God Fails His Lab Test

Letters published March 7, 2002

The Time Machine
Miracles may happen, but not in science class:

I always enjoy reading your editorials, and though I wear a tweed coat once in a while, I wanted to respond to your recent article ["God, Man of Science," January 31] that is somewhat in support of opening science classrooms to alternative theories about origins and life on this planet.

There are several definitions of the word "theory." Many people prefer the definition that implies "conjecture or guessing." Scientists, however, are referring to cases in which there is considerable evidence in support of a principle or phenomenon. Such theories must be testable, so that it is possible to reject them and replace them with better theories that are supported by evidence. People have been testing neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory for over a century, and it has stood the tests so far. Many changes in our understanding of process have occurred, such as better knowledge about DNA and genetics, but these have come in support of organic evolution.

I hope we never base scientific decisions, or what we teach in public schools, on opinion polls. The Soviets rejected Mendelian genetics for decades because it seemed too capitalistic. They preferred the more socialist perspective of Lamarckian inheritance. Their wheat crops didn't do so well under such policies, as genes don't really care much about human politics. Would you like the NSF and NIH funded to reflect the beliefs of the Bush administration? Frightening thought.

There are many, many "theories" about supernatural creations, including notions of intelligent design. But they are not testable and therefore do not belong in the natural science classrooms. They should be discussed in philosophy or religion classes.

For example, I could tell you that I believe everything in our universe was created two weeks ago. There is no test that could prove me wrong, as I can just explain, "It was created that way." If I were sufficiently charismatic, I could probably attract a group of followers.

You are right about the source of influence here (all the bills put before the legislature have been brought by Republicans, including one from Lake County, so not all of them are from down south). Most teachers tread carefully when teaching evolution, as they expect parental backlash. Of course, if teachers give the succinct response that I've given above, then they'd really piss off the parents and rednecks.

Besides, the supporters of independent design and creation science want only one creation story presented, and you know which one. This process contains no documentation of materials and methods -- not even mention of DNA. The sun is created a few "days" after the "Let there be light" part.

Over the years, I've had many conversations with students who want to know if it is OK to insert a deity at some particular point in time, e.g. "God created DNA and then allowed evolution to proceed . . ." I tell these students that they can insert miracles wherever they like, as long as they understand that once they've done so, they've stepped outside the world of science.

Roger Laushman
Biology Department
Oberlin College

Trouble with veterans' disability claims:

I think "When Johnny Goes Off to War" [January 31] should have included the consequences of becoming disabled while serving in the military. By law, a veteran is not allowed to have a lawyer help him file a disability claim. My claim took 12 years to go through the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) disability claims process. When it was denied by the DVA, I was finally allowed to hire an attorney and file my claim with the Veterans Court of Appeals. Three years later, I proved that I was entitled to 100 percent compensation.

For the 15 years it took to pay the claim, I lived in poverty and would have been homeless except for the help of my family. I have no alcohol or drug-abuse problem, but the symptoms of my disability allowed me to work only on a temporary basis. Also, the law makes it much more difficult for a veteran to sue the DVA for medical malpractice than it is to sue for medical malpractice in civil court.

I equate Captain Leroux trying to enlist young people in the military with a drug dealer pushing crack in a schoolyard, and I think Scene acted as his accomplice by not pointing out the consequences of enlisting in the military and becoming disabled.

Bob Gross
Garfield Heights

The Coast Guard, our forgotten fighters:

I would like to take issue with part of Sarah Fenske's article "When Johnny Goes Off to War." You mention that recent activities in the world have not affected recruiting efforts in the four branches of the military. The problem with this is that America has five armed services, and you very quickly glossed over the oldest and longest-serving of them all: The United States Coast Guard.

As a member of the guard, I am used to the general population not being aware of our contributions to the nation's defense, but it really burns my buns to witness a member of our supposedly professional media ignore us.

After the Revolutionary War, the government disbanded the Army and the Navy, relegating our collective defense to individual states. Because of mounting problems with privateers along the Atlantic seaboard and in the Caribbean, Congress created the Revenue Cutter Service (RCS) in 1789 to guard our coasts. During the Coast Guard's history, we captured the first naval vessel in the War of 1812, shot the first naval shots during the Civil War, and manned the majority of the landing craft that hit the beaches on D-Day. We piloted nearly all of the river patrol boats during the Korean and Vietnam wars. During the Gulf War, the Coast Guard controlled the port in Kuwait City as the city was being liberated by the Marine Corps. We are presently being used to board vessels in the Gulf of Oman to enforce the blockade against Iraq, and we're conducting operations both here and abroad in the ongoing war on drugs.

Please, the next time you write an article, do not forget us. We get precious little respect from the masses. We do not need to give them more encouragement to believe that we do not exist. And if it matters, I thought the rest of the article was very clear and well written, and actually gave a positive spin on life in the military.

Jerald Motyka
Marine Safety Office Cleveland
United States Coast Guard

Lawson Jones doesn't speak for blacks:

As a black Democrat, committee person, ward leader, and lifelong Cuyahoga County resident, I observed firsthand how the party boss could split us apart. Now it's 2002, and Jimmy Dimora is using the same methods to divide us ["Winner Takes All Brawl," January 31]. Let us look at who Dimora wants to represent blacks, so that we will have a voice. Peter Lawson Jones is a fine and good man, and I am truly delighted and proud he attended Harvard. But what does Peter really stand for? He was on Shaker Heights City Council when permanent barricades were constructed on Avalon, Ingleside, Lee, and Scottsdale roads to keep working-class people from entering Shaker Heights. Those barricades are a symbol of racism, separatism, and elitism.

Lawson Jones says he was only one vote. But didn't he have a voice? Peter Lawson Jones voted repeatedly for the payment of additional legal fees to fight the City of Cleveland and the ACLU when they claimed those barricades were unconstitutional.

Jimmy Dimora, the party boss, is at it again, picking black leadership. Don't let history repeat itself. In June 1998, Louis Stokes said in the Call & Post that Dimora's "plantation boss mentality of picking our leaders may be acceptable to some other black official, but it is totally unacceptable to me." Remember, it was not so long ago we were all telling President George Herbert Walker Bush to replace Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall with a black Supreme Court justice. And that's just what we got -- another black justice.

Robert Riffe Thompson
Democratic ward leader
University Heights

Columbus sucked up its suburbs:

Pete Kotz overlooked the biggest advantage that cowtown Columbus has over Cleveland ["Cowtown Rocks," February 21]: Columbus annexed all its little surrounding suburbs years ago. As a result, Columbus has avoided many of Cleveland's problems, like the City of Cleveland's costly and time-consuming battle over airport expansion with the independent but much smaller city of Brook Park. Columbus can plan for county-wide projects, while anything the City of Cleveland wants to do always gets bogged down in turf battles with the 'burbs.

Patrick Mackin
Avon Lake

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