Today's Letters: For some, natural selection doesn't cut it

Published June 24, 2007

Ignorance, fear take the stage June 17, Bill Maxwell column  

I have many times agreed with Bill Maxwell's assessments of not only the troubles in our nation, but also the characteristics that make it great.

But I must say that his article about ignorance and fear taking the stage seems itself to be motivated in part by ignorance. Having been raised in the home of a local Baptist minister, I was encouraged to search for truth. Part of that search led me to both my once-full-time profession of mechanical engineering and my present profession as physics teacher. Both of these professions are rooted in the deep causal structure of the universe. For some of us, the hand-me-down explanations of Charles Darwin's "designer substitute" (natural selection) offer an unsatisfactory scientific explanation for the origin and operation of the complex processes we observe in living systems. Furthermore (and coming closer to my turf as a physics teacher), evolutionary principles inadequately explain the origin of the physical laws that govern this universe of ours.

The seminal work on intelligent design (Darwin's Black Box by Dr. Michael Behe) was neither the result of theological orthodoxy nor neoconservative forces of darkness. Rather, based on my reading, it is a credible microbiologist's attempt to bring to the table some specific processes for which evolutionary principles offer no adequate explanation. Many intelligent-design proponents are not religious in their world view. They believe modern scientific evidence suggests that many processes possess the qualities of intelligent agency rather than blind, undirected natural forces. They make no claim beyond that, and it is unjust to extrapolate their observations into the theological package of creationism.

As an engineer, I freely admit I may be biased against evolution, since both my academic studies and work experience preclude eons of time and random mutations as an effective design tool. I was always taught that science should be a search for the truth about the world, and I have tried to teach my students the same. They need fear neither evolution nor intelligent design. But they must be willing to look at the world around them, observe it, model it and see if those models hold up to the scrutiny of mathematics and the natural laws mathematics comprise. Then, go where the truth leads.

Fred B. Folsom, St. Petersburg

More relevant today

The interest in what I would have thought was a dated revival on the infamous "Monkey Trial" hit home in Bill Maxwell's column.

As a young man, I remember laughing at the ignorance of educated men who attempted to destroy a science teacher trying to teach evolution.

Eight years of Jeb, along with six-plus years of President Bush, brought home that both these elected officials have given new life to religious-driven ignorance and fear that go well beyond the dangers of the Scopes trial. It took 47 years after the release of the movie to realize the greater implications of letting loose what Maxwell calls the "powers of darkness."

I am no longer laughing and wonder how this multiheaded Hydra can be checked.

Marc Yacht, Hudson

As threat looms, they snooze June 10, Philip Gailey column

So much at stake

Philip Gailey is right that 2008 presidential campaigns are ducking tough questions about America's future as our population ages. Yet more is at stake than just fixing the federal deficit. We need to focus on those affected by the difficult choices we face, and we must find solutions that are practical, positive and - above all - command broad bipartisan support.

For example, we can't cure Medicare without also curing our broken health care system. Fortunately, there are practical solutions that could save money and improve care for Americans: improving health information technology, reducing medical errors, managing chronic diseases better and encouraging healthy behaviors.

Some candidates are talking about health care, yet improving long-term financial security is barely mentioned. Only one in five Americans still has a defined-benefit pension, and half haven't enrolled in an employer 401(k) or other savings plan. How about a Florida debate focused specifically on health care and financial security?

AARP is working with business and labor groups in a campaign (www.dividedwefail.org) to prod 2008 candidates to engage these ideas. With your help, Florida's January 2008 primary could help force candidates to focus on issues that matter most to our future. Please join us.

Lori Parham, Florida state director, AARP, Tallahassee

Rushing past warning signs June 17, column by Bob Graham

Manipulated into war

Former Sen. Bob Graham's article is a clear and convincing indictment of the mendacious manipulation by the Bush administration in fomenting a terrible and unjust war in Iraq. Bush and Cheney are guilty of the most flagrant abuse of power in convincing the U.S. public there was just cause in pursuing their prior goal of removing Saddam Hussein. They have created a much more dangerous and divided world.

President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, did something of the same nature, in using the Gulf of Tonkin "incident" as a pretext for escalating the Vietnam War. And there are other examples of such callous manipulation by governments, both our own and others, in riling the citizenry to armed conflict.

Why is such conduct not criminal and impeachable? If an individual perpetrates fraud of any magnitude, they are arrested and prosecuted, as, for example, Lou Pearlman. But government leaders seem to have a free rein, and enjoy with impunity, defrauding the electorate.

Our leaders are keen at sensing when there is a blood lust or sense of revenge endemic in society, and they play on that sense of anger. We need to be very careful in the future, even when we as a society have been wronged, to think through rationally the possible consequences of our collective anger. There are smarter ways of responding to affronts to our sovereignty than an immediate, fraudulent, military action orchestrated by scheming, pathological government leadership.

Mark W. Brandt, Dunedin

Retiring SOCom leader asks for patience on Iraq June 21, story

Hoping for a miracle

Our supply of patience has been depleted. We are left doubtful of a successful outcome in Iraq and Afghanistan, unable to decipher the spin that constantly emanates from the mouths of those in charge. Obviously, the war on terror has extracted much more than what we see on the daily news. Our soldiers cannot contend with the constant bombardment of IEDs. The 26, 000 injured vets attest to this inconsistency.

Adjustment to this war has met the test of enough time; and the ordinary citizen has come to realize there is little we can do to surmount and change the time frame which Washington feels is needed to win this (so far) unwinnable war. Unless the bureaucrats know something the ordinary citizens don't, which I am sure they do, a miracle is our only hope for peace in the Mideast.

Norma McCulliss, Palm Harbor

Safe retirement

Another general, Bryan "Doug" Brown, gets to ride off into a joyful retirement after he and the others have spent years sending our troops down the same roads every day to get blown up in Iraq and Afghanistan. None of those American heroes will ever get to enjoy their families or retirement.

And we should have more patience?

Gen. Brown and the rest of the senior officers and civilian leadership from the Pentagon to Capitol Hill to the White House should be ashamed of themselves for totally mismanaging this war. All they have to do to be safe is to retire, but they won't even let our sons and daughters come home when their military contracts are finished.

Gen. Brown says our troops have "the best body armor money can buy." Then why are our heroes dying from those IEDs buried beneath their vehicles? I know they are just daily casualty numbers to them, but they are family to us.

Think about that in your retirement, Gen. Brown.

Richard Carey, St. Petersburg

Institution of inspiration June 22

A beautiful moment

I wish to congratulate St. Petersburg Times photographer Kathleen Flynn for the beautiful photograph she took showing Nathan Greico being baptized.

She captured the joyful moment beautifully!

Mary Burke, Oldsmar