October 30, 2008
Ratner and Diddy, Wolpe and Hitchens, the pocketbook and the soul
The Brett Ratner cover story was so telling on so many levels ("Just a Nice Jewish Director," Oct. 24). It was telling of the young female writer in that the very superficiality that she suggests has plagued Ratner's career (the decadence of his home and lifestyle, name-dropping who's in his cell phone, his playboy image) is exactly what her article indulges in.
Nowhere in the article is there any extensive discussion or exploration of Ratner's movies (aside from naming them in passing), which is very unfair to this young and accomplished filmmaker. Of course, that's expected, as Ratner's body of work, which -- box office grosses aside -- is not really worthy of extensive discussion.
And yet, that in itself is very telling of The Journal, which has devoted a cover story to this filmmaker, when so many worthier Jewish filmmakers who are true mensches (Sam Raimi? Sidney Lumet?) have yet to get a cover story.
The Journal, simply put, is more enamored with shallow Hollywood power, pretension and materialism than the writer of this piece is. It would be akin to a credible black publication sticking Diddy on its cover -- hell, he's young, black, filthy rich and successful. Who cares if he has absolutely nothing to say in his work?
Conscience or Pocketbook?
As a Jewish Democrat, I have heard repeatedly the question asked by political pundits as to why Jews vote with their conscience for Democrats, instead of with their pocketbook for Republicans ("The Debates Won't Matter," Oct. 3).
This year, I am pleased to note that my vote for a Democrat will care for both my conscience and my pocketbook.
Martin A. Brower
Corona del Mar
I would like to thank Gary Wexler for sharing with us his own "soul searching" in regards to what his responsibility is toward his mother ("Soul Searching," Oct. 24). As one who sees many families struggling with end-of-life decisions, I certainly recognize his angst.
I suggest that he was given a gift by his mother when she gave him a directive by expressing her thoughts while on the 405 years ago. By hearing her, he can be guided if confronted with difficult choices.
At the same time, I personally feel uncomfortable with describing her now as "without her full soul." I suggest that this reference, which can understandably be perceived, as changes in quality of life, are best attributed to losses in the mind/brain and not to the soul.
While the mind/brain in an "Alzheimer's victim" can be understood to have decreased function, I believe the soul remains unchanged and eternal. If, as his friend beautifully describes, the essence of the soul can be passed on to others, then like love the soul itself need not be diminished.
Kenneth Leeds, M.D.
The so-called quarrel between Christopher Hitchens and Rabbi David Wolpe is no more than a sideshow, complete with sophistic books and $45 theater tickets ("Religion: The 'First and Worst' Explanation" and "We Were Intended by God -- Not Afterthoughts," Oct. 24).
In one corner, the alternately smug, smarmy and snarling Hitchens; in the other, the put-upon, poetic and pastoral Wolpe. Neither, apparently, has much understanding of science, Wolpe less than Hitchens; neither admits to the inconvenient truth that faith is just that, faith, an unarguable irrationality.
Rather than manufacture a conflict between faith and science, Hitchens and Wolpe would do well to engage the philosopher Sir Karl Popper (e.g. "Dialectica 32:342, 1978") and the Nobel laureate biologist Sir Peter Medawar ("The Limits of Science," 1984). Science and religion ask and answer very different, nonoverlapping questions.
Science does not make assertions about ultimate questions: How did it all begin (before Planck Scale)? What purpose do we serve? How will it all conclude?
Answers to such neither arise out of nor require validation by emperical evidence. Thus, it is meaningless to argue whether these answers are true or false, unless, of course, you want to sell books and collect speaking fees.
In the spirit of teshuvah, I invite Hitchens and Wolpe to audit my graduate class of 20 years on the epistemology and ethos of bioscience. There will, of course, be no charge.
Dr. Michael Melnick,
Professor, Developmental Genetics
Both Christopher Hitchens and Rabbi David Wolpe are wrong in their arguments about creation. Time is a human measurement of movement and not a dimension of reality. The universe is an all-inclusive system in motion.
Thus any motion of the universe determines its next motion, hence, it is not a universe in chaos as argued by Hitchens, but one of cause and effect, deterministic to infinity. The complexity of the universe as shown by science, from the human body to subatomic physics to astronomy, makes it self-evident that the big bang was caused by some intelligent force.
Wolpe is wrong when he argues we have free will and, by inference of religion, there is a personal god. Free will is an illusion. If a stick being carried down white water rapids in a river were to suddenly gain consciousness, it would think it was directing itself through the rapids, rather than realizing the rapids was directing it. The stick, as all things in the universe and the universe itself, is a movement of cause and effect. We humans like to see ourselves as observers of the universe, rather than what we are, a part of the universe.
The purpose of a human is simply being a human in a moving universe.
Leon M. Salter