« 2014 Midterms Thread | Main | So this is the future »

November 10, 2014


Next you're going to tell me "It is better to marry, then to burn" is the proper rendering!

Anyways, this is very interesting, although I feel somewhat irritated at having to think Paul was less of a pusbag than I used to.

We know that St.Hieronymous subtly changed the wording in some places to suit his ideology (several times). And his version is the one the RCC insists on being the one and only valid for the church.
Abraham a Sacnta Clara remarked that a shifted colon can turn scripture into heresy:
'Resurrexit. Non est hic.' => 'Resurrexit non. Est hic.' (HE has risen. HE is not here => HE has not risen. HE is here) makes a bit of a difference when spoken by the angel inside the tomb of Christ.

The misogynist Paul has been brought to you by the same people who brought you the absurd notion that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about homosexuality. Textual ambiguities are not required.


"How good a writer can Paul be, really, if he was being consistently misread for so long? -- and misread not merely by the naive, but by the most intelligent and educated minds in Christendom, for *centuries*. It makes Paul look like a poor writer, and/or makes all the smartest people in Christendom look like poor readers."

That statement assumes that the 'readers' didn't have ulterior motives. The assumption of female subservience is baked into the foundations of almost all human societies, and has been in the Middle East for long before the Bible was written.

Exegesis is like trying to get from the peninsula to the mainland. Questions abound:

Why a duck? Whya no chicken?

Paully, the Walrus was Frank.

Right, Barry. It doesn't require poor writers or poor readers or even bad faith. It only requires unexamined cultural assumptions, which are not exactly a scarce commodity in any collection of humans. Those assumptions trump text almost without fail.

One nice thing about being an atheist is: you don't have to care whether Jesus or Paul or even Tertullian have been mis-punctuated.

Still, ancient texts do hold a certain fascination. It's interesting to know what Archimedes, Euclid, and that crowd had to say, many centuries ago. Modern fans of mathematics typically have to rely on translations of transcriptions of decayed manuscripts, of course, just like modern fans of religion do. To establish exactly what Pappus had to say about the centroid of a given section, you have to take the word of somebody who can authenticate an ancient manuscript, read Ancient Greek, and know enough geometry to do a decent translation. To know what Paul had to say about women in church, you have to take the word of similar authorities.

The difference between math and religion is: math has no particular use for authority, thank God.


@ Tony--

I don't hold much brief for Chomsky (for the eye of Sauron effect he had on linguistics for many years), but one anecdote of his I've always appreciated (quoting at length from Triumph of Democracy, courtesy of
http://www.chomsky.info/books/responsibility01.htm ):

"To make all of this more concrete, let me comment in a very personal way: in my own professional work I have touched on a variety of different fields. I've done work in mathematical linguistics, for example, without any professional credentials in mathematics; in this subject I am completely self-taught, and not very well taught. But I've often been invited by universities to speak on mathematical linguistics at mathematics seminars and colloquia. No one has ever asked me whether I have the appropriate credentials to speak on these subjects; the mathematicians couldn't care less. What they want to know is what I have to say. No one has ever objected to my right to speak, asking whether I have a doctor's degree in mathematics, or whether I have taken advanced courses in this subject. That would never have entered their minds. They want to know whether I am right or wrong, whether the subject is interesting or not, whether better approaches are possible -- the discussion dealt with the subject, not with my right to discuss it.

But on the other hand, in discussion or debate concerning social issues or American foreign policy, Vietnam or the Middle East, for example, the issue is constantly raised, often with considerable venom. I've repeatedly been challenged on grounds of credentials, or asked, what special training do you have that entitles you to speak of these matters. The assumption is that people like me, who are outsiders from a professional viewpoint, are not entitled to speak on such things.

Compare mathematics and the political sciences -- it's quite striking. In mathematics, in physics, people are concerned with what you say, not with your certification. But in order to speak about social reality, you must have the proper credentials, particularly if you depart from the accepted framework of thinking. Generally speaking, it seems fair to say that the richer the intellectual substance of a field, the less there is a concern for credentials, and the greater is the concern for content."

Another way to put it is:

If a field allows for ideas to be clearly proved or disproved, then credentials are irrelevant. Because the ideas can be judged objectively on their merits.

But when a field does not provide the possibility of disproving new ideas, credentials are the only available way to decide whether a new idea is worth considering.

That is why the social sciences call themselves "sciences." Not because they actually are sciences, in the sense of having an extensive body of ideas which can be empirically proven or disproven. But because they aspire to be sciences -- that is the direction they want to go.

They aren't there yet. And the insistance on credentials inhibits them getting there. The social sciences would do better to recall that the basics of the sciences were laid down by people with no credentials the field. In fact, mostly the earliest steps were taken by engineers, i.e. totally empirically. And the next steps were taken by amateurs: guys with no special training in the field, but with a willingness to look at the evidence and come up with explanations which would suggest further experiments to confirm (or refute) them.

P.S. Just for reference, while I do have degrees in (Mechanical) Engineering, I also have degrees in Anthropology (odd double major back in college). I've been on the inside, and have some idea whereof I speak on this.

I dunno, man. I suspect that credentials are going to get you further than "look[ing] at the evidence and com[ing] up with explanations which would suggest further experiments to confirm or refute them" when asking questions like, "If we invade Iraq, will the Iraqis accept this Chalabi guy as a strong man and happily implement democratic reforms? Or will we just touch off a decades long insurgency?"

I guess technically invading was an experiment that did refute one particular theory, but presumably the idea is to come up with an answer before you invade, not after.

That's always the problem with credentials: whose credentials do you decide to accept?

And science generally tries to do experiments to prove or disprove theories before building a bridge and just seeing if it collapses. (Not that bridges never collapse. Just that the idea is to test theories out in ways that don't get people hurt.)

Invading Iraq on the theory that the troops would be greated with flowers was not a test of the theory; it was action assuming the (untested) theory was correct. Like the theory that bombing Iran will cause them to stop working on nuclear weapons. Yes, it worked on Assad. But that was a different culture, and may not really be a good test of the theory that bombing is a solution.

Especially when there is some reason to believe (not know, but suspect) that Iran really isn't actually trying to build a bomb at the moment. Just provide their own nuclear industry . . . while, admittedly, positioning themselves so that they could. Just as some of their neighbors have.

'eye of Sauron', I like that.

This paper, an extension of a review of a book about Chomsky by Christine Behme, might be worth a read

So much for an inspired text. And you haven't even got to the names of God, all 60 ofbthem.

The Catholic Church and the Jews insist that a plain reading of the Bible is impossible. It must interpreted by an authoritative tradition. They have a point. The Jews predate the Old Testament, and the Catholic Church predates the Christain Bible, which it created. Protestants disagree, and there are 39,000 Protestant sects. At least the snake handlers have the plain authority of Mark.

There is no reason to takr any part of the Bible seriously.

The comments to this entry are closed.