History and ASA

From: Ted Davis <tdavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Thu Nov 17 2005 - 09:10:58 EST

>>> "George Murphy" <gmurphy@raex.com> 11/16/05 8:34 PM >>>writes:
Since this is an ASA list it's relevant to point out that the constitution
of the ASA (Article III, Section 2, c.) includes "history" in its broad
definition of science for purposes of membership.

Ted comments:
I've actually been asked about this very thing--the inclusion of history as
among the relevant disciplines for the ASA--and here is what I think.
First, I do not know the history of the "history", if I can put it that way.
 Mark Kalthoff might, but I don't. I'm prepared to bow before the facts, if
someone actually unearths them. The rest of my response is speculative,
although in the absence of further information I think it's a very
reasonable speculation.

My suspicion is, that history was included b/c it was once considered by
many in academe as a branch of social science rather than as a branch of the
humanities--which is how it is usually seen today. My own view is the
modern one, that history is in the humanities rather than the social
sciences. I do not see history per se as part of the ASA umbrella, despite
the fact that "history" is there. History of science clearly is part of the
umbrella, however--indeed, I would argue (no surprise) that HSC is either
the single most important discipline for the modern religion/science
conversation (in support of that, let me note that when the Templeton
foundation sought out model courses on science and religion to use in their
course program several years ago, 3 of the 5 models they chose were taught
by historians of science) or at least one of the 2 or 3 most important
disciplines. But I won't take that one further here, I think most ASAers
would fully agree that HSC is vital to the ASA. Intellectual history, which
some regard as a dying specialty (I don't, but it might be seriously ill),
is often relevant to ASA's concerns.

Philosophy of science likewise, but philosophy per se is IMO more relevant
to the ASA than history per se.

All this having been said, some important ASAers are/have been historians,
and not historians of science. Just to pick two obvious examples: the late
W Stanford Reid was a good reformation scholar who knew a lot about Calvin
and science (of much relevance to the ASA), and Ed Yamauchi is an excellent
ancient historian (and his knowledge of the biblical world is surely
relevant to the ASA).

So, one can make a good argument that historians (undifferentiated) ought
to be included.

On a larger issue, however, I really do wonder why we bother to indicate
which disciplines belong and which don't. Isn't the real issue simply one's
own interest in participating in the ASA? I entirely support a specifically
Christian statement of faith for membership, but the disciplinary thing
seems quite irrelevant to me here in 2005. If a carpenter or a secretary or
an elementary schoolteacher or a homemaker wants to join the ASA, read the
journal, and/or attend our meetings, why in the world would we want to keep
him or her out? Obviously such persons would not (in most cases, not quite
all) be qualified to lead the organization or to contribute to PSCF, but if
they perceive a benefit worth paying the dues for, why should we not welcome
them into the organization? I am not worried about a potential "swamping"
effect, in which people with relatively little knowledge of science try to
influence opinions in such a way as to drive away professional scientists--I
doubt that such people would be attracted to the ASA in the first place.
Rather, let us enhance our opportunities to provide leadership on important
issues, leadership first to the body of Christ and then to our secular

This isn't a "campaign promise," but it's something I want to push for if I
get onto the council.

Received on Thu Nov 17 09:12:41 2005

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