Carmack takes on the Late War

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Bret Ripley
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Re: Carmack takes on the Late War

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Dr Exiled wrote:
Sun Jun 27, 2021 7:00 pm
Bret Ripley wrote:
Sun Jun 27, 2021 6:48 pm
Anecdotal support: I grew up in a church in which the "gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues" occasionally occurred, and the "interpretations" typically included heaping helpings of thee, thou, and verily. Here endeth the lesson.
So, do you think these fellow church members were actually speaking what God wanted them to speak or were they merely wishing to do so and speaking as the group had taught them to do when speaking of divine things?
I think they sincerely believed they were conveying divine messages, and chose King Jamesey words to do so. As my final sentence was intended to convey, such archaisms need not be seen as anything more than so many arrows in the liturgical-lingo quiver.
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Re: Carmack takes on the Late War

Post by Chap »

Kishkumen wrote:
Sun Jun 27, 2021 8:43 pm
Chap wrote:
Sun Jun 27, 2021 8:10 pm
Umm, what would Joseph Smith have had to do different for you to say something like " Yup, basically it started as a fraud, but like all fraudsters Joseph Smith had to pretend to himself that he believed it too in order to get others to believe. In the end, he ended up more or less believing it all himself."
Those questions don't really mean much to me. When I develop the ability to mind read historical figures, I'll let you know.
Hmm. So if someone is a "historical figure", the question as to whether or not they were consciously acting fraudulently is somehow out of bounds for you.

Since this is a discussion board, I feel moved to ask: "How far in the past is "historical" for you?"

I am sure that from time to time you have found yourself concluding, for instance, that a student has deliberately acted fraudulently in submitting work as their own that was in fact not done by them. I suspect that in such situations you do not say to the appropriate university-level body charged with dealing with such issues "The question of whether this student engaged in a conscious attempt to gain better grades through fraud doesn't really mean much to me. When I develop the ability to mind read students, I'll let you know." Or am I wrong?

So how far away from the present does the person in question have to be in order for the protective veil of scepticism about knowledge of another's mental states to shield them from the exercise of judgement about their motives?

I ask the above from a position roughly as follows:

1. In normal life we continually form pictures (or 'models') of the mental states of others. We do not (don't you agree?) do so by any process of what might be called 'mind reading', in the sense of some direct telepathic perception of the other person's mental state,

2. We need to have such models of others' mental states in order to interact with them in ways which will get them to act in the ways we desire, or at least enable us to avoid any harm they might cause. There are signs that our close primate relations work the same way.

3. We form such mental models on the basis of how we see people act: if a person is red-faced, tense and shouts a lot, we might say "She's angry". And so on. One of the problems faced by people with autism seems to be that they find the formation of mental models on the basis of observed behaviour very challenging.

4. So, if on CCTV I see someone entering a cloakroom, removing a valuable item from the pocket of somebody else's coat hanging on a peg, and then when the person later complains of the loss of the item saying "Oh, that's awful. Maybe you dropped it somewhere?", we have no hesitation in saying "That person is deliberately lying". That's not 'mind-reading', it's just normal human common-sense judgement of what someone else is up to, based on their observed behaviour.

5. And if we know enough about the words and actions of a person who lived two hundred years ago, then (making due allowance for the limitations of our knowledge) I do not see why it should be seen as in some way improper to form a picture of their likely mental state on that basis. In the case of Joseph Smith, his behaviour seems to me to be in part consistent with an intention to commit deliberate fraud. And that's not the result of a claim to some kind of mysterious 'mind reading' on my part. I am just applying to Smith the process of modelling mental states of others on the basis of their behaviour that all of us do, all the time.
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Re: Carmack takes on the Late War

Post by dastardly stem »

Gadianton wrote:
Sun Jun 27, 2021 10:47 pm
Lem wrote:There is space for the entire spectrum of opinion, and making disparaging comments about people's past when they define it as fraudulent doesn't seem particularly helpful.
Right. Well, context is everything. Look no further than Sic et Non to force the issue of the "fraud" category as "Lunatic, Liar, or Lord" is their favorite way to recast the Joseph Smith story. I kid you not, if you go to Sic et Non and try to avoid the word "fraud", they might become more irate than if you just say "fraud" because then it sounds postmodernist and something the new MI might pull. In fact, in the believer / nonbeliever debates, it's the Church leaders themselves who have said either the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be, or it's a great fraud and the work of the devil. When investigating the Book of Mormon as a potential convert, fraud isn't just a serious option from a practical standpoint, it's an option implicit in the Church's own self-presentation.

