Sunday, June 24, 2007

Using the Construct of God as an Explanation Causes More Problems than it Solves

The construct of god as an explanation for anything causes more problems than it solves.

1) One has not given an explanation if one has not proposed a mechanism. Giving god credit for something leads to the illusion that one has offered a satisfactory explanation, when one has actually not said much of anything. To illustrate, allow me to use "gremlins" for the word "god".

Where did the matter/energy for the Big Bang come from? "Gremlins did it". It sounds like I gave an explanation, but I proposed no mechanism, so I never really answered the question or explained where the matter/energy came from. So the question still remains. Yet, some theists criticize atheists for not having a definitive answer for this question. My point is that theists don't have an answer either. "God" by itself is not an answer. Where did god get the matter/energy from? "Oh, he is omnipotent so he can just do things like that". That is not an explanation. I could claim the same for Flying Spaghetti Monsters or Invisible Pink Unicorns.

2) Immaterial and material gods. People have many different concepts of god, so it makes showing the problems with god’s properties difficult, because not every theist believes he has such and such a property. But, allow me to address the problem immaterial beings have.

How does an immaterial being interact or have any influence on a material being? Being immaterial, god has no weight (i.e., no gravitational pull), no electrostatic charge (he can't touch or hold any material thing), no electro-magnetic waves (he is not light, cannot be seen, and cannot influence things that can be influenced by light), he has no molecules that can hold heat energy, etc. If he is immaterial, he has no physical force or energy with which to interact with the physical world. Mind powers don't cut it. How would an immaterial mind exert a physical force to move a planet, etc? What makes the physical world physical is that it responds to physical forces. And energy and light are physical. Remember E=mc^2? Matter/energy is one thing. Kinetic energy, heat, etc, are natural and part of the physical world.

By this point, some theists are saying, "OK, an immaterial god won't work because although we can dream of beings that can move physical objects with their mind, there is no mechanism to make it happen, so I changed my mind and now my god is a material god". So, now the problem is how does a material god do all the things people claim he does through natural means? And why haven’t physicists detected any physical forces of unknown origin doing everything from altering the rate at which neurons fire in human brains to stopping bullets from going through garments.

Look, a neuron does not fire unless the charge on the inside of neuron reaches -70 mV. Since we have already established that it would take some physical force to do that, why do we not find any out of place electrical charges targeting certain neurons so that God can give you a thought that you would not have had without his interference? That is just one issue. You name whatever you think god has done and tell me why we cannot find any trace of physical evidence that he did or is doing something.

Someone yells, “We just haven’t discovered it, yet”. Well, my friend, everything is happening naturally and normally according to the natural laws of physics. There is no evidence that the system is being acted upon. If god is physical then he is an actor in the physical universe and we should be able to detect him doing things that change the normal course things would follow. Now, someone will bring up the strange behavior exhibited by sub-atomic particles in which quantum mechanics rules supreme. The strange behavior of mesons and such does not help the theist out. I am willing to show how it is not helpful if someone posits a coherent theory of how god uses quantum mechanics to answer prayers, etc.

3) The probability of the existence of a god complex enough to be able to create physical laws and constants is less likely than the probability of the physical laws and constants existing without a creator. As difficult as it is for some of you to believe that something as complex as the universe exists as it is without a creator, it is even a bigger leap to believe that something way more complex, a god that can manipulate the constants of the universe, exists without a creator. Now, Mormons believe god did have a creator, namely a father god, but this only moves the same question back a step and does nothing to solve the problem. You are attempting to solve the problem of how something complex can exist without a creator by supposing something even more complex existing without a creator. This does not prove that a god does not exist, because even highly improbable things can happen if given enough trials. But, it does make moot the argument for the existence of god due to the probabilities of the universe being the way it is without a creator. And you have made the whole matter worse by introducing a god whose existence and properties must be explained.

In conclusion, using the concept of god as an explanatory factor for anything that happens in the universe creates more problems than it solves. Without a stated mechanism by which god does his miraculous deeds, using god as an explanation explains nothing. Immaterial beings have to have some interface by which to influence physical things. The question of how one gets an immaterial thing to influence a physical object is a lot more difficult than explaining whatever you need to explain without god. And finally, using a god to explain the origin of the universe just moves the questions back one step and makes the task even more difficult because now you have to account for something even more complex than the original question.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Spalding's "Manuscript Found" vs "Manuscript Story"

I don't claim to know who or how the BoM was written. But, there is one point of confusion about the Spalding-Rigdon theory that has been exacerbated by most who have written on the subject, both anti and apologist alike. It is very important that anyone looking into this topic understand what I am about to tell you as most everything that has been written on the Spalding-Rigdon theory focuses on the wrong book.

