- The Washington Times - Monday, September 13, 2004

Science’s ultimate truths

I applaud Bruce Fein’s Wednesday Commentary column, “Rethinking education,” about the changes our educational system needs. However, Mr. Fein suggests that poets, orators and historians (as opposed to scientists) are best suited to impart lessons that “may be said to embody truth, and prove by events the reasonableness of opinions.” I agree that these are worthy of discussion, as long as the discussions emphasize how opinions differ and allow students to decide whether or not they see the truth within themselves. Mr. Fein says that “religious and moral knowledge of right and wrong” is the first requisite but ignores the historical lesson about how these easily can be distorted into self-righteous bigotry resulting in horrendous acts, including witch hunts, murderous crusades and terrorism.

If specific schools ignore the liberal arts, perhaps a re-balance is in order, but science and math still deserve lead roles, as Nicholas Rosen of Arlington (“Short-shrifting science and math,” Letters, Sunday) aptly pointed out. Personally, I don’t think I would ever be able to master Shakespeare, Goethe or Thoreau, but science awakens my spirit and inspires me to ask the hard questions about the essence of life. It forces one to recognize the importance of truth and requires the observer to study nature objectively in order to learn the truth about life. Opinions are still important, and that is why the balance must be found. Like the particle-wave or the mind-body duality, liberal arts and science are two equally important aspects of the whole.

Perhaps a more important topic for action is the need to provide educators with financial and moral support. I think a wise teacher, in any subject, can and should include lessons that embody fundamental truths and emphasize moral principles as appropriate. None of the subjects taught in school are themselves absolute truth; they only form the surface of a sphere that is a projection of truth into measurable reality. The harmony, balance and mutual respect among teachers can turn students’ attention toward the center — where ultimate truth remains unspoken.

THEODORE ST. JOHN

Damascus

The FBI defended

I am writing in response to Joel Mowbray’s “The spies who aren’t” (Op-Ed, Friday). Mr. Mowbray makes references that call into question the personal and professional integrity of a senior FBI official.

FBI investigations are conducted in accordance with both attorney general guidelines and the laws of our nation. Our investigations are predicated upon information on possible illegal criminal or intelligence activities. Mr. Mowbray’s suggestion that the FBI or any FBI official influenced an investigation based on racial, ethnic or religious bias is unfounded, untrue and contrary to the very values the FBI holds highest.

CASSANDRA M. CHANDLER

Assistant director

Office of Public Affairs

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Washington

The end of supersizing?

Your article on a new report by the Public Health Advocacy Institute in Boston (“Junk-food ads for children are targeted,” Business, Friday), which recommended additional regulation as a tool to fight obesity, was undercut by the misleading statement that “several lawsuits have been filed against fast-food chains and food manufacturers in the past year with little success.”

In fact, five lawsuits already have been successful. Food companies have been forced to pay out about $20 million to settle these suits, and to provide more accurate information about their products. The suits also forced the removal of transfats from Oreo cookies, and sugary soft drinks from New York City schools. Even a sixth suit, which was dismissed on a pleading technicality, was condemned by our opponents as a “road map” for future success because it validated three different legal theories under which these suits can be brought.

As the media continues to report, the threat of even more lawsuits has prodded most fast-food companies to alter their offerings and the nutritional information they provide; their insurance companies are pressuring them for even more changes; and surveys show that potential jurors are increasingly likely to rule against them in such suits.

“Success” includes forcing McDonald’s (to name only one company) to abandon supersizing, to reformulate its Chicken McNuggets, to post calorie and fat information on its tray mats, to offer fresh fruit as an alternative to french fries, and to begin warning its customers about eating fast foods too often.

Additional lawsuits probably will be as successful in fighting obesity as lawsuits have been in fighting smoking, probably for the same reasons.

JOHN F. BANZHAF III

Professor of public interest law

George Washington University Law School

Washington

Homeland security and illegals

“Rounding up all illegals ‘not realistic’” (Page 1, Friday) has me fuming. Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson talks about “compassion” and not “uprooting” illegal aliens. How about compassion for the average American who has to deal with the impact of 8 million to 10 million illegal aliens in his country? I, and many other Americans, want these illegals out of our country. Mr. Hutchinson, do your job. Stop using “compassion” as an excuse for not enforcing our immigration laws.

ARTHUR NIFONG

Provo, Utah

Asa Hutchinson says we don’t have the will to deport millions of foreigners residing here illegally. The facts don’t corroborate his self-serving statement. A March 2003 Roper Poll about the best strategy for eliminating illegal immigration found 78 percent of those surveyed supported the deportation of anyone here unlawfully.

Perhaps Mr. Hutchinson has already forgotten that in August more than 1,000 angry citizens gathered in Temecula, Calif., because they were furious that he had ended the successful sweeps there. In just a couple weeks, a dozen Border Patrol officers had rounded up more than 400 illegal aliens. When Mr. Hutchinson began a tiresome spiel about the family values of the illegals, the audience loudly shouted him down.

Given his defeatist attitude, Mr. Hutchinson should resign.

Of course, if workplace laws were enforced, including the simple verification of Social Security numbers, many illegals would leave of their own accord. However, sanctions on employers have plummeted under President Bush: In 2003, just 15 companies were fined nationwide, and none was in California.

Forgetting the obvious terrorist threat for a moment, California has gone from paradise to Third World status in a few decades because of open borders. Failing schools, shocking illiteracy, worsening gridlock, more crime, increasing taxes and closed emergency rooms are just a few of the symptoms when government stops enforcing its laws and protecting its sovereignty.

BRENDA WALKER

Berkeley, Calif.

Our revolutionary forefathers fought for a government of laws to replace a government of men. Officials disdaining the enforcement of laws against illegal entry into our country show we now have a government of men. Perhaps we need focus groups to decide which laws to enforce.

What laws should I obey? Does government have a right to compel me to obey all laws while it ignores those it finds “unrealistic”?

What is the answer? Incentives. We need to impound the property of companies and the personal property of company officers who employ illegal aliens. We need to impound the personal property of illegals and all who knowingly aid them. Informants and law-enforcement agencies should be rewarded generously. That would make enforcing the law “realistic.” If our officials sincerely want to solve the illegals problem, wouldn’t it be solved then?

CHRISTOPHER J. HOLLINS

Charlotte, N.C.

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