As historians or students of religious history, there are very good scholarly reasons to eliminate fraud from the vocabulary altogether, and not just for the sake of being respectful.

First of all, real history can't deal with angels and magic, it assumes a naturalistic world. The pleadings of Sic et Non and previous Church leaders are disregarded, as it simply assumes angels don't exist and the plates were either fabricated or imagined. In a certain respect then, naturalistic assumptions quickly lead to assumptions of fraud, which is a bit circular. Second, as the Rev indicates, because the history of religion is basically the history humanity itself, if the rise of religion is the rise of fraud, then the history of humanity is the history of priestcraft, and it's going to get terribly monotonous and unhelpful to use judgmental language in regard to every religious decision made in human history. Third, history should stay descriptive rather than prescriptive for a lot of reasons, beginning with moral biases influencing what we're supposed to be describing objectively.
I don't understand why the use of the term "fraud" has any bearing on the history of humanity. It very well could be that each and every religion is fraudulent if not by a figure in history but by an unseen power that everyone thinks hides in the shadows, at least.

Is it reasonable to say Joseph was a fraud if he really believed it? I mean it could very well be he believed God showed up in his dreams, sent angels to him and told him the story of the Nephites et al. And yet, it could be that none of it is true, nor ever happened. That his imagining of God was his imagining of characters he thought were real. His imagining of angels were simply his imagination and not much more. At what point do we assign someone fraud? or do we, just to stay above the riff raff, continually soft-pedal what we're discussing in order to save someone's feelings?

I'd question if it even matters whether Joseph believed it or not. or whether he believed the main thrust of it, but maybe made up parts to keep it all going or all together.

I know someone who was convicted of fraud. For years he tricked people out of their money. And he got so rich doing so. He said he prayed pleading with God to get rich. "If I get rich...I"ll be the best rich person ever. I'll help people in need and all of that." He was, in his mind, divinely appointed; justified in is actions. At some point whatever people are imagining about God is the making of fraud. Why does it hurt anyone or anything, like the discipline of history or the whole of humanity, to conclude as much?
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Re: Carmack takes on the Late War

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Chap wrote:
Mon Jun 28, 2021 7:48 am
Hmm. So if someone is a "historical figure", the question as to whether or not they were consciously acting fraudulently is somehow out of bounds for you. [SNIP!] I am just applying to Smith the process of modelling mental states of others on the basis of their behaviour that all of us do, all the time.
Chap, that was an absolutely masterful post. Thank you for taking the time to type it.
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Re: Carmack takes on the Late War

Post by Kishkumen »

Chap wrote:
Mon Jun 28, 2021 7:48 am
Hmm. So if someone is a "historical figure", the question as to whether or not they were consciously acting fraudulently is somehow out of bounds for you.

Since this is a discussion board, I feel moved to ask: "How far in the past is "historical" for you?"
Mind reading is risky business any time one does it. I cannot experience what another person experiences, so I can do my best to speculate as accurately and responsibly as I can, but I am sure to be wrong much of the time. I am often wrong on this board, and people happily tell me that I am mistaken. In its own way, this board and others like it are humbling reminders of the limits of human communication and mind reading.
Chap wrote:
Mon Jun 28, 2021 7:48 am
I am sure that from time to time you have found yourself concluding, for instance, that a student has deliberately acted fraudulently in submitting work as their own that was in fact not done by them. I suspect that in such situations you do not say to the appropriate university-level body charged with dealing with such issues "The question of whether this student engaged in a conscious attempt to gain better grades through fraud doesn't really mean much to me. When I develop the ability to mind read students, I'll let you know." Or am I wrong?
The devil is always in the details, and all we can do is look at the information we have and do our best. I doubt I get it right all the time. Honestly, I generally don't level accusations when I am in this situation. I say, "This is the evidence I have, and so this is the conclusion I am forced to draw based on that information." At the same time, I don't pretend to know in every fishy situation what actually occurred.
Chap wrote:
Mon Jun 28, 2021 7:48 am
So how far away from the present does the person in question have to be in order for the protective veil of scepticism about knowledge of another's mental states to shield them from the exercise of judgement about their motives?

I ask the above from a position roughly as follows:

1. In normal life we continually form pictures (or 'models') of the mental states of others. We do not (don't you agree?) do so by any process of what might be called 'mind reading', in the sense of some direct telepathic perception of the other person's mental state,

2. We need to have such models of others' mental states in order to interact with them in ways which will get them to act in the ways we desire, or at least enable us to avoid any harm they might cause. There are signs that our close primate relations work the same way.

