Thursday, January 16, 2020

Some Cross-Disciplinary Advice

In this thoughtful piece, a law school dean reflects on what recent events in athletics have to with living with integrity as a lawyer. The recommendations seem applicable on a wider scale.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Getting Religion Wrong

While one might expect a religious studies scholar to know something basic about religion, that is not always the case. Consider, for example, the following passage from a recent Oxford University Press book on religion by Tim Clydesdale, Professor of Sociology at the College of New Jersey, and Kathleen Garces-Foley, Professor of Religious Studies at Marymount University. In discussing a survey that they conducted, they note that
1 out of 11 indicate Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Eastern Orthodox, or "other non-Christian" religion (hereafter, "other" religion).
They scarcely discuss those in the other religion category. I suspect because, as a sociologist, Clydesdale knows that the sample is so statistically small that it may not be responsible to do so. Instead the authors say that they have decided to focus
on the lives of the 91% of American twentysomethings who affiliate with Christianity (Catholic or Protestant) or have no religious affiliation.
 (Tim Clydesdale and Kathleen Garces-Foley, The Twenty-something Soul (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 24.)
Latter-day Saints are used to being mischaracterized, and one would not necessarily expect a sociologist to get denominational distinctions sorted out, but apparently it is too much to expect a professor of religious studies to know that Eastern Orthodox Christians are Christians.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

News on Donor Intent

This article is about a month old but tells an interesting story about what happened when Sherlock Hibbs tried to pass on what he learned to the rising generation (another report here, the other side here). Hibbs set up an endowment at his alma mater, the University of Missouri, to teach the Ludwig von Mises Austrian School of Economics that helped him become so successful. Von Mises advocated for free markets and the role of the entrepreneur. Apparently, the University of Missouri was happy to accept Hibbs's millions but was not so enamored with von Mises and his economics and so was using the money for other purposes. Many academics follow economic theories along the following lines: What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine too.

Hibbs, however, was wiser than many philanthropists and gave an outside organization power to police the use of the funds. When that outside organization discovered that the University of Missouri was not following the donor intent, they sued the University of Missouri. The court ruled that the University of Missouri was not following donor intent and must surrender the funds. There is probably a lesson in here somewhere.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Collation News II

The new issue of the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research arrived today. It contains a review by Jacob Lauinger of the revised edition of Cuneiform in Canaan. Lauinger calls the book "an indispensable resoure for scholars interested in the topic" which is high praise. Nevertheless, he complains that several collations that reviewers made in their reviews of the first edition are not incorporated, or only partially incorporated without comment, in the second edition. And he provides further corrections from his own collations based on the photographs or hand copies provided. This is, of course, standard practice in scholarship. If this were American history, however, I am sure that the editors would have been scandalized that he would dare do such a thing. After all, when the historians have spoken the thinking has been done.

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Interconnected Ancient World VIII: Egyptian and Indian Monkeys in Minoan Greece

Another news story of far-flung contact from Greece has appeared. This time it is from Minoan times (slightly earlier than the Mycenaean times we noted earlier). The place is Akrotiti on Santorini (Thera). A mural depicts a number of monkeys, which are not native to Greece. Most of monkeys are baboons from Egypt, but one of them is a langur from India.

We could sit comfortably in our disciplinary silos if the ancients had not monkeyed around with our evidence.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Ad Verecundiam Irony

The ad verecundiam fallacy is the appeal to authority. When an position is brought forth and the position is said to be correct simply because an authority has stated it without regard to evidence or analysis, then it is a logical fallacy.

A variation on this logical fallacy is saying that because an individual is not an authority, they have no right to talk about a subject regardless of their evidence and arguments. This tactic is used to dismiss individuals without considering their argument or evidence.

I have recently come across two instances of this logical fallacy that were rather amusing. Both of them took the following form:

Person A took Person B to task because of something that Person B published dealing with Subject X. Person C took umbrage because Person A is not considered an expert on Subject X and Person C knows of no training that Person A has in Subject X. What Person C ironically ignored is that Person B is not an expert on Subject X and has no training in Subject X either.
What this usually means is that Person C agrees with the position of Person B and not with the position of Person A. Arguments and evidence is irrelevant, as in this case are training and qualifications of the authority (because both lack expertise). The ad verecundiam fallacy is merely invoked as a way of dismissing an argument without considering it. But it remains a logical fallacy. Its use in such circumstances is amusingly ironic.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Interconnected Ancient World VII: Hathor in Mycenaean Greece

This week archaeologists at the University of Cincinnati announced the discovery of a tholos tomb in Pylos, in Greece. Pylos is located in the southwest corner of the Peloponnese: