Letters to the Editor for April 17
The only ‘gaps’ in evolution theory are in critics’ minds
We would like to respond to Stephen Esposito’s April 15 letter [“Fossil-record gap shows flaws in Darwin theory”] claiming that gaps in the fossil record challenge the Darwinian view of evolution.
Mr. Esposito provides a valuable lesson to the research in the high school class that one of us mentors, and to the students who use the college biology textbooks that the other of us writes.
Despite Mr. Esposito’s “speaking with authority” because of his “training in science on the undergraduate and post-graduate level,” his use of “believe” and “prove” indicate that he didn’t learn about the scientific method.
As our students know, those two terms are never used in a scientific discourse. One can “believe” in the tooth fairy, but in science one tests hypotheses, which data support or refute. If experiments, observations, or unexpected discoveries refute the hypothesis, it’s back to square one and the scientist proposes another explanation for a natural phenomenon. A scientific theory is the most likely explanation for data that support one or more hypotheses. It summarizes a body of knowledge.
Abundant evidence supports the reality of evolution: in the fossil record, in the adaptations of modern organisms, and from the molecular to the global levels. Yet even long-accepted evolutionary theory has wiggle room for modification, as all good scientific theories do.
Returning to Mr. Esposito’s example, in the 1970s paleontologists Stephen J. Gould and Niles Eldridge coined the term “punctuated equilibrium” to re-introduce the idea that some biological changes happened so quickly as to not have left fossil evidence. Alternatively, geological upheavals destroyed fossils, and we humans may simply have not discovered all there is to discover! How arrogant to think that we have.
At the genome level, powerful algorithms (and researchers) trace the past through shared DNA sequences, the language of life, adding nuance and detail to Darwin’s elegant theory. Darwin did not have these tools, yet his keen insights practically predicted molecular evolution.
The absence of data does not refute the hypotheses that make up the theory of evolution. In fact, the evidence is everywhere. Natural selection, the crux of Darwin’s argument in the Origin of Species, explains how bacteria become resistant to antibiotic drugs, and how tuberculosis changed from a systemic illness to a more localized one. For that is what evolution means: change. Evolution at the microscopic level, going on all the time in all of us, even explains how HIV infection becomes AIDS and how a cancer spreads.
Sometimes people who don’t “believe” in evolution admit that micro-evolution makes sense, but the evolution of species doesn’t — but it’s all the same thing! Evolution refers to genetic changes in a population. The environment favors the change, has no effect, or eliminates it. When genetic changes become so great that two groups of organisms can no longer produce healthy offspring together, speciation occurs. It is all a continuum, and it all makes beautiful sense — if you understand how science works.
Larry N. Lewis
Larry Lewis is a chemist, and Ricki Lewis is a geneticist.
How can Tonko still be talking up Obamacare?
Re March 27 letter, “Where are we two years after health care act?”: Mr. [Rep. Paul] Tonko, surprisingly, comes out with the same spin that he and President Obama used in 2008 and 2009. Obamacare will allow young adults up to 26 years old to be on their parents’ insurance policy, allow access to more preventative care and no longer deny children health insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
I say “spin” because these were the same planned talking points the Democrats were repeating over and over again, when they were trying to push the bill through Congress in 2009. But, if you remember, most of these items were agreeable to the Republicans and included in their 230-page health care proposal.
However, what the Democrats formulated behind closed doors without any transparency was an enormously complicated 2,500-plus page bill, which is a bureaucratic nightmare. And, this bill mandates that everyone must buy health care insurance or pay a penalty, which will, hopefully, be found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in June.
I’m surprised that Mr. Tonko would try to defend Obamacare when President Obama, himself, won’t even bring it up in his campaign speeches because it is so unpopular. Actually, a recent poll indicates that two out of three Americans want the bill thrown out.
What we got was a 2,500-plus monstrosity of a health care bill, which reportedly has already generated thousands of pages of regulations, and doesn’t even go into full effect until 2014. President Obama and the Democrats in Congress said the health care bill would cost $900-plus billion. The Congressional Budget Office [CBO] recently came out with a revised estimate of $1.7-plus trillion, which is still probably an underestimate.