3. We form such mental models on the basis of how we see people act: if a person is red-faced, tense and shouts a lot, we might say "She's angry". And so on. One of the problems faced by people with autism seems to be that they find the formation of mental models on the basis of observed behaviour very challenging.

4. So, if on CCTV I see someone entering a cloakroom, removing a valuable item from the pocket of somebody else's coat hanging on a peg, and then when the person later complains of the loss of the item saying "Oh, that's awful. Maybe you dropped it somewhere?", we have no hesitation in saying "That person is deliberately lying". That's not 'mind-reading', it's just normal human common-sense judgement of what someone else is up to, based on their observed behaviour.

5. And if we know enough about the words and actions of a person who lived two hundred years ago, then (making due allowance for the limitations of our knowledge) I do not see why it should be seen as in some way improper to form a picture of their likely mental state on that basis. In the case of Joseph Smith, his behaviour seems to me to be in part consistent with an intention to commit deliberate fraud. And that's not the result of a claim to some kind of mysterious 'mind reading' on my part. I am just applying to Smith the process of modelling mental states of others on the basis of their behaviour that all of us do, all the time.
So, when it comes to Joseph Smith, I am learning new things all the time. As you probably know, I carry on regular conversations with Don Bradley about Mormon history. A lot of the stuff he says on a wide range of topics is frankly both mind-blowing and eye-opening. It is, in short, humbling, not in a religious sense so much as an intellectual one. What I think I know about polygamy or other things is often challenged by better data and better historical arguments. I feel comfortable in all of this saying that your knowledge of Joseph Smith's motivations is almost certainly often erroneous to some degree or another. Mine often is too. And since I have the benefit of being the close friend and interlocutor of one of the world's foremost experts on Joseph Smith, I feel very confident of my humility (low estimation of my own grasp of the subject) and my perhaps offensive characterization of your confidence about your understanding of Joseph Smith or ability to understand him.

At the end of the day, all we can do is make our best judgments in our time. In my view, to decide to be or not to be LDS is something that should be divorced from strictly historical judgments about Joseph Smith, ideally. What matters more to us is what Joseph Smith means to various communities and individuals in our time. Our views of Joseph Smith are really too implicated in our social and historical situation to approach anything like a fair estimation of who he was. That's OK, though. We do what we can do in our time. Ultimately, I hope history judges us, to the extent that it might, and I think the chances are vanishingly small, as having done our best, whether we did so as LDS people, ex-LDS people, or what have you.

If you honestly believe that Joseph Smith was a con artist and a bad person whose religious vision was/is deleterious beyond any hope for salutary use, then I think it behooves you to dissociate from any group that is based on Smith's leadership and ideas. At the same time, I think those people who see good things where you see bad, and can do so in good conscience, are probably OK.
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Re: Carmack takes on the Late War

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Stem wrote:I know someone who was convicted of fraud. For years he tricked people out of their money. And he got so rich doing so.
So do I. An uber TBM who had tried to use his church status to reel my parents in, but they rejected him to his dismay.
Stem wrote:Is it reasonable to say Joseph was a fraud if he really believed it?
Dan Vogel uses the term "pious fraud". But what does it mean to really believe? Con artists are hopelessly optimistic, upbeat people. "Believers" so to speak. The guy I know bore outrageous testimonies. He fired his lawyer and defended himself in court. He was as full of himself as they come. I don't think the fact that he was so self-deluded makes him a better guy.
Stem wrote:I don't understand why the use of the term "fraud" has any bearing on the history of humanity. It very well could be that each and every religion is fraudulent if not by a figure in history but by an unseen power that everyone thinks hides in the shadows, at least.
Not sure I follow you. If every leader in history was a fraud, and if every person was deluded, and believed in the leader and in non-existent power around them, then how informative really, is the word "fraud"?

It's much easier to find the good and bad people in history when it's personally connected to you. Two areas of the world I've read history books about are pre-Columbian America and China. I'm a believer: human beings a pretty evil. If I had to pick out the good people and the bad people from history, especially from history I have no personal connection to, then good luck. Same for which empire is good or bad; or which religion. It would be incredibly annoying, in fact, to read a history of China, with the author in constant shock over the rampant fraud and brutality. It would be a sentiment needing expressed every other paragraph. The point for Joseph Smith and Mormonism, is that given the relative success of the religion, the apple must not have fallen so far from the tree. But this is the the historical POV. I'm not a Mormon historian, I'm a former Mormon. Actually, technically I still am Mormon. So if I ever feel like creating a sock puppet and going over to SeN to call the witnesses a fraud, I shall feel free to do so.
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Re: Carmack takes on the Late War

Post by dastardly stem »

Gadianton wrote:
Mon Jun 28, 2021 5:13 pm


So do I. An uber TBM who had tried to use his church status to reel my parents in, but they rejected him to his dismay.



