Monday, February 08, 2010

Mormon Apologist on critical scholarship

Excerpts of Countering subversive attacks on Mormon scholarship by Michael R. Ash, Mormon Times

... claims are designed to "poison the well" of LDS scholarship. ... It means to preemptively discredit an opponent before their arguments can be heard. By casting doubt on Mormon scholarship from the start, critics hope to dissuade people from listening to LDS scholars or giving credence to their arguments. This appears to be effective among the critics themselves, many of whom totally dismiss LDS scholarship without giving it a fair hearing.

'Real' scholars reject Mormon scholarship

Certainly, some non-LDS scholars disagree with LDS scholars on issues that relate to the Book of Mormon. Disagreements -- especially in the "soft sciences" such as archaeology, anthropology, and history -- are common in academia. There are two important things to note, however, regarding how LDS scholarship affiliates with mainstream scholarship: First, LDS scholars apply the same methods and techniques accepted by mainstream scholarship -- not fringe scholarship -- to Book of Mormon issues; and second, most non-LDS are not sufficiently conversant with LDS issues to make informed and qualified pronouncements on LDS topics that can be analyzed by DNA, archaeology and so on. As Dr. William Hamblin explains, in the discourses of scholars the "only opinions that matter are informed opinions."

"Even if 100% of New World archaeologists rejected the historicity of the [Book of Mormon], it would be irrelevant unless they had carefully read the [Book of Mormon], and studied the secondary literature. The vast majority of scholars have never read the [Book of Mormon]. Their opinions on the matter are therefore irrelevant.... Uninformed opinion, even if unanimously held, is still uninformed."

Most -- not all, but most -- non-LDS scholars have little interest in Book of Mormon studies and are therefore unfamiliar with the LDS scholarly studies that have been published in favor of the Book of Mormon. Even among those few non-LDS scholars who are familiar with Book of Mormon studies there are extremely few who have actually addressed Book of Mormon scholarship head-on. Is the opinion of an uninformed non-LDS scholar who rejects Book of Mormon studies superior to the opinion of an LDS scholar who accepts the Book of Mormon? This is answered in the final issue.

LDS scholars are biased

According to critics, the opinions and writings of LDS scholars can be dismissed because they are biased. Such a claim, however, is both naïve and over-simplistic. It is now widely recognized within virtually all fields of scholarship that there is no completely objective non-biased observer. There are no completely disinterested parties who approach a topic with an empty mind. Even in the "hard" sciences scientists use techniques (such as "randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled" tests) to help avoid the inherent bias that is part of humanity. In areas such as archaeology and anthropology, data must be interpreted -- it doesn't simply speak on its own. Claiming that an archaeologist's interpretation can't be trusted because she's Mormon is like claiming that an American history book can't be trusted if it's written by an American.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't have to read entirely through Alice Through the Looking Glass to know it is fiction; one doesn't have to read through the silly Book of Mormon to know it's a 19th century creation.