February 14, 2007: Letters
Letter Box Online
PAW welcomes letters on its contents and topics related to Princeton University. We may edit them for length, accuracy, clarity, and civility; brevity is encouraged. Letters, articles, and photos submitted to PAW may be published or distributed in print, electronic, or other forms. Due to the volume of correspondence, we are unable to publish all letters received. Write to PAW, 194 Nassau St., Suite 38, Princeton, NJ 08542; send e-mail to email@example.com
All kudos to Tony Branker ’80 for what he has done with jazz at Princeton (cover story, Dec. 13). It is phenomenal — he deserves all the praise he has received and then some. However, it must be noted that the model for having a paid outside conductor was already set by the time Tony started playing with the Princeton University Jazz Ensemble (PUJE). During the time author Merrell Noden ’78 mischaracterized as “sketchy ... [with little] in the way of an organized program,” two full ensembles regularly rehearsed in Woolworth, received funding for conductors from then-provost Neil Rudenstine ’56, gave concerts in Alexander Hall (including with Benny Carter), and played for many dances at the clubs. PUJE participated in its first jazz festival at Drexel, recorded an album, and was even featured in an article in The New York Times. When Stanley Jordan ’81 auditioned for PUJE in the fall of 1977, he blew away the band with his trademark two-handed rendition of a current pop song. Conductor Paul Jeffrey, a sometimes-sideman and collaborator with Charles Mingus, turned to him and said, “Can you play ‘Oleo’”? Was jazz already thriving at Princeton? Oh yeah.
WILLIAM MCHENRY ’79
The deans of religious life feel it is important to register our support for the position of Muslim chaplain on campus and for Khalid Latif (feature, Oct. 25; letters, Jan. 24), whom we have hired to fill that position on a part-time, term basis. To clear up any possible misunderstanding, Mr. Latif was hired to be chaplain to the Muslim students and to provide an educational and collegial presence from the Muslim tradition to the entire campus. He is not the dean of religious life.
Mr. Latif already has added to the positive religious climate that exists at Princeton not only by serving Muslim students, faculty, and staff, but also by reaching out to those outside his tradition to offer joint programming to benefit the entire community. Most notable has been the productive collaboration between Mr. Latif and Rabbi Julie Roth, executive director of the Center for Jewish Life, which may be leading to a Muslim/Jewish trip to southern Spain.
The University takes great care in the selection of religious leaders who are invited to be chaplains to our community. We strongly believe that by intentionally welcoming all religious faiths to Princeton, we are creating a vibrant and diverse religious life at the University and modeling productive inter-religious cooperation to our domestic and increasingly international student body.
DEAN THOMAS BREIDENTHAL
Larry DuPraz, the beloved flat-topped, cigar-chomping curmudgeon whose critical eye refined six decades of journalism at The Daily Princetonian, died Christmas Eve morning in Massachusetts. He was 87 and suffered from heart disease. DuPraz joined the Prince in 1946 as a typesetter, forging the words of student reporters in molten lead with an aging linotype machine. He soon became compositor, assuming responsibility for getting the paper printed each night. — The Daily Princetonian, Dec. 26, 2006.
What Larry really did, for 60 years, was create journalists. When you first met Larry DuPraz as a freshman reporter, he would squint at you through his horn-rimmed glasses, brush cut bristling, wreathed in the smoke of his Tiparillo. You knew, right then and there, he was sizing you up, like an old toreador confronting a young, inexperienced bull.
It wasn’t long before he would plant a barb or two, just to see if you were made of the right stuff. He was politically incorrect before political correctness was invented.
Larry’s graduates went on to serve on major media throughout America. They won Pulitzers and many other prizes. Any journalism school would be proud to claim credit for the reporters and editors Larry “trained.”
The majority of the graduates of the DuPraz School of Journalism pursued distinguished careers in other fields where Larry’s voice continued to echo in their ears: Do you have your facts straight, young lady? Did you ask the right questions, buster? What did you miss? Where the hell did you learn to write?
