I want to
thank the Weekly and Margaret Wertheim for the article “Creation
Science” [Quark Soup, November 1–7]. She presents the latest thinking of
the evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker in such a way that this reader feels
brought to the table, instead of feeling skipped over and ignored in the rarefied
air of academia.
The subtitle says it all: “The gospel according to Steven Pinker.” The way
he stretches the truths about Darwin’s theories in The Blank Slate, Pinker
sounds like all the other scientists who’ve wrapped themselves in the same cloak
of infallibility that the old priesthood foolishly did back when they wanted
to make the Earth stand still.
I like the value that Wertheim places on our powers of interpretation. Humanity
is still a work in progress, and I think we should stay humble about the limits
of our understanding — and open to possibilities only temporarily beyond our
I learned a lot more about Margaret Wertheim’s world-view in her review of
Stephen Pinker’s book than I did about the book itself. Instead of reasoned,
critical review, Wertheim dismisses Pinker’s book on the basis of a glib analogy
between Pinker’s naturalism and Christian fundamentalism. Wertheim supports
her crucial analogy with only the flimsiest of arguments: Biologists of Pinker’s
ilk worship their own “sacred text” (the human genome), examining its “every
word” with “literal precision.” This, she says, is just like religious fundamentalists
and their holy books; ergo, both alike are “fundamentalists.” QED.
In other words, Wertheim would have us believe that there is no relevant
distinction between, on the one hand, believing that a set of mechanisms encoded
in DNA “literally” creates an organism, and, on the other, believing that an
invisible man living in the sky “literally” made the cosmos in six days, on
I myself have trouble seeing any relevant similarity.
Three cheers for Margaret Wertheim’s Quark Soup column on “scientific fundamentalists”
who hold on to answers instead of participating in the creative search
for ever more interesting questions.
This Saturday morning, thanks to the Weekly, my
breakfast consisted mainly of savoring, word by word, the wonderful article
by Kristine McKenna titled “The
Three Ages of Jacques Derrida” [November 8–14]. This type of article is
an absolute delight to the higher echelons of self. It responds, with elegance,
to the eternal and, at times, silent desire to discover the real treasures that
exist right here in our city, and our state. Please continue bringing us those
—Luis Rafael Galvez
As much as I’m enamored of Kristine McKenna’s work, her statement that “Deconstructionism
is a flexible methodology . . . the impact it’s had on literary criticism is
equal to, if not greater than, the mark it’s left on philosophical discourse”
is just not credible. Deconstructionism’s very problem is the flexibility she
notes: It bends to whatever agenda it’s applied, and with shocking ease. It’s
actually a very old mechanism, predating Derrida by centuries, and it doesn’t
matter whether the wielder is McLuhan, Paglia, Foucault or Joe Shmoe — as an
instrument, it’s perpetually, indeed idiosyncratically, chameleonic. The whole
process, each time it’s applied, is a matter of the watcher watching the watcher
watching the watcher . . . ad infinitum. The perception of the artist’s “intent”
is subject to the deconstructionist’s subjectivity to his or her own
perceptions and covert bugaboos. Derrida, as a wrinkle in philosophy, may or
may not withstand the test of time, but at least one of his progeny, deconstructionism,
has already passed into senescence and is only feebly resurrected from time
to time, usually when an ersatz polemicist’s rope’s end is reached.
—Marc S. Tucker
IRV RUBIN, R.I.P.
Re: Howard Blume’s “A
Man Out of Time” [November 8–14]. I have known Irv Rubin for over 20 years
and was a fellow Jewish activist, at his side at many a demonstration and press
conference. Irv Rubin is a passionate, zealous leader whose commitment to the
survival of the Jewish people is unsurpassed. His whole life has been dedicated
to protecting Jewish lives, courageously standing up to Jew haters of all stripes,
and having the bravery and temerity to challenge and confront issues that the
Jewish establishment wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. I’m proud of my friendship
and association with Irv Rubin. May it be G-d’s will that he live and be well.
And please pass out the crying towels to his detractors who already had him
dead and buried.
Brooklyn, New York
Howard Blume implies that United Jewish Communities and its local member body,
the Jewish ä Federation of Greater Los Angeles, are supporting people whose
opinions parallel those espoused by the Jewish Defense League. The UJC and the
L.A. Jewish Federation are non-political bodies. Our efforts include assisting
victims of terror who live in Israel. This assistance is offered strictly in
the humanitarian realm, helping those who have been physically or psychologically
injured during the tragic events of the last two years.
We help individuals whose lives have been ruined wherever they reside. The
Israeli citizens who live outside of the pre-1967 borders of Israel represent
a cross section of Israeli society. They include new immigrants as well as longtime
residents, people with varied political ideologies from left to right. Most
just want to live peaceful, productive lives. It is not fair to imply that the
JDL position is the predominant view of the majority of those living beyond
the Green Line.
—John R. Fishel
President, the Jewish Federation
I’m writing in response to Alec Hanley Bemis’ review
of Spoon at the Troubadour [November 1–7]. I found it a little odd that Bemis
felt the need to start his review by mentioning he was in the “skyboxlike VIP
room.” What kind of music critic watches a band perform from the VIP room? A
real music fan would have been on the floor enjoying the show the way God intended.
It’s just not natural to be looking down on a stage while a band plays, or to
be watching from behind a sheet of glass. Bemis may as well have sent a friend
to the show with a video camera; then he could have stayed home and watched
it. No wonder he felt the show was lacking — he didn’t fully experience it.
I was down on the floor, elbow-to-elbow with the other Spoon fans, and from
down there I watched a group of guys who were having a blast just being onstage
playing their instruments. The only posing I witnessed was when I looked over
my shoulder toward the VIP room.
Do you not have a music editor? I’ve seen sloppy music coverage, but I’ve
never seen anything like Andrew Lentz’s Black Dice blurb [Scoring the Clubs,
November 1–7], which manages to make three mistakes in three words: “The Providence
threesome’s debut”: 1) The boys are from Brooklyn; 2) there are four guys in
Black Dice; and 3) this is not their first release.
EDITOR’S NOTE: You forgot to mention we got the venue wrong, too.
RE For “The
Misfits,” last week’s cover story by Paul Cullum: ICM agent David Unger
was misidentified as Steve Unger; Steve Golin was a producer on The Portrait
of a Lady, not associate producer; Bill Mechanic was only involved with
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in his capacity as head of Fox
Studios; Meltdown Comics is on Sunset Boulevard, not Melrose Avenue; and it
was producer Marty Brest, not Barry Levinson, who accompanied Stuart Cornfeld
and Herve Villechaize on their ill-fated late-night deep-sea expedition. Re
Max Gerber’s cover story “Microbats,
Broken Skulls, Rocket Girls & Prehistoric Beach Bears” (November 1–7):
Development of the Microbat was credited to Caltech, when it actually grew out
of a three-way collaboration by Caltech, UCLA and AeroVironment.