s about being careful with how strongly you present your case. Because everyone has a right to be very skeptical about “big” results, or “small” results, or any results. As such, a huge measure of humility would be nice.

    3.) Very sloppy selection of “correspondences” to test. And, there is no real defense of those that are made. You could do a whole paper about just one of these. In fact, that would be really nice if it was actually exhaustive.

    4.) The authors continually re-state things they’ve said before. While I’m getting older, my brain still remembers stuff I read (mostly…).

    How often has someone done this in the past with other books? How about other religious books? How about books of disputed authorship and/or provenance? Are there any similar studies that rigorously concluded the likelihood of authorship? Certainly there are plenty of things to test in similarly contentious circumstances. We can even control by using known frauds in some situations.

    There should be a trail of papers several miles wide that lead up to an endeavor like this. The number of references is paltry compared to the magnitude of the claims.

    • Andrew,
      Let me see if I can respond directly to some of your comments.

      1) Yes, we have had to repeat ourselves often in this thread because many of the commentators have neglected to read our paper before commenting on it. I am not sure yet if you are in that group. Perhaps you will tell us directly in your next post whether or not you have read the whole paper and the Appendices.

      2) There is indeed a trail of papers “several miles wide” that has led up to our paper. Dr. Coe’s book The Maya is a very well-written and accessible metastudy which relies on hundreds of scholarly papers. I am sure, joined side to side, these papers are at least several miles wide. We analyzed the facts from Coe’s book as Coe has distilled them from hundreds of papers and compared them with the fact claims of the Book of Mormon. We find a very high level of positive correspondences between the facts in Coe’s book and the fact claims of the Book of Mormon.

      3) The paper describes how the 131 positive correspondences were found and Appendix A defends/justifies those choices. What, specifically, do you think is inadequate about our explanation or methods?

      4) This is my answer to your comment on “sloppy selection” of correspondences. I am now offering selected correspondences one by one for discussion by commentators. You are invited to join that discussion so you can tell me in detail why any particular correspondence is sloppy or poorly justified.

      5) Many good studies have been done discussing various specific points of the evidence relative to the Book of Mormon. But more comprehensive studies of the breadth of evidence were lacking…at least as I see it. I thought this was an important lack, and decided to do something about it. Yes, it has indeed been quite an “elephant to chew” as you state correctly above.

      6) So about 3 years ago I started researching and writing this paper to compare the Book of Mormon and a metastudy by a recognized Mayanist, Dr. Coe. Dr. Coe is no friend of the Book of Mormon, so no one can claim that he slanted his book to favor the Book of Mormon.

      7) Over the decades, Dr. Coe has hardly been neutral in his language regarding the Book of Mormon. Since you apparently dislike repetition, I will not repeat some of the very negative things Dr. Coe has said about the Book of Mormon. Had Coe been more circumspect in his language, and had he read the Book of Mormon more than once, and more recently than 45 years ago, I might have been more nuanced in my language.

      8) But Dr. Coe knows almost nothing about the Book of Mormon. For example, in the podcasts, he was apparently surprised to find that there were wars in the Book of Mormon. In fact, there is nearly constant warfare in the Book of Mormon, as he points out was a feature of life among the Maya who were “obsessed with war” in Coe’s words.

      9) Dr. Coe failed in his scholarly duty to treat the Book of Mormon seriously. If you are going to claim to be a scholar, then you need to act like a responsible scholar. When I review a scholarly paper or book within my field, I read it at least three times…then I write my review.

      10) Dr. Coe has used strong language to state his opinion that the Book of Mormon is false, based on a totally inadequate scholarly effort. So I feel more than justified to use equally strong language to push back and state that, based on the facts summarized in his book, that the Book of Mormon has a very great deal to do with ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures–contrary to what Coe has both written and said.

      I trust this is direct and specific enough.

      Bruce

  32. Pingback: Análisis estadísticos demuestran que el Libro de Mormón no es ficción

  33. I’m having fun with this. It’s like watching a good basketball game. Someone goes in to score a point and the ball gets blocked. Then it gets thrown to the other side of the court and the same thing. Can’t anyone prove once and for all whether the Book of Mormon is authentic or not? This has been going on since, like, forever.

    It makes me wonder, could it be that it was intentionally set up this way? Perhaps what the Book of Mormon teaches us really is true: “For it must needs be, that there is opposition in all things….” “…and they are free to choose….” “ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith….” “…I would exhort you that ye would ask God…he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost.” I suppose, then, that no one will ever be able to prove it one way or another. It seems to always go back to faith. Do I have faith in the analysts’ data, methods, statistics, logic, and judgments, whether pro or con? Or do I have faith in God’s mercy to provide us with a guidebook for spiritual awakening, personal growth, and goodness? Do I want to believe, or not?

    Anyhow, I still like to keep score at home. By my last count, the game is still tied. Rats! I still have to depend on faith and decide for myself. So, I’m still free to choose?

  34. One thing I failed to mention in last night’s post. King Benjamin and Mosiah his son meet another important criterion of proper leadership set forth as the standard among the Zinacanteco Maya, whose community renewal rituals are briefly described by Dr. Coe. Both Benjamin and Mosiah are truly servants of the people. They do not enrich themselves while in the service of their people. They leave their offices rich only in the honor and respect they have earned as servants who have carried a burden (or “cargo”) in behalf of their people. (See Mosiah 2: 12-16; 6:7 and 29:40). This is so distinct from the normal behavior of community leaders as to warrant mention by both Coe and the Book of Mormon.

    • I wrote my analysis before I saw this post. I think this is a fair point and is the closest thing to a legitimately unusual parallel on this point of correspondence.

    • I think you’re taking a cynical view that is unwarranted. These ideas are not as distinct as you might expect and actually go back at least 500 years. In the wake of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” several Christian writers countered with “handbooks” of their own. Erasmus’ “Education of a Christian Prince” sets out principles that jibe very well with the behavior of Benjamin and Mosiah. In contrast, Noah very well represents the anti-Erasmian ideal. Tyndale also got into the act with “The Duty of a Christian Man and How Christian Rulers Ought to Govern.” Here are a few passages that represent the type of advice they give for being a good king.

      Tyndale: “If kings would be Christian in deed and not only name, then let them give themselves altogether to the wealth of their realms, following the example of Christ. Let them remember that the people are God’s, and not theirs – indeed, they are Christ’s inheritance and possession, bought with his blood. The most despised person in his realm is still the king’s brother, a fellowmember with him, and equal with him in the kingdom of God and of Christ. Let him therefore not think himself too good to render service to his people, or seek anything other in them than a father seeks in his children, indeed, than Christ sought in us. The king, in the temporal regiment, stands in the place of God, and represents God himself, and is better than his subjects,
      without compare. Yet let him put that off, and become a brother, doing and leaving undone all things with regard to the commonwealth, so that all men may see that he seeks nothing but the profit of his subjects.”

      From Erasmus: “[The prince] should rule without expense if he possibly can. The position of the prince is too high to be a mercenary one; and besides, a good prince has all that his loving subjects possess. There were many pagans who took home with them only glory as a result of their public activities which they had honorably discharged. There were one or two (for example, Fabius Maximus and Antoninus Pius) who spurned even this. How much more should a Christian prince be content with a clear conscience, especially since he is in the service of Him who amply rewards every good deed! There are certain ones in the circles of princes who do nothing else except extort as much as possible from the people on every new pretext they can find and then believe that they have properly served the interests of their princes, as if they were the open enemies of their subjects. But whoever is willing to hearken to such men, should know that he by no means comes under the title of “prince”!

      A prince should studiously endeavor to minimize his demands on the people. The most desirable way of increasing the revenue is to cut off the worse than useless extravagances, to abolish the idle ministries, to avoid wars and long travels, which are very like wars [in their bad effects], to suppress graft among the office holders, and to be interested in the proper administration of the kingdom rather than in the extension of its boundaries. But if the prince is going to measure the amount of taxes by his greed or ambitions, what bounds or limits will there be to his demands?”

  35. 24) Important to trace one’s genealogy to a prominent ancestor
    The Greeks wanted to trace their genealogy to one of the gods. The Romans wanted to trace their ancestry to the mythical founders and heroes.
    25) Genealogies kept very carefully by the priests
    What about the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 or in 1 Chronicles 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 9 among others?
    26) Homosexuality probably practiced
    Common in antiquity
    27) Arcane sacred or prestige language
    Medieval Latin and Coptic as mentioned by Coe
    28) Practice of repopulating old or abandoned cities
    This was very common in the ancient world. The city of Ilium, for example, was built on the cite of Troy which had been destroyed and rebuilt many times over several centuries.
    29) World divided into four quarters or quadrants
    Isaiah 11:12, Ezekiel 7:2
    30) Maya fascinated by ancient Olmec culture
    Pliny and Livy tell of a Greek King Numa who buried 12 volumes of scripture with 12 volumes of philosophy. They were discovered 400 years later by Romans when a rainstorm exposed them. Many people read them and became familiar with them, but finally the Senate ordered them to be burned because their contents were not fit to be made public. So here we have one great culture finding 24 volumes of scripture/philosophy left behind by another great culture. And ultimately, they were apparently determined to be too dangerous, so they were destroyed. This seems like the same predicament the Nephites were in when they found the 24 Jaredite plates containing, among other things, a record of secret combinations. Alma was concerned that these things not be made known to the people.
    31) Lineage histories dominate the written records
    The OT is a lineage history. Many Greco-Roman epics are lineage histories.

    I think the longer we engage in this exercise the more it becomes apparent that the Book of Mormon resembles classical antiquity and the Bible and not Mesoamerica. But as I’ve said before, I’m confident Joseph was unable to have done this. However, I think it’s only fair we explore whether somebody else could have.

    • Jared:

      You stated:

      I think the longer we engage in this exercise the more it becomes apparent that the Book of Mormon resembles classical antiquity and the Bible and not Mesoamerica.

      I have no expertise in statistics. I use different methodologies. However, one that I try to avoid is parallelomania, where parallel lists become the basis of the analysis. In this case, you have a long parallel list, but the conclusion you draw that the Book of Mormon more resembles classical antiquity is the result of the very methodological problem you are suggesting for the article. It is a list based on a selected set which generates the parallels rather than discovers them. I realize that I am not proposing the results of a more rigorous examination here, but it is necessarily a much longer argument that can fit in the comments. I have written about it, so it is available.

      At this point, I simply want to clarify that your conclusion does not flow from the data you present, but only from the way in which it was presented. The applicability of the statistical examination in the paper is for someone else to examine. Since your conclusion is about the Book of Mormon, and not the article, the clarification is important.

      • Brant, let me provide a little more insight into my approach to this paper. I share your concerns about parallelomania. However, I am not trying to make a case for any specific origin of the Book of Mormon. I am simply pointing out that in a Bayesian analysis we have to consider all possible naturalistic explanations in our counter-hypothesis in order to have an exhaustive data set. I have chosen an explanation that I think covers many of the proposed correspondences, but even then we are still not close to exhaustion.

        The problem with any proposed parallel is determining how strong it really is. We can only determine its true strength by comparing it against the weight of all other possibilities combined. This is the very essence of exhaustion, but is something that is impractical to do. The Dales have chosen one possible explanation for comparison, but it is one that I personally feel is very week. Notwithstanding the fact that many people have reached the conclusion that Joseph made it all up, I find that explanation very unlikely for a host of reasons.

        With my explanations we now have three data sets to compare. (Again, this isn’t exhaustive but at least we are not just comparing against a single weak data set.) I think it’s clear that the bible/classical scholar scenario I’ve presented is more convincing than the Maya parallels (and pay particular attention to this last phrase) as within the parameters set by this paper. In making this comparison I am not engaging in parallelomania. I didn’t choose the points of comparison nor am I attempting to prove a particular position. Instead, I am showing the relative weakness of the position defended by the Dales. I’m making a relative case based on the contents of this paper, not an absolute case about the origin of the Book of Mormon. With that in mind I think my conclusion does flow from my data.

        • Your conclusion about the paper might flow from the data. That wasn’t my objection. Your conclusion was about the Book of Mormon, not the article. That was my issue. There is a difference between saying that the paper doesn’t demonstrate its case and suggesting that the Book of Mormon is best explained by European history.

          • I am not saying the Book of Mormon is best explained by European history. I am saying that, in using the criteria put forth by the paper, it represents a better explanation. There may very well be better explanations than the one I’ve presented, which would actually support my point. My entire exercise has been to show that the paper does not test against an exhaustive competing data set, and that when the paper’s alternative hypothesis is expanded (from Joseph to Joseph + others) it turns out not to be as strong as advertised.

          • You may have missed a subtle, but crucially important component of a proper Bayes’ analysis. The two competing hypotheses must be exhaustive, meaning that one or the other must be true. To say that either the Book of Mormon is an actual ancient record OR Joseph Smith made it up is not exhaustive. Therefore, the analysis using the probability equations in the paper is invalid. The European hypothesis simply fleshes out the idea that there is much more to be considered than the incomplete dichotomy in the paper.

        • Hi Jared:
          It would sure be nice not to have to make this particular point again…but I guess I must do so because it seems to be forgotten…again. 🙂 \

          All we attempted to do in this paper was to test Dr. Coe’s claim that the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient American Indian cultures. We used fact statements in his book to test his claim.

          Anyone can read Appendix A on their own and decide if the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient American Indian cultures…or if it does.

          We are not suggesting that the fact claims of the Book of Mormon, or those of The Maya, are unique and have never been experienced in all of human history. We never made such a claim in the article or any of our comments.

          So please don’t set that as the standard by which to judge this article, because that is not what we claim. Just decide for yourself whether the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient American Indian cultures…or if it does.

          Obviously, other conclusions follow rather forcefully if the Book of Mormon does indeed have a lot to do with ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures, as we believe our article demonstrates.

          Bruce

          • I’m all for taking facts from Dr. Coe’s book and showing plausible connections to the Book of Mormon. I think the vast majority of the items you brought up are well thought out, plausible similarities. Had you stopped there, we would likely just be discussing a handful of the controversial claims. By taking the extra step of performing a Bayesian analysis, though, I think you’ve invited criticisms that otherwise wouldn’t be there. If you’re going to use Bayes’ you’ve got to play by a strict set of rules. One of these rules is that the possibilities under comparison be exhaustive. This is the basis of my criticism.

            If you were to strip away the Bayes’ analysis you would have (putting aside the handful of controversial claims for a minute) an instant classic. It would accomplish your stated purpose of refuting the idea that the Book of Mormon (necessarily) has nothing to do with indigenous American cultures. And it would close the mouths of those attacking it based on shortcomings in applying this particular method. Sometimes less is more.

  36. I had so much fun going through Section 1 of Appendix A, I thought I would go through Section 2. Remember, what I am trying to show is that a proper Bayesian analysis needs to be exhaustive, meaning that all possible explanations of the alternative hypothesis need to be considered. In addition to the possibility that Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon we also need to consider the possibility it was written by someone well-educated in the Bible and the ancient classics. As such, here is a look at Section 2 from that perspective.

    1) Possible ancient origin of Mesoamerican cultures
    Soon after the discovery of the New World Europeans began speculating about the origin of the indigenous Americans. Among the many ideas were 1) they came from Asia after the Tower of Babel, and 2) they were lost tribes of Israel that sailed across the sea. Trans-Atlantic, trans-Indian/Pacific, and trans-Pacific crossings were all theorized. So, all the migration scenarios described in the Book of Mormon were being discussed hundreds of years before Joseph Smith.
    2) Active interchange of ideas and things among the elite
    The Book of Mormon ideas in the verses cited are the types of information passed on by Ancient Greco-Roman writers such as Homer, Virgil and Livy. These stories were well known by the elites.
    3) Foreign brides for elites
    Cleopatra, Solomon (1 Kings 11:1)
    4) Slavery practiced
    Slavery was ubiquitous in the ancient Greco-Roman world
    5) Different languages found in pockets
    The classical world was dominated by Latin and Greek, but had tribal languages existing in many places including pockets in the Italian peninsula.
    6) In their creation stories, a great flood caused by human wickedness
    The Lehites had the Old Testament. Thus, they had the story of Noah. Is it possible Joseph (or anybody, for that matter) didn’t know the flood story?
    7) Possible settlement of the Americas by seafarers
    See number 1
    8) Steep decline and disappearance of an ancient culture a few hundred years BC
    At the macro level Greco-Roman history is ultimately about the rise and fall of great civilizations. Most historians place the fall of Rome in the 5th Century, less than 100 years after the Nephites were destroyed. The Achaemenid Dynasty of the Persian Empire was destroyed by Alexander the Great in the 4th Century BC, close to the time of the destruction of the Jaredites.
    9) Strong class distinctions based on noble birth, wealth and specialized learning
    Undoubtedly true in classical antiquity
    10) Sacrifice of children and others to Maya gods
    In addition to the biblical references, the Romans were aware of several cultures such as the Phoenicians and Celts who practiced human sacrifice, including children.
    11) Multiple correspondences with Egyptian culture and concepts
    Egypt plays a prominent part in the OT. We should expect a people descending from Egypt to retain Egyptian culture and concepts.
    12) Mobile populations, founding new cities
    The Greeks were prolific city founders, eventually inhabiting and controlling well over a thousand cities.
    13) Menial workers, extreme inequality, ignorance and oppression
    Undoubtedly a feature of ancient Rome
    14) Marketplaces exist
    Can any civilization be considered a civilization without marketplaces? These were crucial, of course, to the ancient world.
    15) People driven from their homes wander searching for a new home
    You already mention the Aeneid which tells of seafaring peoples founding a new city. And I already mentioned the prolific Greek city founders.
    16) Wasteful architectural extravagance
    1 Kings 7
    17) Large northward migrations specifically mentioned
    After the city of Rome was well established the Roman peoples migrated north, eventually absorbing the Etruscans.
    18) Constant migrations
    See numbers 12, 15, and 17.
    19) Cities and lands named after founder
    Romulus: Rome; Alexander the Great: Alexandria
    20) Maya say their ancestors came from the west, beyond the sea
    See number 1.
    21) Their sacred writing has poetic parallelisms, repetitions
    I’m a big fan of Donald Parry’s version of the Book of Mormon. It’s obvious that the Book of Mormon was meant to have these various poetic forms. It had to have been written by someone accomplished in poetry. However, that could mean someone who was familiar with the poetic forms in the Bible and in ancient epic poetry. Poetry has been around for a very long time and extant poems outnumber prose forms in the earliest Greek literature.
    22) Corn first among grains
    Corn is only specifically mentioned in the land of Nephi-Lehi for a short time (Mosiah 7 & 9). Barley also occurs there, and is further mentioned in Alma 11:7,15 as being a standard measure for commerce. It seems barley had pre-eminence over corn. The generic word “grain” appears a whopping 28 times, potentially swamping out the significance of either corn or barley.
    23) Multiple wives/concubines especially among the rich
    Abraham, Solomon, David etc. as mentioned.

  37. Bruce and Brian,

    I wonder if you could respond to this criticism brought up by the author at ldsphilosopher.com. I’m not a stats guy, but this really clicks for me in a common-sense kind of way. I have to think it’s something you two would have considered in writing your paper, so I’m curious as to why it was disregarded:

    “In short, all this Bayesian analysis measures is the relative likelihood of finding correspondences in two stories versus finding explicit contradictions. And it turns out to be far more likely to find correspondences than contradictions. My considered opinion is that this is about the only thing the study actually measured (successfully). And this is especially true as, on top of this, there was an additional double standard: contradictions had to be explicit in the text, but correspondences did not. They could take only “veiled” correspondences and include them in the analysis (consider the homosexuality example). So in addition to the natural propensity for correspondences between two texts to be easier to identify than direct contradictions, the authors artificially tilt the ratio even more.”

    http://www.ldsphilosopher.com/a-response-to-the-bayesian-analysis-of-book-of-mormon-historicity/

    Best,

    Jules

  38. “I know of no possible model or contemporary practice in Joseph Smith’s day that he could have reasonably drawn upon to describe King Benjamin’s gathering of his people.”

    For this item, are you considering only “contemporary practice[s] in Joseph Smith’s day” as possible sources for him to draw upon?

    Be that as it may, I see a few points in the Coe/BoM comparison that some may consider to lead to less than “a very strong fit”.

    For example – using only your post as a source of comparison (I don’t have Coe’s book):

    1. BoM, but not Coe, refers to “speaking (chanting) in unison”
    2. Coe, but not the BoM, refers to “renewal of the universe …”
    3. BoM, but not Coe, refers to “receiv[ing] a new name as part of the renewal”
    4. BoM, but not Coe, refers to “community-wide, covenant-making with God”

  39. My thanks to all those who are weighing in on the article. Here is another correspondence between Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon that I would like to offer for your consideration. Evaluating this one requires spending some time with Mosiah Chapters 1-6 in the Book of Mormon.

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

    Coe’s standard: “The entire religious drama is directed toward renewal of the universe and of the community, and ends with the transfer of the sacred objects of office to a new set of cargo-holders” (p. 295).

    Book of Mormon standard: See Mosiah Chapters 1‒6.

    Analysis of the correspondence: By reading these six chapters carefully we observe:
    • King Benjamin’s gathering of his community to the temple for a “religious drama” including speaking (chanting) in unison,
    • complete with community-wide, covenant-making with God,
    • by which the community was renewed (and received a new name as part of the renewal)
    • at the same time King Benjamin transferred his kingly office to his son Mosiah, the new cargo holder,
    • along with multiple sacred objects.

    Taken together, the ritual that unfolds in Mosiah chapters 1-6 is a very strong fit with Coe’s standard for a ritual renewing of the community. I know of no possible model or contemporary practice in Joseph Smith’s day that he could have reasonably drawn upon to describe King Benjamin’s gathering of his people.

    Bruce

    • 2 Kings 11 describes an event that has many of the elements you have identified including the coronation of a king (v. 12) at a public gathering (v.14), the people speaking in unison (v. 12), and community-wide covenant making with God (v. 17). The transfer of royal regalia was very common in antiquity and is still practiced in England. Examples of regal items transferred in coronation ceremonies include swords, orbs (globus cruciger), scripture, and many other religious and secular symbols.

      The events in Mosiah 1-6 look a lot like biblical events mixed with medieval practices. I would say this is a much closer match to the Book of Mormon then anything found among the Maya.

    • A few thoughts on this:

      The Maya
      The quote from The Maya is from Chapter 10, “The Enduring Maya.” This chapter describes what the Maya is like today, nearly 500 years after the initial conquest began. It says, “the various Maya groups have clearly assimilated and altered many disparate foreign, and even threatening, elements to fit their own cultural patterns inherited from the pre-Conquest era.”

      The specific quote is talking about the contemporary religious traditions of the Tsotsil Maya of Zinacantan. They associate the sun with “Our Holy Father” and with Jesus, and the moon with the Virgin Mary. They also worship their ancestors, the earth itself, and the Catholic saints. They have a complicated religious hierarchy consisting of 61 distinct positions on four levels occupied by about 250 “cargo holders.” Each position has a sacred religious object which is kept by the person holding the office during the one-year term that he holds it. They have an abiding concern with rank, and each office has a financial burden you have to pay while holding the office—as you rise in the hierarchy your burden increases, so that if you make it to the top you “can expect to retire a poor but highly honored individual.”

      Every January they have large celebrations in honor of (the Catholic Saint) St. Sebastian, where they have dramatized ceremonies where they impersonate monkeys, jaguars, “blackmen”, and Spaniards. The rituals are directed towards renewal of the universe and the community, and end with the transfer of the sacred objects of office to the new office holders.

      King Benjamin
      King Benjamin was a king, and when he got old he had a singular tent revival with his people to announce that he was passing his throne to his son Mosiah, and gave him the plates of brass, plates of Nephi, sword of Laban, and Liahona. When the people gathered they brought the firstlings of their flocks to perform sacrifices according to the law of Moses. The people brought their tents, and King Benjamin erected a tower to speak from. A theme of the speech was that King Benjamin didn’t tax the people, but rather served them. The people entered into a covenant to obey God.

      Analysis
      The Tsotsil Maya of Zincantan have large annual religious gatherings. King Benjamin had a singular gathering. The Tsotsil’s ritual is about the renewal of the universe and the community. King Benjamin’s singular ritual was entering into a covenant to obey God. The Tsotsil’s ritual includes passing on sacred objects associated with each of the 250 positions in the 4 levels of the hierarchy of religious of shamans to the new holder of the objects for the next one-year term. Before the big formal meeting began, Benjamin passed on some sacred objects to his son, who was going to be king for life.

      In short, there are religious gatherings and ceremonies in both the Book of Mormon and in contemporary Mayan life. In that sense, this does count as a something that the Mayans and the Book of Mormon have in common. However, the vast majority of the details between the two ceremonies are different, and there isn’t anything that the Mayas do that can best be explained as being somehow connected to the Book of Mormon. Likewise, none of the details of King Benjamin’s tent revival are uniquely Mayan.

      The few points of similarity are general and superficial, and this doesn’t count as evidence in favor (or against) the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

      Likelihood Ratio: 1.00.

      • Billy Shears wrote: “The Maya
        The quote from The Maya is from Chapter 10, “The Enduring Maya.” This chapter describes what the Maya is like today, nearly 500 years after the initial conquest began. It says, “the various Maya groups have clearly assimilated and altered many disparate foreign, and even threatening, elements to fit their own cultural patterns inherited from the pre-Conquest era.”

        Wow, this is a huge problem for the article. Shouldn’t an error this glaring have been addressed at the peer review level?

        Despite Allen Wyatt’s assurances, I’m having huge doubts this was peer reviewed. How else can you explain something like Billy Shears just discussed?

        • Brad:
          Sorry about your huge doubts, but I can assure you that the paper was peer-reviewed. It took Brian and I months to revise the paper sufficiently to satisfy the reviewers.

          In particular, the reviewers required the “control” study in which we compared Coe’s book with both View of the Hebrews and Manuscript Found. Neither one of those books matched the world of ancient Mesoamerica…but the Book of Mormon did.

          This review was as rigorous a review as I have ever undergone in any of my 300 plus papers and 60 plus patents.

          Yes, it was peer-reviewed.

          Bruce

        • Brad,
          This may end up being a double reply, since my earlier reply to you (written last Wednesday June 12, I think) has apparently gotten lost.

          Let me assure you that the paper was indeed peer-reviewed. I spent about 3-4 months responding to the reviewers’ comments and criticisms before the paper was ready to resubmit.

          In particular, one of the suggestions/criticisms of the reviewers was to do the “control” study, in which we compared both View of the Hebrews and Manuscript Found with Coe’s book using the same standards and methods we did when comparing the Book of Mormon with Coe’s book. So I read each of them twice, very carefully. Both of those books failed to change the skeptical prior of a billion to one that they did not represent the world of ancient Mesoamerica.

          This was as rigorous a peer review as I have ever experienced in my life as a publishing scholar.

          Bruce

  40. 23) There are captains serving kings
    Correspondence: Many Roman generals served the emperors – Agricola, for example
    24) Political power is exercised by family dynasties
    Correspondence: Many family dynasties in the Roman Empire – Julio-Claudian dynasty, for example
    25) Kings rule over subordinate provincial or territorial rulers, some of noble blood (subkings)
    Correspondence: Common in Roman Empire – Ptolemy of Mauretania, Herod of Judea, for example
    26) “Seating” means accession to political power
    Correspondence: This is a common meaning of the word since the late 16th Century; see “seating” OED 1(d).
    27) Separation of civil and religious authority
    I disagree that there is ever a separation of civil and religious authority among the Nephites. When Alma stepped down, he was replaced as chief judge by an elder of the church. In Alma 50:39 Pahoran takes the oath of office requiring him to “support and maintain the cause of God all his days”. In Helaman 4:14 we see the chief judge, Nephi, preaching and prophesying. In 3 Nephi 3:15 the chief judge, Lachoneus, calls on his people to repent. This relationship between church and state is similar to what is seen in the Old Testament with both judges and kings.
    28) Those of noble birth aspire to power
    Correspondence: Countless figures in Greek and Roman history – Catiline and Julius Caesar, for example
    29) Royal courts imitate their enemies
    Correspondence: The Roman republic was heavily influenced by the Greeks – the republican style of government and pantheon, for example.
    30) Royal courts function as “great households”
    Correspondence: The use of the word “house” instead of “palace” in the Book of Mormon is similar to Genesis 43 where Joseph’s brothers are brought into his “house” for official state business.
    31) Candidates for high office had to possess hidden knowledge
    I am not convinced the Book of Mormon princes were learning hidden knowledge per se. It appears they were learning a priestly language so they could read the brass plates (Mosiah 1:4). This is similar, in some respects, to the Sibylline Books (written in Greek) kept by the Romans.
    32) Abrupt breaks in dynasties
    Correspondence: The Roman emperors had many dynasties, several of which ended by assassination, such as Severus Alexander.
    33) Subservient peoples are said to “possess” the land while ruled by a dominant power
    Correspondence: This is a common use of the word since the 15th Century; see “possess” OED 2(a).

    Now, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to assign probabilities based on my analysis. The reason is that my hypothesis is not exhaustive either. In order to be exhaustive we would need to combine Joseph Smith, my potential author, and every other possible author. Perhaps this could be done with some wild guessing, but I doubt that the results would be meaningful. I think we have to conclude that a Bayesian analysis is not the right tool for this particular job.

    • Jared:
      Please see my response below regarding the purpose of our article.

      I think you may have misinterpreted what we attempted to do in our paper: namely to determine whether the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures as Coe claims…or if it does.

      We think the correspondences between the facts summarized in Coe’s book and the fact claims of the Book of Mormon are many, varied and strong. So we conclude that the Book of Mormon does indeed have a great deal to do with ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures.

      We make no claim that these correspondences are unique and have never been seen before in human history, as you seem to imply.

      (How Joseph Smith obtained a first rate research library of ancient history, religion and culture in upstate New York in the early 1800s and did such a good job of making correct guesses from those sources and was able to avoid incorrect guesses is another issue… :))

      Bruce

      Bruce

  41. I briefly corresponded on here the week this paper was posted. I wanted to wait for the flurry to die down a little bit to press a few issues (I expect you have regular jobs and families to attend to). My primary concern is the dichotomy that has been set up in this comparison. As you must know, for this type of analysis the comparison need to be exhaustive, meaning that one of the two hypotheses being compared must be true. If the position being defended is that the Book of Mormon is an ancient record, then the other position must include every other possible option for authorship. Instead, you have limited your competing hypothesis solely to Joseph Smith as potential author. In doing so you’ve left out many other possibilities which makes a Bayesian analysis inappropriate.

    As another potential author, consider somebody well-educated in the ancient classics and the bible. He doesn’t have to know much about ancient Mesoamerica, but he is writing a story covering essentially the same time period as the bible and classic antiquity so he incorporates his knowledge of those subjects into the story. Now let’s go through the correspondences and see how likely they might be.

    I’ve gone through the 33 correspondences in the first section of Appendix A and I will look at them here. Remember, our hypothetical author knows the bible and classical antiquity. (As for myself, I don’t claim any special knowledge of the bible or classical antiquity, but I know a little bit and, armed with the Internet, I can almost fool myself into thinking I know something significant.)

    1) Fundamental level of political organization is the independent city-state
    Correspondence: Ancient Greek poleis, early Ancient Rome
    2) “Capital” or leading city-state dominates a cluster of other communities
    Correspondence: Athens, Sparta, Rome
    3) Some subordinate city-states shift their allegiance to a different “capital” city
    Correspondence: Italian Peninsula under the early Roman Republic
    4) Complex state institutions
    Correspondence: Many examples – Athens, Rome, for example
    5) Many cities exist
    Correspondence: Many cities in the ancient Mediterranean
    6) City of Laman (Lamanai) “occcupied from earliest times”
    For a city name to be a “bulls-eye” I think we need 1) name, 2) location, and 3) time period to all correspond. The name seems like a plausible hit, but what do we know about location? Time period does not seem to match since the Book of Mormon city of Laman was destroyed in about 34 A.D. while the Mayan Lamanai existed into the post-conquest period. We also don’t know what the “earliest times” means. Does this mean the beginning of the classic period? If so, it would be too late to correspond with the Book of Mormon.
    7) Parts of the land were very densely settled
    Correspondence: Many large cities – Rome, Carthage, Alexandria, for example
    8 ) Large-scale public works
    Correspondence: Ancient Rome – aqueducts, Colosseum, for example
    9) Some rulers live in luxury
    Correspondence: The emperors of the Roman Empire
    10) Elaborate thrones
    Correspondence: 1 Kings 10:18-20
    11) Royalty exists, with attendant palaces, courts and nobles
    Correspondence: The Roman Emperors and their great courts
    12) Royal or elite marriages for political purposes
    Correspondence: This was the norm in ancient Rome – Mark Antony’s marriages, for example
    13) Feasting for political purposes
    Correspondence: Roman public banquets like Saturnalia
    14) Gifts to the king for political advantage
    I see this comparison to The Maya as a stretch. The cited verse in the Book of Mormon simply says that King Benjamin did not seek riches from his people, which I read to mean unfair taxes. There were leaders of ancient Rome, like Cicero (acting as governor of Cilicia) who had a reputation for not taxing the people unfairly.
    15) Political factions organize around a member of the elite
    Correspondence: Roman Civil War involving Julius Caesar and Pompey
    16) Foreigners move in and take over government, often as family dynasties
    Correspondence: Lucius Tarquinius Priscus (a Greek Etruscan) became the fifth king of Rome. His son-in-law was his eventual successor.
    17) City administrative area with bureaucrats and aristocrats
    Correspondence: Roman Forum and surrounding area
    18) Records kept specifically of the reigns of the kings
    Correspondence: Ancient Roman historians – Tacitus, for example
    19) Native leaders incorporated in power structure after subjugation
    Correspondence: Many Roman provinces – Judea after being conquered by Rome in 63 BC, for example
    20) Tribute required of subjects
    Correspondence: The many people conquered by the ancient Romans – Egypt, for example
    21) Limited number of important patrilineages
    Correspondence: Many examples of aristocracies in ancient Greece and Rome – Roman Senate, for example
    22) King and “king elect”
    Correspondence: Roman Emperor Valerian and his son Gallienus

    I’m almost out of available characters so I’ll…

  42. Here’s a well-thought-out review of this paper by a believing member summarizing many of the same issues brought up by critics perhaps more in opposition to the church in general.

    “A Response to the Bayesian Analysis of Book of Mormon Historicity”

    “I want to preface this by saying that I believe that the Book of Mormon is a true historical record, and that of all the potential locations, it likely took place in Central America. So I agree with the conclusions of the authors. But I do not agree with how they arrived at these conclusions. In this article, I explore some reasons why.”

    http://www.ldsphilosopher.com/a-response-to-the-bayesian-analysis-of-book-of-mormon-historicity/

  43. Pingback: A Response to the Bayesian Analysis of Book of Mormon Historicity - ldsphilosopher

  44. I enjoyed the article. Recently I visited the Cartagena gold museum and they stated the civilization was approximately 600bc.to 400 ad.and a ceremonial mask was approximately 2000 B.C. It was most interesting.

