table of contents
February 2004 TOC
Archived letters

Letters to the Editor, February 2004

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 February 2004.

Some of it is a little ancient; I’m slowly catching up – very slowly.

Index of contributors

Other Correspondence Pages

From: Jessica Doorn
Date: 2/13/2004
Subj: question for you

I am trying to figure out how to email this poem to friends. How would I go about doing that?? I tried copy and pasting but it did not work. Help?!

I don’t know which poem you are talking about. However I am guessing that you are trying to send one of my poems to your friends. I am guessing that you are using a browser and that you are clicking on the email link on the poetry page. I am also guessing that you are on a windows PC. This should work:

Highlight the poem that you want to make a copy of with your mouse. Hit control-C (hold down the Ctrl key and the C key at the same time.) This will make a copy of the poem that you can paste later. Now click on the email link at the top of the page. (If you are using a browser combined with email go to your emailer.) The email link will bring up a mail form with my email address filled in. Replace my email address with your friend’s email address. Point the mouse to the text area and hit control-V (Hold down the Ctrl key and the V key at the same time.) That should paste the text of the poem into the message area.

I hope this helps. If not, let me know what kind of browser and emailer you are using and what operating system you are using.

Return to index of contributors

From: Charles Hitchcock
Date: 2/6/2004
Subj: survivor page

I missed that one — an ingenious update of an old folk tale, which I remember from way back; despite its subversive theme it got past various keepers-of-the-mores into a book of children’s fiction from no later than 1950, and onto a record in a children’s subscription series from ~1960.

OTOH in an episode of “Sex in the City” Samantha lived out a sexes-reversed variant of the story. This being a family ezine and all that I shan’t repeat the salacious details.
Return to index of contributors

From: clayton truman
Date: 1/13/2004
Subj: our next step?

Let me just say that I know that at no time you will say to this, “oh, I see it, I agree”. That having been said, like a true scientist, let it be said that like most, you to are on the search for “the truth”. It is only because of this search that I wish to share what I have learned, nothing more. Skeptical? No doubt. There is a lot to be skeptical about. I don’t expect you, as mentioned above, to agree with everything I have to say. Just take what fits and leave the rest. Obviously mine is just a theory, one that is based on experience. With regards to the full use of our brains and folklore, then it is folklore that I have experienced. Sounds exciting, but very difficult when not prepared.

Let it not be said that I am on the search for “the truth”. To paraphrase someone or the other, ‘There is no Truth; there is only Certainty.” (I like that – I shall have to steal that from myself sometime.”
Ok then, enough bull$%#@. Things may seem to get a little wierd now, but as Einstein once said something like ” our problems that were created by logic won’t be solved by the same logic that created them”
Good point. It isn’t necessarily true in every instance, but it often is, and it is always something to keep in mind.
Our f/f system is obviously our protection system. Physical protection. Our Ego can be said to be our emotional or mental protection system. Buddhists have been spend years in caves trying to drop the ego, a trait that I believe is closly tied to, if not our f/f system- genetic. The ego then, is fear based It protects us from fear of ridicule, of the illusion of inferiority ect. Like our f/f, it to is fear based.
I must respectfully disagree, in that the “ego” that Buddhists are trying to free themselves from (not suppress or eliminate) is neither Freud’s ego, nor your “mental protection system”. I could be wrong, of course.
Philosophically then;

It could be said that one who THINKS they are all powerful has a big ego. They would have a big ego, because they think they are powerful beyond all other organisms.

