Bob Metcalfe (Forum NZ Skeptic 54) seems to be calling for a change in editorial policy on footnotes and references. This has been consistent throughout the history of this society and any change would completely alter the character of this journal. What do members want? I thank him for his apology. Anything that increases feedback on articles in NZ Skeptic and the numbers of letters in Forum is to be welcomed.

Contrary to Metcalfe’s assertions my article (NZ Skeptic 50) did contain a number of references, though these were not footnoted. I agree that Trevor-Roper is hardly “at the cutting edge” but surprised that Metcalfe failed to notice the reference to an Oxford historian who has done recent work on the 16th and 17th centuries. The two books I mentioned in my previous letter were not intended as a list of what I had read but merely suggestions for interested skeptics who might like to pursue the topic further.

However what I cannot understand is why he assumed without any evidence, that I had had no training in history. This is simply prejudice not skepticism. Metcalfe is still trying to resurrect the old “argument from authority”, which I totally reject. It does not matter who you are; all that matters are the facts and rational arguments.

In 1905 a 26-year-old Swiss civil servant with minimal academic qualifications published a paper which for the first time, proved the existence of molecules and thus won him a Nobel Prize in physics. In the same edition of Annalen der Physik he published two more papers, one of which translated as On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, produced a revolution in science. This latter paper carried no footnotes or references.

Any discipline that returns to “argument from authority” would move back several centuries to sterile scholasticism. I do not believe this is happening to History.

Jim Ring, Tahunanui

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