Letters: Creationism

Disgraceful pillorying of a scientist over creationism
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The Independent Online

I welcomed your robust defence of Professor Reiss's position in your leading article of 17 September.

The best science education seeks to relate science to the real world and not to duck students' difficult questions. Michael Reiss is entirely innocent of advocating the teaching of creationism in science lessons, as anyone who bothered to read through his clearly worded article could see. He was accused of this by shrill voices from certain sections of the media and elsewhere.

That a pressure group which appeared to have a limited grasp of the article could pillory a respected science educator to the point of resignation is a lasting disgrace.

Michael Poole

Department of Education & Professional Studies, King's College London

I am teaching science to some teenagers and one asks me whether I saw Mrs Palin on telly last night: "Sir, what do you understand about creationism and how do you think that Mrs Palin can sustain her views?" Am I to say that I am unable to answer the question? Do I refer them to Messrs Dawkins and Kroto?

Actually, I am not teaching any longer, but I do know that Michael Reiss is one of the most distinguished science educators we have, whose views on ethics are sought and respected by many institutions. And he is one of our very best curriculum developers.

I am simply surprised that the Royal Society is unable to understand the message that they are conveying to the public, that they are unable to defend and explain the simple argument that their director of education was proposing.

Professor David Waddington


Bruce Anderson (15 September) suggests that churchmen might indulge in nostalgia for the days when the first chapter of Genesis was at the core of the national curriculum. When was that? Certainly not at any point in my schooldays. I think it was probably around 1895.

And if he thinks we believe that the human race is at the centre of God's moral preoccupations, I suggest that he reads Genesis 1.31 again: "God saw everything that he had made, and it was very good."

The Rev John Williams

West Wittering, West Sussex

Crack down on the short-sell gamblers

Is it not outrageous that international speculators can short-sell HBOS shares to the point of collapse and the Government claims it is powerless to stop it?

Deregulated financial markets, introduced by the Thatcher/Regan alliance and vigorously pursued by New Labour, have proved to be a recipe for massively irresponsible and fraudulent business models. It has been a massive failure of regulation and a complete abdication of responsibility by politicians and those who advise them, and in spite of earlier financial catastrophes.

We have had casino economics for the past decade, where unbridled greed and financial speculation took precedence over prudence and common sense. We are now reaping the consequences and we are all having to pay for the unimaginable recklessness and stupidity of the bankers, financiers, regulators and politicians who have allowed this financial meltdown to happen.

A Davies

Burton on Trent, Staffordshire

Please use your influence to encourage the regulatory authorities to investigate the share-dealing over the past few days in the shares of HBOS.

Despite the many reassurances about HBOS's viability given by HBOS itself and supported by the media and city experts and pundits, we have seen the share price plunge. I would suggest that we have witnessed unscrupulous speculators at play, making money out of unfounded rumours, perhaps of their own creation. The consequences could have been catastrophic not only for the banking industry but also for innocent banking and mortgage customers, not to mention the damage to pension funds.

Such behaviour is quite immoral, if not criminal, and, unless the regulatory authorities clamp down on it, these vultures will continue to feed off an already weakened and vulnerable economy.

David Drum

London W4

We are now reaping the whirlwind of the deregulation of financial services in the 1980s, and the consensus seems to be that, after the clear-up, we will need a better, stronger regulatory system.

Elementary free-market economics teaches that perfect competition demands perfect information.But financial information is still a premium product. It need no longer be: the universal connectedness of modern technology means that every dealer's open positions, every bank's real-time balance-sheet, indeed every account in every ledger in every public company, except those revealing personally identifiable information about individuals, could and should be open for everyone to read.

Since deregulation, the financial services sector has created markets in instruments of labyrinthine complexity, from the inherent opacity of which it has been able to profit until the whirlwind revealed them to be hollow. If it is to expect us, the ordinary public whose pensions and savings it has been managing, ever to trust it again, it must now embrace true transparency; and for the regulators, faced with the task of making financial capitalism work again, transparency must be the primary measure of their success.

Edward Barrow

London, SW2

Will the banks never learn? A young couple I know decided last week to see if they could get on the property ladder. I found this surprising, as I knew they had zero savings and some credit card debt. They emerged from the bank with the offer of a mortgage of £160,000, and the 5 per cent deposit they would need would be supplied in the form of an £8,000 personal loan.

D Jerome

Haslemere, Surrey

Mothers must be free to go to work

It's a pity Sharon Tringham (letter, 11 September) feels the need to denigrate mothers who choose to "swan off" to work to provide the education, healthcare, retail and other services that have enabled her large family to prosper on a presumably single (male) wage.

She makes the mistake of believing that to give birth is a "job" when it is clearly no such thing. Hard work it may be, but parenthood is a role that people choose to take on, regardless of qualifications or ability.

It is only through the presence of women in the workplace that gender equality and childcare are on the agenda at all for our mostly male politicians. To favour, as the Centre for Social Justice seems to, a Taliban-style society with mothers of young children banished to home with a pitiful allowance is dangerous and discriminatory nonsense, when women are so woefully under-represented in government and widely paid less than men who do the same types of work.

I only wish more mothers were involved in making the important decisions in our country, whether on education policy or on the wisdom of going to war. Choosing to stay at home will not achieve this.

