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Does Religious Background Preclude Historical Objectivity?

Does it?


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repeter

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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.

[video]http://video.foxnews.com/v/2568059649001/zealot-author-reza-aslan-responds-to-critics/[/video]

If you're interested in nuance, can an academic career like Aslan's overcome any potential personal influences?
 

Carjosse

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Why considering Jesus plays a part in Islam, I would say they are good to write a book on it.
 

DVSentinel

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No. Religion does not. Preconceived notions do, so it is therefore not limited to only religion.

While I don't know a whole lot about Islam, I did know that Jesus is part of it. My understanding based upon what I was told a longtime ago is that one of the differences between Sunnis and Shi'ites is that one accepts him as a Prophet while the other says he was a great teacher. So to those who are not aware of that, then they may think it wrong for a Muslim to write about Jesus.

Religion is hardly the only thing that can block historical objectivity. Simply look at the number of socialist who believe it can actually work at anything higher than a hunter-gatherer tribe.
 

Redress

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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.

[video]http://video.foxnews.com/v/2568059649001/zealot-author-reza-aslan-responds-to-critics/[/video]

If you're interested in nuance, can an academic career like Aslan's overcome any potential personal influences?
The interview is hilarious. "Why would you as a muslim be interested in the founder of christianity?" "Because it's my job..." The interviewer is a complete and total idiot.
 

polisciguy

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I voted no, but I will elaborate by saying that it certainly can. Some people are able to separate the subject and their personal biases better than others. So, it certainly can, but that does not mean it does all of the time.
 

Aunt Spiker

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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.

[video]http://video.foxnews.com/v/2568059649001/zealot-author-reza-aslan-responds-to-critics/[/video]

If you're interested in nuance, can an academic career like Aslan's overcome any potential personal influences?
Yes - non religious and religious-but-not-looking-at-it-from-my-religious-perspective minded people can be removed and analytical if they decide that's important. It's not easy nor is it first nature. It is, however, essential - and this needs to happen more often as, otherwise, you risk tainting your research/studies/findings with opinion and bias.
 

douglas

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If you're interested in nuance, can an academic career like Aslan's overcome any potential personal influences?
I was confused by this question, it seems to be the opposite of the header. I voted 'yes', to this question ^^^ , but maybe I should have voted 'no' for the header. I don't know, it probably doesn't matter that much. (What, are the poll police gonna get me?)

I think that all people's perceptions are altered due to preconceived notions, which influences their expression of their knowledge. A big one is religion, so I'd expect a very different take of the Jesus story from a Muslim than a Christian. But, to the point of whether he can overcome this burden of preconceived notions? Of course, a fresh look at this story is probably going to lead him a top spot within theologian historical writers. This isn't a burden for him to overcome, this is a gift.
 

a351

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It can, especially when discussing a subject the author may feel strongly about, but suggesting that it's inevitable and impossible to overcome is silly.
 

Medusa

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"Why would you as a muslim be interested in the founder of christianity?"

what an ignorant question as if muslims dont believe in jesus christ
 

Aunt Spiker

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"Why would you as a muslim be interested in the founder of christianity?"

what an ignorant question as if muslims dont believe in jesus christ
Yes - his question should have been "tell me about Islam. I know nothing at all."
 

laska

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

nota bene

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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.

[video]http://video.foxnews.com/v/2568059649001/zealot-author-reza-aslan-responds-to-critics/[/video]

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.
 

Cephus

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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.
 

lolabird

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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.

[video]http://video.foxnews.com/v/2568059649001/zealot-author-reza-aslan-responds-to-critics/[/video]

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?
 

CLAX1911

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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.

[video]http://video.foxnews.com/v/2568059649001/zealot-author-reza-aslan-responds-to-critics/[/video]

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.
 

Dezaad

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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.
 

Artevelde

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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.
 

nota bene

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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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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.

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.
 

Strucker

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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.
Don't interfere with irritating facts.
 

nota bene

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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.
Looks like you didn't actually read the criticism. Aslan claimed in the interview to hold a Ph.D. in History:

"I am a scholar of religions with four degrees including one in the New Testament . . . I am an expert with a Ph.D. in the history of religions . . . I am a professor of religions, including the New Testament–that’s what I do for a living, actually . . . To be clear, I want to emphasize one more time, I am a historian, I am a Ph.D. in the history of religions."

In fact, Aslan holds NO degrees in history. Religion isn't history (BA), theological studies isn't history (MTS), creative writing isn't history (MFA), and a Ph.D. in Sociology is NOT a Ph.D. in History.
 

repeter

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Looks like you didn't actually read the criticism. Aslan claimed in the interview to hold a Ph.D. in History:

"I am a scholar of religions with four degrees including one in the New Testament . . . I am an expert with a Ph.D. in the history of religions . . . I am a professor of religions, including the New Testament–that’s what I do for a living, actually . . . To be clear, I want to emphasize one more time, I am a historian, I am a Ph.D. in the history of religions."

