Extraterrestrials - where's the science? It was disheartening to read your anti-alien, anti-NBC program editorial ("Alien to science," March 1).

The "scientific" attitude is that we will be the first to discover aliens someday. Rather, a scientific approach begins by acknowledging that aliens who could be hundreds of millions of years advanced over us would likely have discovered us long ago!

Is it not plausible, as Carl Sagan once wrote in one of his scientific papers, that advanced alien civilizations would know enough to treat an emerging civilization like ours very delicately?

Jim Deardorff Corvallis, Ore.

Thank you for your excellent editorial. It has always been said that we fear most that which we do not understand. Science gives human beings an opportunity to cope with their harsh environment by using one of God's greatest gifts: reason. But with the continuing decline of scientific education and the spirit of independent thought, Americans are more susceptible to these "charlatans" who exploit ignorance to create fear. This will indeed lead to the "decline and fall of American civilization."

Michael Pravica Yonkers, N.Y.

U of Chicago - improvements? Your article about the University of Chicago ("Academia's gray lady gets modern makeover," March 4) makes several misrepresentations. Most notable is this assertion: "Most students seem to like the changes, which they say preserve the school's identity." This could not be further from the truth.

The administration's efforts to create a less-demanding core curriculum have met with widespread student outrage. In a recent public meeting university President Hugo Sonnenschein answered questions from a crowd of roughly 500 concerned students. Campus press sources described the environment as hostile, citing many students' dissatisfaction with the president's evasive responses. Nor has the administration committed to expanding the faculty to cope with increasing enrollment.

The article also portrays alumni groups as standing alone against the will of the greater university community. In fact, many students and faculty oppose the manner in which the administration is attempting to change the college and the university.

Euan Hayward Chicago, Ill

I enjoyed your even-handed treatment of the current changes at the University of Chicago. I would argue, however, that your sample of college first-years could not have been a random sample of student opinion. As U of C college alumnus and a current graduate student, I have watched President Sonnenchein's attempts to change the character of this institution over the past several years and feel grave concern at the decrease in the number of "core" classes and the attempted "improvement" of our serious image. Further, both major campus newspapers have come out against these changes, and two new parties running in the coming student government election have formed with the explicit purpose of changing the administration's policies.

Todd D. Kendall Chicago, Ill.

Why Monica's interview was a hit

Neil Gabler's commentary on ABC's interview with Monica Lewinsky ("The chat heard round the world," March 5) brings up to date the observation of one of Thomas Mann's characters in "Death in Venice": What pleases the public is lively and vivid delineation which makes no demand on the intellect.

Dale Wilhelm Columbus, Ohio

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail, only a selection can be published, and we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. Letters must be signed and include your telephone number and city. Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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