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The letter of Jan. 5, "The universe was spontaneous" perhaps does give a brief view of how the physical world came to be, but it makes no provision for consciousness. The brain is the interface between consciousness and the material world — the brain being a physical construct itself — creates meaning and a sense of space-time for consciousness.

The brain, though, is not the source of consciousness; this has a higher source.

It seems incredible that when considering the odds against each event, that all the events needed for us to evolve to an intelligent species — and all that we are capable of — were laid out by mere blind chance. It seems more likely that there is a purpose, a universal consciousness; we might call this higher reality God, and it is this which is behind and in all of creation. It's the source of all consciousness.

An important consideration is: the ideals which make us human come from the same higher reality. If we ignore this, and treat compassion, justice and other ideals as merely nice ideas to take or leave, how can we rise above the other animals of this planet? — Bill McWhorter, Medford

Ahh, summertime in the Southern Hemisphere. Didn't Al Gore promise us that by 2013 polar seas would be free of ice in the summer?

So let's send a ship full of global warming scientists for a pleasant sail to the Antarctic. Oops, the ship got trapped in ice. Not to worry, an ice-breaker will come to the rescue. Oops, the ice-breaker got trapped in ice.

Since nobody was harmed, I will allow myself the luxury of calling global warming scientists trapped in ice simply poetic justice. Or, perhaps, a ship of fools?

The year 2013 had more record low temperatures than record high temperatures. In fact, there were the most record low temperatures in 20 years. The Rogue Valley itself had its coldest December.

Gee, don't we look foolish if we still call it global warming? Let's call it climate change!

Forest fire? Climate change! Flood? Climate change! Frozen pipes? Climate change! Stub your toe this morning? Climate change!

The solution? A carbon tax, of course, to further burden our economy. We can all pay more! No thanks. No more tax dollars to the global warming extremists. — Doug Dusenberry, Gold Hill

Here are some thoughts as we head into the politics of the new year. First, Oregon has a first-class Senator in Jeff Merkley. Same goes for State Sen. Dr. Alan Bates.

Next, the Affordable Care Act had a rocky rollout at the state and national levels and critics had easy pickings. But major change takes time, and I hope the majority keeps an open mind as more people get individual health care in the marketplace and problems get fixed. Now insurance companies have certain rules of the road to follow, for the first time, as they put together the three options.

Unfortunately for the poor in 23 states, Medicaid expansion was not approved, so about 4 million families will not qualify for subsidies under the ACA and will suffer.

Federal efforts to assist low-income families or the unemployed have support among Democrats but not among Republicans, especially in the House. How about we reduce the deficit by $41 billion dollars over 10 years by ending tax expenditures for oil and gas companies as a starter instead of playing the deficit card on measures to assist the poor?

This is a matter of values it seems. — Steve Haskell, Ashland