By Robert S. Becker July 21, '10
If Palin were aware of the world outside her head, she'd have quit on "refudiate" before committing a more serious theological blunder. Unless attention and celebrity solely define your notion of brassy cleverness or career advancement.
There's something to be said, aside from "you can't fix stupid," about marching backwards but never retreating. It's a calamity William Osler summarized some years ago, "The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism."
Palin was stuck, hesitant to admit only a typo turned "repudiate" into "refudiate." She had used the same non-word on FOX when attacking the president regarding NAACP charges of Tea Party racism. But when you stridently defend a howler, invoking no lesser being than Shakespeare, you make things worse. Adults then think your "mistakes" are not about spelling but intelligence or literacy, the ability to use a dictionary, even basic communication etiquette, more damning than any typo.
The inability to admit even tiny errors raises the worst case of all: the total inability to admit error, thus defaulting to delusions of infallability. Yes, yes, I know, living saints don't make errors so they don't have to admit what never happens.
Undermining Biblical Literalism
But now, she's really done it, coming with up a viable theory of language that, when implications come forth, should cause an evangelical firestorm. By positing English is a "living language," doesn't Palin "refudiate" the core assumption on which fundamentalist literalism depends, the key to her quaint version of distorted Christianity? Whether unconscious or oblivious subversion, admitting language is living, especially in the trivial pursuit of being defensive, is not where any born-again charismatic wants to go.
If language is "living," then sinful speakers continually distort the pure original. Then, as language evolves, what gets created dooms literalist notions: ambiguity that mandate periodic interpretations. That elevates the enemy of linguistic literalism: history and context, which every linguist worth his/her salt acknowledges informs ultimate meaning, intention, and function.