Why fear the history of science? A brief response to Don Wiebe

The Problem of Disenchantment: Scientific Naturalism and Esoteric Discourse, 1900-1939 (Brill, 2014)I am more used to being labelled a “scientistic reductionist” than an “anti-science relativist”. While neither is particularly accurate, I was certainly surprised to see Don Wiebe review my book, The Problem of Disenchantment, as a “full-scale attack on modern Western science” (p. 1). Ironically, the review (published online in the journal Religion) appears side by side with an article of mine [free postprint here] that argues for consilience between the humanities and the sciences, so readers are likely to walk away a bit puzzled.

Since the charge of anti-science is a serious one, however, and since it comes from a well-respected scholar whose ardent support for a scientific and secular study of religion I have, in fact, admired since my undergraduate days, it seems necessary to take a moment to clarify some crucial issues that appear to get mixed up in the review.

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Database of journals/publishers’ copyright policies (RoMEO)

Academics and other people interested in peer-reviewed research are often frustrated about paywalls and publication delays, and confused about what’s allowed in terms of sharing drafts and published articles online. I was recently made aware of a great resource for dealing with the latter of those issues: The SHERPA/RoMEO database for publisher copyright policies and self-archiving rights. While published articles are often hidden behind paywalls, many journals allow authors to self-archive pre-prints (drafts prior to peer review) and/or post-prints (accepted drafts after peer-review, but prior to typesetting and final edits by the journal) on their own website, or in online repositories. Some even allow authors to distribute the final, typeset articles this way. What the RoMEO database does is to provide a search tool for finding the policies of individual journals. This can be very helpful for academics who are wondering which of their articles can be distributed in what form and fashion, and may perhaps be useful even for choosing where to submit a paper in the first place.

In my own case, I was pleased to find that the home of one of my long “in press” articles – which passed peer-review and was accepted for publication already a year and a half ago, but is still frustratingly clogged up in a publication queue – allows self-archiving of post-prints. So in order to make sure that this article does not become even more outdated than it already is by now, I have made “Dis/Unity of Knowledge: Models for the Study of Modern Esotericism and Science” available from the publication list here on Heterodoxology (and over at Occult Minds). The final article will hopefully appear in Numen some time later this year.