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Author Topic: Scholarly Books and Lookalikes  (Read 22241 times)
RandallS
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« Topic Start: October 11, 2007, 12:28:14 pm »


Web Site Article Discussion ThreadThis thread is for discussion of a specific article on our web site. Please limit discussion to questions and comments specific to this article. Feel free to start a new thread in an appropriate board if what you wish to discuss is not specific to the named article. Note that if you have arrived here from the discussion link on this article on our web site and are not a member of this message board, you will need to register an account to post in this thread. Thank you.

Scholarly Books and Lookalikes

A common problem in Neopaganism is that many people seem unclear on what constitutes a credible book. A "credible book" is one that makes believable and accurate statements about a particular field (often history, in Neopagan discussions). Typically, a credible book has the following features:

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« Last Edit: October 11, 2007, 04:20:37 pm by RandallS, Reason: in changed to is » Logged

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« Reply #1: October 12, 2007, 06:00:35 am »

[modbreak=Web Site Article Discussion Thread]
This thread is for discussion of a specific article on our web site. Please limit discussion to questions and comments specific to this article. Feel free to start a new thread in an appropriate board if what you wish to discuss is not specific to the named article. Note that if you have arrived here from the discussion link on this article on our web site and are not a member of this message board, you will need to register an account to post in this thread. Thank you.
[/modbreak]

Scholarly Books and Lookalikes

A common problem in Neopaganism is that many people seem unclear on what constitutes a credible book. A "credible book" is one that makes believable and accurate statements about a particular field (often history, in Neopagan discussions). Typically, a credible book has the following features:

Read the Full Article
 

What's a "Chick Track"?
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« Reply #2: October 12, 2007, 06:38:57 am »

What's a "Chick Track"?

They're sort of mini comic books published by Jack Chick which some fundies hand out as part of their proselytizing efforts.  The tracts are typically hilariously inaccurate about pretty much anything remotely involving any other religion (and sometimes even things involving Christianity, especially Catholicism--I think the "death cookie" tract is still my favorite for a good laugh) and tend to preach against the evils of things like Halloween, Dungeons and Dragons, Catholicism, Mormonism, evolution theory, homosexuality, drugs, and basically anything else Jack Chick feels is unChristian.  That, and/or they have waaaaay overdone messages about accepting Christ as your personal saviour, and what happens if you don't.  Each tract also has instructions for accepting Christ as your personal saviour printed at the end--there's a little prayer to say and everything.  They're a serious effort to convert people, but the attempt is so misdirected and the information so bad that they often wind up being more laughable than anything.

http://www.chick.com/catalog/tractlist.asp
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« Reply #3: October 12, 2007, 09:03:44 am »

[modbreak=Web Site Article Discussion Thread]
 [/modbreak]
Scholarly Books and Lookalikes
A common problem in Neopaganism is that many people seem unclear on what constitutes a credible book. A "credible book" is one that makes believable and accurate statements about a particular field (often history, in Neopagan discussions). Typically, a credible book has the following features:
Read the Full Article
 

The problem that you can still run into even with scholarly books is that the author's opinion can still color a concept, no matter how many resources they quote or make note of.  I have come across some very bad books written by people with a list of degrees longer than my arm trailing after their name.

It is up to the reader to understand that a book is usually a reflection of an author's opinion, the ideals of the times in which the book was written, the facts availabe at the time the book was written, and the culture of the author.

No matter what sources are quoted or referenced, there may be conflicting / opposing facts or theories not mentioned.

These are problems that I have encountered as a reconstructionist, or when just interested in searching for the roots of a religion. When searching for the past I take everything with a "to the best of our knowledge" kind of appoach, because new discoveries can arise that might blow old theories out of the water.

One thing I come across quite a bit are those (newbies and old pros alike) who seem to feel that a current understanding of a past culture or religion is a set deal, no room for debate, not open to discussion.

You hear the phrase "now somewhat out of date" applied to books all the time, well, in 10 years that will apply to just about any book on a shelf. I try to keep that in mind.
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« Reply #4: October 12, 2007, 11:43:07 am »

The problem that you can still run into even with scholarly books is that the author's opinion can still color a concept, no matter how many resources they quote or make note of.  I have come across some very bad books written by people with a list of degrees longer than my arm trailing after their name.

It is up to the reader to understand that a book is usually a reflection of an author's opinion, the ideals of the times in which the book was written, the facts availabe at the time the book was written, and the culture of the author.

No matter what sources are quoted or referenced, there may be conflicting / opposing facts or theories not mentioned.

These are problems that I have encountered as a reconstructionist, or when just interested in searching for the roots of a religion. When searching for the past I take everything with a "to the best of our knowledge" kind of appoach, because new discoveries can arise that might blow old theories out of the water.

One thing I come across quite a bit are those (newbies and old pros alike) who seem to feel that a current understanding of a past culture or religion is a set deal, no room for debate, not open to discussion.

You hear the phrase "now somewhat out of date" applied to books all the time, well, in 10 years that will apply to just about any book on a shelf. I try to keep that in mind.


