Ask a Mormon Apostate: Why So Much Secrecy?

August 29, 2011

Today’s question comes from Gabe, who writes:

“I’m watching Angels & Demons on USA and thinking about you and the LDS — wondering whether the secrecy and whatnot are similar between Catholics and Mormons.”

Mormons are definitely big on secrecy. Joseph Smith, the church’s founder, for example, married at least 33 women and girls (11 of whom were already married to someone else) and kept this fact secret from the church at large (and, for the most part, from his wife). The church is also known for keeping its finances secret. Up until 1958 they used to provide a basic financial report annually, but now they just release a brief statement that says, in essence, Don’t worry. We’re being responsible with the money.

Similarly, the church has long restricted access to its history so as to control the message. In the 1970s and 1980s, for example, whenever a historical document was found that might cast doubt on the sanitized version of church history they give their members, the church would quietly purchase said document and put it in the First Presidency vault. The First Presidency is the highest level of church leadership: the president and his two “counselors,” all of whom are considered “prophets, seers, and revelators” (I could explain the difference between these three descriptors, but it’s not relevant right now). Anyway, suffice it to say that the vault is off-limits to anyone but those three men (though rumor has it that a small number of trusted church historians have been allowed to see the contents under careful observation). I have heard that Joseph Smith’s “seer stones” are in the vault, but who knows?

The attempt to control access to church history bit the church in the butt, figuratively speaking. An enterprising young closet-unbeliever Mormon, Mark Hofmann, developed a talent for forging early Mormon documents. He made sure they were embarrassing to the church but plausible, and the church obliged him by buying up a lot of these forgeries and stashing them away from public view. Hofmann, however, wanted to embarrass the church, so sometimes he would sell a document and then leak its contents to the press. Probably the most famous document he forged was known as the “Salamander Letter,” in which Martin Harris, one of the Book of Mormon witnesses, was supposed to have said that Joseph Smith saw a large, white salamander, not an angel. Hofmann leaked the letter, and the church was forced to go public with it (here’s a picture of Hofmann standing with late church president Spencer Kimball, who is examining the letter). In the end, a Utah businessman, Steve Christensen, figured out what Hofmann was doing and was going to expose him. Hofmann killed Steve Christensen with a homemade bomb (and he also killed Christensen’s business partner’s wife). Hofmann is serving a life sentence in the Utah State Penitentiary. You can read about him here. Probably the best book about the Hofmann affair is Sillitoe and Roberts’s “Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders.”

Probably the most visible “secrecy” issue for most Mormons is the promise not to discuss the contents of the temple ceremony (known as the “endowment”) with anyone outside of the temple. In the temple, each covenant made is accompanied by a “token,” which derives from Masonic ritual. For almost 150 years, each token had an associated “penalty,” the execution of which was a sort of pantomime: “The representation of the execution of the penalties indicates different ways in which life may be taken” (1984 temple endowment transcript). In early days, the meaning of the penalty was pretty clear: if you reveal the tokens and signs, you agree to be killed. One penalty, for example, derived from the Masonic “Sign of an Entered Apprentice,” which involved drawing the thumb across the throat, representing the penalty of having one’s “throat cut across, … tongue torn out by its roots” if he or she revealed the token. Other tokens had similar penalties, such as having the heart torn out or being disemboweled. In 1927, the graphic representation was retained, but the wording of the penalty was softened to, “Rather than do so [reveal the token], I would suffer my life to be taken.” That’s what it was like when I went through the temple the first time. The penalties were removed entirely in April, 1990, but I could probably still do them all from memory.

The reason I mention this is that, because Mormons aren’t allowed to talk about the temple ceremonies outside the temple, very few people who went to the temple after 1990 even know about the penalties. I’ve had people accuse me of making them up because these people have been to the temple many times, and no one has ever mentioned penalties. It’s like an institutional amnesia.

Interestingly enough, the endowment says only that Mormons aren’t to discuss the tokens, signs, names, and penalties, but the culture has gradually come to include all temple content as a forbidden topic of discussion.

