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True point lost in semantics

Letter to the Editor | Monday, December 4, 2006

I am writing regarding Alex Renfro’s Letter to the Editor (“Stating the obvious?” Nov. 29) and Ryan Bravo’s letter (“An attempt at resolution,” Dec. 1) I write because of how discouraged I am that these individuals, who are presumably representative of others who agree with them, found it necessary to comment on Dan Amiri’s assertion, in his well-written exhortation to the Catholic practice of chastity, that “we are not animals.”

We are mammals, which are a class of vertebrates, which are a phylum of animals. I congratulate those who have mastered the science of logic to such degree as to grasp the consequent implication. However, it also takes a “severe disconnect from reality” to think that Amiri’s statement of the obvious – that we, unlike dogs, cats and birds, are capable of freely choosing how we act – somehow undermines his argument.

The issue of contraception is one that does gravely need to be discussed, especially with respect for the Catholic understanding of the matter – one that is characteristically and wrongly dismissed, in the words of Joey Falco, as “putting on Bible Blinders” (“Disloyal fathers,” Nov. 20). Though I disagree with Falco, I applaud both he and Amiri for taking the time to share their views; I am one who hopes that respectful and honest discussion ultimately leads to the truth. That issue aside, the debate about whether we can say “we are not animals” is an outrageous distraction from a subject of actual consequence.

Indeed, the condescension implied in Renfro’s and Bravo’s comments is insulting. It suggests that people with intelligence could not possibly hold the view that human beings are different in significant ways from the rest of the animal kingdom. Bravo’s comments resolved nothing; they merely reduced the level of dialogue to name-calling. To pull out a dictionary in this context indicates a severely hyper-inflated ego, as does introducing a letter with “I can’t believe I’m writing this letter.” Perhaps, then, it should not have been written.

Both Renfro and Bravo knew exactly what was meant by Amiri’s statement, and their subsequent need to patronize the rest of us with their “enlightened” views on what it means to be human is, in short, disheartening.

James Weicher


Siegfried Hall

Dec. 3