Global gripe, no grudge against Chomsky and more.
MAY BOAST OF GEOGRAPHIC DIVERSITY,
I believe Penn
prides itself on the geographic (read global) diversity of its students
(or is it Wharton Grad?). Yet the material in the Gazette remains
very United States-focused. In itself, there is nothing wrong with thatexcept
it does not capture all that is happening with the magazines non-U.S.
readership. In addition to a story about a U.S.-based alumnuss collection
of Mexican art (terrific collection, by the way) [Art
From a Land of Sun and Shadows, September/October], why not a Wharton
Graduate alumnus, Indian-born, naturalized Americans contemporary Indian
art collection in Singapore?
Tarun Kataria WG85
we were pleased to see some coverage of the recent history of our field
and of Penns role in it in the Gazette [Speech!,
July/August]. Unfortunately, Mr. Hughes piece repeats a number of misapprehensions
that should have been checked. Perhaps most egregious are the speculations
of Dr. Anthony Kroch, [professor and chair of linguistics] about the early
reception of Chomskys work at Penn. The allegations that Zellig Harris
was a behaviorist who was angry at his former student, Noam Chomsky, for
mentalism, and that the faculty and students of the time consequently
hunkered down and waited for the fad to blow over, are absurd falsehoods.
Michael Gottfried C76 G76 Gr86
Daythal Kendall Gr77 GEE82
Richard Kittredge Gr69
Bruce Nevin CGS68 G70 Gr98
Naomi Sager Gr68
Richard Smaby Gr68
Samuel Hughes responds: For the record, I did check the section on Zellig Harris (including Dr. Krochs comments) with someone who studied under him, namely Dr. Lila Gleitman Gr67. Apart from suggesting some technical corrections to my discussion of transformational grammar, she found nothing in Dr. Krochs comments that struck her as false. While she remembered Harris with great affection and a sense of deep intellectual debt, she acknowledged that they had a falling out. When I asked her why, she replied: So far as I know, it was because I became a Chomskyite, but of course Zellig may have had other reasons instead or in addition.
ON DATING OF DINOSAUR FOSSIL
The letter by
John Shirk C83 included in the September/October
Gazette requires an answer. Mr. Shirk has dismissed the accepted
dating methods as unreliable without any basis of proof. Rather, he
accepts the word of a monk who said that the world was created in 4004
BCEI think on a Thursday afternoon. His cavalier disregard of the determination
of the age of the earth ignores hundreds of years of provable scientific
research showing that the Earth is far older than a few thousand years.
Lester D. Shubin C49
KEEP SCIENCE AND RELIGION SEPARATE
Your correspondent from the Class of 1983 complaining that the age of dinosaurs contradicts a literal reading of the Bible is not a poster-boy for higher education. Obviously he learned nothing about science and the scientific method while at Penn. Science, if in error, has mechanisms for correcting itself. But dogmatic reliance on a book, no matter how convincingly holy, is doomed to remain wrong. That same book was used to prove that the Earth was flat and that Galileo was wrong. Keep science and religions separate!
John Wolff EE54
THOSE TROUBLING BONES
I certainly was edified by the letter of John Shirk, who explained that the idea of dinosaurs roaming the Earth 100 million years ago was false, as proven by the Bible. However, there are those troubling bones in museums. If the Earth is only a few thousand years old, our ancestors must have been awfully unobservant not to notice those large nasty reptiles. Perhaps they pretended not to see thembut no, they couldnt have been that stupid. Could they?
Stanley A. Plotkin GM63
IN THE WARS YEARS CLASSES,
to the Classes of the War Years and to the 300 men and women from the
Classes of 1942 through 1949 who participated in the War Years Reunion,
and once again followed in the footsteps of the Class of 1939 [Life
Was Not Carefree, July/August].
Harold B. Montgomery W39
CONTEXT BE DAMNED!
I am in complete
agreement with Edmund Pascucci W41 [Letters,
September/October]. The ethnic slur about dagoes should never have
been printed by your publication.
Edward Delemmo C50
SHAME ON HIM, TOO
In his letter
expressing his outrage at the use of a slur to describe his ethnic group,
Mr. Pascucci doesnt hesitate to include the gamut of equally offensive
terms (one of them twice) to illustrate his point.
Thea Clark CGS97