82: A Critical Look at the Claims in the “Alone” YouTube Video

Heather, Amy, Craig, and Ryan dissect “Alone,” a video on YouTube that touches on Book of Abraham apologetics and depicts a young husband going through a trial of faith.

 

Play

Links and References

Deseret News – BYU professor speaks on unnoticed assumptions about the Book of Abraham
MormonChallenges.org (the website for the group behind the video)

29 Comments

  1. ivan

    The most offensive thing about this is that I KNOW the church has money to hire actors. And they still out this shit out. Unless it’s put out by FAIR…In which case, well played FAIR. Well played, indeed, making it look like the church doesn’t supplement a talent budget.

    Reply Oct 29, 2014 @ 07:42:39
    • Ryan Rebalkin

      Ivan,
      I agree. I too am constantly surprised that the Church can’t produce better media. They have enough money to pay the highest quality writers and production crews.
      Oh well, it was fun to dissect the video, thank you for listening.

      Reply Oct 07, 2015 @ 16:14:41
  2. Andrew James

    Dennis Packard is a film professor at BYU. He has been previously involved in international cinema on campus. He is one of the screenwriters. My guess is that he produced this and used BYU’s film school to make it happen.

    Reply Oct 29, 2014 @ 09:29:20
    • John

      In the scene where the Justin character goes to see the “ward scholar” and finds an “away” sign on his office door, the office sign says “216A, Publications and Graphics.’ When you Google “Publications and Graphics” the BYU is the top hit – so this does seem to be a good guess.

      Reply Nov 06, 2014 @ 09:49:26
      • Ryan Rebalkin

        John,
        That i some serious Easter Egg hunting !
        Bravo !

        Reply Oct 07, 2015 @ 16:15:49
    • Ryan Rebalkin

      Andrew,

      I think Mr Packard may need to change careers :P

      Reply Oct 07, 2015 @ 16:18:59
  3. Dave Wilson

    I like this to some degree. I thought it did tell of the pain that a faith crisis brings and I does make one feel alone. I love you guys but I did think you were a little hard on this.

    Reply Oct 29, 2014 @ 21:51:34
    • Debbie Snowcroft

      Faith crisis = I know it’s not true, but I still want to believe, so I’ve got to find a way to ignore the truth.

      Way to heal a faith crisis = I know what is true, and I will respect the truth.

      Like all medicine, the way to heal a faith crisis may be hard to swallow, but the cure really is worth it.

      Reply Nov 05, 2014 @ 11:23:45
    • Ryan Rebalkin

      Dave,

      Thank you for listening.
      I think we can be ‘hard’ on these crtiques because the other side is already known. Yes, TBMs will love this message and its point of view.
      can people feel alone both within and and without the Church? No doubt !
      I know i did and sometimes still do feel that way.

      Luckily no one was injured in making this dredge ;)

      Reply Oct 07, 2015 @ 16:21:52
  4. Sebastian Dick

    Ladies and Gents, I enjoyed your robust concluding discussion of being convinced or unconvinced by evidence, rather than being able to simply CHOOSE what to believe.

    This “epistemological voluntarism” seems quite in fashion in the church, but when properly considered, it’s about as effective as a jet-ski on gravel.

    Reply Oct 30, 2014 @ 02:54:14
    • Craig Stiles

      Glad you enjoyed it, Sebastian! The whole choose to believe thing is one of my personal pet peeves, so I was happy to get the chance to rant about it. :)

      Reply Oct 30, 2014 @ 20:05:43
    • JT

      Sebastian,

      “This ‘epistemological voluntarism’ seems quite the fashion.”

      Yes, I’ve thought of it as a “meta” belief system that begs the question of the belief system. I’ve noticed Terryl Givens is a strong advocate of this – perhaps its kick-starter. It is a subtle move, and, I think, unwarranted for reasons that Heather brought up – and by findings in cognitive science. I tried to wrap my head around it a while back when I listened to a Givens interview (see links to the podcast and my response below).

      Here is a snippet of what I came up with, though I need to study the issue more.

