Forum: November-December 2006

November 30, 2006
Guantanamo detainees

Guantanámo

Your July-August issue shows what happens to members of Al Qaeda who are captured by American forces ["Practicing Justice"]. I learned that members of the Duke Law School are researching the rights of these prisoners and trying to establish rules and policies of fairness.

Since fairness is the focal point, on the cover of your next issue, are you going to depict what happens to Americans who are captured by Al Qaeda—beheadings?

Kay Myers Wagner '55, Davidson, North Carolina


I read with disgust your article "Practicing Justice" in the July-August 2006 issue. Mr. Flynn uses the term "grunts" referring to our military people, who fight our wars to make it possible that "Duke law students fight for transparency and fairness and help define the rights of suspected terrorists." I happen to live where the grunts train to go out to defend our freedom. Your suspected terrorists are very much terrorists. You need to come to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the home of the 2nd Marine Division, and visit our wounded-warrior barracks. It has fourteen first-floor rooms that can be accessed by ramp and grab bar.

In this barracks we house Marines and sailors who have lost limbs and eyes and have suffered brain damage. We old Marine officers and the people of Eastern North Carolina refer to our Marines and sailors as Our Heroes. Our warriors K.I.A. and those who are wounded are not forgotten at Camp Lejeune.

The Marines, soldiers, and sailors are our friends and neighbors. They were high-school athletes, college students, the kid next door. But they volunteered to serve and give something bigger than themselves.
Mr. Flynn states, "no one at Duke's law school is trying to loose terrorists on the world." Any time a person or a group gives aid and comfort to our enemies, in the time of war, is unforgivable and borders on treason.
Semper Fi.

Hunter Hadley '54, Jacksonville, North Carolina


Please do not believe that the rights of suspected terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay are the same as the Japanese-American citizens interned during World War II.

These citizens were interned for two significant purposes. First, for the duration of the war, it permitted the Roosevelt administration to initiate an unbridled propaganda [campaign] of hatred against Japan. Second, realizing that America would respond wholeheartedly to the propaganda against these "sneaky, slant-eyed Japs" (just a few examples), these Japanese-Americans would now be physically in danger.

Thus, camps such as Manzanar were established for their safety, even though the given excuse was that they might be considered possible enemy agents.

When Japanese cherry blossom trees were vandalized shortly after December 7, 1941, and Bob Hope, Red Skelton, and other celebrities were enlisted to spew invective against the enemy, you must believe that the Japanese internment camps were worthwhile for all concerned.

If this piece doesn't make the next issue for any reason, at least get it into the hands of the very naïve Major Tom Fleener, who is representing [al] Bahlul. Any honest person with a good memory over the age of eighty will confirm what I've stated here.

Lewis P. Klein Jr. '51, Lansdale, Pennsylvania


I am so proud that Duke law students are assisting in the defense of Guantánamo detainees.

In the past, the U.S. was always "the good guys," who followed international law, such as the Geneva Conventions. It breaks my heart that America no longer behaves this way.

Although the detainees may have less-than-spotless histories, they are entitled to trials assisted by competent defense attorneys. The law school should keep up the good work!

Julia Stevens Gregg '61, Simi Valley, California

Editor's note: the writer died on August 29. See class notes, p. 78.


Explaining Evolution

The Duke Magazine of July-August 2006 included Forum arguments against the widely accepted scientific conclusions about evolution. Portions of these letters display a misunderstanding of some basic aspects of evolution as expounded by contemporary science, and some explanation should be useful.

One letter writer equates scientific "theory" with "hypothesis" and states that many believe that the evidence for "evolutionary theory" is no greater than that for "intelligent design." In common parlance, a "theory" is a guess or speculation based upon limited evidence. But in science the term "theory" is applied to the explanation of a natural phenomenon, an explanation based upon substantial evidence. (A "hypothesis" is a preliminary explanation, one that is not supported by as much evidence as a theory.) The overwhelming consensus of scientists studying evolution over many years is that it is, indeed, an explanation of phenomena found in nature, with evidence for the basic premises of the evolutionary explanation coming from many fields of science (such as anatomy, anthropology, archaeology, biochemistry, cell biology, ecology, embryology, genetics, geology, molecular biology, and physiology).

