Friday, April 29, 2011

Call for audit of CPE covered widely in press

My call for State Auditor Crit Luallen to audit the Council on Postsecondary Education after the CPE rubber stamped the outlandish tuition increases at the state's colleges and universities was covered widely in the press yesterday by the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and more broadly by the Gannett News Service.

Here is the relevant section of the Herald-Leader's story:

Also on Thursday, the Family Foundation of Kentucky called for state Auditor Crit Luallen to review the operations of the council because of the public college tuition increases it allows.

Terry Sebastian, a spokesman for Luallen's office, said that the office received the Family Foundation's request on Thursday afternoon.

"Once we've had a chance to thoroughly review it, we will make our decision," he said.

Martin Cothran, a senior policy analyst with the Family Foundation, said in a letter requesting the audit that the council's action in approving tuition increases "that, in some cases, are almost three times the rate of inflation, raises the serious question of whether the CPE is adequately doing its job in keeping higher education affordable for Kentuckians."

Robert King, president of the CPE, which coordinates the activities of the state's public universities, said that he had offered to discuss the council's reasoning with Cothran.

"I offered ... to take him through all the data we consider," King said. "But if Crit Luallen or her staff wants to examine what we looked at or how we made our decision, we have nothing to hide."

I'm sure Robert King is a very nice gentleman and I plan to take him up on his offer--and hope to share some things with him as well.

Guess who took a stand against tuition increases--3 years ago

Guess who said the following in an opinion piece in 2008:

"... tuition has once again increased at levels that make obtaining a postsecondary degree increasingly unaffordable for Kentucky citizens."

a. Governor Steve Beshear
b. President Barack Obama
c. Coach Rick Pitino
d. State Auditor Crit Luallen
e. Teen hearthrob Justin Bieber

If you answered "d." you are correct. Crit Luallen, the very one we called upon yesterday to audit the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) after it acquiesced yesterday to tuition increases that place a college education further out of reach for Kentucky high school graduates, lambasted the universities for raising tuitions.

Go Crit!

Now can we have our audit? Pretty please?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Audit the Council on Postsecondary Education

The following is the letter I sent today to State Auditor Crit Luallen, via the e-mail on her website for reporting "suspected fraud and waste":

April 28, 2011

Crit Luallen
Kentucky State Auditor
209 St. Clair
Frankfort, KY 40601

Dear Ms. Luallen,

Your recent efforts to bring to public light the inadequacies at the Kentucky State Board for Proprietary Education (KSBPE) are commendable. It is vitally important that state officials such as yourself monitor the boards and commissions that are responsible for overseeing private educational institutions to ensure that they are adequately doing their job--even though, as in the case of the KSBPE, they receive no taxpayer money.

In light of the even more urgent responsibility on the part of public officials such as yourself to monitor those boards and commission which do receive public funds and which are responsible for overseeing our public institutions, we hereby request that your office conduct an audit of the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE).

The Council's recent action in approving tuition increases at our public colleges and universities that, in some cases, are almost three times the rate of inflation raises the serious question of whether the CPE is adequately doing its job in keeping higher education affordable for Kentuckians. This is part of the mission of the CPE.

We thank you for your public service, and request a response to this letter.

Martin Cothran
Senior Policy Analyst
The Family Foundation of Kentucky

Family Foundation cries foul on approval of college tuition increase

LEXINGTON, KY--An advocacy group that has called for moratorium on college tuition increases criticized today's approval by the Council for Postsecondary Education (CPE) of tuition increases for state universities and called for State Auditor to audit the group.

"This is a clear sign that the body that is supposed to be monitoring our public institutions of higher education is not serious about college affordability," said Martin Cothran, spokesperson for The Family Foundation of Kentucky. "This is a regressive tax on Kentucky families that is eroding the educational and economic vitality of our state."

Cothran also called on State Auditor Crit Luallen to audit the Council on Postsecondary Education. "The State Auditor just released an audit of the commission that oversees for-profit colleges in the state. That commission doesn't even get any state money. Where is the audit of the CPE, which does get state money and which oversees public colleges and universities?" Cothran asked.

