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Science gains don't diminish religionPhilip Stahl's interesting...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Science gains don't diminish religion

Philip Stahl's interesting and significant letter of Aug. 5 characterizing belief in God as "superstition and magic" reminds one of the famous event where a Soviet astronaut came back from space and, obviously coached by his communist bosses, proclaimed that he had been to heaven and not found God there.

A wise Russian Orthodox priest then noted: "If you have not found God in your brothers and sisters on Earth, you will never find Him in heaven."

Mr. Stahl does not see the point. It is not a question as to what new data a space satellite (COBE) may have returned. We all know that such data will be antiquated in a year or two.

It is not the concern that Stephen Hawking has a new theory. He will have another in a few weeks.

It is not the issue that the universe may have an accordion-type history of expansion and contraction. Everyone knows that astronomers have changed their opinion on that conclusion every five years.

The concern is that science is possible at all. This point haunted Einstein every day of his life and, although he never arrived at religious belief as such, produced in him a profound sense of wonder and a religious awe about the world.

Why is it that the world is intelligible? Why is it that natural events can be expressed in mathematical form -- the most purely intellectual project we have? Why is it that nature is transparent to intelligence? What must be the root ground of being in a universe in which science is possible?

The point of study is not a scientific but a metascientific issue, not what theory is popular at the moment but why there can be scientific theories at all.

For instance, the greatest result of COBE is not support for the existence of cold dark matter. That conclusion is highly preliminary.

It is rather that the world of the very small supports and underpins the world of the very large, that cosmology and particle physics join, that we live in a universe not a pluriverse, that a pattern of intelligibility runs through the entire physical world from top to bottom like a thread of gold through fine cloth.

The more science progresses, the more that realization forces itself on our consciousness. It is why belief in religion flourishes healthy and strong as science develops.

Rev. Frank R. Haig, S.J.

Baltimore

The writer is a professor of physics at Loyola College and president of the Chesapeake section of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

Humanist credo

Thomas Mehnert is correct in his assertion that the country is experiencing a lack of values and direction (The Forum, Aug. 4). His solution, however, is a recipe for the religious intolerance and warfare that plagues the world

By denigrating tolerance and the rights of others, Mr. Mehnert indicates that there is no place for the values of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or humanists.

Nor is there a place for Christian values other than his own, since the various denominations do not agree on moral issues such as abortion, homosexual rights and the right to die.

Mr. Mehnert errs in characterizing Soviet totalitarianism as an expression of humanist ideology. Humanists are staunch advocates of First Amendment rights, including the free exercise of religion and the separation of church and state.

We support a pluralistic, democratic society and deplore all forms of discrimination. This is the antithesis of what the former Soviet Union represented.

Humanists believe that we possess the intellectual capacity to develop moral principles that are subject to critical, rational evaluation and to being tested by their consequences. Such a system respects and celebrates the diversity of America rather than divides it by imposing the religious values of one group onto the whole.

Kenneth Marasalek

Baltimore

The writer is director of the Baltimore chapter of Washington Area Secular Humanists Inc.

Rockfish 'carnage' isn't limited to Conowingo

I have some anxiety in regard to Jim Heim's Other Voices July 27 article "Carnage at Conowingo."

First, let us talk about carnage. The rockfish carnage caused by the thousands of boats fishing the bay during the trophy season and the fall season far exceeds the carnage from a few people who fish the Conowingo catwalk for rockfish.

I know; I'm one of these catwalk fishermen. The carnage about which I speak is not the fish that are kept during these seasons but the small and oversized fish that are guthooked, released and die.

Additional carnage is caused by commercial netters releasing under- and oversized fish that are dead in their nets.

How about writing about all rockfish carnage? Not that Conowingo carnage is tolerable, but you must compare a dozen fishermen's mistakes on the catwalk to thousands of bay fishermen's mistakes. What is the true overall carnage story?

Next, let us talk about studies. Who did the study mentioned in your article? I have read the grim results of this study before in the newspapers. When was the study done and where can your readers obtain a copy of the study?

The owner of the Conowingo bait shop told me that the study was done during the hottest weather (OK), the fish were caught by a single hook (OK), the fish were placed in a pen net behind the boat which was anchored in river current (the fish were stressed fighting the current; not OK).

I challenge the Department of Natural Resources to do another study. This time the public should be informed so that we can observe.

The study should be done realistically: Catch the rockfish from the catwalk, tag them, and lower them from the catwalk into the water. Lastly, count the tagged dead fish down river. I'll venture to say the study will find very few tagged dead fish down river.

Next let us talk about the DNR. I know my challenge for a new study will never be met because the DNR bureaucrats are afraid to come out into the heat of the summer day from their air conditioned offices.

If they were really interested in protecting the rockfish and stopping the Conowingo carnage they would at least put up new signs for this year as to legal catwalk baits.

I disagree with some of the statements in the article. First, I think it has unjustly slandered a small group of predominantly poor people, catwalk fishermen, by calling them "so-called" sportsmen.

Second, the statement about baits and lures is completely untrue and I can prove it. I use a half-ounce jig with a one-and-a-half-inch twister tail and have caught rockfish over 30 inches long.

Third, the rockfish was not near extinction as the American white shad was, but Maryland's big money interests are better served if rockfish are still recovering from near-extinction.

Fourth, the statement about "extremely high rockfish losses" sounds like the entire bay's population is being killed off at Conowingo. Actually the kills are visibly down this year.

Furthermore, if the state was truly concerned, it should close the catwalk to all fishing during the June 15 to September 15 period.

Finally, over the past three years I have caught rockfish from the catwalk which I have lowered in my net back into the water and they swam away.

I am sorry if truly 90 percent of these fish have died, especially if this means that Jim Heim missed out on catching rockfish in season because of me.

Andrew MacKenzie

Havre de Grace

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