I just don't know - July 4, Perspective story
Ron Rosenbaum, in formulating a "new agnosticism," paints true agnostics in the worst light possible. As a lifelong scientific atheist, I rarely jump to the defense of agnostics, though I can sympathize with their quandary. But Rosenbaum fails to see the nuances of the varied shades of agnosticism, imaging all agnostics as adolescent pseudo-philosophers grappling with creaky old issues such as "Why is there something rather than nothing?"
Any Philosophy 101 student who can't see through that trick question should immediately switch majors, perhaps to mythology or political science.
Rosenbaum's suggested T-shirt motto for his "new agnosticism" is "I just don't know"? And he'd be proud to wear that? Can we ask this writer if he knows whether the tooth fairy really exists? How about the Easter bunny and Santa Claus? (Okay, for political correctness reasons I'll leave Santa out of the mix.) So, come clean, Mr. Rosenbaum, you do know the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny are fictional, don't you? But holding out for some sort of absolute evidence of the nonexistence of deities is an insincere ploy on his part.
When scientists assert something exists or doesn't exist, it is stated not with an absolute but rather a mathematical degree of probability. And given the ever-building mountain of factual evidence against the intelligent creator/personal god hypothesis, it was rather disingenuous of the author to discount the atheists' highly more probable perspective.
Even my most strongly agnostic friends will acknowledge that scientists are getting closer to knowing because they are not satisfied being stuck at "I just don't know"... without adding "... yet. But I'm working on it!"
Bob Schur, Dunedin
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In his piece, Ron Rosenbaum attempts to give agnosticism, or the lack of commitment to any "unwarranted certainties" of atheism and theism, a dignity and respectability that it does not deserve. The question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" carries with it a responsibility and a spirituality (including the element of human will) that Rosenbaum conveniently overlooks. Without "certainties" there is no purpose to human life, and no morality because there is no transcendent authority to whom all mankind owes allegiance and obedience.
Rosenbaum properly recognizes the "faith" of the atheist in science and properly recognizes also the inability of science to ever reach absolute conclusions about the question of the existence of "something."
He overlooks, however, the validity of theism, specifically that of Christianity, which alone gives the answer to the "something" question in addition to a true diagnosis and cure of the deepest problem confronting mankind - that of sin. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote of those truths which are "self-evident." He posited the existence of a Creator who has granted us liberties upon which the state has no authority to infringe. That same "self-evident" body of truth (found in Christian Scripture) addresses the above question with the same authority. And if it is self-evident, then those who deny it, deny it not on intellectual grounds but on volitional ones. They are unwilling to see the truth of the evidence (such as that of creation, including that of mankind itself, the existence of Israel and the life, work and resurrection of Christ).
To say "I don't know," then, is not a position of intellectual integrity but a statement of unwillingness to honestly consider logical, philosophical and practical evidence for God.
James Beaver, St. Petersburg
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Living with uncertainty
Ron Rosenbaum mentions "certainties that atheism and theism offer." Only theism offers certainties. Atheism does not.
Atheism relies on the sciences for answers, as well as the historical record, regarding the evolution of religion and god-belief. We believe there is no god based on the preponderance of evidence against, and lack of evidence in support of, god-belief.
Show us some creditable evidence and we may change our minds. All holy books, such as the Bible and Koran, were written by fallible men with an agenda of their own and cannot be considered as scientifically creditable evidence for the existence of a god.
Frank Prahl, St. Petersburg
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The wrong question
Ron Rosenbaum espouses agnosticism - radical skepticism - over the "unwarranted certainties" of both atheism and theism.
It's easy to attack opposing positions when you couch them in vulnerable tenets. In fact, atheism is simply the belief that there are no supernatural deities; it is not, as Rosenbaum represents it, the worship of a certainty unsupported by science. I readily concede that atheists rest their belief on the findings of science - empirical evidence - but neither atheists nor scientists allege certainty about this evidence. We can only be certain of truths that are self-evident or necessary.
Rosenbaum also seems to think that because science cannot answer the "fundamental question" why the universe exists - why there is something rather than nothing - this undermines atheism's reliance on science. But no scientist even asks this question. A "why" question is not a scientific question. Questions that search for ends or purposes are teleological, of interest only to some theists and philosophers.
Kenneth T. Barnes, St. Petersburg
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Distortions on Medicaid - July 5, editorial
The expansion of Medicaid is more bane than boon
The Times needs a Truth-O-Meter on itself if it going to assert that expanding 1.7 million Floridians into Medicaid is a "boon" to the state of Florida or its citizens. "Coverage" with a Medicaid card is not the same thing as access to good health care. Medicaid pays doctors at 56 percent of Medicare in Florida and as a result Medicaid patients can't find the doctors they need and end up in the emergency room twice as often as the uninsured, according to the Urban Institute. Medicaid patients don't get the most advanced care from a full medical team of specialists, and wait longer for what they do get and have lower cancer survival rates. The Times sees budgets only in terms of federal versus state numbers while neglecting financial and real medical impacts on individuals.
