Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Narrow Neck of Land One More Time – Part XI—Mesoamericanists’ Achilles Heel

Continuing from the last posts showing the fallacy of the Mesoamerican Theorists’ view of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in being the narrow neck of land—it becomes clear that this isthmus is the real Achilles heel of every Mesoamerican model. In pursuing this, the following is from John E. Clark, himself a Mesoamericanist and follower of John L. Sorenson’s model, in which he defends the Mesoamerican Theory.
Clark’s arguments continue:
12. Before leaving this issue, it is worth mentioning that some proposals narrow the distance across the neck by suggesting raised sea levels in Book of Mormon times. M. Wells Jakeman and his principal disciple, Ross T. Christensen, argued that in Book of Mormon times the seas came much farther inland in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, thus significantly reducing the width of the narrow neck at this place. Jerry L. Ainsworth's recent proposal adopts this line of argument. Archaeologically, though, we know of early and late sites near the current beach lines, so the ocean margins must have been at their current positions by about four thousand years ago, with only minor fluctuations of a meter or two since then. In short, recourse to catastrophic geology will not do for slimming the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. I learned this theory as an undergraduate from classes I took from Jakeman and Christensen”
Response: J. Wyatt Durham (left), considered a giant in the field of paleontology by his peers, spent four years in Colombia as Chief Paleontologist for Tropical Oil Company and two years as Associate Professor at the California Institute of Technology. During his early years on the Berkeley faculty he became known for his seminal systematic studies of West Coast tertiary faunas. According to Durham, in “Evidence of No Cenozoic Isthmus of Tehuantepec Seaways,” wrote that back in 1905, Böse claimed that there were no seaways that crept up onto the Isthmus of Tehuantepec;  however, because of its narrowness and low divide, the Isthmus has caused much speculation and discussion regarding possible seaways between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, though several subsequent authors insisted on such a connection. So a re-examination of the Isthmus region made by several paleontologists clearly indicate that no Cenozoic seaways have crossed it and no post-Cretaceous marine sediments are present on the Pacific side of the continental divide, nor are there any marine terraces on the extensive Tehuantepec plain, contrary to earlier authors.” The Cenozoic Era (meaning new life), is the current and most recent of the three Phanerozoic geological eras, and covers a period from 66 million years ago to the present.
It is one thing to point to geologic studies that show something existed in the past, and quite another merely to say something existed at one time. It should also be understood that “The Yucatan Peninsula is a carbonate platform and uplifted anciently, and before the Central American isthmus was raised, the region had been completely underwater. The islands of the West Indies delineated a submerged former land bridge which had connected North America and South America via what are now Florida and Venezuela.” At that time, areas of Mexico's coastline on the Gulf of California, the Baja California Peninsula, are riding northwestward on the Pacific plate. Rather than one plate subducting, the Pacific and North American plates grind past each other, creating a slip fault that is the southern extension of the San Andreas fault in California. Motion along this fault in the past pulled Baja California away from the coast, creating the Gulf of California. Continued motion along this fault today is the source of earthquakes in western Mexico.
As for raised sea levels, all of the models suggested by geologists were based on the land mass rising or sinking, not on a change in sea level. The deep ocean drilling ship Glomar Challenger, under the auspices of the Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling (JOIDES), which consisted of over 250 distinguished scientists from academic institutions, government agencies, and private industry from all over the world, drilled extensively along both coasts of Panama in the latter half of the last century. While they found that the isthmus was once underwater and rose to form a connection with South America, they found no indication of rising or lower sea levels.
13. [James] Warr muddies the water…by claiming "that the inhabitants considered their land an island." What the book says is that "the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water" (Alma 22:32), being an "isle of the sea" (2 Nephi 10:20). Sorenson [in Mormon Map] clarifies that "in the King James Version of the Bible and generally in the Book of Mormon, an 'isle' was not necessarily completely surrounded by water; it was simply a place to which routine access was by sea, even though a traveler might reach it by a land route as well." Warr scores this criterion equally for the Rivas and Tehuantepec proposals; I agree. This is an ambiguous requirement of little distinguishing power.”
Response: Again, Clark shows his Mesoamerican beliefs, by claiming that the idea of an “island” is “an ambiguous requirement of little distinguishing power.” Only in Mesoamerica and North America models! At least in the Baja and Malay theories the claimants use this, though they try to make it a peninsula. However, despite Sorenson making such a fallacious argument, and Clark claiming “What the book says is that "the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water" (Alma 22:32),” actually what the book says is: “we have been led to a better land, for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20), and Helaman verifies that by telling us that the Land of Promise was surrounded by seas: “they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east” (Helaman 3:8). Now that pretty well defines that the Land of Promise was an island!
Now the word Jacob uses is translated by Joseph Smith as “isle.” In the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster gives us the definition of words that were known especially in the New England and eastern U.S. during the time Joseph was translating, telling us the meaning of the word “isle” is “island,” and also telling us the word “island” was not in use during that time because it was not an accepted word—that people used “isle” as we use “island” today. In Old Testament Biblical times, the word island is found only twice (Isaiah 41:1; 42:12) but the word in Hebrew Ee means both isle and island, so we might say there was a mis-translation in the word “island” for everywhere else in Isaiah and the Old Testament it is “isle.” Written as אי, it would appear as Ha-Ee in the plural, so some ancient scribe must have thought that meant island, since that is translated as islands in the plural both times.
Large or small, by definition, an isle (island) is completely surrounded by water
Consequently, I am not sure where Sorenson gets his idea. The ancient text has “isle,” which is translated then and now as an island, sometimes more specifically today, as a small island. Current historians often try to make Biblical words mean something other than for what they were intended, and certainly no Mesoamericanist is going to accept “isle” and “island” because it completely eliminates their model and contravenes their life's work. It should also be kept in mind that the terminology in 2 Nephi where Jacob uses the word “isle” is in the same vein as what was before and after that, i.e., quoting Isaiah. Therefore, what the New Testament might have is meaningless for the Book of Mormon. The point is, Sorenson’s statement that "in the King James Version of the Bible and generally in the Book of Mormon, an 'isle' was not necessarily completely surrounded by water; it was simply a place to which routine access was by sea, even though a traveler might reach it by a land route as well,” is completely erroneous and ill-founded, and has not support whatever outside the Mesoamerican model community. Certainly, there is nothing to support that idea outside Sorenson’s own unfounded opinion (see the book Inaccuracies of Mesoamerican & Other Theorists, for more on this).
(See the next post, “The Narrow Neck of Land One More Time – Part XII—Mesoaermicanists’ Achilles Heel,” for more on this difficult area for the Mesoamerican Theorist model to reconcile with the scripture)

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