Friday, August 31, 2012

Shawn McCraney's Empty Challenges

Recently, as in the past 60 days, Shawn McCraney has intensified his attempts to get Scott Gordon, president of FAIR (the group which voluntarily, but unofficially, defends the LDS Church through publications of research and responses to public attacks on the LDS Church) to appear on his program.

First of all, FAIR does not engage in or sponsor public debates.  Scott Gordon does appear regularly on radio programs and the occasional TV spot to explain an LDS view over some issue.  Rarely will he appear with someone who is outright antagonistic towards the Church because it is the view of FAIR that such engagements do not help resolve problems. 

Last year, FAIR moved to create the Mormon Defense League, which it later redesignated Mormon Voices.  Its purpose is to respond to errors in the media.  They have excellent explanations of many of the controversial accusations which Shawn loves to throw down about the LDS faith.  Shawn, notably, never interacts with LDS points of view.  In fact, in one published interaction, he encouraged a caller to send him information on the archaeological evidence of the plurality of gods and the Divine Council, saying:
SHAWN: Email me and give me the proof texts and I will come back on the air and you can call again and I'll say, "This is what Walker said: 'it seems like the preponderance of scholarship supports what Joseph Smith knew before they came in.'" Give me the evidence. And we'll look at it, then we'll report again. 
Shawn privately wrote to Walker, the man who sent him the material that he would never even entertain discussing the material.  He concluded the email (which you can read in its entirety here) by writing: 
I am not an apologist, Walk. I am a guy who was LDS, is now Christian,and who shoots straight. You are not. Even worse, you are unfair. Andeven worse, you are insecure. Why on earth would I ever want to talkwith you about ANYTHING?
 Oh I don't know, maybe because you publicly said you would, Shawn?

This outcome is identical to the public professings by Shawn to be willing to interact with me on his program about LDS worship, or his public invitation to have me or other apologists on his show. 

I have gotten to know Scott Gordon fairly well over the course of more than a decade.  He is a good guy, polite, and understands that fighting rarely advances any position.  Mostly creates a spectacle.  He and the other FAIR founders did so to provide rational, reproducible answers to those who are interested.  If Shawn wanted to interact with FAIR or Mormon Voices, he could start by responding to the thousands of pages they have put out on the Internet, complete with references to authors expert in their fields, rather than just support from UTLM he constantly cites.  Until he treats serious defenders of the Church seriously, then he cannot expect them to lower themselves to his level.  It is not about class, which I feel Shawn lacks anyway.  But it is about equality of position.

Shawn does not represent Christianity.  In fact, numerous Christian pastors or defenders have denounced Shawn's orthodoxy as not representative of the "true" faith.

Shawn does not represent any institution which produces anything which could even remotely be called scholarly material.  FAIR at least has guys and women with initials like M.A., PhD and Professor after their name present and write seriously researched material.

Shawn claims he is not a scholar, yet he demands specific LDS scholars or leaders to appear on his show.

Lastly, Shawn has had standing offers from me (who is a member of FAIR but would appear on my own behalf) and other LDS apologists to come on the show to explain or defend LDS positions.

Shawn refuses.  Shawn will NOT interact with me, by phone, email or in person.  You saw how he responded to Walker. 

So please, Shawn, if you actually read this far into this post, stop being a hypocrite.  I represent my website ( which is at least as valid as the VAST sea of Christian doctrine you represent.  If you are unwilling to be made uncomfortable by someone who doesn't really care about your position in the stack of life, maybe you can understand why Scott doesn't feel much compulsion to validate your mostly uninformed views by coming on the show.