Well, yes, but the thing about a book explicitly published as an academic work is that it goes through an *extensive* peer review process, so while not everyone will agree with an author's arguments, they've been extensively vetted for serious problems by other experts in the field in a way that non-academic books have not.  That doesn't mean that scholars are always right -- and as you said, work goes out of date -- but scholars' books are almost always more reliable than popular sources.

Re dogmatism:  we had an interesting discussion on the old board about some of the attitudes in recon communities towards scholarship, which is often at odds with the way professional scholars look at their work; I'll see if I can dig it up later.
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« Reply #5: October 12, 2007, 12:48:43 pm »

What's a "Chick Track"?

Others have already answered, but for clarity's sake, it should be "tract", not "track".  Wink

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« Reply #6: October 12, 2007, 12:55:31 pm »

Others have already answered, but for clarity's sake, it should be "tract", not "track".  Wink

*checks the article*

Oh, dear.  It's wrong there, hence the confusion.  Hey, Randall...  Should someone maybe correct this?  It's all in the last four paragraphs (except the very very last one), I think.
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« Reply #7: October 12, 2007, 01:13:01 pm »

Well, yes, but the thing about a book explicitly published as an academic work is that it goes through an *extensive* peer review process, so while not everyone will agree with an author's arguments, they've been extensively vetted for serious problems by other experts in the field in a way that non-academic books have not.  That doesn't mean that scholars are always right -- and as you said, work goes out of date -- but scholars' books are almost always more reliable than popular sources.

Unless you have an academic who is unable to get published by a peer-reviewed publisher (usually although certainly not always a uni press) and publishes elsewhere or self-publishes. Then you have a book that acts like a scholarly book and is written by a scholar, but you have to ferret out why it wasn't published through scholarly channels.

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« Reply #8: October 12, 2007, 01:46:25 pm »

Re dogmatism:  we had an interesting discussion on the old board about some of the attitudes in recon communities towards scholarship, which is often at odds with the way professional scholars look at their work; I'll see if I can dig it up later.

Oh, I would really appreciate that! Thanks!  Sometimes I'll be talking to another Kemetic and we'll get to a point where I don't think we are even talking about the same religion any more.


Unless you have an academic who is unable to get published by a peer-reviewed publisher (usually although certainly not always a uni press) and publishes elsewhere or self-publishes. Then you have a book that acts like a scholarly book and is written by a scholar, but you have to ferret out why it wasn't published through scholarly channels.
Sasha


So true.  I have read a few where learned people are just out to make a name for themselves with some pretty outlandish drivel. Bad thing about these books is that half is fact based and half can be as far out as Mars, making it hard for the lay person to sort out fact from fiction.
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« Reply #9: October 12, 2007, 01:49:56 pm »

The problem that you can still run into even with scholarly books is that the author's opinion can still color a concept, no matter how many resources they quote or make note of.  I have come across some very bad books written by people with a list of degrees longer than my arm trailing after their name.

Many of these bad books are penned by previously reputable authorities, I've found.  Look at the scholars (this doesn't include the chiropractors-turned-scientist types therein) behind the film "What the Bleep do We Know?"  Some previously wrote very credible books in their disciplines, but gradually allowed their spiritual beliefs to color their scholarship.  Most of these authors started off publishing with an academic press but were eventually forced (often grudgingly) to publish elsewhere when their theories veered off into crack-pottery.

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« Reply #10: October 12, 2007, 02:28:49 pm »

Some previously wrote very credible books in their disciplines, but gradually allowed their spiritual beliefs to color their scholarship.  Most of these authors started off publishing with an academic press but were eventually forced (often grudgingly) to publish elsewhere when their theories veered off into crack-pottery.
Brina

Yep, I have seen that happen. Their web sites can sometimes give insight into how far they have fallen off the scholarly wagon.
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RandallS
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« Reply #11: October 12, 2007, 03:01:45 pm »

*checks the article*

Oh, dear.  It's wrong there, hence the confusion.  Hey, Randall...  Should someone maybe correct this?  It's all in the last four paragraphs (except the very very last one), I think.

Email me on it so I will remember and I'll see what I can do.
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« Reply #12: October 12, 2007, 03:06:08 pm »

Email me on it so I will remember and I'll see what I can do.

Done.
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« Reply #13: October 12, 2007, 03:07:31 pm »

Done.

Thank you very much!
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« Reply #14: October 13, 2007, 06:47:44 pm »

Oh, I would really appreciate that! Thanks!  Sometimes I'll be talking to another Kemetic and we'll get to a point where I don't think we are even talking about the same religion any more.


Here it is!

http://www.ecauldron.net/mb/messages.php?webtag=TCMAIN&msg=2094.11

(I started with my post, because that's where the explicit issue of academic vs. non-academic discourse in Recon communities came up, but read the whole thread, because it brings up cool stuff.)

Like Randall, I'm not a huge fan of the way discussions go on Recon boards; as interested as I am in the scholarship, and as much as I respect the actual level of *knowledge* many Recons have, I'm really not keen on the tone many of the discussions take, and find many of the attitudes toward scholarship just as frustrating as on the fluff-bunny boards.     
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