I am borrowing generously from websites for which I will provide links to below. The following is from: http://www.mormoninformation.com/srtheory.htm



The "Spalding-Rigdon theory" was first given wide publicity in 1834 with the publication of the book Mormonism Unvailed. In it, the author followed up on indications previously published in Ohio-based newspapers that a man named Solomon Spalding was the real (and unwitting) originator of the Book of Mormon.

To make an extremely long story very, very short, the theory goes that Solomon Spalding authored a work called "Manuscript Found" (not to be confused with "Manuscript Story"!)...Supposedly Sidney Rigdon, who actually lived nearby and would later become Joseph Smith's right-hand man, was acquainted with the publisher. Rigdon procured Spalding's manuscript, edited it by inserting a great deal of religious material, and later turned it over to Joseph Smith who then used it, and not any golden plates, as full or partial source material for the Book of Mormon.

The Spalding document described in Mormonism Unvailed was rediscovered in Hawaii in 1884, but it was shown to be far from the expected word-for-word parallel to the Book of Mormon, so the theory went into hiatus. The theory went into virtual moratorium in 1945 with the publication of Fawn M. Brodie's No Man Knows My History. Although considered by Mormons as an anti-Mormon book, she rejected the "Spalding-Rigdon theory" of Book of Mormon authorship due in part to her documentation of Rigdon's activities at the time which supposedly proved that Rigdon never met Joseph Smith until after the Book of Mormon was published. She had, however, imported this information wholesale from a pro-LDS source and had done little, if any, of her own research into the matter. There are also significant gaps in the chronology.

Although the Spalding-Rigdon theory was on the back burner for over half a century, in July 2005 the book Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? The Spalding Enigma hit the shelves. It contains a great amount of brand-new evidence and will very likely bring the Spalding-Rigdon controversy back to "front and center."




Many apologists love to show how "Manuscript Story" does not have much in common with the BoM and does not contain BoM names as many witnesses had attested that a manuscript of Spalding's did. And many proponents of the Spalding-Rigdon theory have demonstrated the many parallels exist in wording between "Manuscript Story" and the BoM. But, the evidence suggests that there were two books that Spalding wrote, one entitled "Manuscript Found" about Hebrews who sailed to America, and another earlier book entitled "Manuscript Story: Conneaut Creek" about a small group of Romans who were blown off course and landed in America. To add to the confusion the RLDS published the Hawaiian copy of "Manuscript Story" under the name of "Manuscript Found" apparently because they believed the book they had was the same one that the affidavits spoke of. One cannot entirely blame them because the confusion appears to have started in "Mormonism Unveiled".

Apparently a man by the name of Hurlbut collected several affidavits from individuals who knew Spalding and had heard him read parts of "Manuscript Found" to them. They claimed that there were many similarities between Spalding's book and the Book of Mormon except that the BoM had many scriptural teachings which were not in Spalding's book. E. D. Howe, the author of "Mormonism Unveiled" heard of these affidavits and went to Spalding's relatives to see if the claims in the affidavits were true (Solomon Spalding was dead). Howe ended up leaving the Spalding household with "Manuscript Story" thinking he had found what he was looking for. But, upon examining it found that it did not bear the strong resemblance to the BoM he was expecting. His copy was lost after he died and then found in Hawaii. The RLDS church correctly believed that it was the same manuscript Howe had, but incorrectly believed as Howe had that it was the one that was referred to in the affidavits. The RLDS wanted to show that the BoM was not a fraud and was not similar to the Spalding book, so they published the copy of "Manuscript Story" they had as "Manuscript Found".