In contrast, the proposal that intelligent design offers the best explanation for the diversity of living things is not based upon scientific evidence. The principal argument of intelligent design is that biological systems are too complex to be explained, and therefore cannot be explained, by science. This is nonscientific reasoning that long ago would have had scientists abandon their pursuit of explanations of a tremendous number of biological phenomena, such as how hormones, enzymes, hemoglobin, and viruses do what they do. Scientists have published thousands of research reports explaining various aspects of evolutionary theory; additional evidence is being continually amassed; and the basic concepts of evolution are strongly supported by major, long-established scientific organizations and by an overwhelming number of scientists (especially of those in the relevant fields of study).

Another letter writer expresses disbelief that "random change or coincidence can explain the complexity" of organisms. Randomness can, in fact, help explain biological observations, such as the occurrence of male and female offspring (from combinations of X and Y chromosomes) or the occurrence of some genetic mutations; but randomness is not what results in evolutionary change. In general, plants and animals produce numbers of offspring larger than the environment can support, and those offspring whose genetic makeup renders them less adapted to survive do not reproduce and pass their genes on to the next generation.
This is the basis of the evolutionary mechanism known as "natural selection." Selection is not a random process.

We hear of the "controversy" about evolution. There are still many questions to be answered about all fields of the biological sciences (including evolution), but among researchers most familiar with the relevant scientific research, there is no serious controversy about the existence of evolutionary processes.

Jerrold H. Zar, National Science Foundation Fellow '65

The writer is professor emeritus of biological sciences and former dean of the Graduate School, Northern Illinois University.

 


Green Energy Viable?

Here we can readily buy "green" electricity (at least for residential use), and it costs just a bit more than power from traditional sources. I also recall being told by people in the renewable energy business, a few years ago when power costs were lower, that their technology was close to being economically competitive with traditional fossil-fuel sources. So, your note "Fuqua Goes Green" [July-August 2006] raised some questions that perhaps Duke Magazine can answer.

Are non-polluting sources of electricity economically viable in today's environment, even for marginal supplies? Who is the university's money going to? Is it the "sun, wind, and small hydro" crowd or to organizations with broader, and perhaps more useful, agendas? Does it mean a significant additional amount of non-polluting power is being produced in lieu of power from conventional sources? How much and where?

I hope the university is not sending its funds to some politically correct, feel- good activity if they could be better used investing in sound green electricity producers (and getting a return) or in research to make a real contribution to solving the environmental problem.

Don Bellman B.S.M.E. '66, Sugar Land, Texas


Duke experts respond:
Fuqua purchased 8,510 megawatt hours of renewable energy certificates, the amount of its annual use of fossil-fuel-based electricity, from Sterling Planet, a company that sells certified RECs from sources including wind, solar, and small-hydro, explains Tavey McDaniel, Duke's environmental sustainability coordinator.

When you buy certificates, she says, you are purchasing the environmental attributes of power generated from renewable sources and helping generators produce additional renewable energy to displace nonrenewables from the national electrical grid.

"There is widespread agreement that the market costs of using fossil fuels do not reflect the true social costs," which include the effects of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, says Marty Smith, assistant professor of environmental economics. "How we, as a society, go about fixing that problem is complicated. One way is for consumers to voluntarily pay that difference to stimulate the use of cleaner sources of energy." Duke is also seeking national and global policy solutions through the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences.


Defending K

It was disappointing to read the letter critical of Coach K's television ads [Forum, July-August 2006]. During this difficult time at Duke as a result of the tragically poor judgment and behavior of some members of the men's lacrosse team, it seems unnecessarily counterproductive to pompously criticize one member of the Duke community who has exhibited steadfast loyalty and remained a source of immense pride for the university.

Those ads emphasize Coach K's dedication to teaching, teamwork, and the virtues of a Duke education. I am thrilled that Duke receives this exposure and am filled with joy and pride when they are shown. I would be just as thrilled and excited if another of my heroes from Duke mentioned in the offending letter, Reynolds Price, had a similar outlet for extolling his passion for teaching and imparting life lessons to young people….

