Our readers talk back.
Science Stole Religion's Baton
In response to "Ignorant Design at the SBOE" [July 25] and a subsequent letter of praise:
Your rhetoric (and your cartoon) portray anyone who questions evolution as the only origin theory as a religious fundamentalist. Isn't one of the defining traits of fundamentalism a close-mindedness to alternative ways of interpretation and thinking?
I don't have a huge problem with evolution. As Stephen Hawking wrote (about a related scientific theory), evolution does not "preclude a creator, but it definitely sets limits on how and when he did the creating."
However, we are lacking much evidence for evolution on a grand scale (or, macroevolution), for example, sufficient intermediary fossil records. At the same time, you make the claim that intelligent design has no evidence.
At one point you mention no real biologist questions evolution. Who's to define "real biologist"? Are you a biologist? I'm not, but I do know Jonathan Wells holds a doctorate specializing in embryology and evolution from UC Berkeley. Yet, you casually dismiss him, even though he does point out that some incorrect evolution diagrams are still part of our textbooks.
I don't want our education, more specifically, what goes in textbooks, to be decided by a religious fundamentalist. But I don't want to decide only along the lines of scientism and naturalism.
Our minds are still controlled by dogma. Science just stole the baton from the religious establishment.
For a more articulate and complete treatment on these matters, I would refer you to Daniel Kolak's Lovers of Wisdom pp. 249-260 and Huston Smith's Why Religion Matters, especially pp. 131-133 and pp. 178-182.
Don't Creatively Exploit Linguistic Ambiguities
OK, it's absurd to expect equanimity from an editorial titled "Ignorant Design at the SBOE" [July 18]. Perhaps the appropriate response is a glib dismissal of [Michael] May as another of the howler monkeys; men who guard Darwinism's position as academic dogma against any dissent. There are typically three methods such men employ and remarkably, maybe impressively, May uses all three in his editorial. First, make a dramatic and patently false claim that no respected biologists challenge Neo-Darwinism. In truth, a number of competing evolutionary theories enjoy wide scientific support: Neo-Lamarckism, Process Structuralism, Saltationism, and Design Inference (Intelligent Design). Second, attack the objector's religious affiliation, pretending that metaphysical presuppositions don't underlie every scientific theory. After all, this is easier than answering challenges brought forth from molecular biology, mathematical probability, and design. You might qualify scholar with "Christian," while neglecting to mention nonreligious objectors like Richard Milton, Lynn Margulis, and Roland Hirsch, to name a few. This method goes a long way toward establishing otherwise paranoid-seeming conspiracy theories. Lastly, assist your cause by citing professors who claim their work has been misrepresented, though leave off mention that this is a typical response in academic disputes. And in the case of Hillis, forget to mention that he railed about a religious/political conspiracy during the meeting. If none of these works, construct a straw man argument by conflating Creationism and Design Inference. This will keep ID advocates busy explaining why they don't believe the Earth is 5,000 years old, and will spare you having to answer how a theory that neither successfully accounts for consciousness nor irreducible complexity ever became academic dogma. Failing all of the above, creatively exploit linguistic ambiguities in the safety of Cognitive Philosophy with promises to prove your theories at a future date. Remember, there's always a way out of an answer.
Great Texas Movie Co. Good for Marble Falls
Your characterization of the Great Texas Movie Co. as corporate juggernaut bent on destroying rural America ["The Marble Falls," Aug. 1] is laughable and further demonstrates the Chronicle's simplistic need to portray everything as good guy vs. bad guy.
Jeff Benson and his partner Dennis Butler (I went to high school with both of them) are a couple of regular thirtysomething guys who started with almost nothing but a good idea. They realized that small-town folks seek a broad selection of movies just as anyone in Austin would. Seems obvious, but nobody else was doing it.
That they are smart enough to cut costs constructively and line up financing through honest means is simply shrewd and not "bottom-feeding" as you described it. While I'm sure Benson and Butler have big plans for their company, their current holdings can be counted on one hand. We should applaud that they are investing in a small town and providing jobs and greater consumer choices.
Brian M. Cofer
St. Louis, Mo.
Budget Tactics of a Brat
To the editor,
I recently read one of your statements regarding Austin's financial problems and the solutions Futrell offered. Solutions such as shortening the library hours, cutting police-force wages, and encouraging big-box corporations like Wal-Mart to build and bring in tax revenue for the city. These solutions given are just escaping the problem, not solving it.
