Wednesday 27 February 2013

Polarised and Entrenched Debate. Lots of Emotion, but Lacking in Critical Thought

"Provocateur and paid trade lobbyist Peter Tompa excels at the art of finding subjects to spin and snipe, even the most benign". Tompa has now had a go at an account of a numismatic conference with archaeological content (shock-horror), which he uses as a springboard for a brief ill-considered snipe suggesting that because one can study coins as pictures on a piece of metal, the context from which that artefact was removed has no meaning. Frankly I cannot see the logic in that, neither can Professor Nathan Elkins whose blog post it was that the coiney lobboblogger attacks. In a measured and rational response  ("The Baby and The Bathwater" Tuesday, February 26, 2013) he replies to the schoolboy arguments. He refers to the actual content of the meeting (which Tompa dishonestly or in ignorance ignores) and recent published approaches in numismatics (likewise ignored by Tompa, either dishonestly or in ignorance):
Tompa, it seems, would have us discard the importance of archaeological context simply because there are other ways that coin iconography can be studied too. [...] It is simply wrong-headed to suggest that just because there are other ways of approaching subjects that other methods are irrelevant. [...] The lobbyist's attempt at deception and sniping are characteristic of debate that has become overly polarized, entrenched, and lacking of critical thought though rife with emotion. Would it not be better to acknowledge the importance of archaeological and material context and to seek ways in which both context and ethical collecting can be preserved so that avocational passion and scientific study can continue to coexist? More moderate and reflective voices must prevail. 
For that to happen, there has to be a recognition that there are issues to be resolved. the problem with this is so many interests lie in dismissing the issue. This concerns not just dealers and collectors, but disgustingly also (in the UK at least) the academics who do not want to deal with it and hope that by dismissing the issues (for example by labelling critics as "trolls"), the problem will somehow evaporate. This is a short-sighted approach which is no better than Peter Tompa's.

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