How can it be good to take even more tax money from Floridians, send it to a Washington bureaucracy and then return it to a Medicaid program that provides second-class medical care that is arguably barely better than being uninsured? There is no such thing as a free lunch, and it is wholly amoral to deliver a fake government promise of medical care and instead give people a plastic card that is meaningless.
Under Obamacare, federal and state Medicaid spending increases $464.7 billion over five years (90 percent federal in 2020), with a $500 billion cut in Medicare spending over 10 years. To save more money, there will be intense pressure to ration medical care for the chronically ill and those deemed by bureaucrats to be at the end of life. Since the payment policies of Medicare and Medicaid are traditionally adopted by private insurers, rationing will spill over into other patient groups and to the privately insured as well.
Remember that the nominee to head the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Dr. Donald Berwick, says "the decision is not whether or not we will ration care, the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open."
To finance this economically unsustainable Medicaid expansion, our children will also be forced to pay on debt borrowed from shadowy bankers or China and printed by the Federal Reserve causing the cruelest tax: inflation. The poor need solutions like vouchers to buy low cost catastrophic insurance and individual health spending accounts, lower cost medical care created by true market-based reforms for the 90 percent of America's nonpoor and the growth of charities that can pay the true cost of their medical care.
This reader rates the Times' rosy scenario of expanded Medicaid as a boon to anyone as "pants on fire."
David McKalip, M.D., St. Petersburg
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What's a little fraud among friends?, Crist's choices kicked off PSC, 4 who ousted Greer loom in investigation shadows - July 1
Cause for disgust
Reading this coverage in the newspaper makes me realize why so many people are angry, feel disenfranchised and express a desire to displace the arrogant and greedy current placeholders in Tallahassee.
How is it more important to get even with Charlie Crist for abandoning the Republican Party than to have qualified, independent thinkers on the PSC who will represent the interests of the consumers and not the power companies?
Looking at the donations made by WellCare to the Republican Party - $90,000 vs. $7,500 to the Democrats - helps explain why their contract to administer Medicaid and Medicare in Florida is not on hold.
Meanwhile, who will have the courage to really investigate the role the Republican leadership had in the Jim Greer/Delmar Johnson debacle? Apparently not our current attorney general, who appears to be up to his "you know what" in that mess.
I am so disheartened and disgusted by the way our elected officials seem to feel so entitled as to not be accountable to the people. Perhaps they think we are too stupid to realize how amoral they appear. It is time for a change in Tallahassee. Democrats remember: When Democrats vote, Democrats win. Get out and vote!
Bonnie Sklaren, Gulfport
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Too much mud
Is anyone else out there as sick of the mudslinging as I am? Every election we are put through this constant barrage of "he did this" and "he did that." I won't vote for anyone who doesn't display a certain degree integrity. So far, I'm not seeing this from either Rick Scott or Bill McCollum.
I just want to know what you will do, if elected, and how you will go about doing it. You are wasting serious campaign money cutting down the other guy. You are compromising your integrity, and it makes you look stupid and petty. So come on, guys, just state the facts of your own campaign, and most importantly, after you're are elected, keep your promises.
Kathy Zachrich, St. Petersburg
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A new Rays stadium
Make them pay
It would be very sad for St. Petersburg and Pinellas residents to see the Rays baseball team move to a location outside our county. However, the Rays ownership seems to have made it clear that they prefer to move.
I don't see Pinellas taxpayers approving additional taxes to pay for a new stadium at this time. I don't think it likely that Hillsborough taxpayers would approve them either. But private interests there might consider an investment.
I know the St. Petersburg Times endorses releasing Rays ownership to explore all area locations, however, I hope St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and his advisers will think twice about giving this release without making sure Pinellas County taxpayers are paid all monies that would be due under the terms of the lease with the Rays, which last through 2027, even if the current lease had to be amended.
I don't think this would be "small-town thinking" at all.
J. Johnston, St. Petersburg
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A new Rays stadium
Revitalizing a community
I am somewhat surprised that no one has considered the USF / Busch Gardens neighborhood as a possible site for the Rays' new home. With the possible exception of the beaches, Busch Gardens is probably the area's top drawing card for both tourists and local residents alike.
The University of South Florida is also one of the state's top universities. I believe the ballpark would be a great neighbor and asset to the academic community. Possibly the university could use the facility for some of their own athletic programs, much like Raymond James Stadium is used for their football program. The area is also convenient to I-275 and even I-75 via Busch Boulevard, Fowler and Fletcher avenues, all of which are adequate east-west thoroughfares. Current traffic patterns are probably better in this neighborhood than any of the recommended downtown Tampa sites.
And the construction of such a facility would probably bring a host of new businesses to an existing neighborhood in need of some help. I would encourage the city and county to create a new urban renewal district within the general vicinity, in order to promote new private development and inspire existing facilities to upgrade and improve. To me, we're not talking just a ballpark, but a new re-energized, viable community.
Bill Baldwin, Land O'Lakes
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An app for that?
How ironic to hear of the Rays' plight in getting people to their games despite their standings - and then to read that hundreds of people stood in line and/or camped overnight at International Plaza to get the new iPhone.
Maybe the solution is to put an Apple store at the stadium!
Sharon Hallax, Brandon