    • Hi Lynn:
      Yes, that is a wonderful museum. I have been there myself. I especially enjoyed all the “tumbaga”, the copper-gold (with a bit of silver) alloy that is the likely material on which the Book of Mormon plates were written.
      Bruce

  45. >>> Eric MacRae on June 1, 2019 at 10:45 am said:
    >>> Regarding the DNA issue I would drop from 50 to 10. From national geographic they publish an article saying that scientists found 1/3 of Native Americans to be from Europe/Mediterranian.

    >>> https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131120-science-native-american-people-migration-siberia-genetics/

    “Based on the arm bone of a 24,000-year-old Siberian youth, the research could uncover new origins for America’s indigenous peoples”

    “DNA from the remains revealed genes found today in western Eurasians in the Middle East and Europe, as well as other aspects unique to Native Americans, but no evidence of any relation to modern East Asians.”

    “This study changes this idea because it shows that a significant minority of Native American ancestry actually derives not from East Asia but from a people related to present-day western Eurasians…”

    “While the land bridge still formed the gateway to America, the study now portrays Native Americans as a group derived from the meeting of two different populations, one ancestral to East Asians and the other related to western Eurasians”

    “The meeting of those two groups is what formed Native Americans as we know them.”

    —————————————————————

    >>> Eric MacRae on June 1, 2019 at 10:45 am said:
    >>> This increase the likelihood for the Book of Mormon to be authentic.

    So you’re saying, what, that Lehi, etc., somehow ended up in Siberia 24,000 years ago, tens of thousands of years before the existence of Israel? How does that work?

    The finding and DNA research show that there was a migration of people from West Asia and possibly Europe to Siberia (Lake Baikal) over 24,000 years ago. It likely took many generations. These people mixed with other people from East Asia sometime in the 10,000 or so years before they migrated to the Americas across Beringia.

    Best,

    Jules

    • Jules,
      For what it worth, I think the DNA evidence for or against the Book of Mormon’s claims is useless, for reasons that I and others have noted. Ugo Perigo in particular has written some very good material on the issues. I have summarized these arguments elsewhere in this very long thread, but I can’t find it now. Happy hunting if you want to look for it. 🙂

      So the proper Bayesian likelihood ratio is probably 1.0–no effect on the conclusions one way or the other.
      Bruce

  46. I thought the article to be extremely well done. I just spent 8 hours reading through the article and comments. The comments were so repetitive. Good lord the comment was repetitive. I am no expert in statistics. My expertise goes to this extent there are lies, damm lies and there is statistics. Regarding the DNA issue I would drop from 50 to 10. From national geographic they publish an article saying that scientists found 1/3 of Native Americans to be from Europe/Mediterranian. This increase the likelihood for the Book of Mormon to be authentic.

    https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131120-science-native-american-people-migration-siberia-genetics/

    Also DR. Bruce E. Dale I would take on your offer about the Mayan and read it twice than Analyze it with the Book of Mormon. If this offer is still available. Even though I am late into the discussion.

    • Thank you for reading the whole thing, Eric. I think you are one of the few commentators who has actually done so.

      I have studied the DNA issue in some depth. We gave it a weight of 50 in order to give the Book of Mormon the most difficult possible test within the parameters we set.

      In reality, I think the DNA issue actually a 2 at best. There are two major scientific limitations on any firm conclusions. I don’t think these limitations can be overcome.

      First, “what is the control group”? That is, what is the appropriate genetic benchmark representative of Lehi’s group which we can use to compare with “paleo-Indian” samples? We really know very little about Lehi’s group, particularly for the maternal mitochondrial DNA that is used in most such DNA studies. What was Sariah’s ancestry, and in particular, what was the ancestry of the daughters of Ishmael with whom the sons of Lehi intermarried? We just don’t know.

      Second, what is the appropriate group of Native American DNA samples to compare the Lehite DNA with (if we had the Lehite DNA, which we don’t)? Once again, we just don’t know.

      The problem is made even worse by the genetic catastrophe through which the Amerind populations passed after contact with the Europeans. By some estimates, over 95% of the total Amerind population in the Americas died in the decades after contact. In other words, the Lehite DNA could very well not have survived contact, even if it existed.

      In short, I don’t think DNA evidence is ever going to be useful to “prove” anything for or against the Book of Mormon.

      Yes, the offer of Coe’s book is still open. If you will give me your address, I will see that our friends at Amazon send you a copy.

      Again, thanks for reading the whole, very long, thing.

      Bruce

  47. To carry on with this point, the fact the authors had to look outside of The Maya to find examples where Coe explicitly pointed out misses to be able to include any at all should have told the authors their approach was flawed. Each of the misses explicitly pointed out by Coe when asked for examples would have been easily identified through comparing The Maya with the Book of Mormon but would have required recognizing one can’t simply look for superficialities but needs to look at specifics of the comparative societies and environments to consistently be able to do so. Coe provided a sample of inaccuracies in an interview or paper, and the authors failed to recognize that these should have provided a template for use in identifying the misses in a consistent and wholly internal comparison between The Maya and the Book of Mormon. Had the authors remained consistent with their methodology and kept to the Maya they would have found zero misses. I credit them for recognizing how untenable that result would appear to an outside audience though many would a guess the mathmatical conclusions in the paper are even worse than that and should have resulted in an equally introspective moment.

  48. In a sense, the paper presents the problem as The Maya/Coe representing a coin toss, and The Book of Mormon/Joseph Smith as a callback ng the toss while it’s in the air. The paper suggests that Smith had so many correct guesses (131 out of what, 145 was it?) that the only explaination possible is he had supernatural abilities.

    The reality of the approach is more like this: The Maya/Coe are a coin set to heads on the table. The Book of Mormon/Smith is presented as a coin toss of hits and misses. But rather than count actual hits and misses, the approach only counts when the coin comes up heads to match Coe, and then assigns a very subjective value to how likely it was that that particular instance of heads would be up heads.

    Now, it’s even worse than that as Billy has rightly pointed out the so called hits are primarily superficial rather than culturally substantial matches. On top of which, the critical hypothesis isn’t comparable to a coin toss, but rather Smith using prior existing beliefs about the Hebrews and American Indian origins to composed a cohesive narrative. But be that as it may the complaint those critical of the paper itself are taking issue with the paper itself and it’s methodology independent of the broader issues.

  49. Bruce,
    Just to clarify, by limited scope I do not mean to imply you and your son did not do a lot of work. Obviously you did. But your objective was limited in scope. You accomplished that objective clearly in my mind.
    Best Regards,
    John

    • John,
      That’s correct. We had a carefully limited scope. We compared the relevant fact claims of the Book of Mormon with corresponding fact claims in The Maya. It has been difficult to get some commentators to accept that scope and stick to it. 🙂
      Bruce

      • As noted further up in the comments, using the example of pearls being mentioned on the Bible but not The Maya, even the authors acknowledge references in one book that are missing from the other because they weren’t part of the culture or environment purportedly being described ought to carry some weight. Even more so when the Book of Mormon goes on to make the very mistake the authors note would count against the Bible by referencing Nephites wearing pearls or the resurrected Christ warning the people of the Americas against casting their pearls before swine when neither pearls nor swine would be familiar references to truly ancient Mayan peoples.

        It isn’t a problem with critical of the paper not comprehending the approach proposed. It’s that it wasn’t used consistent and especially when one looks to the other two control books. But also the authors seem to understand as soon as a competitive book such as the Bible is proposed for comparison.

        • Hi Honorentheos:
          Welcome back to the discussion! 🙂

          Sorry, but the geek/chemist/engineer/pedant in me has to point something out. Pearls are calcium carbonate, and are therefore quite soluble in dilute acid. Soil is naturally acidic, particularly high organic matter soil…about pH 5.5. Over time, any pearls in contact with soil or water would probably dissolve.

          I have not studied the issue of pearls among the Maya in any depth, but it is not surprising that pearls, even if present, might not be found after centuries of burial. Likewise, any fabrics are likely to decompose, as Coe points out.

          Bruce

          • Hi Dr. Dale,

            Perhaps there is the possibility the evidence for pearls disappeared. One may expect a culture that harvested oysters for pearls would leave archeological evidence behind but be that as it may, it seems this only became available when the critique was directed at the BoM. You may recall pearls were brought up initially as a point the Bible would have wrong if compared to a Mesoamerican setting, as misdirected as that comment may have been.

          • Honorentheos:
            Maybe some such archeological evidence of pearl harvesting might remain, but I really doubt it.

            What infrastructure was needed? A seagoing canoe? Check. They had those. A guy capable of holding his breath while swimming? Check. They had those. Rocks for bashing open the oysters to look for pearls? Check. They had those.

            What would an archaelogist be looking for to see if the Maya harvested pearls and how would he know if you had found it? This is really a tough hill to climb.

            Bruce

          • Hi Dr. Dale,

            Perhaps it’s a steep hill to climb. But it’s infinitely less steep than there not being pearls and the Book of Mormon having gotten it wrong.

            It’s helpful maintain perspective. 😉

        • Honoren, et al, re the discussion on pearls below, in case anyone gets lost in the thread.

          I will try not to gloat, honest. 🙂

          In doing the research for our article, I failed to notice the single reference in the Book of Mormon (4 Nephi 1:24) in which “pearls” are mentioned in a literal sense…and not perhaps as a metaphor.

          It turns out that Coe’s book, also has a Maya noble arrayed in pearls in his funeral dress. The Maya did use pearls, but there is no mention of diamonds or rubies, which are not found in the New World.

          So, my mistake. Maxima culpa mea.

          Our correspondence 5.2 needs to be revised. The presence, not the absence, of pearls among the Maya is an additional point of evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon.

          Bruce

  50. Bruce,
    I have read your paper and I commend you for you work. I can find no fault in your methodology given that you clearly state up front the limited scope of your objective of your research. I do not claim to be an authoritative expert in statistics, but I have used statistics extensively in my professional career as a flight test and evaluation expert, enough to follow the discussions. Again, I can find no fault in your methodology or your conclusion. What I find interesting is that despite your numerous attempts to clarify the limited scope of the objective of your research, your detractors continue to ignore that fact and choose to try to expand the discussion taking it far outside the scope of your paper. In my humble opinion I think any further attempt to explain the limited scope of your paper will simply continue to fall on deaf ears. Keep up the good work!
    Best Regards,
    John

  51. Correspondence 3.18 “Calendars kept by holy men/priests”

    The evidence
    According to The Maya, there was an office in the church/state called Ah K’in, which means “he of the sun/day.” This priestly office was handed down from father to son, and their responsibilities included, “computation of the years, months, and days, the festivals and ceremonies, the administration of the sacraments, the fateful days and seasons, their methods of divination and their prophecies, events and the cures for diseases, and their antiquities and how to read and write with the letters and characters.” They also kept genealogies and presided over human sacrifices.

    According to Third Nephi 8:1-2, “And now it came to pass that according to our record, and we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record—for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity—and now it came to pass, if there was no mistake made by this man in the reckoning of our time, the thirty and third year had passed away…”

    Assuming this was a “guess”
    The author of the Book of Mormon naturally thought that the real calendar ought to start at the Birth of Christ. A sign was given when this old-world event happened, and they immediately reset their calendars to start counting from this date. The subsequent 33 years of history were then carefully counted, so that by 3 Nephi chapter 8, exactly 33 years had come and gone and it was time for the book’s climax.

    Under this assumption, the book is emphasizing to its modern audience who knew Jesus lived 33 years that we were at the end of Jesus’ mortal life in the old world. Emphasizing that the calendar was correct because a “just man” kept the record who proved his ability to accurately count because he was “cleansed every whit from his iniquity” and performed miracles in the name of Jesus seems like nothing more than an odd way of foreshadowing the visitation of Christ to a modern reader, and is a very Joseph Smith way of thinking (e.g.. Moroni 7:16-17).

    So what is the probability Joseph would guess this, assuming the book is made up? I’ll say 0.10, but this should be interpreted in the comparison to the following probability.

    Assuming this is based on Mesoamerican history
    Believing that the count of years since the birth of Christ is correct because the counter was a just man who performed miracles in the name of Jesus doesn’t fit very well in the Mayan world. If a Mayan wanted to convince us that a calendar date was correct he would talk about his training, his systems, his responsibilities as a priest, and his diligence. He wouldn’t talk about successfully performing miracles in the name of Christ.

    That said, there is some overlap between a man who is believed because he performs miracles and a priest who in addition to keeping the calendars performs human sacrifices and cures diseases, so I won’t say this is a total anachronism. On the whole, I’ll give this a probability of 0.10.

    Likelihood Ratio
    As a reminder, the likelihood ratio is the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is true divided by the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is false.

    A man who is believed to be able to accurately count 33 years because he is a righteous miracle worker isn’t the same thing as a Maya Ah K’in who is the calendar keeper because that is a governmental office he inherited from his father. Thus, this isn’t an actual hit. But at the same time, a righteous miracle worker isn’t totally different from a priest either, so I don’t see it as a total anachronism that by itself weighs against historicity. So, I don’t see this tipping the scale one way or the other.

    Likelihood ratio: 0.10 / 0.10 = 1.00

    • Billy,
      The Book of Mormon starts by keeping its calendar from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem, about 600 BC. The footnotes in the modern Book of Mormon naturally use our modern calendar for reference.

      But that is not how the Lehite colony (at least the pious part of that colony) kept their calendar initially. Those folks kept their calendar from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem. This point is made clear in the Book of Mormon.

      Later, the people of King Benjamin (another pious Lehite subgroup) began a new calendar when they instituted a major political change in their society. Their new calendar was counted as the “Xth year of the reign of the judges”.

      Then the sign was given of the birth of Christ and once again, the believers in Christ started their calendar anew. They kept that new start date until they were destroyed (as a largely depraved society) about AD 421.

      So, the Book of Mormon uses different calendars with different starting dates…as did the Maya.

      Regarding your earlier comment about having a calendar with a starting year, month and day not being unusual, I think I have not been clear enough why I believe it was unusual. Thanks for pointing that out.

      Joseph Smith was often accused of getting material or ideas for the Book of Mormon from Rev. Ethan Smith’s work View of the Hebrews. Dr. Coe states that the ideas/myths/rumors found in View of the Hebrews was “in the air” at the time of Joseph Smith.

      But Rev. Smith’s book specifically states (see pg. 184 of our article) that the Indians that Joseph Smith knew had no name for a year. But the Maya and the Nephites clearly did understand what a year was, and they measured time by day, month and year. The North American Indians clearly did NOT measure time this way.

      Thus if Joseph Smith had taken his ideas of calendaring from what was “in the air” among the Indians, as represented by the ideas in Rev. Smith’s book, Joseph would have gotten this point spectacularly wrong.

      But Joseph Smith did not make this mistake. He correctly accounted for multiple calendars being kept and that they were kept by day, month and year among the descendants of Lehi and the Maya.

      It seems to me that there is an immediate problem for those who believe, like Dr. Coe, that Joseph Smith got his ideas about the ancestors of the Indians from then-current ideas like those found in Ethan Smith’s book View of the Hebrews.

      The problem is this: if Joseph Smith didn’t rely on Ethan Smith for his guess on how time was reckoned among the Indians, then what justification is there for claiming that Joseph Smith relied on Ethan Smith for ANYTHING?

      I am not sure I understand your objection to my drawing an equivalence between the fact that calendars were kept by priests among the Maya and by a “holy man” among the Nephites.

      Clearly, the Maya expected their priests to abide by certain standards of behavior, to be “holy men” at least as the Maya defined such standards of behavior. And a holy man among the Nephites was without doubt also a priest (see Alma Chapter 13, for example).

      So I don’t understand your objection.

      What possible example in Joseph Smith’s society would have prepared him to make the correct “guess” that calendars were kept by holy men/priests in his “fictional” Book of Mormon? Holy men/priests did not keep the calendar in Joseph Smith’s day…that was a secular function.

      Bruce

      • While there are those skeptical of the fantastical version of the BoM authorship who may insist it came from Ethan Smith, most I know including commenters in this thread see Smith using the Bible as his source for describing the Nephites. The Lamanites/Native Americans had lost all civilization according to the prevailing theories that informed the BoM. Of course Smith wouldn’t look to them for descriptions of the civilized, Hebrew Nephites. That source was the KJV mingled with frontier folk-Christian beliefs.

        • Hi Honorentheos:
          Nice to know you are approaching the possible origins of the Book of Mormon with such an open mind. “Fantastical” is a pretty loaded word for someone who is claiming (as I think you are) to be an objective seeker of truth. 🙂

          Our paper did not attempt to explain the origins of the Book of Mormon. Please stop claiming that our paper did that.

          All that we concluded was that, to a very high degree of probability, the Book of Mormon is not fiction. In fact, the Book of Mormon fits very well within the world of ancient Mesoamerica. The two control books do not.

          If you want “fantastical” I recommend Manuscript Found to you. Awfully bad fiction.

          Bruce

          • Hi Bruce,

            I served in a bishopric, my spouse and I married in the temple, served an honorable mission, and there was a time when I would have been unashamed to have said I loved the Book of Mormon. I have no idea how many times over I’ve read it, including family morning readings, seminary, institute, and personal scripture study. I say that so you recognize my views come from an informed place, if they conflict with your own.

            The story that an angel provided Smith with plates covered in symbolic language he could not read, but required divine gifts to translate and for which the physical evidence was taken back by the angel is fantastical. There’s no more appropriate word for it. If you view that as pergorative, well…

          • Also, you have all but made the claim that the BoM is factual, and that it overlaps the Mayan culture with such unbelievable correspondence there should be nothing on Earth a person should be more sure of than that. I think it’s a bit disingenuous to say you aren’t making a claim regarding the BoMs origins.

      • Hi Bruce,

        From my viewpoint, the issue of priests/holy men is the strongest point in favor of the Book of Mormon that we have talked about in the comments, for the reasons you state. However, I balance that against some reservations I have. First, the only reason the Book of Mormon mentions that the calendar keeper was a holy man was because of the author’s trepidation about having made a mistake. This happens right when the modern reader gets to the point of being able to determine whether the dates in the book correctly synchronize with the old-world events of Jerusalem falling and the Birth of Jesus. Further, why would a Mayan qualify that something happened on date x “if there was no mistake made by this man in the reckoning of our time”? And why would he say that his ability to perform “many miracles in the name of Jesus” would indicate that he was counting time correctly? Those details don’t fit in the Mayan hypothesis, but fit well in the modern authorship hypothesis. That is why in my judgment, talk of a holy man keeping track of time weighs neither for nor against historicity.

        Regarding dates, let me use this as an opportunity to illustrate the problem with using a probability space that doesn’t exhaust everything that may have happened.

        Evidence
        Before Jesus was born, the Book of Mormon uses dates exactly the same way that the Old Testament does—counting years, months, and days since significant events happened (e.g. Exodus 12:41, 2 Kings 15:1, Jeremiah 25:1). After Jesus was born, the book switches to the anno Domini system of counting dates from the time of Jesus’ birth. This was always done in solar years, and is always thought of as a time line.

        In contrast, the Mayans thought of times in circles. The Mayans simultaneously kept track of multiple cycles: they had 260-day counts, 365-day vague years, and “Great Cycles” of the “Long Count” system which are cycles of 1,872,000 days. In all of these cycles, the new cycle begins when the previous one ends—they never counted from when an event happened.

        Hypothesis 1: Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon and “guessed” how Mayans thought of time based on View of the Hebrews
        As you explained, this make no sense.

        Hypothesis 2: The Book of Mormon is an authentic, Mesomamerican document
        The Mayans had calendars and the Book of Mormon has calendars, so this is a “hit.” However, the nature of the calendars were very different—(one counted solar years in a line from a few different significant events, the other is a set of never-ending cycles of days), since the nature of their calendars and their perception of time were so different, both having calendars is only a superficial hit.

        If those are the only two possibilities that could happen, then Hypothesis two wins out, I guess.

        However, there is a third hypothesis:

        Hypothesis 3: Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon and thought about time in the way the Old Testament describes time, and in the way he naturally thought about it, having been steeped in the Gregorian system

        This third hypothesis fits the evidence perfectly and if it is included in the analysis, dramatically changes the result.

        • Billy,

          Your comments on calendars underscores the problems of both readings and assumptions. The Maya calendar is described in terms of cycles, but that is not a contrast to lineal time–it is a conceptual overlay on it. There is no reason to assume that general timekeeping was any more cyclical that our weeks, months, and days. Indeed, at some point, the Maya established an origin point, and had a lineal tracking of time from a deep-past origin point.

          The Book of Mormon uses three origin points, and dates years from the origin. The first is from the departure from Jerusalem, the second is the beginning of the reign of the judges, and the third is the time of Christ. Based on the way dates appear, the second had the largest effect on the way information was recorded in the text.

          For those of us who read the text against a plausible Mesoamerican background, there are any number of times when we see an underlying cyclicality informing the way dates are used in the text. Even the construction of certain chapter events follows a type of a Maya period-ending cycle (we have the best information on the Maya for that region).

          In the particulars of calendrics, we are dealing with a text in translation, and translated by a non-Mesoamerican expert. I wouldn’t expect terminology to line up, but I would expect that underlying factors would display the original, non-Western, concepts of time. They do.

          Of your three hypotheses, only the second has actual relevance to the text.

          • Hi Brandt,

            Just to make sure I understand your point, you are claiming that keeping track of time by counting years from the birth of Christ is an “original, non-Western concept of time.” Do I have that right?

            Thanks,

            Billy

            • Of course not. I am saying that you overly simplified the text of the Book of Mormon, skewing it in a way that supported your hypothesis. I cannot fault that, pretty much everyone reads it according to their own preconceptions. However, since you were suggesting things about how time was recorded in the Book of Mormon, you missed some facts.

              The change to dating from the time of Christ is not significantly different from the changing of dating to the beginning of the reign of the judges. When a group finds a particular event meaningful, a change is made. It isn’t even unique in the Book of Mormon.

          • Hi Brandt,

            By way of clarification, determining which hypothesis has “relevance to the text” is not the question. In terms of the Bayesian analysis we are performing, we must answer each of the following 3 questions:

            1- Assuming hypothesis 1 is correct, what is the probability we would see the basket of evidence that we see?

            2- Assuming hypothesis 2 is correct, what is the probability we would see the basket of evidence that we see?

            3- Assuming hypothesis 3 is correct, what is the probability we would see the basket of evidence that we see?

            It sounds like you only think question 2 is relevant because you only read the text against a plausible Mesoamerican background. That is fine if all you are trying to do is show whether or not hypothesis 2 is plausible. But if you want to be more precise and estimate the probability that hypothesis 2 is true, you need to answer all 3 questions.

            • I am quite happy to stay away from questions of probability. It isn’t my field, and I have my own methods of determining significance. What I can say is whether your characterization of the use of time in the Book of Mormon and among the Maya was accurate. That was the issue.

  52. Thanks for the comments of everyone who has decided to engage with the evidence, thanks in particular to Billy Shears.

    Later on this week, I will do my best to address each of comments focused on the evidence (or ask Brian to do so on the statistics-heavy comments). 

    I have already tried to address Billy’s concerns about the northward migration issue. Vide supra.

    But for right now I would like to stick with the calendar correspondences.

    There are two more correspondences in the paper that deal with reckoning of time among the Book of Mormon peoples. These are given in correspondences 3.18 (Calendars kept by holy men/priests) and 6.3 (Multiple calendars kept). So let’s deal with those two correspondences before we go on to other areas of correspondence.

    Recall that I am asking each of the commentators to decide two things.

    First, if you think Joseph Smith had a source as the basis of that “guess”, please cite the source and page number.

    Second, if you think he was guessing, what probability do you assign to him guessing correctly? (Of course, if you don’t think the guess was correct, please say so.)

    For right now, please deal with these two additional calendar-related correspondences.

    So, in the absence of a source, 1) how likely do you think it was that Joseph Smith correctly guessed that multiple calendars were kept by the Book of Mormon peoples and by the Maya and 2) how likely do you think it was that he correctly guessed that holy/men priests kept the calendars among both the Book of Mormon peoples and the Maya?

    Use numbers please, preferably using the weighting scale we have proposed, but feel free to choose your own.

    For example, easy guess, dead certain to have guessed correctly = 1.0. Or 0.5, or 0.1 or 0.02 for one in two, one in ten or one in fifty, respectively.

    Bruce

    • Hi Bruce,

      Regarding the “multiple calendars” point of correspondence, I already addressed that above. In case you missed it, here is the link:

      https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/joseph-smith-the-worlds-greatest-guesser-a-bayesian-statistical-analysis-of-positive-and-negative-correspondences-between-the-book-of-mormon-and-the-maya/#comment-87460

      Reemphasizing the point, Mayans thought of time in circles— 260-day counts, Calendar Rounds, Vague Years, Long Counts, Great Cycles, etc. Speaking of the 260 day calendar, Coe said, “Every single day had its own omens and associations, and the inexorable march of the 20 days acted as a kind of perpetual fortune-telling machine guiding the destinies of the Maya and all the peoples of Mexico.” The 260-day count and 365-day “vague years” were both kept, but not for purposes of recording events, but rather for omens and associations. In contrast, long counts were used for keeping track of historical dates, but again, this was a giant circle that took over 5,000 years to cycle around.

      In contrast, time is thought of as a line in the Book of Mormon. This in itself is a strong anachronism. Before Christ was born, time was kept track of in solar years, and it seems the author is working hard to keep track of time so that there is precisely 600 solar years of history between when Lehi left Jerusalem and Christ is born. Time is counted in years from various events, and in a sense these could be thought of as different calendars, but counting years from the year of a big event is fundamentally different than keeping track of where we are in various circles.

      It’s worth pointing out that counting years with year 1 BC set as the year Jesus was born is known as the “Anno Domini” system, and was invented by the monk Dionysius Exiguus in the year AD 525. It is a huge anachronism that the Nephites started using the Anno Domini system at least 516 years before Dionysius Exiguus invented it; it was used from as early as AD 9 and was used continuously until the end of the book in AD 421 (See 3 Nephi 2:8 and Moroni 10:1). This is convenient for modern readers, but not in any way Mayan.

      When you look at all of the evidence surrounding calendars, this is very strong evidence that the Book of Mormon is historical fiction written by a modern author who was very careful about synchronizing his timeline with the timeline in the Bible. I score this a likelihood ratio of 50+.

      • Billy,
        Brandt has done a better job than I could do in pointing out that the Maya thought of time both in cycles and as a linear process. The Long Count calendar is clearly linear. So I think you are setting up an either/or where none exists.
        Bruce

  53. Correspondence 1.6: City of Laman (Lamanai) “occcupied from earliest times”

    Coe’s standard: “Far up the New River … is the important site of Lamanai, … occupied from earliest times right into the post-Conquest period” (p. 85).

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See 3 Nephi 9:10. The strong tendency is for consonants to be preserved in pronouncing words and names. For example, Beirut (Lebanon) is one of the oldest cities in the world, settled 5,000 years ago. The name derives from Canaanite-Phoenician be’erot and [Page 102]has been known as “Biruta,” “Berytus” and now “Beirut,” while always retaining those three consonants “BRT” in the correct order, and with no intervening consonants.

    In the case of the city Lamanai (Laman), all three consonants, and only these three consonants, namely LMN, are found in the correct order and are the same consonants as given for the city of Laman mentioned in the Book of Mormon. This seems to be a “bullseye” for the Book of Mormon. How did Joseph Smith correctly “guess” the correct consonants, and only the correct consonants in the correct order for the name of an important city “occupied from earliest times?”

    Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific, detailed and statistically unusual. Likelihood = 0.02

    I would like to use this point as an illustration of the correct way to calculate likelihood ratios.

    According to the mnemonic major system, there are ten basic consonant sounds (t/d, n, m, r, l, sh/ch, k/hard-c,f/v,b/p,s/z/x/soft-c). If we assume that on average Mayan names have five consonants, then the chances of guessing the consonants to any five-letter location is about 1/100,000. Some have more and some have less, and some letter combinations are more likely than others, but we’ll say that the probability of successfully guessing that there was a Mayan city with the consonants L-M-N in that order is 1/100,000.

    However, he didn’t make one guess at the name of one specific city. There are about 250 Mayan sites with known pre-Colombian names, and any of them could have been correct with this guess, so the probability of matching something is 250/100,000, or 1/400.

    However, Joseph Smith didn’t take a single guess—there are about 100 names he made up for the Book of Mormon, each of which is an independent guess that could match any of the 250 actual cities. Therefore, the probability of getting at least one guess right is one minus the probability of getting every guess wrong, or (1 – (399/400)^100) = 0.22.

    The Dales correctly defined the likelihood ratio as, “the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is true divided by the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is false.” Above we calculated the probability of the evidence assuming the hypothesis (that Joseph Smith guessed) is true (0.22). Now, we need to calculate the denominator—the probability of the evidence assuming the hypothesis (that Joseph Smith guessed) is false.

    So, let’s go ahead and assume that the Book of Mormon is historical and estimate the probability of the evidence in that scenario. As the Dales said in their paper, “The strong tendency is for consonants to be preserved in pronouncing words and names.”

    Let’s assume that this strong tendency is 10%. In other words, there is a 10% probability that the consonants of cities from Book of Mormon times would survive the way the city Laman did. If that is the case, what is the probability that only one Lehite city (Laman) exhibited this “strong tendency”? If there are 100 named Book of Mormon cities and the probability of a name sticking is 10%, then we would expect that 10 Mayan cities would have names that could be traced back to their true Book of Mormon historical roots. The probability that only 1 does is about 0.13% (this was calculated by approximating the binomial distribution with a normal distribution).

    So, dividing the probability of the evidence assuming the hypothesis is true by the probability of the evidence assuming the hypothesis is false is the likelihood ratio, which for this point of evidence is .22/.0013 = 170. In aggregate, this point weighs against historicity. In other words, while it is unlikely that with only 100 blind guesses at a dartboard with only 250 targets that Joseph Smith would correctly guess the name of a Mayan city, it is even more unlikely that that only one name from Book of Mormon times would have been preserved in a historical record, given the strong tendency of consonants to survive.

    Everybody should agree that something unlikely happened—the point of likelihood ratios is to evaluate which scenario is less unlikely.

    • Billy:
      I am not sure if you have read the Book of Mormon more than once. How many times have you read the Book of Mormon, all the way through and carefully?

      This is not meant to be antagonistic. I am trying to gauge your understanding of the Book of Mormon overall–not just the few chapters and verses that my references point to. You will see why I think this is a relevant question in just a moment.

      Dr. Coe only felt it necessary to read the Book of Mormon once, over 45 years ago, to write his original article in Dialogue and then continue to opine from time to time on the historical nature of the Book of Mormon. That is the rule, not the exception, for “scholarly” treatment of the Book of Mormon.

      I think this is one of those points of evidence (like the northward migrations) that becomes stronger the more you look at it. The wars between the Lamanites and the Nephites were a more or less constant feature over their 1000 year history. Near the end of that history the objective of the Lamanites was to exterminate the Nephites, not just subjugate them.

      And they did. See Mormon chapters 4-6 and Moroni chapter 1.

      Both Mormon and his son Moroni, the principal editors of the Book of Mormon, state specifically that not only would victorious Lamanites destroy the Nephites as a people, they would also destroy their records. Certainly the naming of towns and cities with Nephite names would be a record that the Lamanites could and would wipe out.

      So, I would expect that the victorious Lamanites would make sure that not a single Nephite-named city would survive with that name. And all the records that could be found of the Nephites would be destroyed. (Coe in fact refers to the practice of systematic destruction of monuments whereby “the eyes and mouths of rulers are often pecked out, as if to cancel their power”. )

      Given this background, I think not a single Nephite city name would survive the destruction of the Nephite people described in the Book of Mormon at the end of the 4th century AD. And apparently none did…although the absence of such names is not really very good evidence.

      Although we know very little about the Lamanite cities (the Book of Mormon is primarily a Nephite record, after all), we do know that one was named Laman. Since Laman was the leader of the anti-Nephite faction from the beginning, it is certainly reasonable for the principal city of the Lamanites to be called Laman, and the chances are good that that name would survive.

      Since I accept a limited geography (and therefore limited power) model for both the Lamanites and the Nephites, it is certainly reasonable to suppose that only one city name would survive, and it would most likely be the principal city of the Lamanite confederation. Which is what we observe, at least by the way that I understand the evidence.

      Bruce

      • It’s certainly an odd contention given the name of the conquering Lamanite general was Aaron rather than, say, Great Jaguar Paw. But if such wide ranging speculation is allowed then all things are possible I supposed. 🙂

      • Hi Bruce,

        Since you asked, I’ve read the Book of Mormon cover to cover about a dozen times.

        Let’s take a step back. According to The Maya, we know a lot about Lamanai. For example, it lies next to a river and has 718 structures. It was a very important Mayan city in terms of trade and was “occupied from earliest times right into the post-Conquest period.”

        According to the Book of Mormon, all we know for sure about the city of Laman is that it and its inhabitants were destroyed by fire in AD 34, and then may have been rebuilt and repopulated about 35 years later, near the pinnacle of the 4th Nephi Christian Utopia when the people were all converted upon all the face of the land, and there were no Lamanites nor any other type of -ite.

        Analysis:

        1- A city being completely destroyed and abandoned for 25 years doesn’t fit Coe’s implication that it was continuously inhabited from earliest times. Thus, this doesn’t fit.

        2- After it was rebuilt in AD 59, it would no longer have been a Lamanite city—it would have been a Christian city enjoying Utopia under the law of consecration.

        3- If we are now assuming that there is a strong tendency to change the names of cities when new inhabitants with different views take over, shouldn’t we assume that when the explicitly Christian and non-Lamanites rebuilt the city of Laman, they would have changed the name to something that wasn’t associated with an infamous murmurer? I think the chances are poor that the name of this city survived its destruction.

        Be all that as it may, let’s return to the lesson on Bayesian reasoning. My a priori probability of a Book of Mormon name surviving was only 10%, and was intended to be conservative and account for most names not surviving. But if we are changing our expectations and thought that if the Book of Mormon were true, we would expect not to see hardly any Nephite names still around and maybe only one explicitly Lamanite name survive (e.g. finding a Mesoamerican city called “Zarahemlo,” and a river called “Xidon” and a “Land of Nefee” would all count against Book of Mormon’s authenticity), we could change our expectations of matches from 10% down to 1%. If those were our expectations, the probability of exactly one city matching would be (100 * 0.99^99 * .01 = 37%). Thus, under this revised assumption the likelihood ratio would be 0.22 / 0.37 = 0.59.

        • Billy,
          I am sorry to have missed responding to this particular point earlier. Thanks for your multiple readings of the Book of Mormon. I failed to acknowledge this fact earlier.

          As a skeptic of the Book of Mormon, this degree of attention to the claims of the Book of Mormon makes you nearly unique in my experience. I have only known two other such people.

