I’ve been thinking lately about the ethics and abuses of the scholarly mantle. As someone who aspires to produce scholarship of worth to my own community and the larger world, I highly value being honest and candid about what I claim to know or do not know, and when I endeavor to advance a definite historical claim I try to be as well informed as reasonably possible, always making sure to get a handle on the full gamut of relevant evidence, even if this process may complicate my working hypothesis or require me to dispense with certain preconceived notions, to seek out alternative discussions or perspectives, realizing that for my argument to become what I want it to be it must be sharpened against the best scholarship available. That, to me, is what it means to be a scholar, to pursue truth and fair-mindedness regardless of personal prejudice or presupposition.
So it really irritates me when I see individuals clothe themselves in the mantle of scholarship as though they were reliable sources of information to write or publish on subjects for popular consumption and at the same time strenuously avoid engaging with credible scholarly analyses or readings of the evidence that would significantly complicate or undermine their point of view. The refusal to acknowledge contrary arguments and the lack of interest in trying to fairly evaluate them is really stunning and bespeaks the overriding importance of devotional concerns in determining what propositions may be considered true or worthwhile. But scholarship it is not, rather the pretense to scholarly authority.