I’ve Done My “Research”

I’ve Done My “Research” July 20, 2015

So-called research

From time to time I’ve had a commenter repeatedly copy and paste at length from online sources. In the most recent instance, the sources were credited, and so it wasn’t a case of plagiarism. But that doesn’t make the comments convincing – and that is for much the same reason that student papers which are a pastiche of quotes are unpersuasive. Copying and pasting isn’t an argument, nor for that matter is it how one has a conversation with other people.

To the extent that you copy and paste, or even link to, other sources, your argument (if you have one) will only be as good as those sources.

If you cite weak, shoddy, dated, or otherwise problematic material, and think it adequately addresses mainstream science or scholarship, then you are simply mistaken.

“Research” can cover a range of activities. I can’t say that students – or blog commenters – have not done research at all, if they find and sources which lack academic rigor and which all represent a single viewpoint that is not found persuasive by most scholars.

But for this sort of activity, the word definitely deserves to be in scare quotes.

Vaccine research

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  • Jim

    What makes a professional scholar of religion’s “research” different from an internet ninja? As a scientist (working in a corporate environment), I wear a lab coat and work in a laboratory. Both your images shows the kind of research environment I am accustomed to.

    I wonder why you did not show an image of you doing research. From where I’m looking, your “research” is quoting other scholars’ works (copy+paste) and giving your spin of it. No primary research, no testing, no field observations. If so, I don’t think your research methodology is qualitatively better than, say, Neil Godfrey.

    There are no doubt real scholars of religion doing “real” research. I can only point to archaeologists digging in the levant. Or others studying museum pieces to determine the date and origin of ancient writings, pottery, engraved idols, etc. Maybe even those who use radiometric dating on artifacts. But are you?

    • The data provided by archaeologists, and the study of them using scientific methods, are all part of the broad project of historical research. But it also includes those who study ancient texts in their ancient languages and their ancient context. In the field of history, there is more room for ideology to be a factor than in the natural sciences, but we both know that it is possible to wear a lab coat but to work for the tobacco industry, and so even the “lab vs. library” divide cannot be what determines the appropriateness of scare quotes. It seems to me that the biggest identifying factor is that one allows one’s scholarly peers to be the ones to evaluate the work one does and the results one comes up with.

      In the work I do, I collaborate with, or draw on and am dependent on, archaeologists, scientists, linguists, other textual scholars, historians of the ancient world, and many others. I didn’t make the memes in the post, and so was commenting on these memes that others made – and so that is the main reason I am not in either of them. But presumably photos of me working with a Greek or Mandaic text plus scholarly articles, vs. someone reading only in translation and just looking for quotes to support “conclusions” they have drawn before doing “research,” could make the same point, even if less picturesquely.

      • Jim

        Then why use the image of scientists in lab coats? I think it’s a kind of bait-and-switch to do so. If you are confident that your research is heads and shoulders above the mythicists, then show your “lab” or “research” environment (perhaps a small office with stacks of books, papers, and monographs), and not rely on stock images of scientists.

        It’s bad enough seeing creationists taking photo ops in labs with white coats. Now it’s being co-opted by the humanities.

        • As you might have realized if you had read it rather than just looking at the pictures, this post is not about mythicism – although the same principle applies in different ways. It is about the topics the memes address, and the commenter who inspired the post was a young-earth creationist.

          The mythicist equivalent would need to contrast a scholar reading with a detailed knowledge of the relevant languages and documents, vs. someone who reads in translation and doesn’t know the relevant sources in their breadth and depth. Any idea how to put that in pictures? It is just as much a problem, but harder to turn into a meme, I think.

          • Sheriff Liberty

            There are plenty of PhD mythicists who can read Greek and even have published studies based on Greek translations.
            It’s a bit fallacious to assume it’s a one-sided issue of Scholar Historicists vs. Internet Mythicists.

          • Plenty? I wonder who you have in mind. If we made the criteria more stringent, and said professional scholars with appointments at accredited secular universities, how many could you come up with?

          • Sheriff Liberty

            Being a PhD and peer-review publishing in a relevant field isn’t stringent enough? Plus getting hired as a professor is a good deal what connections you have and what department niche you fill, not necessarily the quality of someone’s work.

          • A PhD and publications are a very minimal standard. Even conservative Christians who are little more than apologists manage it.

            All jobs involve networking and filling a niche in the workplace in question, and the quality of candidates’ work is a major thing that employers will use to sift through candidates.

        • Gary

          You are not really making any sense. Your description would trash theoretical physicists, and say only experimental physicists do REAL research. The theoretical physicist might task an experimental physicist to conduct an experiment to gather data to validate his/her ideas (or more likely a bunch of graduate students who work for free 🙂
          But white lab coats are not necessary to conduct research. Ask Hawking.