Of course, the church insists that there is nothing “secret” about the temple ceremony. Rather, they say that the temple is “sacred, not secret.” Yet the temple endowment itself speaks of the “covenant and obligation of secrecy which are associated with [each] token, its name, sign and penalty and which you will be required to take upon yourselves.”

Here’s how Apostle Boyd Packer describes the temple:

“A careful reading of the scriptures reveals that the Lord did not tell all things to all people. There were some qualifications set that were prerequisite to receiving sacred information. Temple ceremonies fall within this category.

“We do not discuss the temple ordinances outside the temples. It was never intended that knowledge of these temple ceremonies would be limited to a select few who would be obliged to ensure that others never learn of them. It is quite the opposite, in fact. With great effort we urge every soul to qualify and prepare for the temple experience. Those who have been to the temple have been taught an ideal: Someday every living soul and every soul who has ever lived shall have the opportunity to hear the gospel and to accept or reject what the temple offers. If this opportunity is rejected, the rejection must be on the part of the individual himself.

“The ordinances and ceremonies of the temple are simple. They are beautiful. They are sacred. They are kept confidential lest they be given to those who are unprepared. Curiosity is not a preparation. Deep interest itself is not a preparation. Preparation for the ordinances includes preliminary steps: faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation, worthiness, a maturity and dignity worthy of one who comes invited as a guest into the house of the Lord.
All who are worthy and qualify in every way may enter the temple, there to be introduced to the sacred rites and ordinances.”

This is probably more than you wanted to know, but yes, secrecy is an important aspect of Mormon practice and culture.

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Bad Prose and Bad Web Design of the Day

August 26, 2011

My father is a huge fan of Glenn Beck. I am not. I consider myself pretty conservative, and a lot of my friends are mystified at what they see as my right-wing tendencies. But I’ve never understood the appeal of Glenn Beck. My dad actually Tivoed Beck’s last broadcast so that I could watch it with him, and I just couldn’t maintain any interest at all, so I went back to reading a book about autism.

But this post isn’t about Beck, but rather about some of his hapless followers here in Utah. Salt Lake Tribune columnist Paul Rolly wrote yesterday about the strange saga of a “Come to Jerusalem in Utah” rally (in the small town of Jerusalem, Utah) scheduled to coincide with Beck’s “Restoring Courage” in the other Jerusalem. This event was, according to its organizers, a “non-partisan, ecumenical, festival of sun, fun, and food.” Rolly notes that the Utah group originally claimed to have booked big-name speakers, such as Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, all three of Utah’s Congressmen, Governor Gary Herbert, and an “unspecified LDS official,” along with a rabbi to be named at a later date. Of course, none of these people had any idea that such an event was being planned. Furthermore, the town of Jerusalem, Utah, had not heard of the event.

In response, the organizers (I’m using that term loosely) responded with what Rolly calls an “unsigned diatribe” against him. So, I went over to the web site (Come2Jerusalem.inUtah.tv) and checked it out.

Oh, boy.

First of all, the layout is beyond amateur, it’s downright awful, almost as if someone intentionally designed it so as not to be usable. There are three vertical panels that make up the page: white down the middle, with yellow down the sides and around the top and bottom margins. Perhaps they think the yellow makes the white stand out.

The headlines at the top of the screen are small, in three colors (blue, red, and green), randomly capitalized (Utah is even all-caps with an exclamation point thrown in for good measure), and betray the writer’s glancing familiarity with grammar. From there, we get a carat (>) symbol. Why? Well, why not?

Then comes a homemade-looking logo for the event. The top two-thirds of the logo is a jaundiced sort of tan color, with badly pixelated text (“Utah Stands With Israel”) in what looks like an attempt at a slightly lighter shade of the same diseased tan color. Below the tan is a white section covering about one-fourth of the logo, followed by a bright “royal” blue colored bar bearing the site’s web address in white. Superimposed over the middle of the logo are, from left to right, the seal of the state of Utah, the snake illustration from the Gadsden flag (though the snake has been stretched wide by the “designer” and tinted blue), and a Star of David in blue. Note that none of the shades of blue match each other. At the very bottom of the logo are the words “FORTRESSES OF COURAGE” in a red font designed to look like bricks (where the hell did they find that?).