          Congratulations, thanks and kudos. All due respect and praise.

          Bruce

  54. I decided to play with your weights a bit. Everything you labeled as 0.02 I labeled 0.1. 0.1s turned into 0.5s. And 0.5s were seen as so obvious that I threw them out entirely. Then I decided to give extra weight to the correspondences that went against the Book of Mormon. So you gave everything the weight of 50, but I took the 2s and 10s and turned them into 50s (like you), and turned the 50 into 250 (a 5X like the steps up from 2 to 10 to 50). I then did all the same multiplication and in the end still came out with 1.03 x 10^-23.

    I did this because, people (including me) can disagree on some of these correspondences and say, “Oh, this one that you gave a 0.02 should’ve been a 0.1, and this other one should’ve been a 0.5 instead of 0.1.” So let’s just go through and knock *everything* down a peg to be conservative. So are the 0.02, 0.1, and 0.5 arbitrary? They might be used in some studies, but yeah, they feel kind arbitrary. But even if you bring down all these odds to go conservative on that arbitrary feel, you’re still left with 1.03 X 10^-23. Pretty compelling.

  55. Hi Bruce,

    I’m ready to move on and talk about the points of correspondence rather than the statistics. But allow me to make a final “closing argument” on the statistics. But rather than repeat the points I’ve tried to make, allow me to tell two stories.

    Story 1: When I was studying econometrics in graduate school, a major topic we were expected to master was multivariate least squared regression. The professor repeatedly said that these models were based upon 5 assumptions, which he wrote out on the board over and over throughout the course of the semester. First, the underlying relationship between the dependent variable and the independent variables needed to actually be linear. Second, the independent variables needed to be statistically independent from each other. Third, the actual underlying error terms needed to be uncorrelated, normally distributed, with a constant variance etc. I originally found this list somewhat odd, because it was actually quite easy to fit a least squares regression model, regardless of whether these assumptions were all true or not. But eventually I figured out the professor’s point. When you ran the regression, you could fill out an analysis-of-variance table that was brimming with information about your model, including statistics about how close your estimated betas were to the actual unobserved betas, how confident you could be about predictions based upon the model, etc. But it turns out that these statistics only tell the truth to the extent the underlying assumptions are true. Thus, a major part of any responsible analysis that uses regression needs to be evaluating the extent to which the underlying assumptions are in fact true (and in the real world, they are never all true), making any adjustments that you can so that they become less untrue, and finally caveating your results appropriately.

    Story 2: A few years ago, I gave a presentation at an industry conference about how to put prediction intervals around the forecasts of an insurance company’s income statement. Afterward, the CFO of a company came up to me and said “A few years ago, a consultant came to my company and did what you just suggested. When the results came in, they were way outside of the predicted range. The consultant said, ‘Wow! Your results being so far out of the predicted range was a one in a million event. There is no way you could ever be that unlucky again!’ A quarter later, the results came in and the results were even worse than the prior quarter. The consultant said, ‘Unbelievable! The chances of this happening twice in a row is less than one in a trillion!’ That is when I fired the consultant.” The CFO asked me for my opinion on what happened. I said it was one of two things—either he did in fact experience a one-in-a-trillion event, or the assumptions underlying the one-in-a-trillion calculation were not true. We agreed about which of those two things had happened.

    If I wrote an academic paper and claimed that a statistical analysis indicated that in all likelihood the leading experts in a field were wrong about something, I would be extremely careful about understanding the precise assumptions underlying the model and meticulously describing why I believed those assumptions were true.

    • Hi Billy,

      You said “If I wrote an academic paper and claimed that a statistical analysis indicated that in all likelihood the leading experts in a field were wrong about something…”.

      Please be aware that we are not claiming that Dr. Coe is wrong in his field of expertise. Quite to the contrary, in our analysis we assume without reservation that he is completely correct about everything he claims regarding the Mayans, his undisputed field of expertise.

      Dr. Coe, however, is no expert on the Book of Mormon. The analysis indicates that in all likelihood he is wrong on his non-expert opinion about the Book of Mormon.

      • Hi Brian,

        The point of your paper is that “There is overwhelming evidence that the Book of Mormon has physical, political, geographical, religious, military, technological, and cultural roots in ancient Mesoamerica.” If that were true, a competent Mesoamericanist would only need to read the Book of Mormon once to recognize it.

        Your assertion that Dr. Coe is an undisputed expert on the Maya but is not an expert on the Book of Mormon seems to tacitly admit that the Maya and the Book of Mormon are mutually exclusive.

        • Hi Billy,
          Brian and his family are under the weather, and Brian has a three year old boy to potty train while his mom is sick, so I will take it upon myself to answer your comment above.

          You state: “Your assertion that Dr. Coe is an undisputed expert on the Maya but is not an expert on the Book of Mormon seems to tacitly admit that the Maya and the Book of Mormon are mutually exclusive.”

          Here is my response to your somewhat silly comment. This point has been repeated ad nauseam by now.

          It is precisely because Dr. Coe himself claims that, based on his knowledge, 99% of the details of the Book of Mormon are wrong that Brian and I wrote this paper. It is because Dr. Coe himself says that the Book of Mormon has little to do ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures that we wrote this article to see if the fact claims of the Book of Mormon (“guesses” if you assume that it is a work of fiction) of the correspond to facts cited in The Maya.

          So we are here because Dr. Coe himself says that the Book of Mormon and ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures are NOT mutually exclusive–as your comment implies. (And not just for the Maya, as you repeatedly and mistakenly claim.)

          In the article, we take Coe’s charge seriously and find that a great many of the fact claims of the Book of Mormon line up very well with the facts summarized in Coe’s book.

          So, nice try, but no, Billy.

          Bruce

          • Billy,
            One more point about your May 29th post that a competent Mesoamericanist would only need to read the Book of Mormon once to recognize it.

            That is a weak argument. It is a naked appeal to authority unworthy of you.

            I am sure that you are aware of the arguments and disagreement, often very strident, between competent scientists who are looking at exactly the same evidence.

            I have summarized above the long and sometimes hot debate between Einstein and Max Planck about the foundations of quantum theory. Both men saw the same evidence, and interpreted it completely differently. The same thing goes on every day among distinguished scientists in many fields.

            The fact is that several competent Mesoamericanists are indeed believing members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They believe the Book of Mormon is an authentic record. John Sorensen is one, but not the only one. John Clark is another. Alan Christenson, whose translation of the Popol Vuh was praised by Coe is yet another.

            But that is all beside the point. In our article, we compare a whole body of knowledge summarized in Coe’s book with the fact claims of the Book of Mormon. We find exceeding strong agreement between comparable facts between the two books.

            Another fact is that a competent Mesoamericanist, Dr. Coe, did read the Book of Mormon once, over 45 years ago. Coe has been quoted extensively and opining ever since about his minimal knowledge of the Book of Mormon.

            Crikey, Billy, in the sixth podcast Dr. Coe was surprised to learn that there is warfare in the Book of Mormon. You have read the Book of Mormon a dozen times. Did you miss the war parts?

            That fact ought to tell you something about Coe’s knowledge of the Book of Mormon…and how a single, skeptical reading of the Book of Mormon decades ago is a totally inadequate scholarly effort.

            Bruce

  56. Correspondence 6.2

    The area of evidence examined here is the reckoning of time. Both the Book of Mormon peoples and the Maya reckoned time. So did the North American Indians on which Joseph Smith’s limited knowledge of Indians was probably based.

    But the Book of Mormon peoples and the Maya had the same basic approach to reckoning time: a definite starting year, followed by succeeding days, months and years. The North American Indians had another approach as described in View of the Hebrews (see below).

    Since the Book of Mormon approach to keeping the calendar is very similar (“similar” does not mean “identical”) to that used by the Maya, we count this as a strong point of evidence. In this point at least, Dr. Coe is wrong. In this important feature of the reckoning of time, the Book of Mormon is very much congruent with ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures.

    Here is correspondence 6.2 from Appendix A in the paper.

    6.2 Calendar kept by day, month and year
    Coe’s standard: “The Maya Long Count, which will be explained in greater detail in Chapters 3 and 9, is an absolute, day-to-day calendar which has run like some great clock from a point in the mythical past (p. 25). “The Maya New Year started with 1 Pop, the next day being 2 Pop, etc. The final day of the month, however, carried not the coefficient 20, but a sign indicating the ‘seating’ of the month to follow” (p. 64). “Maya learning as well as ritual was in their [the Maya priests’] hands. Among them were ‘computation of the years, months, and days, the festivals and ceremonies’” (p. 243).

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 10:6; Alma 49:1; 3 Nephi 1:1; 3 Nephi 2:7‒8; 3 Nephi 8:5.

    Analysis of correspondence: Specific and detailed. Both the Book of Mormon peoples and the peoples described in The Maya kept calendars by day, month and year. The keeping of calendars is also unusual. The Indian peoples of eastern North America did not keep calendars, and were focused on the passing of the seasons. How did Joseph Smith “guess” that any Indians kept an absolute calendar by day, month and year? Likelihood = 0.02.

    For comparison, here is negative Correspondence 7 from View of the Hebrews, showing how different the North American Indian approach to reckoning time was from that of the Maya…and the Book of Mormon peoples.

    Negative correspondence 7 from View of the Hebrews. Indians used a lunar calendar and had no name for a year

    Coe’s standard: The Maya kept their calendars by day, month, and year. They kept multiple calendars. “The Maya Long Count … is an absolute, day-to-day calendar which has run like some great clock from a point in the mythical past” (p. 25). “How the 260 day calendar even came into being is an enigma. … Meshing with the 260-day count is a ‘Vague Year’ or Ha’b of 365 days. … Within the Ha’b, there were 18 named ‘months’ of 20 days each” (p. 64).

    “View of the Hebrews” correspondence: See p. 61. “They count time after the manner of the Hebrews. They divide the year into spring, summer, autumn and winter. They number their year from any one of those four periods, for they have no name for a year … and count the year by lunar months.”

    Analysis of correspondence: This calendaring system is specific, detailed, and unusual (to Americans in the early 1800s) for both books, but the calendaring systems are not in agreement. Likelihood = 50.0.

    OK, comments or rebuttal, anyone?

    • Dr. Dale:

      Didn’t the world use a calendar system with days, months and years in the early 1800’s? Also, didn’t the bible, too? Given that, perhaps one of these two is where Joseph Smith, young ignorant farm boy, came up with the book of mormon calendaring system? So, it doesn’t really seem all that remarkable that he used a calendaring system in the BofM.

      Also, think about it this way: how remarkable is it that the Maya used a calendaring system like the world does, given how the sun and the rotation of the earth divides the time into days and seasons and years? Not that remarkable.

      So, perhaps the mundane “hit” isn’t so remarkable?

      • No, Monotone One, I disagree completely. It is a remarkable hit.

        The North American Indians that Joseph Smith knew of told time by the seasons, and had no idea of day, month and year. But the Maya did–very precisely.

        Please remember that the comparison in our article is between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. Dr. Coe claims that the “99% of the details in the Book of Mormon are false”. But here is one very important detail, the telling of time, where the Book of Mormon is spot on with Coe’s book. So Joseph Smith got that very important fact exactly right.

        If you think that all Joseph Smith had to do to write a fact-based book (the Book of Mormon) was to call on his own knowledge of his surroundings and then extrapolate those to the world of ancient Mesoamerica, then you would be in the same company as Reverend Spaulding who did exactly that.

        If Spaulding’s book Manuscript Found weren’t such awful fiction, it would be very funny in its anachronisms. I invite you to read Appendix C for some examples including pelting adulterers with rotten eggs, writing in Latin on parchment, clapboard houses among Indians who wore waistcoats and knee stockings. I could go on, but why spoil the fun for you. 🙂 Read Appendix C and laugh.

        No, Monotone One, Joseph Smith’s correct “guess” that some ancient Indian cultures kept days, months and years is a really remarkable point of evidence.

        Bruce

    • The null hypothesis of the Book of Mormon is that it is a made-up account of a group of proto-Christian Jews who immigrated from Jerusalem to the New World in 600 B.C. These people brought their Jewish/Christian heritage with them, built a great civilization (as evidenced by the then well-known Moundbuilders who had once inhabited North America), and after 1,000 years they fell from grace and devolved into the “savages” that were discovered 1,000 years after that. Anything that is consistent with how Joseph Smith could have reasonably conceived of an epic story of a group of people who went from being pilgrims from Jerusalem to civilized Moundbuilders to savages over the course of thousands of years is completely consistent with this theory.

      The Jewish calendar is based lunar months, solar years, and pays particular attention paid to the seasons (that is why Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox), and most importantly, seven-day weeks. This calendar eventually evolved into the Gregorian calendar which Joseph Smith used and is still used today.

      Everything regarding dates and calendars in the Book of Mormon is consistent with this. They had seven-day weeks and kept the sabbath holy (e.g. Jarom 1:5, Mosiah 18:25, Alma 32:11). They had lunar months (Omni 1:21). Solar years were carefully counted, sometimes in unlikely ways (e.g. 3 Nephi 5:7). According to this counting, one can easily verify that Lehi left Jerusalem in 600 B.C., right before the fall of Jerusalem, that Jesus was then born on cue in 1 BC, and then died, was resurrected, and visited them 33 years later, right on cue. This all seems like it was written by somebody creating historical fiction that needed to calibrate with some events that were predefined and presumed to be historic. The counting is done exactly as somebody using a Gregorian calendar would do it.

      In contrast, here are some quotes from Cole: “The Calendar Round of 52 years was present among all Mesomaericans, including the Maya, and is presumably of very great age. It consists of two permutating cycles. One is of 260 days, representing the intermeshing of a sequence of the numbers 1 through 13 with 20 named days…the 260-day count was fundamental…Meshing with the 260-day count is a “vague year” or Ha’b of 365 days…from this it follows that a particular day in the 260-day count, such as 1 K’an, also had a position in the Ha’b, for instance 2 Pop. A day designated as 1 Ka’n 2 Pop could not return until 52 Ha’b (18,980 days) had passed. This is the Calendar Round, and it is the only annual time count possessed by the highland peoples of Mexico….”

      But for keeping track of history, the Mayans didn’t count Calendar Rounds, much less “vague years.” Rather, they used Long Counts. Quoting Coe:

      “Instead of taking the Vague Year as the basis for the Long Count, the Maya and other peoples employed the turn, a period of 360 days. The Long Cycles are:

      20 k’ins = 1 winal or 20 days
      18 winals = 1 turn or 360 days
      20 turns = 1 k’atun or 7,200 days
      20 k’atuns = 1 bak’tun or 144,000 days

      “Long Count dates inscribed by the Maya on their monuments consist of the above cycles listed from top to bottom in descending order of magnitude, each with its numerical coefficient, and all to be added up so as to express the number of days elapsed since the end of the last but one Great Cycle, a period of 13 bak’tuns the ending of which fell on the date 4 Ajaw 8 Kumk’u….”

      Analysis: The Book of Mormon keeps track of history in months and years in a way that is indistinguishable from the Gregorian calendar, and is carefully calibrated so that Lehi leaving Jerusalem, the birth of Christ, and the death of Christ can all be reconciled with old-world history. In contrast, the Mayans kept track of historical days using Long Count days, which is really about counting up days since the end of the last “great cycle,” but rather than being “base 10” as we would count, they are counted using k’ins, winals, tuns, k’atuns, and bak’tuns. There is nothing in this that could be construed as months and years, nor could it easily be converted into lunar months and solar years.

      Central to Mayan life were 260 day cycles. Central to Book of Mormon life were 7-day weeks.

      The calendar in the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with the Mayan Calendar. This is very strong evidence that it is not based on Mesoamerican history. I score this a “likelihood ratio” of 50+.

      • Billy,
        More on the calendar issue later, but the null hypothesis you propose is not the null hypothesis we actually deal with in the paper.

        I wish you do us the courtesy of focusing on what we actually did in the paper, not what you think we should have done.

        Our “null hypothesis” or the Bayesian prior we assumed, was that the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient Indian cultures as Dr. Coe describes those cultures in The Maya.

        Just set the Bayesian analysis aside for a while and focus on the correspondences without weighting them. Even in that limited case, it is obvious that the Book of Mormon has a great deal to do with ancient Indian cultures as described in The Maya.

        We are going to go through those correspondences as long as the discussion continues or Interpreter is willing to host the discussion.

        Once again, I invite you to read The Maya and the Book of Mormon…then make your own comparisons. And once again, I will happily buy a copy of The Maya for you.

        Bruce

        • Hi Bruce,

          I’m happy to look at the specific points you raise, read the references in The Maya in detail, read the references in the Book of Mormon in context, consider your analysis, and then offer my own.

          However, if you set up your analysis in a way that is invalid and insist that I approach the question in the way that you set it up, I’m not going to play ball.

          Here is why.

          In your paper, you said, “For a good introductory article to Bayesian statistics, see Wikipedia, s.v. ‘Bayes Theorem.'” According to that article, “If the events A1, A2,…, are mutually exclusive and exhaustive, i.e., one of them is certain to occur but no two can occur together, and we know their probabilities up to proportionality, then we can determine the proportionality constant by using the fact that their probabilities must add up to one.”

          This point is crucial, because the formulas you are using implicitly assume that the two hypotheses are in fact mutually exclusive and exhaustive.

          The way I am setting up the problem (A1 = “19th Century fictional origin” and A2 = “ancient Mesoamerican origin” at least approaches two mutually exclusive and exhaustive theories. In contrast, the way you are insisting this be set up (A1 = “Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient Indian cultures” and A2 = “the Book of Mormon is an authentic, factual record set in ancient Mesoamerica”) is neither mutually exclusive nor exhaustive: the book could (and does) have many superficial similarities with ancient Indian cultures, yet the totality of the evidence points strongly to 19th Century American origins.

          We could find an arbitrarily high number of superficial similarities between the Book of Mormon and the Maya, but such comparisons have no bearing on whether the Book of Mormon is “an authentic, factual record set in ancient Mesoamerica.” If we want to use a Bayesian analysis to answer that question, it needs to be set up properly with two mutually exclusive and exhaustive hypotheses. The mere question “What is the probability Joseph Smith guessed X right?” is not a valid Bayesian likelihood ratio.

          If you think I’m being unreasonable or discourteous by using valid Bayesian reasoning to address the question of whether “the Book of Mormon is an authentic, factual record set in ancient Mesoamerica” rather than using invalid reasoning to address the question of whether “the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient Indian cultures,” then say the word and I’ll respectfully refrain from making any further comments.

          Best,

          Billy

          • No, Billy, the “totality of the evidence” does not point to a 19th century origin for the Book of Mormon.

            Please name me any 19th century work that you think agrees in the details with Coe’s book.

            Then do the analysis we have done. Compare your 19th century work with Coe’s book. Look carefully for positive and negative points of evidence. Weight them if you choose, or not. I think you will not find the agreement that you speculate (without evidence) will be there.

            I am currently (July 14) working my way through all of the past comments. So I have not yet seen your response to my recent post on Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon. It will be interesting to see how you reconcile many, many hundreds of poetic parallelisms in the Book of Mormon with your speculation that it is a 19th century work. That style of (Hebrew) writing is totally foreign to the English writing style of the past several centuries.

            If you are correct about the 19th century origin of the Book of Mormon, I invite you to show me another 19th century work, religious or otherwise, over 500 pages long, that is written using hundreds and hundreds of poetic parallelisms, including chiasms.

            Finally, if you are correct about the Book of Mormon being a 19th century work, why do the two other 19th century works we analyzed, Manuscript Found and View of the Hebrews, compare so badly with The Maya. And why does the Book of Mormon compare so well?

            Simple, Billy.

            The Book of Mormon is an authentic book set in ancient Mesoamerica. Either that or Joseph Smith was the world’s greatest guesser.

            Bruce

      • Billy,
        Getting back to the calendar issue for a moment, based on my multiple readings of Coe’s book and quite a bit of additional study, I think the Maya had both a linear view of time and a cyclical view. It is not an “either/or” proposition as you seem to indicate above.

        It appears to me that the Maya saw time unfolding in patterns that repeated (cyclical view–every baktun of baktuns was one repeating pattern) while traversing a linear path…that is, the Long Count calendar which has a definite starting point a very long time.

        Perhaps a real Mayanist can set us straight on this issue. 🙂

        Bruce

  57. I think evaluating the probability of Joseph Smith’s imagination being the the source for The Book of Mormon by assigning statistical values for items being common with or missing from another book is a very clever idea. But it seems to me these values are assigned pretty much by guesswork and their uncertainties are not considered or evaluated so giving a calculated answer with three significant figures is pretty much meaningless. Maybe all that should be said is that the probability is a small number but the method should be tested. I suggest that it be tested by using The Bible – King James Version – as the other book. I would expect that pretty much all of the items (including horses, chariots, asses, and smelted metals) would get small numbers so we would conclude that Bible cultures are very likely the source of The Book of Mormon. That there are a lot of phrases from the King James Bible that are in the Book of Mormon would seem to support this conclusion.

    • Richard you need to understand what is being compared, the Book of Mormon claims to describe a civilization that existed on the American continent at precise dates. It’s detailed and multifaceted, it cannot randomly match the Bible because all the physical things described are on the wrong continent. The Book of Mormon is specific in lots of areas, some historical. The match with the pre-classic and early classic Maya is detailed and multifaceted, it’s not superficial nor random it’s exact. Both were literate both kept history, now that Maya glyphs can be read we find the history matches, the physical things match, elevated highways, the knowledge of and use of cement, high population density, big cities, buildings covering the whole face of the land, extensive fortifications many of these dating to the 4th century final conflict.

      The Book of Mormon states these things are in the New World, do we find them there? Yes we do,in the Maya area, why there is valuable worth in doing the comparison, in Joseph’s day no one knew the civilization existed, that’s why Joseph was ridiculed for the claims the Book of Mormon made about an ancient culture like this one, the scholars thought it preposterous.

      The Book of Mormon states that in the 4th century the Lamanites and their allies the Gadiantons came against the fortified cities of the Nephites. In the Maya lowlands in the 4th century there was a ‘war of conquest’, it’s described on at least 4 stela at Tikal; Marcador text, it’s referred to as a ‘military conquest’. The year; 378AD the strategic fortified city of Tikal was conquered and a new dynasty installed. The combatants, one Maya faction allied with an army from Teotihuacan in central Mexico against the fortified cities of Maya in the central Peten and across the lowlands. That isn’t the sort of match you can expect building a fiction from the Bible nor from the society familiar to Joseph, there is just massively too much stuff corresponding, the 131 matches in the above article do not exhaust the correspondences but they are more than sufficient to give the likelihood of whether Joseph could make so many unlikely guesses and be so overwhelmingly correct, it’s shown clearly that guessing so much without an accurate source would be impossible, and it’s equally impossible, implausible and daft to think it can be simply explained away.

      • I think that I understand the method of Dale & Dale and think that consideration of uncertainties would make an enormous difference in the number they get and that their method ought to be tested. I’ll go through the steps of their method:

        1) Select two books – Book of Mormon vs Coe (or Spaulding or Smith) (no uncertainty)

        2) Select 149 elements to be compared, many already identified by BoM defenders and a few by critics. There’s a big uncertainty here. (I’m peeved that my favorite word “swords” was not selected.) The uncertainty here could be evaluated by compiling an exhaustive list but I’m skipping this. (I suppose that selecting the words “Jesus Christ” would be inappropriate.)

        3) Assume that these elements come either from Joseph Smith’s imagination or from Mayan peoples living during BoM times. This rules out possibly available printed and folklore sources and the Heartland Model for the location.

        4) Choose an element.

        5) Describe the correspondence in words such as “detailed, specific, and unusual”. There’s a factor of opinion uncertainty here.

        6) Assign a likelihood number 0.02, 0.1, 0.5, 2.0, or 50.0 according to the words. (I’m really peeved that “swords”, mentioned some 30 times in the BoM would get the same likelihood number (50.0) as “chariots” mentioned only 6 times.)

        7) Repeat for all the other elements.

        8) Multiply all the likelihood numbers together and interpret this number as the probability of Joseph Smith’s imagination, not Mayans, being the BoM’s source.

        I’m suggesting that the uncertainty of steps 4) through 8) could be estimated by having someone else besides Dale & Dale perform them. I think I’m reasonable and not daft so I’ll choose myself.

        4) I choose “Buildings of cement” (element 6.16)

        5) – 7) Because Helaman says “houses of cement” and “cities, both of wood and of cement” in a land where “timber was exceedingly scarce” where as Coe describes “plaster, stucco and “concrete-like fill” in association with buildings of stones, I assign the words “negative, detailed, and specific” and a corresponding likelihood number of 50.0. Since Dale & Dale assign a likelihood number of 0.02, there’s an uncertainty factor here of 2500. (Incidentally, I remember reading in an account by explorers of the Southwest wherein dwellings and villages of the Hopi Indians were being described as houses of cement and cities of cement said by them to have been constructed by their distant ancestors and wonder if this might have been in oral or written circulation in Joseph Smith’s time. Step 3) of course would exclude consideration of this.)

        8) Having read through all items, I expect that I’d give pretty much all of them significantly greater likelihood numbers and get an overall likelihood a lot greater than 2.69 x 10^–151.

        As for my proposed test using the King James Bible instead of Coe, I said that I’d expect that pretty much all of the items (including horses, chariots, asses, and smelted metals) would get small numbers so I’d expect a very small overall likelihood number but misstated the conclusion. According to step 3) it should be that it is very unlikely that Joseph Smith’s imagination is the source of all the items – which answer is correct – so the method passes the test! Step 3) prohibits concluding that Joseph adapted information from the KJB to a New World setting.

        RICHARD

        • I think you will find the plaster and stucco Coe refers to is all lime based cement. Same as used on the hundreds of KMs of elevated highways in the Mirador basin between the cities. Dr Richard Hanson in one of his videos taps the 2000+ year old, still smooth, durable surface with his knuckle saying ‘lime cement.’ It’s a hydraulic lime cement which meets the same standard as Portland cement. Stucco is the term used when it’s used for the external surfaces of walls and buildings. One of Dr Hanson’s videos shows them using a big masonry hammer drill to drill into a pyramid at el Mirador. Internal walls is where the term plaster is used. And naturally hydraulic cement, ie adding water sets off a reaction that changes the lime based powder and makes it set like stone, is the key enabling binder used in concrete.

          As for the use of swords in the Book of Mormon there is a good match in ancient Mesoamerica, widely chronicled by the Conquistadores as the most feared weapon was the single and doublehanded native ‘broadsword’, capable of decapitating a horse with a single blow. These weapons can be seen in some variety on Maya stela, some even having curved blades.

          The Heartland model is a poor fit in comparison to Mesoamerica, it lacks the population density, nor does it have evidence of ‘buildings covering the whole face of the land’ that Mormon describes, nor does it have elevated highways between large cities, there are some fortification, but not on the scale the Book of Mormon describes built in the 1st century BC and the 4th Century AD. Nor is there evidence of literacy as in the Maya region with no record nor evidence suggesting a great war of conquest, and the overthrowing of fortified cities in the late 4th century, which is present in the Maya Lowlands and Book of Mormon. Cahokia is lowlands and matches in that respect, but estimated population, even at it’s height in the 13th Century, is low compared to Book of Mormon population descriptions. It’s development is also post Book of Mormon era, being 600AD. With an estimated population of no more than 1000 till around the year 1050 AD, according to studies.

          What we do know about the Book of Mormon, that is conclusive, is that neither Joseph Smith nor any contemporary from the 19th century wrote it. I’ve put that info in a previous post. But basically, scientific studies conclude it had multiple authors, not of the 19th century. What is the actual probability of any 19th C author making sure Nephi used around 600 words that were unique to his writings, and Alma used a different 600 odd words unique to his writings in his portion of the book, and that all the writers used unique words only in their portions? Adapting info from the King James Bible could not account for that. It’s not how it was done.

          • I was thinking that item 6.16 should consider the word “cement” in its context in the BoM wherein it says in some detail, “houses of cement” and “cities, both of wood and of cement” in a land where “timber was exceedingly scarce”. Someone else could consider just any mention in Coe of the word “cement”, or in the context “any old building, pyramid or temple wherein any old form of cement is found” and have the opinion that finding a lot of instances decreases the likelihood of being guessed. I wouldn’t dispute doing this, only point out the uncertainty in likelihood numbers we would get.
            Similarly, for the word “swords”, I note that the BoM mentions “hilts” and iron blades that can rust away whereas others may just consider any old weapon that can lop off heads and arms. We would get different likelihood numbers. And really, how unlikely is it that a person writing about ancient peoples being wiped out in warfare would imagine swords were involved?

    • Richard,
      You are welcome to do this test of the King James version of the Bible versus The Maya. I would be interested in the results.

      But to make it a good comparison with our work, you would have to test claims of fact in both books. For example, the fact that both the Maya and the New Testament had a baptismal rite would count as a positive correspondence, but the fact that precious stones in the Bible are diamonds, pearls and that such precious stones are unknown in Mesoamerica (and unmentioned in The Maya) would count as a negative correspondence..
      Bruce

      • Hi Bruce,

        You said, “For example, the fact that both the Maya and the New Testament had a baptismal rite would count as a positive correspondence, but the fact that precious stones in the Bible are diamonds, pearls and that such precious stones are unknown in Mesoamerica (and unmentioned in The Maya) would count as a negative correspondence.”

        I’m confused on that last part. If the Bible mentions diamonds and pearls but The Maya does not, how can you count that as a negative correspondence? A basic tenet of your methodology that you have repeatedly defended in these comments is that “only statements of fact which are dealt with by both books can be rationally admitted to the analysis; on statements of fact where one or the other book is silent, we cannot factually assume either agreement or disagreement. There is no rational scientific basis for doing so.

        Thanks,

        Billy

        p.s. Pearls were unknown in Mesoamerica? 4 Nephi 1:24

        • This illustrates two problems the paper fails to deal with. The first has been discussed which is the failure to be comprehensive in the comparison and thereby include references from one book that isn’t mentioned in the other in such a manner it fails to identify categorical overlap on the ground the details weren’t the same.

          The other is the widespread use of biblical phrases and comparisons that would make little to no sense to Mayan pre-Christian people’s. Why are the Nephites advised to not cast their pearls before swine? Why are Nephite prophets who never lived in Jerusalem or the Old World able to comprehend the meaning of a parable based on olive arborculture?

          • Honorentheos:
            To help future readers (assuming there are any :)) I would like to offer two points.

            First, let me note my mistake. The Book of Mormon does indeed mention pearls worn as adornment. And so does Dr. Coe in his book The Maya. A point for the Book of Mormon. 🙂

            Second, of course a people will naturally retain ancient cultural and other patterns in their daily life. There is no contradiction about this at all…in fact it is another point in favor of the Book of Mormon. We address this specifically and in detail at the beginning of Appendix A. Here is the relevant material from our article:

            “A few comments must be made on the timing of events with regard to the
            evidence summarized below. Most of the events in the Book of Mormon
            took place from roughly 600 BC through AD 400, that is, mostly the Late
            Preclassic period through the first century or two of the Early Classic.
            The Book of Ether takes place very much earlier.

            Dr. Coe’s book strongly focuses on the Classic (Early, Late and Terminal Classic), so it is fair to ask if the cultural, social, political, etc.,
            information summarized in The Maya is relevant to the Book of Mormon.

            In other words, is it even valid, because of the differing time periods, to
            make many of the comparisons we have made?

            We believe the answer is yes, for three important reasons:
            1. This extended quote from p. 61 of The Maya is critically important here: “The more we know about that period [the Late Preclassic], which lasted from about 400 or 300 BC to AD 250, the more complex and developed it seems. From the point of view of social and cultural evolution, the Late Preclassic really is a kind of ‘proto-Classic’ in which all of the traits usually ascribed to the Classic Maya are present, with the exception of vaulted stone architecture and a high elaboration of calendar and script on stone monuments.”

            Thus the Late Preclassic period, which corresponds to most of the Book of Mormon events, is certainly relevant to the Classic in terms of “social and cultural” features.

            2. Dr. Coe, in his Dialogue article and later in the podcast interviews, claims that based on his knowledge, the Book of Mormon is false. If Dr. Coe can make such an assertion based on his knowledge, then it is certainly reasonable and intellectually rigorous to use the knowledge summarized in Dr. Coe’s book to examine the opposing
            hypothesis, namely that the Book of Mormon is true.

            3. Correlations/congruencies/similarities that occur after the Book of Mormon period are certainly not invalid for that reason alone — far from it.

            We use an alphabet developed by the Phoenicians about 3,000 years ago.
            The major world religions that influence our culture so much today were founded millennia ago.

            Our code of laws comes from English common law, about a thousand years old, which was in turn based on still earlier Roman civil law and Roman Catholic canon law.

            Our numbering system, including the all-important zero, uses Arabic numerals, which were actually derived from Hindu mathematicians working about 1,500 years ago.

            Our division of the day into
            hours and minutes comes to us from ancient Babylon and Egypt.

            The foundations of the modern scientific method go back to the work of the Greek scientist Thales of Miletus, who was active about 2,500 years ago.

            Even our modern three- course meal structure goes back to the Muqaddimah
            of Ibn Khaldun, written 600 years ago.

            One more example that might resonate with someone who names himself Honorentheos. 🙂 We still talk about “going the second mile” as Jesus taught his followers to do when ordered by a Roman soldier to carry his gear for one mile. Everyone understands that anachronism.

            Thus, older cultures and societies definitely leave important marks
            on subsequent societies…this would not exclude olive culture.

            Bruce

      • Bruce,
        For step 2): for items that are found in Coe, I’d restrict myself to your list. For items not found in Coe, I’d also use your list. A lot of items could be considered mostly positive and partly negative and the converse so I’d have to weigh this. I’m saying that I’d expect that I’d assign small likelihood numbers to a lot of them. You’d say O.K. do it and I’d just make excuses because, to tell the truth, I’m lacking in competence and confidence.
        Richard

      • Richard:
        By all means, please go ahead with the analysis you have suggested above. But until you do, and have published it following peer-review, you are just speculating.
        Bruce

    • Richard:
      After all the years I told my students to be careful how many significant figures they used, it is humbling to be reminded of that issue now.

      We only used one significant figure for any individual Bayes factor, so the final calculation can not contain more than one significant figure. Agreed. However, the final calculation can and does contain a lot of orders of magnitude…and it does.

      Bruce

  58. 2.17 Large northward migrations specifically mentioned

    Coe’s standard: “They could have been the Yukateko on their trek north to Yucatan from the Maya homeland” (p. 47). “Old thrones toppled in the south as a new political order took shape in the north; southern cities fell into the dust as northern ones flourished” (p. 174). “The early Colonial chronicles in Yukateko speak of a ‘Great Descent’ and ‘Lesser Descent,’ implying two mighty streams of refugees heading north from the abandoned cities” (p. 177). The Yukateko trek took place many centuries before the Late Classic migration northward, so this kind of thing happened in widely different periods.