I certainly hope Coach K understands that the views expressed in the letter from Messrs. Johnston and Parker represent a small, vocal, minority opinion of self-aggrandizing pedants with too much time on their hands, rather than the sentiments of the vast majority of Duke alumni.

I am extremely grateful to Coach K for what he has done for Duke and felt compelled to take this opportunity to acknowledge his contributions.

Unfortunately, given the current state of self-flagellation at Duke and the current "politically correct-at-all-costs" mentality, I am sure that he will not see this acknowledgement in the Forum.

David Daniel '69, Chicago, Illinois


Mr. Johnson and Mr. Parker disparaged Coach K for commercials he started doing during basketball season, mainly during the ACC Championship Series and March Madness. It was their opinion that Coach K denigrated himself with "cheesy and crass behavior." It was also their opinion that, perhaps, his "shilling" was "improper recruiting technique."

Having missed only one televised game last season, due to a TiVo malfunction, I can certainly tell you that Coach K doesn't deserve your effete and naïve appraisal of his actions. What he has done is given those of us who love our university a nationwide presence year after year. He has given us consistently great teams with players who are articulate and personify the élan that is Duke University.

I will refer Mr. Johnson and Mr. Parker to page twelve of that same magazine, regarding admissions through the Class of 2010, which exceeded last year's total—itself a record—by 1,300. By his success, Coach K gives Duke University millions of dollars of free advertising. If he wishes to make a few bucks for himself, good for him. As far as I'm concerned, he could hawk hotdogs on Coney Island, and I'd be buying.

David M. Lavine '68, Fort Worth, Texas


Duke's Good Fortune

In light of all of the emphasis on political correctness and the importance of hip-hop, etc., so currently fashionable and typified by Duke Magazine ["Hip-Hop: Not Your Pop's Culture," July-August], I was surprised at the full-page advertisement hawking the benevolence of Duke via its Reggie Howard scholarship and Luke Stewart's gratitude at being chosen for the opportunity. The ad failed to note that Duke is likewise fortunate to be able to nurture and sponsor him and candidates like him through his responsible and important career choices.

Thank you, Mr. Stewart, for working hard and making it, and for bringing credit to Duke and the benefactors of the scholarship fund. Good luck to you.

Sandra Boek Werness '77, Great Falls, Virginia


Global Competition

As a business executive and former Duke engineer, I believe Mr. Wadhwa is deriving far too much comfort from his counting of global engineering graduates and his conclusion that things aren't too bad after all here in the U.S. ["Too Few Engineers?" July-August 2006]. Most of my working life has been spent outside of the U.S., and the last five years were in China. It is indisputable that there is a tidal shift toward Asia and emerging economies for manufacturing.

While manufacturing, of course, is not the only career opportunity for engineers in the U.S., the loss of these positions does not bode well for engineers here, nor, I believe, for our long-term competitiveness.

With Mr. Wadhwa, I agree that Duke and other fine institutions have outstanding programs and graduate fine, well-rounded engineers who are prepared to tackle complex technical and business issues. However, strictly from the long-range opportunity perspective, I would rather be that well-rounded engineering graduate in China than here.

As Mr. Wadhwa points out, that's where the shortage is, and there's no sign, even with ever-increasing engineering graduates, that it will ease any time soon.

Charles G Browne B.S.E.E. '67, Bainbridge Island, Washington


Fond Memories?

Homecoming weekend 1954, saw Duke's undefeated (2 wins and 1 tie) football team soundly trashed by Army, 28 to 14.

Sunday morning's local Durham newspaper summed up [Hurricane] Hazel's weekend succinctly with a sports-page headline of "HAZEL FRIDAY—ARMY SATURDAY—QUIET SUNDAY" (or it may have been ‘CALM' or ‘PEACE' SUNDAY; memory fades after fifty-one-plus years).

Robert Mayo Failing M.D. '56, Santa Barbara, California