President Obama and his administration claimed the bill would create millions of jobs, but, in fact, the CBO recently estimated that more than 800,000 jobs will be lost due to the health care law. President Obama said that health insurance premiums would go down, when, in fact, premiums are already going up in anticipation of its future full implementation.
If Obamacare is so great, why are so many of its supporters seeking waivers? President Obama has issued over 1,300 waivers for businesses and unions through his Health and Human Services Department. More than 50 percent of the waivers are for union workers, when only 12 percent of America’s work force is union. Seven entire states have waivers! If so many people get a wavier from Obamancare, then why shouldn’t all Americans get a waiver?
Mr. Tonko talks about examining the facts, reviewing the intentions and making adjustments. For Obamacare, the facts are becoming clear, the intentions were ideological and self-centered, and the adjustment should be to repeal the bill in 2013.
Loss of ‘political center’ is holding country back
As a first-time voter in a presidential election, I wish to express my increasing concerns over the political climate in the United States.
For three years, the Democratic and Republican parties have been gridlocked, with little to show in the way of bipartisan accomplishments. The polarization of political beliefs and ideologies in this country are one of the most important issues that need to be seriously addressed and repaired.
Since the election of Barack Obama, there has been a knee-jerk reaction, largely by the Republicans in the House and Senate, to thwart any new legislation proposed by the president. They appear to choose a path of obstruction rather than cooperation. I believe that Americans in general feel that Washington is broken.
A recent Gallup poll put the congressional approval rating at 12.4 percent, an all-time low. In February, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican, decided not to seek re-election because of what she described as the increasingly polarized nature of the Capitol. During her resignation speech and parting remarks, Snowe mentioned a “new chapter” in her career, in which she saw the need to advocate for a “political center” that she feels is needed for “our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us.”
In January, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced that President Obama will take small, medium and large executive actions without Congress in order to create jobs and grow the economy. The hope of the White house is that the members of Congress who have chosen to be obstructionists or non-cooperative will begin to see that their political interests should be to demonstrate to their constituents that they can get some things done.
My hope is that the House, Senate and White House will return to an era of common sense and respect for government, begin thinking about making laws that benefit all of their constituents, and finally get something done to make things better for America rather than just trying to aggrandize themselves and their political party.
Too many Americans on blind-belief bandwagon
It’s always the easy way out to just jump on the bandwagon of current belief on any given topic, basing your belief on minimal knowledge and what sounds right or makes sense to you. Maybe a magazine article, a TV ad, a radio show. Never mind if there is scientific proof for what you believe.
Many things sound true but are not proven. Greenhouse gases are mostly water vapor, CO2 [carbon dioxide] is a small fraction of total greenhouse gases, and man’s contribution is a fraction of that. Not a proven fact, yet it sounds right to many who quickly follow where they are led by the global warming crowd.
Cholesterol is another example. There is no scientific proof that cutting your cholesterol lower and lower will reduce heart disease. Numerous studies prove the opposite, yet the unproven theory sounds right and, so, the masses are again led onto the bandwagon and take their drugs.
Don’t take the easy way out: Seek and demand proof before following the herd. The list goes on: secondhand smoke, moderate smoking, salt, animal fats, etc., etc. We are all victims of accepted “science,” which is often the opposite of proven science.
The bigger worry, which many on the various bandwagons ignore, is that at the rate we’re going, we’ll be a Third World country in 20 years or so, mainly due to uncontrolled spending and a failed educational system. This is a chain reaction that is underway, and it will matter little who we elect.
Gloversville down but not necessarily out
Re April 15 Viewpoint, “Gloversville hangs on, waits for the end of economic decline”: David Childs’ opinion column was largely right.
I come from a “Glove family dynasty” and watched it with my very own eyes. Yet the surrounding area is filthy rich in important industrial and strategically important minerals and will lead upstate in the next 100 years of industry because of it. You can get a glimpse of what this means at http://gsldeepening.com [Great Sacandaga Lake Deepening].
Arthur Michael Ambrosino
San Antonio, Texas
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