Monday, July 27, 2009

Why academics are conformists

Minnesota psychologist Thomas Bouchard said academics are conformists in the July 3, 2009 edition of the journal Science, according to New York Times blogger Nicholas Wade in the TierneyLab blog.

Wade reports that Bouchard said:
The strength of this urge to conform can silence even those who have good reason to think the majority is wrong. You’re an expert because all your peers recognize you as such. But if you start to get too far out of line with what your peers believe, they will look at you askance and start to withdraw the informal title of “expert” they have implicitly bestowed on you. Then you’ll bear the less comfortable label of “maverick,” which is only a few stops short of “scapegoat” or “pariah.” (See Source, below)
This psychological insight explains why Doubt about Will founder John Shahan's campaign for theDeclaration of Reasonable Doubt about the Identity of William Shakespeare is so effective in eroding that hole in the dike of academic resistance to the authorship question. Once the looney lable is eliminated, honest query will flood the swamp of ignorance about the writer who created the English language.

Source:"Newsmaker Interview: Behavioral Geneticist Celebrates Twins, Scorns PC Science" by Constance Holden. Science 3 July 2009: Vol. 325. no. 5936, p. 27

Tom Hunter comments on Shermer's SciAm essay

Oberon Chairperson Tom Hunter, PhD, commented online today on Michael Shermer's pro-Stratfordian essay in the August 2009 Scientific American at: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=skeptics-take-on-the-life&page=2&posted=1#comments

Hunter wrote:

Mr. Shermer gets it wrong about Oxfordians.

Justice Steven’s decision for Oxford as the true Shakespeare beyond a reasonable doubt was not the granting of some baseless wish. It was the inevitable discovery, by someone who could not be ignored, a justice of the United States Supreme Court, about where the considerable evidence for Oxford reasonably leads us. Justice Scalia has come to the same conclusion. Two Supreme Court justices. It is fine for Mr Shermer to dissent. We welcome dissent. But we need stronger dissent than the well-worn uninformed, erroneous, blustery reasons he gives, such as that there is zero evidence that Edward de Vere wrote under a pseudonym. Shermer needs to do his reading. He needs to read The Art of English Poesy, 1589:

. . . some courtiers write well but suppress it & or else suffered it to be published without their won names to it, as it were a discredit for a gentleman to seem, learned and to show himself amorous of any good art. And some noble-men have written excellently well, as it would appear if their doings could be found out and made public with the rest, of which number is first that noble gentleman Edward, Earl of Oxford.

In all, the Scientific American – that revered journal which in 1940 gave us Charles Wisner Barrell’s brilliant analysis of so-called Shakespeare portraits at the Folger – can do much better. Oh, yes. Barrell was an Oxfordian. His work has been updated recently by Oxfordians such as Barbara Burris, as covered by The New York Times. But anyone who would know Oxfordian research well enough to criticize it would know that.

 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

SciAm not so rational

Spurred by the Wall Street Journal article about Justice John Paul Steven’s anti-Stratfordianism, professional skeptic and publisher of Skeptic magazine, Michael Shermer, inveighs against the evils of authorship heresy in the August 2009 Scientific American. I’ve never understood Shermer’s staunch stance against authorship agnosticism. I would have thought that a skeptic might wonder how a man who couldn’t write managed to pen all those plays, or how the man from Stratford knew so much about science, math, astronomy, languages, law, mythology, and myriad books and authors. I thought a skeptic might be skeptical. But no, Shermer’s only concern is his hatred of conspiracy theorists. But what if there were no conspiracy? What if history just got it wrong when someone decided the playwright was this guy from Stratford? Would Shermer become an Oxfordian? 
I doubt it. I don’t have much confidence in the intellectual acuity of the guy who said in his Scientific American essay:
Some anti-Stratfordians question Shakespeare’s existence, but the number of references to him from his own time could only be accounted for by a playwright of that name (unless de Vere used Shakespeare as a nom de plume, for which there is zero evidence).
Huh?
Shermer continued:
And although Shakespeare’s skeptics note that there are no manuscripts, receipts, diaries or letters from him, they neglect to mention that we have none of these for Marlowe, either.
Maybe we don’t have a manuscript from Kit Marlowe, but we do have letters by people who knew him that refer him as a writer. And the skeptic neglects to mention all the Elizabethan authors for whom we do have manuscripts: Ben Jonson, Thomas Nash, Gabriel Harvey, George Peele, Anthony Mundy, Thomas Middleton, and others.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Oberon meets Wednesday, July 15


Dear Oberon,
 
A brief reminder that our July meeting this week will be on Wednesday at the Farmington Library rather than Thursday.  We are making the change in the fond hope of accommodating the schedules of those who
cannot make it on Thursday.  Please let me know if the Wednesday date will cause you difficulty in being with us.
 
So we will see you at 6:45 Wednesday, July 15 at our usual place, meeting room A. We will be hearing about the results of Oberon Up North and the Interlochen Shakespeare Festival which in itself was a quite pleasant experience.  We will also be looking to the rest of the year, including the Michigan Shakespeare Festival coming up August 1, interesting productions at Stratford this summer, the UMS/Globe production of Love's Labours Lost  in October, and our Sonnet meeting planned for October.
 
Lots on our plate as usual. See you Wednesday!
 
Tom Hunter
Oberon Chair

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Shakespeare Oxford Society newsletter

I put up three new entries on the Shakepeare-Oxford Society blog about my first issue as Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter editor now being mailed to SOS members. The first post tells about the contents of the newsletter that includes contributions by Oberon members:
  • a report of the thirteenth Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference by Richard Joyrich, MD and
  • a commentary on the April 2009 Wall Street Journal article on Justice John Paul Stevens’ Oxfordian point-of-view by R. Thomas Hunter, PhD
You can preview the newsletter by reading two articles from the current issue on the SOS blog:
Linda Theil, Editor
Shakespeare-Oxford Newsletter