Letters for Saturday — December 10, 2005

• A note to young Josh

• C.E.O.s’ salaries are too high

• Insanity must stop

A note to young Josh

Whilst I applaud Josh Duvauchelle, age 18, for his interest in the Intelligent Design debate, it appears he harbors certain misconceptions as regards what the teaching of scientific theory is all about. In this he is by no means unique as the same can be said for many members of the general public, including our current president.

Perhaps two recent examples would be illuminating:

1. Two scientists announced what appeared to be an astounding finding: a nuclear reaction at room temperature in a test tube using a metal electrode. They thus proposed the theory of “Cold Fusion.” This aroused enormous publicity and scientists worldwide rushed to investigate this amazing “discovery.” However, try as they might, and using the exact experimental protocol of the original investigators, none could reproduce the result. Cold Fusion was relegated to the scrap heap of failed theory and the proponents faded into well deserved obscurity.

2. Two scientists announced another novel theory: ulcers were not caused by stress and excess acid as was commonly assumed, but by a bacterium in the stomach. Although initially skeptical of this notion, other scientists began to investigate this idea. After years of research, and isolation of the H. pylori bacterium by the original researchers, the scientific community accepted this theory and antibiotics became a mainstay of ulcer therapy. The original proponents of the theory were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Although it elicited great controversy, the theory of Cold Fusion would not be taught in a science class because it is not backed by scientific evidence. If taught at all, it may be used as a historical example of the proper use of the scientific method, or possibly as an example of scientific fraud. The H. pylori story would be taught both as an accepted theory, and as an example of how an important scientific discovery came about.

Similar to the theory of Cold Fusion, the theory of Intelligent Design is not based on verifiable scientific evidence. The proponents offer not a single scientific experiment that could be used to test the theory. On the other hand, the theory of evolution is based on an enormous volume of scientific evidence and experimental data. As an example, I refer the reader to the New York Times article of 8/29/2005 entitled “Show Me the Science” in which Daniel C. Dennett describes evolutionary development of the eye.

Science class should not be a forum for teaching controversial theories unless they are based on scientific evidence. As the Rev. George Coyne, director of the Vatican Observatory recently remarked: “If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science.” The most important concept that young Josh should learn in his science class is not the theory of evolution, or any other particular scientific “fact,” but rather how to think critically about things scientific. I agree with Josh that students aren’t dumb, but unless they are properly instructed, they can be ignorant.

  • Robin Clark, 56

C.E.O.s’ salaries are too high

I would like to respond to the following: “GM: Sabotaged from within” by Rich Lowry.

When Mr. Lowry goes on about how “The announcement by General Motors that it is slashing 30,000 jobs and closing all or parts of 12 plants is the fruit of decades of “victories” by the United Auto Workers that even King Pyrrhus would consider shortsighted. The union has done so well at the bargaining table that it has priced its workers out of jobs.”

Was he talking about the fact that GM CEO Rick Wagoner will be receiving a $4.6M retirement package, courtesy of a Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan that has been set up for him? This plan comes from funding that is separate from GM’s vastly underfunded pension plan, and is said to be payable even if GM files for bankruptcy.

Or did we miss something?

Average C.E.O.s’ pay jumped 30 percent in 2004. The Corporate LIbrary survey examined CEO compensation at 2,000 of the biggest companies and the average CEO salaries in 2004 was $711,000 and a typical bonus was $1.03 million.

In 2004, the ratio of average CEO pay to the average pay of a production (i.e., non-management) worker was 431-to-1, up from 201-to-1 in 2003.

In 2001, the ratio of CEO-to-worker pay hit a peak of 525-to-1. in 1982, the average CEO made only 42 times more.

If the minimum wage rose as fast as CEO compensation since 1990, it would now be $23.03 an hour instead of just $5.15.

And the average production worker would be making $110,126 a year instead of $27,460.

We the People can fight injustice, or we can do as the wealthy want or the wannabes want, and just accept whatever they say, and go back to work at our second jobs.

  • Dennis Chaquette

Insanity must stop

Yet again, a news report of a dog attack. At what point do people decide to no longer play Russian roulette? At what point do people decide that it is WRONG to put their neighbors and their families in jeopardy by keeping “power dogs?” At what point is this community, and other communities, going to send a CLEAR message that this insanity must stop?

Mrs. Zafrides was very right to question Mr. Wong’s rather laughable contention that his dog was to “protect his family.” Let me reiterate her question —”protect them from what?” You don’t live in South Central Los Angeles, Mr. Wong. Are you protecting your family from walkers? Joggers? Sunshine? Are your neighbors REALLY so terrible that you need to scare them away? Perhaps you should think of moving.

Unfortunately, the problem is not simply with “power dogs.” There is a persistent culture here of allowing dogs of all sizes to run around off a leash. There are numerous families on my street that allow their dogs to run loose. These dogs then foul other people’s yards and pester kids walking to and from school and grandmothers taking their grandchildren out for a walk in a stroller. About a week ago, I chased my neighbor’s dog from in front of my house, knowing that it would eventually find its way into my yard if I didn’t, and my neighbor threatened me because I “scared his dog.” If his dog were on a leash under his control, and he were a responsible dog owner, there would be no problem! That must be too much logic for him to handle. It seems the point is lost on a great many people.

Until we take some concrete action to fix this problem, more people are going to get hurt. How many more lives must be damaged or taken?

  • Michael Mann

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.