Luallen recently released an audit of the Kentucky State Board for Proprietary Education, callings its oversight of for-profit colleges "inadequate" and bemoaning the fact that the board had not been audited in 10 years. "Part of the mission of the CPE is to keep college affordable and they are not doing it. Where are the investigations?"

Cothran said his group will continue to call attention to the problem of eroding college affordability and will be talking with state lawmakers leading up the next session of the General Assembly.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Who's Obsessed about the Birther issue?

Well I've sat here watching CNN do a segment on how the Birthers are obsessed with the issue of whether Obama was really born in the U.S. The segment has gone on for about 15 minutes now.

Does a Network that spends 15 minutes going on and on about an issue have any credibility accusing other people of being obsessed with the issue?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Atheist to rally at "Reason Rally" in Washington next spring

A bunch of atheist organizations have decided to sponsor a "Reason Rally" in Washington next spring. Thousands of people are expected to descend on the nation's capital where they will all take part in logical exercises like formulating valid syllogisms, identifying fallacies, and engaging in contests to see who can reduce syllogisms of the second, third, and fourth figure into first figure syllogisms.

Participants will also practice backing in to missing premises and performing reductio ad absurdums ...

... Wait a second. Oh, shoot. Sorry, let me correct that: They will be chanting slogans on the lawn.


Rodent humor

Last Saturday, I offered several reasons why I thought moles were not bad for your lawn. But Andrew Kern responded, making some pretty good arguments that they were. And now I can't make up my mind.

I'm worried I might be bi-molar.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My New Conspiracy Theory

I have a new conspiracy theory. It has to do with moles (no, not the ones on your skin, the ones on your lawn).

It is this: Moles are actually good for your lawn, but commercial pest control propaganda has convinced us that they are bad.

I came to this new and stunning realization after taking a brief walking tour of my yard this morning, in which I have recently planted a number of seedling trees. I noticed that the moles are out in force, and I asked myself: why are these animals bad? They eat the grubs that destroy your lawn and they aerate the ground.

So what's the problem?

So I googled "why are moles bad?", yielding quite a number of posts from the pest control power elite who gave absolutely no reasons why moles are bad other than that they are. In a few other places, there are discussions, but the main problem attributed to moles seems to be that the tunnels are unsightly--and, in the case of a few apparently clumsy souls, dangerous.

I guess if you're running a golf course or you live in the city and carefully manicure your lawn, this can be a problem. But if you're out in the country, why is this an issue?

The only drawback to moles I can see is that they are insectivores and, in addition to eating grubs, which are bad for your lawn, they eat earthworms, which are good for you lawn. But, at worst, isn't this just a trade-off? Fewer worms for fewer grubs--with the extra, added benefit of having your lawn aerated?

So I will defy the pest control powers and let my moles run rampant on my lawn.

Is there such a thing as an objective belief?

I have been in a discussion with a science-minded friend of mine about the virtues, or lack thereof, of the positivist mentality--that the methods of science can be applied to disciplines outside of science, he being favorable to it, and me being hostile.

One of the points of his defense is that post-modernists are infected with (among other things) emotion and that their intellectual positions are therefore subjective, whereas scientists are objective, and their intellectual positions are therefore not subjective.

Then comes this blog post from Mother Jones, in which the writer, in an attempt to explain why many people "don't believe science," argues that the reason is that many people's reasoning is inextricably bound up with emotion and prejudice:
... an array of new discoveries in psychology and neuroscience has further demonstrated how our preexisting beliefs, far more than any new facts, can skew our thoughts and even color what we consider our most dispassionate and logical conclusions. This tendency toward so-called "motivated reasoning" helps explain why we find groups so polarized over matters where the evidence is so unequivocal: climate change, vaccines, "death panels," the birthplace and religion of the president (PDF), and much else. It would seem that expecting people to be convinced by the facts flies in the face of, you know, the facts.

The theory of motivated reasoning builds on a key insight of modern neuroscience (PDF): Reasoning is actually suffused with emotion (or what researchers often call "affect"). Not only are the two inseparable, but our positive or negative feelings about people, things, and ideas arise much more rapidly than our conscious thoughts, in a matter of milliseconds—fast enough to detect with an EEG device, but long before we're aware of it. That shouldn't be surprising: Evolution required us to react very quickly to stimuli in our environment. It's a "basic human survival skill," explains political scientist Arthur Lupia of the University of Michigan. We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close. We apply fight-or-flight reflexes not only to predators, but to data itself.

