The New Christians

The New Christians

A Ph.D. Fable

Whilst I was at Furman University this week (which, I must say, is one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve ever seen), I received an email from Princeton Seminary granting me an extension till March, 2010, to finish my dissertation. Upon hearing this, my host at Furman, Vaughn CroweTipton, told me the following fable.

The Rabbit, the Fox, and the Lion

One day, a rabbit was casually hopping back to his hole when, just as he was about to jump into his hole, he was grabbed around the neck by a fox, bent on eating him.
PhD Bunny.jpg
“Oh, please don’t eat me,” said the rabbit to the fox, “For I am just about to finish my dissertation.”


“Why should I care about your dissertation?” asked the fox.

“Because,” replied the rabbit, “I think the subject would fascinate you. It’s entitled, ‘Why Foxes Can’t Eat Rabbits.'”

“That’s a stupid dissertation,” declared the fox. “Of course foxes can eat rabbits. In fact, I’m going to eat you right now!

“But wait,” said the rabbit, “Just come down to my hole for a minute. I’ll show you my dissertation, and, if you’re not convinced, you can eat me. But, I promise you, I will prove to you that my thesis is, in fact, true.”

Reluctantly, the fox agreed, and he followed the rabbit down into the hole. There, in the rabbit’s hole, the fox saw a pile of bones in one corner, and a lion typing on a laptop in the other.


“What’s that?” the fox asked, gesturing at the pile of bones.

“That’s my research,” replied the rabbit.

“Well, what’s he doing here?” asked the fox, looking at the lion.

“Oh, he’s my advisor,” said the rabbit, at which time the lion pounced and ate the fox.

Moral: The subject of your dissertation really doesn’t matter. All that matters is who’s your advisor!

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posted April 18, 2009 at 2:32 pm

The longer version is here:–The_Rabbit_The_Fox_and_The_Wolf-a_Fable.html
But here is another one you might enjoy: An academic died and on reaching the Pearly Gates was told he was a marginal case and would have a free choice between Academic Hell and Academic Heaven. He asked for previews.
In Academic Hell, people were chained to their desks with rusty iron chains, writing their research papers with broken goose quills and ink that faded to invisibility within five minutes. Demons walked up and down the rows of desks whipping anyone who dared take a break from writing.
In Academic Heaven, people were chained to their desks with golden chains, writing their research papers with broken goose quills and ink that faded to invisibility within five minutes. Angels walked up and down the rows of desks whipping anyone who dared take a break from writing.
The academic asked a nearby angel “You know, apart from the chain material, I don’t see much difference between Academic Heaven and Hell.”
The angel replied “There’s a major difference. Up here, you just might get published.”

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Drew Tatusko

posted April 18, 2009 at 2:35 pm

NO kidding about the advisor.
I was lucky enough to publish a book chapter with him before my dissertation marathon. That allowed me to score some major points. But I gotta crank this thing out ASAP now. Ugh.
I’m eager to finish it now so I can write something I actually want to write at this point.

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Johnny Brooks

posted April 18, 2009 at 4:24 pm

One of the better dissertation fables I have read. Wait that was the only dissertation fable I have read, still brought a smile.

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Jonathan Grieser

posted April 18, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Hey, Tony–thanks for sharing the story. I got to the table just after Vaughn had told you this. I hope the evening at Furman went well. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to make it. But it was great to meet you and I hope to cross paths with again soon.

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posted April 18, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Although I’ve only had to write theses to complete my masters degrees, the fable hits close to home. Very funny.

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posted April 18, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Ha! How true! I finished mine in Dec. ’06 (in a social sciences field). My dissertation advisor/chair made all the difference. She was humble, had my best interests in mind, “drove” the process through for me, and was of the mind that a “the best dissertation is a done dissertation.” Several of my former classmates are still laboring to get past the proposal stage, as they cow to their chair’s/advisor’s egos, under endless and endless revisions.
Some dissertation chairs/advisors should be brought out to a pub for a couple beers, and have Ecclesiastes read out-loud to them.

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Terry-Michael Newell

posted April 19, 2009 at 9:31 am

On a bad day, I might argue that if I had a different advisor the diploma hanging in my office would say PhD instead of MPhil.
Good luck!

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posted April 19, 2009 at 7:17 pm

couldn’t agree more.
am thinking of a new blog in honor of my advisor who seems bent on “getting me out”–and i’m only on year 3!
tony jones, not sure if you remember me–it’s aram bae, class of pts 05, took some classes w/kenda dean and you came to teach one or two.
also, i babysat your adorable kids once–great kids, i remember. had fun.
hope you are well. here’s to obeying our advisors,

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posted April 19, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Not every advisor can be a “Staupitz”! Congrats on the extension; it’ll go fast…

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Reinaldo Steinauer

posted July 25, 2014 at 3:23 pm

You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

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