Mostly, he taught about giving ... and giving a damn. He made you feel like you were part of his family. If you needed a friend or a surrogate parent or just somebody to share a beer, Larry was the kindest curmudgeon on the planet. There was a ton of tenderness behind his growls.
Like the newspaper he loved, Larry was an institution. He always seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of energy and good humor, even years after he “retired.” He had done his job so well for so long that, at some level, we all believed he would just go on forever, like the tigers in front of Nassau Hall.
In a sense, Larry has proven even more durable. Every day, there is another Prince, a fresh memorial to the man who had such a profound impact on the newspaper and the lives of all its alumni.
GREG CONDERACCI ’71
Editor’s note: Conderacci was editor-in-chief of The Daily Princetonian. A longer version of this letter appears in Letterbox at www.princeton.edu/paw.
I sincerely hope that every single student who graduates from Princeton has someone like Larry DuPraz in his or her life. Although he was never on the University’s payroll, one of the true greats died on Christmas Eve after a life spent serving and educating Princeton students. Larry DuPraz, Princeton’s “professor of journalism,” represented the best of the best. He was our demanding teacher, our inspiration, and our father while we were away at school.
Though Larry taught us to use words precisely and with great care, words cannot express what Larry meant to all of us who worked on the Prince during our college years. When I took my two young boys on their first visit to Princeton last spring, the one visit that we had to make was to the little house on Harrison Street where Larry and Nora lived for so many years. There, in the living room, they got to meet the man who more than anyone else shaped their dad while he was at Princeton. They saw the scanner that allowed Larry to keep track of the police and fire crews in town, and they got to see his flat-top haircut, which still makes me smile. And they met his wonderful wife, who put up with his late nights at the Prince for so many decades.
I suspect that PAW will be flooded with letters from former Prince staffers who remember Larry with great fondness and admiration. As freshmen we didn’t know what to make of Larry’s cigar-chomping complaints about our sloppy work and poor writing, but by graduation we loved him dearly. They don’t make ’em like Larry anymore, and it was our honor to know him.
ANDY SCHNEIDER ’87
There appears to be some Princeton cultural dissonance in the recent presentation of the third Crystal Tiger to Kofi Annan (Notebook, Jan. 24). The award purports to honor transformative “agents of progress” in undergraduate eyes. (May we be relieved that Angelina Jolie fell short in the consideration?)
Informed readers will recall that Paul Volcker ’49 was appointed in 2004 by Kofi Annan to lead the independent inquiry of the alleged corrupt practices of the Iraqi oil-for-food program administered by the United Nations.
As noted in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, most countries participating in the oil-for-food program failed to cooperate with Mr. Volcker’s inquiry, for rather obvious and self-serving reasons: the program’s corrupt and illegal practices.
Should alumni side with Mr. Volcker “in our nation’s service,” or with Mr. Annan as a transformative “agent of progress” leading a highly suspect U.N. sanctions program swamped in scandal?
PALMER T. HEENAN ’43
Jay Lehr ’57 and S. Fred Singer *48 (Letters, Dec. 13) disagree with President Tilghman’s emphasis on climate change (President’s Page, Oct. 25), and with some Princeton efforts to reduce it.
Mr. Lehr rejects “junk science” and the climate consensus. We of course don’t reject every consensus: That continents move on tectonic plates, hotly disputed within living memory, is now universally accepted. Dislodging widely shared scientific opinion requires strong evidence, but Mr. Lehr’s is feeble. For example, glaciers are mostly retreating, though he misleadingly implies otherwise.
Professor Singer throws doubt on even the existence of a consensus. He should concede the obvious and simply give his evidence for opposing the undeniable consensus. With good evidence, over time, his view will prevail in peer-reviewed publications. Failing that, he will have more influence on politics than on science, a sad state of affairs.