We're not driven only by emotions, of course—we also reason, deliberate. But reasoning comes later, works slower—and even then, it doesn't take place in an emotional vacuum. Rather, our quick-fire emotions can set us on a course of thinking that's highly biased, especially on topics we care a great deal about.
Now there are several interesting things about this supposed "finding." The first is that it is yet another example of what I call "Duh" Science, which consists of studies that tell us what we didn't need a study to tell us. In this case, we are told that people are not completely objective in the process of forming their opinions.

Gee, who'd o' thunk it?

But applying multi-syllabic Latinate words to this truth does yield that warm, fuzzy science feeling, I'll have to admit: "The 'cultural cognition of risk' refers to the tendency of individuals to form risk."

Then there is the tendency in the discussion of this study that itself displays how the finding applies to those who are touting the study:
So is there a case study of science denial that largely occupies the political left? Yes: the claim that childhood vaccines are causing an epidemic of autism. Its most famous proponents are an environmentalist (Robert F. Kennedy Jr.) and numerous Hollywood celebrities (most notably Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey).
This is really the only case they can find among the lefties? Isn't that convenient. This problem of emotional and prejudicial opinion profiling turns out to be mainly a problem on the right . "No one here but us objective liberals." Add this to the list (Popperian falsifiability, the positivist verifiability criterion) of principles that apply to everyone but those to spout them.

But, getting back to my friend defense of positivism, it seems to me that, if the findings of this study are correct, it explodes his hypothesis that scientists are objective, since the finding that there is a "tendency of individuals to form risk perceptions that are congenial to their values" would seem like it should apply to positivists as much as everyone else. And if the positivist types who promote such studies themselves then exempt most of their own beliefs from the findings of their own studies, they have unwittingly provided further evidence for their thesis, making the positivist position even more untenable.

Friday, April 22, 2011

State auditor needs to wake up on oversight of higher ed in KY

The State Auditor Crit Luallen Wednesday released an audit of the agency that overseas for profit educational institutions in Kentucky:
Calling its oversight “inadequate,” State Auditor Crit Luallen today released an audit of the Kentucky State Board for Proprietary Education, which monitors proprietary education institutions across the Commonwealth.
Uh, yo, Crit, it's nice that you're paying attention to for profit schools. But where are the audits of our public institutions which state government has a direct role in overseeing? Have you taken a look at the Council on Postsecondary Education yet? This is the body that is poised to approve another round of massive tuition increases, making college less affordable for Kentuckians, which, ironically violates the group's mission statement, which says:
The Council and the institutions are committed to ensuring that college is affordable and accessible to all academically qualified Kentuckians ...
The Council is supposed to be taking care of this and is not. So where are the audits of the Council? Of the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, who have just raised their tuition 6 percent for next year?

Is anyone in state government paying any attention to this problem at all?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's time to deal with the problem of higher education costs

LEXINGTON, KY--A family advocacy group which has called for a tuition moratorium is pointing to tuition increases by two more state universities as further evidence that action by state officials is needed. The Family Foundation has announced that it will be pursuing a tuition moratorium in the next legislative session. But because of the new announcements by the University of Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University that they are raising their tuition rates--UK by 6 percent and EKU by 5 percent--the group is now calling for quicker action.

"When gas stations in Jefferson County dramatically increased their prices several years ago, the Attorney General launched an investigation because of the effect on the public," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for The Family Foundation. "Universities are increasing their prices at almost three times the rate of inflation. Where are the investigations?"

Cothran said that state officials and policymakers have been averting their gaze from the problem for years. "The problem is not just that no one has proposed a solution: the problem is that no one has even tried to address it. Well, the time has come."

The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education is meeting on April 28 and has the power to approve or reject the proposed increases.


Eastern Kentucky University joins the tuition increase feeding frenzy

Eastern Kentucky University has joined the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky in raising student tuition. EKU is raising theirs 5 percent. Gee, that's only about twice the rate of inflation.

