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…use of “major” was coined by William Rainey Harper…

Reaching truth
I found it ironic that Mark Holmes in his letter (June/04) criticizing President Randel’s assertion that truth can only be reached through reason (“From the President,” April/04) provides evidence for that assertion. On the one hand Holmes demands that scientists who warn of global warming, whom he disparages as a “vocal majority,” must provide irrefutable experimental proof of their hypothesis even though the nature of the problem makes it impossible to conduct a controlled experiment. On the other hand he accepts, presumably on faith, “transcendent truth” as the basis for human behavior. He then goes on to praise a U.S. administration that manifestly believes in transcendent truth, as revealed to the president in his private conversations with the Almighty, for correctly ignoring carbon dioxide as a source of warming so as to focus attention on pollution of our lands, rivers and oceans.

Which pollutants has this administration worked to control? Certainly not lead, mercury, arsenic, carbon monoxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, or any other I can recall. It has helped to protect mining practices that ravage the environment and hog farming that spreads disease, stench, and damage to fish and streams. In each case the rules have been relaxed to favor the polluters, who are also campaign contributors, at the expense of the public good. Transcendent truth has also taught us that stem-cell research is immoral and that the theory of evolution must compete with “creation science.” And finally, it has discarded accepted moral principles to condone torture and launched a war justified by lies.

Fred Winsberg, PhB’49, MD’55

In the June/04 issue, Mark Holmes writes: “No parts of that hypothesis (global warming) have been or can be subjected to tests of scientific truth; none is a refutable proposition.” A few hours on the Internet, beginning with a Yahoo search for “Global Warming,” will speak to his factual misstatement. More important are an improper view of science and flawed decision making.

Proofs are delivered by mathematicians. Scientists propose theories that are valued to the extent that they describe past, present, and future behaviors of objects and systems in the real world. Whitehead defined science as: “a self-correcting approximation to the truth.” A subject closed to scientific probing and disagreement is dogma, not science.

Science is never unanimous (relativity is probed constantly), yet decisions must be made. If our ship is taking in water from a low hull leak, and only one-third of our scientists think it is in danger of sinking and favor fothering a sale under the hull, the two-thirds must consider the difficulty of reviewing this decision from under 100 fathoms of water. The 100 fathoms is the razor that separates decision making from scientific consensus.

Richard A. Karlin, AB’55, SB’57
Bogota, New Jersey

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