The phrase "only a theory" tells me that Jack Atkinson Jr. is not well-acquainted with science (see Crosstalk, Jan. 16, page 30). Any concept that reaches the status of scientific theory is not "only a theory." It has been peer-reviewed and published, has withstood many tests over time, has no unexplained conflicting evidence and is falsifiable. Falsifiable means that a theory can be proven false if factual evidence is found that conflicts with the theory, and the theory cannot be extended to include this evidence.
For example, evolution could be proven incorrect by the abrupt appearance of new, complex species completely unrelated to others. Can Atkinson show us any? He claims DNA "was designed," implying a designer. Please publish factual evidence (such as photographs or X-ray images, not a book) of a designer. Can a camera or other instrument see one? For his belief to be a scientific hypothesis, he would need to explain what evidence, if it appeared, would be considered legitimate in proving that there was no designer. If there's no way to falsify his claim, then it is not based on factual evidence and is merely a belief. Mr. Atkinson is welcome to his beliefs, but he is not welcome to call them a scientific theory unless they pass the required tests. Occam's Razor: It is far harder to explain where his "designer" of DNA came from than it is to explain where DNA came from
Scott Willis, Staff Software Engineer, Siemens Ultrasound, Issaquah, Wash.
Business is slow, so you guys are trying to start an argument here, aren't you?
Jack Atkinson Jr.'s letter is straight Bible Belt creationist tripe. It's an argument from incredulity ("I have qualifications that have nothing to do with the issue, and I can't imagine 'X,' Q.E.D.") combined with an argument from authorities (Gitt and Behe) who have been discredited. Read Gitt and Behe, then go to www.talkorigins.org and search for Gitt and Behe. In a nutshell, Gitt misuses Claude Shannon's founding work in information theory, and Behe rehashes the 19th century watchmaker analogy of William Paley.
On top of that, Atkinson uses the key creationist phrase "only a theory," which indicates he has no idea what the word means in a scientific context (Hint: It's way beyond the word he really means, which is "hypothesis.") Still more standard creationist ideas can be found in his inappropriate conflation of cosmology and biology.
Creationists typically get confused here, what with the Big Bang getting us from 13 billion years ago up to 4.5 billion years ago, geology (which Atkinson ignores) giving us an idea about how long ago the Earth and the solar system were formed, and biological evolution (which doesn't say anything at all about the "particles" he complains about) taking us the rest of the way. When you absolutely know that it all started "In the beginning" and that it happened during one week about 6,000 years ago, there's not much difference in your mind between millions of years and billions of years, or cosmology and biology.
One must admit that the "particles to man" flow does have one huge scientific hole in it: abiogenesis, or life from nonlife. No one really knows how that happened. Atkinson, however, would have all inquiry into the matter brought to a halt with the words, "God did it." What's under attack is not simply evolution, not simply biology education, but science itself. And that jolly well should be of concern to all EEs, present and future.
Electronics Engineer, San Jose, Calif.
Hidden costs of hiring illegals
While one can't disagree with the illegal-immigration state described by the two letter writers in Jan. 9 issue (see Crosstalk, page 32), our government must share the blame. If I need unskilled labor for a few days or weeks, and I hire a legal worker, I become liable for his unemployment compensation and his Social Security; and, if he does not pay his income taxes, I'm liable for those.
By hiring an illegal worker, I avoid those problems. I probably won't save any money, since illegals usually earn more than the minimum wage. The legals can get as much on welfare without doing anything. John McCosh advocates jail and fines for employers of illegals, which would necessitate the creation of "employment police," further pushing this country into an Orwellian state.
Leon J. Kaliniec
Senior Project Engineer
Spectral Development Co.