Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Types of evidence and the Book of Mormon
Parallel evidence is a type of circumstantial evidence in that the information in one study parallels the information in the second study thereby implying that the two are linked or behave in similar fashion. The weight of parallel evidence is used to make supportive conclusions in medicine, history and archaeology. As with legal and scientific indirect evidence, parallel evidence is merely suggestive for single parallels but becomes more valuable when there are interlocking parallels.
In reality, however, virtually all of the evidence in history and archaeology is — to some degree — circumstantial. While the discovery of human bones may be direct evidence for the existence of humans, it is circumstantial evidence that typically tells us that the bones belong to the people who lived in nearby dwellings.
Archaeological data must be interpreted, and a primary tool used for interpretation is analogy (or parallel). As non-LDS anthropologist Dr. Nancy White explains, analogy is used to “(figure) out the unknown by beginning with the known, and we use it because it is the best and often only way we can explain the behavior of people who are not here to explain it themselves.”
Archaeology is a historical science. Non-LDS anthropologist Dr. Diane Gifford-Gonzalez notes: “Historical scientists continue to use analogies in every phase of their research. ...” “Like specialists in criminal forensics” who make inferences from the data, she explains, “historical scientists must use indirect evidence to reconstruct past agents, processes, and events.”
Contrary to the claims of many critics, the Book of Mormon is not only supported by direct evidence, but the parallel evidences that support the Book of Mormon function in the same fashion as any other evidence used in archaeological studies.
Michael R. Ash is on the management team for FAIR (the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research FAIRLDS.org) and is the author of "Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One's Testimony In the Face of Criticism and Doubt" (ShakenFaithSyndrome.com) and "Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith" (OfFaithandReason.com). Michael's column, "Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith," appears Mondays on MormonTimes.com.
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