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Letters to the Editor, September 2003


This a traditional letter column. You are encouraged to write a letter of comment on anything that you find worthy of comment. It will (may) be published in this column along with my reply. As editor I reserve the right to delete material; however I will not alter the undeleted material. E-mail to me that solely references the contents of this site will be assumed to be publishable mail. All other e-mail is assumed to be private. And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication. Oh yes, letters of appreciation for the scholarly resources provided by this site will be handled very discreetly. This page contains the correspondence for September 2003.

Some of it is a little ancient; I'm slowly catching up - very slowly.

Index of contributors

Other Correspondence Pages

  • Master page for correspondence
  • June 2003 Letters
  • July 2003 Letters
  • August 2003 Letters

  • From: Jessica Cobb
    Date: 8/21/2003
    Subj: piltdown man

    Hello, Could you please tell me if anyone who was around when the piltdown hoax was exposed is still alive today? Also do you know what, if any, television documentaries have been made on the hoax? I would be grateful for any information you can give me.

    My apologies for not getting back to you sooner. As far as I know, all of the principals in the exposure are dead. For information on documentaries, http://richardhartersworld.com/cri_a/piltdown/piltref.html#H .
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    From: Toby Thain
    Date: 9/18/2003
    Subj: Varinoma

    Couldn't see a contact on Varinoma's page so you get this mail.

    That's quite alright; I'm responsible for Varinoma.com and Varinoma press, so I'm the chap to speak to. As you may have realized, no great deal of reality is associated with varinoma press.
    * Am curious about your title "Nabokov". What's the deal? Can I see sample pages?
    See http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/1997/nabokov.html
    * Isn't it spelled "Doppelganger"? Your page has "The Doppleganger of Dabney Prood".
    Quite right.
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    From: Nick Bucska
    Date: 8/202003
    Subj: Natural selection

    I am an electronic engineer, 71. I wrote a computer simulation which I adapted to model the Natural Selection [NS]. I obtained some very interesting results what I summarize here:

    ===============================================================

    NATURAL SELECTION IS CONSERVATIVE, NOT CREATIVE FORCE

    NS tends to maintain the status quo and eliminate ALL mutations.

    Since NS is a statistical process, it is a mistake to assume that it has to work with a small population e.g. mutations

    The popular scientific literature implicitly assumes that NS always works, ideally and fast. Actually, unless the population is built up by random effects, all mutations are eliminated. For example, if a bug lays 100 eggs, a mutation with 1% higher survival probability is eliminated with 99.999 % probability.

    Even in the case of relative large increase of the survival probability due to a mutation, the NS works erratically, with low probability. This causes the evolution to work in bursts.

    If the population is constant, the evolution stops.

    The Natural Selection [NS] is a statistical process which is supposed to select the "fittest" units i.e. the ones with the highest probability of survival BUT a statistical process works only with large numbers.

    Simplest analogy : let's suppose A opens an account with $10 at 3 percent interest and B with a dime at 4 percent.

    If the accounts are not rounded in 477 years account B will exceed account A and the difference will grow larger and larger.

    If the accounts are rounded to the next penny, B will forever remain a dime -- and in Nature every generation is truncated: THERE IS NO FRACTIONAL LIVING BEING !

    ====================================================
    I would be glad to E-mail you the program with source (for PC ) with documentation.

    I really don't want to look at your program - I have quite enough of them to worry about already, thank you. However I am pleased to see that you retain your youthful agility of mind. I suspect, perhaps unjustly, that your simulation is not entirely realistic. Some questions that occur to me:

    Are you modelling prokaryote or eukaryote evolution? If prokaryote, are you taking into account horizontal transfer via plasmids? If eukaryote, are you taking into account crossover?

    Are your population sizes realistic?

    Is your model of mutation rates realistic? Recall that the average number of mutations in the effective genome per individual is on the order of 3 to 7.

    Do you correctly take into account statistical fluctuation? Your comments about the "rounding to the nearest penny" analogy suggests that you do not.

    May I suggest that if you want a critique of your program and results then you should post your analysis in the talk.origins newsgroup.

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    From: Ed Lavent
    Date: 9/13/2003
    Subj: Dear Portal Administration

    Dear Portal Administration!

    I have recently come across your site and liked it very much.

    I suppose that the visitors of our resources belong to the same social group and my site could be useful for your audience so I suggest to exchange our links. This will help both of us to increase Link-Popularity and accordingly get top positions in many searching system, Google for instance.

    My site is dedicated to my motorcycle travel stories.

    I hope that our subject as well as your site info will evoke mutual interest of our visitors. If you are positive to cooperate with me will you please visit this page to leave your link:
    http://www.edtrstory.com/?id=links

    I don't do link exchanges as such. I will say, however, that you certainly do have an interesting collection of links.
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    From: Sarah Bradford
    Date: 9/5/2003
    Subj: piltdown man

    I'm doing the history of the Parish of Fletching which includes Piltdown. As I was looking for information about the Piltdown man I decided to look on the web, were I found your site amongst many others, the thing I was looking for was a date as to when the second skull was found. All the sites I did skip through seem to have different dates for this, yours says 1915 others say 1917 which is right. Also one site says two more skulls were found is this right. While doing my research I came across these stories, 1, Chipper the uncanny Gander, 2, The Kibbo Kift which made pilgrimages to the spot of the Piltdown man, 3, the man who was kept at the bull in Newick ( was this the Piltdown man). Have you heard of these, if not would you like a copy. Did you know that Dawson is buried in a Lewes graveyard.

    The sequence of events seems to be that Dawson 'discovered' Piltdown II in early 1915. He died in 1916. Woodward, who had custody of the skull, announced Piltdown II in 1917. There were only two Piltdown skulls; however there are several other prehistoric human finds in England, albeit all modern homo sapiens sapiens.

    Oddly enough, one of my readers wants to know the specifics of where Dawson is buried. Might you have that information?

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    From: Peter Marsden
    Date: 9/12/2003
    Subj: Charles Dawson's grave

    Has C.Dawson's gravestone been located? Walsh (1996) states it might take several days to find it in the burial ground, he did not try. I am in Lewes soon and intend to try at least once, but has it been found, and if so has anyone notfied you of the inscription? Very grateful for any info

    My apologies, I don't have any information on that point. Perhaps one of my readers might.
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    From: Lynn Durham
    Date: 8/15/2003
    Subj: c s lewis & evil

    In doing some web research while preparing a Sunday school lesson on C. S. Lewis' The Great Divorce I ran across your 1973 essay on Lewis. One of my questions for my class this Sunday will feature your postscript, to wit:

    For all his preoccupation with evil, Lewis does not really come to terms with it. His focus is on the small and the petty, the ordinary and little. When it comes to evil on a large scale he turns to figures which are not precisely human, e.g. the witches and giants in the Narnia series. He doesn't treat evil on the large, human scale. His villains simply aren't very villainous compared to the atrocities of this century. He sees the petty selfishness of daily bourgeois life; he doesn't see the death camps at Dachau. Are the horrors simply the end result of the small sins, written large, or is there something else beyond "diminishing"? He doesn't ask the question, let alone answer it. ...Richard Harter

    (Last year our class did a series on "resistance and reconciliation" dealing w/ how Christians have confronted, compromised with, defended, and eventually resisted various evils including slavery, anti-semitism/holocaust, etc. Thus your postscript should be fairly provocative.)

    I am intrigued by the "moral dimensionality" implied in your postscript in comparison to that of Lewis whereby you presume that the human scale is "larger" and more real, whereas Lewis quite intentionally posits precisely the opposite for "mythopoeic" effect in Narnia and allegorical effect in The Great Divorce. In Lewis' world of Narnia, for example, the evil regimes imposed by the witches in TLTW&TW, The Magician's Nephew & in The Silver Chair) are every bit as terrifying within in their realms as the cruelty and totalitarianism of Stalin or Hitler have been in ours. He was writing for children, after all, not adult ethicists. In The Great Divorce, it is Napoleon (an earlier evil tyrant by traditional English reckoning) who lives in the far reaches of Hell (Grey Town). (Hitler, I would imagine, was too recent a figure.) Milton (in PL) makes Satan heroic; Lewis, who was intimately acquainted with Milton and this irony, is careful to avoid this. Indeed Lewis does seem to do all he can to diminish Satan (in comparison to God) but he does not make light of the powerful but ultimately delusory allure of the power that evil is or promises (in comparison to the majesty of Heaven, Reality Itself, or the Kingdom of Aslan.) (One could argue that, in the Gospels, Jesus Himself never discusses evil on the scale of the Holocaust except, if at all, in terms of the Day of the Lord.)

