Decide for ourselves

Regarding Michael Gerson's column, "Losing our religion ... ,"the increasing number of people who describe themselves as spiritual but not religious results from a rejection of the mythologies that are taught as truth by institutional religions, but which are not supported by physical evidence. Recall that Galileo was sentenced to house arrest for the last eight years of his life for demonstrating that the planets revolved around the sun, while the church's doctrine was that the Earth was the center of the universe.

Traditionally, we have been taught from infancy that we should accept without question what our priests and teachers tell us, and thinking for ourselves has been condemned. Anything we are expected to believe is ultimately the statement of someone who is accepted as an authority. However, authorities do not always agree with one another, so we have to decide for ourselves which, if any, to follow.

Scientific investigation of living organisms reveals a degree of complexity that suggests to many people that there is Intelligence in the universe. Also, the recent recognition of dark matter and energy shows that there are realities in the universe that cannot be detected by scientific instruments. — Desmond R. Armstrong, Jacksonville

Head Start has value

The column by Lindsey Burke Sunday, March 24, unfortunately perpetuates the myth about Head Start that seems to be going around in some circles. She argues that the president's plan for universal preschool will "fail as miserably as Head Start."

Far from failing, though, Head Start has been shown in a number of studies to have both short- and long-term benefits for the low-income children it serves. It is true that one recent, large study did find that the significant improvements in children's development that were present at the end of preschool were not as apparent at the end of third grade. However, this was just one study; other research has found that even when school achievement gains seem to fade around third grade, longer-term benefits appear after age 18. These benefits include being more likely to graduate from high school and attend college, and less likely to engage in criminal behavior.

In spite of these real findings, we should not be complacent; the program can be stronger, and should be improved to produce even greater benefits if we are to eliminate the achievement gap that now exists because of the income disparities in our country. — John M. Love, Ashland

Don't eliminate biofuels

The article posted March 25 regarding the converting of sugar beets to ethanol in California showed us one of the ways of reducing fossil fuel dependence and replacing it with biofuel production. What a great method to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to shift transportation fuels to lower carbon content.

How valuable would biofuel production be to a local economy? With the advent of genetically modified sugar beets, crops can be produced economically and with little impact on the environment. Ballot Measure 15-119 will be on the ballot in May of 2014. Measure 15-119 bans propagating, cultivating, raising or growing of GMO crops in Jackson County.

Any economic advantage to be gained from biofuel production would be lost in Jackson County if this measure were to pass. I urge voters to educate themselves on this complicated issue. The pro ban-GMO folks will tell you that coexistence of GMO and non-GMO crops is not an option. Experts within the agribusiness community would disagree. Do we really want to eliminate an important segment of the agricultural business from our present and future economic development? — Scott Lubich, Medford

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