Moving on, we find a thick blue rule spanning the white panel, followed by blue text in what looks to be Times New Roman. I could spend time picking apart the grammar, but that would be too easy. What I love the most about these paragraphs is the attempt to create common ground between Utah and Israel. First of all, we are told of Glenn Beck’s planned even in “Jerusalem, there” and the corresponding event “here, in Utah.” Apparently someone thought readers might confuse the two.

The next sentence is a thing of beauty: “We in Utah, know what it is to have a pioneer history of being driven hither under penalty of death, into a land that, like Israel, has from its inception been a Fortress of Courage.” Leaving aside the surplus of commas and the overblown diction (“hither under penalty of death”), I ask myself how the pioneer experience of our Mormon ancestors relates at all to the Holocaust and the formation of Israel. Last I checked, millions of Jews were killed by the Nazis, and to this day Israel is under repeated attack from its neighbors. Inflating the experience of our ancestors (which was deplorable, obviously) to the level of the Holocaust crassly cheapens both peoples.

Here we come to the heart of the matter. Paul Rolly seems to have pissed these folks off more than a little. A large white text box bordered by a thick blue line contains the “unsigned diatribe” against “gossip mongerer” [sic] Paul Rolly in a large, black, sans-serif font. And “diatribe” is a good description. In the blue border, we read “Jerusalem Stumbles. When Will They Learn?” I honestly have no idea what that is supposed to mean.

In the big text box, the writer says that Rolly “caused a small kerfuffle” by publishing “outright lies” about the event. (One wonders what kind of response a large kerfuffle would have provoked.) The writer then speaks of the moral and financial value of the event, which is compared to Woodstock, and spends a few paragraphs tediously describing the minute details of the event planning (again, in poor grammar).

Here’s a representative sentence:

Through the auspices of the non-profit corporation leading the structural planning of the event, Come2Jerusalem.inUtah.tv, influenced by the old Boy Scout admonition of leave an area better than found, consideration to improve the bleachers of the Moroni Civic Arena were planned and networking to leave the arena with permanent lighting fixtures was contemplated.

I, for one, am happy to hear that consideration was contemplated.

The writer then discusses the Moroni City Council’s actions, which essentially ruined the original plans, and concludes:

My personal belief is that the individual [the Moroni City Council member] is a misogynist, anti-Semite, whose rabid hatred blinds him to the larger benefits that would accrue. … Members of the organizing committee have prayed and fasted to seek direction of how to meet the obstruction of one craven individual exercising unrighteous dominion. Those organizers present at Tuesday night’s planning session can bear testimony that the Spirit was greatly moving among us as we sought His guidance.

Yep, that sounds awfully ecumenical, doesn’t it? I think my favorite bit is this:

The obstruction by the one is known to many in the planned community and County. While the organizing entity reserves the right to seek redress for violation of our civil rights in the courts of this realm, given the nature and theme of the event, we will leave it to Him to smite His foes. If those individuals with knowledge and authority to rein in the unrighteous do not, have not, they share in the smiting that will be poured out.

We are advised to “stay tuned. Stay prayerful.” God will work things out. Ironically, He appears to have found a solution for them, but they’ve hidden it in tiny red and white print (with italics, even) in the blue border along the bottom of the text box. Unless you’re looking for it, you won’t see that they’ve moved the event to West Valley City, a suburb of Salt Lake City, where clearly the city council is more in tune with the Spirit and less smite-worthy.

I would love to know what happened at this event, but I don’t know anyone who would would have attended. Even my dad wouldn’t have bothered.


Is it OK to Like BYU Sports?

August 25, 2011

Growing up, I wasn’t a huge sports fan, though I did like the late 70s LA Dodgers (I was 12 when they went to the World Series in 1977) and would listen to the games on my transistor radio at night before bed. (Sometime in the 80s I stopped following the Dodgers and became an Angels fan. Must be the masochistic streak in me, the same one that roots for the Houston Astros.)

But when I went to BYU, going to football games (followed by a stop at the creamery for ice cream) was a cheap date, and I guess I got swept up in school spirit. My freshman year was Steve Young’s junior year, and I went to all the home games my first two fall semesters, plus I saw BYU play at the Rose Bowl against UCLA and at the Holiday Bowl against Missouri mere weeks before I entered the MTC.

