The Opinion Shop

Letters to the Editor: David Barash, biology, evolution, Jerry Windle, Andres Rodriguez, Russia, Veterans Affairs, teen driving, President Obama, Barry Saunders, grammar, fracking, Michael Geilenfeld

These letters were not published in the print edition but deserve a look.

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In his Oct. 5 Point of View “ God and my biology class,” Professor David Barash plainly admits to proselytizing his undergrads on the “fact” of evolution. Too bad it also plainly exposes him as a jackleg philosopher, familiar with neither origin science nor religion.

First, citing Darwin, he confidently pleads with his captive audience members to ignore the illimitable superior spirit who revealed himself to Einstein and put their faith in the god of random variation that, he insists, is able to produce the wonderful complexity we see in nature. Perhaps the professor doesn’t understand that fish-to-philosopher evolution requires a ton of genetic accretion .

Richard Dawkins, dean of British neo-Darwinists, had the opportunity to cite one example of genetic accretion . His somewhat less confident reply can be seen on the YouTube video “ dawkins stumped.”

Next, exposing ignorance of biblical proportion, not to mention prose, Barash offers the straw-god argument against some mythical, omni-benevolent god. Where did he get that? Watching Oprah?

Barash’s students might be better off if they transferred to classes where professors stuck to teaching biology or religion instead of waxing philosophic on topics they don’t understand.

Ray Fritsch

Durham

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David P. Barash might have excelled in his fields of evolutionary biology and psychology, but he makes a woeful philosopher in his Oct. 5 Point of View “ God and my biology class.”

In his treatment of theology, he makes the claim that evolutionary science has demolished pillars of religious faith. But science, limited by observational data, can make no such claim. It is a perfectly rational observation to see that DNA is information, and information is not generated by natural selection.

More outrageous, though, is his apparent belief in his own logical mind. How did his mind come from mindless matter through natural selection? Why should we trust it? And how is there even such a thing as an “ethical horror” if there is no objective standard to evaluate what us “perfectly good animals” do, ethically or unethically?

Don Sandberg

Raleigh

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Regarding the Sept. 9 sports column “ Windle’s fathers fear for their safety”: It’s surprising The N&O wastes ink and space on the unreasoned travel preoccupations of Jerry Windle and Andres Rodriquez, no matter how “inspiring” is their personal story.

My Russian-born wife and I have many gay friends, so we’re attuned to their concerns. Moreover, we’re very attuned to what’s going on in Russia, both through the media, personal correspondence and yearly travel to that country.

Yes, Russia has a reprehensible policy against “gay propaganda,” but that does not translate into state policy against gays themselves. One has only to Google “gay nightclubs in Russia” to learn there’s a thriving “gay scene” there.

On the streets of St. Petersburg two months ago, I saw a fellow wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a large image of the drag queen Conchita Wurst, winner of Eurovision 2014. Clearly, the wearer of that T-shirt was comfortable with his attire, and similarly gay visitors to Russia should be comfortable as well.

Irrational decisions not to visit a place like Russia serve only to keep folks ignorant.

Adrian Halpern

Chapel Hill

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As a retired government National Institutes of Health scientist, who served four years as a medic in the U.S. Air Force, I for the first time went to a Veterans Affairs Hospital, in Durham, to seek a veteran’s identification card. Other veterans suggested this.

VA staff was very helpful in filling out the necessary registration form. I emphasized I was not seeking medical care or benefits and was told to call back in two to three days for a decision.

Then I was informed my application for an ID was rejected because the VA representative said my retirement benefits were too high. What? Needless to say, I was stymied and wondered why, and the person told me these are the rules.

Oh, well, so much for recognition as serving our country.

James Huff

Chapel Hill

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I appreciate Kayla Trudnak encouraging her friends not to text or drink while driving in her Oct. 1 Point of View “ Dear fellow teenage driver.” But to imply it’s unsafe to go outside and play because in the United States, there are 260,000 kidnappings per year is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 203,000 are kidnapped each year by family members, another 58,200 by non-family members. Of the “stereotypical” kidnapping, defined as “crimes involving someone the child does not or slightly knows and holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom or intends to keep the child permanently, there were 115. Of that number, 57 percent ended up with the return of the child.

