Tom Coburn Doesn’t Like Political Science

by Henry Farrell on October 7, 2009

He has just introduced an “amendment to prevent the NSF from funding political science research”: (PDF). Apparently, Fox News and CNN pundits can do our job better than we can.

bq. The largest award over the last 10 years under the political science program has been $5.4 million for the University of Michigan for the “American National Election Studies” grant. The grant is to “inform explanations of election outcomes.” The University of Michigan may have some interesting theories about recent elections, but Americans who have an interest in electoral politics can turn to CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, the print media, and a seemingly endless number of political commentators on the internet who pour over this data and provide a myriad of viewpoints to answer the same questions.

Whether the answers provided by this ‘myriad of viewpoints’ are good ones, I will leave as an open question. I obviously have a dog in this fight as a political scientist who will probably apply for NSF funding in the future. But I also think that there are measurable Good Things (in terms of understanding how our system of politics works etc) that come from good empirical work in political science. And the politics of Coburn’s amendment are not precisely difficult to discern (among his stated objections are that this money has gone to fund research concluding that the US is increasingly willing to torture suspected terrorists, and carefully unspecified work – doubtless some form of shameless subsidized leftwing punditry – by Paul Krugman). If you feel that political science doesn’t deserve any funding, feel free to say so in comments. If you disagree with Coburn (and are a political scientist) and live in the US, get on to your senator’s office to say so (and ideally, contact your university’s research vice president’s office or whatever while you are at it – they are likely to have good contacts). This may come up for a vote today.

Update: “Senator contact information here”:

More translation mysteries tonight. Conservapedia is calling for a Conservative Bible Project.

As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:[2]

1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, “gender inclusive” language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level[3]
4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop;[4] defective translations use the word “comrade” three times as often as “volunteer”; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as “word”, “peace”, and “miracle”.
5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as “gamble” rather than “cast lots”;[5] using modern political terms, such as “register” rather than “enroll” for the census
6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word “Lord” rather than “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” or “Lord God.”

They are basically planning to start with the King James Bible and then just make it say what they think it should. Not only do they apparently regard it as inessential to involve anyone with knowledge of the original texts – although they off-handedly contemplate this as a possibility – they are touting ‘mastery of English’ as one of the benefits those who help with the project can expect to reap. What can one say? I find it hard to believe the whole thing isn’t some sort of elaborate, Borat-style hoax. Could it be? (Is Conservapedia for real?) Discuss.

via Sadly, No!