Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2009, March 31

“Critique of Book of Mormon Critique Article: ‘HOW DO YOU LOSE A STEEL MILL?’ by Frank R. Zindler” by grego

“Critique of Book of Mormon Critique Article: ‘HOW DO YOU LOSE A STEEL MILL?’ by Frank R. Zindler” by grego

The introduction to Mr. Zindler reads thus:
“FRANK ZINDLER … has a distinguished academic career as a former biology and geology professor, science writer, linguist and bible-era historian.” With such an introduction, it really rubs in the irony that some of those who criticize the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the grounds of science either lack reading comprehension skills or use faulty reasoning in their criticisms. One such critique is here: http://nowscape.com/mormon/zindler1.htm , entitled: “HOW DO YOU LOSE A STEEL MILL?” By Frank R. Zindler.

I won’t go through the whole thing, because it’s pretty much different verses of the same batty song; I’ll just critique a few points.

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Zindler:
“When Smith published his “golden bible ” in 1830, he gave elephants to his Jaredite actors, along with asses, cows, oxen, and horses. While this may seem startling to readers today, in upstate New York in the 1930s there was nothing odd about this. Thomas Jefferson had discovered the remains of an extinct mammoth, and it was probably widely assumed that ancient Amerindians had domesticated elephants in the way that modern Indians have done. I doubt that many rural New Yorkers then knew that the Amerindians had had no horses or cows until they got them from the Spaniards.
Although horses originated in North America, they – along with the various American species of “elephants” – went extinct many thousands of years before anything that could be called civilization had evolved in Central or South America.”

grego: Is there a source or reference material for “it was probably widely assumed” or “I doubt”? Probably not, huh? I would expect more from a true scientist.

Oh, elephants. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gomphothere:
The Gomphotheres are a diverse group of extinct elephant-like animals (proboscideans) that were widespread in North America during the Miocene and Pliocene epochs, 12-1.6 million years ago… From about 5 million years ago onwards, they were slowly replaced by modern elephants, but the last South American species did not finally become extinct until possibly as recently as 400 CE.[1] Gomphotheres also survived in Mexico and Central America until the end of the Pleistocene.[2]
That’s actual current scientific understanding…

As for the presence of cows (comments by Zindler above and below), note what Charles Darwin (yes, “the”) wrote:
“It is, however, far from being an isolated one; for, during the late tertiary deposits of Britain, an elephant, rhinoceros, and hippopotamus co-existed with many recent land and fresh-water shells; and in North America, we have the best evidence that a mastodon, elephant, megatherium, megalonyx, mylodon, an extinct horse and
ox, likewise co-existed with numerous land, fresh-water, and marine recent shells” (Darwin, C. R. 1846. Geological observations on South America. Being the third part of the geology of the voyage of the Beagle, under the command of Capt. Fitzroy, R.N. during the years 1832 to 1836. London: Smith Elder and Co.)
Elephants, horses, and oxen–all living together in North America!

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Zindler has quite a lot to say about cows, horses, chariots, linguistics–and it sounds so good!

grego: Unfortunately, anyone reading this article–based on actual science and a much more proper methodology in action–will see that he lacks needed understanding on the topic: http://www.fairlds.org/Book_of_Mormon/AshHorse/

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Zindler:
“At no time were cows present before the advent ofHispanic culture. No certain remains of preColumbian horses, asses, or cows have ever been found in the Americas.
…it is an archaeological certainty that no horses ever pulled the chariots of Jewish Aztecs or Babylonian Mayas – or should it be Babylonian Aztecs and Jewish Mayas?”
No animal-drawn wheeled vehicles were ever used in pre-Columbian America.”

grego: See the comment above by Charles Darwin.

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Zindler:
“If millions and millions of people made and used weapons and tools of steel for a period spanning more than three millennia, not only should archaeologists find plentiful remains of swords, chariot axles, anvils, sickles, and many other iron-based artifacts, they should be finding the remains of steel mills all over the territory covered by Smith’s cast of characters! It is perfectly conceivable that one might lose a steel sword. But how in hell can you lose a steel mill?!”

grego: I assume that someone talking about sicence will use facts as a main basis; yet I can’t find, from the Book of Mormon, the facts from the first phrase in the sentence. If Mr. Zindler could kindly provide a reference or even a logical argument for “millions and millions”, “[using] weapons and tools of steel”, and “for a period spanning more than three millennia”, that would be helpful to his argument. I have no idea why those who claim science as their God must make such blatant assumptions to lay the groundwork for their arguments. Also, any references to “chariot axles, anvils,” and “sickles” would be appreciated, too. And which archaeologists are they, and why should archaeologists be finding these things all the time? (By the way, does the Book of Mormon mention “stainless steel that never rusts”, too?) And which “territory” would that be? So, what size would a steel mill be in those cultures? And how many of them would there be?