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See Alma 63:4‒9; Helaman 3:3‒12.

    Analysis of correspondence: The Book of Mormon speaks repeatedly of the “land northward” as the place where the Nephites could flee or go into to settle. The land northward was where the Nephites made their last stand and were finally destroyed. These northward flights also took place over centuries. This is really a “bull’s eye” for the Book of Mormon: a specific, detailed and unusual correspondence. Likelihood = 0.02.

    My additional notes:
    Note specifically that in at least one case (Helaman 3:3-12) people fled northward as refugees; that is, in order to escape contention and conflict. So, not only did Joseph Smith “guess” correctly that there were multiple migrations that took place over centuries, he guessed correctly that they fled as refugees in at least some cases, and he also guessed correctly the direction of migration-northward.

    Since there are four principal points of the compass (north, east, west and south), it seems that the correct choice of direction was a lucky guess (all by itself) with a 1 in 4 chance of being correct.
    So, commentators.

    What is your personal estimate of the likelihood that Joseph Smith guessed this one correctly? Justify your choice if you wish.

    Bruce

    • Didn’t John Sorenson claim that for the Book of Mormon’s use of the terms north, east, south, and west to make sense, ” the whole directional card must be shifted more than 60 degrees to the west for this model to fit the geography of the chosen area.” (https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2012/from-the-east-to-the-west-the-problem-of-directions-in-the-book-of-mormon)

      If that is the case, then when the Book of Mormon says they were fleeing to the North, it really means they were fleeing to the west. So, the Book of Mormon says they were fleeing to the west but the real Mayans fled to the North, that is a miss.

      I’d score this 1.1.

      Also, according to the FAIR article above, the Mayans used 5 points on the compass–north, east, south, west, and center. The Book of Mormon mentions 4 of them repeatedly, but never the one that was uniquely Mayan–Center. That is another miss. I’d score that one a 2.

      • Thanks for the mention of the FAIR article. However, if you had read it more closely, it argues that the Book of Mormon, even in translation, seems to describe directions that would indicate that our English terms are being derived from Mesoamerican concepts. Coe’s book is written in English, and conforms to English directions. It is incorrect to suggest that because an underlying language or culture is different from that of the target language, that the target language’s culture is necessarily correct.

        Of course, that shifts the argument to the nature of translation and whether or not the Book of Mormon is a translation–but since that it what it claims to be, arguing that it cannot be a translation because of features of the target language is already a tenuous position.

        • Hi Brant,

          Your FAIR article is certainly a much more subtle and challenging piece than the specific argument the Dales are making in correspondence 2.17.

          My comments are focused squarely on the Dales’ argument. The Book of Mormon says that in the year 56 B.C., 5,400 men, plus their wives and children, left Zarahemla and went to the land “Northward.” The people who left were never heard of more, and Zarahemla continued to be a major city and the center of the action.

          Meanwhile, Coe says that “old thrones toppled in the south as a new political order took shape in the north; southern cities fell into the dust as northern ones flourished.” According to Coe, this happened “c. AD 800-925.

          Coe also said, “If we accept the word of the linguists, they could have been the Yukateko on their trek north to Yucatan from the Maya homeland.” According to Coe, this happened around 2500 BC.

          The Book of Mormon talks about people moving “north”, but when the Book of Mormon mentions north, does it mean the same direction as what Coe means by North? The Book of Mormon talks about this happening in the context of an expanding population. Coe talks about this happening in the context of old cities being abandoned. And most clearly, the migrations Coe mentions happen either 2,000 years too early or 1,000 years too late to be the ones the Book of Mormon is talking about.

          Yet this a bull’s eye where the specific, detailed, and unusual details match?

          • That is why there are two types of discussion about this paper. One is statistics, upon which I have no way to comment. The second is about the nature of the comparisons. The problem of any of the comparisons–even the best of them–is that they are subservient to the statistical use of the comparisons. Matching a text with archaeology is much more complicated, and is more properly the subject of books rather than papers.

            As the Dales indicate long, long ago in this thread, the weightings can be changed–their interest was in the statistics.

            What do we do with your question about north/northward? That would depend upon whom you ask. I will have a different answer than my fellow Mesoamerican proponents who prefer the Usumacinta correlation and whose “north” is different from mine.

            The cultural comparisons are important, but (in my opinion) far beyond the intent of the paper. They can, and should be argued, but I don’t see this paper as the place–or the method. It is also a very different question. The paper looks at Coe–uniquely at Coe. That alone limits the scope so tightly that discussions of the correlation between the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerican cultures (it should not be limited to the Maya) is immediately more complex that the comparison of the Book of Mormon to Coe’s book.

            Now, if I really wanted to complicate things, I would note that I believe that Mormon’s description of people moving northward has a literary function that supersedes any historical function… but then that is really a different conversation!

          • Hi Billy:
            Just a comment or two to clarify Brant’s remark that our interest was in the statistics.

            Actually, the statistics itself was not our primary interest. Our primary objective was to examine Dr. Coe’s claim that the Book of Mormon has little to do with ancient Indian cultures. This is the hypothesis we examined.

            Bayesian statistics is simply a convenient tool whereby we start with a defined numerical value of the skeptical prior hypothesis (a billion to one against the Book of Mormon), assign a numerical value to each piece of evidence for and against Coe’s claim and arrive at a posterior hypothesis based on the evidence.

            We accept the universe of facts summarized in Dr. Coe’s book as essentially true and compare the Book of Mormon’s fact claims with the corresponding facts from Coe’s book.

            It is also possible to lay aside the Bayesian approach and not weight any of the evidence. We can simply examine each point of evidence as having the same weight. We thought that was a less rigorous approach.

            So what we are doing now is examining each point of evidence. I will continue with another point of evidence tomorrow.

            In the meantime, I promise to address your points about the time periods of the northward migration (and whether “north” means “north”) after we have brought forward another two or three points of evidence.

            I feel certain you will have something to say about each of these additional points of evidence. In fact, I would be disappointed if you did not. 🙂

            Best wishes,
            Bruce

          • Billy,
            Regarding the issue of migrations and their (lack of?) northward direction, I have a couple of comments.

            Cultural patterns tend to persist. For example, Coe mentions repeatedly how much the Maya culture looked toward and drew from the ancient Olmecs. The Book of Mormon takes place between 600 BC and 421 AD, so it places the northward migrations between the two time periods you mention above–Olmec times and the Classic. In my mind, that makes the northward migrations in the Book of Mormon an even better fit with Coe’s book…not a worse one as you suggest above.

            This quote from page 61 of Coe’s book seems relevant.

            “The more we know about that period [the Late Preclassic], which lasted from about 400 or 300 BC to AD 250, the more complex and developed it seems. From the point of view of social and cultural evolution, the Late Preclassic really is a kind of ‘proto-Classic’ in which all of the traits usually ascribed to the Classic Maya are present, with the exception of vaulted stone architecture and a high elaboration of calendar and script on stone monuments.”

            Thus the Late Preclassic period, which corresponds to the time period of most of the Book of Mormon events, is certainly relevant to the Classic in terms of “social and cultural” features.

            Again, as a cultural phenomenon, the northward migration described in the Book of Mormon certainly fits in with established earlier and later patterns.
            Cultural patterns do tend to persist.

            You may be aware, for example, that from at least the time of the Jebusites, (1700 BC or so) in times of trouble the ancient inhabitants of Jerusalem would hide out in the caves that surround Jerusalem, including the caves that face the Dead Sea near the Qumran community (lots of karst features in that general area).

            https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/judean-desert-caves

            In the Book of Mormon at about 600 BC, Nephi and his brothers apparently hid out in one such cave. About 700 years later on, during the Bar Kokhba revolt, Jews also hid out in such caves (eg, the Cave of Letters).

            So both the Book of Mormon and The Maya speak of this exact same cultural feature persisting over millennia, just as the flight to the caves around Jerusalem persisted among many different peoples.

            As far as “north” perhaps not meaning geographical north, I would point out that the Book of Mormon does not claim to be a record of the Maya. Therefore, you cannot assume that a specialized use of the word “north” among the Maya means the same thing as “north” in the Book of Mormon. There is no basis for such an assumption. In Coe’s book the northward direction of migration is plainly meant as a geographical reference.

            Unless there is very specific information to the contrary, I assume that every word in the Book of Mormon means exactly what it meant in 1830 American English…the language into which the Book of Mormon was translated.

            If we can play fast and loose with the plain meanings of the words, then all the objections to the mention of “chariots”, “horses”, “elephants”, “steel” in the Book of Mormon likewise can go away. Words don’t mean anything. 🙂

            Bruce

          • Hi Bruce,

            Thanks for the reply. I’d rather not get too derailed on this one point because many of the other correspondences are more interesting, but I will offer my thoughts on your message.

            First, I don’t think “northward migration” is an example of the type of social and cultural pattern that persists. If a group of people living in Mesoamerica c. AD 2,500 had a cultural pattern of immigrating to the north that persisted through Book of Mormon times and continued until A.D. 900, by then they would no longer be in Mesoamerica—they’d be in the Arctic Circle. The Book of Mormon mentioning a migration to the north that happened in 56 BC is not a bull’s eye for migrations in The Maya that happened 2,000 years earlier or 1,000 years later.

            Regarding whether “north” means “north”, John Sorenson created a Book of Mormon map that rotated the compass, because according to his analysis, that was required in order to make the internal geography of the Book of Mormon more-or-less fit in the real world. But if you reject his work (or aren’t familiar with it), I’ll drop that point and we can agree that north does in fact mean north.

            Best,

            Billy

  59. Prelude to discussing the correspondences

    As promised, I would like to begin an open discussion of the various correspondences (131 of them) that we have identified between Dr. Coe’s book The Maya, and the Book of Mormon. Dr. Coe has repeatedly claimed that the Book of Mormon “has little to do with early Indian cultures”. We examine that claim in our paper and these 131 correspondences are our response to Dr. Coe.

    If these correspondences between Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon are real and significant, then Dr. Coe is very wrong. The Book of Mormon in fact has a great deal to do with ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures; and not only with their cultures but also with their geographical, military, religious, technological, etc. characteristics.

    Our paper is really about these correspondences. So I am going to lay aside the Bayesian statistics issue for right now, and focus on how convincing (or not) each piece of evidence is to each of the commentators who choose to respond. You choose how likely you think it is that Smith “guessed” a specific correspondence.

    So, I am asking you, dear commentator, to give your own personal assessment of how likely it is that Joseph Smith “guessed” each correspondence. I suggest we limit ourselves to the three different likelihoods that Brian and I used in our paper. These are: 0.5, 0.1 or 0.02, in other words, one in two, one in ten or one in fifty.

    You can also choose 1.0–meaning you think the correspondence has no value at all as evidence. Your choice. You tell us what you think the likelihood is, choose any number you want. Ball in your court, dear friends. 🙂

    If you think Smith didn’t “guess” these correspondences then he must have had a source. So if you think that, please tell us what the source was, and what page of the source you are citing. We have provided page by page citations from the Book of Mormon and Coe’s book to support each correspondence that we have found.

    You do the same. What is the source and the page number so we can check the source for ourselves?

    One observation that may save you time, frustration and eyesight; it comes from Dr. Coe. In one of the Mormon Stories podcasts Dr. Coe states “until [Stephens and Catherwood] went to the Maya area no one knew anything about it.” Stephens and Catherwood visited the Mayan area twice between 1839 and 1842—long before the 1830 publication of the Book of Mormon.

    So you may have trouble finding a source, but please don’t let us stop you from searching.

    If you think that the correspondence was just common knowledge in Smith’s day, then please cite the source (again with the page) that you think supports your claim that that correspondence was common knowledge in Smith’s day.

    Some commentators think we have been arbitrary in our assignment of likelihood ratios. In fact, we have not been arbitrary, and have already discussed above at length how we chose our likelihood ratios.

    But here is your chance to be as arbitrary as you like. No need to justify your choice of likelihood ratios. (But of course you will have more credibility if you do provide reasons—that is only natural).

    You can use 100%, 99.9999999%, 95%, 90%, 50%, 2% or any other number you wish. This number represents your opinion as to how likely it was that Joseph Smith guessed this correspondence.

    So, pick a number, any number you want. How likely do you think it is that Joseph Smith guessed this correspondence?

    If the commentators are willing to actually participate in an orderly discussion of each correspondence, we will eventually get to the correspondences that some may think are weak or nonexistent.

    But for right now, since this is our paper and we have had two weeks of pretty free discussion, I will choose the first twenty or so correspondences we will discuss. After that, I will be happy to discuss, point by point, other correspondences.

    It seems like this is a minimum courtesy that the commentators “owe” the authors. I would treat each of you with that courtesy.

    How about it, ready to discuss the evidence we have provided in the 131 correspondences? Ready to treat our paper with some open-mindedness and professional courtesy (at least)?

    We will start with Correspondence 2.17.

    Firmly yours,
    Bruce

    • Everyone,
      It is July 14, 2019…and I just want to make one point. In the May 19 post above, I invited the commentators to give a source for the information they think Joseph Smith had.

      In the weeks that followed my May 19 post above (see below), you will see that the negative commentators are very reluctant (or flat unable) to give a source for the information that they think Joseph Smith had.

      To repeat, Joseph Smith got a lot of stuff right about the fact claims of the Book of Mormon and the facts summarized in Coe’s book about ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures.

      So if Joseph Smith wasn’t guessing, what was the source of his information?

      Bruce

      • I believe you are conflating two issues here. Your comment above assumes the position Smith was speaking of the Maya and asks, “How else could he have known this fact in Coe other than by divine aid in the authentically ancient text of the BoM?” That’s an assumption that has been taken to task multiple times where the information actually describes in the BoM has been shown to be quite different than what actually occurred among the Maya. All too often you have made use of a word or term choice made by Coe to then bridge the gap between widely varied practises and claim they are highly detailed, unusual and specific matches. It’s frankly astonishing that you persist with this still.

        It’s from that point that a more sincere reader will recognize that you have indeed been presented with multiple examples demonstrating the probability Smith is describing something he invented based on the belief the native Americans were responsible for exterminating a civilization of advanced old world immigrants who were descended from Abraham and Israel. His source was the Bible in combination with wide spread mound builder mythology. He wasn’t describing Maya and it’s dishonest to insist that all comparisons be made to Coe. It suggests you are not tracking just how tenuous most of the correspondences prove to be when looked at beyond the superficial that was apparently your true standard rather than sincerely identifying specific details and features that deserves you descriptions. So, I believe as apologists are wont to say your request has on fact been asked and answered.

  60. Hi Brant,

    I hate to be disrespectful, but you can’t say you know. You don’t know. You believe the evidence makes it likely, and I suppose if I thought the BoM we’re true history it’s where I’d see the better fit as well.

    But it’s also a book with countless problems built on a foundational set of ideas that have been eroded away as we learn more about the universe. There was no Adam, no Eve, no Abraham in the sense the stories told are factual. The story of the Hebrew people is different than was believed in the early 1900s, and the racist idea that the evidence of advanced pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas required Old World migration and culture to be explanation need has crumbled and good riddance to it. The DNA evidence, the statements of past LDS prophets on it that were changed try and make it all not tall apart once B.H. Roberts recognized the facts didn’t fit story…it’s a belief that stretches credulity.

    The Mayan people deserve deep respect for what they accomplished. They don’t deserve trying to copy and paste a Hebrew diaspora onto it to cheapen those accomplishments. I find it offense, quite frankly.

    • Honorentheos, of course I can say I know. In what definition of knowledge does my understanding of what I perceive, internalize, and support would one suggest that I cannot know. My knowing isn’t imperative on anyone else, but it demeans discussion to suggest that when I say I know, you suggest that I cannot because we disagree. Wrong definition of knowing.

      Is the Book of Mormon a book with countless problems? Not the one I read. I read a book that was translated. I am amazed at how many read the text assuming that English was the original language. If you make that assumption, you have already decided it isn’t from history–and therefore necessarily find arguments supporting the pre-established position.

      Your arguments about the racist need for advanced civilizations to have Old World connections is correct–but dated. LDS scholars understood that problem decades ago. I am seeing significantly less of that.

      The DNA evidence? Making that statement tells me that you have accepted a particular argument–and haven’t followed the issues. Before DNA, blood-type evidence told us that the Book of Mormon peoples weren’t unique progenitors of all Native Americans. It was, in the scholarly community, a dead issue before it was raised.

      Unfortunately, most of your statements would have been really good arguments fifty years ago. Currently, they are far behind the field.

      • Hi Brant,

        I wouldn’t argue that a person lacks knowledge because I happen to disagree with them. I would, however, argue that a person lacks knowledge and is instead substituting that term in for belief when they are describing a supposition arrived at through their review of the evidence but which view is hardly uncontroversial. It’s difficult to accept you have knowledge of a thing for which no professional mesoamerican specialist in archeology with whom I’m familiar would acknowledge is broadly accepted as fact. I know the common argument is this is due to lack of concern or knowledge of the Book of Mormon on the part of non-lds researchers but frankly, we’re the BoM to prove useful in predicting discoveries or informing questions that weren’t easily answered as occurred with interpreting the glyphs once modern Mayan languages went from an idea to essential, then it would be. No one is going to ignore a source that proves successful in informing that research once it proves it’s value. The issue is it only works in reverse, with the research being used to identify and claim parallels such as the discussion here is apparently moving to.

        • We don’t need to argue epistemology. You are not in a position to know what I know. Declaring that I cannot know it is strange. That you do not know professional Mesoamerican specialists who agree with the Book of Mormon does not mean that they do not exist. They do. However, you qualified it with what you knew. I can’t argue with that. You had a certain realm of knowledge. I have a different one. I do know the professional Mesoamericanists I cited. I agree that there are not as many, but I disagree that the only definition of knowledge is a statistical average of any group. Professionals didn’t believe Knorozov at first. That didn’t mean he was wrong (he wasn’t).

          In history, it often happens that we don’t get new documents, sometimes not even new archaeological finds, and knowledge is advanced because someone sees something that had not been seen before.

          You are correct that (after a time–rarely immediately, and often decades later) information that is successful in informing research will be recognized. In this case, the Mesoamerican world is successful in informing the Book of Mormon. Since most of us don’t suggest that the cultural influence went from the smaller population to the larger–it will be a while before Mesoamericanists find any reason to see their work differently–even though the Book of Mormon fits will into that context.

        • Honorentheos:
          Sorry I missed commenting on this post before now, but this opportunity is just too good to pass up. 🙂

          You apparently believe that scientific/objective truth is established by the consensus of the “experts” at the time. Therefore you say that something has to be “broadly accepted as fact” before we can take it seriously.

          That is just plain nonsense. Accepting your point of view would put an end to all scientific progress.

          For example, Max Planck and Albert Einstein engaged in a very long, sometimes heated discussion about Planck’s work (in the late 1800s and first part of the 1900s) that led to the development of quantum theory.

          At its roots, quantum theory seems truly wacky. Einstein didn’t like the wacky part, and resisted it on those grounds, rather than the evidence. Decades later, as the evidence accumulated, Einstein finally accepted wacky quantum theory.

          Yet wacky or not, quantum mechanics is how subatomic particles actually behave. You wouldn’t have a cell phone if quantum mechanics did not accurately describe the subatomic world.

          However, the established or consensus viewpoint about the physical world among physicists in the late 1800s was the Newtonian viewpoint. There is no room at all for quantum effects in Newtonian mechanics.

          Eventually Planck was vindicated and won the Nobel Prize as the weight of the evidence in favor of quantum mechanics overcame the resistance ( or more likely, as the recalcitrant physicists just died off).

          Regarding that fact, Planck once quipped “Science advances one funeral at a time”. More fully, what he meant was “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

          Well, I could give a lot more examples about the “scientific consensus” of the time being dead wrong–from Thales of Miletus to Richard Feynman. But that might be boring and risk being pedantic.

          In real science, Honorentheos, only evidence matters, not opinion. And an opinion held without examining the evidence is, according to J.B.S. Haldane, simply a prejudice.

          We have summarized a lot of evidence that supports the claim that the Book of Mormon is an authentic record set in ancient Mesoamerica. Brian and I invite everyone to examine the evidence.

          Bruce

          • Hi Dr. Dale,

            I just noticed this reply. Since the reply was a few weeks behind the original I feel it’s ok to reply late as well.

            I wouldn’t conflate scientific consensus with objective truth as is implied. That isn’t relevant to noting that being at odds with the scientific consensus view requires a compelling argument and extraordinary evidence. As you note, opinion doesn’t matter. And has been demonstrated repeatedly, this paper could have benefited from a bit more rigour in defining and sorting the evidence, and significantly less opinion. So, point taken I suppose.

  61. Doesn’t the way book of mormon society was organized, as described by you above, also resemble European society, known to Joseph Smith? They had various Kings over various areas and Napolean was trying to be King over all. The Eurpoeans and Americans built roads for trade. America at the time had big cities such as Boston and New York and smaller cities/towns surrounding them. This is how humans seem to organize. So, it doesn’t seem all that remarkable that Joseph Smith had his characters organized in this fashion or that there are similarities with the Maya. There are also similarities with many civilizations.

    • The fact that there are superficial resemblances with any culture that has cities (and I don’t know of cities without trade) suggests that we can’t skim the Book of Mormon for connections to either the Maya or to New York. We also cannot stop at the concept of cities or villages, because it is true that they are represented in many locations. There are other indicators, and focusing on simple connections misses the more important, and more unique connections.

      Carefully examining the text for these complex interactions is a long way away from the statistical approach of the paper, so I won’t go into them. However, because I have have seen them (and written about them elsewhere), I also cannot allow a simple suggestion of a possibility stand as any kind of objection to the paper.

      • But doesn’t this go to the subjective assignment of likelihood ratios? If I see something as connecting to the Maya but it also connects to many other societies, there may be a “hit” but the guessing probability or random coincidence probability must rise, especially if I am surrounded by a society that fits the alleged “hit.” More than likely, at least, or highly likely, I obtained the narrative from my surroundings and it is just a coincidence that it also agrees with the Maya. I think this is a problem with the paper just limiting itself to a comparison with the Maya. It may very well be that there are “hits,” but if these “hits” are also found in Joseph’s surroundings, what value are the comparisons?

        • It might speak of some of the particulars they looked at. It doesn’t dismiss the type of analysis, nor the issue that there are correlations that are stronger than those they examined. I can’t deal with the statistical reasoning. I can look at the connections between the Book of Mormon and a particular culture, and since those are stronger than those presented, unless there is a problem with the math–the case is better than presented.

  62. Honorentheos the Book of Mormon describes centralized governments, the Lamanites had Kings over cities and associated lands and a King over all. The Nephites had similar, the Nephite cities in the land of Zarahemla were under that central polity, they built elevated highways between the cities and lands as we see with the pre-classic Maya. These highways were essential to trade. The Nephites classified also the land of Bountiful and the land Northward as lands possessed by them. The Land Northward being accessed also by ships, as we see being the case with the ancient Maya with the northern land of Yucatan with trading ports around its coast and the unique class of Maya who traded by sea. In the pre-classic this distribution of common civilization can be seen in the common religion with the triadic temples built in all those locations, all believed associated with the Maize god, his sacrifice journey through the underworld, resurrection and ascension to heaven according to a 2014 study. Naturally no pre-classic triadic temples have been found in the big polity in the southern highlands.

    Nephite cities were interconnected exactly the same way lowland Maya cities were interconnected. It can be seen in the highway system and the massive fortifications, both indicating a centralized government. Even the ditch and rampart system is the same, a precise match: For example:

    “Among the most startling discoveries was a large fortress complex now called La Cuernavilla. Built on a steep ridge between the Maya cities of El Zotz and Tikal, the heavily fortified site included high walls, moats, watchtowers, and caches of round stones that likely served as ammunition for warriors’ slings. It is the largest defensive system ever discovered in the region, “and possibly in all of the ancient Americas,” says Stephen Houston, a Brown University archaeologist and Maya scholar.
    “This was surprising,” says Houston, “because we had a tendency to romanticize Maya warfare as something that was largely ritualized and concentrated toward the end of the civilization. But the fortifications we’re seeing now suggest an elevated level of conflict over centuries. Rulers were so deeply worried about defense that they felt the need to invest in all these hilltop fortifications. There is an almost palpable sense of fear in this landscape.”
    “… the survey revealed the long-hidden ruins of a sprawling pre-Columbian civilization that was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed.”

    National Geographic. Tom Clynes March 2019.

    So Honorentheos I don’t get why you are again saying these civilizations don’t match when so plainly they do.

    • Hi Mark, that may be, or it may be seeing faces in the clouds. But so far making just on open calculation of a likelihood ratio originally claimed to be evidence for the BoM describing authentic Mayan society turned out to be halfway to overcoming the calculated results of the paper. It doesn’t look like that’s a real bunny smiling ng down at you from the clouds. But maybe. Maybe a book that more closely describes a simplistic frontier Christianity likely common among the people in early 19th c. upstate New York than the modern Mormon religion will turn out to be a true ancient account written by a person living in the early classic period of the Maya. Who knows?

      • Who knows? I do. Of course, since that is a declaration of faith it doesn’t count for a lot. However, I have spent a long time looking at the clouds. The difference between the brain’s visual capacity to create information differs from seeing an actual pattern when the pattern persists. If we see a bunny in the clouds and look away, it is rare to see the bunny again. If, however, you see a pattern in a trompe l’oeil, once you see the pattern you cannot unsee the pattern.

        The patterns that I see in the Book of Mormon are comple, and create connections between specific geographies and specific events. Certain cultural artifacts occur in the Book of Mormon right when those same cultural issues are present in the target region. Events in the Book of Mormon make better sense against a specific culture and time. The movement of the story through time changes certain elements–and those correspond to the movement of events through time in the target region. The known movement of certain people in the region correspond in time, cause, and result with the Book of Mormon. The presence of a regional drought is now scientifically correlated to the time when the Book of Mormon says there was a regional drought. The final demise of the Nephites has an explanation in that particular area for that particular time–explaining why it did not occur earlier (or later).

        Those are too specific an interrelated set of dots that make a pattern that I cannot unsee. It is nothing like a bunny in a cloud.

  63. So our totals are: 10 attempts if we exclude 4 Nephi and Ether, with Mosiah and 3 Nephi being the only hits for H2 while we have 8 hits for H1.

    But what of the probability question? How do we define our (p)s on this question? To be consistent, if we argue that under H1 the probability is based on how our known and assumed 19th c. authors behaved, we could go back to saying it’s a 2 for 3 (BoM and MF) with p1=0.67. And our H2 Mormon author representing the probability that an authentic Mayan would contradict Coe given the methodology? Still seems like 1 in 22,000,000 or p2(0.0000000454545).

    We have this for our probabilities under each hypothesis:

    p1 = 0.67

    p2 = 0.0000000454545

    Since we had ten attempts:

    n!=10

    x1 = 8

    x2 = 2

    So, on to the maths:

    LR = (0.67^8*(1-0.67)^2) / (0.0000000454545^8*(1-0.0000000454545)^2) = (0.1089*0.33)/ (1.8222798756396637381449446161651e-59*0.999999909) = (0.035937/1.8222797098121950549355444449751e-59) = 1.97209022E57

    Based on this one single item, the likelihood ratio for H1 over H2 when it comes to the hypothesis that the BoM is more likely the result of a 19th c. author attempting to describe Mayan governmental organization compared to an authentic Mayan source is 1.97209022E57 to one.

    That looks pretty bad. I think your skeptical prior was way, WAY off.

    The same methods could be used to look at the LR caused by both the BoM and VotH describing coinage but The Maya not, or including the practice of the Law of Moses. We could use it to figure out how meaningful the absence of important features of Mayan society ought to weight in such as jade or cocoa. It’s all goofy math and anyone impressed by your results should see why now. But if we want to play this game, it will get stupid very very quickly and not likely to go in your favor.

    Anyway, I congratulate you both on your paper. I hope it remains relevant to the discussion on the BoM for years to come.

    • Honorentheos,
      As I have done before with other commentators, I invite you to actually perform the analysis you suggest above, and then publish the results, as we have done.

      The analysis you suggest, however, is not the one we have done. Thus it is irrelevant to this discussion. It would help the discussion advance if you would confine yourself to relevant topics…and avoid the kind of unfounded speculation you describe (in totally awesome detail) above. 🙂

      Bruce

      • To the contrary, the analysis I demonstrated is what you should have done. It takes the highly arbitrary decisions in choosing and weighing correspondences and defines the maths behind them explicitly. It is overwhelming representative of how a legitimate attempt to apply Bayesian inference to the question of BoM historicity narrowly compared to the Maya would play out. The description of the people in the BoM speaking Hebrew alone makes the probability the BoM is describing the Maya infinitely unlikely.

  64. Since you argue that this would be more likely to benefit the “credulous” evidence, let’s start with 1.1 then, and see.

    Let’s start with the same process, same hypotheses.

    H1) The BoM was authored by a person or people in the 19th c. CE attempting to create a believable origin story for the Native Americans relying on common myths and beliefs of their time with limited access to reliable prehistory of the Americas.

    and

    H2) The BoM is the result of the translated, compiled history of multiple authors initially completed around the 4th c. CE by a person living within a Mayan culturally influenced or influencing society.

    The data we are considering from The Maya was that, “It was clear that there had never been (an ‘Old Empire’). In it’s stead, Mayanists proposed a more Balkanized model, in which each ‘city state’ was essentially independent of all the others;…the distance from the capital to the polity’s borders seldom exceeding a day’s march.”

    Our job, once again, is to consider if “within the framework of a statistical model, a particular set of data supports one statistical hypothesis better than another if the likelihood of the first hypothesis, on the data, exceeds the likelihood of the second hypothesis”.

    We already know The Maya is going to match The Maya. But what about the BoM? As I’ve noted in these comments, they describe the Lamanites being governed by a single king. They describe the Nephites as being governed by a single king or a chief judge at different points in their history. There are moments when they divide up and we have the City of Zarahemla under King Mosiah, King Noah elsewhere, the people of Ammon, and other splinter groups. But the narrative usually describes these as contentious times, and when they are united they are under central rule. At the end of the Nephite civilization, Mormon is the head of all their armies fighting against a Lamanite king who heads their people. The fighting goes from city to city, land to land, tens of thousands are killed, and it sounds largely like two major peoples are fighting against one another as it’s described in the BoM.

    That’s certainly not an exact match. So how do we go about this one? Understanding that with likelihood ratios the hypotheses can change but the data must hold, I guess we need to change our H’s and evaluate the data to see how likely one H is over the other H.

    Hmmm. How about this?

    H1) The BoM describes primarily two peoples who most often lived under a form of central government, in contrast with how The Maya describes Mayan political government.

    and

    H2) H1) The BoM primarily matches the description in The Maya describing multiple polities centered on single cities with a king over them who are largely Balkanized, non-centralized peoples primarily united by common ancestry and similar cultures.

    This may be more like your dice rolling example. We could go through the BoM and find every mention of the government and determine if it supports H1 or H2. What we absolutely shouldn’t do is take the lack of a single word and claim that lack of a single word shows the hypothetical author in H2 would have had to have specific, detailed, unusual knowledge of the Mayan people. Good thing no one here did that, right?

    Let’s shorthand the discussion for the sake of brevity and this not being a scientific paper but just an exercise in bias confirmation and break it down by books instead. 1 and 2 Nephi? Kings over both. That’s a hit for H1. Jacob? Still the Nephi’s serving as a king over the Nephite people. The Lamanites are not as clear but they are a people. That has to go to H1 as well. The Jarom-Omni books are H1. Nephite people fighting Lamanite people. Mosiah could be said to go for H2 so that three hits for H1, one hit for H2. Alma? Chief judge, King of the Lamanites…definitely a hit for H1. Helaman? H1. 3 Nephi? Hmm. Anarchy could be for H2 so let’s go that direction. That’s five for H1, two for H2. 4 Nephi is unusual as it describes a condition that didn’t exist among the Maya – universal peace and communism. But it also makes the weird claim that after three hundred years they go back to being Lamanites and Nephites because…? I’m excluding this chapter because it doesn’t fit either hypothesis. Mormon, as mentioned above, is a hit for H1 as it described both a king over the Lamanites and Mormon is the leader of the Nephite armies. Ether gets excluded because it is not purported to be in the same period as the Mayans…well, yeah technically since it overlaps with Mosiah it would cover about 100 years but why run up the score? It’s out. Last of all, Moroni. Chapter 9 is the clearest evidence that both the Lamanites and Nephites were considered centralized peoples. That’s also a hit for H1.

  65. Moving on and working with the definition for the Law of Likelihood, “within the framework of a statistical model, a particular set of data supports one statistical hypothesis better than another if the likelihood of the first hypothesis, on the data, exceeds the likelihood of the second hypothesis” we can say without doing the maths that yes, our data set supports H1 being more likely than H2. But by how much?

    Here we have many, many problems that are inherent with your approach which has treated the Bayesian inference like so many rolls of a dice. We aren’t rolling dice numerous times. We’re looking at the Book of Mormon, comparing it to The Maya, and either finding a hit or a miss. How does one go about determining the results obtained in the analysis other than either a binary 1 or 0? I think so long as we’re stuck with your method, we’re stuck with that one attempt and the binary result.

    So, looking at the Maya and finding Hebrew was not spoken, we obtain 1 from 1 attempt. The Maya matches itself. Who would have thought? Looking to the Book of Mormon for the claim they spoke Hebrew we find they did, which is a miss compared to the data in what should be an increasingly obviously farcical exercise. Playing along, we obtain a zero from one attempt.

    Plugging in the numbers, we have this for our likelihood ratio or LR:

    p1 = 0.67

    p2 = 0.0000000454545

    D1 = 1

    D2 = 0

    LR = (0.67^1*(1-0.33)^0) / (0.0000000454545^1*(1-0.0000000454545)^0) = (0.67/0.0000000454545) = 14,740,014.74

    Based on this one single item, the likelihood ratio for H1 over H2 when it comes to the author claiming the Mayans spoke Hebrew is essentially 15 million to one.

    Cont –

  66. In response to a comment further up but possibly buried, this is for Dr. Brian Dale –

    Hi Dr. Dale,

    Thank you for the response. I’m sure there is a sense on your and your father’s parts that constraining the likelihood ratios was an act of generosity. Perhaps it is, perhaps it’s just another of multiple issues with the selection and application of the methodology used. I think this may provide an opportunity to explore that question if you’re willing.

    Let’s take the governor off, so to speak, and have the math done out in the open in the comments. Perhaps for the sake of transparency we can treat this one question as one where we are interested in comparing two hypotheses:

    H1) The BoM was authored by a person or people in the 19th c. CE attempting to create a believable origin story for the Native Americans relying on common myths and beliefs of their time with limited access to reliable prehistory of the Americas.

    and

    H2) The BoM was authored by multiple people over centuries and complied around the 4th c. CE by a person living within a Mayan culturally influenced or influencing society.