Dan Vogel uses the term "pious fraud". But what does it mean to really believe? Con artists are hopelessly optimistic, upbeat people. "Believers" so to speak. The guy I know bore outrageous testimonies. He fired his lawyer and defended himself in court. He was as full of himself as they come. I don't think the fact that he was so self-deluded makes him a better guy.
We may be talking about the same damn person. Seriously the exact same story over here.
Stem wrote:
Not sure I follow you. If every leader in history was a fraud, and if every person was deluded, and believed in the leader and in non-existent power around them, then how informative really, is the word "fraud"?
Well that's a good point. If all religion is simply fraud, of some sort or another, then peering into history we see nothing but the humans that promoted the fraud. Years back I traveled back east, as they say, and on my travels came to Monticello, the home and museum dedicated to Thomas Jefferson. I grabbed a couple of books at the time because he became very interesting to me. As I learned more about him, I grew more fond of him. What an interesting person to look up to, I figured, though, admittedly, my examination didn't go very deep. Decades went by, I ventured into many other areas of interest, kids came along and my son exiting his teenage days with dedicated zeal condemned Thomas Jefferson. Swept up by the basically religious zeal of our day, in the form of social justice, he having learned of Jefferson's having likely fathered a child with a slave lady, was certain Jefferson was as much the culprit of racism we see today as anyone. Its certainly not as if Jefferson a heavily influential person in the finding of our nation, society and resulting culture and tradition didn't have some part in racism. But it's also not as if he contributed nothing to the world, while participating poorly in at least one aspect of society. And on that, I don't know how much.

I may be too cavalier and perhaps ultimately wrong on this. Every person lies at some point. I took candy from the store, I stole from my neighbors, I've lied and exaggerated stories and many other indiscretions. I can't imagine a religious leader of our history not having used influence for personal gain. It's the nature of being human. Did God back Billy Graham his whole life? I mean many believe He did. Was Mr. Graham generally pretty nice, and grounded? I suppose (I don't know much about him, to be clear). But what if there is no God at all? His teachings, his ministry (as they call it) was simply all built on, what, his presuppositions? His imagination? His self-love? I don't know.

Alright I got carried away with this response. But your at fault for getting me going, hah.
It's much easier to find the good and bad people in history when it's personally connected to you. Two areas of the world I've read history books about are pre-Columbian America and China. I'm a believer: human beings a pretty evil. If I had to pick out the good people and the bad people from history, especially from history I have no personal connection to, then good luck. Same for which empire is good or bad; or which religion. It would be incredibly annoying, in fact, to read a history of China, with the author in constant shock over the rampant fraud and brutality. It would be a sentiment needing expressed every other paragraph. The point for Joseph Smith and Mormonism, is that given the relative success of the religion, the apple must not have fallen so far from the tree. But this is the the historical POV. I'm not a Mormon historian, I'm a former Mormon. Actually, technically I still am Mormon. So if I ever feel like creating a sock puppet and going over to SeN to call the witnesses a fraud, I shall feel free to do so.
Good. Agreed.
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Re: Carmack takes on the Late War

Post by Lem »

...The point for Joseph Smith and Mormonism, is that given the relative success of the religion, the apple must not have fallen so far from the tree...
as in successful con artist begets successful fraud? :D

Seriously, though, success is a slippery word. I have a retired relative who has now worked for free for the lds church for longer than he worked for them on salary. Given his wife's labor is assumed to be included in every mission call they STILL pay for, the lds church is getting twice the labor. And they pay tithing on his already-tithed pension. Given how much the lds church builds their success on the backs of families like that, in what I consider to be a pyramid scheme with shameful levels of hoarding, I would say, yes. Fraudulent enterprises can be exceedingly successful.

Really, though, I don't see the problem in acknowledging that in a specific discussion. No one is registering constant shock and horror. This whole side conversation started simply because someone matter of factly used the word fraud in a non-overly emotional post, which was touchily responded to with an unnecessary personal attack. in my opinion.
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Re: Carmack takes on the Late War

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Lem wrote:
Mon Jun 28, 2021 5:59 pm
...The point for Joseph Smith and Mormonism, is that given the relative success of the religion, the apple must not have fallen so far from the tree...
as in successful con artist begets successful fraud? :D

Seriously, though, success is a slippery word. I have a retired relative who has now worked for free for the lds church for longer than he worked for them on salary. Given his wife's labor is assumed to be included in every mission call they STILL pay for, the lds church is getting twice the labor. And they pay tithing on his already-tithed pension. Given how much the lds church builds their success on the backs of families like that, in what I consider to be a pyramid scheme with shameful levels of hoarding, I would say, yes. Fraudulent enterprises can be exceedingly successful.

