Monday, February 6, 2017

If you've never changed your mind...

Confirmation bias--the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories--is a well-known and ubiquitous problem that affects our pursuit for truth. Another term for it is motivated reasoning. There's a good article about that here:

Excerpt: "we seldom seem to seek evidence naturally that would show a hypothesis to be wrong and to do so because we understand this to be an effective way to show it to be right if it really is right... Inasmuch as a critical step in dealing with any type of bias is recognizing its existence, perhaps simply being aware of the confirmation bias--of its pervasiveness and of the many guises in which it appears--might help one both to be a little cautious about making up one's mind quickly on important issues and to be somewhat more open to opinions that differ from one's own than one might otherwise be."

If you've never changed your mind about Book of Mormon geography issues. maybe it's because of confirmation bias.

Mesomania is one of the best examples of confirmation bias that I'm aware of. I've been reading publications from the LDS citation cartel for decades. It wasn't until I became alarmed by the academic bullying of the Heartland model of Book of Mormon geography that I stepped back to reassess whether I had been lulled into accepting the Mesoamerican theory because of my own confirmation bias.

Did I want the Mesoamerican model to be true? In retrospect, I think I did. The Mesoamerican advocates long ago painted themselves into a corner that excludes the New York Cumorah. I went along with this for decades, probably because every LDS scholar and educator I knew subscribed to that model.

I know of well-known LDS scholars who refuse to entertain any ideas that contradict their Mesoamerican theory. Some say they've had "spiritual experiences" that confirm their beliefs. I'm still waiting to learn about any theory of Book of Mormon geography that lacks associated "spiritual experiences."

In my view, spiritual experiences can lead us to greater truth, but usually that happens because the Spirit gives us insights that we can then corroborate with physical evidence and rational argument.

A classic "tell" of confirmation bias is that you've never changed your mind about a particular topic. 

It's okay to stick with what you've always thought so long as you've fully assessed it from other perspectives and considered contradictory arguments and data, but in my experience reading the citation cartel publications, LDS scholars and educators in the citation cartel consider contradictory arguments and data just enough to dismiss them. The LDS citation cartel screens submissions to confirm their biases; their editorial boards all think alike as well.

To some degree, the LDS citation cartel characterizes people who disagree with them about Mesoamerica as apostates. Alternatively, they condescendingly consider people who disagree with them as uneducated, uncredentialed, easily misled, etc. This is especially troublesome because these the LDS scholars and educators also characterize modern prophets and apostles as men who have subscribed to a false tradition about Cumorah in New York and who have thereby misled the Church.

Even in 2017, when the Mesoamerican model should have long since been discarded, too many LDS people actually equate the Mesoamerican model to Church doctrine. I hear anecdotal examples of this all the time.

Worse, some LDS scholars and educators continue to promote the Mesoamerican model, including the two-Cumorahs theory.

That's how we end up with the disastrous two-Cumorahs exhibit in the North Visitors Center on Temple Square.

Bottom line, the Mesoamerican model contradicts what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said about Cumorah--along with what every modern prophet and apostle who has spoken about Cumorah has said.

Thanks to my research into Church history, I now see that Joseph Smith never once mentioned, let alone endorsed, a model of Book of Mormon geography that extended beyond North America (and no, in this context, Central America is not part of North America).

Thanks to my research into the text and relevant sciences of archaeology, anthropology, geology, and geography, I now see that the Book of Mormon describes North America very well.

So I'm happy to say that I've changed my mind about Book of Mormon geography. I've overcome the confirmation bias I relied on for the decades when I accepted the Mesoamerican model.

I invite anyone who still believes in a Mesoamerican setting to at least step back and re-evaluate that theory in light of Church history, the text, and the relevant sciences.

See if you can overcome your confirmation bias.