Letters To The Editor

Don Chapman
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June 27, 2007 - MidWeek
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A better bulb

Jade Moon’s “Replacing Bulbs To Save Energy” on the virtues of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL’s) is right on the money. She also pretty well defuses the concern about the mercury in CFL’s, but this issue needs to be put to bed once and for all.

For beginners, CFL’s last 10 times as long as incandescent lamps, so factor in 10 times as much incandescent glass and metal wasting away in landfills. Mercury is harmful when inhaled. It’s not going to be inhaled while deep in a landfill. When CFL’s are burned at H-POWER, scrubbers remove it and other toxins as they travel up the stack. The extra oil or coal that’s burned to power the electricity wasted by incandescents emits about five times as much mercury as is in CFL’s.

That oil unnecessarily burned often comes from countries that don’t like us. WWII was won in five years, partially because we cut enemy supply lines. The current war is going on and on, partially because we’re feeding enemy supply lines by burning 400 percent more oil than we should to light our homes.

Howard C. Wiig


Trusting in science

In his column “ABasic Problem With Atheism,” Bill O’Reilly states that the scientific approach to answering the question of the Earth’s origin “will never get it.”

The answer to O’Reilly’s “right hook,” which he claimed stumped author Richard Dawkins, is that the Earth - including the sun and other planets - formed by the accumulation of material from the solar nebula about four and a half billion years ago: the nebular hypothesis was first proposed in its modern form by philosopher Immanuel Kant in 1755. In recent years astronomers have found many of these planet-forming clouds around young stars in our galaxy. Thus, we have a scientific theory and evidence to support it. No problem there, Mr. O’Reilly.

But I suspect that Mr. O’Reilly was alluding to a much bigger question as to the origin of our universe. The material (e.g., elementary particles) of our universe was produced very early during the Big Bang, itself having originated from a singularity. Where did the singularity come from? Most cosmologists now believe it was a quantum fluctuation that started it all. From quantum mechanics it is apparent that the void (the empty space between atoms) is a strange and active medium where virtual particles spontaneously very briefly come into existence and almost immediately are annihilated. Basic laws of conservation of matter and energy are not violated by this phenomenon, and by our most sensitive tests quantum theory is the most accurate description of our reality that we have. So perhaps one of these quantum fluctuations was the spark of it all.

Mr. O’Reilly, admittedly educated in parochial schools, says that he will put his trust in Biblical claims of creation rather than a scientific-based theory because the scientists (whom he, perhaps unfairly, labels atheists) can’t explain the origin to his satisfaction. I suspect that Mr. O’Reilly is hinting at a choice: Creationism or scientific cosmology. According to creationism, in general terms, an inexplicable deity snapped His/Her/Its fingers once a day for about a week making everything systematically pop into existence as described in scripture. On the other hand, the process by scientific cosmology, as given above, is in accord with our best understanding of the laws of nature.

Mr. O’Reilly claims that the scientists encounter a “leap of faith” to believe in their theory and presumably that his belief has no such leap.

I say, which is a bigger leap, to trust our knowledge and use it as a tool to describe reality or to posit the miraculous existence of an invisible all-powerful, all-knowing being who magically “willed” everything into existence because your eighth grade teacher Sister Martin told you the Bible says so?

Although I agree with Mr. O’Reilly that critical thinking is good for the soul, he miserably fails to follow his own advice. When contemplating the fascinations and mysteries of our reality, it is far more intellectually challenging (and rewarding) to follow objective lines of reasoning than to simply explain it all away by mindlessly regurgitating irrational dogma ingrained when a naive schoolchild.

Sorry, Mr. O’Reilly, your right hook missed its mark.

Greg Reinking


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