Just by coincidence, I happened to get this (unsolicited) email today. It relates to the second item on Steven Pinker’s “taboo questions” list (“Were the events in the Bible fictitious — not just the miracles, but those involving kings and empires?”). It indeed seems to be taboo in the sense that he was discussing.
Names and affiliations on the emails are redacted for politeness.
My dear YYY:
I know of no way to convince anyone of anything about [university name redacted] these days. I trust you’ve copied this to [president of the university]. That is as much as we can do; but do watch the response.
You are probably aware of the controversy surrounding the tenure decision on ZZZ at …. ZZZ has written one book in which ZZZ flatly denies the existence of the ancient Israelite kingdoms, the connection of contemporary Jews to any ancient Jewish people in the near east – however defined, and even states that Herodian Jerusalem was not Jewish.
ZZZ is entitled to advocate the destruction of the State of Israel. ZZZ is not entitled to publish fiction, call it history, and expect to receive tenure.
I am writing to ask you to consider writing a letter … as hundreds of alumni have already done.
A substantial literature on the ZZZ book exists in cyberspace, much of it intemperate, of course.
You might start with these calm and rational articles: …
There is a petition posted at: …
Me again: I offer no expertise or opinions on the substance of the matter–just reporting the “taboo” nature: as Pinker said, people do want to limit discussion of this issue. Whether suppression of the discussion is a good idea or a bad idea depends to a large extent on one’s views of the scholarship in question.
P.S. I forgot to note that the email was titled, “King Hezekiah under siege.” Talk about personalizing things!