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Zindler:
“Now, of course, the defenders of the Mormon kingdom might say we just haven’t been looking in the right place. Alas for the apologists, the Book of Mormon tells us precisely where to look for such artifacts. It claims that between one-half and one million steel-owning people died all at once, in one spot, around the year 400 C.E., in a climactic battle at “Hill Cumorah.” According to Mormon tradition, Hill Cumorah is a glacial drumlin situated near the upstate New York town of Palmyra. It is the site of an annual “Mormon Pageant.” Mormon revisionist geographers, however, place the hill in the Tuxtla Mountains, in the Mexican state of Veracruz.”

grego: Mr. Zindler seems to be very much an “only A or B” reasoner. (“It must be A or B!” “What about C?” “C??”) Unless Mr. Zindler can show use how the “Book of Mormon tells us precisely where to look for such artifacts” is not a misleading statement, I will have to accept it as such, because while the Book of Mormon does say “hill Cumorah”, I have yet to find in the Book of Mormon a note or clear map as to where the Hill Cumorah is. Revisionist (as if that were a dirty word–I imagine anyone trying to get beyond Newtonian phsyics was a “revisionist”, correct?) geographers are many, and Mr. Zindler mentions one of many sites postulated for the “Hill Cumorah”. (And yes, some have tried to dig, but are still waiting for approval–not from the Mormon Church, but from the governments of the respective areas.)

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Zindler:
“During that period, many millions of people possessed of steel and brass technology are alleged to have lived and died somewhere in the Americas. It is strange, therefore, to note that no one has ever found any steel artifact datable to Pre-Columbian times.”

grego: I suggest starting at the section “Presence of metal prior to A.D. 900″ here: http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon_anachronisms/Metals , then going here:
http://www.fairlds.org/Book_of_Mormon/Steel_in_the_Book_of_Mormon.html , then going here: http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/FQ_metals.shtml#steel .

(Do I agree with all of the explanations, etc., or give equal weight to each? Absolutely not. However, there’s much in these articles that counters many of Mr. Zindler’s comments.)

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I’ll sum it all up with comments from an article found now at http://web.archive.org/web/20041013195225/http://more.abcnews.go.com/sections/science/dailynews/andeans981105.html :
“Much to the surprise of archaeologists, one of the earliest civilizations in the Americas already knew how to hammer metals by 1000 B.C., centuries earlier than had been thought.
“We were shocked. I was shocked,” says Richard Burger, director of Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History.
Mina Perdida translates as “Lost Mine” and local residents had asked the researchers if they were looking for the area’s legendary hidden treasures of gold. Burger told them no, they were just studying the ancient cultures. They were confident the people of the area hadn’t done any metalworking back then.
“To be able to hammer it to that level of thinness requires an incredible amount of technique,” Burger says… “It shows a certain degree of metallurgical knowledge.”
Some foils were gold gilded onto copper and some show signs of annealing—heating to make them more malleable—but not smelting. That technique of melting metals to separate them from ore didn’t appear until about 100 B.C. (grego: according to current finds.)
Based on the dating of carbon atoms attached to the foils, they appear to have been created between 1410 and 1090 B.C., roughly the period when Moses led the Jews from Egypt and the era of such pharaohs as Amenhotep III, Tutankhamen and Ramses.
“It shows once again how little we know about the past and how there are surprises under every rock,” comments Jeffrey Quilter, director of Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, a Harvard University research institute in Washington, D.C.”

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I could continue, but like I said, nothing really new.

Critics seem to scream and squeal when pro-LDS use all kinds of ways to get out of problems and difficult situations, inventing all sorts of “specious” answers, etc. Yet, to find a logical countering of these pro-Mormon arguments is rare or even impossible, though critics have tried. On the other hand, con-LDS seem quite apt at coming up with similar situations; yet, the reasoning falls under logical countering. Mr. Zindler provided evidence after evidence that… our current understanding doesn’t know some things yet; in fact, most all of his evidence is only evidence that no hard evidence yet exists. Does it make it harder for a skeptic to believe? It might. Does this damn any argument? Hardly.

In fact, from the beginning to now, “fact” after “fact” has been scratched off the “Problems with the Book of Mormon” list because they were based on the same thing Mr. Zindler bases his criticisms on–lack of evidence. And as the last section shows, even Harvard archeologists admit we know very little, and there are still many suprises. Who knows, maybe one day, after researching more than the .5% or so of Mesoamerica that has been researched up to now (such a staggering amount of data to draw conclusions from, eh?), they’ll even find… a steel mill.

It seems Mr. Zindler’s real purpose was to write something funny for those who were already decided against the Book of Mormon to enjoy. Ironically, at the bottom of the page is an ad: “What does it feel like to suddenly understand everything? God’s Debris isn’t the final answer to the Big Questions. But it might be the most compelling vision of reality you will ever read. The thought experiment is this: Try to figure out what’s wrong with the old man’s explanation of reality. Share the book with your smart friends for FREE, then discuss it later while enjoying a beverage.”

I have an idea for better fun, a new thought experiment: print out Mr. Zindler’s article and discuss it with your friends (if you have some that know how to use a little logic and a search engine) while enjoying a beverage. Try to figure out what’s wrong with his criticisms, and how many are actually based on substance. It’s sure to cause much more of a hoot.


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