Really, though, I don't see the problem in acknowledging that in a specific discussion. No one is registering constant shock and horror. This whole side conversation started simply because someone matter of factly used the word fraud in a non-overly emotional post, which was touchily responded to with an unnecessary personal attack. in my opinion.
Having myself worked for the Church at one time, I can side with you on the pyramid scheme description. While working for the Church I learned quite quickly one major way to get a win in the org was to find ways to pawn off work onto the volunteers in order to cut back on the need for more employees and utilize the free labor most effectively. It was awful to see how the, most often, retired volunteers were being used and re-used--often for decades. It was a big no no to overly grace them with food--the best means employees could find to repay them and thank them. It was also a win if we could get them by on the worst equipment, so the Church could re-use it's old computers and stuff.

Additionally the Church benefitted greatly from these volunteers. The Church could offer something for free (at the time I worked for FamilySearch) but with the free labor force could outperform many others and often sold off the free labor use to others to profit off of. Yes, if you've ever been a part of a company
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Re: Carmack takes on the Late War

Post by Lem »

Gadianton wrote:
Sat Jun 26, 2021 7:48 pm
Yeah, Brant went to town and made some good points.

They say a sucker is born every minute, and I guess it was my turn to be born. It's been pointed out to me in private, to save from the embarrassment, that this is an old article.

It was linked to over at SeN on the latest 'post' and in my haste to get to past the rubbish and get to the comments, I was left looking at the description of this article while at the same time reading the first comment, which was by Sledge.

I should know better at this point to check first.
:lol: you're no sucker! it's not like full information is given; various members of the SeN crowd are back to bragging that something is "newly" published every Friday by the Journal in question. Who knew that "newly published" meant "already published once before and re-published now so we can keep pretending no Fridays have been missed"? It must be one of those loan-shifted words. :roll:

Seriously, though, considering Carmack's work, your thread reminded me of a couple of statistical quibbles I would like to make regarding his assertion that the BofM looks nothing like other pseudo-biblical works published in that era. First of all, note that there he only analyzes 4 other works before making his conclusion, so not only just five in total, but five which were written across a fifty-six year span, and are of very different lengths. The four works being compared to the BofM range from 14,500-49,300 words. That's an incredibly small sample, both in number and word count, to compare against the BofM at 275,000 words. Even though he uses percentages, that is insufficient to normalize across length

Next, what his research actually shows is whether the 1830 B ofM is written like the AVERAGE of those four extremely shorter pseudo-biblical works which were written between 1774 and 1816. That's not sufficient to establish whether it fits into the same category of those works, in my opinion, but of course I am looking only at the statistics.

For example, in a single tiny category, Carmack finds that the BofM doesn't look like the AVERAGE of the other four works, because it is twice as likely as the average to include pseudo-biblical terms in that category. When he repeats the analysis for a different tiny category, he again finds that the BofM doesn't look like the AVERAGE of the other four works, but this time its because it is far less likely to include the terms in question. And so on, and so on. Again, just properly normalizing for length would undo most of these, but more importantly, they don't agree with each other on why the BofM is 'different.' Is it more pseudo-biblical? Less pseudo-biblical? Not related at all? The answer is different for every little analysis.

In other words, every analysis is independent and simply shows the difference from the AVERAGE of the other four, but in different ways and at different strengths every time. I guarantee that I could come up with similar results for any one of the four pseudo-biblical works, if I put the BofM together with the three works left, and then compared that fourth one to the new AVERAGE. Length differences would continue to exacerbate the errors in comparison, rendering the analysis mostly meaningless.

The saying is true: there are lies, damn lies, and then there are [mis-used and mis-represented] statistics. Enthusiasm doesn't make up for solid peer analysis.
Gadianton wrote:
Sat Jun 26, 2021 5:43 pm

Okay, I heard this joke the other day.

How do you find out what's in volumes 2-7 of "A reasonable leap into the light" without buying the books or obtaining illegal copies?
my extremely rude guess would be to say: read the works they will be plagiarized from?

2nd try: I confess I am apologetically impaired due to my years of not paying attention. Please tell me the rest of the joke.
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