Dead Names, Dead Dog: Shoddy Scholarship

Before we jump into Dead Names, I want to address an oft repeated claim therein. The Necronomicon Files, "Simon" asserts, is filled with poor scholarship.

In some cases, this might be true. Any book is likely to have errors, omissions, and other flaws, especially if it ranges as widely as The Necronomicon Files does. When this is the case, John and I are committed to updating our book to reflect better techniques, more recent scholarship.

Let's not pretend, though. Simon's real attempt here is to spend so much time accusing others of bad scholarship that nobody bothers to check on his. And Simon's scholarship is often horrendous.

Here's Simon's most lengthy and devastating attack on pages 309-310. Take a deep breath, and start:

I did a great deal of research on Sumerian, Akkadian, and Babylonian mythology, culture, and religion when I was editing the book and writing the introduction… There are now many such works available on the internet, as well as papers written by specialists in these fields, men and women who have university affiliation and peer review and have published articles and books on these subjects. As discussed at great length already, my sources for everything I assert are excellent, and there has been even more published in the last thirty years that corroborates my position: on KUTULU, on “chthonic”, on Humwawa, on the Underworld, on the planetary magic of the Sumerians and later Babylonians, etc., even including a growing body of literature on the Sanskrit and Indo-European connections with the Sumerian language. None of that has changed; in fact, it has been substantiated in many forums by many academics and scholars over the years.

This raises a question, however – if "Simon" has all these recent, peer-reviewed, scholarly sources that bear out everything he says, why doesn't he quote them?

This is not to say that "Simon" does not have some recent academic or specialized sources – Hoyland's Arabia and the Arabs (2001), or Shirazi's Al-Jinn (1994), or a few of his articles on linguistics – yet these are the exceptions. A few observations are appropriate.

First, for a man who sets "the last thirty years" as his touchstone for research, very few of "Simon's" scholarly sources date within that time frame. This isn't to say that old sources must be wrong, but they should be checked against more recent ones to ensure accuracy. Simon's sources are often extremely dated, and some that appear more recent (such as Danielou's Gods of India and Dasgupta's Hindu Mysticism) are in fact reprints of much older sources. This is usually the hallmark of an author who hasn't really bothered to do much reading on a topic after a particular date, and who is not particularly concerned with discovering the latest scholarship on his topics.

While the Internet can be a good source of information, it must be corroborated with other sources to ensure accuracy. At times in Dead Names, "Simon" simply takes information off the Internet without double-checking it, or even reading it closely. For proving the word order of "Kutulu," his infamous variation of Lovecraft's "Cthulhu," "Simon" doesn't go to a grammar or dictionary. Instead he chooses two people who posted on the Internet on this topic. I've spoken with both over the years, and neither has ever claimed to know Sumerian. (We'll get to that claim later.) Likewise, his linguistic section includes a curious URL that claims that Sumerian has links to Latvian and begging us to overlook all that pesky linguistic research to the contrary. Simon tosses it into the mix without a second thought.

Finally, given "Simon's" focus on the religion and mythology of Mesopotamia, he should be quoting all those recent, scholarly, academic sources that he declares. Aside from a brief reference to Black and Green's Gods, Demons and Symbols of Mesopotamia, however, the only recent work on this topic "Simon" quotes is From the Omens of Babylon, a popular work by Michael Baigent of Holy Blood, Holy Grail fame. All of his other sources on Mesopotamian date from 1971 and back; some even go back to the 19th century!

This isn't just nitpicking over sources, but an illustration of a broader problem with Dead Names. Behind most books is an implied contract. The author will present their views as accurately and completely as they possibly can. The reader is then able to pick up the book and partake of it at their leisure, knowing that the person who provided it did their job and not having to worry about double-checking everything.

As I see it, "Simon" takes advantage of this. He'll often count on the fact that most readers will not check the Necronomicon, The Necronomicon Files, his own sources, or even previous pages in Dead Names itself to see if it's true. If this is correct, Dead Names displays a shocking level of contempt for its readers.

A harsh charge? Not if I can show Simon doing this time and time again. And I can.

Next time, more Simonic source skullduggery…

Published in: on June 23, 2006 at 7:45 am  Comments (2)  

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  1. […] “Simon” goes on to show that Cutha was, indeed, a city with a vast metropolis connected with the Underworld.  He’s made a credible case, and I’ve been able to find this in other sources.  Thus, I’m going to enter this into the errata. It’s too early for his supporters to celebrate, however.  Often, what is more interesting than what “Simon” says is what he doesn’t say.  “Simon” brings up his “Sumerian phraseology” and then lets it drop, as if he’s proven that “Kutu-Lu” is a correct word as well.  Actually, as I posted not so long ago, his only source for this information is two posters on the Internet who, to my knowledge, have no personal knowledge of Sumerian.  What’s really going on here? […]

  2. […] What “Simon” actually presents here is a list of people – some professors, some amateur scholars, and some whose credentials are completely unknown – to indicate that Sumerian might indeed be linked to Sanskrit. This includes that curious Sanskrit-Latvian site that I discussed previously. “Simon’s” strategy is to throw as many names as possible out here, in hopes that nobody will actually check on them. […]

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