Correspondence

September 11 Coverage

I just wanted to thank and congratulate the
editors and writers of TAP for the excellent articles on the terrorist
attacks of September 11. As progressives juggled the powerful emotions of grief
and anger in the days that immediately followed, they also had the difficult task
of asserting the relevance of liberal values in a tense climate that encouraged
certain strands of excessive nationalism--a task made easier by TAP's
insightful
writings. It is my hope that the progressive resurgence of the last several
years will continue once these horrific events have been more thoroughly
considered by the American public.

Joshua Kilroy

Chicago, IL

Body Politics

Your special edition on reproductive rights
["Body Politics," September 24-October 8, 2001] is spectacular. We at the Planned
Parenthood national office intend to distribute it widely, and our affiliates are
ordering copies for their own distribution. Because of the quality and diversity
of articles, this issue will have a long shelf life. You can expect its influence
to be multiplied many times over as it is shared with opinion leaders and
activists around the country.

While it would have been impossible to anticipate the
horrible turn of events on September 11, reproductive rights and health care
issues are always salient. On the very day that Jerry Falwell blamed the
terrorist attack on "the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the
gays and the lesbians," he and Pat Robertson were in Washington meeting with
members of Congress. We would be naive to think that our issues were not a part
of that conversation. That's why it's so important for us to have the kind of
public education that you have provided in this special edition. Thank you for
putting together such a timely and interesting magazine.

Gloria Feldt

President

Planned Parenthood

New York, NY

I have been a subscriber to TAP since its inception in 1990, and in
general you provide excellent analysis and commentary. But over the last two or
three years, the tone of your publication on religious-faith issues has been
increasingly hostile and dismissive.

In the September 24-October 8 issue and its "Body
Politics" supplement, article after article--not to mention the cover art and the
Tom Tomorrow cartoon--portrayed people of faith as irrational, antifeminist, and
antiscience. As a coup de grace, one could read Wendy Kaminer's column "Our Very
Own Taliban" on the TAP Online Web site, where she concluded that the
terrorist attacks on New York and Washington were a "faith-based initiative."

There is no question that people of faith, many of whom describe their
politics as liberal, are often found on the other side of issues that secular
liberals care passionately about--particularly abortion. But secular liberals
should be willing to concede that people of faith have also been their strongest
allies on issues related to economic justice, labor rights, housing, immigration,
and a host of other issues.

J. Peter Nixon

Concord, CA

Class Trip

I'm one of the producers of People Like
Us,
the film that Josh Gamson reviewed in " HREF="/print/V12/17/gamson-j.html">Class Trip" [September 24-October
8]. I wanted to thank him for what is the most outstanding critique
by far of the program. We often say that if we worked in the United Kingdom our
documentaries would get the kind of nuanced reviews that book authors here
routinely expect. As TV producers in the United States, we can expect at most
only a couple of descriptive paragraphs and choice adjectives from an
overextended daily reviewer--and we're happy to get those! So Gamson's
thoughtful and perceptive take on our program has been a real high point. It's
such a pleasure to read someone who is paying close attention and gets what we're
trying to do, even if he doesn't always agree. Mr. Gamson should consider
himself to have gained a couple of new fans. He ought to be syndicated.

Louis Alvarez

Center for New American Media

New York, NY

Irrationalist in Chief

Staff writer Chris Mooney ["Irrationalist
in
Chief
," September 24-October 8] is probably a young man who doesn't know much
of American intellectual history; but one expects more of Robert Kuttner and Paul
Starr. It is sheer ignorance to call Hans Jonas "the rather obscure German
philosopher." Hans Jonas, a contemporary and a friend of Hannah Arendt, was a
major figure for 30 years at the New School for Social Research and the author of
the magisterial work The Gnostic Religion, first published in 1958, and
republished as a second enlarged addition in 1963.

As for the title "Irrationalist in Chief," I, as a quondam
editor (and a founding sponsor of TAP), can only say "ugh."

Daniel Bell

Scholar in Residence

American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Cambridge, MA

In his colorful albeit tendentious tour through the writings of Leon Kass, Chris
Mooney seems to
think that to prove his subject a "partisan culture warrior" rather than "a
philosopher king" he must brand all of Kass's associates neocon ideologues.
That's not just wrong; it's silly.

Having known and worked with Kass in the context of the
Hastings Center for more than 30 years, I can say that Mooney misdescribes both
the man and the organization.

The whole effort, moreover, to paint the Hastings Center as the bioethics
equivalent of the Hudson Institute is wrong. The Hastings Center is an eclectic
place where scholars, practitioners, policy makers, and others from a wide range
of fields and views came together... .

Mooney uses the title of a 1972 New York Times Magazine article, "The
Frankenstein Myth Becomes a Reality," to leave the impression that Hastings
founder Willard Gaylin was an alarmist, whereas he is actually a technophile. In
a more serious 1977 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, "The
Frankenstein Factor," Gaylin argued that being anti-technology is "self-hatred
that we cannot afford and must not indulge."

Gaylin likes to remark that he can more easily influence a person with an idea
than with an electrode. It would be nice if Mooney gave the impression of being
influenced by either.

A.M. Capron

Santa Monica, CA

Chris Mooney's article criticizing the
appointment of Leon Kass to the president's new Council on Bioethics offers
readers an interesting history of bioethics; however, I was surprised to find
that I'd been cited as an example of extreme religious bioethical thought.

Mr. Mooney felt qualified to make his assessment of Kass after
reading virtually every word he's ever written. The same cannot be said of Mr.
Mooney's assessment of me.

If he had taken the time to read more than one example of my writing, he would
know that what he quoted--a passage in which I cite a favorite scripture
verse--is a rarity. I do not argue bioethical policy from a purely religious
perspective. As a Christian woman and bioethicist, I have every right to include
my faith in my profession and writing. However, to classify me as a solely
religious bioethicist is inaccurate and represents a halfhearted journalistic
effort.

Carrie Gordon Earll

Bioethics Analyst

Focus on the Family

Colorado Springs, CO

While I share Chris Mooney's concern about
whether the Council on Bioethics will hold an open debate about stem cell
research, I am alarmed by his dismissal of any moral opinions that smack of
religion or sentiment... .

If we are to be strictly rational, then morality in general
may go by the boards. Conversely, even if "reasons of the heart" can't be
rationally justified, they can still be debated.

Plainly, we have to be able to debate Kass's view. His apprehensions about
new medical technologies must eventually be articulated as more than a mere
"yuck." But if public-policy making is truly public, those worries deserve a
respectful hearing.

Gregory E. Kaebnick

Editor

The Hastings Center Report

Garrison, NY

Chris Mooney responds:

Contary to what Gregory E. Kaebnick writes, I did not intend to suggest
that Leon Kass's religious views disqualify him from making public-policy
recommendations. With Kass, we're not just talking about someone with particular
religious views, but--as the Princeton biologist Lee Silver observes--someone who
smuggles religious premises into argument and then claims to be speaking
universally.

Based on her other writings, Carrie Gordon Earll is surely a bioethicist whose
views are substantially religious.

And A.M. Capron is mistaken. I did not paint the Hastings Center as
reactionary. In fact, I called its founders "visionaries." But they did exhibit
technophobic tendencies.

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