LETTERS to the editor – Letter to the Editor
Taner Edis is to be applauded for reminding nontheists that it can be more gratifying to try to understand why people believe in the supernatural than to berate them for doing so (“Creative Controversy: The Rationality of an Illusion,” July/ August 2000). Since atheists can be as screechingly obnoxious as biblical fundamentalists, Edis’ plea for a decorous tolerance of believers is salutary.
Having said that, one has finally to reject his apology for theism. Strip away the provisos, eloquence, and geniality and you are left with a dubious defense of fideism. Edis believes the pursuit of truth may be legitimately subordinated to emotional comfort and social coherence: what is good is what works. The argument is vulnerable to the usual strictures on philosophical pragmatism.
Besides flirting with obscurantism, Edis’ philosophy cavorts with arrogance. It suggests that only a privileged few–an Aristotelian elect–can experience the pleasures of dispassionate contemplation of reality. For a self-described democratic socialist, the attitude is oddly elitist.
Gary Sloan Ruston, LA
The “Personhood” Claim
Joyce Arthur is exactly right when she demonstrates that the slogan “abortion is genocide” is a cynical, dishonest tactic of anti-abortionists to gain attention, relevance, and control over a woman’s right to decide for herself if and when to become a mother (“No, Virginia, Abortion is Not Genocide,” July/August 2000).
Anti-abortionists make the concerted uniform claim that a human being exists from the moment of conception but never ever dare to discuss the concept, because they know it is false. The response of pro-choice advocates has been fragmented and incoherent, and a concerted uniform response would serve the cause of truth and justice. I suggest something like the following:
A human being cannot possibly exist from conception because:
* Science teaches that a fertilized egg is microscopic; weighs less than
one-hundredth of an ounce; and has no brain or sex, which develop later and
cannot possibly be determined a human being at this stage.
* Theology teaches that the fertilized egg has no soul, which, according to
St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and St. Thomas Aquinas, develops later and thus
cannot yet be a human being.
John Tomasin West New York, NJ
Socrates’ Legacy Lives On
Having served over twenty-three years of a life sentence, I found Lawrence T. Jablecki’s views in “Prison Inmates Meet Socrates” (May/June 2000) refreshingly insightful. My thanks to the author and the Humanist for weighing in on the importance of supporting and encouraging the intellectual development of capable and interested prison inmates. I have completed a bachelors degree (summa cum laude) in general studies, with a concentration in English and the humanities. For sure, my studies have propelled me toward reason in all things, enabling me to remain positive-minded about my present circumstances and my future prospects.
Conversely, I have come to know first-hand the frightening reality of the undeveloped and underdeveloped intellect of so many other inmates. Indeed, self-styled “tough on criminals, bullish on prisons” politicians do reckless disservice to our society’s long-term interests through pandering placebos like the elimination of Pell grants for prison inmates. I can’t conceive of a more wrong-headed policy toward prisons and prisoners.
Even more, I applaud Jablecki for his outstanding commitment and contribution to the moral evolution of scores of prison inmates. His thoughtful and proactive approach to an issue of critical concern for the quality of our social life merits the appreciation of all humanists.
James E. Walker Jr. London, OH
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