The World’s First Wikipedia Article

This is a cold analysis of the Bible:

“Those who call the King James Version of the Bible the unerring word of God,” writes reviewer Doug Brown, “have a slight problem. The New Testament of the KJV (as the King James Version is usually referred) was translated into English from a version of the Greek New Testament that had been collected from 12th-century copies by Erasmus. Where Erasmus couldn’t find Greek manuscripts, he translated to Greek from the Latin Vulgate (which itself had been translated from Greek back in the fourth century). Here the problem splits into two problems. First, Jesus spoke Aramaic — his actual words, never recorded, were only rendered in Greek in the original gospels. Thus, the KJV consists of Jesus’s words twice refracted through the prism of translation. Second, Erasmus’s Greek New Testament was based on handwritten copies of copies of copies of copies, etc., going back over a millennium, and today is considered one of the poorer Greek New Testaments.”

Consider this just one example of a “sacred text” treated almost as a farcical text in regard to its having a single, coherent, intentional, shaping, authorial, divine mind behind it. Is the Bible, in one counting, the 66 books of the Protestant Bible, the 73 books of the Roman Catholic Bible, or the 77 books of the Eastern Orthodox Bible?

After a litany of examples of intercopy disagreements, scribal clarifications, arbitrary decisions on what is canonical and what is apocryphal, and putative scribal addenda such as the controversial last twelve verses of Mark (16:9-20) with their references to snake handling and speaking in tongues, it is difficult to think of such texts as sacred as opposed to much-handled — compilations over time by committee. If you’d been told recently that the seventh and final volume of the Harry Potter series had gone through changes at the hands of 10 copyists and editors, not to mention been translated through several languages before reaching English, would you feel confident it was J.K. Rowling’s sacred conclusion to her tale? Writes Brown, “In many respects, the Bible was the world’s first Wikipedia article.”

Unfortunately for religious fundamentalists, it’s largely correct as well.

An Act of Deception

Intelligent Design is a deceitful critique of Darwinian descent with modification that attempts to undermine the commitment of science to find natural causes for natural phenomena. Its apparent goal is to have public school science classes teach Divine Intervention as an alternative to natural causes. One of the favorite complaints of Intelligent Design advocates is that they’re persecuted and denied free speech whenever the absence of any rational basis for their claims is exposed, and their favorite method is deception. Once again, the deception has come to the surface in a story in the New York Times on their upcoming film “Expelled.” The film’s producers obtained interviews with several prominent scientists by claiming to be doing a documentary on the intersection of science and faith rather than a propaganda piece for anti-scientism.

As the Times correctly surmises, there isn’t really any great scientific controversy over the subject matter:

There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. And while individual scientists may embrace religious faith, the scientific enterprise looks to nature to answer questions about nature. As scientists at Iowa State University put it last year, supernatural explanations are “not within the scope or abilities of science.”

Hence the claims of persecution are groundless. But we Americans love the underdog, so some will root for the ID’ers anyway.


See Volokh and Reason for more.

Predictably, the ID response is riddled with falsehoods. The Discovery Institute claims there’s an active scientific dispute over descent with modification (there isn’t) and that Richard Sternberg and Guillermo Gonzalez suffered reprisals from the science establishment for their support of creationist ideas, Sternberg at the Smithsonian and Gonzalez at Iowa State University. In fact, Sternberg was never employed by the Smithsonian and Gonzalez’ failure to win tenure was based on his thin publication record.

But we already knew that.

Only on the Internet

From the annals of modern technology:

A Bosnian couple are getting divorced after finding out they had been secretly chatting each other up online under fake names.

Sana Klaric, 27, and husband Adnan, 32, from Zenica, poured out their hearts to each other over their marriage troubles, and both felt they had found their real soul mate…

“To be honest I still find it hard to believe that the person, Sweetie, who wrote such wonderful things to me on the internet, is actually the same woman I married and who has not said a nice word to me for years.”

What can I say?

Something for everybody

I’ve got to see the latest bin Laden video, it sounds seriously funny:

An address that contains less than 2,500 words mentions “large corporations” eight times, and blames all the ills of the world on them and the “capitalist system” they represent. The warmongers killed Kennedy for trying to end Vietnam and they’re keeping America in Iraq, he claims. Capitalists are melting the polar ice caps, miring hard-working Americans in debt, and have even got the Democratic Party in their deep pockets, he suggests. And the only one who’s crying wolf in America is, according to bin Laden, American linguist and left-wing political activist Noam Chomsky.

Swings For The Stands

At this point — with 95 percent of the American public hopelessly lost in his video address — bin Laden the anticapitalist unveils the only solution that could possibly alienate the remaining 5 percent: religion. Your mistake, he tells Americans, is that “you have separated church and state.” The way out of this problem is conversion to Islam.

Here, bin Laden swings for the stands of transpartisan weirdness and connects, combining in a single sentence religious fundamentalism, anticapitalism, and a nontax flat tax: “Islam will deprive [the war profiteers and owners of large corporations] of the chance to swindle the people out of their money through arms deals and such, for Islam has no taxes and only limited alms that stand at 2.5 percent.”

There’s something for everybody in this: low taxes, anti-capitalism, and religious fanaticism. What a deal.

My pet goats

Wary of flying third world airlines? You shouldn’t be scared of Nepal Airlines, where they’re willing to make any sacrifice:

KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Officials at Nepal’s state-run airline have sacrificed two goats to appease Akash Bhairab, the Hindu sky god, following technical problems with one of its Boeing 757 aircraft, the carrier said Tuesday.

Some frequent fliers on Air India nicknamed its flagship “Emperor Ashoka” the snarky “Emperor Asukham” (sick emperor) because it broke down all the time. Clearly, they were too stingy with the goats.

H/T Nancy Rommelman.