And this is yet another kind of ego, one’s self image.
It could be said that, (and this is very important) one who KNOWS they are all powerful, has no ego. If you know that you cannot be harmed, suddenly you are aware of this, then there is nothing to be feared of. If you realize there is nothing to fear (there is even nothing to not fear, as even nothing is something) You see it is the opposite of what we think. The ego, the fight/flight protects. What if matter truly is not lost nor created, just changed. If matter is not lost or created, that would mean that it both has existed for ever, and does not exist at all. As in time. IT could be said that time is has no beginning and not end. Thus, it has both existed for ever, and does not exist at all.
One could say all of this, yes, but, then, one could say a lot of things.,
If matter is niether lost nor created, but merely changed, and if one experienced this, then one would realize that there is nothing to fear and the ego would drop as we would realize that we, as part of the whole, are the whole.
I’m not sure that it works that way. Let us grant that for those whose ego has “dropped” they experience/perceive that there is a whole of which they are both part of and are all of. (Better phrasing might be clearer.) This sort of thing is part and parcel of Eastern Enlightenment. I have my doubts that the path you are following leads there, though.
THis isn’t flowing today, so I am going to finish briefly and let you respond. Creationists big beef, as you are aware, is that everything was made at once. I agree, as I can show how time is an illusion. Those new speices you wrote about- wonderful, all created in the now. I feel we cannot deny all of the spiritual intuition of the past. There have been many intellegent people working on it for many years. There are simply to many instances that cannot be explained by science. Creationsists must not shun the work done by scientists, but they do.
Now this is an unfotunate set of arguments. Your demonstration that time is an illusion is mere verbal trickery. One can legitimately say that time is an illusion if “is an illusion” is a metaphor for something that cannot be said in language. More precisely, one can make words that reflect distinctions that cannot be explained.

The spiritual intuition of the past is a most uncertain guide, regardless of how many intelligent people have worked upon it. The difficulty is that spiritual intuition rests on the certainty of immediate experience. To paraphrase someone whom I have paraphrased before, “Where there is certainty there is no truth.”

I had an experience. A life changing one. A conciousness expansion which enlightened me in areas that I have never before been exposed. Since I was a young boy, studying flora and fauna and birding, I have always known the brutality of nature and marveled at the beauty and miracle at the same time. I am an evolutionist. A creationist, a buddhist, christian, a new ager ect ect.
This I can accept.
Jung once wrote that the conciousness of the Buddha and Christ were but expressions of the self that we are all destined to arrive at. Nothing spooky or majical. Just a normal development of the mind, minus all the fear and control of religious dochtine.
I am skeptical about Jung’s dictum. There are mansions of the mind within mansions and beyond mansions, and there are shadows within shadows.
Three years ago I was sitting in hand cuffs in a hospital, not understanding what the hell had just happened over the previous few days. But I decided, sitting there, that I would find out. My clinical diagnosis is “bi-polar 1”. So, according to our western medicine, I have a mental illness. I am unless I am not.

I have studied thousands of others of individuals stories. All have the same theme. Mine it seems, due to the environment I was in, and the state of mind, went farther than any other one’s I can find. I went through and beyond the Eastern enlightenment experience. I only lost it when I stopped being an observer, and due to my then misunderstanding of the true nature of reality, became a participant. (a houseful of people thought I was Christ, and then, unfortuately, so did I)

It is an easy mistake to make.
As you can see, this is very diffiuclt to explain. I would however like to tell you about my experience that led to my arrival in the hospital, but I also explain it through science, mostly physics.

Perhaps however, you have had enough. I would envite you though, to look up the data collected on the mentally ill, particularily functionally ill, you will be astounded by all of the religious, spiritual experiences.

I can tell by your writing, that you are concerned about our state as a species. What I am trying to get across, and not so well this morning, that from a scientific point of view, from evolution, there is hope, and I believe not just hope but a phenomenal truth of who we really are.

Then again, there is the revised version of the tale of Pandora’s box. You know the tale. Pandora opens a box. All manner of ills spring forth from the box. In the end the last thing that comes out of the box is hope, a relief for all that has come before. Alas, what no one will say, no one dare say, and yet which should be obvious, is that in Pandora’s box, Hope was the mother from which all ills sprang.
Return to index of contributors

From: Tony Lewis
Date: 2/12/2004
Subj: Humor?

Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, comes to Washington for meetings with George W.

For the State Dinner, Laura decides to bring in a special Kosher Chef and have a truly Jewish meal. At the dinner that night, the first course is served and it is Matzoh Ball Soup. George W. looks at this and after learning what it is called, he tells an aide that he can’t eat such a gross and strange-looking brew. The aide says that Mr. Sharon will be insulted if he doesn’t at least taste it.

