Letters: Science and the theories of evolution

Sir: President Bush has said that schools should teach the so-called "intelligent design" theory in schools. This merely states that life is complex and had to be designed by someone, or something, and stops there.

But when you ask who the designer is, the supporters of the theory don't want to talk about it, because it becomes clear that ID is a thinly veiled front for creationism. If life requires a designer, then who is the designer and who made the designer? If you think through what ID is saying, you could conclude that God doesn't exist because something as complex as God couldn't "just happen".

The difference between science and fictional beliefs is that science isn't afraid of scrutiny. Science isn't afraid to think matters through and ask the tough questions. Trying to rename creationism as intelligent design is dishonest, and Christians aren't going to win over any souls by being caught taking liberties with the truth. They should think about their own commandment about bearing false witness.

MARC PERKEL

SAN FRANCISCO CALIFORNIA, USA

Sir: Your article "Mythology in the White House" (Editorial, 4 August) is crammed full of opinions masquerading as facts.

Firstly, it is erroneous to identify the theory of intelligent design with creationism. William Dembski, one of the leading proponents of intelligent design, states baldly that the theory "shares none of scientific creationism's religious commitments".

Secondly, Darwinism, while admittedly accepted by much of the scientific community, is a theory under increasing attack from within that community. Michael Behe, the well-known author of Darwin's Black Box, is himself a professor of biochemistry. He is not a creationist.

Thirdly, it is absurd to claim that creationists are without scientific evidence to back up their claims. You may disagree with, for example, Henry Morris, but his work is backed up with a vast amount of scientific data.

ALAN HOWE

CLACTON-ON-SEA, ESSEX,

Laws could damage human rights

Sir: Steve Richards seems to have lost the plot ("It is not illiberal for the state to curtail free speech in protection of its citizens", Opinion, 2 August).

If there was the slightest evidence that the proposed anti-terror laws would have made any difference to the attacks in London or to the likelihood of further such attacks, then they might command more popular support. But laws enacted because of a desire to be seen to do something in a crisis are almost always used by over-zealous police officers to oppress minorities. And then the minorities, deprived of the human rights enjoyed by the majority, resort to other methods.

ANDREW C BLUNDY

LONDON SE7

Sir: Steve Richards is short-sighted in his view of the Government's Religious Hatred Bill. We hardly needed the tragedy of terrorist bombs in London to alert us to the fact that religions are probably the best propagators of hatred of other religions, and that each, like any ideology, has its extremists.

We have seen writers, including Salman Rushdie, Hanif Kureishi, Gurpreet Bhatti, and comedians and artists, not to mention some of the best legal minds in the country, protesting against the government's proposals. Their action was hardly in the name of self-interest. They protested because we could foresee that a loosely worded law on incitement would target the very Muslim communities who felt they wanted it. The law would also unleash litigious religious purists to use the courts and media for their purposes.

Indeed, none of the effects of religious hatred legislation will be conducive to the social cohesion we so badly need. There is enough legislation on the statute books to deal with faith crimes: all it needs is will, and perhaps an amendment to existing legislation which would curtail hate speech where religion is acting as a proxy for race - that is, where the hate speech is pretending the Muslim religion is a target, where in fact the colour of skin one is born with is the real object of incitement.

For the rest, the best statement the government can make in the name of social cohesion would be to repeal the antiquated blasphemy law, thereby at a simple stroke rendering all faiths in this country equal and leaving intact our freedoms to profess or criticise them.

LISA APPIGNANESI

DEPUTY PRESIDENT, ENGLISH PEN LONDON N19

Contempt of court and media reporting

Sir: Heather Brooke argues against restrictions placed on reporting of terrorist suspects ("Get rid of these paternalistic laws", 3 August). Her argument is fundamentally flawed.

Her main justification for scrapping the contempt of court laws is that the public are not affected by what they read or see in the media, which is ironic because her article itself is an attempt to influence opinion.

There is a hierarchy of rights, and the most important are the rights to life and freedom. The right of a defendant to a fair trial far outweighs the public's right to have up-to-the-minute information about police investigations.

RICHARD MARR

LONDON W3

Sir: I fully agree with Heather Brooke's article. We deserve the right to know what is going on in this disgraceful "war on terror". The patronising laws which exist to protect the rights of the accused at the expense of everyone else are wrong.

As Ms Brooke rightly says, these contempt of court laws show a total lack of respect for the public in general. The government should ponder this and ditch these laws, and for once show us that it is actually there to listen and can act for us, the citizens.

ERMINIA YARDLEY

LONDON SE3

Sir: Roma Tearne seeks Tony Blair's assurance that her sons will not be mistaken for suicide bombers and be shot while walking the streets of London or anywhere else in Britain (letter, 2 August). May I draw her attention to the fact that many innocent citizens of this country, irrespective of race, colour, or creed are now fearful of being blown up while going about their business on the streets of London, on the Tube, on the buses or on aeroplanes, and all this is down to misguided Islamic extremists.

The fault lies not with the law enforcement agencies of this country but with the extremists who happen to be of Islamic persuasion and of brown skin tone. I speak as a British citizen of mixed race origin and if the police should want to stop me and search me they are more than welcome. Let's give all this politically correct tripe a rest and let the police get on with their difficult job.

DARAN TURNER

COLCHESTER, ESSEX

Sir: Peter Hain appears to understand the principle of cause and effect when he says that the current stop-and-search policy will act as a recruiting agent for terrorism (report, 2 August). Why, therefore, has he, along with the rest of his Cabinet colleagues, been unable to apply the same understanding to what is, I imagine, the far greater effect of this Government's foreign policy in Iraq?