Yesterday, my friend and fellow apostate Mormon Odell told me that he has a hard time rooting for BYU because he feels like he doesn’t want to support its sponsoring institution and therefore be seen as condoning the actions and teachings of the LDS church. Another friend of mine tells me that, growing up in the 70s, she saw horrible examples of racist behavior by BYU fans and players and thus cannot support such a program. I can understand and respect their positions, but I don’t see things that way.

For me, it’s just sports, and BYU happens to be both my alma mater and the local sports team (I live in Provo, in case you were wondering). And one of my children is currently a student at BYU. Obviously, there are aspects of Mormonism with which I completely disagree and which I would not want anyone to think I condoned or endorsed. But I don’t think that attending a football game implies complete endorsement of the LDS church or even of the university itself. I once met a guy from New York who was an ardent fan of BYU football but who wasn’t Mormon (and never had been) and who was quite a beer drinker. He just liked their style of play and was impressed by LaVell Edwards. If he can root for BYU, so can I.

I’ve had season football tickets the last three seasons, but this year I completely forgot to reorder, so I’ll be watching at home (thank heavens for that ESPN deal). My viewing of said games does not imply endorsement of any views expressed or actions of Brigham Young University or the LDS church. Go Cougars!


Ask a Mormon Apostate 1: Polygamy Now?

August 25, 2011

The first question comes from Diane Sower:

“Why do they [the LDS church] not keep members informed of the continuing doctrine of polygamy after death?”

First, for those who may not know what Diane is referring to, some background is in order. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) teaches that marriages by the proper authority in the temple are “sealed” for “time and all eternity.” Thus, the marriage covenant and relationship continue after death. These sealed marriage relationships include plural marriages, or polygamy–strictly speaking, polygyny, in that one man could marry more than one woman–and such marriages would continue beyond death (see Doctrine and Covenants 132 for the scriptures dealing with this subject). The LDS church practiced plural marriage publicly from 1852 to 1890, though church leaders, such as Joseph Smith, had entered into many such marriages (Joseph Smith had actually practiced polygyny and polyandry) beginning in the 1830s. In the face of severe sanctions from the US federal government, the church officially ended the practice of plural marriage in 1890 (see Official Declaration 1 in LDS scripture). Secretly, however, the church continued to sanction plural marriages for some time afterward (see Michael Quinn’s article for details).

Since that time, the church has sought to distance itself from the legacy of polygamy. Church president Gordon B. Hinckley said, “This Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. … If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 92; or Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71).

Given, however, that there are presumably no “civil laws” in the next life, the church teaches by practice and implication that men and women may remain in polygynous marriages in the eternities. Here is the relevant section of the church’s Handbook of Instructions:

Women. A living woman may be sealed to only one husband.

Men. If a husband and wife have been sealed, and the wife dies, the man may have another woman sealed to him if she is not already sealed to another man.

In other words, women can be sealed (married for eternity) to only one man, whereas men can be sealed to multiple women, as long as they are sealed only to him. An example of this practice (and its doctrinal basis) comes from Apostle Dallin Oaks, whose first wife, June, was sealed to him in 1952 and passed away in 1998. Elder Oaks subsequently married Kristen McMain in 2000, and their marriage was likewise sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. Elder Oaks acknowledges that, according to the church’s teachings, he will have both women as his wives in the hereafter:

There are a lot of people that live on this earth that have been married to more than one person. Sometimes those marriages have ended with death; sometimes they’ve ended with divorce. What does the next life mean to them in relation to a covenant they once made and so on? I don’t think those people have much of an answer for that question. It might not bother them because they don’t believe that people will live as married couples in the next life. And if they don’t make and live for the covenants to do that, [as for themselves] they’re right! But for people who live in the belief, as I do, that marriage relations can be for eternity, then you must say, “What will life be in the next life, when you’re married to more than one wife for eternity?” I have to say I don’t know. But I know that I’ve made those covenants, and I believe if I am true to the covenants that the blessing that’s anticipated here will be realized in the next life. (Elder Oaks Interview Transcript from PBS Documentary, 20 July 2007).