And please, stop saying you were a Mormon for 40 years.  While that may be chronologically true, your own book makes it clear that you only believed it for about 3 years, from 19-22 or so.  As you state repeatedly in your book, you started searching for "the truth" as you were walking off the flight upon returning from your mission.  You were doing drugs, womanizing and/or searching for alternative faiths (or no faith), according to my reading of your book, the rest of the time.  It sounds impressive, but you know you didn't pay attention for most of the first 20 years, and you were looking to leave  the last 17.  Not exactly the scholars path through the faith.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Gay Marriage--Chick Fil-a Follow-up

Yesterday was the national "Kiss in" protest of Chick Fil-a.  By all press accounts, it was a tremendous failure, especially in light of the millions of people who showed up to support Chick Fil-a on Wednesday's "Chick Fil-a Appreciation Day" hastily organized as a response to the Kiss In.

I wanted to point out that I had started my post about Gay Marriage a few months ago, and it just happened that I finally got it done this week.  I also wanted to reiterate my conclusion:  Gay Marriages, no big deal.  Gay couples with children, a very bad idea.

If heterosexual marriages ending in a single or maybe even a few divorces is bad for the children of those heterosexual parents, it is clearly bordering on ludicrous to think children in a Gay Marriage are going to be OK.  It starts with the kid being separated from one or both genetic parents, and then you are looking at a 95% probability of their experiencing at least one, and in all likelihood dozens, of failed "committed" relationships by the host parents.

So I think that is wrong.  In a heterosexual marriage there is a high percentage of those which fail, but it does not typically start with the child not connected to biological parents, and in the case of child adoption, the adopting parents are specifically screened to try to improve long term family stability.  In a gay marriage situation, they specifically ignore that circumstance to try to appeal to some misguided social need to cater to the confused familial desires of the vast majority of gay couples.

In one of the recent studies I drew from in my original article, criticism from the Gay community has been aimed at the study because the sample of Gay Couples in long term relationships was so low, they said it could potentially impact the statistical integrity of the study, and provided a distortion of the impact of Gay relationships on children.  The authors responded that they wanted more Gay couples in long term relationships with the same partners with children, but it was nearly impossible to find them.  One of the statistics I did not show was that most Gay parents who "come out" of a traditional marriage and identify themselves as being gay are opting out of being the custodial parents of their children, despite courts taking the position that their sexual orientation should not be considered in the assignment of child custody.  So that makes it hard to find gay couples, formed post-divorce, who have children.  Then finding gay couples with adopted children, considering the small percentage of gays in the general population to start with, is not simple.  Statistically, only about 8% of ALL gay couples in the USA have children living with them, and given that average gay relationships are around 2-years, and only about 15% of gay relationships will last 12 years or longer, finding long term committed gay partners with children is difficult.  To make this crystal clear, let's use real numbers.  It is estimated that there are about 6 million gay-lesbian people in the USA.  Of that, about 30% are cohabiting with another gay person, or about 1.8 million people.  Of those, about 8% have children living with them, or about 75,000 couples.  Of those, only about 15% have been together for 12 or more years, or 11,500 couples.  To include more than 100 of those couples in a study, as they did, is actually statistically HUGE.  It is also like trying to find a needle in the haystack, since finding 11,500 couples, or 23,000 people, scattered among 312,000,000 people is no simple task.

So back to my basic premise.  Gay marriage will be virtually unused.  In Sweden and the Netherlands, only about 2% of gay couples after more than 10 years of having the right to legal unions do so.  It really is too much hassle to marry just to divorce.

The impact on children in gay marriages is emotionally significant, though again, relatively few in numbers.  But we don't typically intentionally place children into painful environments just because someone is lonely or curious to see if they can do better than the statistical probabilities.

I think children have a right to a relationship with both biological parents, unless those parents are unworthy to be parents.  I think they then have a right to go to a home which will most closely approximate those types of relationships.  I think gay couples should only have children in their care if they come there by way of a formerly heterosexual marriage being dissolved by the "coming out" of one of the parents and the children and the surviving heterosexual parent agrees that it is not going to be harmful to the child, or, if the backlog of adoptable children is such that after analysis of the stability of a specific gay couple situation, such a home is deemed to be likely to have stability and be better than the environment the prospective child is leaving.  To just turn child adoption into a right of gay couples as if they were just like heterosexual couples is to literally ignore the elephant in the room.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Examples of Things Anti-Mormons "Know"

It is funny what things Anti-Mormons claim they "know" and can "prove". I will list two examples for illustration purposes. I could literally list hundreds of supposed "facts" which have been presented to me over the years, but I think two will illustrate adequately the need for caution when dealing with even supposed "scholars" among the anti-Mormon polemicists.

