Question: What are some common ways that critics attempt to dismiss the work of FairMormon?

FairMormon Answers Wiki Table of Contents

Question: What are some common ways that critics attempt to dismiss the work of FairMormon?

There are a few common ways that critics dismiss the work of FairMormon

Critics have a few common ways of dismissing the work of FairMormon. As these have come to the point that they mislead people easily about FairMormon, a response is necessary

“Truth needs no defense”; “Just seeing the table of contents for FairMormon will show you how many problems the Church has”.

Some people assume that the amount of work that has gone into Latter-day Saint apologetics through the FairMormon organization suggests that there are a lot of issues that the Church has to deal with. Others have claimed that “Truth needs no defense. It will fight for itself.” This is utter nonsense for at least four reasons:

  1. Some people are ignorant of the truth
  2. Some people know the truth but don’t understand it and/or don’t have the necessary expertise to understand it.
  3. Some critics misrepresent the truth
  4. Some critics understand the truth but purposefully lie in order to win influence.
  5. Sometimes our knowledge of the ancient world or history has changed and we thus need an updated article.
  6. Latter-day Saint apologetics are a different animal from other faith's for at least two reasons:
    • The theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is inextricably tied to its history. Thus, because the founding, core events of the Church are many and are well documented, and because the credibility of those events is tied to the founding leaders of the faith, the critics of the Church have more material to scrutinize and attack. This is different from Chrisitian faiths (for example) where the only history they need to defend is that of the Bible.
    • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepts more books of scripture as guiding revelation for the Church. Thus, critics have more claims to attack and apologists more claims to verify. This is in contrast to most other faiths that only accept one sacred text as authoritative.

FairMormon has had to respond to every type of criticism and/or adjust to such advancement. This is why we get so many articles.

FairMormon doesn’t acknowledge the issue fully; FairMormon has created a lot of answers out of confirmation bias and isn’t reliable; FairMormon is dishonest and doesn’t include both sides of an argument fairly

Some have claimed that FairMormon, in their responses, aren’t fully honest about issues. It is claimed that FairMormon does not recognize the full extent of problems when they respond, that we create answers full of confirmation bias [citation], and that we purposefully lie about an issue being solved.

  1. FairMormon gives the reader both the criticism and the answer to it inherent in the article that the reader is perusing. To claim that FM does not acknowledge the issue, or does not deal with it in full is, generally, utter nonsense. When someone reads an article from us, they are both understanding what the criticism is and the way to respond.
  2. FairMormon may make mistakes in the apologetic process because of confirmation bias. But confirmation bias should be recognized in everyone. Parties should simply study the articles for themselves. If there are any errors then we ask that we be helped in correcting them. That said, the general reliability of articles may be counted on since the authors had to deal with the problem in full at one point in their lives and come up with ways to resolve their questions/concerns. They would generally not feel satisfied if it didn’t completely or mostly help them. These counterbiases should be taken into consideration when evaluating the work of FairMormon.
  3. FairMormon does not encourage nor tolerate being purposefully deceitful about issues. All articles are written in the best interest of the author, the author’s family and friends, other leaders/members of the Church, and scholars. We have a lot of people to help and we can’t help them nor ourselves with being purposefully dishonest about an issue or allowing our confirmation bias to get in the way of acknowledging and dealing with something.
  4. To say that FairMormon does not “fully acknowledge the issue” also assumes a lot. Faith is the combination of expectations that we have for something and the data that fills those expectations. Sometimes our expectations for something need to be adjusted. Critics may use this as an excuse for intellectual ignorance or not having to work to understand the faith or achieve a nuanced perspective.
  5. To make a claim that FairMormon is dishonest in any given response, the critic must assume that A) The apologist who wrote the response was aware of information or logic that contradicted his response B) that they deliberately decided to ignore that information. FairMormon may make mistakes in the apologetic process, but claims of dishonesty are usually just smokescreens that try and divert trust from FairMormon in (ironically) dishonest ways.

FairMormon's responses are full of logical fallacies and especially adhominem attacks

It has been claimed by a few critics that FairMormon's answers are "full of logical fallacies" and that apologists in general "attack with ad hominem more than anyone." FairMormon's answers are not "riddled with fallacies" as the critics might think through caricature. There may be fallacies in arguments that we hope will be pointed out to us so that we can improve. It should be noted that just having a fallacy in an argument does not invalidate it completely. This is known as the "fallacy fallacy". Fallacies generally point out some weaknesses in arguments. Some invalidate the argument completely. The answers should be evaluated carefully. If there is room for improvement, we gladly welcome recommendations at the link provided below. But fallacies don't invalidate the argument automatically.

Regarding ad-hominem specifically. Some assume that an ad-hominem is an applicable fallacy when it is often not. Additionally, everyone may be guilty of ad-hominem. A common ad-hominem attack from critics is: "The BYU professors that FairMormon cites are just paid apologists and have to defend the Church to keep their paychecks." That is trying to poison the well and not address the actual argument made. It is a common hand-waving tactic of critics.

