letters to the editor 88.
(photo credit: )
Sir, - With due respect to Shmuley Boteach, whose opinions are often insightful, his view of evolution is totally off the wall ("In Darwin's evolutionary laboratory," December 18). In recognition of documented evolutionary phenomena such as Darwin's Finches, he invents a concept of "lateral evolution" but rejects "vertical evolution" - his term for the evolution of new species - because of lack of evidence.
He cites the well-known, but factually incorrect, creationist argument for the absence of intermediate forms in the fossil record. Although there are gaps in the fossil record, the many examples of intermediary forms are by no means "negligible" - for example, the famous Archeopteryx fossil representing a transitional stage between the dinosaurs and birds, and the many fossils representing intermediary stages between primitive fish and the first terrestrial animals.
Why is Boteach so afraid of evolution? Why are we Jews starting to take on the Christian fundamentalist obsession with "original" creation, which was never our problem? Despite the eagerness with which many evolutionists use their science to "disprove" the existence of God and belittle religious belief, Darwinian evolution is not inimical to faith. In the words of Simon Conway Morris, professor of evolutionary paleobiology at the University of Cambridge, "None of it presupposes, let alone proves, the existence of God, but all is congruent. The choice is yours." Even Stephen Hawking, in response to the many times he was asked last week about whether he believed in God, admitted that "God may or may not have decreed the laws of science." Those of us who choose to believe in a divine Creator need have no problem at all in seeing the role of evolution in the divine scheme.
Incidentally, the photo accompanying the article was a photo of Frigate bird chicks.
Sir, - Shmuley Boteach finds comfort in the evidence he sees of "divine purpose" in the animal kingdom. Good for him. The problem for honest thinkers is this: While for Darwin the manifestations of kindness among animals that Boteach saw in the Galapagos Islands contradicted his theory of survival of the fittest and the cruelty of nature, it was a logical problem, not a moral one. But for those of us who want to believe, as Boteach does, in an omnipotent and at the same time a good God, the cruelties he admits he saw on his first day's trip to the islands are a moral problem, known as theodicy, or defending the ways of God to man.
If, as Darwin was convinced, the essence of evolution is a struggle, heartless and bloody, to survive, the manifestations of kindness are welcome exceptions. But, if we theists, creationists and believers in Intelligent Design are to stick to our beliefs, we are faced with not only the logical contradiction but the sharp immorality of "nature, red in tooth and claw," which questions not only the logic of a good God, but His moral character. The position of "ethical monotheism" thus becomes a difficult one to uphold.
Sir, - Irene Khan's choice to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority on December 10, International Human Rights Day, showcases the duplicity of nongovernmental organization superpower Amnesty International. Instead of focusing Amnesty's enviable estimated 100-million pound sterling budget on genocide-wracked Darfur and serial human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya and many others, Khan visited the only democracy in the Middle East to advance Amnesty's and other NGOs' anti-Israel biases.
Khan says "major actions have to be taken in terms of ending attacks, particularly investigating the indiscriminate use of violence by the Israeli forces. There has never been a proper investigation of these things."
On what verifiable evidence does the AI secretary-general base her accusation that IDF attacks are "indiscriminate"? Just where does she get her information from?
Like many other NGOs working in the region, Amnesty wields enormous power in shaping public opinion and often bases politically motivated statements on unverifiable sources. Khan's visit once again demonstrated the primacy of AI's political agenda over its claimed commitment to fighting human rights violations ("Charting Amnesty's road to peace," Tovah Lazaroff, December 12).
Associate Editor, NGO Monitor
...not at all!
Sir, - Gerald Steinberg's "There couldn't be a more perfect time" (December 10) strongly criticized the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network. According to Mr. Steinberg, during the Lebanon war EMHRN "issued a torrent of political statements and one-sided condemnations." Still, according to Mr. Steinberg, it "uses the language of human rights to promote conflict and demonization of Israel."
Let me point out that during the Lebanon war the EMHRN issued two statements in total! Can that be characterized as a torrent? Moreover, these two "one-sided" statements provoked very strong reactions within the network. They were considered as being either biased in favor of Israel or against Israel. In a situation of conflict and war, reactions like these are understandable. However, the statements were both democratically discussed within the network.
The language used by the EMHRN is based on International Human Rights law and the respect for it. When human rights are violated, the network condemns it, no matter who the perpetrators are. The language used by Mr. Steinberg is ideological, not based on facts and blinded by passion. This language has disastrous consequences and, as a principle, we refuse to use it.
The EMHRN gathers more than 80 organizations of defense of human rights, institutions and individuals based in 30 countries around the Mediterranean. Its missions are the promotion of human rights within the framework of the Barcelona Process and cooperation between the EU and the Arab world.
MARC DEGLI ESPOSTI
Communications Officer, EMHRN
Rich but poor
Sir, - I wonder if anyone has ever worked out the total amount of billions - no, make that trillions - of dollars the world has spent on the Palestinians since 1948 ("UN requests record $453 million in aid for Palestinians," December 7). The total would have to include not only funds transferred directly to them but also the cost of the special UN unit, the annual Palestinian festivals organized by the UN, and of course UNRWA. Another point of interest would be the percentage contributed by their oil-rich "Arab brethren" and the Muslim nations and that contributed by the "decadent West."
Methinks by now they should be amongst the richest peoples, instead of having to rely on handouts.
Back to front
Sir, - David J. Forman reads our national situation completely in reverse ("Ours is not a nation like all others," December 18). When we are threatened, we stick together and fight. But when we are coping reasonably with our security problems, abuse of all kinds by those in authority reigns supreme.
When I first came here in the 1950s, there was some equality. Now the gap between rich and poor only widens. Human rights are still a class and income division that needs to be addressed.
Sir, - While visiting our grandson at Shaare Zedek last Saturday night, the second night of Hanukka, the pediatric department was suddenly invaded by a group of religious youngsters touting guitars, doughnuts and gifts. They hastily arranged a party and visited every child in the ward.
To say that our spirits were raised that evening is an understatement. One can only stand in awe and admiration of those who chose to spend an evening with sick children in a hospital rather than entertaining themselves elsewhere.
DAVID S. ADDLEMAN