Friday, January 11, 2008

Mary Ann van Hartesveldt, Fort Valley GA, USA

Thank you so much for printing my article on Scientology in issue #25. I got an enormous charge out of the positive comments from your readers. Thanks also for running my self portrait in issue #26. It's nice to remember that I once looked like that.

I didn't
know you drew that yourself! And I could have sworn it was done from life just this year...

Greg Benford, for whom I have a lot of respect, cannot have meant to say that America is "an underpopulated country." No one who has driven across Atlanta in rush hour could believe such a thing. In the last 200 years we have lost 50% of our wetlands, 90% of our northwestern old-growth forests, and 99% of our tall grass prairie. Every day about nine square miles of rural land is lost to development. Georgia, Florida, and Alabama are battling over dwindling water resources and that conflict is repeated all over the country. We may not be as overpopulated as some Asian nations, but we are a long, long way from being underpopulated.

I must take exception to Jeffrey Copeland's idea that mental health service providers should be held responsible when those whom they treat commit crimes. The result of such a policy would be that there simply would be no mental health services available at all. Want to see what that is like? Visit Georgia. For the bulk of the population, whose insurance coverage for mental health treatment is severely limited or nonexistent, there might as well be no psychiatric clinics. The result is enormous suffering by people with serious brain disorders and their family members.

I greatly enjoyed Greg Benford's article on Carl Sagan. The man was such a voice of reason. I thought of him a few weeks ago, when there was a tragic case in the headlines in Georgia. A couple was charged with murder in the death by starvation of their infant son. The father had screwball ideas about nutrition, and when relatives urged the couple to take the baby to a doctor, the father refused. He didn't believe in doctors. The jury sent both parents to prison. In effect, they said, "No, you can't ignore scientific facts and make up your own fantasies about medicine and science, and enforce them on others." But how many of those jurors support teaching creationism in the public schools? We have had free, compulsory public education in the South for almost a century, but you wouldn't know it from reading the paper.

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