Letters - Winter 2015

Responses to Our Autumn 2014 Issue

By Our readers | December 10, 2014

 

Isn’t Science Enough?

To be sure, science is imperfect and cannot explain everything. That said, it still provides humanity’s best hope for increasing and perfecting our understanding of who and where we are, where we came from, and where we might be going. When John Lukacs (“Why Science Is Not Enough,” Autumn 2014) speaks of our being in the “center of the universe, an anthropocentric and geocentric one,” I can only assume he speaks metaphorically. We are not even at the center of our own solar system, itself far away from the center of the Milky Way—which is but one galaxy among numerous such galaxies in the known universe. The discoveries in the past few decades of other solar systems and their exoplanets, as well as the possibility that some might harbor life, excite my imagination, and I am filled with awe and anticipation of future discoveries, and with them, the new technologies that will follow. For some people, “God” may explain the seemingly inexplicable, but only through science can we ever truly know the world.

J. L. Jackson
Albuquerque, New Mexico

 

There are several section breaks in John Lukacs’s essay, an entertaining discussion of “participancy,” as his view might be termed, versus the possibility of objective truth independent of human perception and thought. But the last break—before his testimony that Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be the son of God—strikes me as the most telling, as far as any necessary logical connection is concerned. He might as well have concluded with the relatively benign personal conviction that he is Santa Claus.

John S. Harris
St. Louis, Missouri

 


Defending Brazil

As a long-time resident of Brazil, I was a little surprised to see Paul Roberts (“Instant Gratification”) say that Brazil has a “heavy-handed, top-down government style” in the company of China. Brazil is a vibrant democracy with free and direct elections for everything from the presidency to city councils. In the recent presidential elections, a former maid was the frontrunner for a while—hardly possible in a top-down political system. As for heavy-handedness, the Brazilian police response to street protests here last year was more level-headed and milder than that of police in Ferguson, Missouri. At one point during protests in São Paulo, the police simply took off their helmets and sat down on the ground next to the protesters, defusing the tension. The situation ended with the protesters hugging the cops. Brazil is far from perfect, but it is much closer to being a poorer, warmer version of Scandinavia than it is to being the China of the Western Hemisphere.

“Troy”
from our website

 

Paul Roberts responds: I meant the phrase “heavy-handed, top-down government style” to describe the state’s long-standing involvement in the economy. The intent was to hold up Brazil as an example of a nation that has tried (albeit not always successfully) to guide economic outcomes in ways that lift all of society.

 


Predecessorized

In “Back Talk,” Ralph Keyes quite properly inveighs against ugly “verbed nouns” that terminate in “—ize.” Yet Keyes’s celebrated predecessor E. B. White traced this line of complaint in many of the same words more than half a century ago. White found himself agitated in particular by the hideously mistaken attempt on the part of writers to “personalize” their writing; he figured it would be enough to turn out some “clean” prose. White concluded by observing that “we would as lief Simonize our grandmother as personalize our writing.” A good enough way to conclude. And to remind.

Edward Tayler
New York City

 


Maazel Remembered

I had the honor and good fortune to work with Maestro Lorin Maazel (“Boy Wonder,” Arts) over the past few years on the realization of his dream to establish a world-class summer festival. His passion for advancing the careers of young musicians was palpable and contagious. He was equally passionate about building knowledgeable audiences for the future. His legacy, the Castleton Festival, at his Virginia farm, does these things in a way unique among summer music programs. Although he died in the middle of the 2014 festival, the show went on—as he would have insisted it should—and concluded as the most successful festival yet. Musicians and music lovers the world over owe this incredible genius a debt of thanks and should honor his memory by helping to keep the Castleton Festival vibrant.

R. A. Edwards III
from our website

 


Math Problem

I would like to make a small, but significant, correction to Richard Restak’s interesting article on delusions (“Going Haywire”). Restak refers to “physicist John Nash.” In fact, John Nash was a mathematician, who received a Nobel Prize in economics.

Burton Rothleder
Silver Spring, Maryland

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Comments powered by Disqus