This week I started a new class on Coursera, titled Creative Problem Solving and so much of my time went to it that I neglected to write a new blog entry for the week. Rather than skip a week here is one of the better book reviews I have done over on LibraryThing.com.
If you look at the Amazon reviews of Jon Wiener’s book “Historians in Trouble” you will see that they prove his thesis, disagreeing with powerful conservative ideas will result in unending attacks. Agreeing with those ideas will bring fame and fortune even if you fabricate, (lie about) your data. The book is actually more complex than that, and much more complex than the Amazon reviewers paint it to be.
Plagiarism, sloppy work, lying, and criminal behavior are all looked at as well as the contexts they occur in. Sloppy work and lying are worse in an academic setting, where you are paid to be correct, than it is in the private sector where you are paid to promote agendas or simply to make money. Criminal behavior, actions that will get you into court, may or may not get you fired from a tenured position in academia. None of these will prevent you from becoming a hero of conservative thought.
So far I have managed to review Wiener’s book without testing the thesis myself, here goes. In “Arming America” Michael A. Bellesiles had errors in one chart, a chart discussed on only 14 of 604 pages. The chart adds nothing to the argument, Bellesiles thesis stands without it. Bellesiles agreed that the concerns about the chart were valid and agreed to correct them in the second edition. John Lott invented a study for his book, “More Guns, Less Crime”. Made it up. The book is based on a lie. Read “Historians in Trouble” if you care to know how these cases were handled.