Letters To The Editor


December 26, 2005

Ruling on evolution sustains real science

As a research scientist, the wife of a science teacher and the mother of two Baltimore County public school students, I applaud the bold ruling by Judge John E. Jones III on evolution ("Judge rejects Pa. policy on `design,'" Dec. 21).

In strong and clearly worded language, Judge Jones affirmed that "intelligent design is not a scientific theory and has no place in the science classroom."

As a developmental biologist, I explore how a single cell, the newly fertilized egg, gives rise to the many different cells and complicated tissues and organs that make up the human body.

Slight variations in the developmental program can produce a horse, a parrot, a fish or even a fly. These are challenging and obviously not new problems for science.

But intelligent design is a concept that is totally foreign to experimental scientists. Our mission is not to invoke an outside creator, but to explain complex processes by studying their physical properties.

In the lingo of the lab, this means asking a good question, coming up with a possible explanation - a hypothesis - and then designing an experiment to test it.

If the hypothesis doesn't hold, you had better come up with a better one and test it, too.

Judge Jones' ruling that teaching intelligent design or other religious views is not only inappropriate but violates the Constitution supports this scientific approach, one that has led to numerous medical breakthroughs.

It is reassuring to know American children will be taught science in science class.

Marnie Halpern


The writer is chairwoman of the Educating About Evolution Subcommittee of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Using judicial fiat to quash inquiry

Before the American Civil Liberties Union, the plaintiffs and people subscribing to an "evolution-as-fact" point of view celebrate the defeat of intelligent design in Dover, Pa., I think they should pause to consider what has been lost ("Judge rejects Pa. policy on `design,'" Dec. 21).

For the parents and educators who were the plaintiffs, their victory will be an object lesson to their children and students that free thought and criticism of so-called established ideas can be repulsed and squashed through narrow-mindedness and that the effort can be packaged as a legal decision.

For the ACLU, the case represents the latest in a long litany of court battles to remove from the public education system any idea or philosophy that threatens its secular agenda.

And for those who believe the decision represents a validation of evolution as scientific fact, the case represents the abandonment of critical thinking. It substitutes judicial fiat for scientific principles.

If the scientific community wants to end the debate over evolution, it has one simple task - prove it.

For supporters of intelligent design, the court decision is really of no lasting significance.

The elegance and design of the universe and nature continue to be plainly evident, regardless of the efforts of the ACLU.

Scott Appelbaum


Group-home bill was always unfair

The proposed group home bill for Baltimore was downright discriminatory, a flaw not mentioned in The Sun's article "City pulls group-home bill" (Dec. 18) but understood by many community leaders.

In October, the city's Planning Commission heartily approved the bill, knowing the measure made it practically impossible to establish group homes of any size in neighborhoods with large detached houses and other low-density residential areas.

Adjustments needed to make the bill equitable for all city neighborhoods were not even considered.

Now the Planning Commission's support has been replaced by a request to withdraw - not amend - the bill, citing a need for the state to address neighborhood concerns.

It sure feels like an election year.

Joan Floyd


Amtrak is moving in right direction

Edward Wytkind's column "Cronyism strikes again" (Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 15) is long on opinion and short on facts about Amtrak. The passenger railroad is changing, as Mr. Wytkind observes, but in a direction completely opposite to the one he describes.

Today, Amtrak is carrying more passengers, investing more capital in infrastructure and providing more financial transparency and accountability than ever before.

Still, with operating losses hovering at $500 million per year, we must step up our reforms to improve service and reliability, strengthen the railroad's financial performance and make inter-city passenger rail service a more competitive transportation alternative.

Change is not easy at Amtrak, but the status quo is unacceptable and unsustainable.

It is imperative that we speed the pace of reform for a stronger Amtrak that provides reliable and high-quality service to 25 million passengers (and the number is growing) and maintains public support from the taxpayers as well.

This is the course that Amtrak is taking, and we hope that Mr. Wytkind - and others - will climb aboard.

David J. Hughes

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