Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stupidity contagious reports scientist

Well, it's not strictly true that Prof Roger Wotton from UCL (a.k.a. the Godless College of Gower Street) made that claim; he is rather a demonstration of it. He has apparently published an article in a UCL magazine all about how angels cannot fly. This claim alone is simply foolish. Given that angels are wholly spiritual beings, they can neither fly nor not fly; asking the question "can angels fly?" is about as meaningful as asking "what colour is next Tuesday?"

On closer examination, it turns out that he claimed that angels, as they are portrayed in art especially painting, are anatomically incapable of flight, due to underdeveloped shoulder and chest muscles. He then goes on to say that the fairies with gossamer wings so favoured by sentimental Victorian illustrators can't fly either!

Some of Professor Wotton's approach might simply be a certain robust scepticism, which is no bad thing in a scientist as the Climategate scandal has recently shown. Perhaps he might be motivated by scorn for New Age angelology and all its works & pomps. However if he is seriously suggesting that the sort of Angels described here are the sentimental anthropomorphic figures of angel cards, he really ought to think again. Better still, he might keep in future keep to areas about which he knows something. After all even a fool, if he will hold his peace shall be counted wise: and if he close his lips, a man of understanding.

Lastly, if you want a good imaginative picture of what an encounter with an angel might be like, check out John C. Wright Esq and his shortest of short stories.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

No Catholics need apply.

The title above does not refer to the EU (viz. the Buttiglione affair) nor is it a lament for CINO institutions that no longer, as a rule, employ Catholics. (The following tagline to a job ad is typical "As a Catholic foundation, the College actively encourages applications from diverse cultural and faith communities".)

Rather I'm talking about this group, which on the face of it has neither a need nor any conceivable reason to include Catholics. After all they are commemorating the publication of the "Authorised Version" of the Bible, sometimes referred to as the King James Bible. This was specifically intended to be a Bible for Protestants, whether Anglican or Presbyterian, and thus definitely not for the benefit of the benighted Papists. Unless, of course, you consider it a benefit that they un-pape themselves and become good Calvinists, or Lutherans or Cranmerians or whatever.

Well, that's not my gripe. Commemorating the KJV is no harm at all, even in strictly cultural terms. The KJV & Shakespeare are after all at the roots of the English language as we know it; in order to know it better, we need to know those sources better. I will go even further (in a dangerously ecumenical direction) and say that those who meant to put the Bible in the hands of ordinary Christians did well to do so. Their versions & footnotes I leave to another day's discussion. My complaint instead is with the complete omission of any mention of Catholicism or Catholic biblical scholarship altogether. The Authorised Version of 1611 is heavily dependent on the Tyndale New Testament; this much is a truism. What is in equally little doubt is that it has an equal if not greater debt to the Latin Vulgate, which was the Bible read by every educated person for a thousand years before then and for some centuries after. Moreover, the English translations sponsored by the Catholic Church predate the 1611 KJV by a year for the Old Testament and 29 years for the New! The history of the Bible in English on the 2011 Trust's website mentions none of this. Even more galling is their appropriation of figures doubtfully Christian as "Bible Heroes", while implying that J. R. R. Tolkien was some sort of Protestant! (For example, they have Tolkien "going to church" almost daily rather than attending Mass, and even "assisting in translating the Bible" while glossing over the fact that it was the specifically Catholic Jerusalem Bible that he worked on.)

Marking the 400th Year of the KJV is a very worthy thing but to do so by selectively ignoring salient facts, omitting chunks of relevant context and claiming as your own those who were not is a bit much. The 2011 Trust gets full marks for enthusiasm but scrapes a Third for fairness.