Friday, August 30, 2013

Run silent, run deep...

No, Microsoft Word, I mean pericope, not periscope, and I would appreciate it if you didn't auto-correct that for me.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I'll be in my bunk. Academically speaking.

I was very excited to hear about Logos Bible Softwares Noet product, their expansion into classical, philosophical, and literary e-books. I was particularly excited to see that their Classical Greek and Latin bundles included content from the Perseus Digital Library, one of the most valuable information sources in the history of ever, if you are a classics geek. I also noticed that Logos is busy digitizing my other favorite thing in the world, the Loeb Classical Library.

And then, on a whim, I searched to see if the Perseus material was going to be available as a stand-alone product.

And it is. Already. FOR FREE.

I dont have the full version of Logos on my work computer, so I cant delve too deeply, but its a tremendous number of Greek and Latin texts and translations. It doesnt look like they are morphologically tagged, so it isnt a complete replacement for the (clunky) Perseus web interface. But Logos says they are looking into morph tagging, and there is already a right-click option to send a selection to Perseus parsing tool.  I stand corrected! They aren’t fully morph-tagged like the Bibles, but they have the same morph data that you’d get from the Perseus parser (e.g., it will tell you that form could be nominative, vocative, or accusative, but not which one it is.) At least that’s the case with Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Joy!

This wont keep me from buying the various other Noet and Loeb offerings, of course. Because you cant have too many books, especially when they don’t weigh anything. But oh man, does this make it a lot easier to, say, pull up the original Greek of the Phaedrus on my phone at a cocktail party. And we all know how often that comes up.

*jumping up and down with geeky joy*

(They also have other material from the Perseus database, including Beowulf and the Duke Documentary Papyri, if that’s how you roll.)

ADDENDUM: It turns out the Perseus material has been (incrementally) available on Logos for almost two years now. Still pretty cool, though.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Oh, Dick!

Dick Dawkins is living up to his name again:

Richard Dawkins criticised for Twitter comment about Muslims

The thing is, I really think he doesn't understand why this is racist, because he is unable to understand the social context in which he speaks, one in which most Muslims are members of marginalized racial groups. (What, a Cambridge professor speaking from a perspective of White, western privilege?! Never!) Something doesn't have to racist in intent to be racist in consequence. When he marginalizes Muslims in the UK, he is marginalizing predominantly people with dark skin, whether he meant to or not.

And even if it isn't racist, it's still bigoted. My fellow atheists really need to learn the difference between disagreeing with a belief system and attacking its believers. There is a difference between Islam and Muslims, Judaism and Jews, Christianity and Christians, etc. Bigotry against people because of their religion is wrong, even if you think the religion is a bunch of balderdash.

Part of Dawkins's problem, I think, is that he is a scientist, and he doesn't work well with subtle, often emotionally-turbulent world of human interactions. It's one of my problems with his whole meme theory: he tries to reduce the immense complexities of cultural transmission to the simple algebra of genetics. (Hell, even genetics isn't that black-and-white anymore.) He could benefit from a deeper exposure to the humanities, especially some instruction on the history and varieties of world religions. Unfortunately, that might require Dawkins to check his privilege.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

“Because it’s my job as an academic.”

The Reza Aslan/Fox “News” kefluffle has raised a number of interesting issues that I will address in due course. (Unsurprisingly, I have some strong opinions on the whole “Why would you, a Muggle, want to study wizards?” business.) I do applaud Dr. Aslan for not bursting out laughing or using foul language; I don’t know if I could have shown such restraint:

But what’s interesting to me about this clip is what it reveals about the underlying assumptions of Fox “News” (and, I suspect, much of its audience). Ms. Green’s questions betray a suspicion of academia that goes beyond simple anti-intellectualism. She seems to assume that academics must have an agenda (be it political, religious, or whatever) beyond the simple desire to understand more about our world. Now, of course, many do, and even wear those agendas on their sleeve, but I hope that most of us at least strive for objectivity.

The academic study of religion is a potentially sticky example, because there are indeed many academics in the field who also advance certain confessional claims. (This is an old issue and I shan’t rehash it just now.) But I think the Foxnewsian view extends this to many other fields of inquiry as well. For instance, they can’t understand—or don’t believe—that climate scientists are simply interested in describing the natural world and drawing conclusions from the data. There must be, they assume, some sinister political agenda behind the (nearly uniequivocal) findings about climate change. (Nobody has ever been able to explain to me exactly what that agenda is, but hey…) They can’t conceive of ideologically-neutral facts (much less the obsessive drive scholars have to find them). Indeed, Lauren Green has written extensively on Islam, but generally in the context of anti-Islam polemic, so she may be assuming Aslan is just as incapable of being “fair and balanced” about Christianity as she is towards Islam.

(None of this should be taken as an endorsement of Aslan’s book, which I have only skimmed, but which does not appear to be very good, at least as a piece of New Testament scholarship.)