      ********
      I was intrigued by Dr. Givens’ foundational belief in our ability to freely choose belief. From what I gathered from this and his previous MS interview, it may be summed up in following propositions:

      First, that notwithstanding the contingencies of our lives, God provides us – at least at some crucial point(s) – with a sufficient balance of evidence as to make a warranted inference that neither belief nor disbelief in essential Mormon/Christian propositions are compelling.

      Second, that we have – at least at some crucial point(s) – an innate ability (as part of our eternal nature) to detach ourselves from the complex web of physiological and social influences and climb onto such a knife edge of dichotomous belief-choice, positioned astride this balance of non-compelling evidences, and from there freely make the virtuous one – to choose to believe in Mormonism/Christianity.

      There is likely more to Dr. Givens’ propositions – he referred to a talk he devoted to this idea – but anything that approaches this interpretation is an extraordinary claim given the findings of cognitive science, if not simple common observations of human decision-making.

      Has Dr. Givens thought through the consequences of his meta-belief NOT being empirically, philosophically or logically tenable? Or, does this belief about belief lie in that same unbounded middle ground of other unfalsifiable – and often contradictory – theological propositions? I think it’s fair to require that it carry some burden of support beyond mere theological assertion – particularly because it claims as virtuous a methodology of choice and commitment that is demonstrably unreliable and can lead to harm.

      *********
      Givens Interview:
      http://mormonstories.org/terryl-givens-an-approach-to-thoughtful-honest-and-faithful-mormonism/

      My blog post about it:
      http://jturnonmormonism.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/a-believers-belief-about-belief/

      Reply Nov 01, 2014 @ 06:51:46
      • Sebastian Dick

        A question-begging meta-belief -YES!
        I shall be sure to frame it this way when it comes up in future!

        A couple of years back I attended one of the Givens’ Crucible of Doubt firesides in here in the UK. The point I tried (and didn’t really succeed) to articulate to him in person during the Q&A was that many established epistemological frameworks take an innocent-until-proven-guilty approach such that a preponderance of evidence is required. In the (rare) event that a Givensian ‘balance of evidence’ ever actually does occur in the laboratory or the court room, we revert to the null hypothesis or declare that there is insufficient data to reach a conclusion. These proven approaches don’t allow an un-compelled middle ground of faith-driven choice.

        Reply Nov 11, 2014 @ 23:53:40
  5. Manu

    I have tried to find the video Alone on YouTube but have failed. What’s the secret combination to locating it?

    Reply Nov 01, 2014 @ 17:29:16
  6. Manu

    Vinaka. Thank you, Sebastian!

    Reply Nov 02, 2014 @ 09:03:01
  7. LDSRevelations

    A believing friend of mine who has relatives in CES once gave me the ‘well if it’s 50/50 on the evidence for and against, why not choose to believe?” I told home that the evidence wasn’t 50/50 to me but that it clearly suggested Mormonism not being what it claimed to be. He had no response. Because without the ‘spiritual’ experiences LDS rely on that’s how it shifts— towards the idea that Mormonism is no more inspired than anything else.

    I also had a member of a stake presidency tell me that if I didn’t take his spiritual experiences and testimony into account when making my own faith choices was being intellectually dishonest. The unmitigated gall. Please. If he wants to believe because of you experiences, great. But don’t expect me to and don’t talk about empirical evidence when you belief is clearly not based in it.

    Reply Nov 03, 2014 @ 17:20:48
    • Ryan

      Did the member of your Stake Presidency, for his beliefs, take into account the spiritual experiences and testimony of 1.6 Muslims?

      Reply Nov 07, 2014 @ 10:34:45
      • Ryan

        1.6 billion (not 1.6 which wouldn’t be that impressive)

        Reply Nov 07, 2014 @ 10:36:37
    • JT

      Let’s say right before the DNA evidence came in you granted your believing friend his 50:50 chance for the BoM being true.

      Then the DNA evidence came in showing no Israelite markers in indigenous American populations. Let’s say that is unexpected, but with only a 10% chance of being the case given that Lehi et al. were real – which seems generous.

      If the believer accepts this, Bayes theorem demands as a matter of logic that the believer must adjust his his true-belief probability down to 10%.