Another appalling issue in the city finances are the facilities or amenities which are planned. Luxuries such as the soccer stadium, community center, and improving the beautiful Town Lake Park, these should not be in the budget when our quality of law enforcement, educational buildings, small businesses, and natural treasures are being threatened. These solutions sound like a brat's way of getting a new toy; asking mommy or daddy for money after selling the last toy they just got. When someone sacrifices quality, the job is only partially completed and these half-measures will avail nothing. Community facilities will come if the community wants them. Just as a 16-year-old will buy his/her first vehicle if they are not given one, Austin too, can be self-supporting. We've all had to do it. Actions speak louder than words, and I hope we can avoid sacrificing morals for money.
The Scene: Tuesday, July 29 public meeting at Linder Elementary School.
The Subject: Mabel Davis Park cleanup report.
The Score: 18-24 months and $7 million-$12 million including stripping out 400 50-year-old trees, resurfacing much of the park, and creating two engineered creeks. Estimated completion in mid-2005.
The scene: Wednesday, July 30 Austin American-Statesman headlines.
The Subject: "Barton Cleanup OK'd"
The score: Nine months and $810,000 to clean up three problem areas.
Anybody see a tilt in priorities here?
End Automobile Addiction
Lauri Apple's article regarding Casa de Luz's car parking crisis ["Naked City: Casa de Luz, Sin Coches," Aug. 1] suggests that CdL and all of Austin have an opportunity for positive change, if only we could see it.
I've great respect for the CdL crowd. They have disposable income, but they use it to pursue spiritual growth and to manifest health in both themselves and their community. They help people to break hurtful addictions. They try to keep a respect for their surroundings. Now they face a direct challenge to something they love, the legal viability of their business' site brought on directly by their own addiction to their automobiles. Everyone in Austin tacitly understands how our addiction to cars hurts the whole city, but few have the strength or the will to assert themselves against it.
The usual solution of adding more parking spaces would destroy what is nice about the location. Can you picture a parking garage looming above CdL and Zach Scott? Should we pave over the baseball fields? CdL came to Toomey Lane for its beauty. Now they face the reality that their own presence threatens the beauty they sought.
But if any cohesive group in Austin has the ability, both materially and spiritually, to break their addiction to the automobile, it is that crowd from Casa de Luz. The prize is not some vague picture of a better city, but the immediate goal of saving their facility. They have the skill and the will to break free, but do they have the wisdom to see the real mechanics of the problem? Let's hope so. They could serve as the vanguard for much-needed transformation of consciousness that the city, nation, and world are struggling toward.
Don't Worry About a Job, We're Doomed
In her "Keep Austin Employed" letter ["Postmarks," Aug. 1], Caroline Kittelson complains that she was forced from the weird side to the dark side by employment pressures. I welcome her to the real world and point out that employment pressures result from ecological pressures, which in turn result from population pressures. Freedom to be weird (or anything else, for that matter) requires elbow room. As the human population grows beyond optimum density to maximum density (in about 40 years, by current estimates), freedom diminishes from maximum possible to zero. "Smart Growth" is not dead, it's just an oxymoron until we contrive a means to defeat the beast of armageddon (i.e., the global population-explosion) with its Four Horsemen: Famine, Plague, War, and Avarice (the first two being nature's responses to overpopulation, the last two being man's best efforts, to date).
Jack Raymond Curtis
Caring Doesn't Guarantee Jobs
This is meant as a shot of reality to Anita Quintanilla, who is being overlooked in jobs because of her age ["Postmarks," Aug. 1].
Anita. Have you been to Hooters lately? Generally speaking, employers want the youngest, healthiest, most attractive people they can find to fill a vacancy and your background in human-services jobs would matter little if at all to them. And why should it? The fact that you choose to work in those kinds of jobs years ago was an altruistic act on your part, but it's not up to an employer today to thank you in doing that by selecting you in a job.
And also, I think characterizing Austin as "uncaring" because no one has hired you demonstrates faulty thinking. You could call the city of Austin uncaring if you dialed 911 and when the paramedics got to your door, they just turned around and drove away.
Since you have children and are probably bilingual, why not apply in a job as a nanny/housekeeper? Maybe a job like that would give you time to figure out why you've been feeling sorry for yourself since the 1950s.
Trust Yourself, Not Superhumans
I guess everyone gets something different out of an article. I was surprised at what others derived from last week's "Letters @ 3AM" [July 25], having resonated with it myself.
I recall being taught as a kid to always turn the other cheek and not fight. I recall also that in every parentally mediated dispute with my younger sibling, he came out on top, and all pleading of my case to the establishment was futile. (Quite) larger-than-life comics characters captured my imagination by being effective rather than helpless as I felt.
Larger-than-life figures abound in our society. Many perceive politicians to be wiser than they are simply by reason of holding office. Many others look up to nearly superhuman professional athletes because of their skills with inflatable objects such as tennis balls, footballs, baseballs, and basketballs. Why does no one idolize makers of balloon animals?