Clearly, texting and drinking while driving are not good for your health. But let’s also add to that list keeping our kids bottled up inside our homes fearful that a kidnapper waits just outside the door. It’s time to turn off the Xbox and go outside and play.

Sig Hutchinson

Raleigh

The writer, a Democrat, is running for the Wake County commission.

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Lately there’s been a push by a lot of people that we need to raise the legal driving age in this country because of recent isolated automobile accidents caused by inexperienced young drivers, but what about all the inexperienced adult drivers who cause daily wrecks in the Triangle?

It’s not young drivers who cause me to take an hour to get to work from Garner to Raleigh every morning when I only live 30 minutes away, it’s all of the adult drivers who don’t signal when changing lanes or are too busy trying to tailgate everyone to block other drivers from getting in front of them as they get to their precious Starbucks morning coffee! And don’t let it be raining outside, it’s like people think there’s battery acid on the roads!

Not only should we not raise the driving age in this country, but it should be lowered because if young drivers are inexperienced, they need exposure and shouldn’t have to wait till 18 years old to learn how to drive!

I grew up in the country where everyone was driving by age 10, we just weren’t driving on major highways unattended! Even a riding lawnmower gives us some experience driving!

Everyone should have experience learning to drive before they get to college before they become more statistically inexperienced adults who can’t admit they’re bad drivers!

Stephen Lynn

Willow Spring

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In response to Maureen Dowd’s Aug. 23 column, “ Obama alone again, naturally”: President Obama is a moderate taking flak from both left and right, serving a nation that reverses President Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” – a consumer society, rich in things but poor in soul.

With constant criticism bombarding him from every direction, President Obama needs our prayers. Let us begin praying daily for our president that the decisions he makes will be in accord with God’s will. .

George and June Megill

Raleigh

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Barry Saunders is my grammar hero! Unlike so many people who put pen to paper, Saunders knows that when one states a supposition as he did in his Sept. 23 column “If it was a joke, who’s laughing,” one must use past tense.

As for pronouns, Saunders knows and uses those rules as well. Too many other people abuse nominative and objective case pronouns. They also do not know that they need to use possessive, not objective case, pronouns with gerunds.

Maybe it is time for English teachers to return to teaching students how to diagram sentences. Visual learners, especially then, could see the relationship of parts of speech and become better writers and speakers.

Long ago a fellow geometry teacher and I agreed that students who know how to diagram sentences are also better geometry students . Diagramming sentences, like geometry proofs, helps students develop their analytical skills.

Because we Americans live today in a global society, shouldn’t we learn to speak and write correctly? The impression we make when writing or speaking is just as important as how we dress or behave in every part of the world.

Mary Belle Pate

Raleigh

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Our General Assembly and governor have virtually destroyed the once meaningful Department of the Environment and Natural Resources . Now that DENR has produced the dangerously pathetic draft fracking guidelines that are an insult to our intelligence, what is next?

They will at best throw us a few crumbs with some minor improvements to the draft fracking rules before they become the law of the land, and we will have to live with that.

The root cause of this problem is not DENR, the puppet organization of our lawmakers, but those lawmakers themselves . When fracking was first voted on two years ago, most of us knew little of the dangers of fracking or coal ash pits – now we all much better informed.

We can live without fracking gas, but we cannot live without clean air and clean water. As one lady, so right on target, said at the first public hearing about politicians: “Vote them out.”

Charles Ritter

Cary

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I had not heard of Haitian missionary Michael Geilenfeld until I read your Sept 21 news article “ Saint or predator? Haitian missionary stirs strong emotions,” so I cannot pass judgment on his specific case.

I am, however, writing to object to your obtuse framing of the story: “(Geilenfeld) is either a saint who rescues street kids and child slaves or a sexual monster who pens them up to prey on them, depending on which side you are on.” Someone in Geilenfeld’s position of power could appear to be a saint, and even accomplish good works, but could still be a predator.

Look at the case of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who ran The Second Mile charity. This position gave him extensive, private access to vulnerable boys whom Sandusky abused.

We cannot remain blind to the fact that some predators look for or create jobs that give them access and even give them cover for their abuse. To keep kids safe, we need to stop looking for people who look like “monsters” and instead remain open to seeing the next Jerry Sandusky.

Amy Tiemann

Chapel Hill

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