    We’re also need to acknowledge we are working with the data set in regards to identifying the language of the Maya per your methodology. It’s a bit choppy right out of that gate for that reason given the data (D) is limited to what Coe has to say, but you did do H1 a favor of sorts: You ACTUALLY reviewed two documents that were penned in the 19th c. CE that made similar attempts to what H1 hypothesizes was the aim of the BoM. Of those (View of the Hebrews and Manuscript Found), View of the Hebrews describes the people as speaking Hebrew while the other goes for a different Old World language but not Hebrew. Given our data set, we must assume the probability for an author attempting to describe the original parents of the Native Americans speaking Hebrew is 1 in 2 or (p1)=0.5.

    We could change H1 and H2 to expand the language question to those of old world origin, which would truly be running up the score against the BoM (View of the Hebrews = Hebrew; MF = Latin, BoM = Hebrew & Egyptian) if we really wanted to make Dr. Coe’s point with prejudice. It would give us a 100% hit rate and that would be catastrophic for your aims. But let’s stick with the Hebrew for now.

    Our data set on the other side is The Maya. Does the Maya describe the Mayan peoples speaking Hebrew or gives any evidence that the language they spoke has Hebrew or Egyptian roots? No. It’s speaks of Proto-Mayan with the language branch graphic showing how modern Mayan languages arose out of it but that’s it. That’s (p2)=0. No Hebrew, no Egyptian. Our data set tells us there is no instance, and therefore zero probability, of a Mayan claiming to speak Hebrew, Egyptian, or claim Mayan languages have their roots in those languages which is what the BoM claims. (And anyone who put their pen down right here is spot on in doing so.)

    For those still thinking we need to do the maths and anxiously hold their pens to the ready, we’ll keep going I guess.

    Lacking any outside data or objective means of determining probabilities, our p1(19th c. author claiming Old World Language) = 0.5.

    Realistically, our p2(Ancient Mayan Author) = 0.0. It’s impossible that an ancient Mayan would claim to have spoken languages they never encountered or heard of and isn’t attested in our chosen data set of Coe’s book. Maybe it’s possible in the same way there is a set of infinite monkeys typing on infinite typewriters could compose the works of Shakespeare but that’s not the intent of this exercise and doesn’t change much anyway.

    So, now what does the Book of Mormon say? Does it describe the people speaking Hebrew? I’ve argued yes and that the last instance of this claim is from Mormon showing this extends to the very end of claimed Nephite history. There are those here who say the language used shows the language has evolved from Hebrew to something that a native Hebrew speaker wouldn’t understand. Ok. But it’s still Hebrew. It’s not proto-Mayan, no one outside of the LDS world is finding proto-American languages have roots in the middle east, it’s derived from Hebrew and Mormon knew it was Hebrew if claiming it was so evolved no one else in the world could understand their language. (Which, BTW, is another of those points that one should ask, “How likely is a native Mayan who never saw the Old World to say this compared to an author in the 19th c. attempting to write a story about biblical migrations to the Americas? But that is a digression…)

    Moving on and working with the definition for the Law of Likelihood, “within the framework of a statistical model, a particular set of data supports one statistical hypothesis better than another if the likelihood of the first hypothesis, on the data, exceeds the likelihood of the second hypothesis” we can say without doing the maths that yes, our data…

  67. Honorentheos, Billy Shears, et al,
    Let’s summarize some of the discussion thus far.

    Dr. Coe has claimed that the Book of Mormon is false; it has nothing to do with ancient American Indian cultures. The purpose of our paper was to test his claim using the evidence he has summarized about ancient Mesoamerica in his book The Maya.

    We showed that Dr. Coe is really, really wrong.

    There are at least 131 separate points of evidence where the Book of Mormon makes fact claims that compare well with facts cited in Coe’s book.

    We evaluate these corresponding fact claims using a well-established and widely-used statistical methodology: Bayesian analysis. In our Bayesian analysis, we employ a very large skeptical prior and three different strengths of evidence chosen from the technical literature. We also use sensitivity analysis to examine the robustness of our conclusions.

    In all sensitivity analyses, the very large skeptical prior is reversed and becomes a much larger positive posterior. The positive posterior hypothesis is that the Book of Mormon is factual and that it has very strong religious, geographical, technological, cultural, military, etc. roots in ancient Mesoamerica.

    Some commentators have suggested that any real or fictional ancient world would fare just as well in the kind of comparison we have done between the Book of Mormon and Dr. Coe’s book The Maya.

    Well, we have already made just that comparison for two books purporting to represent ancient Indian cultures written about the same time as the Book of Mormon was published. These two books are View of the Hebrews (not deliberate fiction) and Manuscript Found (pretty awful fiction, but written as if it were fact).

    Both of these books fail the test these commentators have proposed. We compared both of them with The Maya. They fail miserably to match the world of ancient Mesoamerica as described in The Maya and the Book of Mormon.

    So, if you believe that any imaginary world (or a real ancient world) would compare just as well with the world described in Coe’s book as does the Book of Mormon, by all means go ahead and prove it.

    Prove your case. Do the work. Read the books you have selected enough times so that can identify the fact claims. Count both the positive and negative correspondences between the fact claims of the book of your choice and The Maya. Weight these correspondences (or not). Use Bayesian statistics (or not). Just count the evidences for and against your hypothesis, if you so choose.

    I will be happy to help you in your investigation: I will buy a copy of The Maya for anyone who wishes to do the work necessary to compare the fact claims of The Maya with those any other book of your choice.

    We have answered the objections ad nauseam. Our statistical methodology is neither flawed nor arbitrary, as some have claimed without evidence. Our Bayesian methodology is based largely on the 1995 Kass and Raftery paper. We use the likelihood ratios given for the midpoint of the ranges of the three principal strengths of evidence that Kass and Raftery cite.

    If you have issues with their paper, or the various Bayesian strengths of Bayesian likelihoods that it lays out, take it up with Kass and Raftery or with the many thousands of scientists and statisticians who have cited their paper as authoritative.

    If you don’t want to take the Bayesian methodology seriously (or you want to avoid the necessary work—my null hypothesis regarding the motivations of some of the commentators), you can just lay Bayesian statistics aside for right now and simply compare the numbers of positive and negative correspondences: our 131 positives versus 6 negatives cited in Coe’s book (12 more negatives if you add in non-peer reviewed sources such as the Dehlin podcasts and the 1973 Dialogue article).

    That math isn’t hard to do, is it?

    Objections to our paper and its conclusions have been raised and answered and re-raised and re-answered, and re-re-raised and re-re-answered over the past two weeks since the paper has been published.

    I am not going to answer them again. I will not repeat myself any more on these points. Instead, whenever I feel like it, I am simply going to write “Answered previously, vide supra”.

    As long as Interpreter is willing to host this discussion, from this point onward I am going to discuss the evidence. I hope others will join me in focusing on the evidence.

    As we examine the evidence, I think it will clarify why Billy Shears is wrong. Our methodology is not biased toward selecting for agreement, as Billy claims.

    Instead, we are simply interested in finding out where the Book of Mormon and The Maya have something specific to say about a particular topic…and then evaluating whether the whether the Book of Mormon lines up with the facts as stated in The Maya.

    So we are going to talk about the evidence (at least I am), since most of the critical commentators…

  68. Respondeat Superior if you want to make sense of a Hebrew record using an Egyptian script you need to know that the people who recorded on the brass plates were descendants of Joseph who was a governor of Egypt only second to Pharaoh. One would expect both he and his descendants to be fluent in Egyptian scripts. It’s also not unheard of in the archaeological record.

    The Nephites were in the new world almost 1,000 years and it’s hard to imagine that their language would not have changed. After only 300 years or so in isolation the language of the people of Zarahemla had become corrupted eg:

    Omni 1:17 … and their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator; and Mosiah, nor the people of Mosiah, could understand them.
    18 But it came to pass that Mosiah caused that they should be taught in his language.

    There is an extraordinary amount of literature and other stuff that helps keep the English language stable, yet even going back 400years it’s quite different, the 1611 version of the King James Bible is a good illustration, difficult to read compared to the later revised editions of the KJBible as we now have it. Going further back to earlier English the amount of alteration makes reading very difficult and understanding the spoken word probably more difficult again if you could understand it at all.

    Mormon and Moroni would be aware of changes in language because the records they had from earlier times would reveal it to them. What language Mormon’s people spoke was probably far removed from what Lehi and Nephi spoke, which is what should be expected, using the evolving of English as a guide.

    • On the topic of this paper, which appears likely? A 4th c. CE Mayan author describing their language as Hebrew, if corrupted writing in a form of Egyptian? Or a 19th c. author trying to write a story about a Hebrew migration to the Americas describing it that way? Add in that author claims to have an authentic ancient record that they may not want others to see or have to prove is written in an ancient language, what is the likeliness ratio of an ancient author compared to this 19th c. author having written what’s said in the BoM?

      The decision to not independently identify the aspects of Mayan society and culture and then evaluate the likelihood of each hypothesis question in relation to watch including the impacts of the source being silent on a topic is misuse of the methodology. As noted up thread, the approach taken and results are a great model providing insight into how an apologetic mind perceives the issues and evidence. But what it’s not is a defensible, rigorous or appropriate application of Bayesian analysis.

      • “… the approach taken and results are a great model providing insight into how an apologetic mind perceives the issues and evidence.”

        Honorentheos, the approach you have taken is a great model providing insight into how a devout sceptics mind perceives the issues and evidence, when the results, legitimate as they are, are altogether unacceptable to him.

        You must know there are 12 strong credible witnesses that have testified to having seen the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.

        It isn’t part of this study, but you bring it up anyway to promote your unacceptance of the clear data. “Add in that author claims to have an authentic ancient record that they may not want others to see or have to prove is written in ancient language, what is the likeliness ratio of an ancient author compared to this 19th C author having written what’s said in the BoM?”

        Seeing you asked the question and modern science again has already answered it in other studies I’ll put the answer here: Continued…

        • Continued …

          Of all the theories on who wrote the Book of Mormon by far the worst most impractical and impossible is to suggest any author from the 19th century authored the book.
          Computer analysis such as ‘wordprint’, ‘Voiceprint’, ‘Stylometry’ and vocabulary studies, used to identify authors, has been used to compile data on language peculiar to each of the fifteen books comprising the Book of Mormon. Comparing the writing with writings from Joseph Smith and contemporaries, such as Sidney Rigdon, Orson Pratt, Solomon Spaulding and others.
          In 1982 Wayne A. Larsen and Alvin C. Rencher, released their research using Wordprint analysis.
          “… a method of determining idiosyncratic subconscious patterns in the writings of any author,(something as individual and identifiable as finger prints) they conclude that (1) the Book of Mormon was written by many authors, and that (2) no Book of Mormon passages resemble the writing of any of the commonly suggested nineteenth-century authors.”
          They concluded; “The Book of Mormon itself offers the strongest evidence for a clear scientific refutation of the theories that it was written in the nineteenth century.” (Who Wrote the Book of Mormon? An Analysis of Wordprints.)

          Similar studies using different forms of analysis have come to the same conclusion.

          Did you know that Alma, in the book of Alma used around 600 words in his writings that no other author in the whole Book of Mormon used, same with Nephi and his books, how did Joseph pull that out of a hat? While he was dictating. Why would Joseph even think to do that?

          It is plainly evident that not one, two or three, but many people participated in writing the Book of Mormon. And that the style of all 19th century writers tested, though varying from each other, clustered as a group away from the cluster representing various authors in the Book of Mormon. The scientific evidence supports the remarkable testimony given by Joseph Smith and the eleven witnesses.

          What you suggest, that Joseph Smith made it all up as part some sort of elaborate scam is clearly impossible.

          People deserve to hear the truth.

  69. Hi Bruce,

    Thanks for the response and for your generous offer to purchase a copy of The Maya. For now I’m going to decline your invitation, because at the moment I’m more interested in understanding your Bayesian reasoning.

    So, I’d like to keep my comments focused on the actual arguments you made in the paper. Setting aside whether I think your methodology, selection of evidence, and weighting of evidence was flawed, lets review your methodology to make sure I understand what you are trying to do.

    In your paper, you tested the null hypothesis that “the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction” against the converse hypothesis that “the Book of Mormon is fact-based and essentially historical.“ To test this, you used a Bayesian approach. In your words, “In the Bayesian approach, the strength of each piece of evidence is the likelihood ratio, which is the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is true divided by the probability of the evidence assuming that the hypothesis is false.” (“hypothesis” in this quote is referring to the null hypothesis—that the BOM is a work of fiction). Thus, likelihood ratios less than one are evidence that the BOM is historical, and likelihood ratios greater than one are evidence that the BOM is fictional.

    You then said, “Once we have chosen the likelihood of guessing correctly about each individual fact, we then multiply the likelihoods of guessing right about each of these specific facts. The number obtained by multiplying all the individual likelihoods together is the strength of the total body of evidence that whoever wrote the Book of Mormon was guessing about these fact claims.

    Thus the overall Bayes factor or likelihood ratio is the weighted strength of the evidence, and it tells us how much we should change our prior beliefs based on the new evidence.”

    When you applied your methodology to View of the Hebrews, you found 15 positive correspondences and 9 negative correspondences. When you multiplied all of the likelihood ratios together, you came up with “the weighted strength of the evidence” being 0.0156. This means that in aggregate, we have “strong evidence” that the View of the Hebrews “is fact-based and essentially historical.”

    This is your methodology and your numbers, including your explicit definition of what the term “strong evidence” means. Right?

  70. To continue by using the language analogy, it doesn’t make sense to cap the likelihood an authentic Mayan would describe the language they spoke as Hebrew at 1 in 50. That implies that in a city of 50,000 people, 1000 of them would mistaken describe the language they spoke as being Hebrew. Intuitively that likelihood alone could be orders of magnitude over the limit. Could a person ask a billion Mayan people what language they spoke before one mistakenly said it was Hebrew? One billion billion? Would any Mayan person even have the ability to make that error in the time period when Mormon was supposedly writing?

    Conversely, if one were to ask what language a 19th century author might guess a group of Hebrews who migrated to the Americas would have spoken Hebrew even after almost 1000 years since the migration its intuitively much more likely. Would it be 1 in every 2 such authors? More? Fewer? Either way it’s orders of magnitude more likely than that an authentic Mayan author would have described Hebrew as their language.

    Yet the paper apparently excluded this because language wasn’t included as a correspondence despite both books describing what they believe is the language spoken. If we take the paper at face value, we also ought to have assumed Coe was correct worth a s description.

    • The problem with saying that the Book of Mormon reports that it uses Hebrew is that the only thing is specifically says about Hebrew is that it isn’t written in Hebrew. It starts talking about Egyptian, and ends with reformed Egyptian (without any indication of what that means). If we use normal processes of human interaction, there is little likelihood that either Hebrew or Egyptian would have been the spoken language. I wouldn’t see the absence of language as a correspondence as a problem at all. In fact, I see the particular locations of languages in Mesoamerica as a plus.

      I wonder if we are no longer arguing over a statistical question, and one of comparative methodologies. If that is so, then it is reasonable to create some standards for comparisons. That can have an affect on the statistics, but it also requires more care in suggesting that the comparisons have to invalidate the statistics–when there is no qualitative model for the comparisons.

      • Brant:

        I don’t think you have it quite right when you attempt to minimize the use of hebrew among Moroni’s people. Moroni says this in Mormon 9:32-33:

        “32 And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.

        33 And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record.”

        Why does Moroni say that there would not have been imperfections in the record if they used the altered hebrew? It seems that he says this because the people supposedly still spoke hebrew in an altered form, according to the book. Also, Moroni knew that the hebrew was altered. How did he know this? My guess is that the brass plates were still being used as a scriptural text among them and that is how 1000 years later, Moroni could say that the hebrew they used had been altered. Otherwise, how would he know that the hebrew was in fact altered if there was nothing to compare it to? One of the purposes in going back to jerusalem and getting the brass plates was to preserve the language. 1 Nephi 3:19-20. So, I think it is clear that Joseph Smith wanted his characters to be speaking hebrew, if not in an altered form.

        • The Book of Mormon manages to keep things complicated. We can always speculate, and it often depends upon what foundation we use for the speculation. In the case of the brass plates, however, Mosiah 1:3-4 seems to suggest that they were in Egyptian (whatever that meant). So, speculation based on the brass plates is thin evidence.

          • Well, maybe this is a place where Joseph didn’t get his story straight as “language of the fathers” was Hebrew, according to scholars in this area. Yet, Joseph has the brass plates being written in egyptian? Well, at least in Mosiah, only. 1 Nephi 3:19 seems odd if the language preserved were egyptian. Laban lost his life, in part, to preserve a foreign language, which doesn’t make any sense. It makes more sense if the language of the brass plates were hebrew here.

            Nevertheless, how do you respond to the implications of Mormon 9:32-33? Moroni says they altered the hebrew among them. So, they must have used the language for some purpose and ordinary communication seems to be a good candidate. Also, how did he even know anything about the hebrew language and that it was altered if it wasn’t among them at this late date in the Nephite civilization?

            So, what are the odds that someone making up a story about ancient israelites in the new world would have his characters speaking or using hebrew? Seems pretty high. Also, what are the odds that the story is made up where the characters speak a corrupted hebrew, given that the Maya or any other native group didn’t speak anything closely resembling hebrew? Pretty high as well.

  71. Hi Dr. Dale –

    Since you mentioned your earlier comment to which I had already replied without acknowledging that reply I’ll make the same point more directly.

    When you say, “… as I wrote to Honorentheos, you are just flat wrong when you claim that you can compare two works, both of which claim to be fact-based, on subjects that they do NOT deal with.

    You cannot compare a book on quantum mechanics with another book on microbial metabolism and then complain that the book on microbial metabolism does not mention Max Planck and black body radiation.”

    -you are misrepresenting the critique. The point is that you did not actually take the time to compare the facts that both books addressed. The point is that you subjectively determined what constituted a point of correspondence.

    For example, instead of recognizing that if the Maya has something to say about the language spoken among the Maya and the Book of Mormon has something to say about the language spoken among the Nephites, that’s a point of correspondence. Just because the Maya languages were not Hebrew which the Book of Mormon tells us was spoke at least up to the time of Mormon when he was compiling the plates doesn’t make that a subject on which both books lacked correspondence on that subject. Likewise the subject of a calendar, crops, defensive and offensive individual armament as cultural objects, system of government (kings over a people, a transition to judges with a chief judge, etc., a central military that Mormon commanded, etc.), military maneuvers, religious rituals, religious beliefs and deities worshipped, etc., etc., etc., are all mentioned in both books. Just not in a way that a mind bent on proving the Book of Mormon might decided forms a plausible point of overlap.

    If you followed a more objective approach, you would have first identified these cultural points of comparison that both shared AS CULTURAL DEFINITIONS and then assessed each in relation to both hypotheses. One ought to be able to look to your paper to see how likely it was that an author writing a fictional account in the 19th Century would have included what was included in the Book of Mormon compared to an author writing in the Pre-classic and Classic Mayan periods would have been to have included what was said in the Book of Mormon to event give an appearance of objectivity.

    What you’ve done instead is assumed that there is interdependency between the Book of Mormon and The Maya and then assigned subjective, capped likelihood ratios asking how likely Smith would have been to have guessed at this which is…beyond problematic. It’s fundamentally not even wrong.

    • Honorentheos, you still talk about stuff as if there is no match, or that the match is superficial, even when restricted to just Coe’s the Maya it’s both deep and detailed. Armour for example is very precise as I have pointed out, armour is portrayed all through his book, on stela and in paintings, on pottery. The obscure detail is ‘thick clothing’ and it is also a match. Shields breastplates and head protection are all illustrated plus weapons, including arrows which could be cast. Warfare itself is also deep and detailed as per the war of conquest in the central lowlands in the 4th century, Coe’s book tells of this, not as in depth as other sources but an overview, Tikal a fortified strategic and important city was conquered in 378AD, precisely matching what the Book of Mormon records was happening in that year. The Maya tellsof that. We even have a good idea where the captives and women and children were taken to be sacrificed, the INAH in Mexico are studying the remains of thousands of sacrifice victims likely associated with this. We also know they used Book of Mormon style fortification which are at a massive central state level. We know they defended them using slings because mounds of sling stones have been discovered within the fortifications, something quibbled over in previous years. And it’s the same with other stuff like language it actually is precise and detailed and fits.

    • Honorentheos,
      You are rewriting/revising the intent of our paper. You are telling us, the authors, the focus of the paper you think we should have written.

      However much you might have wished us to do a different analysis, we did not do the analysis you say you wish we had done. Neither have you done that analysis. So the results of such an hypothetical analysis are totally speculative on your part. You have not one ounce of proof of the claims you are making.

      You are certainly welcome to do that analysis that you are so interested in discussing with us. Have at it. I am happy to buy you a copy of The Maya so you can get started soon.

      In the meantime, deal with our paper as it actually is, not as you think it ought to be.

      Instead of doing the analysis you think we should have done, what we actually did was the analysis invited in Dr. Coe’s statement that the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with American Indian cultures.

      We have more than 131 pieces of evidence that show the Book of Mormon is very much at home in ancient Mesoamerica in terms of religion, geography, culture, technology and religion.

      Deal with that analysis, deal with those facts….if you can.
      Bruce

  72. Hi Bruce and Brian,

    In Appendix D, you ran a “control” by performing your analysis against “View of the Hebrews” rather than against the Book of Mormon. As I’ve alluded to elsewhere, the way you assign odds in many cases seems biased (e.g. the View of the Hebrews calendar is basically indistinguishable from the Book of Mormon calendar, yet you take the calendar in the Book of Mormon as strong evidence in favor of historicity, and the calendar in View of the Hebrews as strong evidence against historicity). Notwithstanding, the control study actually proves my point: the evidence, as scored by you, weighs towards the View of the Hebrews being an accurate reflection of the ancient Mesoamerican world.

    To illustrate what I’m talking about, according to you guys, while there are 15 positive correspondences between the Maya and the View of the Hebrews, there are only 9 negative correspondences (How could Ethan Smith have been so lucky?). So, if somebody were to say the a priori odds of historicity were 19:1 against historicity (which is equivalent to the 5% critical value that frequentists frequently use) the posterior odds would be 3.37-to-1 in favor of the View of the Hebrews being historical. Your billion-to-ones skeptical prior hides this fact. Yes, the evidence increasing the likelihood of historicity by a factor of 64 (1/0.0156) isn’t enough to overcome your billion-to-one prior, it is by itself strong reason “to believe that View of the Hebrews accurately reflects the world of ancient Mesoamerica as set forth in The Maya.”

    Why does your control study indicate this? I think it is because your methodology is fundamentally flawed—looking for items that are mentioned in both books and ignoring things that are only mentioned in one or the other is hopelessly biased towards counting hits and ignoring misses. Your own control illustrates this.

    • Hi Billy:
      No, the controls do not support your interpretation.

      The question we asked is: “Is Dr. Coe correct when he states that 99% of the details in the Book of Mormon are false”?

      We show that, according to the details given in his own book, the Book of Mormon fits very well with ancient Mesoamerica but neither View of the Hebrews nor Manuscript Found fit at all with that world as described by Dr. Coe in The Maya.

      In particular, the fact claims of Manuscript Found, which is clearly fiction, fit terribly with the facts summarized in The Maya.

      If the Book of Mormon is fiction, as you no doubt believe, why does it fit so well? If our method is hopelessly biased toward finding positive correspondences with the Book of Mormon, as you claim, why does Manuscript Found fit so abysmally? Why did the author of Manuscript Found not guess a lot better than he did?

      If you think we have miscounted the positive and negative correspondences between the The Maya and Manuscript Found, then do your own comparison.

      Read The Maya carefully (I suggest 6 times, which is what I did). Read Manuscript Found carefully. Read View of the Hebrews carefully. Make your own list of positive and negative correspondences, and then tell us what you have learned, in detail, as we have done in our paper.

      Do your homework. Be a responsible critic of our paper.

      I make the following offer to you and everyone who wishes to responsibly criticize our paper:

      I will buy a copy of The Maya for anyone who will agree to read it at least twice and then carefully compare the Book of Mormon with The Maya.

      That means you have to also read the Book of Mormon, but I won’t ask you to read it several hundred times, which is what I have done over the years. Just once, carefully, and then carefully study our correspondences, positive and negative, between the Book of Mormon and The Maya.

      If you are going to criticize the Book of Mormon, then please do so based on some actual scholarship, not from prejudice, as did Dr. Coe.

      And, as I wrote to Honorentheosen, you are just flat wrong when you claim that you can compare two works, both of which claim to be fact-based, on subjects that they do NOT deal with.

      You cannot compare a book on quantum mechanics with another book on microbial metabolism and then complain that the book on microbial metabolism does not mention Max Planck and black body radiation.

      The two books have different purposes. They must be judged against each other only on what they affirmatively state with respect to a particular fact area…not on what they do not say.
      In the paper, we wrote the following to address this specific point:

      “Near the end of Podcast #907, Dr. Dehlin invited Dr. Coe to unburden himself about anything that Coe thought should be in the Book of Mormon, but is not. Dr. Coe mentions four things: the absence of (1) books, (2) chocolate, (3) turkeys, and (4) jaguars.

      Since Dr. Coe does not hesitate to use the word ridiculous to characterize arguments for the Book of Mormon he finds extremely unconvincing, we do not hesitate to use the same word to characterize these particular objections. They are, in fact, ridiculous.

      First of all, the Book of Mormon clearly refers to multiple books being present (see Appendix A, Correspondence 6.9). If Dr. Coe had read the Book of Mormon more than once and more recently than 45 years ago, he might have noticed that fact. As for chocolate, turkeys, and jaguars, the Book of Mormon does not claim to be a text on elite foods, poultry, or exotic wild animals…

      1 Nephi 6:6 describes the intent and scope of the Book of Mormon. This is the intent by which the Book of Mormon should be judged. It reads, “Wherefore, I shall give commandment unto my seed that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men.”

      Knowledge of turkeys, jaguars, and consumption of chocolate among the ancient Mesoamericans is of no real worth. Knowing about Jesus Christ, about eternal life, about the resurrection, and the mercy that has been made available to us through Christ are topics of supernal worth.

      If we are to take seriously Dr. Coe’s objections to the lack of equal time given to subjects as chocolate, jaguars, and turkeys in the Book of Mormon, we have an objection for him about his own book…

      Dr. Coe does not mention the extensive use of the “golden section” or phi ratio in Maya architecture, although it is clearly present. Why did Dr. Coe not mention this “golden section” in his book The Maya? Shall we disbelieve the rest of his book because of this omission?

      No, that would be ridiculous. All books must limit their scope and have a focus. Every author/editor must decide what to include and what to leave out. Dr. Coe did this in The Maya. So did the editors and authors of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

      Bruce

  73. I just noticed how the comment came through. I did not intentionally omit the Dr. from my reply and apologize. No disrespect was intended and it should have read, Hi Dr. Dale,

  74. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the reply.

    In response to me saying the null hypothesis should be that he was trying to create a coherent story of a civilization, you replied, “We did apply our method to two other contemporary books that were trying to do essentially that. It turns out to be not as easy as you might think.

    “Our evidence shows that such stories are empirically distinguishable from the Book of Mormon. While I accept your point that the separate pieces of evidence are not independent, we tested “coherent stories”, and the Book of Mormon was substantially more accurate.”

    A few points. First, it sounds like you concede my point about statistical independence and agree that if you put in the appropriate covariance among these points, the strength of your conclusions would go down by a lot—perhaps over a hundred orders of magnitude.

    Second, it sounds like you don’t understand my point about internally consistency. Surely you’d agree that it is easier to write a book that is internally consistent (i.e. consistent with itself) than it is to write a book that is consistent with Mayan Mesoamerica.

    The point is that under the null hypothesis (i.e. under the commonly held presumption you are trying to prove is false), Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon. The apologists then decided that Mayan Mesoamerica is the best historical fit (or really, the least problematic fit). You then try to demonstrate that since the Book of Mormon fits Mesoamerica better than View of the Hebrews fits Mesoamerica, the Book of Mormon must be historical. But that is a false comparison—the reason you are comparing View of the Hebrews to Mesoamerica is because apologists had already concluded that Mesoamerica is the best fit of the Book of Mormon. If you decided to use Pushing the Bear as another control, you’d conclude that book is false also, because it doesn’t fit into a Mesoamerican context. But like View of the Hebrews, Pushing the Bear doesn’t proport to fit into a Mesoamerican context—that isn’t what it is trying to do.

    For the Bayesian methodology you are attempting to use to be valid, the probabilities need to be evaluated over a set of exclusive and exhaustive propositions or models. You are only testing two propositions—the proposition that it is essentially a true historical record, and the proposition that it consists of a series of independent guess about ancient Mesoamerica. Those two propositions aren’t exhaustive. In fact, nobody believes the book is a series of guesses about Mesoamerica; that is a strawman. The only proposition that anyone even believes is the proposition that it is historical. Since historicity is the only non-strawman model in your space of models, it is no wonder the math indicates that one must be the right one.

    The real proposition you need to test historicity against is the proposition that a 19th Century Christian wrote the Book of Mormon as part of the then-existing motif that the American Indians were one of the Lost Tribes or otherwise were a remnant of the House of Israel. You would then need to consider all of the evidence in your analysis—not just the evidence of how well it fits into a book about the Mayan.

    Thanks,

    Billy

  75. Hi Dale –

    To use the example of armor and address your points above, I think it’s worth noting that The Maya was not silent on the question of Mayan warfare or armament of course, and the paper included both offensive and defensive aspects of those descriptions for comparison. The issue is that your model is not set up to do a comparison between how the Maya are described and what the Book of Mormon says. Instead, as noted in my concern 3 above, it relies on the subjective views of the authors to identify apparently overlaps.

    In this case, the issue is that of individual military protection described in both books. The Maya excerpt you selected describes the Maya as employing, “cuirasses of quilted cotton or tapir hair” as well as, “left arms protected by quilted padding”.

    What the Book of Mormon describes is, “ And when the armies of the Lamanites saw that the people of Nephi, or that Moroni, had prepared his people with breastplates and with arm-shields, yea, and also shields to defend their heads, and also they were dressed with thick clothing—

    20 Now the army of Zerahemnah was not prepared with any such thing; they had only their swords and their cimeters, their bows and their arrows, their stones and their slings; and they were naked, save it were a skin which was girded about their loins; yea, all were naked, save it were the Zoramites and the Amalekites;”

    In other words, the Lamanites lack any protection while the Nephites are described as quite armored with more than merely thick cloth.

    We also have descriptions of at least one specific breastplate as it was deposited with the plates with an attached U&T. The description of heavy cloth is in conjunction with other armor; specifically head-plates, breastplates and arm shields. When the Lamanites are cornered and fighting ferociously for survival, the Book of Mormon describes them as splitting the head-plates, piercing the breastplates and hacking off arms.

    There’s a plain reading of this, that the author of the Book of Mormon was describing Old World armor pitted against the loincloths and skins of Native Americans. And there is the reading that imposes Mayan culture on the text. Setting aside the arguments for or against, this is the type of problem where an analytic tool intended to evaluate probabilities of competing hypothesis might be valuable. It matters, though, how one sets up the questions and assesses the evidence.

    If the process is, “Does this item from the Book of Mormon in any way possibly check a box in relation to the Mayan civilization? If yes, include in the analysis. Hypothesis: How likely was it for Smith to have guessed this possible corresponded? 1 out of 2? 1 out of 10? 1 out of 50?” then you’ve set up the model to assume far more than is justifiable given the state of the evidence or the debate around it.

    If, on the other hand, the process involved identifying details of Mayan society in an objective manner and then simply mapped onto that what the Book of Mormon had to say – or didn’t have to say – about each of those items, that would help avoid the appearance of cherry-picking. The process could then include competing hypotheses that compared likelihoods for and against each in relation to each proposed item of correspondence. “Given the Book of Mormon were a true account of a Mayan-based Hebrew diaspora, how likely is it an author from that period would have described “X, Y, Z” in the manner it is described in the Book of Mormon?” “ Given the Book of Mormon is a fictional attempt by a 19th Century author to describe an ancient American group of migrating Hebrews from the 7th Century BCE to any part of the Americas, how likely is this author to have described “X, Y, Z” in the manner it is described in the Book of Mormon?”

    There’s more to it, but again the issue is that every step in the process used to develop the paper appears to have compounded subjective biases into a rather impressive but entirely non-objective result. The meaning one is left to derive from it is how compelling you as the author find the evidence but little else.

    • If you look at pictures of Maya Stela breastplates are common with the armour. Page 107 of the Maya is a photo of a king with headplate shield and spear thrower from Mormon’s day. A new king taking the throne in Tikal after her conquest in 378.

      • Hi Mark,

        Perhaps that’s a potential interpretation of the text, or perhaps a more direct reading is warranted. That’s a debate in and of itself and one that’s been gooding on for ages. The issue here is that a correctly applied Baysian approach would have been constructed to compare competing hypotheses not assuming that how The Maya describes Mayan armor is perfectly reflected in the BoM, and instead focused on asking how likely Smith was to have guessed this assumed detail. As I’ve attempted to make clear, this paper is more a reflection of the authors own thinking, providing a candid peak into how an apologetic mind views the evidence, than it is an objective attempt to apply Baysian analysis. The skeptical prior is subjectively determined, what constitutes a corresponding fact is subjectively determined, and the likelihood factors are subjectively determined.

        • With the armour the Maya simply depict it in paintings and on Stela. It certainly shows all sorts of weapons breastplates shields and head protection, headplate is an odd term for a helmet but obviously it’s head protection and Maya art shows that. There are examples of head protection that is like a full helmet with eye slot and sometimes with a vertical opening with bridge to allow for breathing I expect. Central lowlands and Belize from the early classic. Small figurines with removable helmets. These would work for what is described at the battle of Noah.

  76. – cont.

    There are other concerns, such as the arbitrary limits placed on the likelihood ratios or missed correspondences (for example, why is something that simply didn’t happen in the New World such as metal armor used to decimate the Lamanites which should have left an archeological and cultural imprint on the western hemisphere not included? And if it were, why is it constrained to only having a 1 in 50 likelihood that it would be included in a potentially historical Book of Mormon? Why wouldn’t the likelihood that the Book of Mormon was both historical and mistakenly describes metal armor used and adopted being included not much, much lower bordering on improbable?) But there’s no need to overwhelm the discussion with too many points.

    I do appreciate it the discussion and your engagement. It’s a topic that is close to many people for varying reasons, including those who many be skeptical or critical of the LDS Church’s claims. Opening it up and making it possible is meaningful in it’s own right.

    • Hi Honorentheos:
      I am preparing a much more detailed reply to some of your earlier objections. It may take a few more days–our grand-daughter is visiting us and we are spending as much time as we can with her. But I would like to respond now to the objection to lack of evidence for metal armor that you have raised.

      Please point me to the New World reference to metal armor in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon talks about armor, but does not say the armor was made from metal. Don’t read into the text a claim that it does not make.

