How can you better do research? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
So in the discussion portion of my blog on research recently came a discussion on what to do about it. There really is no easy answer. This is especially so since it requires the masses do research and most people can’t maintain focus for less than a minute on something. That’s why so many shows have soundbites instead so you can get a quick grab.
For those of us who do care, here are some tips I recommend.
First, always if possible go with books. Now note that this is talking about serious topics and not entertainment topics. I like to watch YouTube videos about video games and pop culture. If you were doing an academic study of pop culture, that wouldn’t work, but for popular interest, going to popular sources is fine.
However, if you want to learn about a topic in-depth, unless you know the source very well and know them to be accurate, do not go to YouTube videos. Naturally, if it’s the author of a book himself talking or something of that sort, that’s fine, but don’t go with the YouTube expert. They might know what they’re talking about or it might be a bunch of bunk. You don’t know.
Second, even with a book, you need to get the information that is from a good source. With Kindle, many people can self-publish easily. You can get some good material, but like with YouTube, you can also get garbage. You need to consider the source. However, publishing houses don’t want to publish books they think they will lose on and if a book doesn’t look good, it won’t be published. (Consider all the publishing houses kicking themselves who got the first Harry Potter novel and never published it.)
So, when you’re looking for a book, go with the publishing house you think has the best credentials as well. The more academic the better. Now let’s talk about the author some.
For the author, go with someone who has a degree, preferably a doctorate, in a field related to the topic. Richard Dawkins is just fine if you want to do zoology and biology. He is not fine when he stumbles into philosophy or history or Biblical studies. Thus, you can read a book like The Blind Watchmaker and learn stuff about biology and evolution, but when he pulls it over into philosophy in the book even if it is subtle, Dawkins is then speaking out of his area of expertise.
Meanwhile, take someone like N.T. Wright. N.T. Wright is just fine if you’re talking about religion, the Bible, church history, New Testament, that sort of thing. However, he is not an expert on scientific matters and is not the person to consult on evolution. If you meet someone who thinks they know something on everything, they don’t.
This is also something important to do period. So many people come to me and think that since I’m an apologist, I must know something about everything and will ask me questions about science. Sorry. I don’t answer those. I will gladly point you to friends who do, but I am not an authority in those areas.
Another tip to follow is when it comes to recent discoveries in something like science or archaeology, don’t jump on a bandwagon immediately. For me, it mostly happens in archaeology. I have many friends who will jump on the latest finding that supports Scripture. I get it. It makes sense. However, I recommend that you wait until the material gets peer-reviewed and then share it. This could take a couple of years, but it beats going out triumphant only to have a flaw with the data be shown. The same can apply to scientific findings.
This also goes for atheists. Don’t be so quick to jump on something because you think it’s a disproof of the Bible or something like that. Give these discoveries time.
Also, please don’t go with those people who are sensationalist and go to the press before going to the scholars. This happened with Joseph Atwill who many reporters claimed was a Bible scholar when he just had Jesus mythicist garbage. No. He wasn’t a scholar. He never went to the scholars because none of them would have taken him seriously.
This is also a problem with conspiracy theories. If you think you alone know something that all the experts out there think there is zero evidence of, then you are likely wrong. If you hear a strange story you can honestly wonder why no one in the news has covered it. This can range all the way from conservative news sources to liberal news sources. If no one is covering it, there’s probably a reason for that. Keep in mind also, there are crackpots on all sides.
For atheists, it’s often Jesus mythicism. So many atheists have fooled themselves into thinking they’re in the know on this great secret scholars have missed. I still laugh thinking about someone saying to me in a debate on the Facebook page of a local news channel when I lived in Knoxville that scholars don’t even know if Jesus existed. Yeah. They do. Mythicism seems to come with a bit of arrogance. I personally have a mathematical theory that the arrogance of many internet atheists is in direct proportion to their ignorance.
For Christians, it can more often be arguing against evolution. Now readers know I don’t say yea or nay on evolution because I am not a scientist, but I have a problem with Christians who go out and argue against evolution and yet have never read a scientific book in their life. If you do that, you will get embarrassed, but more than that, you will make Jesus look like an embarrassment.
By the way, this is also an important point. Read both sides as much as possible. Naturally, you can’t read everything, but I have found in the past few years an interesting question to ask people is “When was the last time you read something academic that disagreed with you?” Very few people seem to answer this question. I am sure there’s a reason for that.
Also, realize the other side can always teach you something. If you are an atheist and read William Lane Craig or Edward Feser and learn nothing, you are not paying attention. If you are a Christian and read Bart Ehrman and Richard Dawkins and get nothing out of it, you learn nothing. For me, Ehrman has sometimes given me interesting ideas on how to read a passage that have been enlightening. With Dawkins, while the guy knows nothing about areas outside of his expertise, when he writes about animals and nature, it is simply beautiful and amazing.
Of course, also learn good logical reasoning. Learn how to make a syllogism and logical fallacies. Learn what it takes to demonstrate a point or at least provide good evidence as not all cases can be demonstrated. They can just have really good evidence. It’s a mistake today to insist on “proof.” In many cases, it doesn’t exist.
Those are some of my recommendations and naturally, it will just depend on us. What people have to ask themselves is if they want to be informed or not. Even if you disagree, try to have an informed disagreement. If you don’t, then those who do know something will look at you like you don’t know what you’re talking about, and rightly so.
And I affirm the virgin birth.