Louise Hayward

London, SE14

Don't mock the threat to Israel

Almost every phrase in Colum Gallivan's letter (12 September) is incorrect. Israel is not the only nuclear state in the region. Pakistan, an unstable Muslim country with a large number of extremists, has a huge nuclear arsenal and rockets which can reach Israel, and has exported its technology to Iran.

Israel does not have anything like "unlimited conventional forces". A million soldiers were lost on each side of the seven-year Iran-Iraq war, but if Israel lost a similar number there would hardly be a single man left alive between the ages of 20 and 45.

And Israel does not have "enough finance to wall off another state". Because of lack of money, only a third has been completed in seven years, although it has saved many lives by keeping out terrorists. The West Bank is not "another state" but the half of Palestine west of the Jordan that was refused by the Arabs in 1947, when the Palestinian Jews were offered and accepted the other half. It was never a state in its own right.

There is no "military class permanently in power". Israel's democracy has produced regular changes of government, frequently swinging from left to right and back. Hardly "uncompromising", having returned the Sinai peninsular, with its oil wells, to Egypt in return for peace and followed it up with a treaty with Jordan, brought Yasser Arafat back from oblivion in Tunis and helped him to gain power, even providing his "police force" with arms in the hope for peace.

But his biggest error is to mock the "threat to Israel". The President of Iran has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map" and will have the ability very soon. Only three nuclear bombs over Israel's major conurbations would fulfil his threat; he would not be concerned with a possible Israeli reaction which could not destroy a state with a huge land mass and a population of 70 million.

Alan Halibard

Bet Shemesh, Israel

Vaccination for cervical cancer

Correspondence on human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination is becoming ill-informed and surreal (letters, 12 September). Some basic facts: cervical cancer is neither common nor rare. Death from this disease is unpleasant; readers who may be eating breakfast will be spared the details. Successful treatment of cervical cancer is mutilating; likewise, no details.

HPV viruses are ubiquitous; they are present on human skin, and this is normal. Young adult women have anatomical changes in their cervixes which make them vulnerable, in a minority, to lasting infection with HPV. Almost all women acquire HPV on their cervixes; body defences deal with this in all but this minority, which cannot be identified prospectively at present.

If HPV persists in the cervix, some women will develop cervical cancer. HPV vaccines are an attempt to support the natural body defence mechanisms and help to stop persistence of HPV.

HPV is not sexually transmitted in the sense that syphilis and gonorrhoea are. Sexual intercourse (and sometimes other sexual contact) is the mechanism by which HPV gets from skin outside to skin inside on the cervix. Neither participant needs to have had sex with anyone else recently, or indeed ever, although this might make matters worse. Sexual intercourse is normal, otherwise none of us would be here.

T Bloomfield

Consultant Gynaecologist, Carmarthen

Ways to promote responsible drinking

As a company at the forefront of industry efforts to promote responsible drinking, we are frustrated by some of the restrictions outlined in the Scottish Government's legislative programme (leading article, 4 September). We believe they serve only to penalise the responsible drinker and fail to tackle patterns of alcohol misuse.

We do, however, welcome the Government's recognition that working alongside industry is key to finding a solution. That is why we believe that the most effective approach to promoting responsible behaviour is through co-regulation. Under co-regulation, government would set overall objectives and mandatory standards on alcohol promotions. Industry would be free to innovate and develop a sensible and easy-to-work system of regulation and practice to meet government's objectives. If the objectives were not met then the Government would be able to use its regulatory teeth to tackle the problem.

I hope the Scottish Government's stated desire to work with industry is reflected in the final proposals so that we tackle the problem without hurting the vast majority of responsible drinkers.

Benet Slay

Managing Director, Diageo Great Britain, London SE1


Heroes of the left

Peter Vaswani (Letters, 18 September) urges the Labour Party to return to its "socialism". How right he is! If only we could go back to 1983 when, led by Michael Foot, the party received a landslide vote, with the most left-wing manifesto for a generation.

P C Metcalfe

Stevenage, Hertfordshire

What is going on?

So let me get this straight: the Labour party are encouraging the development of gigantic private monopolies in the financial sector; the US neocons are nationalising the banking and insurance industry; the Lib Dems are a bunch of tax-cutting Eurosceptics and England played like champions to beat Croatia 4-1 away. You know that rubbish that was being spread across the internet about the risk of the hadron collider creating black holes that might suck us into a parallel universe? Well, er . . .

David Jones

Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire

Sporting wildlife

Michael McCarthy (Nature Notebook, 12 September) is rightly proud of the ornithological opportunities afforded by Craven Cottage, home of Fulham FC. But why stop at avian life-forms? At Eastlands, proud home of Manchester City FC, my own wildlife observations encompass dragonfly, pipistrelle bat and winter moth, to cite but a few. Should our new Abu Dhabi owners show a penchant for falconry, I shall be willing to point out the resident kestrel.

Rob Dunford



I heartily agree with D Potts's view (letter, 15 September) that clothing has been overlooked as an energy-saver. I suggest that underwear deserves attention as a more interesting and efficient means to keep us warm. Layering is the crucial factor in warming the body, therefore in most parts of our temperate climate a camisole or "body" can work very well under normal clothing. Silk, cotton or man-made equivalents are available to suit any budget, size and preference.

Debbie Jones

Newcastle upon Tyne

Balanced language

Matthew Norman (18 September) refers to "pleasing symmetricy". What's wrong with the good old English word "symmetriciousness"?

Colin Dryden

Formby, Merseyside