Forum: November-December 2009


Roger Manley

Liars for Hire?

In "Going, going ..." [May-June 2009], Stuart Pimm claims that every scientist who disagrees with him is lying for personal gain. This is obviously absurd, and one wonders what in the world can have induced him to stoop to such petulant name-calling.

He is an eminent professor at a great university and the recipient of many awards and honors. His books are widely read and his articles are widely cited. In testimony before Congress, through his work at National Geographic, and by way of numerous presentations, bird-walks, blogs, and so forth, he has had unparalleled opportunities for presenting his views to policymakers and to the general public.

I am sure that over the course of his long and distinguished career, both Professor Pimm and his views have generally been treated with respect and that no one has ever called him a liar, let alone a liar for hire. Why then, when he and he alone has the opportunity to discuss the future of biodiversity in Duke Magazine, does he choose to gratuitously smear his opponents with this particularly odious and insulting charge?

Perhaps Professor Pimm has evidence that some specific scientist is being paid to lie about matters affecting environmental policy. If so, he should present that evidence to the appropriate professional bodies and governmental agencies and do whatever else it takes to expose the conspirators involved. In the absence of such evidence, however, he only discredits himself and his university by making indiscriminate and fatuous accusations.

We may have to resign ourselves to the fact that schoolchildren and politicians will often resort to defamation when it serves their purposes better than rational argument, but surely we can expect a higher standard of discourse from Duke University professors. Let us hope this was a rare lapse in judgment.     

Jon Guze, J.D. '94

Growing Opposition

While I agree that one should purchase and consume locally produced agricultural products, the people you have profiled in "Who's Minding the Farm?" [July-August 2009] are not true farmers. They are "hobby farmers" specializing in small-scale truck gardening and the niche marketing of their produce. Real farmers:

  • use a mixed-farming model, integrating livestock and crops/forage to maximize production, increase profits and decrease costs
  • don't wear "crocs" when working with livestock—we wear boots, just in case some crabby animal steps on our foot
  • discuss bull EPDs and sheath cleaning at the dinner table
  • manage large databases of information including livestock and cropping records to plan for the future
  • know what army worms smell like
  • are on duty 24/7, all year
  • give away excess produce from our gardens and don't need a "co-op" because we are there for our neighbors
  • do all this to help feed the world and our local community, despite the fact that we are called "rednecks," and urbanites who have gardens want to "educate" us because they grew a tomato once and had one extra to sell at the farmers' market.

Hobby farms are great, but until you have had to pull a calf in the middle of an ice storm or worked to bring in your hay crop in over-100-degree heat using an ancient tractor, please don't tell me you're a "farmer." I guess you are a "local hero," but don't let it go to your head. You stand on the shoulders of the less than 10 percent of the national workforce that works in agriculture full time to put food on your table, clothes on your back, and shoes on your feet.

Kelley Crow Snowden '78
Overton, Texas

Care and Curiosity

The picture of our classmates (B.S.N. Class of '59)  [Register, July-August 2009] is so great—to be cared for by such precious, accomplished, and loving friends is more than what we can dream of and wish for.

Also, compliments to all for this last issue. The cover inspired curiosity about the related article—fantastic. The issue is worthy of recognition and should earn all a major journalism award. The layout throughout was excellent.

I read all the articles the first night that I received your magazine—that's a first for me!

Judith Anthony Grybowski B.S.N. '59
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Sanford Schooling

The Duke Magazine article about the Sanford School ["New Status for Sanford," July-August 2009] underscores the great presidency of Terry Sanford at Duke, 1970 to 1985. He should be so honored for that, as well as for many other life accomplishments.

Perhaps, also, in the spirit of collegiate brotherhood, there could be a mention, occasionally, of President Sanford's graduation from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina School of Law. Uncle Terry would have liked that.

George E. Ivey '59
Asheville, North Carolina

Musicians in Memory

In the article about Felix Mendelssohn [Update, September-October 2009], the statement is made that Felix Mendelssohn was born into a Jewish family, and converted to Christianity to gain acceptance in German society. In fact, Felix was baptized a Lutheran at age six by his Jewish parents (for the reason stated above) and remained a committed Christian his entire life. His parents converted when Felix was a teenager, and dropped the name Mendelssohn, adopting instead the name Bartholdy (which Felix never accepted).

Felix died at age thirty-nine, a few months after the death of his beloved sister, Fanny, and was buried in the cemetery of the Holy Cross Church in Berlin. At his funeral a 600-voice choir sang "Christ and the Resurrection"; today, his grave is marked by a huge cross.

Incidentally, I note that professor Alan Bone was mentioned in the article. I knew professor Bone very well, singing in his church choir and also working for him part time in his office on East Campus as a sort of amateur music librarian. He was a fine gentleman and an outstanding musician.

Paul F. Zweifel Ph.D.'54
Radford, Virginia

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