I am quoted in this story in the Richmond Register.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

University of Kentucky levies another prosperity tax on Kentucky families

The University of Kentucky dealt the state's economic prospects another blow by matching U of L's recent tuition increase with a 6 percent increase of its own, proving once again the need for a moratorium on tuition increases. This is just the latest piece of evidence that higher education costs are completely out of control and that college and university administrations are not taking the student debt crisis seriously.

UK apparently thinks we're all supposed to be overjoyed that they're not raising tuition by double digits. Huh? The next time someone fleeces you, make sure you thank them that they didn't do worse things to you.

These institutions have long made a claim on public support because raising the level of education in the state will improve the long-term economic picture of the state. But it is becoming increasingly clear that they are putting out more and more graduates who will spend a good part of the professional lives trying to pay back the debt they incurred to get their degrees.

As of 2009, the average college graduate had incurred student debt of over $24,000.

Here's the Louisville Courier-Journal's article today in which I am quoted.

These are schools, mind you, who seem to have a bottomless purse when it comes to promoting themselves with the public and with state lawmakers. How much money are they spending on lobbyists and on promotion in order to convince us that then need more?

Part of the problem is that state legislators have not asked university leadership the tough questions that need to be asked about their lack of cost control. It's time for someone to hold these people's feet to the fire.

C'mon guys, let's show some leadership on this issue.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Family Foundation calls for tuition moratorium

For Immediate Release
April 18, 2011

Contact: Martin Cothran
Phone: (859) 329-1919

LEXINGTON, KY—A state family advocacy group announced today it will seek a moratorium on tuition increases at the state's public universities in the 2012 Kentucky General Assembly. The group's announcement came in response to last week's tuition increase at the University of Louisville of almost three times the current rate of inflation, and follows several decades in which state universities have dramatically increased the cost of a college education.

"People used to talk about 'working your way through college’," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group. "Now they talk about working their way out of their college debt. The cost of a college education in Kentucky is outstripping the ability of families to pay for it. This has to stop."

Cothran pointed to a study The Family Foundation released last year showing that colleges and universities have been increasing tuitions at rates that have far outstripped median household incomes, and demonstrating the problem lies in the failure of Kentucky's higher education institutions to control costs. "The state's universities are refusing to run their institutions efficiently and they're passing the cost of that failure on to students, families, and taxpayers."

The failure to control the cost of a college education may be one the state's worst economic problems, said Cothran, since access to a college education is a significant factor in individual economic progress. "Kentucky cannot improve economically if the policies of its economic institutions are dragging it down. Public policymakers in our state cannot allow our educational institutions to stifle economic progress."

Cothran said a moratorium is necessary in order to begin bringing college costs back into alignment with the ability of Kentuckians to pay for it.

“Our institutions of higher education are no longer giving our students a leg up in their professional lives; instead, they're saddling them with debt. This has got to stop.”


Which religious book is okay to burn, according to the U. S. government? Hint: it isn't the Koran

Remember when everyone was talking about about how terrible it was that Terry Jones was burning a Koran? Well, it turns out that burning a Koran is a really terrible thing, but burning the Bible? Hey, no problem.

Here is the way the U. S. government has of dealing with the Koran:
1. Clean gloves will be put on in full view of the detainees prior to handling.
2. Two hands will be used at all times when handling the Koran in manner signaling respect and reverence. Care should be used so that the right hand is the primary one used to manipulate any part of the Koran due to the cultural association with the left hand. Handle the Koran as if it were a fragile piece of delicate art.
But at the same time it and its representatives are waxing eloquent about the care with which the Koran is to be handled, how does it treat Bibles?

We go now to the blog Rogers Rules for a report:
Bibles were sent to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. But the U.S. government determined that the presence of Bibles in this “devoutly Muslim country” might inflame the natives. So they burned them. Why did they burn them? Because it is military policy to burn its trash.

So, the Bibles, according to U.S. policy, are trash, garbage, and it’s OK to burn them.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Big Budget Lie: How a bigger budget deficit is being sold as a "cut"

Rand Paul is, well, a Randian, but at least someone is pointing out that the Budget Emperor has no clothes. THE FEDERAL DEFICIT IS BIGGER THIS YEAR THAN LAST YEAR.

The Republicans failed the first test, which was putting people in place who meant business on fiscal responsibility in the House by appointing the King of Earmarks, Kentucky's own Hal Rogers, as head of the Appropriations Committee.