ANDREW BAXTER

LONDON W5

IMF is combatting Niger famine

Sir: I must take the strongest possible exception to the accusation that the IMF contributed to the crisis in Niger ("IMF and EU are blamed for starvation in Niger", 1 August).

The country is facing severe crop shortfalls because of a lengthy drought, limited irrigation, and a plague of locusts. The IMF is working closely with other international donors to mobilise additional resources to address the food shortages. Niger's Fund-supported programme fully accommodates famine-related government spending, and we are prepared to increase Niger's access to Fund financing if grant aid is insufficient. In addition, the IMF has been at the forefront in stressing the need to increase investment in irrigation infrastructure to reduce Niger's vulnerability to drought.

With regard to the specific allegations raised in the article, the IMF has never supported or encouraged the abolition of government grain reserves. In fact, the grain reserve is in place and has been used, to the best of our knowledge, to relieve the current food shortage.

The expansion of Niger's poverty-reduction programmes requires a gradual increase in domestic revenue to supplement assistance from development partners. In 2003, the government and Fund staff explored various options, including steps to expand agricultural production. This January, the government introduced some revenue measures, including the extension of VAT to milk, sugar and wheat flour. IMF staff specifically recommended that a poverty-impact assessment of the proposed measures be carried out. At any rate, the VAT extension was soon rescinded because of public protests and could have had little effect on the crisis, the causes of which are more fundamental.

THOMAS C DAWSON

DIRECTOR EXTERNAL RELATIONS DEPARTMENT INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND WASHINGTON, DC, USA

A wonderful world when you're young

Sir: It is very tempting to agree with Michael McCarthy in his article about the golden age of the Sixties (2 August).

The world of the Sixties was truly beautiful. However, my mother used to look at us with pity and say that in her youth they had such a good time and that "things are so difficult now for young people". I remember also my husband's grandmother, who declared the world had "gone mad", and spoke fondly of her poverty-stricken youth in Russia. I suspect, and hope for the sake of my children and all future generations, that whenever you were young and carefree the world was a great place.

JOAN FOGEL

LONDON NW11

Many charities have increased income

Sir: Maxine Frith's front-page article "Charities in Crisis" (3 August) presents a misleading view of how charities are currently faring. The latest Disaster and Emergencies Committee appeal does add to what has been an immensely challenging year for UK charities but for the majority of them it is not a crisis situation.

Although a third of charities have seen a downturn following the Asian tsunami, almost 60 per cent have increased or maintained income levels during this time. Eighty-five per cent said the appeal could positively impact their organisation over the longterm.

Charities worked hard to increase the value of donations by encouraging the use of Gift Aid and committed giving in a concerted effort to counteract any downturn in the number of gifts. The use of regular, reliable and tax-effective methods like Payroll Giving and Gift Aid are hugely important in enabling charities to benefit from a sustained income stream that will see them through more volatile periods and ensure that their vital work continues.

LINDSAY BOSWELL

CHIEF EXECUTIVE INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING LONDON SW8

Condition can mean a lifelong struggle

Sir: Edward Heath may, anecdotally, have displayed one or two character traits popularly associated with Asperger's Syndrome, as do many people. However, according to medical criteria, unless AS causes an individual clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning, a diagnosis is not appropriate. The suggestion by Linda Patience (letter, 3 August) that a former Prime Minister may have had AS belittles the very real struggles of those with this lifelong developmental disability.

KATHERINE EVANS

WALTON ON THAMES, SURREY

Sudoku mathematics

Sir: Paul Bowyer (letter, 4 August) is almost right. Sudoku is a mathematical puzzle in a very basic and elementary sense. A solver repeatedly counts and subtracts (working out what is missing from row, column or box) and calculates. The assertion that "there is no maths involved" is not only irritating, it is a little ridiculous.

ALDRIC BROWN

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON LONDON WC1

Labelling terrorists

Sir: In response to S Abdelhay, of Riyadh, there is no double standard in labelling Islamic terrorists as such while not labelling the IRA as "Catholic terrorists" (Letters, 3 August). Catholicism is not central to the IRA, any more than it is to the Shining Path in Peru or the FARC in Colombia, whereas a belief in Islam, to the detriment of all other faiths, is central to al-Qa'ida. As for double standards, should we really be lectured by a resident of Saudi Arabia, where non-Muslims are forbidden worship in public.

KEN WESTMORELAND

CROYDON, SURREY

Multicultural nation

Sir: David Davis suggests that multiculturalism is "outdated" and calls on the government to "build a single nation", and to demand "respect for the British way of life". As defined by who? Will David Davis please explain to us how his putative monocultural model of society is supposed to work? Or is it just another exercise in playing to the gallery of his own supporters?

NIGEL BALDWIN

PORTSMOUTH

Die another day

Sir: I thought the article "Change the day you die" (2 August) nonsensical. On the one hand we are told that we may be living on a dying planet, and on the other, we can soon live to be 500 years old. How much better it would be to use the millions pouring into this research to fund more residential, hospital and general health care for our ageing population, and to get rid of the offensive and insulting "bed blocking" notion. Perhaps once these factors have been addressed, people may actually start wanting to live into their hundreds.

EVELYN ROSS

CHELTENHAM, GLOUCESTERSHIRE

World music for all

Sir: I do not understand why Philip Hensher feels the need to devote an entire article to bashing world music (Opinion, 2 August). The genre has introduced a wealth of sounds and cultures to people across the globe. Music is a transfer of emotion, owned by the musician and the listener. It does not understand the borders and boundaries that Philip imposes on it.

DAN THOMPSON

LEAMINGTON SPA WARWICKSHIRE

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