      This is the problem with this “choose to believe from 50:50″ assertion. It seems immune from new evidence. Indeed, it makes mockery of evidence. It’s a pretense to reason.

      Reply Nov 15, 2014 @ 10:55:57
  8. JT

    Near the end of discussion Craig said,

    “Let’s just assume it is a 50:50 type of situation … they never say why to choose one over the other…why would it be a moral choice to choose to believe that to choose to disbelieve? They never talk about that.”

    This “epistemological volunteerism” (as Sebastian called it) is a Terryl Givens theological styling. He presented it in his 2005 BYU devotional address, “Lightning Out of Heaven, Joseph Smith and the Forging of Community,” the end of which shows up as the film’s final voice-over.

    Here is the moral reasoning he gives for choosing belief, which immediately precedes the voice-over portion in the speech.

    “Why, then, is there more merit—given this perfect balance—in believing in the Christ (and His gospel and prophets) than believing in a false deity or in nothing at all? Perhaps because there is nothing in the universe—or in any possible universe—more perfectly good, absolutely beautiful, and worthy of adoration and emulation than this Christ. A gesture of belief in that direction, a will manifesting itself as a desire to acknowledge His virtues as the paramount qualities of a divided universe, is a response to the best in us, the best and noblest of which the human soul is capable. For we do indeed create gods after our own image—or potential image. And that is an activity endowed with incalculable moral significance.”

    In addition to his special pleading for a 50:50 probability, I read in this statement 1 false dichotomy, 1 conjunction fallacy, and 1 begged question.

    Then again, I’m intrigued by the bit about “we do indeed create gods in our own image – or potential image.”

    Also, I see room for an nuanced interpretation in his writing “moral significance,” since it seems to qualify the “activity” of choosing and does not necessarily label the choice to believe as the morally correct one. “Indeed” one can claim that choosing not to believe in Mormonism is moral significant, because

    (i) you feel those prophets were immoral and not His (which still allows you to choose Christ), or

    (ii) you choose to believe in some other god as grounding of morality, or

    (iii) you choose not to believe in any god, because – aside from there being little evidence for existence – none are necessary to construct a system of morals to “forge a community.”

    Reply Nov 06, 2014 @ 11:44:39
    • Craig Stiles

      Thanks for the extra insight, JT. In addition to the objections you brought up, another might be if you consider the perfectly good, absolutely beautiful, and adoration worthy concept of Christ or God to be completely dissimilar to the characters described in the scriptures and by the prophets. If one doesn’t agree that the God or Christ described in the Mormon/Christian canon are particularly morally praiseworthy, then it seems the more moral choice would be to disbelieve in them, assuming the framework Givens has posited.

      Reply Nov 12, 2014 @ 20:31:51
  9. Jay Packard

    Thanks for the positive comments about the music. I wrote it for this project based off of an arrangement of “Abide with Me”.

    Reply Nov 13, 2014 @ 09:38:29
    • Ryan Rebalkin

      You bet Jay !
      see, we are not all negative !
      You’re music was the hi light !

      Reply Oct 07, 2015 @ 16:27:53
  10. Uncle Ralph

    It never mentioned what the arguments were on the LDS website that made it possible to “choose to believe.” I really wanted to hear it.

    My favorite thing in the whole video is where (approx. 26:00) he’s pulling something up on his cell phone and says TO HIS WIFE, “Dude, look at this.” That’s one of the modern litmus tests for age, I guess: If refering to a female, especially a loved one, as “dude” is a total non sequiter, you’re probably a fossil. That and speaking in questions? You know, where everything someone says is inflected as a question? I just recently listened to an episode that Heather did? With two psychologists? Both of whom tacked a question mark onto practically everything they said. Oops, did I miss one?

    Reply Mar 18, 2015 @ 03:33:29
  11. scott

    What is the music clip at the end of this piece? Is it available somewhere?

    Reply Jan 27, 2016 @ 14:14:41
  12. Jimbo

    Great podcast. But horrible YouTube depiction on how to handle a faith crisis. Keep up the good work.

    Reply Feb 22, 2016 @ 12:52:55

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