Now they have failed the second test: Standing up to Obama and insisting on real cuts in this year's federal budget.

Three strikes and you're out.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why Christopher Hitchens sounds so much better than his Christian opponents

It is the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible and funny things are happening. There are strange signs and ominous portents. Forget about the world burning up in a fit of global warming or spreading popular revolutions or earthquakes and tsunamis destroying coastal cities, we are faced with a far more anomalous and alarming phenomenon:

Atheists talking sense about the Bible.

I recently saw a debate between the Christian apologist William Lane Craig and atheist Christopher Hitchens and I wondered, once again, why it was that Christopher Hitchens is always so much more compelling as a practitioner of English than his theistic opponents. How does he manage, despite the mistaken nature of most of his beliefs about religion, to sound so bloody good? Why, by comparison, do his opponents seem so slow of speech and slow of tongue?

Now we know why Hitchens can talk circles around his debate opponents: he reads the Bible.

But not just any Bible: it is on the King James Bible in particular which Hitchens shews forth his praise. In fact, he pays it gushing homage in a new article in Vanity Fair, where he argues that the dignity of its prose, the beauty of its expression, and the appropriateness of its linguistic form to its exalted subject matter make it one of, if not the greatest work of the English language--a "repository and edifice of language which towers above its successors."

Oh, and he also thinks our culture is better for knowing it.
For generations, it provided a common stock of references and allusions, rivaled only by Shakespeare in this respect. It resounded in the minds and memories of literate people, as well as of those who acquired it only by listening. From the stricken beach of Dunkirk in 1940, faced with a devil’s choice between annihilation and surrender, a British officer sent a cable back home. It contained the three words “but if not … ” All of those who received it were at once aware of what it signified. In the Book of Daniel, the Babylonian tyrant Nebuchadnezzar tells the three Jewish heretics Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that if they refuse to bow to his sacred idol they will be flung into a “burning fiery furnace.” They made him an answer: “If it be so, our god whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thy hand, o King. / But if not, be it known unto thee, o king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
A culture that does not possess this common store of image and allegory will be a perilously thin one. To seek restlessly to update it or make it “relevant” is to miss the point, like yearning for a hip-hop Shakespeare. “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward,” says the Book of Job. Want to try to improve that for Twitter? And so bleak and spare and fatalistic—almost non-religious—are the closing verses of Ecclesiastes that they were read at the Church of England funeral service the unbeliever George Orwell had requested in his will: “Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home. … Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain/ or the wheel broken at the cistern. / Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was.”
There are the usual Hitchens errors, of course. He repeats the canard about the Catholic Church being opposed to William Tyndale's Bible translation because the Church was opposed to vernacular translations, when, in fact, there were an abundance of accepted vernacular English translations and there were accepted vernacular translations in existence well before the Protestant Reformation in many languages. There were even several English ones following Tyndale that the Church accepted. In fact, the Latin Vulgate itself was a vernacular translation in its time that allowed it to be understood by the masses.

The Church was opposed to Wycliffe's translation because it was concerned about the integrity of Bible translations at a time of heated theological controversy (one thinks of Martin Luther's insertion of the word "only" into his German translation of Romans 3:28, despite its absence in the original Greek to bolster his view of sola fide). Tyndale's Bible wasn't condemned because the Church opposed an English vernacular translation; it was condemned because contained marginal notes that were anti-clerical and, in some cases, heretical.

In fact, the King James Bible itself was influenced by the earlier Douay-Rhiems Catholic English translation.

Then there's his critique of Isaiah 7:14, which says, “behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Hitchens claims--along with not a few modern Biblical scholars--that the word translated here "virgin" (the Hebrew almah) should have been translated instead "young woman." This argument has the virtue--to those of Hitchens atheist orientation--of undermining the passage's application to the Christ story. But the case against it is rather weaker than Hitchens makes out.

The argument is that if "virgin" was specifically meant, another word (Hitchens doesn't mention it, but it is betulah) would have been used. But this word too was sometimes used even of widows (Joel 1:8). The word almah did more commonly simply mean "young woman," but young unmarried women of the time were presumed to be chaste.