Why doesn’t the church “keep members informed” of this doctrine? It’s fair to say that the church does not spend a lot of time or ink discussing this doctrine. But the doctrine is clear (it’s still in the scriptures), and the implications and practice of that doctrine are acknowledged both in the church handbook and by its leaders.

I would guess church leaders may feel that dealing with the subject publicly and directly would highlight a doctrine and practice they have worked long and hard to remove from the collective consciousness of Mormonism. They probably don’t consider it a major enough doctrinal issue to deal with, except as it comes up in individual cases.

If you have a question about Mormonism, please send an email to runnertx@hotmail.com, with the subject line “Ask a Mormon Apostate.”


Ask a Mormon Apostate

August 24, 2011

I just got through listening to an NPR broadcast regarding Mormonism, its new-found visibility and political impact. The two guests were church spokesman Michael Purdy and blogger/professor Joanna Brooks. It wasn’t bad, but it was pretty much what I expected. Purdy pretty much kept to the script about Mormonism and the misconceptions people have about it. Professor Brooks did what I thought she would do by glossing over or taking a more-or-less apologetic approach to the church, as if trying to find a more accepting and accommodating church that has a place for people like her.

My biggest issue is that such people really don’t give a real perspective on Mormonism, but then that’s not really their intent.

So, in the spirit of more honest and open discussion of Mormonism, I’m starting a feature called “Ask a Mormon,” wherein anyone who likes may submit a question, and I’ll answer it honestly and bluntly. So, if you have questions, send them to runnertx@hotmail.com, with the subject line “Ask a Mormon.” If I can’t answer the question, I’ll consult people who can.

On second thought, “Ask a Mormon” is already being used in multiple places by different people. So, let’s change this to “Ask a Mormon Apostate,” which some people would find more accurate anyway.


Guest Post: Mormon Apologetics and the Kuhnian Shift

August 24, 2011

I thought this piece was a great addition to my ongoing discussion of postmodernism, and frankly I’ve been too busy to write anything of consequence lately. So, with permission from my friend Mr. Stakhanovite, I’m reposting something he wrote on the subject:

Recently a poster on a message board made brief mention of an apologetic strategy, which he brilliantly summarized as follows:

“Kuhn therefore Nephi”.

I am here today to provide a case study of this specific mopologetic tactic, which I have dubbed, “The Kuhnian Shift”.

The Kuhnian Shift (hereafter: TKS) is a Mopologetic phenomena that is utilized by Internet Mormons [1] to resolve particularly hopeless conflicts with the Natural Sciences; it stands in direct relation to how some Mopologists have attempted to use Postmodernism as a means of understanding their faith [2]. As with most Mopologetic strategies, TKS is borne of desperation, and is almost never used in any sort of responsible manner.

TKS has its origins in a 1962 publication entitled, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by historian of science Thomas Kuhn. While the actual impact upon the Philosophy of Science and Natural Sciences by Kuhn’s ‘Scientific Revolutions’ is almost negligible, the book was wildly popular in the broader humanities, where it became one of the most cited works in the 20th century, alongside Lenin and Frye’s “Anatomy of Criticism” [3].

Kuhn’s ‘Scientific Revolutions’ pushed a bold new thesis (at the time) that the advancement of the Natural Science wasn’t the slow and steady accumulation of knowledge that results in a better understanding of physical reality, but was rather a series of scientific revolutions that replaced the dominant paradigm with a new paradigm. To Kuhn, a paradigm is a web or matrix of assumptions and values that scientists presuppose. In a more broader sense, a paradigm can be understood as your worldview, though Kuhn meant the term in a much more narrow focus.

An important idea to Kuhn’s thesis is the concept of theory-dependence of observation, which asserts that when two scientists observe a phenomena, the observation they make isn’t neutral, but entirely based upon which theories the scientists hold. Coupled with the theory-dependence of observation was Kuhn’s own anti-realist position and skepticism of Truth. What this means is that Kuhn did not see science as an enterprise that could explain the unobservable, because the unobservable did not exist. It’s important to understand that Kuhn didn’t see this as a limit of science, but as a rejection of Metaphysics [4].