Not wanting to cause any trouble, George W. gingerly lowers his spoon into the bowl and retrieves a piece of matzoh ball and some broth. He hesitates, then swallows and a grin appears on his face. He digs right in and finishes

“That was delicious,” he says to Sharon. “Do the Jews eat any other parts of the Matzoh or just the balls?”

It’s an ancient story, one often told about Texans. I have long dithered about whether to put it in my humor column, a dithering to be ended by its appearance in my correspondence column.
Return to index of contributors

From: Charles Hitchcock
Date: 2/12/2004
Subj: later quiz crxns

re Elizabeth MacDonald: watermelon rind is pickled, and I think I’ve seen various melons in canned fruitcup.

Just so. Good point. I, myself, have seen several authors pickled, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the phenomenon were observable at Boskone.
Return to index of contributors

From: sankaran nair
Date: 2/7/2004
Subj: nangol houses of travancore

kindly read my article entitled nangol houses of travancore published in indianest.com. the same will be available in the google search machine. I would like to receive yoyr comments after reading the same thanking you

It’s sort of fascinating. The title is wonderful.
Return to index of contributors

From: gregg wagner
Date: 2/10/2004
Subj: doggy in the window

who sang it. My top 40 book only goes back to 1955. You put up that page a loooong time ago, but I figured I would try sending this to you. The song was Patti Page 1953: (How Much is That) Doggy in the Window
Patti Page

I believe I knew that but I may not have. In any event, thank you for the words, although I will say that I like my version better.
How much is that doggie in the window? (arf! arf!)
The one with the waggley tail
How much is that doggie in the window? (arf! arf!)
I do hope that doggie’s for sale

I must take a trip to California
And leave my poor sweetheart alone
If he has a dog he won’t be lonesome
And the doggie will have a good home

How much is that doggie in the window? (arf! arf!)
The one with the waggley tail
How much is that doggie in the window? (arf! arf!)
I do hope that doggie’s for sale

I read in the papers there are robbers (roof! roof!)
With flashlights that shine in the dark
My love needs a doggie to protect him
And scare them away with one bark

I don’t want a bunny or a kitty
I don’t want a parrot that talks
I don’t want a bowl of little fishies
He can’t take a goldfish for a walk

How much is that doggie in the window? (arf! arf!)
The one with the waggley tail
How much is that doggie in the window? (arf! arf!)
I do hope that doggie’s for sale

Return to index of contributors

From: clayton truman
Date: 1/28/2004
Subj: Darwin and the Geological column

Thanks for your reply’s, just what is it by the way, which you do (to put food on your plate)that takes up your time??

Now that is a good question. It’s not relevant to our current discussion but it is a good question. As it happens I am retired. As a bit of advice – never retire if you want to keep your free time. Between the projects you invent for yourself and those others invent for you all of your free time vanishes like snow on a hot summer day.
WIth regards to my use of the term “dominate species”, I used it only because you used it in describing bacteria in one of your recent emails. It was you my friend that coined that term, not me- ha- got ya!! I was going to ask you to explain or define “dominate species” as well.
Then again, I never used the term “dominate species”. I did, however, use the term “dominant life form”. Even if we ignore your eccentric spelling, there is a difference between “life form” and “species”.

One could interpret “dominant” a number of different ways. However by most measures other than the ability to produce television shows, bacteria are the dominant life form on this planet. They constitute approximately half the biomass by weight. In other words if you weighed all of the bacteria in the world they would collectively weigh as much as all of the rest of the lifeforms (plants, animals, and fungi) put together. About ten percent of your body weight is bacteria; you have more bacteria cells in your body than human cells. Bacteria can and do live in places that no human, no animal, and no plant could live. Bacteria are an essential component of the biosphere; if they were to vanish all the rest of life would die out in short order. If we humans were to vanish our passing would be a transient disturbance.

