Um...there's this guy in my neck of the woods who gets a lot of letters published in the Fresno Bee. His name is Christopher Tasy, and he is about to achieve a rare feat on those opinion pages: this week, his name seemingly crops up more than that of either the President or the President-elect. In fact, he's been featured in the Bee's opinion pages twice in less than a month, and publicly berated by several other letter writers to the Bee. Why, it's a veritable Tasy-fest.

Now, this is hard to do. To quote the Bee's automatic response to my most recent submission:

Letters to the editor should be 200 words or less. Only one letter per month per writer will be considered.

So how did Mr. Tasy make this happen?

Well, he wrote a special piece for the Bee's Opinion Pages decrying the apparent apostasy of the majority of American Catholics. While opinion, it doesn't count as a 'letter to the editor'. The piece appeared here on Dec. 27th, but for those of you don't care to read it, he reads Catholic politicians the Riot Act for receiving communion while publicly rejecting this or that teaching of the church's hierarchy. Responses, including mine, were in general unfavorable.

I wrote (and the Bee published), in part, that Mr. Tasy "complains that many politicians (such as our governor) similarly reject the church's teachings on those points, and yet continue to receive the sacraments, also in violation of the church's teachings.

Gosh! Does Mr. Tasy not recognize the endless regress such logic leads to? You can't use one claim of authority to justify another claim by the same authority. That trick only works for those who've already swallowed the entire bill of goods, and think that their particular costumed hierarchy of the sexless is inherently infallible.

Anyway, here's my advice to true believers like Mr. Tasy: Bar every politician who doesn't toe the line with the church's doctrine from receiving the sacraments. Draw a line in the sand, plunge a sword of division into the faithful and see just how many of the 62% call your bluff."

Others were, if anything, even less respectful. Adam Wall at Gustav's Groupie was merely dismissive: "Yup, this absurd column denigrating Americans for not being Catholic enough was distributed to a readership of at least 400,000 people. A lot of words just to make a plea to join their intolerance."

Jeffrey Eisenger (whom the Bee also published) similarly pulled no punches:

"Christoper G. Tasy's Dec. 27 Valley Voices piece is filled with such inaccuracies, misrepresentations and false premises as to render it more comedy sketch material than serious commentary.

Outright fabrications, such as the claim that the pope has been the world's moral conscience, are simply laughable. One need only look back to the pope's inaction during World War II to see the moral vacuum at the Vatican. Ghandi was a much better moral example than many popes.

Mr. Tasy also downplays the child-abuse scandal by claiming that the accused were less than 1% of the priesthood. What he ignores is that the real issue was the cover-up by church leaders, which allowed the abuse to continue unchecked in too many cases.

He asserts there are no legitimate ethical or moral arguments for abortion, birth control, homosexuals or women priests. Most thoughtful people would say there are arguments on both sides of these issues.

Finally, he compares Americans to children, with the Catholic church as our parent. What a crock! It is time for thinking people of all countries to move past the mental enslavement and real harm that Catholicism and other religious fictions have brought us to."

Well, that's a lot of fireworks, and not even a week old. But Tasy has subsequentially had an actual letter supporting Proposition 8 appear on Dec. 29th. While the results on that one aren't in yet, you can expect more blasting caps and broadsides.

But, really, this is all old news to Mr. Tasy, who is one of the Bee's more prolific letter-writers, as you can read here. Mr. Tasy's output (94 published items since 1989) puts my contributions to the local branch of the Fourth Estate to shame. Unfortunately, it also shames the College of Science and Mathematics at our mutual alma mater, CSU Fresno. Tasy, you see, works in the biotechnology sector, apparently holds a degree in microbiology, yet (ahem) has written on more than one occasion about his less-than-well-informed skepticism regarding the fact of evolution. Curiously, it has escaped him that the Biology Department that granted his degree is committed to (and I quote in my best BULLDOG Red): "innovative and state-of-the-art education and research in Ecology, Evolution and Cellular and Molecular Biology."


R. Moore said...

"think that their particular costumed hierarchy of the sexless is inherently infallible."

You may need to pray for forgiveness for this one. *chuckle*

Stan said...

Scott said,

"the fact of evolution"

Wuulll, there ya go agin, Scott.

Here's a question: How many inferences does it take to make something a "fact"? This is something I have seriously considered, and while I think that inferences might become asymptotic with fact, well, I can't see them ever quite getting there. Depends on the quality of the inferences and the presuppositions in play, yes?

Anyway, happy new year!

Anonymous said...

What is a "fact"? Is it Gould's definition? Does it, in fact, matter?

Are animals fixed in their "kinds"? Do we observe no change whatsoever over time?

Why does the Fresno Bee extend such courtesy towards Mr Tasy while denying it to more worthy contributors such as our own esteemed educator, Scott Hatfield?

Why am I even bothering to ask such questions?

“You know, I used to think that it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.”

– Marcus Cole, Babylon 5

Stan said...

Well, I s'pose facts are just whatever you choose to call them, and that Scott just isn't controversial enough to warrant the print. Now if Scott were to send his flaming pants up the flag pole to celebrate Darwin Year, he might get more exposure... so to speak. Better schedule a news conference in advance though.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...


Perhaps you could give me an indulgence?


There are no inferences required to accept the fact of evolution, which is simply that populations undergo genetic change.

There are also no inferences required to accept the fact that one observed possible consequence of genetic change within a population is speciation.

There are no inferences required to accept the fact that one process that seems to promote directional change (if you like, a bias) is natural selection.
There are other processes known, and there are likely genetic mechanisms other than natural selection which are poorly described at present.

Inferences start to crop up when we use the above facts to build a model to account for the history of life. These inferences are useful if they lead to testable hypotheses; they are quite a bit less so when they do not. When they are treated as something like received wisdom in the popular culture, they become more trouble to science than they are worth, precisely because they start to resemble the default position of religion.


You flatter me. However, the Bee has printed both letters and special opinion pieces from yours truly in the past, and hopefully in the future. I doubt that I will eclipse Mr. Tasy's record of published opinion, but that is more of a question of my not always sounding off to the Bee. Frankly, the fact that I have a blog gives me a forum that is often far more rewarding than the 200 words allotted by the local paper.

Happy New Year to All!

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...


I'll mention the 'flaming pants' suggestion at the next Cafe Scientifique! I'm the closest thing I know to a publicity whore where science is concerned.

Adam said...

Thanks for the link Scott. I actually just got done chasing after another letter to the editor (from Deacon Gary Stevens of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church) praising Tasy's position.

I was a bit more than dismissive this time.

Anonymous said...

Scott, if you could take the ideas in the response you made to Stan that began "There are no inferences.." and ends "position of religion" , set it to some catchy tunes and some clever lyrics and run it in the Rogue Festival,
I'd totally go see it.
(the show might need a little theremin too.)

R. Moore said...

Stan asked:

"How many inferences does it take to make something a "fact"? "

This is a very good question Stan. We are discussing the concept of the "scientific fact", and the wikipedia definition is pretty good:

A theory is proposed based on multiple observations, usually observations carried out with great care, using measurement. The theory is then tested many times, by independent investigators, using their own multiple observations. If the theory proves correct to within the accuracy of those observations, then it is provisionally accepted. Any scientific theory is subject to additional testing, and may be modified or overthrown based on additional evidence

So evolution is a scientific fact. It is provisional as always, but I consider it axiomatic at this point, based on the number of confirmatory observations.

I would think you would argue against natural selection, Stan, rather than evolution, as there is a greater possibility for incorrect inference.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

An extended comment on the value of inference, springing from Stan's comment, is now on the blog here: