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Letters to the Editor
I greatly enjoyed Robert W. Loftin's fine article, "Caves and Evolution" (Creation/Evolution XXIII). However, I about fell out of my chair when I read the sentence, "The evolution account presents genuine problems" (p. 27). Of course, he explains later that the problems are true puzzles of naturenot the kind of problems that comes with trying to explain away facts that don't conform to the creation model. But I can easily imagine that sentence showing up in future creationist literature, stripped of its surroundings, as proof positive that evolutionists such as Loftin have their doubts about the theory of evolution. I know it's difficult for writers and editors to be on constant guard against the possibility of being quoted out of context. Still, what amazes me is that the creationists can read all that excellent literature on evolution, searching for their out-of-context quotes, and yet have none of it sink in.
I wish to comment on G. Richard Bonzarth's critique of my definition of religion, which he characterized as "as ridiculous as it is wrong" (Creation/ Evolution XXIII, pp. 44-46).
I think it unfortunate that Bonzarth prefers a definition so narrow as to include only the type of belief systems of which he is apparently an avid supporter. Many atheists, of course, would agree with his definition, since they wish to include only those systems with which they disagree; such disbelief in the symbols of others is the cornerstone of their own religious fervor. I chose a broad definition since it was useful in developing the points I was trying to make. I did not invent this definition; it's a synthesis of a broad discussion in the anthropological and sociological literature ongoing for many years. Bonzarth's insistence that an ideology devoid of supernatural symbolism does not merit the label of "religion" excludes many ideological systems which are widely regarded as religious. These systems have all the sociological and psychological characteristics of religions but have radically different sacred symbols. Most Americans, apparently including Bonzarth, have very limited experience with religions other than the theistic religions of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
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Bonzarth complains that my definition would include all views on morality and ethics. He fails to understand that in most cultures religion is indeed considered as encompassing all aspects of social life Clothing styles, family size, planting dates, speech patterns, marriage practices, food preferences, and a thousand other aspects of life are governed by religious beliefs. Toleration of a minority religion is relatively rare in human history, since it is considered disruptive of the social fabric of the society.
The separation of "secular" ethics from "religion" is a relatively recent onea product of the truce arranged between warring factions of Christians since the Reformation. All Christians, as well as Jews and humanists, share a great portion of their ethical beliefs in common, although they differ greatly in detail and application. The common ground spanning sectarian denominations has been separated out as "secular" and forms the framework holding our society together. Thus, we have developed a two-tiered system. Many other belief systems, I must point out, will strongly disagree with many of the "ethical" values we Americans take for granted. Our society could not survive long with a sizeable minority practicing, say, the religion of the ancient Aztecs.
Joseph E. Laferriere
Just a quick observation on Paul Ellwanger's "Uniform Origins Policy" (Creation/Evolution XXIII): As I read it, there would be no way to prevent any teacher from teaching creationism because section four of the policy prevents firing such a teacher if he or she is "acting in good faith" and comparing that to "teaching any other subject matter in good faith."
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