Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Say what?

Though I've learned a lot from the many scholarly articles and monographs that I read this year thus far, sometimes, I do understand what John Piper meant, when he said, "Using technical jargon that only insiders understand and that often conceals ambiguity." There are times that I feel like I'm reading pages and pages of one long sentence, to eventually be plopped down onto a conclusion which I'm not quite sure how the author arrived at.

Anyway, on this thought, it made me think of a few funny videos that pokes fun (well, the first one I think was serious, but the second was not) at "technical jargon" that seems to mean nothing and say nothing. Enjoy the monographs my friends, but do remember, sometimes it's just better to say it in 5 words instead of 500 (oh and apologies in advance for some foul language in video #2):


Nate said...

as a lay person in the church, I totally know what you are talking about, I often feel like the Emperor with his new clothes, or lack of clothes. I always think is there something I'm missing? There must be because the author has a PHd. I think that if an educated layperson with biblical dictionary and encyclopedia can't follow your argument then maybe it isn't a good argument.

Nate said...

Another thought I had was the appeal to the scholarly consensus. Is this consensus based on a wide array of study by people or is it base on one or two well written articles.

I have been starting to read some more scholarly works and I see this a lot:
I believe X to be true because of
A, B, and C. But points A and B depend on a reference to another piece of work. And I would have to read that work to make sure that is the point the author of A and B were trying to make.

I see this appeal a lot and I wonder if scholars and internet pseudo-scholars do the due diligence to make sure the sources he or she is appealing to actually makes sense.

I'm rambling so I will stop. Thanks

Mike S. said...

Nate: There is definitely merit to what you are saying, though at times we do need to recognize that PhD level work (e.g., monographs, journal articles) are often on the cutting-edge of current research, so at times they do tend towards difficult writings. My only concern was when it's clear that the author is just taking a long detour to say what he could have said just as clearly (and if not better) in a paragraph. As for the appeal to scholarly consensus, it is a difficult balance beam, where scholars do want to make active and valuable contributions toward scholarship but often do not want to stray so far away that they can no longer claim the "consensus" to back their research.