        • arcseconds

          Yes, creationists are an unfortunate lot to be associated with sure, but at least they’re not humanities professors (*hoick, spit*)!

    • You’re right, Jim, I’ve never thought of it that way before.

  • Matthew Richardson

    Spot on. I have a relative who believes that her internet “research” and health food store training make her more qualified than licensed physicians, so I understand how difficult this is to deal with.

  • AmbassadorHerald

    I do believe the Scientific Creationist who cited his sources and inspired this post to be myself. And, as I recall, I provided a statement about two ancient sources—Celsus and Porphyry—who did not even question the supposed contradiction you were calling out and lived far nearer the events with far more records than we have today. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2015/05/genesis-1-fixed-it-for-you.html#comment-2060873427

    You did not even try to give an attempted answer for why people who hated Christians and did their best to discredit the Gospels did not point to Luke’s census as such a problem. They’d probably agree that no contradiction exists there, despite their not wanting to, and modern scientists have lost the records, or deliberately hid them away, which would demonstrate that fact.

    You cannot call a person’s research faulty if you cannot even deal with the research in a professional fashion. Are not historical records what we are trying to use to decipher history?

    • Saying “two ancient authors did not give it attention” is not a persuasive argument. Indeed, it is akin to the mythicist argument, “these authors failed to mention Jesus, therefore he did not exist.” You were asked to deal with the contradictions regarding date, geographical movements, and the family’s hometown, and instead offered this attempt to avoid the issue rather than deal with it.

      • AmbassadorHerald

        And I did deal with those points here http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2015/05/genesis-1-fixed-it-for-you.html#comment-2080768541 as you very well know because you up-voted the comments on either side by Jim.

        I added further detail here http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2015/05/genesis-1-fixed-it-for-you.html#comment-2084180362

        Your claim that I did not deal with the supposed “contradictions regarding date, geographical movements, and the family’s hometown” are false. I actually corrected your date for Herod’s death in the comment linked to previously.

        • As this post emphasizes, just copying from online sources which, in the interest of forcing the Bible to be correct, are happy to move dates that are otherwise secure historically, is not going to be persuasive.

          But the biggest issue is internal to the New Testament. Matthew has the family be from Bethlehem and to try to return there after fleeing to Egypt, and only relocate to Nazareth out of fear of Archelaus. Luke has the family be from Nazareth and only relocate to Bethlehem for the census, leaving a month or so after Jesus’ birth to offer the required sacrifices in Jerusalem, and then returning to Nazareth. In Matthew, Jesus’ family lives in a house in Bethlehem and the timing of the star and Herod’s order suggest that Jesus was around 2 years old. And at that time, they flee a limg reigning in Jerusalem, while in Luke they go safely to Jerusalem when Jesus is not nearly 2 years old, and from there go BACK to Nazareth.

          Of course, you will find lots of attempts to harmonize these texts online. Rather than copying and pasting those attempts, you need to explain why you think they are credible, and why they do not represent an unconvincing attempt to force the Bible to seem to be inerrant and without contradictions, and why you think it appropriate to force the Bible to be what you think it ought to be, rather than accepting what the Bible shows itself to be.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            In the links provided, to which you are responding to, I only used one quote, and the first link specifically notes at the end that no commentaries were referenced in my answer. So your rejection of evidence based on my “copying from online sources” is false. This was 90% my own work, so you need to find new grounds to reject it here.

            Most of your specific objections on Jesus’ baby-timeline are dealt with to where even Jim said it was possible to be the case. You now need to tell me why you are trying to make our Savior’s biographies into a contradictory mess yet do not point to biographies of any other person that way simply for exalting particular details and excluding others.

            John 21:25 (Young’s Literal Translation), “And there are also many other things—as many as Jesus did—which, if they may be written one by one, not even the world itself I think to have place for the books written. Amen.”

            For this final point, I think I will use Jesus’ tactic in Matthew 21:24-25. Answer this question and I will answer yours: explain why you believe that God does not have the power to perfectly inspire flawed humans to record His Pure Word as He precisely intends it and then use more flawed humans to copy it and hand it down completely preserved in its original quality?

          • I never suggested that you did nothing but copy and paste. If you had, you would have been banned as a spammer.

            I am not trying to make the Gospels anything. I am simply paying attention to the details and not forcibly harmonizing them.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            You just did as the Chief Priests did in Matthew 21:25-27 and avoided the issue brought against you, so my answer is again as Jesus said in verse 27. I will not answer your question either.