Climate change has a high probabil-ity of being the leading disruptive influence on population and quality of life in this century and beyond. For consensus views, readers can start with the Wikipedia article on global warming and realclimate.org.
RIC MERRITT ’74
Mr. Lehr, who claims in his letter that scientists used to be on a global-cooling bandwagon, is misinformed. This myth, much beloved by global-warming denialists, resulted from one or two botched articles in the popular press in the 1970s, and does not reflect the scientific consensus of the time. A full history can be found at http://realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/01/the-global-cooling-myth/.
It is harder to ascribe the letter by professional climate skeptic Fred Singer to mere ignorance. Unable any longer to deny that the Earth is really warming, such skeptics are now trying to argue that warming is not due to increases in carbon dioxide. Mr. Singer’s arguments are willfully misleading. In fact, the basic quantum theory, radiative transfer, and thermodynamics upon which the CO2 warming effect rests are as well supported by laboratory and field observations as is the theory of gravitation. We have direct confirmation of the effect of CO2 from past climates, in that the cooling of the Southern Hemisphere during the past ice age can be explained by sensitivity to the known decrease in CO2 at the time, but not without it.
Virtually all aspects of the predicted pattern of warming — the amplification toward the poles and over land, the accompanying stratospheric cooling, and the accompanying effect of increased water vapor that amplifies the warming — are confirmed by data, and are not predicted by any physically based process that leaves out the effect of increased CO2. The report Singer cites states that “there is no inconsistency between the modeled and observed surface temperature changes.” The discrepancy in the figure referred to by Singer relates to the small and poorly observed trend in the rate at which tropical temperature decreases with height; the report states that this is more likely to reflect a data problem than a model error. What Singer conceals is that, if the data are correct, the implication is actually that models are currently underestimating future warming, since the reduction in vertical temperature contrast in current climate models reduces the sensitivity to CO2.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (see “Smoke, Mirrors, and Hot Air”) documented the precise nature of Singer’s ties to organizations funded by ExxonMobil’s global-warming disinformation campaign. I leave it for readers to draw their own conclusions.
RAYMOND T. PIERREHUMBERT p’07
The points raised by Mr. Lehr and Mr. Singer demonstrate how far we are from a complete understanding of climate, and they are entitled to advance their personal scientific interpretation of the available facts. But to suggest that the University should discount the careful conclusions of a majority of respected scientists and base policy on a minority viewpoint instead makes little sense. (Even if you could justify it, on what basis would you pick the minority whose viewpoint should thus be elevated?)
Further, by applying the “junk science” epithet and referencing Popper’s philosophy, these writers attempt to persuade us that evidence supporting anthropogenic global warming is too shaky to trust. This works only if one accepts the implicit assumption that we should disbelieve warming by default. Carbon dioxide levels show close historical correlation with mean global temperature, with theoretical models indicating that the relationship is causal. Given the undisputed fact that human activity has brought about a jump in atmospheric CO2 that is un-precedented in recent times, wouldn’t the true surprise be to learn that we are not warming the planet after all? The burden of scientific proof is on the naysayers, for their favored hypothesis is much less likely on its face.
NICHOLAS R. HOWE ’93
Dr. Tilghman is a fine scientist, president of a great university, and, I hear, a most extraordinary person. Comments in the Oct. 25 PAW demonstrated her less-than-scientific bias against the University club system, which seems apparent. But as an honors graduate of the Princeton geology department, I have to take issue with her equally unscientific comment: “The vast majority of scientists now believe that human activity is primarily responsible for the Earth growing warmer.” One has but to perch on a crag of the Appalachian Mountains and look east, from New Jersey through Georgia, to see the Cretaceous Coastal Plain, over which the sea has transgressed countless times in the past 150 million years as, yes, the Earth has warmed and melted ice caps in the process, raising sea level in the process. Sorry, no humans around to be “primarily responsible.”
