Friday, March 13, 2009

"Race to the Pole" and anti-Mormonism

I recently finished a very interesting book - Race to the Pole: Tragedy, Heroism, and Scott's Antarctic Quest, by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. When I picked it up I thought it would be an interesting book about how early explorers lived and died in their quest for the antarctic. I only later found out I was stepping into a historical controversy.

Sir Fiennes is a modern explorer of note. He has apparantly crossed Antartica on foot, and performed a number of other extrordinary feats. In the mid-1970s a biography came out that was highly critical of explorer Robert Scott. From this book, the contemporary view of Scott has become one of a bumbling idiot, according to Fiennes. According to Fiennes, the book even went so far as to accuse Scott's wife of an affair, and the head of the Royal Geographical Society of being a homosexual, all with no substantive evidence. Further, Fiennes pointed out that the other author had never been to Antartica.

I have yet to read the other book, so I can not comment on it directly. However, much of what Fiennes said about the way Scott kept his diary and the nature of scientific expeditions resonates with my own experiences. Thus, it gives merit to his book in my mind.

Now, I have not researched the history of Scott enough to resolve this historical question to my satisfaction. However, I see Sir Fiennes engaged in a very similar struggle to that of polygamists. They are contending against sensationalist writings that have become considered "common knowledge." Just as such things as the weather conditions in March 1912 have come to light with further research, items such as the "FLDS on welfare" fallacy have been debunked by adversarial witnesses such as Texas officials. It is clear that "common knowledge" has been wrong, it is more a matter of seeing how far it has drifted.

1 comment:

RTC said...

Hello. I'd like to communicate with you concerning a research project I am working on regarding interactions between the LDS and polygamists following the raid on the FLDS ranch in Texas last year. If you could email me ( your contact information, I would be happy to explain the full project to see if you are interested in participating.


Ryan T. Cragun
Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of Tampa