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Thursday, November 5,2009

Cheap racial slam

Letters, Week of Nov. 5

(Re: “New Age outrage,” Uncensored, Oct. 29.) I must write to protest Pamela White’s derogatory use of the term “white folks” in her recent column, especially given its “there goes the neighborhood” context. Going for a cheap laugh at the expense of European-Americans is insensitive and offensive, and dangerously implies that everybody of Northern European descent is guilty of the actions of a few. Is the white-ness of the people in question a necessary part of the story, or is she just trying to color her readers’ impressions by tapping into latent biases?

Regardless of her own ethnicity and even her name, Ms. White should be aware that slang terms for ethnic groups usually carry negative connotations. If the ancestry of the European-Americans about whom she writes is vital to her reporting, Ms. White should refer to them as such, and leave out the subtle implication that we’re all sunburned imperialists who can’t dance. (And please don’t disingenuously use the term “Caucasian” instead; we can hear you sniggering behind the keyboard as you emphasize that first syllable.)

David Rea/Boulder

Dumping Darwin

(Re: “Teach Darwin’s other beliefs,” Letters, Oct. 29) Surprise! The letter writer, Mr. Robinson, has revealed to all who, presumably, accept Darwin’ elaboration on the theory of evolution, that Darwin harbored male chauvinistic and white supremacist biases. More importantly, in the letter writer’s view, these biases put Darwin’s theory into question; as if the disproving of one of a scientist’s theories has any bearing on other of the scientist’s theories.

By this sophistry, virtually every theory advanced by 19th century European scientists becomes suspect. Male chauvinistic white supremacy comprised a major, and one of the most characteristic, aspects of the European Zeitgeist of the time.

No one conversant in the scientific method would suggest, as Mr. Robinson does, that a reasonable challenge of a hypothesis includes measuring the author’s tolerance. A scientific theory stands or falls on its elasticity, its ability to withstand hypothesis testing. On that scale, Darwin’s is as robust as they come.

To mistake a scientific theory — or any theory — as fact is to confuse the search for knowledge with one of the means of acquiring it, that is, with the thing itself. Theories assist and guide us in organizing and understanding our world and our place in it. They serve the same function as any other heuristic device, with the same shortcomings and dangers, the most salient of which is generalization — a danger to which Mr. Robinson has succumbed.

Additionally, if Mr. Robinson had done more than search through Darwin’s correspondence he would have discovered that Darwin was not alone in recognizing the elegance of the theory. One, Alfred Russell Wallace, very nearly “scooped” Darwin in publishing conclusions based on observations of natural selection in nature similar to Darwin’s. So, if Darwin had not published the theory, some other male chauvinist, white supremacist, proto-eugenicist certainly would have.

Robert W. Dews/Boulder

Great idea, bad bill

(Re: “Obameter,” letters, Oct. 29.) I feel urged to write about the passing of the Matthew Sheppard Hate Crimes Legislation and the Weekly Obameter. The Weekly gives Obama a 90 for passing this legislation; however, it did not mention that the legislation was placed (strategically) in the 2010 military spending budget that is responsible for funding the illegal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Isn’t war the biggest hate crime? The responsible thing would have been to vote against this bill, and bring the Matthew Sheppard Bill to the floor separately. Rep. Jared Polis could have been the best person to make a stand against this bill, and yet, he voted for it.

Robby Miller/Via Internet

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