NICK DAVIS ’60
Mr. Lehr’s and Dr. Singer’s assertion about anthropogenic global warming — that humans are incapable of measurably changing the Earth’s climate — is actually a hypothesis, which is being tested by humanity’s release of as much greenhouse gas as we can profitably generate.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a second Earth on which to run a control experiment. We must rely on proxy control experiments, such as looking at the atmospheric composition and surface temperatures of similar, nearby planets; creating computer models of the climate that can include extra greenhouse gases; and examining the geologic record. The proxies and observations are not perfect, but appear sufficient to answer the question we’re asking. They have established enough credibility individually, and shown enough consistency, that the large majority of scientists who have carefully examined the evidence conclude that global warming is occurring and that humans are responsible for at least part of it. We even should consider the possibility that the natural climate trend of the present day is toward cooling, but that we are overwhelming that trend.
Even skeptics should be open to the many courses of action that would have positive effects besides the reduction of greenhouse gas — increasing the efficiency of power generation and transportation, switching to fuels that don’t require military intervention in other parts of the world and that don’t destroy ecosystems and/or human health when they are leaked or even used as intended, etc. We should make the investments required to make these changes while we still have the fossil-fuel-based wealth to do it.
Given any amount of uncertainty, we are still left with a fundamental question:
Should we continue this experiment to its conclusion, blindly hoping for a happy ending, or should we use the understanding and knowledge at our disposal to steer ourselves onto the most prudent course we can see?
As a footnote, the Climate Change Science Program referenced by Dr. Singer is a creation of the current
presidential administration, which has a reputation for climate-change skepticism/denial and heavy-handed “management” of climate research (www.climatescience.gov/infosheets/factsheet1/default.htm).
KEVIN RAEDER ’86
The letters from noted climate-change deniers Jay Lehr and Fred Singer misleadingly perpetuate the myth of scientific uncertainty about climate change and — indefensibly — countenance inaction.
Mr. Lehr bemoans “science by consensus,” his convenient way to dismiss the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists who agree that humans are contributing to climate change. To me, more and more scientists reaching the same conclusion instead suggests that perhaps they are right. Mr. Lehr also trots out the absurd, thoroughly debunked claim that a “preponderance” of scientists in the 1970s was predicting “a new ice age.” In fact, you had a few articles here and there (and by no means a “preponderance” of scientists) speculating about a cooling trend. This is in no way comparable to today’s widespread global scientific consensus that humans are contributing to climate change.
Mr. Singer is similarly misleading. Of course, one can never “prove” a scientific hypothesis, but climate change has been supported by both models and observational data. Mr. Singer points to one table in a U.S. Climate Change Science Program report as proof that human-induced global warming is a lie. Perhaps Mr. Singer should have read the report — as the director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center stated upon issuing it, “The evidence continues to support a substantial human impact on global temperature increases.”
The only uncertainties remaining are about just how bad it will get and how fast. Unfortunately, most recent studies indicate that changes are happening faster than expected.
Governments often act to address significant risks that are not certainties — just look at policies on health, the economy, and national security. We need to do the same with climate change — engage diplomatically and invest some serious money and effort to make the future less risky. With environmental and economic harms as serious as those predicted, and with increasing evidence that the climate is already changing, inaction is dangerous. Mr. Lehr’s and Mr. Singer’s misrepresentations serve only to cloud political debate and confuse people about what we can do to avert the worst of climate change’s consequences.
DAVID A. GROSSMAN ’98
Jay Lehr writes that a consensus of “junk scientists” is exaggerating the human role in global warming for selfish reasons. I will grant him all that. As far as I know, no one melted the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro. Professor E. Fred Singer opines that President Tilghman demonstrates “undue” concern about global warming. OK, forget about the polar bears.
The real issue is the obvious danger from pollution regardless of the magnitude of its contribution to global warming. Of course, a consensus of the Chinese people might be wrong.
