huff and puff?

> I'm slightly amused that Mr. Marotta would be asked to display
> his credentials or qualifications in support of his analysis
> of ANGELOS.  Let's discuss his arguments, not huff and puff
> about who has more degrees.
> Vincent Broman
> broman@nosc.mil

What follows isn't exactly a flame, but it is heating up a bit.

When I read the call for Mr. Marotta's qualifications I didn't see it as a
matter of huffing and puffing, but as a desire not to have to teach
Religion 101 on-line to people who are not paying tuition for it.   E-mail
is hailed by neophytes as a wonderful way to get into interesting
discussions, not realizing that for some of us this is the way that we earn
our keep.  Why should I give away for free what my students are paying
money for?  Instead, what I want from an e-mail discussion is not more
questions of the sort that I get in the classroom every day, but critical
discussion with my peers (since I am at a small college and have no one
else here in my specific area).  I don't want to over-state my case, for I
certainly am willing to answer some elementary questions as long as there
are enough advanced questions to keep me stimulated.  But the
signal-to-noise ratio in this group seems to me to have been declining
recently.  So, as it goes with magazine subscriptions when the magazine is
beginning to seem like a questionable investment for the value received, I
am also beginning to ask myself about the value of this group for me.  I
know, I could make an effort to change the level of the discussion, but
based on observation of the group the discussion would quickly move towards
the common denominator because of questions and comments from those who do
not have all those degrees that Vincent doesn't want us to mention.  This
is not a criticism, it is just a fact of life.

More on huffing and puffing about degrees: I am aware of the "expertise"
fallacy, using credentials to stop an argument in a sort of "trump."  But
there is an opposite fallacy too. There is a mistaken assumption going
around in much of our society that anyone's opinion is as good as anyone
else's.  If that is so, why do people still go to medical doctors when they
are sick?  Isn't your opinion just as good?  Or why not ask me what is
wrong with your car instead of a trained mechanic?  But somehow, when it
gets to matters of religion, expertise and years of experience are seen as
less important than they are in medicine or automotive mechanics, as though
somehow we really didn't do anything of consequence during those long, hard
years of grad school.

Or, to put it yet another way:  If you're not a professional in religious
studies, then think of your own area of expertise.  Think of what it is
like to be questioned and lectured to by amateurs or kibitzers who have a
hobbyist's interest in your area and who haven't put in the hours you have,
who haven't "paid their dues."  It's OK for a while, but eventually it
begins to wear you down.  And that's why, Vincent, a call for credentials
is not laudable, but understandable.

Sterling G. Bjorndahl, bjorndahl@Augustana.AB.CA or bjorndahl@camrose.uucp
Augustana University College, Camrose, Alberta, Canada      (403) 679-1516