Bill Gates can't build toilet 2.0 | Nov. 24
Rotary's role in wiping out polio
Every time I see a reference to eradicating polio, as in this article, I'm disappointed in the lack of mention that this effort started as, and remains, the major effort and "corporate project" of Rotary International.
One of the first countries outside the United States to eradicate the crippling disease was the Philippines. It was a project envisioned by Rotarians and started in 1979. In the middle of the 1980s, through the effort of 1.2 million Rotarians around the world, the first fund drive began with a goal of ridding the planet of this dread childhood killer. Nearly $250 million was raised at that time.
In 1986, there were 350,000 new cases annually caused by the wild polio virus in 125 countries. This year to date, there have only been about 340 cases worldwide and only 123 cases in the three countries where the wild polio virus is endemic.
Since that initial fundraising effort in the mid 1980s, Rotarians have raised nearly $1 billion. The eradication of polio has been a joint effort of the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and governments around the world. Nearly 2 billion children, 5 years old and younger, have been protected from polio since the eradication task began.
A few years ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation made the decision to assist with the funding of this monumental effort and has matched Rotarians' contributions in two different campaigns. They have also committed more than an additional $1 billion in an outright grant to work toward finishing this effort in the next five years. Rotary is certainly grateful to the Gates Foundation for this continued financial partnership. But were it not for the idea of a few courageous Rotarians well over 30 years ago, polio would be much more prevalent in the world than it is today.
The world is now 99 percent polio-free, so we can't stop now.
Chuck Frazier, past district governor, Rotary District 5710, St. Petersburg
Women in combat: Get used to it | Nov. 24
As a retired infantry officer and a veteran of four conflicts, I read this column by William Saletan with some amusement. It is amazing to me how people like Saletan keep missing the point.
Women have been in combat since Grenada in 1983. Women have been assigned to battlefield roles since the Women's Army Corps was abolished in the 1970s when the number of military occupational specialties made available to women was expanded significantly to compensate for the end of the draft and to ensure an adequate pool of volunteers. It was never envisioned that women would not serve in combat. The whole point of enlisting women was so that they would serve in combat. And serve they have, effectively.
What women have been excluded from up to now is combat arms (infantry, armor and artillery). Saletan is apparently against this exclusion and then he goes on to illustrate exactly why it existed to begin with. He gives the example of the recent graduation of three female Marines from infantry basic training as an example of an unfair gender barrier falling. He goes on to mention that three women graduated out of 15 who started the course.
For those of you who are math challenged, that's an attrition rate of 80 percent. Normal training cycles of just men have attrition rates of 10 to 15 percent.
Each trainee who doesn't graduate costs the Marines money and training assets. The three women who did graduate were in the bottom third of the bell curve of graduates. So in a nutshell, just to give a few women a chance to be in the infantry we're going to use a whole lot more money to train the same amount of recruits due to increased attrition, and at the end of the process we'll have a few women who are no better than men.
Martin N. Stanton, Valrico
This is faith for this scientist | Nov. 24
What science can't answer
Science can and does explain the natural order of things. It is by its very nature unequipped to address the question of whether there exists anything beyond the natural order (such as a divine creator) or whether such a supernatural being/force might interrupt the natural order in disobedience of natural laws (such as through miracles).
Jerry Coyne may claim that anything we currently attribute to supernatural action is or will be explainable by science, but that is ultimately a faith claim; it can't be proven. There is no way for a construct restricted to the natural, observable world (science) to answer questions about an existence beyond that construct. While Coyne understands the virtues of faith and hope well, he might consider exploring another virtue more fully: humility.
Jeff Johnson, St. Petersburg
Lessons for living
Jerry Coyne argues against religious faith on very narrow grounds. Scientific knowledge that is empirically provable does not require faith per se. Fine, we get that. Religious faith, however, is about much more than knowledge: Was Jesus really the Son of God? How long did it take to create the world? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
Religious faith is also about how we treat each other as human beings. Where in science are we taught about compassion, redemption, fairness, honesty, the value of each human life, that all men are created equal? Religion and its shared wisdom have developed and carried these ideas through the ages.
Eric Burns, Palm Harbor
Faith, science compatible
Jerry Coyne's premise is faulty. I believe that faith and science are compatible not because I have faith, but because logically, I see that the findings of science and the Judeo-Christian scriptures are not mutually exclusive. For instance, the Bible says that the world was created in six days, the land and the sea and the vegetation created in the first three. But the sun and moon weren't created until the fourth day, so exactly how long were the first three days? It could have been millions of years. This is when science enters the picture to provide further understanding of creation.
As with many scientists, Coyne's argument is a veiled attempt to disprove the existence of God, not just a refusal to believe that faith and science can peacefully coexist.
Why can't using reason bring us to faith? It worked for C.S. Lewis and Soren Kierkegaard, and they were no philosophical or religious slouches.
Rita Williams, Clearwater