      Coe’s reference to armor is discussed in Correspondence 4.4. Please read it carefully. I regard this mention as a strong positive correspondence for the Book of Mormon because the only time the Book of Mormon describes what their armor was made of it talks about heavy clothing being used as armor, and not metal.

      Coe is also specific on this point, the Maya used heavy clothing as armor. Coe goes on to say that the Spanish Conquistadores preferred the Maya armor to their own metal suits.

      Let me also push back strongly on the notion that we can allow as evidence the LACK of evidence, which you appear to be making above regarding metal armor–which the Book of Mormon does not claim anyway.

      This practice is absolutely unscientific. It would also not be allowed in any court of law. Converting lack of evidence into evidence does not meet the standards of science or fairness.

      For example, please see the discussion above about the nixtamal process, that is, how the Mesoamericans prepared their corn to make lysine more bioavailable. As pointed out, the Book of Mormon does not refer to this process but Coe does.

      So one of the (anonymous) commentators would like to use that lack of evidence (i.e., lack of mention of the nixtamal process in the Book of Mormon) as evidence against the Book of Mormon. In response, another commentator pointed out that the Popol Vuh does not mention the nixtamal process either.

      So are you going to throw out the Popol Vuh as an authentic Mesoamerican text because it doesn’t mention nixtamal?

      Of course not…that would also be unfair and unscientific. Lack of evidence simply is not evidence.

      Bruce

  77. Hi Dr. Dale,

    First, thank you for taking the time to answer concerns and questions regarding your paper. Whatever else one may thing, it certainly opened up a discussion that appears to have been wanting given the attention it has drawn. And unrelated to the paper, your professional background and accomplishments are highly commendable, and a service to future generations. In all cases, you deserve respect.

    That said, I don’t wish to be seen hiding a dagger in my cloak, so to speak. So I’ll go quickly to my concerns with the paper, it’s methodologies and results. And attempt to be brief.

    Concern 1: The skeptical prior is overcome automatically by simply finding and adding correspondences. The approach taken inevitably overcomes an arbitrarily determined likelihood that the Book of Mormon is fiction.

    Given your methodology and the assigned likelihood ratios, if you were to assign all 131 of the correspondences the weakest probability it was based on knowledge rather than a guess (0.5 or a 1 in 2 likelihood), one only needs to propose a small handful of weak correspondences to overcome what you present as a strong skeptical prior. As you pointed out in your section on sensitivity analysis, that number appeared to be 17.

    Concern 2: The correspondences selected to achieve the results did not need to demonstrate actual correspondence to be included.

    The paper does little if anything to demonstrate the methods for identifying the criteria derived from The Maya for each correspondence and stating them in a way that could be used to determine if the Book of Mormon contains an objectively mapped corollary to be evaluated. I’ve noted this elsewhere in these comments, but since 1.1 is chronologically first in your paper it’s convenient to start with it when pointing to examples. In that example, the quote from Coe described Maya society as being formed into city-states without a centralized government over the whole of the Mayan people. It describes the approximate geography of the city-state polities as approximately the distance a person could travel in a day. These criteria, which seem objectively uncontentious if stated as such, aren’t what you used to compare the Book of Mormon with The Maya. Instead, you chose to focus on the absence of a single word being used in reference to the Nephites, “Nation”. Your methodology did not require the demonstration of actual correspondence between the source material and the BoM that maps in a objective manner. I’d argue it appears to fail on the terms you proposed, where the use of, “Nephites”, “Lamanites”, “the people of the Nephites” and other language used in the Book of Mormon serve the same purpose as would the use of, “nation.”

    And that was determined to have a 1 in 50 chance Joseph Smith could have guessed it correctly, while it seems stepping back shows the Book of Mormon got it wrong rather than included an improbable guess.

    Concern 3: The methodology constrains what Coe described as characteristics that applied to the Maya to things you believe serve as hits or misses.

    Using your chosen example above, 3.12 Existence of opposites, could be discussed under concern 2 above, noting that dualism generically is found in most cultural creation myths and used to explain the universe for obvious reasons. Night/day, darkness/light, sun/moon, birth/death, growth/decay, summer/winter, planting/harvest, action/reaction, Yin/Yang, inhale/exhale, creation/destruction – human societies find paired opposites inherent in creation and have created narrative mythologies to explain them across continents and millennia. Eastern religions have these cycles deeply embedded in them. And its part of the Hebrew creation mythology that God the creator ordered the heavens and the earth, with a greater light ruling the day and a lesser light ruling the night, male and female created He his living creations. Cosmic dualism, or the idea that there is a war between good and evil, is also embedded in post-exilic teachings and was behind Cyrus the Great liberating the captive Hebrews when the Persians concurred the Babylonians. As a Zoroastrian, his concern was with good combating evil at cosmic scales. Yet what the Maya tz’ak describes is more of a two-sides required to have a coin concept. Of the items listed in 2 Nephi by the speaker, Lehi (a pre-exilic Hebrew if one accepts the book as history), the examples are philosophical concepts. Not natural pairings as listed in the excerpt from The Maya.

    This raises multiple questions, not least of which is if it really deserves to be considered a “hit”? It’s inclusion as such is entirely contingent on your interpretation of it being one. And as noted in concern 1, accumulating only a handful of supposed hits no matter how tenuous would overcome the skeptical prior. If the methodology for determining something is a hit is essentially subjective, where does that leave the paper?

    – Cont

  78. Thank you for your article and for the immense amount of time responding. I am surprised how many want to criticize without reading the actual article or appendices. Perhaps the conclusions of the article strike a little too close to home? In any event, regardless of values set for the various correspondences noted, 131 beats 18 rather dramatically. Either Coe’s Maya is of no note, or one must reflect on how the Book of Mormon again and again and again corresponds positively with what experts now know regarding the Maya. That should give one cause to pause and reflect. Again thank you.

  79. Hi Bruce,

    You say “Our selection of the appropriate numerical values of the Bayes likelihood ratios is therefore not arbitrary, as some of the commentators seem to claim. These values come straight from a highly respected paper published in the Journal of the American Statistical Association.”

    There is no actual mathematical reason given in your citation – presumably Kass and Raftery: Bayes Factors, section 3.2 – why those values ought not vary arbitrarily from what you used.

    Also, you have not justified your assignment of the prior odds in favor of the historicity of the Book of Mormon at 1:1,000,000,000. You have not produced a calculable chance hypothesis which gives rise to these odds by math.

    The problem this presents for your conclusions is that if someone wished to overturn the results of the Bayesian analysis you have performed all they’d have to do is choose prior odds of the historicity of the Book of Mormon to be sufficiently low – such as zero, for example and for ease of calculation – and use your weightings and get a result opposing your own. Your essay gives no reason why your 1:1,000,000,000 prior odds should be mathematically preferable to choosing prior odds to be exactly zero, or any other arbitrary number between 1 and 0, inclusive.

    Alternatively, one could use different weightings varying arbitrarily from those which you chose and get results opposed to yours – again, there is no mathematical reason given in your essay, nor in Kass and Raftery: Bayes Factors, Section 3.2 why anyone should not.

    Or one could choose any combination of these two; your essay does not give any mathematical or logical reason why anyone should not.

    Since both your prior odds and weightings are arbitrary (and your cited authority does not help here), and since your conclusion depends on those arbitrary numbers, your conclusions are arbitrary, and may be overturned by choosing arbitrarily different numbers.

    These methodological considerations take logical priority over the analysis of the evidence.

  80. 3.12 Existence of opposites is an essential part of creation

    Coe’s standard: “A relevant Maya term from these ceramics is tz’ak, the idea of ordering. A key part of creation was the establishment of opposites. These are presented in alternative spellings for the tz’ak glyph. … The exquisite Tablet of the 96 Glyphs … lays out a long series of such opposed pairs. It begins with sun and night, followed by possibly life and death, then Venus and moon, wind and water” (p. 251 of The Maya).

    Book of Mormon correspondence: See 2 Nephi 2:11‒15.
    “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

    Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.

    And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.

    And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.

    And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.”

    Analysis of correspondence: The words create or creation are used six times in these five verses in the Book of Mormon, all strictly in the context of opposed pairs. The correspondence is specific and detailed. It is also unusual. What document or religious teaching could Joseph Smith have possibly used that would have led him to correctly “guess” this belief shared by the Maya and the Book of Mormon patriarch Lehi? Specific, detailed and unusual. Likelihood = 0.02.

    Those who believe the Book of Mormon is false and has “nothing to do with ancient Mesoamerica” (as does Dr. Coe), must then explain how this very clear correspondence between the Book of Mormon and The Maya occurred. How did Joseph Smith “guess” this one correctly? We rate the likelihood that this is a lucky guess as 1 in 50, or 0.02, although it almost certainly deserves a much stronger rating.

    As a personal aside, I spend a lot of time in the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So this pairing of opposites as part of the creation story has special meaning to me.

    OK, hopefully this long explanation will serve to get the discussion back on track again. I can always hope so. 

  81. A note to all who might wish to comment. Most of the recent comments have not been approved because things have devolved into yes-it-is/no-it-isn’t statements that have no new content and don’t move the conversation forward.

    Please feel free to comment, if you have some substantive interaction with the article.

    • Brant:
      Thanks for the opening to try to get the discussion back on track.

      Let me see if I can get the discussion focused again, as some of the commentators have gone pretty far afield from the intention of our paper. Some commentators are raising arguments that our paper does not address or imputing claims to our paper that it does not make.

      Here is what we have done and what we have concluded.
      Dr. Coe has repeatedly and very publicly stated that the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with ancient Indian cultures. He believes the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction. For purposes of our paper we assumed that Coe is correct, and that the Book of Mormon is false with odds of a billion to one that this statement is correct. This is our Bayesian skeptical prior.

      Coe’s book The Maya contains a lot of information about ancient Mesoamerican Indian cultures. We assume that the facts in Coe’s book are correct and we test relevant fact claims from the Book of Mormon versus relevant facts summarized in The Maya.

      By “relevant” we mean that both the Book of Mormon and The Maya address the fact (or fact claim) of interest. For fact claims about which either or both books are silent, we have nothing to say. Our paper does not deal with such facts/fact claims because there is no rational basis for making the comparisons that are an essential feature of our paper.
      But we did compare all of the relevant claims from both books.

      To give the Book of Mormon an even harder test, we not only included the facts summarized in Coe’s scholarly work The Maya but we also included fact claims from his non-scholarly pronouncements on the Book of Mormon as given in the 6 podcast interviews with John Dehlin and in his 1973 Dialogue article.

      We then weighted the various relevant facts/fact claims that are common between The Maya and the Book of Mormon according to whether they were: 1) specific, 2) specific and detailed, or 3) specific, detailed and unusual. These three different strengths of evidence correspond to Bayesian “supportive”, “positive” or “strong” likelihood ratios as described below. Then the Bayesian likelihood ratios both for and against the Book of Mormon were multiplied by each other to obtain the posterior odds.

      Even when we give the strongest Bayesian weight considered here to the negative (i.e., against the Book of Mormon) evidence and the weakest possible Bayesian weight considered here to the positive (i.e., for the Book of Mormon), the initial strongly skeptical prior changes to a very much strong posterior odds in favor of the Book of Mormon.

      So Dr. Coe is just flat wrong.

      There is overwhelming evidence in his own book that the Book of Mormon is very much at home in ancient Mesoamerica. The Book of Mormon has a great deal to do with ancient (Meso) American Indian cultures, including their religious, political, cultural, technological, geographical and other features.

      It is not surprising that Dr. Coe missed these correspondences between his book The Maya and the Book of Mormon. He doesn’t know anything about the Book of Mormon. He read it only once, over 45 years ago.

      A common objection in many of the comments thus far regards our weighting or Bayesian likelihood ratios. For example, Mr. Blanco (May 5, 8:18 am) states that our “probability values [are] arbitrary”. Dr. Shumway (May 4, 8:49 am) objects to the “arbitrary assignment of likelihood ratios”. Simon Southerton, Jonathan Race, Billy Shears, and Jared Livesey also seem to object to our assignment of likelihood ratios.

      Regarding the assignment of likelihood ratios, there are two possible objections here.

      The first is that the numerical values of the likelihood ratios themselves have no basis in science. The second is that we have assigned the wrong numerical values to each particular piece of evidence. Presumably we are deliberately overstating the strength of the evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon and understating the strength of the evidence against the Book of Mormon.

      We explain this important step starting on the top of page 85 of our paper. Apparently I did not do it well enough. Let me try again.

      Not all evidence is equally strong. Every honest, thinking person knows that.

      So we used the Kass and Raftery paper (J. of the American Statistical Association, 90, n. 430 (1995): p. 777, doi:10.2307/2291091) to weight the different strengths of evidence, with a minimum value of 20 rather than 10 as the threshold requirement for strong evidence, as Kass and Raftery suggest.

      As these authors also suggest, we use twice the natural logarithm of the Bayes factor because doing so places evidence on the same scale as the familiar deviance and likelihood ratio test statistics. The Kass and Raftery paper has been cited about 2,500 times, so it is obviously highly regarded in the field of Bayesian analysis.

      to be continued

      • Our selection of the appropriate numerical values of the Bayes likelihood ratios is therefore not arbitrary, as some of the commentators seem to claim. These values come straight from a highly respected paper published in the Journal of the American Statistical Association.

        Whether or not we have assigned the appropriate value of the Bayes likelihood ratios to each correspondence is another issue.

        But, as stated above, and as stated repeatedly in our paper, even when we give the strongest Bayesian weight considered here to the negative (i.e., against the Book of Mormon) evidence and the weakest possible Bayesian weight considered here to the positive (i.e., for the Book of Mormon), the initial strongly skeptical prior still changes to a very much strong posterior odds in favor of the Book of Mormon.

        To clarify a bit more about the Kaas and Raftery paper, here is a bit more explanation.

        Recall that the hypothesis we are testing is that the Book of Mormon is false. We consider three different strengths of evidence in support of that hypothesis. As given in the paper by Kaas and Raftery, the Bayes factor range (B10) for evidence supporting the hypothesis that is judged “not worth more than a bare mention” is 1 to 3, the Bayes factor range for “positive” evidence in support of the hypothesis is 3 to 20 and the Bayes factor range for “strong” evidence is 20-150.

        In the paper, we call these three different strengths of evidence “supportive”, “positive” and “strong” and we use the numerical values 2, 10 and 50 in our calculations to represent an approximate midpoint value of the range for each of the three different strengths of evidence in support of the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is false.

        For evidence supporting the essentially factual nature of the Book of Mormon, that is, in support of the “converse hypothesis” we use 0.5, 0.1 and 0.02 to represent Bayesian “supportive”, “positive” and “strong” evidence. Thus one piece of strong evidence for the hypothesis would be rated as 50 and one piece of strong evidence for the converse hypothesis would be rated as 0.02.

        These two pieces of strong evidence (evidence both for and against the Book of Mormon) would in effect cancel each other out (50 x 0.02 equals 1.0). What this means is that taken together these two pieces of evidence would have no effect on the skeptical prior of a billion to one against the Book of Mormon. One times a billion to one is still a billion to one. We would continue to believe the Book of Mormon was false.

        Thus it requires a lot of evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon to shift the skeptical prior to a positive posterior.

        Dr. Coe’s book provides that evidence.

        Here is one such piece of strong evidence. It is correspondence 3.12 on page 130 of our paper, quoted below in its entirety including the relevant Book of Mormon verses.

        (to be continued)

  82. Exiled, I’m certain that in a lot of cases the big very sensitive nerve that is struck isn’t the scholarship at all but what it reveals. The scholarship could be out my some margin but fundamentally it’s so overwhelming it makes little difference. Take out the Laman name correlation and a couple of others if you wish, but the number of indisputable correlations still maintains the same answer: the chance of the Book of Mormon being fiction is so small it doesn’t really exist. That is what hits the nerve for some because they do not want to believe it. It’s an answer too disturbing for them.

    • Hi Mark, what you see as the insurmountable strength of the paper is a product of a misapplication of Bayes according to a number of highly qualified specialists. Now my impression is you and I are not able to verify that one way or the other. I’m not anyway, and recognize there is a certain faith based bias that is involved if I were to simply point to what is being described as almost fatal flaws with the application of Bayes to arrive at the unfathomable results and declare nothing more need be said. I suspect it’s the mirrored bias you point to above, acknowledging issues with a point here or there but chosing to accept the expertise and claims of the authors as final resulting in a knockout blow to a claim the Book of Mormon is fiction because it fails to accurately represent the historical context of the Americas at the time it claims to cover.

      Because of this I think those like myself, and perhaps you, for whom the underlying methodology is outside our experience and knowledge, would do well to let the the debate play out before claiming any certainty is warranted.

      In the meantime, I do think there are many issues related to the attempts to map the Book of Mormon onto The Maya that are much more impactful than you are allowing. I think one could start at the beginning and point them out with minimal occurrence of acceptting what was proposed in the paper at face value. For example, starting on 1.1 in Appendix A, Coe describes the Maya society as organized around city-states without a central form of government over all of the people. But rather than accurately distill the key characteristics from Coe, the authors made the arbitrary decision to rely on the absence of nation being used to describe the Nephites or Lamanites to claim the lowest probability exists Smith could have guessed this detail about Maya social organization. But the Book of Mormon does describe both the Nephites and Lamanites as having a central form of government. And it uses Nephites, Lamanites, the people of the Nephites, and other phrases that serve the same purpose as using nation would serve. But directly, had the authors simply listed out all the characteristics of Maya society independently and then answered the question of how or if the Book of Mormon described that characteristic this should have been an example of Smith getting it wrong.

      And it goes on like this, point after point. What the analytic tools ultimately have to say once the dust settles will be it’s own thing and likely render these other points less consequential to how the legacy of this attempt is seen in the future. But it matters and is something I think most interested parties have the requisite background to appropriately assess without relying on someone else’s word to judge their implications.

      I’m sure this has attracted enough attention, and is water in the desert for many who longingly recall days gone by before critics and apologists siloed themselves off, that it won’t remain in balance for very long before more definitive critiques of the methodology are presented for the authors to respond to if the interest remains one of scholarship above partisanship. We’ll see.

      • You said:

        But the Book of Mormon does describe both the Nephites and Lamanites as having a central form of government. And it uses Nephites, Lamanites, the people of the Nephites, and other phrases that serve the same purpose as using nation would serve.

        I read the text very differently, and much more in line with the loose confederacy. For the Nephites, there is no compulsion power of supposedly subordinate cities. Both Ammonihah and Antionum leave the hegemony with no ability of the “central” government to control them. When we see a more Lamanite government during the time when Nephites are returning to the land of Nephi, we see a series of cities with kings, beholding to an over-king. That is very much the way things worked in Maya politics.

        Sometimes, our differences are in the reading.

        • Perhaps, but Bayes is specifically intended to deal with that sort of problem. The fact I can look at the Book of Mormon and point to King Mosiah, Nephis for generations, or the Lamanite kings and show there was in fact centralize government while you point to contradictory evidence at minimum illustrates the methodology of flawed. By no means should this issue justifiably have the lowest potential for being an unusual, specific and detailed guess with a high degree of correspondence. Our ability to justify our positions using the BoM is clear evidence the paper is substantially flawed.

      • Mapping the probable Book of Mormon lands into the Maya area is very simple. Most times it’s been done the method included looking for a narrow neck, river and specific hill, and identifying them. But that method is flawed because those things are natural features that occur across continents in abundance and until you identify the lands, they can only ever be guessed at. And why do that?

        It’s far better to identify the lands by looking for what is there culturally and physically that dates to the period, that’s what this study does. A clear example is elevated highways between very large cities where there was extensive building and population density. Easy to see with LiDAR. The land of Zarahemla had these things, they do not move. The distribution of specifically Maize god/or Christ based temples shows the extent of a common people, central lands and the land Bountiful and the land northward as inhabited by the Nephites had these. They are not in the southern highlands.

        There is so much more detail from the past couple of years, and although ‘The Maya’ is updated regularly it’s unlikely to all be in it. The political state alignment matches. The massive fortification works around Tikal and el Zotes is one of these new discoveries indicating a central state, cities may have had control of surrounding lands but they were part of a central state, necessary for both fortification of this scale and highway network, both Maya and Book of Mormon civilizations had that in the pre-classic and early classic. When you know where the land northward is, and in this case it’s a limited area that scholars intend to map, sooner or later they will stumble on Cumorah, which should remove doubt completely.

        As for this study by and large it’s right on the money, you can quibble over a few minor things but the weight of correspondences is overwhelming. And this is limited to Dr Coe’s ‘The Maya’ 9th edition. Which is excellent but cannot contain every detailed study and sheer weight of the new data.

  83. I’m no expert…but I feel that so many of the “positive correspondences” are so incredibly broad, vague, generic, and/or common that one could plug any fictional kingdom (Middle Earth, Land of Oz, Westeros, Hyrule, Xanth, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) into this analysis and some up with the same result.

    • That might be correct, but then that wasn’t the question being asked. As I have had to repeat more than once with the responses to this article, it is difficult to merit objections to things the article didn’t attempt to do. There was a specific question being considered, and the source of comparison was the book The Maya.

      Comparing any of those other sources to what Michael Coe said could not produce the same result, because Coe said nothing about them.

      • Hi Brant,

        I know it’s not your job to defend the paper, or at least I don’t believe so, and you’ve made clear you would have used other criteria and methodology to make a similar case as the study attempts. But since you are defending the purpose of the paper at face value, what of the concerns with cherry picking? For example cited earlier, unequally assigning The View of the Hebrews’ description of the proto-natives speaking Hebrew and following the law of Moses as negatives for the probability comparison yet not using this in the Book of Mormon comparisons model even though it clearly says the Nephites did both? Or the many, many many mismatches between specific descriptions provided in a Coe citation being paired with overly generic statements in the Book of Mormon that have the appearance of applying to any attempt by an author to create a cohesive world? Comparing the Maya calendar based religious rituals involve me confession on specific dates as an unusually specific and detailed match to the way confession associated with Christian baptism similar to what Smith would have known is another among numerous cases. The argument that any other fictional cohesive world could be equally successful if given the same treatment is not so easily dismissed because the loose practises demonstrated in the Appendixes are the underlying concern being expressed.

      • It’s genuinely difficult to imagine an impartial reader accepting that a comparison of the ritualistic calendar religious practices and of the Maya can be mapped onto the Christian-based prebaptism confession ritual in a good faith attempt to show correspondence. To then say the inclusion of an act of confession included in both demonstrated unusual, specific and detailed knowledge on the part of Smith is unsupportable. Where’s the defense of these forms of cherry picking? Saying this is just critical sour grapes is dodging an apparent issue with partiality in attempting to identify matches between The Maya and The Book of Mormon. The authors pointed out in the paper cherry picking was a concern they wished to avoid. It would seem they’d welcome the chance to either clear this up or correct it. I don’t see how examples such as speaking Hebrew, following the law of Moses, and numerous others are easily addressed without acknowledging issues with the chosen methodology.

  84. Two general observations.

    First, the level of response to this article (a lot of pseudonymous) suggests that the authors have indeed struck a nerve in some circles.

    Second, I am reminded of Thomas O’Dea’s quip that “the Book of Mormon has not been universally considered by its critics as one of those books that must be read in order to have an opinion of it.” The same appears to apply to critics of this article.

    • 1. I think the poor scholarship is what has “struck a nerve” as you suggest. It looks like part of a magic show where “scientific” reasoning is paraded about to justify a conclusion that doesn’t have much support outside of sites like this one.

      2. Enough have read it through who are trained in bayesian analysis to adequately debunk it.

  85. This is good on another level as well, when the Maya match so well, the resurrecting God match with the Maize God has implications, in that; Pre-classic Book of Mormon era temples connected to the Maize God, the triadic structures, have to be Nephite, and they occur in the central lowlands and northern Yucatan. And note; they are not found in the southern highlands. Dr Coe’s book may not go into detail on them but there is a 2014 study that does.

    For instance Isaiah 2:3 says this of the temple: “… he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths”

    The triadics: “The oversized ear-spools that are most prominent features of virtually all the stucco
    masks discovered in connection with the Triadic Groups have been sometimes interpreted
    as denoting the b’ih, or “road” glyphs, especially when bearing four dots around the central
    opening. Taube (2004) argues that they might be standing for two separate symbols. One
    would be a well known expression och’ b’ih, “entering the road”, regularly describing some-one’s death, but in this sense more probably standing for the Maize God’s entering the path
    of resurrection and accession to heaven through the Flower Mountain(the temple).

  86. A great paper, well done indeed.

    What I notice is the reference to the land northward and northward migrations going into Yucatan from southern areas. And the fact that most of this is related directly to data from the Maya civilization that matches statements in the Book of Mormon describing that world.

    I think the analysis squarely addresses the question of who were the Nephites, as it does show who’s cities lands and culture match, and we know where the cities are.

    Some of the common attributes are more significant than I realized. Some detail is swallowed in broad categorization, where specific things maybe could have been brought out independently, but then thinking about it not all are in Dr Coe’s ‘The Maya’ which was the measure. I like the way he updates his book as more discoveries are made, I have the 8th edition, and I’ve found it to be one of the best supports for the Book of Mormon.

    I hope Dr Coe reads this paper, he seems a lovely man, I watched one of the latest interviews between him and John Delhin and when speaking about warfare and fortifications Dr Coe said ‘well he(Joseph) got that right’ then he went on to say that many of the big fortifications around Tikal were too late to be Book of Mormon “being 4th century”, so yes, he’s not familiar with Book of Mormon history, and predictably John wasn’t going to pick him upon it.

    • Hi Mark:
      Yup, I noticed that same part of the third 2018 podcast interview with Dehlin, when Coe seems surprised that there is warfare in the Book of Mormon and Dehlin does not follow up with that comment.

      Who would have thunk it? Warfare in the Book of Mormon. 🙂

      That Dr. Coe does not know about warfare in the Book of Mormon and that Dehlin does not pursue the subject says a lot about how much Coe has studied the Book of Mormon (and also about Dehlin’s honesty, but that is another subject).

      I think I would enjoy talking to Dr. Coe in depth. My email exchanges with him have been pleasant and he was honest and quick to say that he had only read the Book of Mormon once, over 45 years ago, when I asked him that question directly. I think he is a basically good man.

      But as a Book of Mormon scholar, Dr. Coe totally fails the test. He has not earned the right to express a scholarly opinion about the Book of Mormon…he knows zip about the Book of Mormon.
      Bruce

  87. Hi Brant,

    Given your own knowledge of Mesoamerica, do you agree with the choices reflected in the appendixes? For example, is the lack of reference to a Nephite Nation representative of the material cited from Coe and The Maya for point 1.1 in Appendix A? And to the degree the Book of Mormon reflects a specific, unusual and unknown degree of knowledge pertaining to Mayan society being composed of city-state polities limited in size and lacking a central form of government?

    • The article doesn’t use a methodology I would, but then I wouldn’t attempt anything statistical. Do I think that there are multiple interconnected connections between the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerica, particular aspects from Maya politics and culture? Yes. What I find most fascinating is that the best correspondencies with Maya culture (including politics) occur in the section of the Book of Mormon where Nephites leave Zarahemla (not a Maya land, in the correlation I follow) and go back to the land of Nephi (which is Maya land in that same correlation).

      On the whole, I find the correspondences to be much better than those the Dales used.

      • Thanks for the reply and your consideration. It seems to me the choices made are fundamental to the results becoming what they did, so the question goes to the core of what a reader ought to take away from the effort represented in the study. If, for example, the purpose is to show Coe has underestimated to correlations between the BoM and the Mayan then how Coe’s work is used to identify the criteria being compared should be the first point one considers. Yet it appears the choices made are questionable. I started with the first one because it is first but not necessarily the most glaring. If we take the Coe citation and distill it down to the essential characteristics for comparison I don’t see where Coe places the use of the term Nation. I do see descriptions of Mayan social structure that can be compared to the way Nephite and Lamanite society is described. And there are parallel phrases used such as, “The people of the Nephites” that fills the same linguistic function as Nephite the Nation. If one further accepts the BoM is a translated work where the word choices made fall into the same questions dismissed earlier in these comments, well, where does that leave the proposition that the BoM demostrated specific, detailed and unusual knowledge of the Mayan culture? It seems this should be reconsidered.

  88. If this work is so wonderful, why publish it here? Why not the best journal where it is peer reviewed by a non-member? It would be a great opportunity to show the world (missionary work) the case for the Book of Mormon. The problem is that most peer reviewers would agree with me. Most positive correspondences could have easily come from Joseph’s background. Many positive correspondences are weaker than claimed and many negative correspondences are much much much stronger than claimed. Statistics isn’t my field but I can recognize over the top cherry picking here. Again, submit it to a real journal and let’s see what happens. Do your missionary work.

    • Asking why the article wasn’t published in a different venue sounds like a reasonable question, unless you are familiar with the problems that entails. The fact is, the article is published. That means it can be dealt with substantively. For example, you might begin with dealing with the premise of the article, that compares Coe’s statements to his book. You will notice that the very definition of the question precluded the correspondences from Joseph’s background. It is one thing to deal substantively with an article, and another to say that it must not be right because of where it was published.

      Are you suggesting that there was no peer review? The person who oversaw that peer review indicated that it did, and that the reviewers were qualified. Are you dismissing the qualifications of the reviewers, or just the location of the publication?

  89. I’m curious if the authors will explain why following the law of Moses is miss for the View of the Hebrews, as is describing the language spoken as Hebrew yet these weren’t counted as negatives for the Book of Mormon despite explicit statements in Jacob, 4 Nephi and Mormon?

  90. I really enjoyed the paper (though I have not yet reviewed the appendices, and may never have the time or the focus to do so). The heated debate could mean many things (e.g. the assumptions are truly highly flawed, cognitive dissonance from non-believers, etc.), but I am very appreciative that the authors are taking the time to address the concerns raised.

    It would be fantastic if this was the beginning of a methodological approach to testing our claims of truth. While I think PRACTICAL application of Bayesian statistics will generally involve some fraction of subjectivity, some commentators here seem to be intentionally throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water.

    I hope the authors have enough gas left in the tank to not only continue to respond to questions, but also, at some time in the future, to consider further applications for this methodology with other aspects of apologetics.

    A sincere thank you to all involved in the publication of this work.

    Aaron

    • Aaron and others,
      Yes, I think Brian and I have enough “gas in the tank” to continue responding and explaining our paper. 🙂

      However, it is going to take me a few days before I am able to respond to the most recent comments. My wife and I have been working 10 hour days for the past week, and will be working the same hours through Friday.

      When I recover a bit from this sustained effort, I will rejoin the discussion. Hopefully Brian can continue to respond in my absence.

      Bruce

  91. And also what was the calculation based upon which justified the initial 1:1000000000 prior odds of the Book of Mormon being historical? Why was that specific number used, instead of, say, 0 (certainly not), or 1 (certainly so), or any number between them?

    What is the calculable chance hypothesis being modeled in this analysis? How does it justify these numbers?

    • Jared,
      Wow! If I understand your letter, you really misread the skeptical prior odds.

      We assumed a billion to one against the Book of Mormon being historical. That means that a lot of positive evidence had to accumulate to overcome and then reverse the skeptical prior.

      What would you prefer, a trillion to one? Something more? Is there any amount of evidence that would convince you that Coe’s assertion regarding the Book of Mormon was a work of fiction doesn’t agree with the evidence in his own book?
      Bruce

      • Bruce,

        It appears from your response to me that when you say in your essay “we allow only a 1:1,000,000,000 (one in a billion) prior odds that the Book of Mormon is a historical document” that your use of the phrase “we allow” ought to be read as “we arbitrarily choose.” That is to say there is no calculable chance hypothesis being modeled that gives rise to the 1:1,000,000,000 prior odds. The number has no mathematical justification. It may as well have been 0, or 1, or any other number between them. It is not clear from your essay why the prior odds could not be arbitrarily different from what you chose.

        When you chose your evidentiary weightings of 0.02, 0.1, and 0.5, this also seems to have been arbitrary, and does not appear to have rigorous mathematical justification, references to the technical literature notwithstanding. It is not clear from your essay why the weightings could not differ arbitrarily from what you chose.

        Since your analysis depends upon these seemingly arbitrarily chosen numbers, the results of the analysis are also apparently arbitrary.

      • Hi Bruce,

        Thank you for your reply yesterday.

        To answer your question, yes, I read your paper. The statistical analysis is fatally flawed. Here are the problems:

        1- Your model is comparing two hypotheses: first, that the book is “essentially historical” and second, that it consists of a series of independent guesses about ancient Mesoamerica. The mathematics are only valid if these two hypotheses covered the entire space of possible explanations, but plainly, they do not. The most popular explanation for the Book of Mormon is something that your model does not consider: that somebody decided to write an internally consistent fictional book about a civilization that descended from the people of the Bible and left the north-American Indians as their descendants. Writing an internally consistent story is fundamentally different than making a series of independent guesses.

        2- Under the “not authentic” hypothesis, you presume the author was making guesses about Mesoamerica. That setup misrepresents the situation and is flawed. The reason we are talking about Mesoamerica is because apologists made the a posteriori conclusion that Mesoamerica is where the book fits best. If the author would have chosen to make an internally consistent story about nomadic tribes rather than an internally consistent story about urban civilization, then apologists would have claimed the book was about the Sioux tribe (or whichever other tribe fits best). Or if he would have chosen to write about a hermit, you’d find a place and location where there could have been a hermit like the one described and we’d be talking about that. Regardless of the internally consistent setting chosen for the story, you’d be saying something like, “how did the author make so many lucky guesses about the Sioux? The probabilities are 10^400 to 1 that he’d make all of these lucky guesses!” So a correct formulation of the stats should be what’s the probability that the book would fit anywhere, not the probability that it fits specifically in Mesoamerica.

        3- The basket of evidence you select isn’t exhaustive—it was selected by apologists to generate the desired conclusions. For example, you include “Books stored underground in lidded stone boxes” (6.20) as a very strong hit (as if putting a box in a cave and burying it under a rock were the same specific, unusual thing). However, you don’t count the lack of “nixtamal” as a miss (Coe says “The importance of the nixtamal process cannot be overstated.”). Of course an authentic Book of Mormon wouldn’t necessarily contain references to every detail of their culture. However, a valid Bayesian analysis must consider all of the evidence. Ignoring evidence like this is cherry picking (More on this in the next point).

        4- Your criteria of “specific, detailed, unusual” for weighting the evidence doesn’t make very much sense in the context of this problem. The actual definition of a liklihood ratio isn’t a measure of how “specific, detailed, and unusual” a detail is. The definition is the ratio of two likelihoods—how likely the detail is to surface under hypothesis A divided by how likely it is to surface under hypothesis B. Granted, it is difficult to come up with a good way of determining how likely it is that jade, for example, will be specifically mentioned in a true book versus how likely it is to be mentioned in a false book. However, a valid use of Bayesian statistics will make this effort. For example, it is probably more likely that marine shells would be mentioned in a true book from Mesoamerica than in a false book written in Palmyra. Thus, the lack of specific mention of shells counts as evidence against the book. Not a lot of evidence by itself–just a little. But if you multiply thousands of “dogs that did not bark” together, it can counteract the unrealistic odds you get from only looking at the hits.

