Thursday, March 29, 2007

Free Books!

Eisenbrauns recently announced on their RSS feeds that they would soon be giving away free books to subscribers. Their first such offer was posted yesterday, available to the first 30 respondents. Since I didn't make it until last night, I was quite certain I'd missed it. Good news, I did no such thing! And thus a free book is on the way.

Shamelessly shilling for free books, I encourage the biblioblogosphere to subscribe to one of said feeds and hopefully catch them next time (or, I suppose, possibly this time, depending on if they've had 30 respondents yet. . .)

Updated to fix URL as per James Spinti's info in the comments
Eisenbrauns RSS Feeds

Wikipedia and Web 2.0

Over on the NT Gateway Weblog, Mark Goodacre recently offered a Defence of Wikipedia, Jim West soon thundered his reply. Not surprising to any long time reader of the good Doc West's blog, his reply was overwhelmingly negative. So who's right? Longtime readers of my blog will not be surprised that my Linux loving, Web 2.0 embracing heart falls solidly on Goodacre's side.

Let's take a look at two points Goodacre raises, and West's comments on them. (Goodacre in Red, West in Green, to make for easier reading):

Fear of Wikipedia will eventually catch up on critical academics in the same way that fear of "the internet" caught up with academics who were complaining about it ten years ago. In due course, broadsides against Wikipedia may look as absurd as broadsides against "the internet" now look.

West replies:

I don’t think it’s fear that causes many to disdain Wiki. It’s disdain. Disdain because Wiki are “edit-able” by any Tom, Dick, or Harry who may, or may not, know what the devil they are talking about. Disdain, further, of having to debunk even more student minded nonsense than they must already.

West has missed the fundamental point of Goodacre's post--he must have, else he wouldn't be expressing precisely the concern Goodacre was condemning. Yes, any "Tom, Dick or Harry" can edit a page. It is, without question, important to underline that potential hole in any Wikipedia article. But most Toms, Dicks and Harrys don't do so. Most edit only articles they feel they have something to offer on, and when they have over-estimated the value of their contribution, most articles are editted accordingly. Stephen Colbert might still save the elephant from time to time, but he never saves it for long.

This isn't to say that Wikipedia is perfect, or that mistakes aren't going to slip through. Most of those mistakes are actually errors made by people who don't know better. They're never going to know better if you don't show them. If the Jim Wests of the world invested as much time sharing their expertise on projects like Wikipedia as they do deriding it, Wikipedia's value would increase exponentially. Not only would it, it routinely does. To be sure, other errors are the product of people poisoning the drinking water, spewing whatever nonsense they'd like. Dismissing the process because of the few seems patently absurd to me.

Also neglected is the importance of crowd dynamics in information. One person will not accurately guess the weight of a cow. The median of 1000 guesses is usually pretty close. Group generated information is usually self-correcting. The economy of the entire Western world is based on that point. To be sure, there are times when the group fails--the crowd becomes a lynch mob--but that doesn't undermine the fundamental point of it. Wikipedia institutes checks against that (locking pages, for example), the same way the stock market does (trade shutoffs). And just as the market is usually a pretty good assessment of a company's worth, the Wikipedia community usually provides a pretty good resource. There will be failures, of course, but those will result in further checks and balances, which will further increase its value.

On this point--crowd dynamics--Wikipedia slaughters conventional encyclopedias in terms of value. Wikipedia articles--particularly those that have undergone extensive revision (the one's with more "Toms, Dicks and Harrys"), will give you a more balanced view than Brittanica. Brittanica reflects the views of one author, and try as he might, anyone who thinks that their presentation is freed from their own biases is only fooling themselves. Wikipedia provides a means for those biases to balance each other.

But West is nonetheless fundamentally correct on one point: Wikipedia shouldn't be a source anymore than a Google results page should. But it will point you to sources.

(2) One of the strengths of Wikipedia is that it is much more up-to-date than its print counterparts. Regularly, almost always, students will find much fresher material in Wikipedia than they will in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It is also, of course, becoming ever more comprehensive.

“Up to date” misinformation is worse than, or at least as bad as, out of date good information. Either way, both are misinforming.

