Often, when I begin discussing Mesoamerican details with members of the church, they say something similar to the following:
“We haven’t found gold in Mesoamerica…yet!”
“Lack of evidence doesn’t mean an evidence of lack.We could still find horses in Pre-Columbian America.”
“The obsidian laced wooden swords may have come too late for the Book of Mormon people, but maybe there is more evidence to find.”
All of these arguments hinge upon the concept of a very good logical argument that states, “Simply because there isn’t any evidence right now, doesn’t mean there never will be evidence.” This is true. We haven’t found any evidence of alien life, but it would be a logical fallacy to imply that this means there isn’t any life form on any other planet.
However, this fallacy is talking about black box scenarios where we have no information. When it comes to the points above, it turns out we have quite a bit of evidence, it just doesn’t point in the direction the apologist wants it to.
- The obsidian laced wooden swords may have come too late for the Book of Mormon people, but maybe there is more evidence to find.
The issue with this claim is that we have lots of evidence of the weapons used by the Maya and other Mesoamerican cultures. It isn’t that we don’t know, it’s that none of the weapons are steel based or sword-like.
The issues instantly arise when one reads the actual text in the Book of Mormon which claims that the Jaredites (From the tower of Babel, about 2000 B.C.) had steel swords:
Not a wooden sword. To further complicate things, the Macuahuitl was an Aztec weapon, not a Mayan weapon. Unless the Nephites were really into human sacrifice and were founded and built in the wrong era, the Aztec empire doesn’t match.
But even more to the point, the Tepoztopilli (a spear with a paddle) can be seen over the years growing shorter in the handle, and longer in the blade. In short, we have lots of evidence of where the Macuahuitl came from, and none of it points to an introduction of advanced metallic technology which was later lost.
No lack of evidence.
- We haven’t found gold in Mesoamerica… yet!
Gold working did not come to Mesoamerica until about 700 A.D. That’s 300 years after Moroni buried the gold plates, 800 or so years after Amulek was offered ontis and senums of gold and silver, and about a thousand years after Noah made a throne of gold. See the issue?
The progression of gold working and metallurgy has been well documented. The age of various sites, locations, and how the technology impacted the social setting of the areas as it was passed along isn’t lacking in evidence. In fact, the evidence is abundant:
Metallurgy first appeared in Mesoamerica at about A.D. 800, introduced via a maritime route from Central and South America into West Mexico. During the initial period of the establishment of the technology (approximately A.D. 800 to between A.D. 1200 and 1300) technical links were closest with the metallurgies of Ecuador, Colombia, and lower Central America. During the second period of West Mexican metallurgy (A.D. 1200–1300 to the Spanish invasion) new elements from these same regional metallurgies were introduced, in addition to technical components from the metallurgy of southern Peru. Although the roots of West Mexican metallurgy lay in the metallurgies to the south, the elements that had been introduced from those areas were reinterpreted and transformed, resulting in the development of a technically original, highly inventive regional technology in West Mexico (Ancient West Mexican Metallurgy: South and Central American Origins and West Mexican Transformations).
I’ll say it in plain English: Gold working started in Peru, moved up the west coast to Ecuador, and didn’t show up in Mayan (or other cultures that the apologists tie to the Book of Mormon) until A.D. 700. From there it went into Mexico. No lack of evidence, as we can trace it from spot to spot over a very large time frame.
Just to be clear, all that gold that the Spaniards melted down came from long after the time of the Nephites. It was not Satan destroying the true records, or that God wanted all the other records hidden, or anything like that. Everything melted would have been apostate doctrines by that time anyway because the first writings possible on gold would have been 600 years after Moroni died.
- Lack of evidence doesn’t mean an evidence of lack. We could still find horses in Pre-Columbian America.
This is where “bad ideas” turn into “outright fraud” or “gross negligence,” in my humble opinion.
For example, in this interview, Daniel C. Peterson says that the text of the Book of Mormon says nothing more than that they had horses, and that they fed them:
And they said unto him: Behold, he is feeding thy horses. Now the king had commanded his servants, previous to the time of the watering of their flocks, that they should prepare his horses and chariots, and conduct him forth to the land of Nephi… [emphasis added] (Alma 18:9).
And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man… [emphasis added] (Ether 9:19).
…the proclamation of Lachoneus had gone forth throughout all the face of the land, and they had taken their horses, and their chariots, and their cattle, and all their flocks, and their herds, and their grain, and all their substance, and did march forth by thousands and by tens of thousands, until they had all gone forth to the place which had been appointed… [emphasis added] (3 Nephi 3:22).
Every time “horses” are mentioned in the text, their usefulness or chariots and movement of people are mentioned. It just seems dishonest to imply the text in no way implies the horses do things more than “be fed and owned.”
But that’s not the worst of it. In 2005, FARMS posted a video:
In this video it mentions a particular horse skull that was found at Spencer Lake. Now, this horse skull was a hoax, and the man responsible came forward and apologized. Why would FARMS use a skull that was a known hoax? Maybe they didn’t know it was a hoax?
In this case those conclusions are testable. In 2002, I was contacted by Dr. Stephen Jones of Brigham Young University, a researcher conducting a project on the antiquity of New World horses. He was willing to provide funds for dating the skull using accelerator mass spectrometery (AMS) in order to settle questions regarding the skull’s antiquity. A single sample was removed by MPM staff from the aboral margin of the jaw near the gonion caudale. It was separated into three subsamples, one held as a voucher and the others independently submitted to different radiocarbon labs (Beta Analytic and Stafford Research Laboratories) for AMS dating. The samples were of approximately the same size and yielded results in close agreement. Beta 167209 yielded an uncalibrated date of 110 +- 40 BP; Stafford SR6189 yielded an uncalibrated date of 190 +- 35 BP.
Wait… so Dr. Stephen Jones of BYU was the one who conclusively proved in 2002 that the skull wasn’t ancient? Three years before the religion department of BYU produced this video?
Mormons did not notice this book and the people involved in requesting the testing did not print the results for other Mormons to see. Science worked, a theory was proven wrong but the results were not published by those who had hoped for a different outcome.
Maybe the video was already made by 2002, and they just didn’t talk to the Physics department of BYU?
In 2008, a non LDS post graduate student informed FAIR of the error and provided them with the source for the 2004 radiocarbon results.
Ah, so they know this video is wrong, misleading, and based on a hoax, and yet they haven’t pulled the video, nor corrected it, let alone produce an apology for accepting bad evidence.
That pretty much indicates fraud.
So you see, it isn’t just a lack of evidence for the Book of Mormon. It is the scores of counter evidence that apologists choose to ignore when they publish their arguments (and that the average member is unaware of).
Next time someone says something like the above statements, you are now well armed to say, “There is evidence, it just doesn’t agree with your conclusions. Can you tell me why I should dismiss any of the evidence that exists?”
Because really, we can’t let the use of logical fallacy stand, and if you can point out that the people who use these sort of claims are fraudulently lying to the person… then all the better.