Mark Twain had no sons, but helped other children memorize the names of British monarchs (Aug. 18, p. 38). - The Editors
I found it ironic that one of those opposed to Mr. LeVake, the Minnesota teacher who tried to insist on discussing Darwin's inconsistencies in class, said to him, "What you believe is just like believing the earth is flat" ("No dissent," Aug. 18). It seems to me that Mr. LeVake is taking quite the opposite stance. He is daring to stand up to those around him and state, against popular belief, that maybe students in today's schools are being taught a theory that is untrue, a theory that has no real basis or evidence other than people not wanting to believe in a sovereign God. It reminds me of someone else, many years ago, who had enough courage to stand up to the scientific authorities of his time and say that maybe the earth wasn't flat after all. - Brenda Norby, Grand Forks, N.D.
Not so long ago, we were encouraged to debate in class issues like "Communism vs. Capitalism." None among us-liberal, conservative, or socialist, and including the teachers and school board-feared or dreaded such an exchange of ideas. But apparently school officials in Minnesota are deathly afraid of allowing Mr. LeVake to argue his convictions on a level playing field. - Robert Ausband, Gainesville, Fla.
Mr. LeVake's case does not surprise me. I asked my son's seventh-grade science teacher to read Philip Johnson's Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. He returned it several weeks later unread, telling my son it was a "religious" book. But I was able to use the book to help my son critique his evolution textbook, which makes no reference to evolution being only a theory. - James Mayer, W. Hartford, Conn.
Joel Belz is right that Ronald Reagan's reasoning-when in doubt, don't-ought to work with most Americans ("If there is mystery," Aug. 18). But he is wrong to make doubt our permanent answer about embryos. Religion alone does not cause pro-lifers to think of the embryo as a human being, but science, the findings of genetics and biology. From the moment of conception, the unborn entity is demonstrably a living, individual member of the species with a unique genetic identity. The religion of utilitarian nihilism, not science, drives the movement to kill and exploit embryonic human lives for the benefit of other human lives. There is indeed mystery, as Mr. Belz says, in knowing whether an embryo will "live with his or her own identity before God through all eternity." But that mystery applies just as much to 30-year-old journalists as it does to 30-hour-old embryos. - Graham Walker, Washington, D.C.
"If there is mystery" is disturbing. Defining the beginning and end of human life is key to any attempt to defend it. When you suggest that during the very early stages of human development, a real human being may not yet exist, you've bought into the reasoning that led to Roe vs. Wade. As we found out, once the line starts moving, there is nothing to make it stop. People are being asked to weigh the needs of desperately ill people against the value of little balls of frozen cells, and they say, "Why not?" If we are going to answer that question effectively, we need something better than passionately naive statements about sacred mystery and not being brash enough to go there. We need to stand strong on what we do know-that human life begins at conception. - Sheila Serksnys, Waukesha, Wis.
Strangers among us
Mr. Belz argues that "it is not easy" to hold that human life begins at conception, given the high proportion of spontaneous, natural abortions and his knowing "hundreds of committed pro-lifers, but I know of none who schedule memorial services for very early miscarriages." While interesting, these observations do not undermine the pro-life contention that human life begins at conception. We hold no memorial services for strangers who die, but this makes them no less human. Human beings at the earliest stage of their development are like strangers among us-fully human, but simply unknown. - ohn Van Regenmorter, Grand Rapids, Mich.
A promise made
George W. Bush rationalized his decision to allow research on particular stem-cell lines by arguing that the life-and-death decision was already made for the lines he approved for federal research ("Stem-cell line in the sand," Aug. 18). If we use these small human embryos in experiments, what makes us different from the Nazis? It is no different than doing research on a freezer full of aborted children. To use the deliberate death of human life for the progress of science is immoral. George W. Bush made a promise to stand for and to protect life. He did not keep it. - Michael Everett Bailey, Corydon, Ind.
On God's side
Many Americans have thought deeply about stem cells, but as a quadriplegic I have a very personal stake in the outcome because I could be a recipient of pending research. As I age, my condition will deteriorate; most individuals with spinal cord injuries die from kidney failure and additional renal complications. Even so, I ask the question Lincoln asked as he considered a grave moral decision: "I am not concerned whether God is on my side or not, but I am concerned whether I am on God's side." President Bush's decision to allow research on 60 stem-cell lines already has sin attached because those 60 lines were originally the essence of 60 human beings. To be on God's side, I will not accept the benefits of such research so that I may maintain my relationship with Him and trust in His design for my life. Even with my disability, my life is a good one. God has blessed me in the same ways He has blessed many Americans. As individuals and a nation, we must decide if we can sincerely ask for His blessings in one breath and in the next ask Him to condone the taking of helpless human lives for our gain. - Jeff Montag, Kearney, Neb.
Thanks to Marvin Olasky for his incredible column, "Let boys be boys" (Aug. 18). Nothing excites and unifies boys more than competition. As a long-time after-school coordinator and school-district employee, however, I've been told countless times that competition is evil, and great games like dodgeball are not allowed. In some elementary schools in our district, not a single male is on staff, including principals, teachers, and janitors. Many of these students are also without a father in the home, and this total lack of male leadership is devastating. - Jon Webster, Killeen, Texas
The war against competition is hurting young males, but the old school didn't have it exactly right, either. I was an atypical boy-mild, not wild; artistic, not physical. The only thing many of us learned from teams is that no one wanted us on theirs. I could spell, draw, act, and sing, but there were rarely teams for those things so that I could be a valuable asset to someone. If the non-physical kids could be encouraged, if the jocks could be taught to value God and people more than winning (while still doing their utmost), and, as you mentioned, the team could learn to function as one, then we'd have a winning formula, win or lose. - Brian Jackins, Elverson, Pa.
Not the first time
I open Andree Seu's column the very moment I receive my copy of WORLD. I find her brilliant and, even better, poignant. Thank you for her essay "On writing" (Aug. 18). I read it to my 13-year-old daughter who loves to write but still believes you can put it down perfectly the first time. - Diane Ottlinger, Folsom, Calif.
Defining marriage up
How sad it is to see the world treating marriage as you described in "Wages for sin" (Aug. 18). I am 16 and wear a purity ring on my left hand to show I regard marriage as sacred and blessed. It will take people like me and my friends to define marriage "up" again. - Nicole Ford, Onalaska, Wis.
Declare the truth
Thank you for "Sex-ed sells" (Aug. 18). I was a counselor for many years at a crisis-pregnancy center and I know firsthand how such programs can corrupt youthful thinking. We need to declare the truth about immoral behavior advocated in our schools as sex education, so that those who do so no longer receive federal money. - Mary Ann Hester, Tehachapi, Calif.
A warrior speaks
As a journalist myself, I'm glad Marvin Olasky wrote "Resistance tactics" (Aug. 11). Christian "Obadiah" journalists who work at secular publications that are part of the problem, so to speak, are being a part of the solution by virtue of their presence. This is nothing new in God's order; consider not just Obadiah but also Daniel, Nehemiah, and Joseph. Other Christian journalists need to be careful in how they wield the "sell-out" brush, and churches must be ready to openly and prayerfully support "both kinds of warriors" (I love that!). - David S. Ortiz, New York, N.Y.