Thursday, July 5, 2007 | I have read the interesting Los Angeles Times story that you linked around 10 days ago on the voiceofsandiego.org site, concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit taking place at the Natural History Museum. The author (Mike Boehm) asked the curator, Dr. Risa Levitt Kohn, why the museum has excluded all scholars who oppose the old, and increasingly contested, theory of Scroll origins from the lecture series accompanying the exhibit (as anyone can verify they have done by looking at the list of lectures on their website), and she came up with a good reply: “You don’t want to confuse people with so many competing theories, so they walk away, saying, ‘Well, nobody really knows anything!’”
I for one find that convincing. The last thing in the world we would want is for people to understand why there is more than one interpretation of the facts. After all, that would only confuse them, and in their confused state they might become depressed, or behave in an irrational manner. They might even start asking why the museum has not explained how it has come about that an entire series of major scholars have rejected the old theory over the past decade, not in favor of “so many competing theories,” but in favor of one salient competing theory. Yes, we must protect people from the truth at all costs.
Curiously, what is consistently missing in the news coverage of this somewhat sordid affair is any indication of where readers can go for a different perspective. The name of University of Chicago historian Norman Golb is mentioned, but no one bothers providing a link or reference to his article “Fact and Fiction in Current Exhibitions of the Dead Sea Scrolls — A Critical Notebook for Viewers,” which can be downloaded or to his editorial, “Take Claims about Dead Sea Scrolls with a Grain of Salt,” viewable on the Forward site.
Could it be that the San Diego news services, like the museum itself, do not wish visitors to the exhibit to have an objective view of both sides of the story?
A simple, relatively neutral chronology of this controversy is now available online.