#462…SCI, RELIG, etc.: “Why Do Research?”


[This, of course, relates to those 3 questions a thinking person should continually be asking himself (and that we’ve discussed several times):  (1) What is?  (2) What matters?  and (3) Then what should I do?]


   Tryggve Mettinger¹ (an Old Testament scholar) puts it this way: “Why do we engage in research? The Swedish biologist Hans B. Boman lists three different types of motivation for a scholar: the moral one (to alleviate suffering²),


For more use the DOOR.




[repeating #1]  “[the] three different types of motivation for a scholar: the moral one (to alleviate suffering), the amoral one (sheer curiosity and creative zest), and, finally, pure ambition. Ambition? Yes, I confess. Curiosity and creative zest? Yes indeed, they have probably been still more important in my case. Moral motivation? Hardly. Hobby activities during well-paid working hours have been a suspect but irresistible temptation–but I promise to improve at last.”³


   What a refreshing description from prominent scholar at his [formal4] retirement lecture at Lund University. Of course, there’s some good-spirited self-deprecating here. But it’s a refreshing reminder that research of any kind is done by humans, and even the best of us does not totally escape personal agendas5. Everybody comes from somewhere. Good research, as well as lighter “offerings,” gains credibility by peer reaction and review (as my next post will illustrate).

   All “teachings”–in theology, science, whatever–come from humans.


   ¹From Chapter 1 of Tryggve N. D. Mettinger, Report from a Scholar’s Life: Select Papers on the Hebrew Bible, edited by Andrew Knapp (WinonaLake: Eisenbrauns, 2015), p. 20.

   ² Parenthetic material included in original (at this point and the rest of this paragraph).

   ³ See next sentence.

   4 Scholars habitually forget how to completely retire, however.

   5 Having completed a dissertation myself, reason #3 (above) was my driving force, with #2, in the end run, coming in a weak second.

Author: John Knapp