Recently a critic charged on this Blog that Joseph Smith (JS) had lifted the name "Cumorah" from a group of Indian Ocean islands. He also asserted that JS had actually spelled it Comora in the 1830 edition of the BoM in Mormon.

I have a photo-copy and electronic copy of the 1830 edition of the BoM. He was wrong, and I pointed it out. This person responded with the following :

""In the original BoM published edition, it is not Comora, it is Camorah."

It was spelled Comora, Bob."

So then I provided a link to the manuscript and the 1830 text as found on an anti-Mormon website. Then I asked him to at least admit he was wrong, since he had made such a big issue of it. His response was:

"You take that original copy of the BoM, that you say you have, and compare it to the official BoM today. You will see both minor and major changes, deletions, additions, etc. This doesn't bother you?...I mean, this is absurd! Your belief in this book is insane. I'm sorry."

Oh, well that is good. Nice apology for getting the facts wrong. Way to man up, whatever. But the point is this was supposed to be killer-evidence that JS was a fraud. So then a guy name Nathan tries to come to his rescue with the following:

"On the Comora/Camorah point, you are both right and you are both wrong. This debate is nothing new. It was spelled Camorah in the 1830 edition of the BoM, so Bob is right on that, but David is also right that Joseph Smith lifted the name, along with Moroni, from the Comoros Islands because in the 1800s, the island chain was spelled Camora. The fact that Joseph Smith got the names from these islands is what David was trying to point out."

Well, again, we have so many assertions being substituted for facts. Bald assertion that JS "lifted the name". Really? You can prove that? Well, later he says no. Further, the maps where JS would have found the info were not found in North America, let alone Palmyra. And no one in Palmyra recalls the name Moroni or Cumorah, which are not exactly common names and would seem to be somewhat memorable, you think? But no students, teachers, neighbors, pastors or regional scholars chime in about these names.

So then we get a lady telling us that because JS is alleged to be a big fan of Captain Kidd and his treasure, he surely would know of Comoros, which is just like Cumorah, since Kidd went to the island while sailing. However, even LDS critic Ron Huggins acknowledges in his footnotes that an encyclopedia of pirates, though not available in Palmyra no doubt quite popular throughout the rest of frontier America, that out of dozens of citations of locations around the Comoros Island in material on Captain Kidd cited in the book, only once is Comoros ever even mentioned. But you better read the footnote, or else you will think Comoros actually is mentioned regularly. It wasn't. And we still have no evidence that JS ever encountered any book even mentioning it once.

So while they "know" JS copied this, they cannot "prove" any of it. Not in a courtroom sense, for sure, but not even in a reasonable sense of two folks talking. To go from Comoros to Cumorah is not completely impossible, if JS had known. But he didn't. The maps, the stories, the texts all require JS to go places and find people no one who was alive in 1820-1845 ever asserted happened.

This is called "presentism". Assuming everything you know today was known by people in the past. It is a serious logical fallacy. But when it supports your views, people dive into it all the time.

So much for knowing where Cumorah came from.

Fawn Brodie has a great thing she "knew" for sure. It had to do with JS having an overactive libido, and fathering children. Now, I have no doubt from the testimony of some of the wives of Joseph Smith that he had engaged in normal "husband-wife" relations with some of the women. I also think it is obvious from the record this was not typical. Certainly not with the youngest teenage wives, based on the testimony and circumstances of the marriages.

However, Fawn Brodie asserted that there was no doubt, based on photographic evidence, that JS was the father of Oliver Norman Buell.

No doubt, that is, except for the genetic tests which have proven it was impossible. Zero percent chance of JS being the genetic father of Buell.