I understand a little more with your recent emails with regards to time, ect. I have found that when one applys time to , and your right, living people, dead people, in-animate things, it all breaks down, or becomes very diffiuclt to make sense of. I also think you are correct in saying that people assume that science is like religious dogma, fundamentally correct, when you have put so elequently that it is in fact, not. That having been said, THe reason, other than trying to explain my belief in the absense of time in our development, is, among other reasons, because of the constant writings in magazines about the 100 million year old dinasaurs ect. This, is just not true. The fossil may be, but not the dinasaur.
True enough, although if the dinosaur were still alive, it would be one hundred million years old. Imagine the wrinkles that it would have.
That having been said, I believe that to view the geological time scale as I do, it is kind of like looking at one of those pictures that psychologists have people look at. Perception. One can see both an old ugly witch or a beautiful young women in the same picture, but the brain cannot comprehend both at the same time, not unlike I discuss.
But you can see both at the same time.
I will END this particular discussion with only one final observation for you, is homosapian older than homo habilis. The answer, of course is no. But, as mentioned, I see this as going against the linear time scale. That is my only point. Actually, again, it is duality- opps, babbling again…
Even so.
Return to index of contributors

From: Tony Lewis
Date: 2/6/2004
Subj: Divers matters

let us talk about fallibility of memory. I was not at Tricon. I was finishing my doctoral thesis and fighting my draft board. I was not yet 26 and so was prime draft material. I kept getting calls asking me to volunteer. When the U. S. entered World War Two my uncle ran down to the draft board to enlist. He requested infantry combat assignment. He was put in the Quartermaster Corps and posted to Paterson, new Jersey for the duration.

Mmmph. Next I suppose you will be denying that you were at Southgate.
Autovon (AUTOmatic VOice Network) had a fourth column of buttons on the right of the pad. They supported levels of preempting. They were Routine (no button pressed), Priority, Immediate, Flash, and Flash Override. If you called someone and no line to that person was available the system would hang up calls of lower priority until a line was freed. I don’t recall if use of these buttons was controlled at the switching center (based upon where the call was made) or whether the caller was required to punch in a code.
I want a button that, when pressed, sends a recorded message to the person on the other end of the line. The four buttons I have in mind are (a) polite brushoff disquised as a technical failure, (b) polite brushoff, (c) pest control, and (d) nuke’m baby.
The network had its own lines separate from Bell. It was possible to access it from normal telephones if you knew the access number (8 or 88) and the “secret” area codes (not the same as Bell’s).
Nowadays all that stuff goes through satellites and computers. What happens when “they” turn the satellites off?
Return to index of contributors

From: Rui Chaves
Date: 2/2/2004
Subj: Dynamic Sets

I was surfing the web when I found your amazing webpage. It is quite impressive (but of course, you know that). I share some of the logical, computational, biology and linguistic interests and it is actually about math that I write to you. You have a document on dynamic sets. Do you know of anywhere on the web that I could learn more about these? I am trying to find the math behind them but computer science stuff keeps poppoing.

Thank you very much in advance!

Thank you for the kind words and all that. I’m not sure that I can help you all that much. The task of managing data collections that vary in content over time is ubiquitous. The requirements vary all over the place, as do the various technologies for managing collections, e.g., various types of trees and linked lists, flexible arrays, hash tables, tries, etc.

All that one is really talking about when one talks about (or at least when I talk about) dynamic sets is that one is talking about a collection that doesn’t have any structure other than that the elements are unique.

The computer science comes up because we are dealing with the structuring of collections of data. The mathematics comes in because we need to analyze the behaviour of algorithms used to structure the data.

I realize that this isn’t much help, but I’m not quite sure as to what it is that you are looking for.

Return to index of contributors

From: clayton truman
Date: 1/24/2004
Subj: Darwin and the Geological column

Hey ho!

Just a further note here- and this is an important point I think- I agree that organisms of ancient times changed along with their environment, as you mentioned. At the peak of each environment, it was the youngest organisms ie the most recent that in the end of each environment disapeared. It was what we call the oldest, or the earliest organisms that started each era. Does it not make sence that as time goes on, or rather if time was involved (speaking physics/phylosophy here) that it would be the oldest organisms at the end of each era that were the most adapted to their environment, and not the youngest most recent organisms that were around when the environment changed?

Another way to look at it- Is an organism, or a family of organisms not considered “old” when it has been around for a long time, as well as if it has been dead for a long time.