But more telling is the fact that the Jewish translators of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was conducted in the 2nd and 3rd centuries B. C., translated the Hebrew word almah into the Greek parthenos, which is much more unequivocally the Greek word for "virgin." In other words, the Hellenized Jews of the 2nd and 3rd centuries--with no theological axes to grind regarding the word's application to Christ (who had not yet been born) thought it meant "virgin." And, of course, these were scholars who, being Jews and living over two millenia closer to the sources of the language, knew just a little about Hebrew.

But a day in Hitchens' linguistic court is still better than a thousand elsewhere. These problems are, in fact, incidental to Hitchens main point. He is neither a historian nor a Hebrew expert. But he is a masterful practitioner of the English language, and this is all that is needed in order for him to make his case for the King James Bible.

In a Biblical strife of tongues we call the modern Bible translations, there has been an attempt to be more "understandable," and this attempt has taken the form of the systematic elimination of the living metaphors in the original text in favor of the dead abstractions of modern technical speech. Both Protestants and Catholics have bought into the linguistically debilitating theory that bald abstract prose is a better conduit for truth than living poetic expression. But man cannot live by rational prose alone.

Hitchins calls this linguistic taxidermy "rinsing out the prose":
When the Church of England effectively dropped King James, in the 1960s, and issued what would become the “New English Bible,” T. S. Eliot commented that the result was astonishing “in its combination of the vulgar, the trivial and the pedantic.” (Not surprising from the author of For Lancelot Andrewes.) This has been true of every other stilted, patronizing, literal-minded attempt to shift the translation’s emphasis from plangent poetry to utilitarian prose.
"Utilitarian prose." That captures the problem exactly. Only someone linguistically inoculated against it by reading great literature such as the King James Bible would even be able to detect it.

To say that the best approach to truth is the direct route of bald prose not only goes against the approach of the original Biblical writers, who employed vivid imagery in their writings, but it also is an example of what Richard Weaver once called the "quest for immediacy," the idea that truth must be approached like a conquering mental army--besieged and taken captive. But truth is mystery, and tearing the veil off of it reveals little. It can only be approached indirectly. The modern Baconian attempt to put truth on the rack in order to give up her secrets will yield little. Modern Biblical translators goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to slaughter:
At my father’s funeral I chose to read a similarly non-sermonizing part of the New Testament, this time an injunction from Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
As much philosophical as spiritual, with its conditional and speculative “ifs” and its closing advice—always italicized in my mind since first I heard it—to think and reflect on such matters: this passage was the labor of men who had wrought deeply with ideas and concepts. I now pluck down from my shelf the American Bible Society’s “Contemporary English Version,” which I picked up at an evangelical “Promise Keepers” rally on the Mall in Washington in 1997. Claiming to be faithful to the spirit of the King James translation, it keeps its promise in this way: “Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.”
Pancake-flat: suited perhaps to a basement meeting of A.A., these words could not hope to penetrate the torpid, resistant fog in the mind of a 16-year-old boy, as their original had done for me.
The translator of 1611 wrote with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond. The modern translator writes with Word, published by Microsoft. And it shows.

Translations such as the New International Version (NIV), the most popular version among Protestants, and the New American Bible (NAB), the "go to" modern text for Catholics, suffer greatly from the misguided attempt to serve two masters. There are two selling points on modern translations: their readibility or understandability and their accuracy. But any attempt at being "understandable to the modern reader" is threatening a step away from accuracy--at least if by accuracy you mean sticking with the original words of the text. All this talk is a vain oblation, and the Greek scholar N. T. Wright has called the NIV (just to take one example) "appalling."

So how shall we sing the Lord's song in this strange modern land? The first thing to do is recognize the importance--nay, the necessity--of literary expression. The King James translators themselves knew the value of this, and it is exemplified in the very prose they used to explain their goal in translating:
Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place; that removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by the water, even as Jacob rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well, by which means the flocks of Laban were watered.
I'm sure the translators of modern versions of the Bible are quite competent in knowing how to read Hebrew and Greek. It's their facility with English that I question. I'm willing to bet that the modern scholars they hire to translate these things are not generally literary people. In fact, it's tempting to think that those who translated the King James simply had a far better grasp of their own language. There were literary giants in the earth in those days.