I’m sure it has become clear to many of you now why this work was such a hit in the early 60s, and how tempting it was for many in the Social Sciences to see Natural Science and its reputation for results and progress as subservient to fields such as Sociology and Anthropology. The Achilles heel to this part of Kuhn’s thesis is that he bases this idea of scientific revolutions as paradigm shifts on experiments conducted by gestalt psychology in the late 40s and early 50s at Harvard [5]. Kuhn seems merely to assume that all of one’s perceptual experience and reaction is influenced by whatever theories a person holds, based on research that was conducted in a much limited scope with just playing cards. He provides no solid argument for this assumption, which probably explains why he later rejects this idea (this becomes important later).

The explanation and description of Kuhn’s ‘Scientific Revolutions’ is bit more than a caricature of Kuhn’s thought, but it is incomplete and doesn’t tell the entire story. It is with this incomplete picture of Kuhn that allows for Kuhn’s ideas to be abused by opportunistic mopologists, and has enabled Mopologists like Kevin Christensen to make ample use of TKS.

In the conclusion of his survey of Margaret Barker’s published works, Kevin Christensen’s rhetorical strategy is to attempt a coup de grace against empirical evidence contra FARM’s pet Book of Mormon geography theories, and the broader academic indifference to Book of Mormon Archeology with a well crafted TKS:

Christensen writes:

A few years ago I wrote a long article called “Paradigms Crossed” in which I showed how Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions illuminates the structure of the debates about the Book of Mormon.3 Critics and defenders of the book quite obviously have different methods, problem fields, and standards of solution. We work in different paradigms.

Kevin Christensen introduces Kuhn at the end here, because he doesn’t want to characterize the dispute over Book of Mormon Archeology in the grave terms that it actually exists, but wants his audience to understand it as merely friction when two different paradigms come together head to head over the same observations. In the next paragraph he goes on to complete TKS:

Christensen writes:

In paradigm debates, the key questions are not those which ask “is the paradigm true?” but “which paradigm is better? Which problems are more significant to have solved? Which paradigm should we adopt in approaching the problems that we have not yet solved?” There can be no asking which is better without a comparison. Simply observing that an opponent has made assumptions that conflict with yours is not enough.

TKS has been engaged. Here the Mopologist is trying to shift away from questions about “Is this true?” to questions about “Is this better?”. Here, the utility of a belief is more important than the truth of a belief. Attention has been shifted to more pragmatic concerns, which are made more appealing with emotional concerns. In this case, Kevin Christensen has used TKS as an opener for this:

Christensen writes:

Kuhn describes how scientists make comparisons and make a tentative faith decision based on values, rather than rules, which means that conclusions among individuals will differ. This is fine, since it distributes risks. The most significant values that Kuhn observes are accuracy of key predictions, comprehensiveness and coherence, simplicity and aesthetics, fruitfulness, and future promise. I have long been impressed that Alma 32 describes exactly that same process: we experiment on key issues, and find mind-expanding enlightenment. We discover just how delicious the gospel can be, we learn things that we never would have seen had we not tried the experiments, and we taste through personal testimony the brightest of all future promises.

I’d like my audience to make note that Kuhn never characterizes any scientific decision as a “tentative faith decision,” which Christensen conveniently weasels into his summary of Kuhn. TKS allows Kevin Christensen to utilize Alma 32 and bring empirical science into the realm of faith and religion, where matters of utility and preference are given priority over truth.

An irony of the Mopologetic use of TKS is that it has failed to produce desired results in experimentation. In one comprehensive study, Philosophers taking Kuhn’s approach lived with a group of Scientists studying malaria, the data was so disappointing that the book published about the study did nothing to advance the ideas that Kevin Christensen now assumes above [6].

Even more damaging to Kevin Christensen’s enterprise is the fact Kuhn later modified these ideas. As Kuhn matured as a philosopher, he relied more heavily upon a Philosophy of Language concept known as incommensurability (explained below). It appears that Kevin Christensen is only familiar with the first edition of Kuhn’s book, because we see in the second edition a footnote from Kuhn that refers to a paper he published after the first edition that clearly shows his linguistic interests, and his eventual rejection of anti-realism and adoption of some Kantian views [7]. Kuhn even repudiated how sociologists of science were using his work [8].