Many actors are consulted on issues for having made their names playing ultra-effective people, but do you know how far from normal functionality many actors are?
I think Mr. Ventura's contention is that we often rely on others than ourselves to be significant, and deserves serious thought.
Trust the Culture
I don't know where to start with this. For one thing, it's too easy to take the past 50 years of film and look only at Bogart, Chandler, John Wayne, and Jimmy Stewart and then compare it with what has turned out to be one lousy crop of summer superhero movies ["Letters @ 3AM," July 25].
Don't worry about the kids, I very much doubt that kids were watching The Searchers in the theatres, either. Probably they were enjoying The Lone Ranger or Batman serials before the cartoons. And probably listening to The Shadow on the radio at home.
And let's not forget some of our oldest heroes: men like Achilles and Odysseus, who were rumored to be over 8 feet tall, fought in wars for 10 straight years, had kill records in the hundreds, and did other superhuman feats fairly regularly.
Lighten up. Without the superhuman as a goal, without the hope that we can achieve the divine in some form, what are we left with?
Orange County Mostly Hispanic
O.C. too white bread ["TV Eye," Aug. 1]. Don't the producers know that most of the kids in Orange County, Calif., are not white but Hispanic? Newport Beach has a small kids population while Santa Ana and Anaheim have a large kids population. But wait and see, the maids and gardeners will all be Mexican. A poor white boy in Southern California is rarely even from the Inland Empire. Now if they had put a poor Hispanic or Vietnamese kid in, it would have been more realistic.
Theatres Accessibility Good
[Re: "All Access," Aug. 1]
What a well-written article. By the end I was completely informed about this fantastic effort by Lauren Kinsler. My donation is in the mail. Thanks for writing about people and things that matter! Love your paper!
Texans Overwhelmingly Against Redistricting
Legislative redistricting should have been a moot point by now, because 98% of the people, who spoke from all parts of Texas, spoke out against the redistricting map. They came from all over far East Texas and Fort Worth, Killeen and Waco, Houston and parts south and west, and of course many Austinites lent their voice to the opposition. Even one of their own, Sen. Ratliff, was against it.
And yet the monster rears its ugly head again. I don't know if the public understands how serious this is; but the Republicans are trying to sew us all up once and for all. How? By systematically eradicating the Bill of Rights. The very closest example is the governor and his cronies spurred on by Tom DeLay and Washington attempting to usurp the power and stifle the voice of the voting electorate. They are even rewriting the Texas Constitution and gobbling up our dwindling financial resources in pursuing their whatever-it-takes attitude to win by hook or, more rightly, by crook. It is an outrage in the purest sense.
Folks, it is time to get up and start doing something about this before they ramrod this through and padlock the gate -- all to keep us subservient to their selfish lust for money and power under the self-righteous guise of Christianity.
Jesus said, "Many of you will come and say Lord, Lord. And I will say, I do not know you." Under their own philosophy, they face Judgment Day. Hey, Jesus!!!
Disrespecting Rep. Gonzalo Barrientos
I am very disappointed in Gonzalo's decision to turn tail and run to New Mexico. If he can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Gonzalo is an eloquent spokesman for the Democratic Party, but I think he should have stayed and fought the good fight ... press releases, speeches on the street corner, TV coverage, paid letter in the newspaper ... anything but playing hide and seek.
I find myself voting less and less for Democrats and this is reinforced by the childish behavior exhibited by their run for the border. It seems that Dems just don't know how to act in a civil manner when they are in the minority ... so they hit the trail rather than face reality.
Other minority groups don't have the luxury of part-time state employment or the money to catch a private plane and fly to New Mexico ... they have to stay and advocate their positions knowing that they will sometimes lose more times than they win ... but they nevertheless stay and are involved in the democratic process.
I think a posse should be formed to "bring Gonzalo back alive" after his "escape" from democracy, or perhaps a bounty hunter or coyote tracker could be employed to return the recalcitrants.
So what happens when this action spreads to the United States Congress and senators and representatives leave Washington, D.C., for parts unknown. Should the FBI or Homeland Security be called? What if they flee to international waters, or Canada or Mexico ... or the nearest church to seek sanctuary?
Texans and Americans have enough on our plates with al Qaeda, the far left and right, to be bothered with Gonzalo's little temper tantrum that borders on anarchy by shutting down the government.
I think Gonzalo should come back to Austin and enjoy his last term in office.