WALTER STEPHAN ’52
President Tilghman is involved in an effort “to advance an economic or political agenda” through deceptive climate science, says Jay Lehr. She “shows undue concern about global warming,” says Fred Singer. Neither convinces.
Lehr distrusts consensus. But sometimes the bandwagon rolls in the right direction. For Lehr, merely entertaining the idea of a human influence on climate is itself arrogance. Now there’s a conversation stopper!
Singer invokes logic. But he nitpicks. By his “logic,” not knowing everything about the climate system means knowing nothing about it. Balderdash! In fact, the report from which he plucked his nit boldly affirms “clear evidence of human influences on the climate system.”
Lehr suggests that a scientific argument can be driven by ulterior motives. If the shoe fits, wear it. Inside the scientific community, however, peer review and the rewards of contrarian thinking provide strong (not always foolproof) safeguards against bias. For anyone with an understanding of the scientific process, the image of a global, “fear-mongering” conspiracy of climate scientists, calculators in hand, out to dupe the world is comical.
Ah, how dull indeed it would be if PAW letters were subjected to scientific peer review!
CHRISTOPHER MILLY ’78
The Nov. 22 letter of Vincent P. De Luise ’73 made several assertions that are not universally supported by scholars of early Christianity: “None of the so-called canonical gospels was an eyewitness account of Jesus’ life. ... These are hardly contemporary accounts. In fact, the author of John was likely not even alive when Jesus lived.”
It is true that Irenaeus around A.D. 170 endorsed the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John over against the gnostic writings that had appeared by his time, but there is much earlier attestation for the New Testament canonical writings in the works of Clement of Rome (c. A.D. 96), Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110), Justin Martyr (c. 150), and Polycarp (c. 156), as well as in the Muratorian Canon (c. 160).
As a professor of church history who has taught early Christianity over the past three decades, I would point out that the key criterion for canonicity is whether a work is apostolic — that is, traceable to the earliest followers of Jesus. The evidence for the apostolicity of the four canonical gospels is abundant. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to make such a claim for the so-called gnostic gospels.
WILLIAM S. BARKER ’56
I think the student in the Oct. 25 From the Archives photo is Victor Morrison ’45, my roommate.
ROCK KING ’45
Editor’s note: John Hennessey ’45, another roommate, also identified the student in the photo as Morrison, who died in 2000.
It seems to me that you are, for the most part, covering those Princetonians who are involved in making war in Iraq. How about some articles on those of us who are actively opposing this war and feel that doing so truly expresses “Princeton in the nation’s service”?
ROBERT COWEN ’61
While we frequently are told that no one pays attention to magazine ratings of colleges, PAW readers may find interesting the following comment in a letter to the editor of Harvard Magazine (November-December 2006): “[Ex-Harvard president Larry] Summers accomplished something that even the genius Einstein couldn’t — he got Princeton rated better than Harvard!”
RICHARD H. EVANS ’55
“Rules of Engagement,” a feature in the Jan. 24 issue, incorrectly reported that President Tilghman was the first Princeton president to visit China. Then-president William G. Bowen *58 visited China in 1974 with 10 other college presidents, one of the first delegations to arrive after the Cultural Revolution. Harold T. Shapiro *64 also visited China in 1988 while serving as University president.
The Mapping Globalization Project, described in “The International Campus” in the Jan. 24 issue, has a new Web address: http://qed.princeton.edu/MG.
The Dec. 13 memorial for Gordon S. Mosher ’40 incorrectly identified him as Gordon R. Mosher and as a graduate of the Fieldstone School in Toronto. Mosher graduated from Fieldston School in Riverdale, N.Y., before coming to Princeton.
The June 9, 2004, memorial for William Podolak Jr. ’49 incorrectly listed his survivors: a daughter, Margaret Ann Podolak Secunda; a son, William P. Podolak; and three grandchildren, Zachary, Cassandra, and Lucas Secunda.