Take man for instance, it is said that we are very young as a species, as compared to others we have not been around but a few million years. We call lucy very very old. However, is that not from our perspective. From lucy’s she was one of the first, thus, she was the earliest and would have the lower end of the gene pool as far as adaptation goes. Modern man, would have 5 million years of development. Would we not be then, both the oldest, of our kind, as well as they most recent? As our environment changes through time, so do we. As “time”goes on, our DNA mutates with the necesarry changes to allow us to take better hold of our environment. So, my point, are we not both the oldest (modern man today) and the newest of our kind?? As well, it could be said, that lucy is the oldest, and was the youngest of our kind. Do you see it, the duality of time? You may have to dwell on this for a bit. I find it very interesting. If we change, without time involved, so that we are both at the oldest point, and the youngest point at every stage of development, is this not what creationists argue, that “GOD” (such an overused word) made everything at once?

Is there not common ground here?

chow for now

Common ground? No. The problem is that you are using terms such as “oldest”, “younger”, “old” and “young” in different ways within the same paragraphs and even within the same sentences. For example, when we say that “Homo sapiens is a young species” we might mean either of two different meanings:

(a) The duration (lifetime) of an established species typically is a few million years. We can speak of Homo sapiens as being a “young” species because its current age is short compared to its expected age, much as we speak of children being young.

(b) We can also speak of Homo sapiens as being a “young” species because they originated quite recently.

The difference between (a) and (b) is that in (a) we are locating the species in a model of species lifetimes, whereas in (b) we are using a reference date (now).

An entity, e.g., Lucy can be both young and old, depending on which sense of the words “young” and “old” one is using.

Even more confusing, one can speak of eras as being old and young. Thus the Cambrian era is younger than own if the comparison is against the age of the Earth, but the artifacts of that era are older than those of our own.

In short, the duality of time that you speak of is an artifact of the language.

Return to index of contributors

From: James T. Monaghan
Date: 2/3/2004
Subj: richardhartersworld.com

I am creating a web directory, The-Insight.com, and would like to include your website richardhartersworld.com under the “spirituality/tarot” category. If you’d like to be added, please follow this url:


We shall put all our efforts into having your link up in less than 24 hours; and if you find our site useful for your visitors, please add a reciprocal link.

The-Insight.com – A Spirituality Web Directory.

While I am flattered that you thought of my poor website as a candidate for your excellent and intriguing collection of sites I must say that my site is quite unsuitable. Thank you none-the-less for the thought.
Return to index of contributors

From: Peter Neilson
Date: 1/31/2004
Subj: Just how observant are the answers?

Mr. Harter, Sir:

Holy Crummoly, I just thought of another oversight in answer 25! The military have (or once had) so-called Autovon phones, with 16 buttons instead of 12. I’ve totally forgotten what was on the extra four buttons, to the right of the regular 12-pad. I do remember being told that one of the Autovon features was the ability for brass to deal with “all circuits busy” by dumping calls of lower-ranking officers.

I don’t recall it, but I was a mere enlisted man. I have vague recollections of using field phones but none of the details. (People who suggest that they didn’t have phones when I was in the Corps will be summarily dealt with. )
You were a Military Man. What do you know about Autovon? Would an entire essay on military phones make a good addition to the Bottom 95%? Would you write one even if it were unnecessary?
Probably not, although you never know. Perhaps it would be better if you were to write one and I were to publish it.
Return to index of contributors

From: Suford
Date: 1/27/2004
Subj: Webpage of interest to NESFA history mavens

Harter –

A fascinating analysis! I wonder what you think about it after all these years? Perhaps you do not recall it as strongly as I do, but it seemed to me that the proximate cause of the formation of NESFA was the loss of their worldcon bid by Dave Vanderwerf and BOSFS. You have described the efficient cause, but the grain that precipitated the action was that event. NESFA was founded in 1968 and at that point Tony and I and a number of other NESFAns began to attend most of the then convention circuit: helping out, learning the ropes and making friends. My first worldcon – and I think Tony’s also – was Nycon that had won the bid. Even there we helped and participated. I remember an old acquaintance of mine from LA asked me to make a particular design for the “Galaxy World of Fashion”.

I opine that your memory fails you. Not to worry, you have a child, a husband, and friends to fill in the details for you. You needn’t worry about the resulting inconsistencies – the world is inconsistent and always has been.

A number of us went to Tricon to watch Dave’s (and Leslie’s) bid fall flat on its face. Dave had the slogan “For two cents I’d vote for Boston”. It didn’t cost him very much. Andy Porter did collect his two cents. I don’t know if he did the honorable thing and vote for Boston; I suppose he did, although I wouldn’t bet more than two cents on the proposition.

I’m pretty sure that Tony was among those who went to Tricon. Perhaps you should consult your Tricon program book and check. I, fallible human that I am, failed to save mine.

It is also interesting to recall the extent to which we wanted to avoid the problems of other clubs considering that we knew of them mostly through fanzine accounts and very little real personal contact. While it is true that NESFA really had not definite official purpose, Tony’s purpose was to bring a worldcon to Boston, more specifically, to build a group that could win and run a worldcon. Comparing those days to the several-year-long bids and lead periods of today, it seems strange to recall that after only a couple of years of this, Charlie Brown and one or two others – in what I recall as a smoke filled room – sat us down and asked us if we were really bidding and were going to file or were we just enjoying a good excuse to hold parties. So we did! and Noreascon – with no thought of being the first in a series – was born. As we are now on number 4, I am somewhat boggled.
Even so. One side of the ancient curse is that you will get what you wish for; the other side is that you will enjoy getting it.
I have always felt that one interesting validation of the success of NESFA and its essential fairness is the equal numbers of women in its officers (and its spread to the Noreascons which have had 2 male chairs and 2 female chairs).
I dunno. One could argue that NESFA is a bureaucracy and that bureaucracies are more egalitarian re sex and race than free for alls – when being egalitarian is policy. One could argue that women are better at petite organization than men – an argument that ignores that most accountants are men. One could even argue that most volunteer labor (including being officers) is done by women, and that NESFA is egalitarian by letting men have half the offices. And, of course, one could argue that NESFA is hospitable to geekettes. There are many arguments one could make, all meretricious.
Of course, since the addition of NESFA Press to the mix of work to be done, the influence you note of Pierre’s Index – now being pursued as a web-based project, with all the compatibility problems in assimilating the previous work of any database project – the dynamics you noted have become more pronounced; to say nothing of the addition of the “clubhouse” to our assets and need for responsibility.

Yes, it is certainly all … fascinating…

All this activity is a goodness – it keeps NESFA members off the street and creates work for idle hands. The Devil’s Workshop and all that, you know.
Return to index of contributors

From: Tim R
Date: 1/31/2004
Subj: Poker website

Hi. I just stumbled across your website about your poker playing days. It was enjoyable to read. Is this still your correct e-mail??

This would be it. With one exception (in which I won about two dollars) I haven’t played poker for years. Of late I have taken to watching the world poker tour now and then. It’s fun to watch, but I’d probably be eaten alive by those sharks.
Return to index of contributors

From: clayton truman
Date: 1/26/2004
Subj: ok, I think I got it now…

Ok, I suppose I am still not getting my point across, and my point is about the age of organisms and the geological scale

Simply: if a meteor hit the earth today and all life but those pesky bacteria were wiped out, and assuming you and I were aliens and could study the earth , here is what we would say about the geological column and the time line.

We would take a look at the last five million years. We would draw a line, as we believe that time is linear. as in, a car moves one mile and it took “time” to move from point a to point b

Early man, is at the start, on the left. We start with lucy and watch as time goes on, and the hominids age and change with the environment. As this goes on, the hominids age we say. We arrive at the end of the time line on the right, to when the meteor hits and wipes everything out. Surly, as time goes on, the environments age right? Which is the oldest environment. Well that is easy, like your father, the oldest is simply the one that has been around the longest. well, which is that,

How is it, that early man was in the earliest environment of that period, and late man, the most recent, was in the oldest environment of that time. (do you see it)

Is not the oldest environment of that time period, the earliest, the one that thrived five million years ago, right along with the oldest example of early hominid?

Yes, I am obsessing about old and young. but it is only a perception of time. How can we be the youngest, most recent hominids and be in the–

Ok, lost it again- ….If time is involved and everything ages with time up the linear time line, then the organisms, that change would do so along with the environment, and we would be the oldest organisms adapted to the oldest environment, but we are not , we are the youngest in the youngest environment, with what we call the oldest are fossilized, and that means that time is not linear!

YES- If you read only one paragraph, read the answer and figure it out!!

I get the impression that you are working hard on confusing yourself. To be fair, usage of terms such as “oldest” and “youngest” can be ambiguous. All your problems vanish if you stop using them in contradictory ways.

Beyond that, there is a real problem with talking about old environments, young environments, and aging environments. Environments aren’t entities in the way that individual animals and even species are.

Return to index of contributors

From: Domesha williams
Date: 1/25/2004
Subj: Next survivor show

Hello, my name is Domesha williams and I think that my husband Robert would be a great candidate for the show. He is a carpenter and knows his way around he also has that ability to survive in many settings. He is always working, but when ever we get the chance to talk about being on the show. He is always talking about how he would be the winner and how he would find him something on the island to eat.

I can’t help you, although I suspect the folks at CBS can. Why don’t you check their website. In the meantime, here’s a survivor tip. When you search the web for information, make sure that the site you are looking at is the right one.
Return to index of contributors

From: Jessica
Date: 1/24/2004
Subj: 9 year old loser

What an original title to a webpage! I would just like to comment on the article about the “9 year old loser” who happens to be my brother. Now 15, the stunt was as innocent as any regular 9 year old boy would do. Good job losers.com….you’ve now earned a spot as the number one LOSER website I’ve ever been to!

I don’t know what this is all about but I hope your brother has recovered from whatever misadventure he might have had. I did take a look at the losers.com page; it seems boringly innocuous so it remains a mystery to me as to what your message is about and why it was sent to me. It’s a nice rant though.
Return to index of contributors

From: clayton truman
Date: 1/14/2004
Subj: Darwin and the Geological column

Thank you for your reply. I suppose I have been a little naive with regards to science and it’s knowledge. I always assumed that things were written in stone so to speak. In fact, I have found it is quite the opposite. Science sort of sits and waits with opinions and theories to be proven wrong with more opinions and theorys.

I opine that you have moved from one error to another. The nature of scientific truth is one of those things that philosophers love to talk about. It’s all very simple until get to the particulars. If you don’t mind, I shall babble about this issue for a bit.

To begin with, one should be wary about using expressions such as “science does” and “science thinks” because they suggest that science is a person. Science is a cultural institution; moreover it is not a monolithic institution. It is alright to use personification (talking about science as though it were a person) as long as we remember that it isn’t, really. That said, let us move on.

It is a definite error to think of scientific knowledge as being written in stone. One gets knowledge that is “written in stone” from religious revelation and legislative edicts. On the other hand, the characterization of scientific knowledge as “opinions and theories” is also well off the mark, or at least a radically incomplete description. A fairer, though no doubt incomplete, characterization would be to say that scientific knowledge is coherent, systematized, reliable knowledge that represents, not certainty, but rather a best effort.

I realize that you may say that bacteria are the dominate species, while others may say that no, man is as is to dominate is to close. As well one may say bacteria are the least changed, and another may say, no they are the most changed ect ect ect.
As a side note, bacteria are not a single species, they are a major kingdom of life comprising thousands of species. More to the point the term “dominant species” is problematic, i.e., what in the blazes do you mean by the term.
I know that somewhere, in some building, there is a kilogram of weight that is said to be 1000 grams. That of course is someone’s opinion of what they observed- as all we see is the light coming from the subject, and not the subject itself. Anyway, I suppose once again, I may be thinking to much, which, at times, can be tiresome. I appreciate your patience- I will stick to our original conversation of my theory of genetic mutation.
Good idea.
Return to index of contributors

This page was last updated February 14, 2004.

table of contents
February 2004 TOC
Archived letters