Guns Prevent Violence
The letter by B.W. Kovacevich in the Aug. 1 ["Postmarks"] issue in response to a prior letter by a Mr. Metz is full of misinformation and flimsy arguments. In the first paragraph, it presumes Mr. Metz "believes that we'd all be safer if everyone carried guns around." I never met the guy, but I'll bet Mr. Metz only advocates that those not criminally inclined that also have the judgment and skill that go with being a responsible firearms owner be allowed to carry weapons after completing the required training for a concealed-carry permit. Every state that has enacted concealed-carry legislation in the past 15 years has experienced a significant decrease in violent crime rates as a result of such legislation. In the third paragraph, B.W. Kovacevich indicates "semiautomatic assault rifles and/or handguns" are suitable for use only on people and have no sporting use. An assault rifle by definition is a military rifle capable of full automatic fire, and is not generally available to civilians. There is no such thing as an "assault handgun," since all handguns from a military standpoint are defensive in nature and not suitable for assault, nor are they capable of full automatic fire. However, many semiautomatic rifles, shotguns, and pistols are used for hunting and other sporting uses. I don't think it necessary to detail the obvious disparity in population numbers and cultural differences beween the U.S. and the UK. Apparently B.W. Kovacevich is unaware that violent-crime rates quadrupled in Britain after handguns became illegal in that country. In fact, one is now statistically much more likely to be mugged in London than in NYC. To quote the late Wild Bill Hickok, "A kind word and a gun go further than a kind word alone."
Public's Enormous View of Texans Important
I do not like feeling like I am in a state where legislators cannot stand up for themselves. It is very embarrassing ... the public has enormous views of Texas and Texans. Why don't they quit? Instead of running away?
I have worked in the Capitol.
Independent Thinking Not Partisan Categorizing
Mr. Brandt in his "A Republican at War With Rose" ["Postmarks," July 25] is entitled to his conservative opinion as to how state Rep. Patrick Rose is performing his duties in the Legislature. However, also being a graduate of Princeton (1964), I take exception to his accusation that Mr. Rose is not living up to the motto of "Princeton in the Nation's Service." What I cherish most about my Princeton education is how I was encouraged to think more complexly -- to listen to all sides and come to my own understanding of issues through study and discussion. "In the Nation's Service" does not look the same to everyone. I admire fellow Princetonians Rep. Jim Leach ('64) and Sen. Bill Bradley ('65) because of their thoughtful, nonbelligerent approach to issues even though they were on opposite sides of the aisle. We don't need the polarization that seems to be the motivation of far too many politicians and so-called political commentators today.
Rather than going to war against Mr. Rose, I would hope that the citizens of Hays County would rejoice in having such a young, dynamic, articulate spokesperson representing them. Perhaps if there were less posturing and more reasoned dialogue and compromise between opposing sides, both our Texas and federal governments could really start working for the people.
Think About Your Dog's Safety
To the editor,
I saw it again this morning -- a dog in the back of a pickup truck, its paws up on the edge. A sudden stop or the slightest bump would be enough to flip this dog onto the pavement to be hit by another car, injured, or killed. Having seen one dog fall out of the back of a truck on the highway and heard it screaming in agony, I cringe every time I see dogs riding like this. I applaud my kennel, DogBoy's Dog Ranch, for not allowing people to leave their property with a dog in the back of a truck unless the animal is in a securely tied-down crate. Wouldn't it be great for the many other pet-related businesses to institute this requirement? Why take your dog to the vet if you're going to kill it on the way home?
Save Family, Stop War
Here's how President Bush can strengthen the family: Stop sending our family members to get killed in unnecessary wars.
Austin Government Incompetent and Greedy
Well, another of the Chronicle all-stars is turning out to be a dud. Even though the current regime at City Hall handed Intel $1.25 million in taxpayer money without even a freaking contract, you endorsed them en masse. When Toby was named new city manager, you about crapped yourself with glee. You had a nice softball "Welcome to Our World" piece on her and her "tough task" ["She's One of Us," June 7, 2002]. You never wondered why she was being paid almost eight times the average Austin income, but hey, "corporate greed" is good, no? Your City Council handed money to Intel, illegally, they decided to waste 61 million taxpayer dollars on a new city hall when there was nothing wrong with the old one, they decided to spend $2.8 million "renovating" Second Street by planting trees, they spent $10 million on that stupid bridge over Town Lake. They're fixing to spend $17 million because some dolt at the Sierra Club said changing the direction of traffic downtown is "more pedestrian friendly." Now, your much-loved "workers" are being laid off because City Hall can't figure out where all the money went. When is Hightower going to go off on the Austin City Council as he seeks out corruption, incompetence, and greed? I hope to god you people don't start recommending doctors or Austin is going to be morticians heaven.
Carl T. Swanson
Not a Rodriguez Fan
Man, it is so great having a great filmmaker from Austin. A director that works with hot stars and creates epics that receive such critical praise. Maybe Robert Rodriguez should seek out Wes Anderson and see if he could get help in becoming one as well. Or he could just continue making mediocre flicks for kids.