In fact, out of the "giant" list of children asserted to potentially have been fathered by JS, (That is a bit of sarcasm, as the list is only 8 children. He had more with Emma alone than all of these asserted sexual hook-ups.), none have so far been proven to be JS offspring, though several have been scratched from the list. Josephine Lyons, who has the best "story" saying she was his child, is complicated because female-male genetic testing is tricky. But Ugo Prego, a geneticist at the Sorenson Genetics labs says we should have an answer in the next few years on that, as he has collected samples of 120 of her descendants.

In any case, Brodie also asserted that Moroni Pratt was JS child.

Wrong again. Genetically proven to be not related.

It must be great to know so many things which are simply not true.

So the next time you see some "scholarly" critic attack the foundational stories of Mormonism, remember they usually contain more guess than fact, and require huge doses of faith in their guesses.

Why Gay Marriage Doesn't Matter, Sort Of

I actually believe firmly that God grants us individually agency, which allows us to choose what we want to do.  That absolutely includes the right to live together and engage in a lifestyle of ones choosing.  The underlying supposition, therefore, is adequate agency development to be able to make an accountable choice.
Gay marriage, no big deal.  Children thrust into gay marriage:  A very big deal.

Debating gay marriage, by which I mean both homosexual men and women relationships, strictly from a moralistic perspective guarantees all sides fighting without any clarity.  So I have spent the last couple of months looking for statistical analysis from studies, and evaluating the quality of studies.

There is one particular website which has done nothing short of an amazing job assembling studies and statistics on this subject, and that is the Family Research Council, here.  Now they are of course committed to heterosexual marriage, so their editorial bent is that way.  But the list of studies they include is spectacular, and so worth discussing.

So let's start with Gay Marriage.

In a word, it will be a nearly totally unused institution.  "What?", you say.  Yes, Gays will almost never marry.  Like less than 5% of all Gay couples, at very most, will ever marry, and 90%+ will eventually be terminated.

Last week I was in New York, and as it happens July 24 was the one year anniversary of legalization of gay marriage in New York.  On TV they recounted how 860 or so couple got married that day.

Wait, in a city of 8.2 million people, only 860 wanted to celebrate the right to finally marry?  And in the year since then, about 8,000 marriage licenses were issued for gay marriage (though not all will be used of course).  So approximately 4.5% of the adult NYC population is said to be gay, or 272,000 people, at most 16,000 people are now participating in gay marriage.  Let's see, that means 5.9% of the adult population has opted to marry now that they have the right.  This is about 1/10 the rate of heterosexual adults.  Even more starkly, out of 6.2 million adults in NYC, only 16,000 are married gays, or .26% of the population.  Said another way, you would need to meet roughly 800 New York City residents to find a gay couple.

Why?  In a word, Gay sexual promiscuity is so huge that there is no basis for a trusting, socially contracted relationship.  So when you take the fact that homosexuals make up only about 2% of the USA population (though gay advocacy groups claim more like 3.5%), and only about 5% of that 2% will marry, then you are looking at somewhere around 0.1% of the US population would take advantage of Gay marry, or only 2 people in 2,000.  And only 2 people in 14,000 will be in a Gay marriage for longer than 7 years.

Even so, you will wind up with tons of books and media talking about how "normal" Gay relationships are compared to heterosexual marriages.  So let's briefly compare.

Roughly 98% of the population is NOT Gay.  Out of those 98%, by age 50 about 91% will be or have been married.  After 20 years of marriage, about 62% are still married.  Compare this to 5% of gay relationships.

62% vs 5%.  Why?

As mentioned above, fidelity in gay marriage is, practically speaking, an unknown virtue.

Traditional marriages on multiple studies show that approximately 80% of participants are exclusively loyal to their current spouse.

Gay couples report 4.5%

80% vs. 4.5%

Said another way, there is a better than 95% chance your spouse is going to cheat on you in a Gay marriage.  And the statistic is that the average "partnered" gay couple had EIGHT partners  EACH YEAR they were together.