One also has to wonder whether these acts of publishing hubris have really resulted in more people reading the Bible. I have my doubts. Just as Christianity thrives on persecution (real persecution, not the kind that many American Christians today, living in the lap of luxury call persecution), so the Bible might benefit from some real censorship.

The point of reading the King James Bible (or, for Catholics, the Douay-Rheims)--in addition to simply imbibing the Word of God--is not so that we can pepper our speech with "thees" and "thous," but to fertilize our speech so that we may yield up a richer linguistic harvest.

Why is Hitchens is so much more articulate than is Christian opponents? While the theists are laboring over their fine dialectical distinctions and parsing complex syllogisms in order to prove God's existence, Hitchens has been sitting by the fire reading the Good Book in the King's English.

It should come as no surprise.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Moody's and Fitch downgrade Kentucky's bond rating

Two major security rating houses have downgraded Kentucky's bond rating, "citing increasing costs in the state's pension systems and too much reliance on one-time money to balance the state's books."

And it comes just as Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed the cost-saving measures in a State Senate budget bill and used money from the next fiscal year to balance the budget.

Go figure.

P. J. O'Rourke on the new movie "Atlas Shrugged"

"In 'Atlas Shrugged–Part I' a drink is tossed, strong words are bandied, legal papers are served, more strong words are further bandied and, finally, near the end, an oil field is set on fire, although we don’t get to see this up close. There are many beautiful panoramas of the Rocky Mountains for no particular reason. And the movie’s title carries the explicit threat of a sequel.

"But I will not pan 'Atlas Shrugged.' I don’t have the guts. If you associate with Randians—and I do—saying anything critical about Ayn Rand is almost as scary as saying anything critical to Ayn Rand. What’s more, given how protective Randians are of Rand, I’m not sure she’s dead."

--P. J. O'Rourke, on the film, "Atlas Shrugged," which is based on the book by objectivist Ayn Rand

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Is science a threat to society?

The late philosopher of science Paul Feyerebend's book The Tyranny of Science is soon to come out, and, like many of his previous productions, it promises to set the scientific establishment's teeth on edge. Feyerebend, regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century, was always the scourge of those who see science as the only avenue to truth.

According to the Amazon page for the soon to be released book, his new, albeit posthumous book tells "the story of the rise of rationalism in Ancient Greece that eventually led to the entrenchment of a mythical ‘scientific worldview’." Undoubtedly the book will attract all the pious denunciations and self-righteous moralizing we have learned to expect from those who, unlike Feyerebend himself, haven't bothered to take the trouble to notice the metaphysical assumptions behind scientism, as well as how scientific belief actually operates.

We can't quote the new book, since it's not out. But have the smelling salts near at hand for those excitable scientific materialist friends of yours who may not be able to maintain their composure as we can quote one of Feyerebend's essays that is available on the Internet: "How to Defend Society Against Science":
Scientific "facts” are taught at a very early age and in the very same manner in which religious "facts” were taught only a century ago. There is no attempt to waken the critical abilities of the pupil so that he may be able to see things in perspective. At the universities the situation is even worse, for indoctrination is here carried out in a much more systematic manner ... In society at large the judgement of the scientist is received with the same reverence as the judgement of bishops and cardinals was accepted not too long ago. The move towards "demythologization," for example, is largely motivated by the wish to avoid any clash between Christianity and scientific ideas. If such a clash occurs, then science is certainly right and Christianity wrong. Pursue this investigation further and you will see that science has now become as oppressive as the ideologies it had once to fight.
So there.

HT: Uncommon Descent

Removing the organ and demanding the function

"From what I can see, the [White House] initiative against sexual harassment in colleges is the height of hypocrisy. Nothing about coed dorms, nothing about wild drinking and drugging, nothing about immodest dress, nothing about Sex Weeks and sex toys and the frankest kind of sexual advice dispensed in student newspapers, and nothing about taking responsibility for one’s own behavior. They want to protect the atmosphere of sexual license while tightening the rules to make it easier to accuse someone of assault."

--Carol Iannone, Phi Beta Cons

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"Atheists Don't Have No Songs"

HT: Uncommon Descent

The worst kind of fundamentalism

"Technological fundamentalism, fueled by the industrial mind, is now worse than any religious brand of fundamentalism."

--Wes Jackson, President of the Land Institute, in an interview in the Atlantic.