In fact, Aslan holds NO degrees in history. Religion isn't history (BA), theological studies isn't history (MTS), creative writing isn't history (MFA), and a Ph.D. in Sociology is NOT a Ph.D. in History.
Read your own quotes, he said history of religions, not history with a focus in religions. His doctorate in sociology focuses in the history of religion. The term "history of religion" cannot be subdivided without changing the meaning.
 

nota bene

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I don't know how to explain more clearly that a doctorate in sociology is not the same as a doctorate in history. Yes, sociologists do study religions, but this does not make them historians, which is what Aslan claims he is. What you could do is go to Google Scholar and see how many publications Aslan has in history journals. Answer: None.

reza aslan - Google Scholar

Here is a link that will describe what a sociology degree in the history of religions is about:

Baylor University || Sociology || Ph.D: Emphasis in Sociology of Religion

And here is an excerpt from an article at Powerline by Joe Malchow:

This is a pattern well known to the modern. One dabbles in religion in undergraduate, maybe purchases a pricey Masters at a good school, and then turns to what he always wanted to do in the first place, which is to compose expressive narrative fiction [Aslan is an associate professor of creative writing]. ...One does not gather up a B.A. in religion, an M.F.A., a sociology doctorate, and a masters and set about pronouncing historical fact like an antiquarian archeologist fresh from a dig. Aslan’s doctoral thesis was a 140-page work entitled “Global Jihadism as a Transnational Social Movement: A Theoretical Framework.” The phrase “A Theoretical Framework” translates to “Not History.”

My best read of Reza Aslan is that he wanted to write novels roughly along the lines of the screenplay of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but fell into the degree-collecting trap while on his way, and that final veer from serious scholarship–the M.F.A. at modern novelist factory Iowa followed by sociology in sun-drunk Santa Barbara–left poor Aslan without any sense of direction at all. He looked back upon all that time in academe and concluded rightly that he, as have so many of us, chose poorly; he started to make an orthogonal shift into serious studies. But that is the sort of thing one does very gingerly, very delicately. Which makes his pulling rank on Fox News really very amusing. This is the Best Thing that Ever Happened to Reza Aslan | Power Line
 

repeter

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I don't know how to explain more clearly that a doctorate in sociology is not the same as a doctorate in history. Yes, sociologists do study religions, but this does not make them historians, which is what Aslan claims he is.
He said he is a scholar in the history of religions. That is indivisible, Once you remove the "of religions" portion, you entirely change what Aslan was saying. Again, read your own quotes, he works in the history of religions.

I don't know why you see Aslan say "history" and take it to mean that he claims to be anything but a historian of religions. To any objective observer, it is ridiculously obvious that Aslan holds he is a scholar in the history of religions. Not history. History of religions. I can't stress this enough.

What you could do is go to Google Scholar and see how many publications Aslan has in history journals. Answer: None.reza aslan - Google Scholar
History of religions ​:doh

Here is a link that will describe what a sociology degree in the history of religions is about:

Baylor University || Sociology || Ph.D: Emphasis in Sociology of Religion

And here is an excerpt from an article at Powerline by Joe Malchow:

This is a pattern well known to the modern. One dabbles in religion in undergraduate, maybe purchases a pricey Masters at a good school, and then turns to what he always wanted to do in the first place, which is to compose expressive narrative fiction [Aslan is an associate professor of creative writing]. ...One does not gather up a B.A. in religion, an M.F.A., a sociology doctorate, and a masters and set about pronouncing historical fact like an antiquarian archeologist fresh from a dig. Aslan’s doctoral thesis was a 140-page work entitled “Global Jihadism as a Transnational Social Movement: A Theoretical Framework.” The phrase “A Theoretical Framework” translates to “Not History.”

My best read of Reza Aslan is that he wanted to write novels roughly along the lines of the screenplay of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but fell into the degree-collecting trap while on his way, and that final veer from serious scholarship–the M.F.A. at modern novelist factory Iowa followed by sociology in sun-drunk Santa Barbara–left poor Aslan without any sense of direction at all. He looked back upon all that time in academe and concluded rightly that he, as have so many of us, chose poorly; he started to make an orthogonal shift into serious studies. But that is the sort of thing one does very gingerly, very delicately. Which makes his pulling rank on Fox News really very amusing. This is the Best Thing that Ever Happened to Reza Aslan | Power Line
That's a wonderful opinion piece. It doesn't do much to show how Aslan is any less qualified to talk about the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth, nor does it say how
 

Paschendale

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In principal, no of course not. In practice, when it comes to the historical evidence that clearly disproves a person's religion despite their emotional attachment to it, yeah it tends to work out that way.
 
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