        5- The likelihood scores you ascribe to many of these things is ludicrous. The “specific, detailed, and unusual” descriptions of Jesus that are infinitely more similar to protestant 19th century Christianity than to the religion described in The Maya. But this is somehow contrived to count as strong evidence that the book is from Mesoamerica???? Almost all of your hits are much weaker than you represent.

        6- You’re a priori odds of a billion-to-one is like a device in a magic trick: it constitutes misdirection that distracts from the fundamental problems in your analysis that lead to the magical results.

        • I stay far away from statistics. I have read a few ancient texts and archaeology from areas described in the texts. Whether you criticisms are valid for a statistical analysis I cannot say. From just looking at the correspondences, while I might have my own differences with the article’s methods, I have similar issues with your suggestions.

          Point 1: Internal consistency and external correspondence are fundamentally different. Fantasy authors work hard to create an internally consistent story, and some use mythological material from known cultures to give a recognizable flavor or context to the story. Attempting to correlate any of those to external sources (i.e. history/archaeology) is impossible beyond random connections. The question here isn’t that every possible scenario is chosen, but whether or not a specific region fits. Random connections are cherry-picking. The larger number of interrelated connections is beyond random. The issue of whether the article establishes those connections can be debated, but then that wasn’t the design of the question. It is hard to complain that the article didn’t do what it didn’t attempt.

          Point 2: Yes, the issue is partially Mesoamerica because that is the best fit we can find. However, it is also determined by the premise of the article, with is Coe. Comparing what Coe says about Mesoamerican and the Book of Mormon to the Sioux is silly.

          Point 3: No one can do an exhaustive comparison. One of the reasons is the nixtamal process you mention. That exists, and is important. It isn’t in any ancient literature. I haven’t seen the early Spaniards describe it. It isn’t in any native text I have read (in translation, of course). So, your premise creates an impossible situation. Again, I have no idea how that affects statistics, but the premise of your arguments is based on an impossible suggestion. The Popol Vuh fails the nixtamal test.

          The nature of the correspondences themselves is a worthy point of discussion. One of the known problems with comparison lists is that the similarities can be created by the way the lists are described. Another issue that might affect the paper is the initial design to limit the study to Coe’s statements and his book. That limitation precludes a number of what I believe are very strong connections between the text and a particular time and place–but they aren’t in The Maya.

          • Hi Brandt,

            Our respective domains of expertise are pretty-much mutually exclusive. I feel I have a reasonable command on the math, but I know less about Mayans than Professor Coe knows about the Book of Mormon.

            If you want to stay far away from the statistics, I’ll refrain from going into detail trying explain myself on the numbered points you raised. Suffice it to say that my points are about how the assumptions need to be formulated so that the statistics they are trying to do leads to valid conclusions. My points are about where they went wrong in the statistics that caused a billion-to-one head start in favor of the fiction hypothesis to result in the historicity hypothesis winning 2.69 x 10^142 to 1. If they are right and the odds are anywhere near that, Mesoamericanists who deny the historicity of the Book of Mormon are on par with astronomers who deny that the earth is round.

            I’m not suggesting that correctly formulating this analysis would result in a lopsided win of several googles-to-one for the critics. Nor am I suggesting that a correct formulation of this is feasible or practical. What I’m doing is trying to explain the subtle errors in the Bayesian reasoning that caused Dr. Dale & Dr. Dale to come to such absurd results.

        • Hi Mr. Shears:
          To address your concern about many googles of likelihood that seems to be a problem for you, perhaps it would be useful to just leave the statistics aside for a bit. I will focus on those in another comment. We will just set the Bayesian analysis aside for a time.

          Instead, let’s just focus on the overall evidence, without weighting any point of evidence more strongly than any other point of evidence, either for or against the hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is a work of fiction, as Dr. Coe has repeatedly claimed.

          In Coe’s book, The Maya, there are six facts cited that contradict statements of fact in the Book of Mormon. There are 131 facts cited in The Maya that agree with statements of fact in the Book of Mormon. We have listed all of these in the paper.

          Without weighting these points of evidence, that is, leaving out the Bayesian analysis completely; if Dr. Coe’s book The Maya is reliable, there is still a very strong preponderance of evidence that the Book of Mormon is an authentic factual record because it agrees so well with Dr. Coe’s book.

          In other words, 131 is a lot bigger number than 6.

          If we give Dr. Coe’s negative opinions about the Book of Mormon the maximum possible credence by including the 12 additional negative points in the unscientific, non-reviewed sources (the Dialogue article and the podcasts), there are a total of 18 negative points of evidence.

          Likewise, 131 is still a whole lot bigger than 18.

          Is this helpful for you? As I said above, I will deal with the Bayesian weighting issue in a separate post.

          As a fun aside, are you aware that there is a “Flat Earth Conference” where people congregate to discuss their reasons for believing that the earth is flat?

          https://flatearthconference.com/about/

          So yes, it is indeed possible to ignore facts by studiously ignoring the relevant evidence. Dr. Coe did exactly this.

          Dr. Coe did not examine the evidence in his own book that supported the fact claims of the Book of Mormon. He simply ignored the Book of Mormon and its fact claims.

          This is not good science nor good scholarship. It is prejudice…pure and simple.

          Bruce

          ps. Is “Billy Shears” your nom de plume (as in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) or is that your real name? Sorry, but I have insatiable curiosity. 🙂

          • Hi Bruce,

            Thanks for the reply. Ignoring the math and focusing on the counts, I have the following comments.

            First, your methodology of only counting things that are mentioned in both the Book of Mormon and in the Maya is extremely biased. In principle, the Book of Mormon could contain all sorts of details that are highly implausible for ancient Mesoamerica, but are very consistent with the time and place of Joseph Smith. These anachronisms are strong evidence against an ancient Book of Mormon, yet your methodology systematically ignores them.

            Second, I highly dispute the count itself. As an example, compare points 6.2 and 6.3 in Appendix A with negative point 7 in Appendix D.

            Book of Mormon: They kept track of days, weeks, months, and years. The years are counted from various events, such as when Lehi left Jerusalem and when the sign was given that Jesus was born. Everything about this is entirely consistent with the Gregorian calendar Joseph Smith used, and indeed seems to be used to make sure that the events in the Bible (e.g. Siege of Jerusalem in 587 BC, Birth of Christ, Death of Christ) and the events in the Book of Mormon remain synchronized.

            View of Hebrews: “They count time after the manner of the Hebrews. They divide the year into spring, summer, autumn and winter. They number their year from any one of those four periods, for they have no name for a year, and they subdivide these, and count the year by lunar months, like the Israelites…They counted time by, and observed, a weekly Sabbath long after their arrival on the American continent.”

            Mayans: The Mayans had a very complicated calendar system, but the basics of it, as I understand it, are that they had two calendars, and they simultaneously tracked dates on both. One calendar was a 365 day calendar that consisted of 18 “months” of 20 days each with an extra 5 days. The second was an independent calendar of 260 days that consisted of 20 months with 13 days each.

            Analysis. When you compare the three, the calendar in the View of the Hebrews and the Calendar in the Book of Mormon are very similar. In fact, there is no evidence that they aren’t identical. Both count solar years and months. Both have seven-day weeks with a Sabbath.

            In contrast, the Mayan calendar is totally unique.

            I would expect a scholar to think that this is evidence that the use of calendars is evidence that both the View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon are modern, American inventions. Further, I’d expect him to say that this is evidence that Hebrews didn’t go to the new world in 600 B.C., become people of influence, and bring their calendar with them. It was an independent culture. Further, there is nothing in the Book of Mormon that suggests they adapted Mayan calendars, started tracking 260-day years, and started observing the Sabbath once every 13 days. In fact, from the way the count of years synchronizes with the Gregorian calendar, we know they weren’t using Mayan years.

            Perhaps I’m missing the subtly of your point. If so, I invite you to clarify. But it seems obvious to me that counting calendars in the Book of Mormon as a specific, detailed, and unusual hit, while counting calendars in View of the Hebrews as a specific, detailed and unusual miss, is driven by extreme bias. Calendars weigh against the Book of Mormon, just as they weigh against the View of the Hebrews.

            Anyway, Paul McCartney was right when he said there is “one and only Billy Shears.” Although I was also born in May of 1968, that isn’t my real name.

  92. We weight the evidence for the Book of Mormon as 0.02, 0.1 and 0.5 if that evidence is Bayesian “supportive”, “positive” or “strong” as described in our paper. These numerical values are chosen from the technical literature.

    Where in the technical literature has anyone provided formal proofs justifying the use of these specific values, or any others, for the purposes they are presently being deployed?

  93. Hi Dr. Dale and Dr. Dale,

    I’m still working my way through this paper, and I just want to be sure I understand your reasoning. Point 3.2 in the appendix is “strong Christian elements in Maya religion,” and you claim the relationship between the Christianity in the Book of Mormon and the Mayan religion are “specific, detailed, and very unusual.” You therefore score it a likelihood ratio of 0.02.

    The way I understand the argument here is that you are claiming that the Christianity described in the Book of Mormon is so uniquely Mayan, that if Michael Coe (or any other impartial expert) were to carefully and impartially read the Book of Mormon, paying particular consideration to the Christian elements in the Book and evaluating just those elements in isolation, he (or any other impartial expert) would declare that while other factors might change the odds one way or the other, the Christianity in the Book of Mormon make it 50 times more likely that the Book was written by an ancient Mayan than by a modern American.

    Is that your reasoning? If not, could you clarify?

    Thanks,

    Billy

  94. I appreciate the article for the perspective on what the authors felt were impressive convergences. I learned a few new things about the Book of Mormon.

    Either I understand the math wrong, or I think there must be something wrong with the methodology.

    Did I do this right: I selected certain items from your list of positive and negative correspondences.

    Positive:
    parts of land were densely populated: 1/10
    people spoke different languages: 1/10
    there were strong class distinctions: 1/10
    king had a fancy throne: 1/10
    marketplaces existed: 1/10
    it was important to trace one’s genealogy to prominent ancestors: 1/50
    soldiers were cruel to enemy captives: 1/10
    stones used as weapons: 1/50
    poisonous snakes existed: 1/50
    easy to get lost in the terrain/wilderness: 1/50
    there were deliberate destruction of records or important monuments: 1/10
    political power ran in family dynasties: 1/10
    had roads: 1/10
    Total: 6.25E15

    Negative correspondences:
    Horses 50
    Steel 50
    wheat 2
    Reformed Egyptian 2
    Total 10,000

    Net Total 625 billion. Meets the 1B threshold, therefore this is deemed so unlikely to have guessed correctly, it must be a historical Mesoamerican story.

    Look over that list of positive convergences again. Then add to the story a cavalry of soldiers riding horses, armed with steel swords, defending fields of barley. And their record is recorded in Reformed Egyptian.

    Do I have that right?

    • Hi,
      The way you are explaining it back to me, I would have to respond: “no, you do not have it right”. We explain our methodology starting at the bottom of page 79 and go on through the bottom of page 89, so I cannot condense it easily. Sorry not to be more helpful.
      Bruce

  95. Interesting article, but fascinating comments. The passion in some of the comments is intriguing. Since most of the heated debate appears to deal with the statistical methodology, I propose that we disregard the statistics and assign all of the arguments (for and against) an equal value. That way we only have two numbers to consider: 131 and 18. These two numbers seem to be the real substance of the authors’ claims. It would be interesting to read comments concerning the data rather than on the analytical methodology. I would be more interested in knowing if any of the 131 positive correlations should be discarded or if we should add any additional negative correlations to the current 18. Since no one seems to be commenting on the data, but instead on the statistical methodology, does that mean that those who approve and those who disapprove both accept the authors’ data as accurate?

    • Excellent suggestion. Let’s look at point 3.2 as an example. The authors claim something to the effect that the Christianity in the Book of Mormon fits much better into ancient Mayan religion than into 19th century American Protestantism. Therefore, they score this as a hit for the Book of Mormon and an example of why Dr. Coe was wrong when he said “The picture of this hemisphere between 2,000 bc and ad 421 presented in the book has little to do with early Indian cultures as we know them, in spite of much wishful thinking.”

      What do you think? Does the Christianity in the Book of Mormon count as a hit because it fits into what we know about the Mayans like a hand fits into a glove?

      • Billy,
        In a word, “yes”. The Book of Mormon is first and foremost a witness for Jesus Christ and the book claims that at least some ancient inhabitants of this continent worshiped Him. Thus it is not surprising that some elements and echoes of Christianity survived among the Maya…as Dr. Coe’s book attests.
        Bruce

        • Bruce, having not read Dr. Coe’s book, in what ways does he believe that some ancient inhabitants (pre-Columbian) worshipped Christ? Does he state in his book what those elements and echoes were? I find this a most curious thing.

        • The alleged “echoes of Christianity” that allegedly survived among the Mayan are not specific, detailed, or unusual.

          If the Maya codices included some chapters of Isaiah, you would have scored a significant hit. But as it is? I don’t see it.

  96. To those interested, I think it is important to make a “top-level” point here.

    A lot of people are approaching this article as if it is an attempt by the Dales to either “prove” the Book of Mormon is true or to “prove” that Joseph Smith was a prophet. This paper attempts neither; those are not propositions analyzed in the paper.

    What it attempts to do is to prove whether Dr. Coe’s oft-stated conclusions about the Book of Mormon are consistent with Dr. Coe’s well respected work on Mesoamerica, as contained within his book The Maya.

    This hypothesis is stated very clearly in the first page of the Dales’ article (page 78). It is also stated very clearly in the the Summary to the article (page 96).

    I address this in one of my comments, here. Bruce Dale addresses it one of his comments, here. I chose to reiterate it here because both my comment and Bruce’s comment are too easily overlooked in the back and forth.

    Those who try to assert that this paper is some sort of “apologetic work” that seeks to scientifically prove the historicity of the Book of Mormon or to somehow prove the truth of the Book of Mormon are missing the mark—this article attempts no such thing.

    To reiterate, the bottom line of the paper is that (1) Coe is mistaken and (2) the author of the Book of Mormon got a lot of stuff right that it should have been impossible to get right. The point of the paper is to disprove Coe’s assertions, not to prove the Book of Mormon.

    -Allen

    • The point of the paper is to disprove Coe’s assertions, not to prove the Book of Mormon.

      -Allen

      The overall weight of the evidence is just overwhelming: the Book of Mormon is historical.

      Best wishes,
      Bruce

      Someone needs to get their story straight.

      Best wishes,
      Arc

    • “We prefer a more rational, more intellectually honest conclusion: The Book of Mormon is a real historical record. It is authentic.”

    • Arc and antishock8, I invite you to read the paper a bit more thoroughly, and I will attempt to clarify my statements.

      I believe the Book of Mormon is a factual, historical record. The Dales believe that as well–they state that in multiple places including several you don’t point out.

      That doesn’t change the fact that the paper isn’t an attempt to prove the historicity of the Book of Mormon; it is an effort to prove that Dr. Coe’s multiple assertions that it is NOT historical are mistaken. (Perhaps this is too subtle of a distinction; I’ll let the reader make that determination.)

      As some have pointed out in these comments, there are MANY other issues which may affect the ultimate question of historicity of the Book of Mormon. What about DNA? What about linquistics? What about translation issues? What about the flood? What about Ether? What about _______? (You can fill in the blank however you want.)

      Each of those questions, while they have a bearing on historicity, are outside the scope of what the Dales analyzed. They are, first and foremost, looking at the assertions by Dr. Coe that the Book of Mormon is NOT historical. Dr. Coe was making such assertions based on his understanding of Mayan culture, as he is quoted on the first page of the Dales’ article:

      …99% of everyting that the Book of Mormon has as details is false.

      and, further, that the

      …picture of this hemisphere between 2,000 BC and AD 421 presented in [the Book of Mormon] has little to do with early Indian cultures as we know them.

      So, Dr. Coe says the book is fiction, and the Dales say it is not. In their words (page 84),

      The question of interest is: “Is the Book of Mormon a work of fiction, or is it a factual, historical document according to the cumulative, relevant evidence summarized in The Maya?

      Dr. Coe says the Book of Mormon is NOT historical, the Dales say it IS historical “according to the cumulative, relevant evidence summarized in The Maya.”

      Again, my point may be a bit too nuanced for some, but it is valid nonetheless–the direct arguments in the paper are against Dr. Coe’s assertions relative to the historicity of the Book of Mormon. The Dales refute those assertions, I believe quite effectively. I stand by the position that the point of the paper is to disprove Coe’s assertions, not to prove the Book of Mormon.

      I will, of course, defer to the Dales in this determination; it is their paper, after all. 😉

      -Allen

      • Arc, antishock, et al,
        Allen is correct. We tested Dr. Coe’s claim that 99% of everything that is in the Book of Mormon is false using the information in his own book The Maya. If his book can be relied upon, then Dr. Coe is wrong. If his book is accurate and reliable, then so is the Book of Mormon. Other conclusions might follow from that primary conclusion but the point of our paper was to disprove Coe’s assertions regarding the Book of Mormon.
        Bruce

  97. Mr. Dale,

    Doesn’t the Bayes Theorem show that Jesus didn’t exist? It seems problematic that you are attempting to use the Bayes Theorem to show a historical BoM when the tool you are using also shows there was no Jesus. Thoughts?

    Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus by Richard Carrier, who uses Bayes’s theorem to show, with probability one minus epsilon, that Jesus never existed.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1616145595/?tag=ththve-20

    • The Dales aren’t using “the Bayes Theorem to show a historical BoM.” You have misunderstood the purpose of their paper.

      -Allen

      • Allen,

        You have misunderstood my point.

        I was merely asking the Dales why they would utilize a tool (Bayes) that shows Jesus didn’t exist.

        It does seem a little strange they would promote and defend the Bayes Theorem. I guess it could be possible the Dales do not believe in a historical Jesus?

        • No, I didn’t misunderstand your point.

          Bayesian analysis is a statistical tool. Tools can be used for many different purposes. In the words of the Dales (page 82), “the Bayesian approach has been applied to diverse topics ranging from astronomy to zoology.” Just because the Dales used this particular statistical tool doesn’t mean that they approve of, agree with, or endorse all the various other purposes to which the tool is put. Similarly, if the Dales disagree with the conclusions drawn in one particular Bayesian analysis (such as, perhaps, the study to which you refer), that doesn’t preclude them from using Bayesian analysis for a completely different analytical purpose.

          -Allen

        • Hi Mr. Blanco,

          This is a pretty silly criticism. I assume you use knives routinely for preparing and eating food, opening boxes, and so forth. Should you cease your use of knives simply because they have also been used by others to kill or injure people? Does your use of a knife imply that you condone all uses of knives?

  98. Pingback: Illusion of scholarship – The Interpreter and Mormon’s Codex (part 5) – "Moroni's America" – The North American Setting for the Book of Mormon

  99. Hi Jared,

    I would be glad to see such an analysis done. I am not convinced, a priori, that it would turn out the way that you suggest, particularly since the other two papers that we investigated using the same methodology did not yield similar results.

    It is also possible to extend the methodology slightly to take into account similarities between mesoamerican and mediterranean ancient civilization. Instead of having two hypotheses you would have three: it is historical and set in mesoamerica, it is historical and set in the mediterranean, and neither of the above. With a suitable mediterranean authority you could look for factual agreements and disagreements there also.

    On factual statements in common between the mesoamerican and mediterranean standards, agreement would indicate the similarity that you are correctly identifying. However, there would be some factual statements that are opposed between the two standards, and those would serve to discriminate between the first two hypotheses.

    • You’ve basically set up a false dichotomy: either Joseph made it up or it is historical. Someone other than Joseph could have made it up…someone with a knowledge of ancient Mediterranean history. That is the third hypothesis.

      Thucydides, Sallust, Tacitus and other ancient writers provide the material that describes these ancient civilizations. There is no gimmick that can condense this vast amount of work into a series of facts that can be tested statistically. But everything is there from the steel to the chariots to the elephants and everything else.

      Let me share you one example that does not rely on sweeping generalities. I think you will find this interesting. In Sallust’s Histories he includes a letter written by the famous general, Pompey, to the Senate. This letter shares many similarities to the letter in Alma 60 that Moroni writes to Pahoran and “all those who have been chosen by this people to govern and manage the affairs of this war.” Pompey, writing from the field in Spain, is incensed because his men are starving and battle-weary and no help has been sent. He threatens that if help is not sent to him he will march his army back to Italy.

      What we have here is a one-to-one correspondence between two specific letters that share much of the same situational context and written content. Perhaps this is mere coincidence. Or perhaps someone who knew these ancient writers well constructed a story that mirrored the vast civilizations described by these ancients. It just so happens that the ancient Maya also shared many of the same general characteristics. But so did the ancient Chinese and just about every other vast civilization that lasted for a long time. The Book of Mormon looks like real history. But it may not be for the reason you think.

      • Hi Jared,

        That is a good point.

        I do not think that all ancient cultures are equally described by the Book of Mormon, so I do not agree with the a priori assumption that a similar approach using an ancient Mediterranean or Chinese culture would yield similar results. However, it is a scientifically testable proposition. Simply find a scholarly “gold standard” reference (equivalent to “The Maya”) on a given ancient civilization and perform a similar analysis using multiple hypotheses.

        Such an analysis would also help specify the criteria used to judge the strength of evidence more systematically. Facts that are the same for both civilizations could not be classified as unusual for either.

  100. Those who are claiming above that the Book of Ether in the Book of Mormon allows for human habitation in the western hemisphere prior to the arrival of the first transoceanic migrations described therein should harken to the words of a prophet of the Lord, even Jeffrey R. Holland.

    From:
    A Promised Land
    By Jeffrey R. Holland

    “Temporarily, we call it America. But it began with the single, primeval continent of Genesis, and the miracle of millennial healing will bring that unity again.”

    And later:

    Holy scripture records that “after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof.” (Ether 13:2.) Such a special place needed now to be kept apart from other regions, free from the indiscriminate traveler as well as the soldier of fortune. To guarantee such sanctity the very surface of the earth was rent. In response to God’s decree, the great continents separated and the ocean rushed in to surround them. The promised place was set apart. Without habitation it waited for the fulfillment of God’s special purposes.
    __________________

    https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/1976/06/a-promised-land?lang=eng

    • Arc,

      In case you are not aware, there are many LDS scholars who do not accept the doctrine of the Universal Flood because it does not correlate current archaeological, geological and other scientific theories. They are fully aware of what the Prophets have said on the subject. But that debate is too far off topic for this post.

      • Theodore Brandley,

        Thank you for your response to the words of Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland regarding absence of human habitation in the Western Hemisphere as a result of the Great Flood of Noah, as described in the Book of Ether.

        The response is more than a little ironic when one considers that the Book of Mormon narrative itself could hardly be in more direct conflict with mainstream science regarding the natural history of the western hemisphere, including current understanding of the relevant archaeology, ethnology, genetics, geography, biology, botany, linguistics, and any other scientific discipline one could mention – pseudo-Bayesian analysis notwithstanding.

        Best wishes.

        • Arc,
          In June of 1976 Jeffrey R. Holland was not an Apostle. He wouldn’t be ordained a Seventy for 13 more years and his call to the apostleship was still 18 years in his future.

          Cheers.

  101. I noticed that the article passed over a number of relevant issues concerning the application of Bayes and I was wondering if the authors had tacitly assumed some solutions or if they didn’t make the final edit for space concerns. Specifically I had in mind the issue of universal comparisons, which would need to be addressed before the argument presented in the above paper could even get off the ground. I’ll explain what I mean.

    Let’s start with a basic formulation of the conditional probability being employed:

    Pr(H|E)= P(E|H)*P(H)/P(H)*P(E|H)+P(~H)*P(E|~H)

    To help orient people to my concerns I’ll mention that Keynes goes to some length in chapter 3 of his ‘A Treatise of Probability’ in pointing out that both P(E|H) and P(H|E) could be (and often are) quantifying two very different things. It wouldn’t do to simply assume that these two conditionals meaningfully commensurate when dealing with “objective” versions of Bayes, how much more so with the “subjective” variety?

    Ideally the “how” used to guarantee viable comparisons would be reflected formally, perhaps as a lemma grouped in with the standard axioms of probability.

    • I will provide more detail tomorrow (it is late here already), but we actually used the odds form of Bayes theorem for this work. I tried to be careful to use the word odds instead of probability where appropriate for that form. But you are correct that we glossed over many details. We did not feel that it would have been helpful for the intended audience. And the methodology is rather basic so a bunch of formal lemmas would have been “lipstick on a pig”.

    • Hi Alfonsy,

      So the exact form that we were using is:

      O(H:~H|E)=O(H:~H) * P(E|H)/P(E|~H)
      where O(H:~H) is the odds of the hypothesis over not the hypothesis and the rest of the terms have their usual meaning.

      The term involving the ratio of the probabilities is the likelihood ratio or Bayes factor and is the quantity that describes the strength of the evidence.

      You are completely correct that P(H|E) and P(E|H) are very different things. That is indeed the whole point of Bayes theorem.

  102. Dear Dr. Bruce Dale and Dr. Brian Dale,

    Thank you for your exhaustive study, and the application of your specific scientific expertise to the study of The Book of Mormon. Your paper is fascinating. It has introduced me to a new perspective, and to a methodology of investigation I didn’t know existed. Thank you.

    I hope you have a personal, spiritual witness of the value of your contribution. You have sounded another voice and added to the growing academic chorus proclaiming the everlasting truth of God’s word. What you have done today will spark more minds, hearts and souls to add to the proclamation tomorrow.

    I am grateful to the critics who made comments, I read each one to date. Thank you Bruce for the careful replays and defense offered in each case. I applaud the dialogue.

    Men and women will continue to look at The Book of Mormon, at the claims of Joseph Smith and his successors, at the claims of Jesus Christ, and of His Father, and will choose for themselves yeah, or neigh. The proof is in the test drive. Thank you for sharing your marvelous test criteria.

    Thanks be to Interpreter for continuing to bringing the best minds on topics of eternal significance to the public square. Please keep up the good work.

    Eric Pond
    Vancouver, WA

  103. The fatal flaw in this paper is the assumption that correlation with the Mayans is evidence of historicity. Let me explain. The correlations put forth in Appendix A are largely very general, in nature. The vast majority of these correlations also exist between the Book of Mormon and most other civilizations that have lasted for a very long time. Specifically, if you look at the ancient Mediterranean world over the same time period as the Book of Mormon you will see that almost all of the 131 correspondences apply. At least 17 of the 18 negative correspondences in Appendix B also apply. Beyond these there are many more correspondences to the ancient Greco-Roman world that do not apply to Mesoamerica. Indeed it is difficult to find any aspect of Book of Mormon civilization that doesn’t have a correspondence in the ancient Mediterranean.

    If we apply the same logic used in this article, this tells us the Book of Mormon was very likely written by somebody with a very good knowledge of Greco-Roman history (or of another ancient civilization). The person also had to be very knowledgeable about the bible and various other issues. This person was almost certainly not Joseph Smith. I am happy to agree with the authors on that point.

    This paper sets out to show the events in the Book of Mormon actually happened and that they took place in Mesoamerica. What I think it really points to, though, is how well the Book of Mormon mimics history, in general, and specifically ancient Mediterranean history. Finding correspondences can be a double-edged sword.

    • Hi Jared,
      This is a novel explanation for the Book of Mormon. Before I construct a more complete response, I want to make sure I understand what you are suggesting here.

      Are you suggesting that someone was the essentially a “ghost writer” for Joseph Smith and that this hypothetical person had an excellent education in Greco-Roman history (or some other ancient civilization) and used this education to write the Book of Mormon, and that this is why the Book of Mormon mimics history so well.

      Do I understand your hypothesis correctly? Anything you want to add or correct in my interpretation of your hypothesis?

      Bruce

  104. This looks like a bad application of statistics. From the paper:

    “Here is a key point for statistical analysis: probabilities of individual, statistically independent events must be multiplied together to calculate the probability of all the individual events occurring simultaneously.”

    Because of the difficulty in determining whether or not two events are statistically independent, statisticians often take this as the *definition* of statistical independence: two events are statistically independent if the probability of their simultaneous occurrence is the product of the probabilities of the two events taken in isolation.

    However, in this paper, no definition of statistical independence is explicitly given. We are expected to accept that the 131 points are “statistically independent” without any basis. But let’s look at just the first two points:

    1.1 Fundamental level of political organization is the independent city-state
    1.2 “Capital” or leading city-state dominates a cluster of other communities

    Are these events really statistically independent? Are they even events that the historical record implies are independent from each other? Is organization into independent city-states completely independent from the existence of a leading city-state? If not, we cannot multiply these probabilities and get a number that means anything.

    • Thanks, Theron.

      Good start on a solid, fact-based critique of what I think is the most difficult part of this analysis…and which only you and Kyler have mentioned this far.

      The question is: “Of these 131 correspondences, how many are not independent, or can reasonably be construed as not being fully independent?”

      I asked myself that question over and over again during the course of writing the paper, and tried to assign the Bayesian likelihoods to each correspondence accordingly.

      One of the primary reasons that I divided the paper up into six different categories was to make it easier to identify correspondences that might not be independent. There were a few such potential correspondences that I threw out as a result of asking the question, and a few others that I downgraded in their assigned Bayesian likelihood as a result.
      But not many.

      If you read the paper carefully, and especially Appendix A, I think you won’t find very many correspondences that are not independent. You and Kyler have mentioned two or three regarding cities to which this concern about statistical independence may apply. But there are scores of other correspondences that definitely are independent.

      Here are just seventeen of these correspondences:
      1.29 Royal courts imitate their enemies
      2.1 Possible ancient origin of Mesoamerican cultures
      6.4 Domesticated bees
      3.8 Baptismal rite among the Maya
      4.2 Defensive earthworks with deep ditches, breastworks and palisades
      5.6 Powerful, ancient central city and culture in the highlands
      6.3 Multiple calendars kept
      1.19 Native leaders incorporated in power structure after subjugation
      5.2 Accurate description of a volcanic eruption
      3.7 Belief in a resurrection
      2.29 World divided into four quarters or quadrants
      2.27 Arcane sacred or prestige language
      2.25 Genealogies kept by priests
      1.24 Political power exercised by family dynasties
      1.12 Royal or elite marriages for political purposes
      1.26 “Seating” means accession to political power
      2.2 Active interchange of ideas and things among the elite

      Oh heck, I will also give you my personal favorite as an eighteenth correspondence.
      2.21 Their sacred writing has poetic parallelisms, repititions.

      I don’t believe it is possible to claim that any of these seventeen (actually eighteen) are not independent correspondences. And there are many more.

      I chose to list only seventeen because, as stated in our sensitivity analysis in the paper, only seventeen of these correspondences need to be accepted at their assigned Bayesian likelihood ratios to shift the strong skeptical prior against the Book of Mormon (billion to one odds against) to an equally strong positive posterior of a billion to one odds in favor of the statement that the Book of Mormon is an authentic, fact-based book, i.e., it is true.

      The overall weight of the evidence is just overwhelming: the Book of Mormon is historical.

      Best wishes,
      Bruce

      • “I chose to list only seventeen because, as stated in our sensitivity analysis in the paper, only seventeen of these correspondences need to be accepted at their assigned Bayesian likelihood ratios to shift the strong skeptical prior against the Book of Mormon (billion to one odds against) to an equally strong positive posterior of a billion to one odds in favor of the statement that the Book of Mormon is an authentic, fact-based book, i.e., it is true. ”

        If you were actually trained in Bayesian statistics you would know flat out that this comment is profoundly problematic for and insightful about the fundamental flaws in your analysis. What you are *really* saying is that you *actually* placed an incredibly strong prior on the conclusion that the BoM is true. Why? Because you set up your model so that the worst case scenario for your preferred conclusion is a priori almost 1 trillion times more likely than the alternative. You *chose* 131 positive evidences for the BoM and said that the worst case scenario is that all 131 are independent with weight of evidence .5. Then you *chose* only 18 negative evidences and said that the maximum weight of evidence for each was 50. So a priori you are assuming that the weight of evidence for and against is
        For: .5^131 = 3.7 x 10^-40
        Against: 50^18 = 3.8*10^30.
        So your “worst case” scenario a priori is that the evidence for the BoM is (3.7 x 10^-40)*(3.8*10^30) = 1/700 billion ish. And this is an A PRIORI assumption about the worst case scenario because you are NOT modeling the data generating mechanism because YOU are chosing which evidence to allow or not allow. The data isn’t arising randomly, it is arising because YOU CHOSE it. Once you CHOSE the data, any assumption about the weight or significance of that data is an a priori assumption.

        In summary, the quoted comment basically gives up the game and admits that the presented analysis places an astronomically STRONG prior on the assumption that the BoM is true, and this whole endeavor is just begging the question.

        • To be fair to Bruce here, from my reading he didn’t really “set up the model” to include dramatically more positive than negative evidence. What he set up was a reasonable task that anyone–critics included–might have used to compare the Book of Mormon to Mayan culture. Line up the claims in the two books, note the correspondences and the contradictions, assign weights, observe the results. His choice of book was wise (he could’ve chosen Mormon’s Codex, after all), and he worked hard to gather as many negative evidences as were available. It’s not his fault that there were so many potential parallels and so few contradictions. It could’ve just as easily turned out that the negative evidences outweighed the positive, as it did for both View and Manuscript Found (though I doubt he would’ve published it had it turned out that way). If it had, I doubt you’d see many critics crying foul, and though the faithful might complain, they’d still be left with many tough pills to swallow.

          If I was trying to tackle a meta-analysis for a given subject, it might turn out that dramatically more studies had results that supported a hypothesis than results that refuted it. Assuming the studies had similar sample sizes, and comparable effect sizes, more studies would generally mean more evidence. Imagine that a reviewer come through and insisted that I stacked the deck in favor of the hypothesis because I didn’t appear to be giving equal time to the non-supportive studies. That would be ludicrous, and your criticism here uses the same logic.

          Is Dr. Dale’s reading of Coe’s book unfair? Are there more negative evidences than he’s admitting here? Do you think (as I do), that he’s overestimating the number of positive evidences? Good. Do the math, show your work, and let us all take a look.

          If, however, the positive evidences would still outweigh the negative, then you’re left with the same problem, at which point your only beef would be with the limitations of his weighting system. The solution would then be to lift the restriction, and allow individual evidences to have much lower probabilities, provided you had the calculations and observations to support it. That would involve a ton of labor, but if you’re up for it, go ahead. Just don’t be surprised if you end up dramatically strengthening the BoM’s case in the process.

          • Thanks, Kyler. Good response to Jared. Couldn’t have said it better myself. 🙂

            Jared, just one additional point. We evaluate evidence both for and against the Book of Mormon using the set of facts summarized in Dr. Coe’s book and the relevant fact claims from the Book of Mormon in exactly the same way.