Readers should be careful to watch out for these dismissals in others and themselves. FairMormon does acknowledge the humanity of each of its volunteers and, again asks, that any questions or concerns be directed to FairMormon volunteers at this link.

FairMormon simply obfuscates the issues.

It is frequently claimed that FairMormon simply "obfuscates" the issues. This happens nearly every time FairMormon provides evidence that refutes the criticism of tries to at least add nuance to the critical belief. Every answer should have hard data and solid documentation to back up claims which people can evaluate. People are free to disagree with our responses but they shouldn't simply dismiss our work through hand-waving exercises such as these.

FairMormon gaslights

The act of gaslighting is to manipulate someone through psychological means so that they question everything including their own existence. This is usually used in an emotionally manipulative way in order to paint FairMormon in the most negative light possible and has virtually no truth to it.

Critics may claim this when we deny an accusation that seems so obvious to them but we apparently don’t see. The problem may be in the critics’ faulty expectations for the data. This should be considered before accusations of gaslighting are leveled.

FairMormon simply is trying to justify a pre-existing position—being unable to see the forest from the trees.

This accusation is sometimes heard from critics who are trying to make emotionally swaying points. They make dramatic statements in order to distract people. Ironically, the critics are often doing the same thing they accuse FairMormon of—trying to justify a pre-determined conclusion. If any paradigm is true, then there should be meaningful ways to defend it. Critics who try to use this are doing so hypocritically. Everyone has a bias.

FairMormon uses biased scholarship to substantiate their views. Unbiased scholars don't accept the Book of Mormon nor Book of Abraham as factual or historical. Unbiased historians acknowledge Joseph Smith's history as deeply problematic. You can't trust any of FairMormon's apologetic scholarship

Some people try to dismiss the scholarship we cite as biased and thus likely to be false. They have done this with regards to all scholarship done on the history of the Church or the historicity of the scriptures. It is a common way of handwaving some of the amazing, positive, and fully substantiated claims of faithful scholarship. A few points need to be made:

  1. All scholarship is biased. No one is absolutely free of bias. All of us want to substantiate the positions we already hold. This is called Confirmation Bias--the tendency to look for, interpret, and recall information in a way that already confirms our current position. Interest in anything is a form of bias since one usually has questions that they want to answer in a particular way. Anyone who becomes interested in Mormon Studies is someone who does so because they want to answer questions in a way that confirms what they already believe. Scholars have set up tools such as speaking in "evidence" instead of "proof", "explanatory power" instead of "proof", and so on. They have set up things like peer-review which allows their work to be reviewed by someone of the same scholarly plane that will be critical of assertions that don't stand up to scrutiny and provide helpful feedback for improvement or be honest enough to suggest scrapping a project all together. Even then we have to be sure that scholars have all the evidence that is necessary to make a fully qualified judgement as to the truthfulness of falsity of a claim or set of claims. People who claim that faithful scholars are the only ones who are biased are guilty of wishful thinking.
  2. The faithful scholars working in Gospel scholarship generally are familiar with both positive and negative claims and try to make the best arguments by first evaluating both sides and arguing in favor of their position. They do this by offering responses to potential critical claims of their positions. Good academic work will seek to address counterclaims as thoroughly as possible. Faithful scholars are also good to cite non-LDS sources when making an assertion of fact. Readers should seek this out in the work they decide to browse.
  3. Just because someone has a bias, it does not mean that someone is incapable of making a true claim. Scholars cite the documentation that substantiates their position. To claim that Latter-day Saint scholars are so biased and so fallible that they simply cannot state a true claim is simply ludicrous. They have their academic reputations to uphold, their faith and the faith of their coreligionists to sustain, and they can't do that by doing shoddy work. They may make a mistake from time to time but it does nothing to invalidate the rest of their work. The entire body of their work has to be evaluated before making any claims of dishonesty or unreliability.
  4. Latter-day Saint scholars that FairMormon cites on here generally all have academic training in the field that they utilize to substantiate claims. For instance, Dr. John Gee has his PhD in Egyptology from Yale. John Gee wrote:
According to Oxford University’s and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München’s Online Egyptological Bibliography, I am already in the top 4 percent of Egyptologists historically in terms of number of Egyptological publications.[. . .] In 2018 I served as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities.[1]

5. The scholars that FairMormon cites generally have been studying apologetic issues for years. Brian Hales began work on early Mormon polygamy back in the early 1990's. Ugo Perego has been studying issues surrounding DNA since the mid 2000's. John Gee has researched issues surrounding the Book of Abraham since the 80s. Their research has seen a lot of refinement and will continue to be refined as scholars studying various issues will continue to find data that will need to be accounted for.

Thus, this criticism rings generally shallow. It is of course the case that faithful scholars are biased, but critics who wish to use this as some springboard to state ipso facto their scholarship can't be trusted at all are risibly hypocritical.

Notes

  1. John Gee, "John Gee - WILLIAM (BILL) GAY RESEARCH CHAIR, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW" in 2018 Annual Report for the BYU Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship <https://mi.byu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/2018-Maxwell-Institute-Annual-Report-small.pdf> pg. 47-8 (accessed 30 May 2019)