    I wonder: Do you really imagine that Lewis would demur to your charge or give you a response worth thinking about?

    Your final question first: I imagine that Lewis would have demurred - it would only have been human for him to have done so. I can only guess as to his reply, but it might have been something along these lines:
    The essence of evil is estrangement from God by choosing my will and not Thine; it is the choice rather than the deed that matters. All who choose themselves over God are equal by virtue of being nothing in the end. It follows that there is no essential difference between the small sin and the large sin; they all lead to the same end. One can even argue that distinguishing between great evil and petty sin is an occasion for error, because it means choosing Man and worldly affairs over God.
    I am inclined to believe the argument to be right, that the distinction between the evil of the death camp commandant and that of the petulant child is a secular distinction, and even that the very notion of evil may, in the final analysis, be a secular notion.

    Be that as it may, I contend that your '... whereby you presume that the human scale is "larger" and more real, whereas Lewis quite intentionally posits precisely the opposite for "mythopoeic" effect ...' is a misreading of the postscript. I did not say anything like the human scale being larger and more real. As far as I can see, your commentary (most of which I agree with) is simply irrelevant to the point of the postscript, which is that Lewis's portrayal of evil does not come to terms with the horrific.

    In Lewis's case, the use of myth is an evasion, a way of having evil and evil powers without having to account for evil. The witches in Narnia are superhuman in their powers and intrinsically evil - literary versions of the comic book villain. An Adolf Hitler is not superhuman in his powers nor is he intrinsically evil. The human in _The Screwtape Letters_ who is the object of Screwtape's hapless nephews attention wobbles between salvation and damnation by small choices in prosaic circumstances. His sins and virtues, such as they are, have a minor (although we hope beneficial) impact on the world.

    The case is quite different with an Adolf Hitler. It may be that the difference between supervising the extermination of a few million people and being a glutton is only a secular one. Let it be so. Still there is a difference that most, even most Christians, would recognize. Dahmer chose to kill people and eat them; your ordinary glutton chooses to eat too much cake. Are these really the same kind of choices? If so, how so? If not, how not?

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    From: lshoker209
    Date: 9/12/2003
    Subj: Question!!

    My question is well if you know (or think) that mutants may exist. Well, do you? I'd appreciate it if you would send me a reply. Thanks much!

    There is no doubt in my mind but that mutants exist. The real question is: Do you exist?

    ... continued on next rock ...

    I don't understand what you mean when you say if I exist. Can you maybe explain that?

    It's simple enough. I know that there are mutants, albeit not of the X-men superpower variety. I don't know whether or not you exist. Maybe yes, maybe no. Explain yourself, sir. Do you exist or don't you? Do you have any evidence to support your opinion in this matter?
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    From: Anne Porter
    Date: 9/10/2003
    Subj: South Dakotan

    Yes, I am one. Your web site is fairly strange, but I saw the reference to SD. I always say hello to fellow SoDakians. But if you truly haven't updated your site since March 2, 1998, this message will go into eternal e-space...

    Oh, I dare say that my site is even stranger than you imagine. There may be some pages that haven't been updated since March 2, 1998, but the site as a whole has been regularly updated since 1996. See the home page address http://richardhartersworld.com/cri and work your way into the scrap heap.

    Best wishes to a fellow SoDakotian. I see you are with the government. Around here they farm the government, although I think they call it crop insurance.

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    From: ernest parker
    Date: 9/8/2003
    Subj: post apocalypse paper

    Dear editors of Tiac.Net

    I'm a junior at Classical High School in Providence R.I. I was asigned a paper where I have to chose a sub genre and write about it . I chose Post Apocalypse science fiction. I tried to get information from people at the book store but those idiots knew nothing. Please send me a list of post apocalypse novels written from 1980 to now . Where did this genre begin ? Who started it ? Who are the best writers in this field ? How popular is this genre compared to others such as cyber punk ? What are the major themes all these books share ?

