Letters from our readers.
Oct. 31 1997 3:30 AM

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The Pondering Jew

In his "Dialogue" with Eric Liu, Elliott Abrams writes, "For any serious Jew, 'being Jewish' isn't an ethnic or 'ethnocultural' identity at all, it's a religion." I believe this to be a demonstrably false premise. Of all the major religions, Judaism is the only one which insists upon a genetic test, i.e., that anyone whose mother is Jewish is automatically a Jew, and for some sects that the mother of the presumptive must be Jewish. Undeniably, membership in the Jewish community has been, in large part, defined by one's genes. Thus, it seems to me that the deep concern about the population of world Jewry is first and foremost a fear that one's gene pool might disappear, and has very little to do with religion. That atheistic Jews very often have the same fear lends credence to this point. The history of the 20th century certainly justifies this fear, but the fact that even Liu accepts Abrams' false premise shows how confused many are on this subject.

--Peter Thom

Snide Order


If Scott Shuger is going to include snide comments in parentheses in "Today's Papers," shouldn't that be reflected in the name of the section? For example: "Today's Papers (and our snide comments)." I love the comments, and they expose the major media's frequent indulgence in propaganda under the pretext of reporting news. But if part of your summarizing is commenting on the occasional lapse in the journalistic ethics of those you are summarizing, then isn't it unethical of Slate not to mention that your summaries are editorialized?

I have been a reader of Slate since its inception, and I usually find the articles and other pieces:

highly informative

well thought-out and articulated


very funny

highly pretentious

two or more of the above.

Keep up the good work.


--Rangarathnam GopuRedmond, Wash.

The Strange Case of Michael Isikoff

Michael Isikoff's review of Christopher Ruddy's Vincent Foster book ("The Strange Case of Christopher Ruddy") is very revealing--namely that Isikoff wrote the review without reading the book. Laughable.

--Michael LamontEugene, Ore.


Die 'Soft

Whenever you write an article about your parent company or a firm that has a financial stake in your operation, I think you should have the courtesy to 1) keep your comments neutral and 2) make an explicit reference to the connection. I find it a bit strange that you seem so comfortable pronouncing dismissively on Microsoft's legal battles.

--Graeme McIntyre

The Thumb of all Fears

In his "E-Mail to the Editors," Roger Ebert wrote, "Just remember: If it weren't for the Mac, there wouldn't be any Windows for Slate Explorer to run on. Ingrates!"

I believe it was Xerox who pioneered the concept and developed the technology. I don't hear too many acknowledgments from the folks at Mac. The accolades go to those who make the technology accessible.

--Ron Leung

Bursting the Biobabble Bubble

Paul Krugman's critique of bionomics ("The Power of Biobabble") may be justified. In my humble opinion, however, it does a disservice to the advancement of economic science, which I believe should move away from excessive focus on the concepts of scarcity, trade, and money that the founding fathers worked with. Instead, recognize man as a biological entity, and recognize economic processes and phenomena as those resulting from man's interaction with the environment.

This would lead, for instance, to closer attention to relationships between savings and investment and the human life cycle (rather than abstract analysis on the incentives to defer current consumption). It would also look at many artifacts such as mansions, cathedrals, etc., as elements in the competitive propagation of genes to future generations through better nesting, clan identification, etc.

This kind of analysis is probably much more called for than evolution. There is a lot more to learn about current economic phenomena before exploring evolution, which in a biological context is long-term. Also, it is likely this kind of analysis will not support the same free-market agenda that bionomics pursues, but then the purpose of sound science is the search for the truth, not the support of a pre-defined agenda.

--Paul Kailor

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