Sunday, April 9, 2017


What is an amateur? On the one hand it is someone skilled in a certain area but not compensated for what they do. Thus an amateur botanist may be someone who on their own funding performed certain botanical science works, such as hybridizing plants and analyzing plant genetics. Likewise an amateur is used as a dilettante, one who feigns to be a botanist, one who has the use of words but never got their hands dirty. Thus an amateur ranges from a competent person not compensated by some entity, thus having no reliance on a third party, to someone pretending to be competent but not.

So what definition do we use. Take the NY Times. In a recent article they state:

....a 1997 work by two amateur historians....

So what definition do they use? It is after all the Times so it must be the most derogatory! What is a historian? Does a historian have to be compensated by some entity? Such as a Harvard? Not really. An historian is one who uses original sources to present what happened in some specific period. It is after all still an interpretation but referenced to the original source. Is Edmund Wilson an historian in his work, To the Finland Station? No, he was a Communist sympathizer telling a tale to promote his personal views. Was Gibbon an historian? He used some original sources but he interposed his own personal view so strongly and ignored other historical facts that one seriously questions his presentation no less than his integrity.

So what does the term really mean. The only way is to examine who they are commenting on and about. Thus in this case we are again in the middle of news which is colored by the political opinions of the medium through which it is presented. Amateurs after all are both free and unbiased by their sponsors.