Incommensurability is the enduring and key component to Kuhn’s ideas on paradigms, and the lack of any mention of it betrays a certain ignorance of Kuhn’s overall project. What incommensurability provides is the framework that Kuhn needs to show that different paradigms employ different “languages” [9] and that while it’s possible to translate from one paradigm to another paradigm, there will always be things lost in said translation. It is this linguistic turn that Kuhn develops and favors over his prior psychological evidence. When incommensurability becomes more developed, the pragmatic concerns for the paradigm fall to the wayside, since Kuhn’s anti-realism begins to fade.

As we see in Kevin Christensen, the Mopologists interest in Kuhn’s work and its implications (does a Mormon really want to be a skeptic about Truth?) are only important in that it enables them to perform TKS and draw attention away from disconfirming evidence. Philosophy of Language is “post-Kripke,” and Casual theories of Reference dominate the field, and a robust defense of Kuhn’s incommensurability would have to take a lot of material on, which would be beyond the capability of most Mopologists.

In closing, TKS is a red herring, deployed by the Mopologist as a smoke screen to get his audience to ignore disconfirming evidence. The employment of TKS never accurately represents Kuhn’s project, nor does the Mopologist care about the changing subtleties that always occur in a scholar’s thought, much less the implications of adopting Kuhn’s views, which appear, prima facie, to stand in stark contrast to LDS Theology.

[1] I’m in Dr. Shade’s debt for this helpful distinction

[2] See Runtu’s series https://runtu.wordpress.com/2010/02/11/postmodernism-and-mormonism-part-1/here.

[3]See 1st footnote

[4] For those of you who follow my online shenanigans, this line of thought is often espoused by MD&D’s eminent Philosopher, M. Bukowski.

[5] See Bruner, J. and Postman, L., 1949, “On the Perception of incongruity: A paradigm”, Journal of Personality, 18: 206–23

[6] M. Charlesworth et al. Life Among the Scientists (Geelong 1989).

[7] T. S. Kuhn 1970, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” (2nd edition), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, page 192, footnote 12.

[8] T. S. Kuhn 1974, “Second Thoughts on Paradigms” in F. Suppe 1974 “The Structure of Scientific Theories,” Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 459-482

[9] I put “languages” in scare quotes, because I decided not to get into a long digression about the Philosophy of Language, and the topic of Sense and Reference and it’s importance in Philosophy of Science.


Why Mock Jihadists?

August 18, 2011

I’ve long suspected that the Jihadist movement is motivated by an immature desire to be noticed and taken seriously by others. In other words, these folks are the heavily armed, swarthy version of angry tweens whose parents won’t let them go to the Justin Bieber concert. And as such, they deserve about as much respect and seriousness (read: none).

In a further bid to prove me right, the Jihadists are now out to get the greatest, most evil and despicable, threat to the Caliphate: David Letterman. Apparently, they can handle drone attacks and special forces raids, but make fun of them at your own risk: they might start crying, hold their breaths, or come after you with a suicide vest.

So, as befits our humorless, immature friends:

Top Ten Reasons Jihadists Are Targeting Letterman

10. Sirajul and Mujibur: victims of Letterman’s vicious anti-Muslim persecution.
9. Despite a massive letter-writing campaign, Dave refuses to let Ayman Al-Zawahiri guest-host the show.
8. CBS isn’t likely to retaliate with an airstrike.
7. Once Letterman is gone, Adam Gadahn is sure to wow the producers with his improv tape.
6. Grinder Girl distracts jihadists from their porn viewing.
5. Biff Henderson: Zionist stooge.
4. They didn’t get the memo that Oprah’s feud with Dave is over.
3. Replacing Jay Leno with an animatronic robot hasn’t gotten them the attention they anticipated.
2. Anwar al-Awlaki resents not being recognized as Letterman’s illegitimate son.
1. Will it float? Apparently, Osama won’t.