    I don't expect you to know all the answers to my questions but please try to get back to me on questions you do know or may be you could post it on your sight and have your members get back to me.

    Dear Ernest

    I don't quite know how you got my email address, but you do seem to be a tad confused. Tiac.net is not an e-zine - it is a (virtual) internet service provider. In other words it is an address like Washington D.C. or Philadelphia. I am Richard Harter; my email address is cri@tiac.net; I maintain a web site (that would be "site" and not "sight") called "Richard Harter's World" at URL http://richardhartersworld.com/cri; and I have no members other than those with which I was endowed.

    May I suggest that you use a search engine such as google and do a search on "Post Apocalypse science fiction"? I did just now; it turned up some useful links such as

    http://www.scifan.com/themes/themes.asp?TH_themeid=9

    The search turned up a lot of material, most of it not particularly useful. You might think about tightening up the search. If you don't know how to use a search engine - learn.

    ... continued on next rock ...

    Oh! My fault but thanks for helping me out Joe. You see there is this page on your site wher people describe sub genre's in one sentences and one of them happen to be post apocaliptic novels. I seen your E mail hilited in blue so I E Mailed you. Sorry for the confusion.

    That's quite alright. If you don't mind, may I point out some faults in your English and your content.

    "My fault but thanks for helping me out Joe" is informal English; none-the-less it would be better if you were to put commas after "fault" and "out". The "You see" in "You see there" isn't necessary; if you must use it, put a comma after "see". "Where" is misspelled. There shouldn't be an apostrophe in "genres". It would be better if either you used "subgenres" or "sub-genres". "in one sentences" is a barbarism; try "in a single sentence". There should be a comma after "sentences". "apocaliptic" reads as though you threw a lot of letters at a word and hoped that they ended up in the right places. "seen" should be saw.

    By the way, my name is Richard, not Joe.

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    From: yagle.com
    Date: 8/29/2003
    Subj: WEB SITE ACCEPT

    Dear Webmaster:

    Our robots have found his web: http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2003/fetus.html
    Your page has been index-linked in YAGLE Adult Search Engine.
    Ranking Code: 1620
    Title: Sex based activities in fetuses
    URL: http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2003/fetus.html
    Description: Sex based activities in fetuses

    If you change your Title, Url or Description... please write to contact@yagle.com Yagle Adult Directory has very big ambitions and tries to be the biggest portal of sex in a few months...

    We have been months designing it and programming it and with only a few days in Internet, we already exceed 100.000 daily visits!

    We will break the market and will accustom the user to not looking for Adult Pages in commons seekers.

    If you want to take part and to obtain traffic of the benefits that we will obtain only depends on you to get position with our Yagle Ranking system. Without mysteries, without unfairness ... know the YAGLE RANKING.

    Chortle. Apparently their robot is a bit unclear on the concept. It would also seem that their robot has an incomplete mastery of English. It may have something to do with typing with hairy palms.
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    From: David Hancock
    Date: 8/26/2003
    Subj: New Evolution / Creation website

    A few weeks ago I finally got around to putting up some Evolution / Creation notes on the web, and if you have a moment I would appreciate your comments:

    http://www.questionevolution.com/

    As a general rule I do not argue creation/evolution in email and I shall not in this instance. However I shall make a few comments on your website.

    As you say, the website consists of notes. I recognize these notes - they are factoids that are endlessly repeated in hundreds of creationist sites and in creationist tracts. Many are simply false, others are question begging; all are naked assertions without provenance or evidence.

    I like your layout, though you might separate your points more clearly.

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    From: melisa
    Date: 9/7/2003
    Subj: haaaaah!

    austins the name spammins mAh game
    you mess wit da 47 man, pshh you aint g0t n0 plan
    step t0 mah elite mailin skillz, joo best head to da hillzzzzz
    when 47 gets j00 ya best call up yah crew,
    or imma come 0n y0 punk azzz with MAH rat -ta -tat tat GAT!
    The duck, because it's not a radio.
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    This page was last updated September 18, 2003.
    It was reformatted and moved February 20, 2005.

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