A daughter of Spalding said that "Manuscript Story: Conneaut Creek" was not the same as "Manuscript Found" (http://www.mormonstudies.com/matilda1.htm):



In her 1880 statement, Mrs. McKinstry stated that after Solomon died in 1816, his writings were stored in a trunk: "I perfectly remember the appearance of this trunk, and of looking at its contents. There were sermons and other papers, and I saw a manuscript, about an inch thick, closely written, tied with some of the stories my father had written for me, one of which he called, 'The Frogs of Wyndham.' On the outside of this manuscript were written the words, 'Manuscript Found.' I did not read it, but looked through it and had it in my hands many times, and saw the names I had heard at Conneaut, when my father read it to his friends. I was about eleven years of age at this time" (Cowdrey et al. 1977, 52-53)

Matilda was also just as clear about the fact that her father's manuscript, which contained the names Mormon, Maroni, Lamenite, and Nephi, bore the title "Manuscript Found," not "Manuscript Story." In a letter to James Fairchild dated 18 February 1886, A. B. Deming wrote: "I was in Washington D.C. 10 days Dec. and Jan. and gave Spaulding's daughter L. L. Rice's Story as Pub[lished] at Lamoni. She says it is not Manuscript Found." This was confirmed by Matilda in a letter to Deming in November 1886: "I have read much of the Manuscript Story Conneaut Creek which you sent me. I know that it is not the Manuscript Found which contained the words 'Nephi, Mormon, Maroni, and Laminites.' Do the Mormons expect to deceive the public by leaving off the title page - Conneaut Creek - and calling it Manuscript Found and Manuscript Story?" (See Cowdrey et al. 1977, 157-58.)

These letters written by A. B. Deming and Mrs. McKinstry assume even more significance when compared to another letter dated 25 January 1886 from Redick McKee to Deming. McKee's letter begins with this sentence: "When in this city a few days ago, you informed me that you were en route to Pittsburg, Washington County, &c, to collect some additional testimony about the origin of the Mormon Bible for a book you were intending to publish on this subject, that you had seen old Mrs. McKinstry - the daughter of Solomon Spaulding - and obtained a statement of her recollections and now called to request a similar statement from me, to include incidents of my early and later life, leading to my present matured opinion about Mormonism." After relating what he knew of Solomon Spalding while living at Spalding's public house in Amity between 1814 and 1816, McKee provided this information:

But touching these I will give below his daughter's (Mrs. McKinstry's) recollections, recently narrated by her to me, which I think more full and explanatory than my own. This lady is still residing in Washington, D.C., with the family of her late son-in-law, Col. Seaton of the Census Bureau, in remarkably good health for a lady of her age. She corroborated her father's statement about his removal to Conneaut in 1809, his examining the Indian mounds &c, and distinctly recollected that he wrote two or more stories in support of the theory that the Indians of North America were lineal descendants of the Jews from Palestine. In the first of these he brought the Jews from Palestine to America via Italy during the reign of Constantine, and set forth that at Rome they engaged shipping to convey them to some place in Great Britain, but encountered stormy weather and were finally wrecked somewhere on the coast of New England. What became of the manuscript of this story she did not know with certainty but understood that it was published in some Eastern review or magazine.

This romance he afterwards abandoned and set about writing a more probable story founded on the history of the ten lost tribes of Israel. She thought her father must have had wonderful powers of imagination and memory, great command of language and facility of description. Many of his descriptions were of a historical and religious character. Others were grotesque and ludicrous in the extreme.

She remembered that in one of them, touching the mode of warfare in that day, (being hand to hand or man to man) he represented one of the parties having streaks of red paint upon their cheeks and foreheads to distinguish them from enemies in battle. The story he called "The Manuscript Found." It purported to give a history of the ten tribes, their disputes and dissentions concerning the religion of their fathers, their division into two parties; one called Nephites the other Lamanites; their bloody wars, followed by reunion and migration via the Red Sea to the Pacific Ocean; their residence for a long time in China; their crossing the ocean by Behrings Straits in North America, thus becoming the progenitors of the Indians who have inhabited or now live in this continent. This was the story which her uncle John, Mr. Lake, Mr. Miller and other neighbors heard him read at Conneaut on different occasions. (Cowdrey et al. 2000, 798-99)




You can read "Manuscript Story" which was incorrectly published as "Manuscript Found" here.

To read the statements made by those who heard Solomon Spalding's "Manuscript Found" look here: http://www.solomonspalding.com/docs/1834howf.htm#pg278b

In addition to reading all of the above links, please be sure to read: http://sidneyrigdon.com/criddle/rigdon1.htm and http://sidneyrigdon.com/criddle/rigdon2.htm