Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The BCSE's Chairman - "Published Archaeologist"? (Inflating Your Credentials - Part 4)

Previous parts in this series:

Part one: Introduction
Part two: The BCSE's chairman, Mr. Michael Brass
Part three: Mr. Brass/the BCSE's misrepresentation of Mr. Brass's vocation

As we've progressed in this investigation, we've seen that the BCSE's front page claims that its chairman, Mr. Michael Brass, is a "published archaeologist", whilst failing to mention that in fact he is an IT worker who pursues an interest in archaeology outside of his working hours. Put alongside the description of other BCSE committee members ("IT consultant... entrepreneur... retired.... management consultant"), the impression given is that Brass (who, we are told, lives in Cambridge), is probably a professional academic with a high standing in his field - rather than a young man of about 30 who is about to start working towards his doctorate (his Yahoo profile page, last updated 2 years ago today, states he is 28 and is slightly more honest than the BCSE's website, giving his occupation as "Archaeologist/IT" - http://profiles.yahoo.com/mikearchaeology).

And anyone who's had the briefest of tours of the BCSE website knows that if they got the opportunity to find a non-Darwinist indulging in this kind of double-speak, they'd have a party that went on for weeks.

What Does "Published" Mean?

As I mentioned last time, the misleading description of Mr. Brass's vocation is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the dishonesty in the description of the BCSE's chairman goes.

The basic statement on it is "Michael Brass is a published archaeologist". Interested in this, I began researching Mr. Brass's publications record. We've seen already (in part two) that Brass is not shy when it comes to self-publicity. Here's how Brass signs himself off on the BCSE forum:

"Chairman, British Centre for Science Education.
MA in Archaeology, University College London".

Given this, it shouldn't be too tricky to track down Mr. Brass's publications record. I went to his web-site to have a browse.

And The Results?

My research led me to believe as follows: that once you drop self-published material (whether by Mr. Brass on his own website, or self-published by print-on-demand), you have the following:
  • One article in an electronic journal, freely available. "Tracing the Origins of the Ancient Egyptian Cattle Cult", freely available from http://www.antiquityofman.com/brass_EEF2002.pdf. This article appears to be based on Brass's Honours dissertation in 1998, when Brass would have been around 20.

  • ... that's it.
(Brass's own book, "The Antiquity of Man", is something we will examine in a later article. Suffice to say for now that it is self-published, and hence not something that would "count" in the world of academic publications.)

I scratched my head. I googled. The BCSE have appointed this guy as their best candidate to be chairman. He is "a published archaeologist". This is the sum of their description of him. What was I missing? I googled some more. One article that is the write-up of his Bachelor's thesis... and that was all I could find.

Well, I thought that if this was all that it was, then this was a staggering deception even for the BCSE. So, I dropped Mr. Brass an e-mail:

Hello Michael,

I'd be interested in your comments on your mini-bio on the BCSE website,
as follows:

'Michael Brass is a published archaeologist, holding archaeology and
history degrees from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and an
archaeology Masters degree from University College London. He has a web
site at http://www.antiquityofman.com, lives in Cambridge and is a
Christian who has written a book entitled "The Antiquity of Man:
Artifactual , Fossil and Gene Records Explored".'

I believe that this description is somewhat misleading, if not grossly
deceptive, as concerns your present job and your publications record. I
believe that if Roger Stanyard were to come across such a misleading
description for a non-Darwinist, he would have a field day writing up a
piece for your organisation's wiki...

What's your take on that? Why is the description so misleading?


Brass's reply was to tell me that the description was he wrote it; that it was "completely and utterly factual". But what about the meat of it? What about those publications? In Brass's own words:
"I ... am published: my book, a paper in a peer-reviewed edited publication and have a forthcoming peer-reviewed journal paper coming out this June."

So there we have it - in Brass's own words, there only exists his (self-published) book, and the paper based on his Honours dissertation which you can obtain for free over the Internet. There is, however, one journal paper forthcoming later this year.

Now, I don't doubt Brass's hard work and deep interest in the study of archaeology. But I do doubt his integrity in using this as the basis to describe himself as a "published archaeologist". I wrote to Brass again as follows (note that the topic of Brass's self-published book is something I intend to examine in a later installment):

Michael, having seen the amount of detailed material on your website, I don't doubt your competency at all. I don't doubt that you hold those degrees either, and respect the amount of study you must have put in to gain them. I don't doubt too that your ability in your field goes beyond your mere degrees and that you have put in much work beyond them.

However anyone comparing the description of the other 6 committee
members, which lists their present job, with yours, and the average reader will assume that "archaeologist" is describing your professional vocation. The lack of mention of any other job, compared with the other six, is clearly misleading. If Roger Stanyard caught a non-Darwinist doing this, we know what he'd say... Secondly, you appear to have one book published by a notorious vanity publisher, PublishAmerica. I note the glee which Roger Stanyard exhibits if he can link someone with whatever he can classify as a "diploma mill"... and yet the BCSE eeks to boost its credentials on the back of being self-published by a notorious author mill? Do you see why someone might suggest this is a double-standard? Thirdly, I note that your website appears only to list a single article in an electronic journal - though I confess I may have missed something. You say that you have one paper article forth-coming. Again, if such an absolutely minimal basis were used by a non-Darwinist organisation to describe its staff as "published", we know just what Mr. Stanyard would be saying as he wrote the wiki page for it - don't we?

In reply, Brass told me:
You are welcome to describe my research as minimal; those who count, and whose views I value, disagree.


The bio stands.

I noted the twist in Brass's words; I described his publications record as "minimal"; he replied to talk about his research. I wonder why he did that?

You Be The Judge

What would the BCSE be saying if it could find opponents of Darwinist who were indulging in this kind of thing? If the BCSE's leader/researcher/spokesman Roger Stanyard found out that, say, a creationist or ID supporter had set up an organisation called "The United Kingdom Science Forum" and that it was advertising its own chairman as a "published chemist"... and if Stanyard found out that in fact the fellow was a 30-year old with one self-published book and Internet article from his honours' dissertation... what do you think he'd say?

Having read the BCSE's output over the last year, I think I know what they'd say. It wouldn't be complementary. They'd be having a field day.

So... what about if we apply the same standard to the BCSE itself?

Well, what do you make of that? Is this gross hypocrisy? Are the BCSE qualified science educators? Are they pretending to be something they're not? Is their existence one long campaign of deceipt?

You be the judge.

David Anderson

Non-anonymous factual corrections welcomed by e-mail. Comments are moderated - please read my comments policy.

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