Refuting the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Sorry, Brother Neville, but words mean things

One of the reasons Captain Hook and I started this blog is because Jonathan Neville is not just wrong about Book of Mormon geography, he’s spectacularly wrong about virtually everything he blogs about. Every one of his blog posts contains errors of fact, misrepresentations of others’ claims, and/or distortions of historical evidence. It’s a stunning simultaneous display of arrogance and ignorance.

Here’s an example of this from his June 16, 2019, blog post, “Getting through the gauntlet”:
It's probably selection bias, but I run into very few M2C* supporters any more. Everywhere I travel (Africa, Europe, throughout the U.S.), if the topic comes up, people ask what I think about Book of Mormon geography. I tell them I believe what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah. Most of the time, people say, "I do too. That Mesoamerican [or Mayan, or Central America] stuff never made sense to me."
I’m pleased to see that Neville admitted that this is “probably selection bias,” because it’s selection bias. He runs in specific circles that are invested in the “Heartland” Book of Mormon geography, so it stands to reason that he meets a lot of people who believe like he does.

Honestly, neither he, nor I, nor anyone has any idea what most Latter-day Saints believe about the location of Book of Mormon events. To my knowledge, no quantitative research has been done on this matter. I suspect that most Saints haven’t spent a lot of time and effort reading about it; perhaps they’ve seen John Sorenson’s conjectural map of Mesoamerican locations or have some vague, incorrect idea that Mayan ruins like those at Chichen Itza and Tikal were Nephite temples. (The structures at Chichen Itza and Tikal were built hundreds of years after the collapse of Nephite civilization.) Not having read the evidence against the New York hill being the hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon, they’re undoubtedly confused about the subject.

The Millennium Falcon flying over Nephite temples at Tikal, Guatemala.
(The accuracy of this statement has not been verified.)
It doesn’t help, of course, that Jonathan Neville is among the loudest voices on the Internet writing on the location of Cumorah and that he also confuses the issue by misrepresenting the arguments of those who advocate for a Mesoamerican model. So it’s no wonder if Book of Mormon geography doesn’t make sense to people Neville meets—he’s the cause of at least some of the problem.
Once in a while, I'll run into someone (either in person or online, such as the troll Dan Peterson likes who has an ad hominem web site) who still supports M2C. Even online, their emotions are right at the surface.
Hoo, boy. Let’s count the number of false statements in just those two short sentences, shall we?

One. As I mentioned yesterday, I am not “a troll.” A troll isn’t just someone who’s critical of you, Brother Neville. A troll is “a person who starts quarrels or upsets people on the Internet to distract and sow discord by posting inflammatory and digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses and normalizing tangential discussion, whether for the troll’s amusement or a specific gain.” (Wikipedia)

This blog does not fit any of the criteria in that definition. As our subheading explains, it exists to refute the errors of Jonathan Neville and the Heartland hoax. When Jonathan Neville misrepresents the views of Book of Mormon scholars, uses selective statements of Church leaders, employs name-calling, or otherwise is misguided or untruthful, Captain Hook and I are here to point it out. Because he does these things on nearly a daily basis, this blog has become nearly a full-time effort. Hopefully he’ll take our criticisms to heart and change his ways; then we can all get back to more enjoyable activities.

Two. This site is not “ad hominem.” Like the word troll, ad hominem has a very specific definition: “Suggesting that the person who is making the argument is biased or predisposed to take a particular stance, and therefore, the argument is necessarily invalid.” (Logically Fallacious)

For example, it would be ad hominem for me to write, “The Mesoamerican geographic model is true because Jonathan Neville is attacking it, and we all know he’s a liar.” That claim focuses on perceptions of Neville’s character instead of addressing the claims made by Mesoamerican proponents or Neville’s criticisms of those claims.

It is not ad hominem to make a pun from someone’s name (as the name of this blog does). One may think that it’s in poor taste, but that’s a debatable opinion. Similarly, it is not ad hominem for Jonathan Neville to call Book of Mormon Central “Book of Mormon Central Censor” or to call FairMormon “FairlyMormon” (as he regularly did until recently). I happen to think those names are childish, but that’s just my opinion.

If there are any ad hominem arguments on this web site, I invite anyone to leave a comment pointing them out. Legitimate examples will be promptly corrected.

Three. Neville frequently describes “M2C proponents” as being angry, upset, and emotional. (Google) He did so three times just in the blog post I’m critiquing here: “[M2C supporters] are so aggressive you might feel like you have to run the gauntlet.” “They’ll get emotional.” “Even online, their emotions are right at the surface.”

Now, I should point out that that repeated claim runs pretty close to ad hominem. Neville is implying that “M2C” claims must be false, otherwise their proponents wouldn’t get upset when they’re challenged.

But, ad hominem or not, the claim is fallacious. How does Neville know that my “emotions are right at the surface”? Does he picture me in his head, quivering with rage as I write this blog post? Far from it! (If anything, I’m simply annoyed that hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t make some outrageous misrepresentation that I feel compelled to set straight.) I am neither angry nor upset.

Neville’s claim about the emotional states of those who oppose him is pure mind-reading.
Most of them online are employees of Book of Mormon Central, doing their job. We can't expect them to do anything but support M2C while they work for that organization.
Now that is a textbook example of ad hominem! “Book of Mormon Central employees are biased in their support for the Mesoamerican model because their jobs depend on it, therefore, their arguments are invalid.” Bravo, Brother Neville! You’ve just done exactly what you’ve just accused me of doing!
Sometimes you'll meet someone else who still believes M2C, but usually they have read only material produced by the M2C citation cartel of BYU Studies, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, and/or Book of Mormon Central, plus their followers at Fairmormon.
And here we get yet another example of an ad hominem fallacy! “People who read only stuff from the ‘M2C citation cartel’ are the only ones who could believe in that nonsense.” (Or, in other words, “Stupid people disagree with me.”)
Again, don't feel like you need to convince them of anything. Just let them know you accept what the prophets have taught and all the evidence that supports the prophets and leave it at that.
If only Jonathan Neville would follow his own advice instead of daily misrepresenting the views (and emotional states) of those who disagree with him.

Until he does, Captain Hook and I will be here to shine a light on his behavior.

—Peter Pan

* “M2C” is Jonathan Neville’s acronym for the theory that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica and that the hill Cumorah in the Book of Mormon is not the same hill in New York where Joseph Smith received the plates of Mormon.

2 comments:

  1. I love reading all I can about my faith..except the things that are negative & hateful. I am a little confused about this blog though..I came across it from Dan Peterson’s Patheos page and figured I’d read some posts.
    I guess I don’t understand how this much negativity is helpful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear Anonymous,

    I don't like negative and hateful discourse either, which is why this blog exists—to push back against the distortions and misrepresentations that Jonathan Neville promulgates on his (dozens of) blogs on a daily basis. He believes that Church employees at all levels are involved in a massive conspiracy to suppress "the teachings of the prophets," at least as he understands them. That kind of thinking is dangerous, and will inevitably lead to apostasy. This blog is a warning to all who would fall into the trap of believing what Neville is selling.

    —Peter

    ReplyDelete

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