They're not just matters of faith

I was saddened by the bitterness of John Hattam's June 14 letter, "Faith is basis of differing beliefs."

Of course, religion is a matter of faith, but we do not subject it to the kinds of testing that we do for scientific hypotheses. One holds a religious view until he decides not to, but the reasons are seldom based on rational inquiry. And why should they be?

In contrast, scientists don't "believe" in their research: They pose a hypothesis and investigate it, actually trying to weaken or disprove it. They know that if they don't, their colleagues will do so if the hypothesis is incorrect. That's the job of scientists.

Science is a matter of belief in only one sense: One agrees to assume at the outset that the world around us is real and governed by natural processes, not by supernatural intervention. On this basis, scholars have inferred and deduced the principles and methods of modern science since the Renaissance. This is not about "creation," it is about how the world works.

But Hattam will not permit us to accept both views of the world. For him, the extreme creationist view must be true. And that means science is wrong if it disagrees with his own preferred interpretation of Scripture (thereby equally disrespecting those with different religious views).

He mocks "those folks who rely on their computers, strained opinions of archaeological digs and that first little creature that morphed into animals, then humans, nature, and everything else." How sad that he can't see the knowledge of science as an appreciation of what his Creator has done.

In addition to his misimpressions of science, he also doesn't understand that to accept Charles Darwin's ideas (and those of modern science in general) you don't have to be an atheist. Darwin himself was never an atheist. Like Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and most of our Founding Fathers, Darwin was a Deist, which means that he accepted a higher power in the universe but did not anthropomorphize it into the venerable man with the flowing beard who walked through the Garden in the cool of the evening.

Through time, Darwin's disillusionment grew, principally with organized religion and then with the idea of Divine Providence, following the death of his 10-year-old daughter. In later life, the question ceased to interest him; he became "agnostic" (T.H. Huxley's term), but never an atheist.

And Darwin did not have a religious conversion on his deathbed. That myth was contrived by a notorious fortune-hunter, who dined out on it for the rest of her life.

The facts are in Darwin scholar James Moore's "The Darwin Legend" (1994). The creationist books, journals, and websites that Hattam obviously depends on have no interest in correcting this hoary lie.

Kevin Padian

Kensington

Padian is a professor of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley and past president of the National Center for Science Education.

Ban single-use plastic bags

Whining shoppers complain about the inconvenience of bringing their own reusable bags and that they forget to bring their bags.

Plan ahead! These same shoppers manage to bring cash, credit cards and coupons when they go shopping. The whiners who complain about the end of free single-use plastic bags can start saving them now. They last a really, really long time -- which is why they need to be banned.

Julie Ruth Haselden

El Sobrante

Unanswered questions

Why is Richmond Director of Human Resources Leslie Knight retiring July 1 instead of being fired?

Why isn't the Contra Costa County District Attorney prosecuting Knight for more than $37,000 of misappropriated funds, theft of time, using city staff and city facilities to run a private business, and retaliating against an employee for refusing to work for her private business?

Why didn't City Manager Bill Lindsay put Knight on paid administrative leave when he received a report concerning her transgressions? Why did City Attorney Bruce Goodmiller deny the City Council, the press and the public access to the $65,000 investigative report paid for by the taxpayers?

As a political observer of county politics, I suggest it's all about corruption. In Contra Costa County, politicians and connected fellow travelers are not likely to face prosecution and jail time.

Rob a store, go to jail. Rob the taxpayers, get a fond farewell and a fat retirement -- thanks to a district attorney who is missing in action.

Good government starts with better enforcement. The residents of this county deserve better.

Charles T. Smith

Richmond

Glop-from-hell pipeline

You and I don't want to be lied to about pipelines across the country or anything else, for that matter.

The promised benefits of permitting the Keystone XL pipeline construction must remain forever a fevered pipe-dream of the overactive corporate imagination.

For example, the corporate media recently did the job of keeping as quiet as possible the recent pipeline spill in Arkansas of exceedingly toxic glop from Canadian tar sands.

The goo they propose to shove through a new pipeline to Texas refineries is clotted with chemicals you wouldn't let your family within 100 miles of. Tar-sands oil needs refining in Canada as close to the source as humanly possible.

Rational Canadians want absolutely nothing to do with new pipelines to their coasts carrying unrefined toxic tar-sands sludge. Therefore, let the oil companies build a new refinery in Canada. Please kindly forget and denounce all the dangerous glop-from-hell traveling across valuable environments and watersheds in the beloved, sacred United States.

"Jobs will be many," say pipeline advocates. "Not true," say analysts and critics.

"The environment will remain safe," assert advocates. "Laughably incorrect," reply knowledgeable experts.

"Energy independence for the United States," say pipe-dreamers. "That oil will go to foreign countries," reply experts.

Please stop dangerous unneeded projects such as this north to south pipeline, funds for which could build solar and wind renewable power sources of long-term high value, as do the Chinese.

Terry Cochrell

Berkeley

Pipeline and Warren Buffett

The Times' recent comprehensive, informative, front-page article about Canadian tar sands oil transportation and the Keystone XL pipeline was very interesting.

But like so much of our left-wing media bias -- articles containing one-sided information and omissions -- it left out President Obama's friendship with Warren Buffett. If the pipeline is not passed, Canadian oil sands producers will have to ship their oil on Buffett's trains.

Buffett and his billionaire cronies have contributed untold millions to Obama and his cronies over the last six years; they are good friends. Great. This is a free country. Maybe?

There are more than 300,000 miles of assorted pipelines now existing in America. Why will this 2,000-mile pipeline ruin our environment?

If we don't want to refine crude oil, get our cars off the road!

Sidney Steinberg

Berkeley