            The strength of each individual piece of evidence (or “correpondence”) is given a numerical value of 50, 10 and 2 against the Book of Mormon depending on if that evidence is Bayesian “supportive”, “positive” or “strong”.

            We weight the evidence for the Book of Mormon as 0.02, 0.1 and 0.5 if that evidence is Bayesian “supportive”, “positive” or “strong” as described in our paper. These numerical values are chosen from the technical literature.

            If you want to change the weighting to some other set of values, then you have to do it for both the positive and negative correspondences, depending on your assessment of whether that evidence is supportive, positive or strong…you have to be fair and even-handed in your treatment of the evidence.

            As to the 131 versus 18 points of evidence, that is what my careful reading of the Book of Mormon, six readings of The Maya, Coe’s Dialogue article and listening to the 6 podcasts has generated. If you want to add to the 18 from Coe’s work, or downgrade any of the 131, please go ahead and do the necessary work, as Kyler has invited you to do.

            Bruce

        • Hi Jonathan,

          “You *chose* 131 positive evidences for the BoM and said that the worst case scenario is that all 131 are independent with weight of evidence .5. Then you *chose* only 18 negative evidences and said that the maximum weight of evidence for each was 50.”

          This is not a correct characterization. We tested all statements of fact from the Book of Mormon for which there were corresponding facts listed in The Maya. We found 149 such statements. Of those 149 statements we found 131 that agreed with the facts reported in The Maya and 18 that did not.

          If we had chosen the facts a priori then why would we have chosen such weird numbers? 131? No, I would have stopped at 100 if I were choosing. We checked every statement of fact that we could in the Book of Mormon and every fact that we could in The Maya. Certainly, we may have missed some, but those misses were unintentional and likely to be predominantly points of agreement rather than points of disagreement.

          If you believe that we cherry-picked the data, then please do your own reading of the Book of Mormon and The Maya and report any ones that we missed. Until you do so you have no factual basis to claim that we are distorting the data through our selective reporting of the data.

  105. Hi Dr. Dale!

    Thanks for your work on this article. I think it’s a fantastic start to approaching the Book of Mormon from a Bayesian perspective. The strength of Bayesian thinking is that it lays thought processes bare and concretizes them in quantitative form, but the other side of that two-edged sword is that you’ve opened yourself up to endless quibbles. To that end, I have a few quibbles.

    The only way through a Bayesian analysis is to be as hard on yourself as the most fervent (but reasonable) critic ever could be. You did well to add the sensitivity analyses and to try to be conservative in spots, but I feel that you could’ve gone much further. From what I can see going through the appendices, a lot of the items themselves fail the assumption of independence (e.g., the presence of cities; evidence for large-scale public works; evidence of high population density), and a lot of them just aren’t as unexpected as their ratings suggest. If one assumes that Joseph would’ve approached the BoM with biblical society as the default (rather than an indigenous or frontier American society), then anything that could have a biblical source should likely have been assigned a probability of 1, since the item would be fully consistent with the hypothesis of bible-based fiction. Because of these two points, if I’d done the analysis, I would’ve been liberal in combining items that were even tangentially similar, and would’ve been careful not to include items that had strong biblical parallels.

    That said, your point is well-made. The real point of the analysis isn’t the final probability estimate, in my opinion, but how much better the BoM performs than View of the Hebrews. The BoM really is unexpected, and I suspect that even a far more conservative analysis would’ve led to the same conclusion.

    Cheers!

    • Thanks, Kyler. These are some good points.

      The issue of whether the events were statistically independent was probably my chief concern in writing the paper. But I tried to compensate for that possibility by intentionally being more conservative in weighting many of the correspondences than I personally thought the correspondence warranted.

      In addition, every single correct fact claim in View of the Hebrews that is also found in the Book of Mormon was downgraded to no more than a 0.1 weight, when it may have deserved a higher weighting, even though there is no evidence at all that Joseph had access to that book.

      And if one believes that Joseph did take his fact claims from View of the Hebrews, we point out in the paper how unlikely it was that he took only the correct (according to Dr. Coe) fact claims, and not the incorrect ones that abound in View of the Hebrews. But he did just “take” the correct ones from View of the Hebrews and not the incorrect ones. How likely is that? 🙂

      While there are some fact claims in our 131 examples that may not be independent for statistical purposes, I think there are many, many more that are definitely independent. For example, using heavy cotton/clothing for armor and viewing creation as a set of paired opposites…not much to connect those two. And so on and on.

      Again, thanks. Good points…I hope my response was satisfactory.
      Bruce

      • Methods for making conservative adjustments are really a matter of taste (as is much in Bayesian analysis), but they have both statistical and rhetorical consequences. A critic would be unlikely to grant any item also found in View of the Hebrews, while allowing even a .1 shifts the probability by an entire order of magnitude in favor of the BoM. While that might be defensible, it creates an immediate rift between the critic and the analysis, and that rift doesn’t have to be very wide for them to dismiss the whole analysis out of hand. Going for 10^-110 feels satisfying, and may even be more accurate in the end, but if the result is minds that are further closed off (or, worse, a poisoned well for Bayesian analyses in general), then we risk doing more harm than good.

        I’m optimistic, though, that the framework you’ve presented here will open the door for a lot of good work yet to come. I’d love to see content experts spend entire articles diving into specific items to help nail down the probability of a correct guess beyond the rough .5/.1/.02 distinction. More eyes and more analysis can only get us closer to the truth.

        • Hi Kyler:
          Actually, anything after a million to one is probably statistical overkill…so 10 to the -110 is way, way past overkill. 🙂

          But I wasn’t trying for any number at all. People are welcome to analyze the 131 points of evidence for themselves and tell me why they disagree.

          So far, however, I am not seeing any serious refutation of our correspondences.

          Bruce

        • Hi Kyler:
          Thanks for your comments. You make some good points. There is one more issue that I failed to mention in my earlier responses.

          Allowing a 0.1 for negative evidence also shifts the probability by an entire order of magnitude against the Book of Mormon. We consider both positive and negative evidence in our paper.

          In our sensitivity analysis, we test the case in which all 18 of the negative correspondences are given the maximum possible weight and the 131 positive correspondences are given the minimum weight as evidence.

          Even in this “worst case” situation, we conclude that the Book of Mormon is an authentic, factual record sent in ancient Mesoamerica with odds of many, many billions to one that this statement is true.

          So, I can’t help it that we have found vastly more evidence in Dr. Coe’s book in favor of the Book of Mormon than the negative evidence appears in Dr. Coe’s book, in his 6 podcasts with Dr. Dehlin and in his 1973 Dialogue article. That is how the evidence actually shakes out and the critics will have to deal with it. 🙂

          So, as you say, on to a detailed discussion of the evidence.

          I hope more of those who comment on the article will actually take on the important task of critiquing the correspondences (both positive and negative). So far, that has mostly not happened.

          Out of respect to those who are actually interacting with the evidence, I am going to spend the next day or so responding to those folks before I respond to those who are not dealing with the evidence we have summarized in our article.

          Be patient, friends, I will respond to everyone as soon as I can (or as soon as my coauthor Brian can respond).

          Bruce

  106. Bruce,

    A similar study to yours was done a few years ago and the results showed the probability of the Book of Mormon being historical was less than 8 chances in 100 billion.

    Have you looked at this study? Thoughts? A small excerpt from the study:

    “at least 46 cities
    at least 11 different coin types
    at least 11 unique land areas
    at least 7 unique metals including steel for making swords
    at least 8 unique animals
    The list above shows 83 unique items for which archaeological evidence should be found. In fact, due to the unique nature of these items, archaeological evidence should have already been found (such as the evidence of horses being present in the pre-Columbian New World) . However, not even one item has been found to validate the book of Mormon.

    Since no archaeological finds support the book of Mormon, we can calculate the probability of the book of Mormon being creative fiction or potentially a myth. The calculation conservatively supports the book of Mormon is fictional. The calculation supports that the probability of the book of Mormon being true is less than 8 chances in 100 billion, billion (8.2 x 10-20).”

    https://harvardhouse.com/book_of_mormon_probable.htm

  107. Simon and Steve:
    Neither of you appear to actually have read our article in detail.

    Kindly read it carefully. If you do, you will find that the answers to your objections have been provided–in detail. Here is a brief summary of the answers.

    I read Dr. Coe’s article in Dialogue several times, read his book The Maya six times, and listened to all six of his podcast interviews with Mr. Dehlin. In those three venues, Dr. Coe finds a total of 18 points of evidence that he says disagree with the Book of Mormon.

    However, in his book, which summarizes the findings of many hundreds of scholars, there are 131 points of evidence that agree between the Book of Mormon and The Maya. I have clearly identified each one of those 131 points and discussed them in Appendix A.

    So, Simon, 131 “wins” over 18 because there is overwhelmingly more evidence summarized in Coe’s book that the Book of Mormon is true than there is evidence against the truth of the Book of Mormon. Please deal with the evidence. Please read our article carefully and in detail. Compare Coe’s book with the Book of Mormon and see for yourself.

    Steve, regarding the correspondences between the Book of Mormon, the Iroquois Confederacy specifically, and northeastern American Indian tribes, I have also dealt with those in some detail in the article, including a specific comparison with Rev. Ethan Smiths “View of the Hebrews”. It is sometimes claimed that Joseph Smith took his material for the Book of Mormon from Rev. Smith’s work. I think our article strongly refutes that idea.

    While there are a few such positive correspondences, there are overwhelmingly more negative correspondences, that is, differences between the Iroquois and the culture and peoples described in the Book of Mormon.

    To name just a few differences between the Book of Mormon peoples and the Iroquois, the Book of Mormon (and Coe’s book The Maya) claim that: 1) separate historical records were kept of the reigns of the kings, 2) large-scale public works were built, 3) the fundamental unit of political organization was the independent city-state, 4) the word “seating” meant accession to political power, 5) an ancient Mesoamerican culture declined steeply and then disappeared a few hundred years BC, 6) settled marketplaces existed, 7) large migrations took place toward the north.

    In each case, Coe’s book and the Book of Mormon correspond in a very specific fact claim…but nothing comparable exists for the fact claims regarding the Iroquois and the Book of Mormon.

    If I am mistaken, please point me toward any comparable list of specific fact claims or correspondences between the Book of Mormon and what is known of the Iroquois.

    Bruce

  108. Many of the positive correspondences could just as easily be ascribed to the Iroquois Confederacy. Smith would have been very familiar with this. That is, much of the positive correspondences smack of someone writing a book with a particular setting in mind that was primarily accessible to frontier people of the 19th century. The relative number of positive and negative correspondences also make this work indefensible. Very shoddy “scholarship”.

  109. Let me see if I have this right. The level of overall support for the Book of Mormon is calculated by multiplying Beysian values for each piece of evidence. The authors have 131 positive pieces of evidence (in favour of the Book of Mormon) and 18 negative pieces of evidence. If you multiply 131 numbers together OF COURSE you are going to get a FAR more significant value for support than you will get for negative evidence by multiply 18 values together! This is just mathematizing parallelomania. The whole analysis is flawed.

    131 multiplied numbers vs 18 multiplied numbers. Of course 131 wins.

  110. The methodology here is full of holes! I suggest a third party review by an unbiased third party to give you some feedback on your methods here. My main criticisms would include 1) the completely arbitrary assignment of likelihood ratios without even an attempt to ground the numbers in some form of data 2) the inappropriate handling of uncertainty and lack of confidence intervals.

    I would not disrespect someone’s testimony or other method of arriving at the same conclusions but this attempt to appeal to empiricism is a sad failure to understand how science works. This may work in other fields where data is more robust but this is a complete misapplication of Bayesian methodology!

  111. it should be pointed out that one of the (many) fatal arguments Book of Mormon historicity is that of genetics. There is simply no middle eastern DNA to be found in any native American population that could have entered the genome prior to the arrival of Europeans in the Americas.

    The authors raise the issue in Appendix B, Item 12. They dismiss the genetics problem by claiming that Ugo Perego has successfully explained it away. Perego may have done so to the satisfaction of those who rely on spiritual intelligence to make decisions. His explanation (apologetic) is not convincing to the mainstream scientific community. Please refer to pretty much any peer reviewed article on the subject.

    Every population of native Americans tested showed the presence of a genetic marker that originated during the migratory “hold up” in Siberia or in Beringia prior to the first wave of Asiatic migration into the Americas some 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. Every single one of many thousands. Several groups who have published on the issue have stated, unequivocally, that there is no evidence whatsoever for a transoceanic migration to the Americas prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the 15th century CE.

    In the Book of Ether, the Book of Mormon states very clearly that the western hemisphere had been washed clean of human habitation during the great flood and prior to the first Book of Mormon transoceanic migrations.

    Book of Mormon apologists seem to have forgotten this fact when they reluctantly recognize that there were extensive populations in the Americas when the first Book of Mormon migrations were supposed to have taken place. These populations are now needed to help explain away the fact that there is no middle eastern DNA in the Native American genome.

    Bottom line: the Interpreter paper is a straw man at best. It makes cherry picked comparisons between the works of a single individual, Dr. Coe, and the Book of Mormon, as if Dr. Coe’s work were the only data set out there that shows the Book of Mormon to be a work of fiction.

    The Interpreter paper ignores or dismisses, with faulty data and bad assumptions, several facts that are fatal to the claim of Book of Mormon historicity – only two of which are mentioned here.

  112. First point:

    The plural of anecdote is not data, and when those anecdotes are parallelisms and coincidences, they are not even anecdotal.

    Second point, just based on the single paragraph abstract:

    A control group is a group where certain behaviors are held constant, in comparison to the experimental group. Two other fictional books being compared to a non-fiction book do not constitute a “control group” when used in comparison with an “experimental group” composed of another fictional book, being compared to the same non-fiction book. Those are BOTH experimental groups. It is a meaningless set-up.

  113. Further good evidence that Book of Mormon people dwelt in the land of the Mayans. However, as Alan Sikes implies above, it is not evidence that the Book of Mormon people were confined there. There is substantial evidence for their migration north into the watershed of the Mississippi and the Eastern Coast of North America.

  114. How about doing similar comparisons of the Book of Mormon with other Indian groups, like the mound builders in the eastern US; the Aztecs and the Incas? While books comparable to The Maya may not be available for the mound builders, enough material exists in multiple sources to make an interesting study and maybe come to some conclusions about various theories of where the Book of Mormon took place.

  115. This article is the most fun I have had in a long, long time, like maybe a billion, billion, billion, billion years. I know nothing about statistics, but if I did, I would probably have enjoyed it more.

  116. Wonderfully innovative but also sound and sensible. I read Michael Coe’s ‘Breaking the Maya Code’ 20 years ago and marked it up noting the many resonances I felt from the Book of Mormon. Now you have helped me understand why. Thank you. I have felt similar resonances when I have studied Thor Heyerdahl’s magnum opus, ‘American Indians in the Pacific’ and have identified those of his ‘proofs’ which have been discredited by later anthropologists and other scientists. There are not many. I wish I had your science to do a Bayesian comparison of Heyerdahl’s work because he was also ambivalent towards the Book of Mormon.

  117. This study may have benefitted more if two more authors had been involved—one with expertise in Mesoamerican anthropology/archaeology and one in 19th century literature/history to evaluate the strength of the correspondences so that math could have been refined more. Just a small look at the correspondences yields a few questionable evaluations such as that for Lamanai. I don’t know of any BoM scholar claiming that Lamanai is the city of Laman. Maybe publishing another paper with Brant Gardner and Terryl Givens might help?

  118. I hope I am not right about this, but I fear that there will be some who will not be able to ignore Bruce and Brian long, detailed essay, while there will be others who will not be interested in following it. I find it both interesting and challenging. I am pleased that it has been published in Interpreter. Where else could the authors have found a venue in which to publish an essay of over a hundred pages, even on this crucial topic?

  119. Shane,

    If it is of any help, I can assure you that both Mesoamericanists and statisticians provided peer review on the article.

    -Allen

  120. Shane,
    One of the strengths of Bayesian statistics is that the individual performing the analysis decides for himself/herself the relative strength of each piece of evidence… no “experts” needed. Thus you are free to assign any strength you wish to the Lamanai correspondence, or none at all.
    Bruce

  121. Hi Shane,
    One problem with positing 19th century history/ literature or possible authorship by Joseph Smith (for both you and the Dales) is that the original Book of Mormon was dictated by Joseph to his scribes in Early Modern English, which was a language already extinct a couple of centuries before the time of Joseph Smith. Hence a lot of people in Joseph’s own time (including Joseph himself) erroneously thought it ungrammatical and in need of editing — which Joseph himself did in the 2nd and 3rd editions. Thus, popular notions of American Indian lore in early 19th century America would not be applicable in any case.

  122. Thank you, Louis. I am very grateful to Interpreter for providing the venue for his essay…as you correctly point out there probably is no other such venue.

    Joseph Smith once wrote the he would be proven a prophet by circumstantial evidence. I hope this article contributes somewhat to fulfilling that prophecy. Given the accuracy of his “guesses” that support a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon, the evidence could hardly be stronger.

  123. Mr. Midgley,

    From my very quick review the level of math they’re getting into is nothing more than introductory level.

    For example, the probability values assigned to “events” is arbitrary. Take the first event in their list:

    “Analysis of correspondence: The correspondence is specific and detailed. There is not a single reference in the text of the Book of Mormon to “Nephite nation” or “Lamanite nation.” It is also unusual. Joseph Smith was growing up in the new nation of America, with a great deal of pride and self-identity as an independent nation. How did he avoid identifying the Lamanite or Nephite peoples as “nations”? But he did avoid it. What a lucky “guess” — over and over again during the course of the Book of Mormon history.

    Likelihood = 0.02”

    Mr. Midgley, how did they come up with 2%? What does this value represent? Is it completely made up? It appears they are arbitrarily asserting that because the Book of Mormon doesn’t use the word “nation” that there is a 2% chance Joseph Smith could have by-chance been right about a decentralized tribal system? How did they calculate this 2%?

    This is not how Bayes works. Whatever logic is applied to a hypothesis has to be equally applied against it, which is to say you have to test an indefinite number of other hypothesis in exactly the same manner and then compare and contrast and see how things shake out, if there are “more likely” or “similarly likely” events.

    Taking this example of the political organization. What are all the possible explanations for why the word “nation” doesn’t appear in reference to the Lamanites/Nephites? On what basis should we expect to see the word nation, yet it’s auspiciously absent? How would we go about determining this? I’m not sure. Because there are simply too many variables to account for. Essentially what we’d need is a sample of a thousand or so men from the early 19th century. Have them all sit down and write a short story on a fictitious ancient American civilizations. How many of those people, based on common knowledge of the day, would have described them as “nations” or otherwise described a political structure that is at odds with current understanding? Since we can’t really do that, what’s the next best thing? I suppose someone would have to drum up a list of anything written about indians/ancient americans in the early 19th century. Classify it as centralized or decentralized. But even that wouldn’t tell us the “likelihood” of Joseph doing it the way he did it, or the likelihood of his description not “matching” with the Mayans or some other ancient american civilization. But at least it would tell us if Joseph was an outlier compared to his peers. My understanding is he wasn’t an outlier at all… everybody regarded the indians as tribal?

    We could come up with all sorts of conjecture accounting for why Joseph didn’t use the word “nation,” none of which leads to the conclusion that Joseph only had a 2% chance of doing it the way he did it, absent honest to god inspiration.

    There’s a lot more that could be said about all this. Another example, you cannot compound probabilities for independent events. Every time you roll the dice, you are starting from scratch. As the article starts out by pointing out, there is a (1/6)^2=~2.8% chance of rolling a snake eyes. But that’s NOT the same thing as rolling a dice once, and then rolling it a second time. It doesn’t matter if you rolled a 1 on your last turn. On this new turn, you are starting from scratch, and you have a 1/6=~16% chance of rolling a 1. There is no mystical woo woo hidden in the ether somewhere connecting the results of your first turn with your second turn. And yet, that’s exactly what this paper does. It links “events” which have no connection whatsoever in order to arrive at compounded probabilities of their occurrence.

    There really isn’t anything worth talking about here. This paper does a great job of highlighting the need for a double-blind peer review process.

  124. Keith,
    You are welcome–I am glad you found it useful. It was a labor of love (with an emphasis on “labor” :))

    Actually, the Bayesian statistics part is easy…just a lot of multiplication. Knowing the material well enough to line up the fact claims is the hard part.
    Bruce

  125. Alan:
    That would be a useful exercise. Are you volunteering? 🙂

    Not to discourage you from a worthy effort, but it turns out that Reverend Smith’s book “View of the Hebrews” drew a lot of its information from the mound builder culture.

    If you delve into the details of our analysis, you will see that the facts summarized in Dr. Coe’s book do not correspond well with Reverend Smith’s book, but the Book of Mormon does.

    Thus I would say by extension that the Indian cultures of eastern North America, including their religion, geography, technologies, etc, are unlikely to have been the setting for the Book of Mormon.
    Bruce

  126. Mr. Blanco,

    I am not the author of the piece in question, so perhaps I am not the best to address your commentary, but I would like to first ask: where in the Book of Ether does it definitively state that the land was empty when the Jaredite party arrived? Washed clean by the flood? The Book of Ether doesn’t definitively state that there were other occupants, but it does not definitively rule it out, either. The only reference I could find floods, waters, or washing in Ether is Ether 13:2, which reads:

    “For behold, they rejected all the words of Ether; for he truly told them of all things, from the beginning of man; and that after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof”

    To me, at least, this is not a statement that they were alone in the New World. It means that it has been a choice land ever since it rose from the primordial soup, and the Lord wants its inhabitants to serve Him, just as He does for all lands and peoples.

    The Book of Ether is a striking example of a genealogical lineage history, focused like a laser on Ether’s ancestors, the royal house of Orihah. It focuses on them to the extent that, even though the Orihan dynasty is overthrown multiple times, only one of the usurpers is ever mentioned by name, and only then in defeat.(Ether 10:32) This pattern continues until Coriantumr, who was the major target of Ether’s prophecy and therefore merited more detail. If Ether omits even fellow Jaredites, why would he talk about entirely alien populations? Nevertheless, there are hints that there were others. In Ether 6 we find that, after some time in the New World, enough time for the leaders to “wax old” and for the people to spread out and establish themselves, the Jaredites clamor for a king. The first and second generations of the colony are clearly anti-monarchist, and, given that attitude, are unlikely to have introduced the concept to their children in positive ways. Why, then, would the people want to alter their previously established system of government in order to establish kings? I find it unlikely that a completely isolated society, without borders to defend or foreign ideological influences, would make such a contrarian request of their leaders. Somebody had to introduce the idea, and it probably wasn’t a Jaredite, which means there were others. Also, the rapid revival of the Jaredite society after the near-extinction events of Akish’s wars almost mandates that immigration or assimilation was a factor.

    So, to sum it up, the claim that the Jaredites absolutely had to be alone and therefore the only genetic contributors is, in my opinion, quite shaky. You are free, of course, to tell me that my points are meaningless because the whole thing is made up, but my point stands: a faithful reading of the Book of Mormon is in no way obligated to assume the isolation of the Jaredites in the New World. Other genes were certainly present.

    Now, I am no expert on Dr. Perego’s work, or on genetics generally, but the mechanisms that obscure genetic profiles, such as genetic bottlenecks (such as the Nephite/Jaredite genocides) and the founder effect, are well-attested, established concepts of anthropology. Given the grotesque upheavals around the time of the Spanish Conquest, several non-LDS geneticists (peer-reviewed, at that) have stated that knowledge of the full pre-Columbian genetic makeup of the Americas is a long shot. Furthermore, according to the Population and Evolutionary Genetics department at UC Davis, it is unlikely that anyone can trace all their ancestors in their DNA. Haplotypes disappear, especially when outside effects as described above are in play. It’s the same situation as with crime scenes: DNA can include suspects (in terms of both crime and ancestry) but it cannot exclude them.

    I myself have reservations with regard to this article and the evidences in their analysis, but they never marketed it as anything more than a Bayesian response to Mr. Coe’s skepticism in terms of his own research, not as an exhaustive apologetic work. Accusing them of narrowness of scope is a strawman argument, made ironic by the fact that you accuse them of setting up a strawman in the very same post.

    Good night and best wishes.

  127. I have my issues with the article, but using bad facts to rebut it does not help:

    There were no transoceanic migrations to the Americas before the 15th C? Try looking up Vikings and Ainse-aux-meadows. And many, many non-LDS scholars are of the view that the migration from Asia could have been by sea rather than by land.

    As to the identity of those Asian migrants, the Book of Mormon tells us all about them. They were called Jaredites. Mr. Blanco’s reading of the Book of Ether is completely off-base. Long ago Hugh Nibley pointed out that the Book of Ether only tells of one of the 32 Jaredite lineages. The Book of Mormon completely accommodates the existence of a large indigenous population when the small Lehite migration arrived. Further, the Book of Mormon does not claim that the Jaredites were of Israel – they pre-dated Abraham by thousands of years, and would not have had “middle eastern” genes. In the 2600 years since Lehi, it is not surprising that that tiny migration’s genetic signature would have long ago been submerged in the preexisting Asiatic Jaredite population.

  128. Mr. Blanco:
    Did you read our paper all the way through, including all the Appendices, but especially Appendix A? It appears that you did not. Please answer this question directly if you choose to respond.

    Dr. Coe’s book is a summary and review of literally thousands of other studies that have been done on the Maya by hundreds and hundreds of other scholars. Thus your statement that I am quoting a single person (Dr. Coe) is completely wrong. Did you miss that fact or did you choose to ignore it?

    Coe’s book makes specific fact claims about the Maya and Mesoamerica. The Book of Mormon also makes specific fact claims about the peoples and culture of the Book of Mormon peoples. I read Coe’s book six times and listed to all of his podcast interviews with Dehlin before I felt I had enough understanding of Coe’s fact claims to be able to compare those fact claims with the fact claims of the Book of Mormon.

    Dr. Coe read the Book of Mormon once, over 45 years ago.

    Our article includes all 18 of the fact claims made by Dr. Coe in his Dialogue article and podcast interviews that Coe says run contrary to the fact claims of the Book of Mormon. If you think I have missed any of Coe’s opposing fact claims, please let me know what they are.

    In contrast, Dr. Coe’s book has 131 fact claims that agree with fact claims of the Book of Mormon. We lay those out carefully in Appendix A. Even when we give Coe’s fact claims against the Book of Mormon the maximum possible weight, and minimum weight to the fact claims in his book that agree with the Book of Mormon fact claims, the evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon is overwhelming.

    The Book of Mormon is an authentic record, completely at home in ancient Mesoamerica. To have “guessed” correctly all the corresponding details between Coe’s book The Maya and the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith must have been the greatest guesser in all the known universe.

    Again, did you actually read our paper, including Appendix A, before you wrote this response? It appears you did not. I invite you to do so…and I likewise invite anyone else who is an honest seeker of the truth.

    Bruce Dale

  129. Mr. Blanco said: “Every population of native Americans tested showed the presence of a genetic marker that originated during the migratory ‘hold up’ in Siberia or in Beringia prior to the first wave of Asiatic migration into the Americas some 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. Every single one of many thousands. Several groups who have published on the issue have stated, unequivocally, that there is no evidence whatsoever for a transoceanic migration to the Americas prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the 15th century CE.”

    Your statements here are all false:

    (1) Although there was certainly early migration across Beringia by West Eurasians (not later East Asians) perhaps around 21,000 BP, this is not the sole source of New World genetics. Nor is it true that genetic drift, bottleneck, and the founder effect can be disregarded in the midst of catastrophic rates of death in Mesoamerica both before and during the Spanish Conquest. We have no reason to expect that Nephite-Lamanite genetics spread anywhere and everywhere, but appear to have been restricted to a very small area. Only ancient skeletal remains could be dispositive.

    (2) Scholars now theorize, for example, that haplotype C3* Y chromosomes were present in the “First American” ancestral population, and have been lost by genetic drift from most modern populations, except Ecuadorians. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4312352/ .

    (3) Australo-Melanesian skeletal remains from Sumidouro Cave, Lagoa Santa, central Brazil, have no morphological affinities with present-day Native Americans or East Asians. These results agree with other studies and suggest that the skeletons may derive from a wave of migrants that entered the New World before the characteristic “Mongoloid” morphology spread throughout East Asia. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.666.5232&rep=rep1&type=pdf , and https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242242229_Early_Holocene_human_skeletal_remains_from_Cerca_Grande_Lagoa_Santa_Central_Brazil_and_the_origins_of_the_first_Americans .
    Indeed, Dr. Reich (Harvard) and his colleagues found that some living people in the Amazon carry DNA that is most similar to that of people who live today in Australia and New Guinea. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/science/tracing-routes-to-america-through-ancient-dna.html?module=inline .

    Thus, diffusion across the Pacific is not out of the question, and may even be quite likely.

  130. Mr. Blanco,
    Hoosier and JWL have done a generally good job in responding to your objections. I thank them both…I am trying to respond to a lot of comments and keeping up is a challenge.

    I have one more point to add. Dr. Coe himself deals with the issue of settlement of the America by seafarers. Here it is:

    “The presence or absence of the Bering Strait is thus not
    necessarily relevant to the problem [of the settlement of the Americas]: the very first Americans may well have taken a maritime route” (from p. 41 of Coe’s book).

    This is also Correspondence 2.7 in Appendix A.

    Perhaps if you would read the paper and especially Appendix A, you would find answers to more of your objections. I invite you to do so.

    But you are just flat wrong when you say that a Bering Strait migration is the only scientifically-accepted mechanism by which humans arrived in the Americas, and therefore that the Book of Mormon’s claims to settlement by seafarers must be false.

    As Coe himself states, ” the very first Americans may well have taken a maritime route.”

    Bruce

  131. Brad,
    Did you actually read our article? It appears from your response that you did not. We have anticipated and answered your objection in the first few pages of our article.

    The main purpose of our paper was to compare the fact claims of the Book of Mormon with the fact claims of Dr. Coe’s book The Maya. We accept the fact claims in The Maya as true and compare them with corresponding fact claims in the Book of Mormon.

    If the Book of Mormon is fiction, as you imply, then every fact claim in the Book of Mormon is a guess. We analyze statistically how likely it was that Joseph Smith “guessed” all 131 of his correct “guesses”. The odds that he guessed all these very specific details correctly is incredibly small…smaller than the ratio of the mass of the neutrino to the mass of the entire universe.

    Thus the Book of Mormon is not fiction–it is authentic, factual and set in ancient Mesoamerica to a very high degree of probability.

    We also compare two other books (Manuscript Found and View of the Hebrews) written about the same time as the Book of Mormon with Coe’s book. This is our “control”.

    One of these two books (Manuscript Found) is obvious fiction, the other is not. Neither one of them correspond to the facts summarized in Dr. Coe’s book. But the Book of Mormon does correspond exceedingly well to those fact claims from Coe’s book.

    Please, read our article in detail and try to be objective about the facts as summarized in Dr. Coe’s book and in the Book of Mormon.

    Bruce

  132. No, Mr. Shumway. This is not a misapplication of Bayesian methodology–it is a straightforward application of that methodology. The paper was reviewed by at least one expert in Bayesian statistics, and my son, Dr. Brian Dale, uses Bayesian methods in his research work all the time.

    I am not certain that you read the paper carefully. At the bottom of page 85 is the reference from which we took the numerical values of the three relative strengths of evidence that we use to weight evidence both for and against the Book of Mormon. (Robert E. Kass and Adrian E. Raftery, “Bayes Factors,” Journal of the American Statistical Association 90, no. 430 (1995): 777, doi:10.2307/2291091.)

    The confidence intervals are inherent in the choice of the numerical Bayes factors and we assign one of three possible Bayes factors depending on the strength of the evidence (specific, or specific and detailed, or specific and detailed and unusual) as outlined in the article. We justify our choice of Bayes factors for each correspondence between the Book of Mormon and The Maya in Appendix A.

    Did you read Appendix A carefully and compare the statements of fact in the Book of Mormon with the corresponding statements of fact in Coe’s book The Maya? If you did, then you will understand why we assigned the specific Bayes factor to each correspondence. But it appears that you did not read Appendix A carefully.

    I have spent my whole professional life in science. This is exactly how the methodology of science works: state the hypothesis, gather evidence for and against the hypothesis, weigh the evidence, come to a conclusion, submit the findings for peer review, publish the work for open commentary.

    What part of the methodology of science do you think we have missed in this article? Please be specific and I will try to answer specifically and clearly.

    Bruce Dale

  133. This is a terrible summary of Bayesian statistics. The ability to model prior information does not decrease the need for expert opinion. Prior specification should always be sufficiently diffuse that the majority of experts would accepts the basic assumptions of the model.

  134. Hi Bruce,

    Thanks for the response. I’d have to go with no correlation for now. All of this has sparked another question, however, that I’d appreciate any thoughts for:

    Did you assume any particular Mesoamerican geography for the Book of Mormon while comparing and correlating fact claims? Or was this more of simply your best extrapolation of the data in order to apply it broadly to Mesoamerica?

    I’m sorry you have to deal with all the quibbling but I’m sure you expected it to a degree. This is an important paper. I want to defend the BoM with it but I just want to make sure no critic can dismiss it. You’ve answered most criticisms of the paper rather well so far. I look forward to hearing from you.

  135. Brad, that study would be much more impressive if it didn’t make the fundamental error of using English as the original language of the Book of Mormon. The King James Bible would similarly fail that particular test, as it too lists items that either don’t exist (unicorn, for example), or items that are anachronistic for the time period (candles, swaddling clothes).

  136. Hi Brad,
    No, you are mistaken. You have obviously not even bothered to read our paper.

    The study you cite and the one we have just published in Interpreter are not at all alike. The study you cite does not consider even one piece of evidence in favor the Book of Mormon, it only cites what it claims are pieces of evidence against the Book of Mormon. That is not honest scholarship; that is dishonest cherry-picking. Nor does your source attempt to weigh the strength of each piece of evidence, which is the essence of our Bayesian statistical approach. Not all evidence is equally strong.

    In contrast, we consider evidence both for and against the Book of Mormon as summarized in a work of scholarship, i.e., Dr. Coe’s book The Maya. Dr. Coe is certainly not a partisan advocate for the Book of Mormon, so no one can claim he cherry-picked his information.

    Nonetheless, there is overwhelming evidence in Dr. Coe’s book that the Book of Mormon is a factual, historical record, set in ancient Mesoamerica. We summarize and weigh that evidence in our article…which you seem not to have read.

    I would like to make you a sincere offer. I will carefully read and consider all of the information in the source you cite and will give you an honest summary of it if you will do the same for our article.

    You must agree to read the whole thing, all 109 pages, and honestly consider all the evidence we cite both in favor of and against the Book of Mormon. Then we can discuss further what we have learned in our readings.

    Are you willing to do that?

    Bruce