Church-state divide at heart of evolution-creationism debate

I wanted to thank you for your Oct. 20 editorial, "The evolution of creationism." The argument for the separation of church and state as a reason to withhold the teaching of intelligent design is a universal protection. The powers that be in the current political climate would have people believe that because so many are in favor of intelligent design, it should be allowed to be taught. But this same group would be beside themselves if asked to learn creation as viewed by a different religion. Separating church and state ensures that all religions have protection, and that no person is either denied or pushed into a religion.

Your editorial articulated the points on each side, gave fair resonance to the important facts, and ensured that the discussion on this topic remained an intelligent one.
Helene Roylance
Mountain View, Calif.

The real problem with the intelligent design movement is that it attacks evolution from a standpoint that purports to be scientific, but which is really religious. As a strongly religious Catholic, I believe that God did indeed create the universe and all that is in it, including me. But I also believe that, in the area of biology, evolution, for which the evidence is overwhelming, is the best explanation for how He did it. And I also believe that, taken as a whole, the evidence does point very strongly in the direction of an intelligent (and loving) Designer. But empirical science has no way to test that idea, which ultimately, is a matter of faith.
David Irby
Dingle, Ireland

I applaud those intelligent design proponents who continue to examine and to ridicule the scientific arguments for evolution. Justice Brennan's gravamen in the Supreme Court's majority opinion (in a 1987 ruling on whether teaching creationism was constitutional) was that the Louisiana Creationism Act violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, since its intent was to obtain government money and support for a religious purpose.

But I myself found it challenging to be asked by a student in a remedial class for a replacement term or terms for the word "orangutan" which, in the Indonesian language, means "man of the forest." My own religious training guided me to introduce the word "chimpanzee" rather than identify the other primate as a type of man. Maybe evolution theory will fall and crack eventually just as the whole Ptolemaic system of astronomy was cracking in the early 16th century when Copernicus appeared on the scene to rebuke and to chastise his opponents. We are fortunate that fundamentalists are still around to maintain a balance of speculative views.
Douglas Brower
Waipahu, Hawaii

Test scores don't measure success

Regarding the Oct. 20 article, "America's pupils progress in math, falter in reading": Math scores for America's children may show an improvement, but that simply means that the teachers have done a good job of teaching to the test. No Child Left Behind has demonstrated a stunning lack of the type of enrichment that students need to be intellectually and civically well rounded. It's all well and good to have good math scores. But if one can't do everyday math that doesn't relate to a test, what good is it? And if children grow up knowing some math, but don't have any idea what's going on in the world around them, how can they be good citizens?
Rosemarie De Luca
Pisa, Italy

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