Sunday, June 1, 2014

When is a theory not a theory? – Part I

As to the location of the Book of Mormon Land of Promise, there are the multiple Mesoamerica Theories, there are the multiple Great Lakes Theories, there is the Heartland Theory, the Baja California Theory, the Malay Theory, the Florida Theory and, no doubt, many others. The problem is, they are simply theories, and as such, should stand up to the standard for evaluating  a theory.
Any Theory is merely a set of ideas formulated by an individual or group. Once that theory has been developed, it must be tested. The test then has to be based upon something that is unchangeable and unquestionably accurate. So to have a theory tested, there must be a basis against which the test can be applied. In the case of the Land of Promise in the Book of Mormon, the basis has to be the descriptions given us by Nephi (1st and 2nd Nephi) and by Mormon, the abridger of Mosiah thru Mormon, and by Moroni, the translator of Ether. These are the men who lived in the land at the time of the scriptural record—they walked the land, understood it and what was in it. We should not take the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of modern men as the basis of judging Mormon’s descriptions and record, though they be academicians, historians, writers, or even Church Leaders, over that of the scriptural record, unless, as prophets, they are speaking with the authority of the Church as revelators.
So what exactly is a theory, and what importance does it hold? The word itself comes from the late 16th century and taken from the late Latin which is from the Greek theōria meaning “contemplation, speculation,” from theōros, meaning “spectator.” Its synonyms are: speculation, conjecture, supposition, assumption, presumption, notion, guess, hunch, opinion, belief. Its antonyms (opposite meaning) are: practical, realistic, actual. Thus it might be suggested that a “theory” is not the same as reality, or being realistic.
    Some famous comments about theory: “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts,” “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice—in practice there is,” “Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play,” “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are—if it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong,” “Your theory is crazy but it’s not crazy enough to be true,” and “How empty is theory in the presence of fact.”
The point is, having theories can be useful, but only if tested against reality. If it doesn’t stand up, and contrary facts abound, then it should put an end to the fallacy of unsupportable theory—unfortunately, we often find that is not the case. People like to hold on to their theories even in the light of proof to the contrary. As the old saying goes, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”
    This is what happened with Willard F. Libby and his theory of radiocarbon dating time clock. Even though his own experiments failed to show the correctness of his theory assumptions (equilibrium or non-quilibrium basis), he chose to reject the evidence on the basis of what he considered to be common knowledge that things were much older than his earlier measurements showed (See our post “The Theory and Problems of the Carbon-14 Time Clock—Part II,” November 10, 2012).
    As for the Land of Promise, take, as an example, those who have a theory that the Land of Promise was located in the Great Lakes area of western New York, or the American heartland. The first of these theories require that Lehi landed or settled somewhere along the shore of Lake Erie.
Top: A limited model with Ripliancum Lake Ontario, and the West Sea Lake Erie; Bottom: A larger model with the Sea South Lake Erie, Sea East Lake Ontario, Sea West Lake Huron and Sea North Georgian Bay and the area in between being the entire Land of Promise
    Take either of these two sub-theories, or any of the other Great Lakes theories, and the first question to ask is “How did Lehi get there?” The answers run from “Up the St. Lawrence River,” or “Up the Mississippi River,” to “Via the eastern inland seas.”
    As has been shown in the previous three posts, (“Sailing a River to the Land of Promise”), the Mississippi and St. Lawrence rivers, as well as all those “eastern inland rivers” flow toward the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. Stated differently, all of those rivers would have been flowing against Lehi’s progress up these rivers. And in the last post we have shown that the problem such flow would cause in trying to sail through that opposite flow with a sailing ship “driven forth before the wind.”
Entering from the Atlantic, through the Gulf of St. Lawrence (top arrow), a ship could sail as far as Montreal where it would encounter impassable rapids (next arrow). No further progress would be possible. But even if possible, it would be stopped by the falls between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, where progress would again be blocked. Thus, to reach the Landing area Mormon describes (“along by the seashore” Alma 22:28), a trip of considerable distance overland would have to take place, which is not supported by the scriptural record
    As for the St. Lawrence, as pointed out, the rapids at Lachine, 360 miles from Lake Erie, would not allow any ship to pass beyond that point (Montreal), and passage up the Mississippi for a deep-water sailing ship such as Nephi’s, would not have had enough depth of water to get past Baton Rouge and continue up the river, thus creating an overland trek of 800 more miles to Lake Erie.
    Of course, Great Lakes Theorists like to claim that the scriptural record does not say Lehi landed on the shore of the West Sea. However, Mormon is quite clear: “Now, the more idle part of the Lamanites lived in the wilderness, and dwelt in tents; and they were spread through the wilderness on the west, in the land of Nephi; yea, and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore, and on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers' first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore” (Alma 22:28—emphasis mine).
    Since the lands of Zarahemla and Nephi stretched to the West Sea (Alma 22:32; 50:11), and Mormon tells us that along this seashore was their fathers’ first inheritance, it is an unarguable fact that Lehi landed along the shore of the West Sea and it was along this shore where they landed that settled, which is referred to as the Land of First Inheritance--or the first land given them by the Lord after crossing the Great Deep.
    In the last two posts, it was shown that the facts against sailing upriver on the St. Lawrence make that theory literally impossible. And the theory of sailing up the Mississippi in a ship in 600 B.C. propelled by wind and current (“Driven forth before the wind” 1 Nephi 18:8,9) could not have overcome the flow of the river and the strength of the wind to sail up the Mississippi, nor could they have moved further north than Baton Rouge because of the shallow depth beyond that point.
    As an example:
    FACT #1: An ancient sailing vessel propelled by wind alone could not exceed its designed hull speed.
    FACT #2: An ancient sailing vessel propelled by wind alone could not sail into the wind.
    FACT #3: If the current moving against the ship was less than the wind blowing the ship forward, it would make little headway.
    FACT #4: If the wind moving against the ship was less than the current moving the ship forward, it would make little headway.
    FACT #5: If the current moving against the ship equalized the speed of the wind blowing the ship forward, it would make no headway.
    FACT #6: If the wind moving against the ship equalized the speed of the current moving the ship forward, it would make no headway
    FACT #7: If the current moving against the ship exceeded the speed of the wind blowing the ship forward, it would lose headway.
    FACT #8: If the wind moving against the ship exceeded the speed of the current moving the ship forward, it would lose headway.
These facts exist and must be factored in with any course Lehi is claimed to have sailed. Nor can they be set aside or ignored simply by having a theory. One can say they sailed up the Mississippi River, but several facts show that to be in error, i.e., strength of the current flowing downriver, winds blowing across and downriver, the shallow depth, etc. One must be able to show how any theory uses the eight facts stated above.
    However, the Theorists involved in such areas as the Great Lakes or the Heartland never bother to do that. They simply place Lehi in a location of their choice with very little thought, and no supportable evidence of how he got there. And because they do not show how it was done, their Theory is not a theory at all, but simply an unsupportable idea.
(See the next post, “When is a theory not a theory? – Part II,” for the second part of these Great Lake Theories, “The Eastern Inland Waterways” to see if Lehi could have sailed close to the Great Lakes)

No comments:

Post a Comment