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Estimating the Evidence

Estimating the Evidence, Episode 12: On Hebraic Views and Late Wars

It seems unlikely that the Book of Mormon should show so many parallels to nineteenth-century books if it was really an authentic ancient work. Critics have established a bit of a cottage industry when it comes finding potential books from which Joseph could have plagiarized the Book of Mormon. Though there are a number of books that could be considered, we focus here on two of the main candidates: A View of the Hebrews and The Late War. ...

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Estimating the Evidence, Episode 10: On Plagiarizing the King James

It seems unlikely that an independent translation of Isaiah could be so similar to the King James text, while at the same time different from it in such apparently fraudulent ways. Much has been made of the material shared between the Book of Mormon and the 1769 King James Bible, in the Isaiah chapters and elsewhere, with the implication that the material was plagiarized by Joseph as he was writing the Book of Mormon. ...

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Estimating the Evidence, Episode 8: On Very Long Boat Rides

It seems unlikely that Nephi could have built and sailed a boat from the Arabian Peninsula to the New World. Though some critics have labeled Nephi’s voyage as an impossibility, those perceptions are largely based on the assumption that Nephi had to have built a Renaissance-style sailing vessel, as if the Nina, Pinta, or the Santa Maria were Nephi’s only options....

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Estimating the Evidence, Episode 4: On Nephite Genetics

It seems unlikely that the colonization of the American continent described in the Book of Mormon would’ve left no genetic evidence in modern (or ancient) Indigenous populations.

Critics of the Book of Mormon can be relied on to bring up the subject of DNA, even though most on both sides have little expertise with which to grapple with the argument.


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Estimating the Evidence, Episode 2: On the Consistency of Visions

How can we expect to believe Joseph’s story when his accounts of the First Vision have so many inconsistencies?

In reality, even people who recount true stories will do so differently with each telling, and those stories aren’t much more consistent than for people who are telling lies. Taken as a whole, Joseph does add and omit a lot of material in his first-hand accounts, and there are some contradictions, but even if you stack the deck in favor of the critics, consistency just isn’t a great way to tell truth from error. ...

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Estimating the Evidence, Episode 15: On Trajectories of Truth

It seems unlikely that an allegedly fraudulent text could become more plausible after decades of intense critical examination. Over time, critics of the Book of Mormon have unearthed dozens of anachronisms and alleged historical errors within the book’s pages. In their turn, faithful scholars have demonstrated that most of those criticisms are unfounded, leading the book’s plausibility to increase substantially as the decades have passed....

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Estimating the Evidence, Episode 11: On Imprinted Words

It seems unlikely that someone could fake stylometric evidence for multiple authors within the Book of Mormon text. Stylometric evidence regarding the Book of Mormon has been around for almost four decades now. It made a bit of a splash back in the 80s, but it seems to be plagued by dismissal from critics and ambivalence from the faithful....

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Estimating the Evidence, Episode 9: On Too-Olde English

It seems unlikely that Joseph or his scribes could fill the Book of Mormon with examples of grammar and word use that fit better in Early Modern English than in the nineteenth century. Stanford Carmack and Royal Skousen have painstakingly documented a strange argument—that much of the language used in the Book of Mormon reflects usage patterns that align with the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, making it unlikely that Joseph or anyone else in the nineteenth century authored the book. ...

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Estimating the Evidence, Episode 3: On an Improbable Dictation

It seems unlikely that Joseph Smith could write the Book of Mormon through the dictation process described by witnesses, or that he could have written it in some other way without leaving a trail of evidence.

Many critics seem convinced that Joseph could dictate the Book of Mormon without much trouble, and those who recognize the difficulty of the dictation process rely on him authoring the manuscript in secret—without leaving any evidence of that process.


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Estimating the Evidence, Episode 1: On Ages and Pages

It seems unlikely that a young man of Joseph Smith’s limited education could produce a book the length of the Book of Mormon as a first-time author.

Joseph Smith is a definite outlier among the nineteenth-century’s great authors, even without considering the extraordinary content of the book itself. The estimated probability that someone of Joseph Smith’s age and education would publish a book the size of the Book of Mormon as their first work is p = .0006....

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