West isn't simply wrong on this point, he's dead wrong. The most up to date information on Wikipedia is almost always fuelled by current events, or recent publications, and almost always accurate. Not universally, but usually. For an easy example, once Deep Throat was exposed, Wikipedia had the information on its entry on Deep Throat within hours. Brittanica users would wait another year.

But its not only currency where Wikipedia has a clear advantage, it's also breadth. Compare Wikipedia's entry on The New Perspective on Paul with Brittanica's. Wikipedia's is accurate, to the point, and provides solid reference material and additional reading in the close. It is the ideal encyclopedia article. Comparison to Brittanica is easy: It has no entry. Brittanica will probably continue to have no entry, Wikipedia's will probably continue to get better.

Wikipedia is the quintessential example of the information age in general, and Web 2.0 in particular. Embracing it and engaging will inherently affect its course. Digging your heels in and proclaiming your disdain for it will accomplish nothing. Those like West will come around, or they'll fade into obsolecence, or worse, irrelevance. The good doc's a smart guy, I'm sure he'll see the light before that happens.

Goodacre returns fire and Loren Rosson enters the fray.

Update Redux
Jim West accepts Goodacre's challenge

Further Update
Duane Smith gets in on the act over on Abnormal Interests

Monday, March 26, 2007

Duelling Quotes of the Day

A pair of divergent quotes from a pair of Norm's today, both on the "curse of the Law" in Galatians (is there a verse in Galatians that isn't disputed?)

I'll have to mull the two essays over and post more on this in the very near future. Particularly challenging is the question of whether or not Paul is addressing Judaizers (I'd tend towards "yes," but it really depends on what Peter is supposed to analogue at Antioch).

Likewise whether or not Paul is offering an apologia for his own gospel. Contrary to what I'd take to be the norm (though I've not read enough commentary on Galatians to affirm it to be a consensus), I'd tend toward rejecting that suggestion.

More on this later. . .

The key to an adequate interpretation lies in placing the passage firmly within the unfolding argument in the letter as a whole, always keeping in mind the situation facing the Galatian churches. In Gal.3.10-14, as well as in the ltter as a whole, Paul is not addressing his Judaizing opponents, nor is he aiming his arguments at Jews generally. Rather, the apostle seeks to dissuade those members of the Christian community who are being tempted to abandon the gospel as he had preached it for a derivative gospel based on a deficient appreciation of the consequences flowing from God's eschatological initiative in the death and resurrection of Jesus. . .The argument on the curse of the law is designed to show that, in espousing the other gospel, the Galatians would in the end be counterwitnessing to the truth of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.

Bonneau, Normand; The Logic of Paul's Argument on the Curse of the Law in Galatians 3:10-14; Novum Testamentum, Vol. 39, Fasc. 1. (Jan., 1997), p. 80.

From this it becomes clear that Gal. 3:10-14 is as much Paul's defense of his own position as it is a polemic against the Judaizer's view. Paul is here addressing the charge that his gospel promoted transgression and thus placed his Gentile converts under the curse of the law. Paul agrees with the Judaizers that those who belong to the Sinai covenant are obliged to fulfill all its demands. If such persons did not do so, he admits, they would invite the curse of the law. What Paul disputes is that those who live by faith in Christ come under the jurisdiction of the Sinai covenantal arrangement. Since those of faith are outside Sinai's jurisdiction, Paul's failure to circumcise his Gentile converts does not place them under the curse of the law. The death of Christ has brought the original promise to Abraham into play, and this has introduced a new salvific era within the covenant community.

Young, Norman H; Who's Cursed: And Why? (Galatians 3:10-14); Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 117, No. 1. (Spring, 1998), pp. 91-92.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Quote of the Day

Several months later, having learned many valuable lessons about just how much work babies are, it's time to resurrect this blog. So we'll start off small, with a quote of the day, and proceed to more studious dillentatism in the coming days. So, without further ado, a quote of the day on the Galileo complex so often seen in the fringe theories that permeate online:

But a man does not attain the status of Galileo merely because he is persecuted; he must also be right.

Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1977, p 154.