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Thread: Does Religious Background Preclude Historical Objectivity?

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    Re: Does Religious Background Preclude Historical Objectivity?

    A scholar is not a true scholar unless he or she is capable of seeing their biases and not letting it effect their work.

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    Re: Does Religious Background Preclude Historical Objectivity?

    Quote Originally Posted by repeter View Post
    I recently watched an interview Fox conducted of Reza Aslan, who wrote a book called "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth," and the interviewer was obsessed with why Aslan, a Muslim, decided to write a book about Jesus. Aslan essentially spends the entire interview explaining what a scholar and a PhD is, along with what an academic work is.

    To me, the answer seems obvious, but do you think that an academic can write about a person such as Jesus without being influenced by their personal religious background?

    The video is really worth watching, especially the part at 9:10. Absolutely hilarious.

    http://video.foxnews.com/v/256805964...ds-to-critics/

    If you're interested in nuance, can an academic career like Aslan's overcome any potential personal influences?
    Yes, of course. It's insulting to suggest that a scholar has an inherent bias that must be overcome. There is an expectation of intellectual rigor within the Academy. And Dr. Aslan certainly has the credentials, including an MFA (creative writing): Reza Aslan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I agreed with much of what he said. But he made four “I have a Ph.D.” references, and that was three too many. First time, okay. Second time, I noticed. Third time I thought, “Man, you’re defensive and patronizing.” Fourth time, I was embarrassed for him.

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    Re: Does Religious Background Preclude Historical Objectivity?

    In the specific case that is mentioned, no, it does not preclude objectivity, but there are lots of religious people who cannot be objective about much at all, including history, so it's certainly possible.
    There is nothing demonstrably true that religion can provide the world that cannot be achieved more rationally through entirely secular means.

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    Re: Does Religious Background Preclude Historical Objectivity?

    Quote Originally Posted by repeter View Post
    I recently watched an interview Fox conducted of Reza Aslan, who wrote a book called "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth," and the interviewer was obsessed with why Aslan, a Muslim, decided to write a book about Jesus. Aslan essentially spends the entire interview explaining what a scholar and a PhD is, along with what an academic work is.

    To me, the answer seems obvious, but do you think that an academic can write about a person such as Jesus without being influenced by their personal religious background?

    The video is really worth watching, especially the part at 9:10. Absolutely hilarious.

    http://video.foxnews.com/v/256805964...ds-to-critics/

    If you're interested in nuance, can an academic career like Aslan's overcome any potential personal influences?
    How many times did he call himself a scholar with a PhD in Religions? He actually had 100 pages of notes when he wrote his book, Zealot, which were taken from 1000 books he said he has read.
    Well, he could have read Fifty Shades of Gray for all we know.
    How does one go about writing a debate, which is what I believe he called it, without inserting yourself?

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    Re: Does Religious Background Preclude Historical Objectivity?

    Quote Originally Posted by repeter View Post
    I recently watched an interview Fox conducted of Reza Aslan, who wrote a book called "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth," and the interviewer was obsessed with why Aslan, a Muslim, decided to write a book about Jesus. Aslan essentially spends the entire interview explaining what a scholar and a PhD is, along with what an academic work is.

    To me, the answer seems obvious, but do you think that an academic can write about a person such as Jesus without being influenced by their personal religious background?

    The video is really worth watching, especially the part at 9:10. Absolutely hilarious.

    http://video.foxnews.com/v/256805964...ds-to-critics/

    If you're interested in nuance, can an academic career like Aslan's overcome any potential personal influences?
    That interviewer just couldn't past Aslan's religion. What a bigot.

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    Re: Does Religious Background Preclude Historical Objectivity?

    Firstly, No one is perfectly objective. We are all influenced by what is important to us, and if religion is important to a person, it will certainly play a role in that person's bias.

    Objectivity takes practice, and it is never perfected. That is, in fact, the primary importance of peer review in scholarly research.

    So, yes, it does preclude total objectivity. But, no more than that for anyone else who has things which a important to them. And the skill for developing more perfect objectivity is certainly available to those with religious background.
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    Re: Does Religious Background Preclude Historical Objectivity?

    No, it doesn't. Obviously nobody is "totally" objective. In order to be totally objective one would have to have no opinions on anything whatsoever and thus be brain-dead. But it is perfectly possible to have strong beliefs and still make an objective analysis.

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    Re: Does Religious Background Preclude Historical Objectivity?

    Interesting criticism of Aslan's credentials:

    "None of these degrees is in history, so Aslan’s repeated claims that he has 'a Ph.D. in the history of religions' and that he is 'a historian' are false. Nor is 'professor of religions' what he does 'for a living.' He is an associate professor in the Creative Writing program at the University of California, Riverside, where his terminal MFA in fiction from Iowa is his relevant academic credential. It appears he has taught some courses on Islam in the past, and he may do so now, moonlighting from his creative writing duties at Riverside. Aslan has been a busy popular writer, and he is certainly a tireless self-promoter, but he is nowhere known in the academic world as a scholar of the history of religion. And a scholarly historian of early Christianity? Nope.

    What about that Ph.D.? As already noted, it was in sociology. I have his dissertation in front of me. It is a 140-page work titled “Global Jihadism as a Transnational Social Movement: A Theoretical Framework.” If Aslan’s Ph.D. is the basis of a claim to scholarly credentials, he could plausibly claim to be an expert on social movements in twentieth-century Islam. He cannot plausibly claim, as he did to Lauren Green, that he is a 'historian,' or is a 'professor of religions' 'for a living.'"

    Reza Aslan Misrepresents His Scholarly Credentials » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

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    Re: Does Religious Background Preclude Historical Objectivity?

    Quote Originally Posted by laska View Post
    A scholar is not a true scholar unless he or she is capable of seeing their biases and not letting it effect their work.
    Biases don't exist just because a Fox News mouthpiece says they do.

    Quote Originally Posted by nota bene View Post
    Interesting criticism of Aslan's credentials..
    Looks like the author of that criticism didn't do much research. Aslan has four degrees: BA in Religion from Santa Clara University, Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in sociology and the history of religion from UC Santa Barbara.

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    Re: Does Religious Background Preclude Historical Objectivity?

    Quote Originally Posted by Napoleon View Post
    Biases don't exist just because a Fox News mouthpiece says they do.



    Looks like the author of that criticism didn't do much research. Aslan has four degrees: BA in Religion from Santa Clara University, Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in sociology and the history of religion from UC Santa Barbara.
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