This is consistent with the fact that an astounding 43% of gay men reported 500 or more sexual partners in their lifetime, and a staggering 28% have 1,000 or more partners!

Which of course leads to both violence and/ or dissolution of the relationship.

Violence, by the way, is twice as likely in Gay marriages.

So is the suicide rate.  Gay men are 6-times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual males, and Lesbians are twice as likely as straight females.

Being gay is just not a happy way to live.  If ever a group of people bore a name which is the exact opposite of reality, it is this group.

So I personally would not be against gay marriage simply because I think it is so easy to show it is useless and a largely unused "right".  In the Netherlands, which has had legalized gay marriage for many years, only 12% of gays reported being married.  So that represents the extreme high-end of where it could land.  That would be 12% of (at most) 3.5%, or a maximum of .42% of the adult population.  So go for it.

With one major exception.  What gay marriage does or is likely to do to children of gay relationships cannot be allowed without objection.  Anyone who thinks a child raised in a gay relationship is likely to have an equal experience of positive, affirmative development is simply delusional.  This is not to say that it is not possible for some gay relationships to produce healthy children, for some clearly do.  Or that some gay marriage relationships are not more nurturing than some heterosexual relationships.  Again, clearly, some are.

But this is not what is likely.

And for the record, single parenting by any sexual orientation produces children who are also significantly more likely to have more difficult childhoods or  lives in general than children from heterosexually married couples.

By definition, a child reared in a gay relationship is deprived of its natural relationship to one of its genetic parents, if not both.  Sometimes this is a better alternative than the standard family, to be certain.  But again, that is the exception.

A recent study showed that children of gay relationships are 3-times as likely as a teen to be confused about sexual preference identification.  Basically 90% of teens identify themselves as strongly heterosexual.  Among gay couple parents, only 70% of such teens identify themselves as strongly heterosexual.

Finally, let's talk basic civil rights of heterosexually-oriented couples in a "gay rights" world.  As has already been demonstrated in California and elsewhere, if a parent teaches their children that heterosexual marriage is the only appropriate way to marry, and their children repeat such "bigotry", they can and will be disciplined at school.  Free speech and freedom of religion are taken away from those who feel children should not be ripped away from their natural parents and raised in an unnatural environment.

It is not hard to understand why Abortion and gay rights work so hard together.  They both desensitize the public to caring about children.

So my vote is unequivocally to allow gay marriage.  And equally unequivocally to oppose any "right" to adopt or preferentially raise children in such marriages without a court determining in every instance that such a home is a better alternative to a single parent heterosexual parent of that child, the primary basis being the physical well being of the child being threatened if they remain with a heterosexual parent.

Children of gay relationships are six times more likely to wind up on welfare support of some kind because the likelihood of the relationship dissolving is so much greater.

Likewise, children being raffled off by sperm donors or surrogate mothers should in every instance be offered up to adoption to healthy heterosexual homes and not gay couples in marriages or unmarried relationships.

Frankly, I don't have a good answer to how to deal with children of  parents who suddenly "discover" or come out as gay. In such instances, the non-gay parent is really in the best position to determine what the best treatment of children should be.  The problem is that misguided individuals sympathetic to the gay individual or couples may enter into sham relationships to provide a child.  People are strange, and as shown by the rate of abortion acceptance, many don't care what is done to the life they create.

The lives of children matter, and though it may make a gay person feel bad to not be able to have the chance to be a parent, their life-styles and the long term impact of those choices on children raised in those environments trumps those feelings.  Children have a right to a life with both genetic parents, and barring that, to a life with two parents of both genders to grow up with the best possible life. I think we stop being empathetic of the gay couples to the detriment of children forced into those conditions.

This is a case where the doctrine of marriage for family is so obviously inspired and divine, and supported by the natural consequences of not living this principle make the choice fairly obvious.  Let people live as they will, but protect the innocent as much as possible.