dr. ed wright responds to my peer-review article on bible and interpretation: a word on professional conduct in the academy

Dr. Ed Wright, Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Arizona and President of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem has responded to my article entitled, “How and Why Academic Peer-Review is About to Change,” on the Bible and Interpretation website. Dr. Wright’s article is entitled, “The Case for the Peer-Review Process: A Rejoinder to ‘How and Why Academic Peer-Review is About to Change’.”

Dr. Wright is a friend and colleague, and I respect his opinion and the solid points he makes in his response. I’d also like to point out that this is how scholarly debate is supposed to take place. When a scholar produces research or a publication for consumption by the academy and/or the public, the scholar should expect and even invite professional criticism. It is the only way to expose holes in a theory or an academic argument, and this process makes the theory stronger. By pointing out problems with a theory, members of the academy contribute to a global discussion and together collaborate to find an interpretation or theory that best explains all of the data. Political candidates do the same thing during debates: they stand up and critique their opponent’s points of view, and, if done properly and professionally, they shake hands when it’s over and go have a beer together. That’s how it works.

Scholars should never personally smear or attempt to harm the professional development of anyone with whom they disagree. Rather, scholars (and students, and the public at large for that matter) should always argue each case on the merits of the argument. This is precisely what Dr. Wright has done here, and it is precisely what Dr. Jodi Magness and I did last year in the pages of NEA and the SBL session that reviewed my book. We stood up, exchanged points of view, pointed out flaws in each other’s theories, and then walked to the next session, where we advocated side-by-side on the same side of a different issue. Scholars should never respond to a professional, public critique of their work with personal attacks. Rather, scholars should respond on the merits of the argument in public (including peer-review journals, blogs, professional conferences, etc.), let others contribute responses, or not respond. Attacking someone personally will only bring much-deserved shame upon the attacking scholar.

This is how it’s supposed to work. Scholars should make their arguments in their own name and stand behind their claims. They should submit to the peer-review process to be critiqued by an assembly of their peers. This ensures the quality of the academic work and improves the collaborative understanding of a particular subject. Rather than attacking a scholar personally with an anonymous campaign of letters designed to impugn the credibility of a scholar who may hold a differing point of view, scholars should offer alternatives and allow the public (i.e., the academy if a scholarly issue, or the greater public if a popular issue) to determine which arguments seem best.

This is what Dr. Wright and Dr. Magness have done. It is what Larry Schiffman and John Collins and Eibert Tigchelaar and David Stacey and the late Hanan Eshel and Eric Cline and Yuval Peleg and many others have done. We all disagree with each other on any number of topics. And we may very well agree on any number of other issues as well. The point is that we humbly submit our contributions to the academy and the greater public for consideration, we make our critiques professionally, and we stand behind and are accountable for the manner in which we conduct ourselves. The academy has, with very few exceptions, always set the example for professional conduct in the exchange of ideas. The academy is the model to which the public and politicians ought to look as the ultimate example of civil disagreement. And this is what Dr. Wright and so many others have done. I hope to follow their example and always offer commentary and scholarly opinions in a professional, transparent (and occasionally humorous) manner.

Thanx again to Dr. Wright for responding. I’m sure the topic will come up when I see him at the ASOR annual meeting this year in Atlanta, hopefully over a beer (that he buys ;-)


top 10 strangest cases of identity theft

Raphael and Norman Golb

Raphael and Norman Golb

an article on listverse, a site that blogs every imaginable top ten list, has put together a top ten ‘bizarre cases of identity theft.’ according to the article:

Identity theft is not a new problem, and like any crime, there are always some cases that make you scratch your head in astonishment, and ask the obvious questions: “Why would someone even try this? How did they think they were going to get away with it?” And sometimes simply, “What the heck?”

the top ten were:

  • 10. the cheerleader (a 33-year-old woman stole her daughter’s identity to attend high school and join the cheerleading squad)
  • 9. todd davis (the ceo of an identity theft protection company that used his own social security number in adverts, a number that was then used to gain loans and cash by thieves)
  • 8. neighbors from hell (a couple that moved into a tight-knit neighborhood and stole identity information to use in petty crimes)
  • 7. ivy league impostor (a high school senior used the identity of a missing woman from south carolina to apply to, enroll in, and take classes at harvard)
  • 6. dr. no (a doctor that did not attend medical school stole the identities of several doctors to establish a medical practice)
  • 5. dead sea scrolls (the case of raphael golb, son of university of chicago historian norman golb, and his criminal impersonation of nyu professor larry schiffman to promote his father and defame schiffman)
  • 4. you’re how old? (a woman in the czech republic who stole the identities of several 13-year-old children and enrolled in schools as them)
  • 3. brooklyn busboy (a busboy used the internet to obtain access to the private finances of hundreds the richest people in america)
  • 2. stealing from himself (a man fakes his own death in an attempt to avoid credit card debt, and who was caught attempting to use his own identity to get a new driver’s license)
  • 1. catch him if you can (the subject of the 2002 movie, ‘catch me if you can,’ frank abagnale eluded authorities by posing as an airline pilot, doctor, assistant attorney general, and history professor)

i was glad to see the golbs make the list. it is one of the stranger things to happen in scholarship in a while.

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