Sunday, November 08, 2009

Reaction to Black Athena

In the supposed scholarly reactions to Martin Bernal's Black Athena see many well-educated scholars putting down a new idea. What’s up with that? To make any progress in any discipline, but especially history, you have to take a “leap of faith” and then explore it. But, if you put it in print, WATCH OUT! The other kiddies in the sand box may kick sand in your face! Just because Martin Bernal has this idea, does not mean that he’s right. Maybe he is. By the way, how will we ever know for certain? My time machine doesn’t work anymore. It is part of the historical method to explore. Don’t we have a lecture series titled “Voyages of Discovery?” Oh, I get it. We can only make discoveries from one sandbox, I see. Bernal has an idea. Let’s see if he’s right, ok? He might… and then, we have new paths to follow. Wouldn’t it be great if we all had more work to do? It tends to launch careers and make for intellectual heroes. That’s not a bad thing.

True explorers do not ask if they will return, only that there may be something “out there.” Bernal has set his sails. Now, he must fight off the literary assassins who would quiet his “nonsense.” It only becomes nonsense because of its controversial nature. However, Bernal follows the same methods proposed by any historian seeking historical inquiry. What he faces is politics, the deadlier side of the intellectual equation. Ironically, it is the same side that historians often write about. So, there be expert pirates in those murky waters!

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