Share Button

Not so fit, atypical educators, Fontaine remembered.

Evolution Requires More Faith Than, Well, Faith

After reading the pages of the Gazette dedicated to evolution [“Fit Enough,” May|June, on an exhibit at the Penn Museum titled Surviving: The Body of Evidence] readers should have concluded a true lack of evidence surrounding macro evolutionary theory. The author states that the issue of evolution vs. creationism “is not about belief.” Truly, it is entirely about belief. You need more faith to believe in evolution than creation.

Macroevolution is a religion unto itself. Simply wave the magic wand of billions of years over the primordial soup, and practically anything becomes possible. The problem is the lack of real evidence in the fossil record. All the innovative, interactive exhibits combined can’t produce one “fish with legs” fossil, let alone the thousands of other “missing links.”

Run, Sasquatch, run!

John Shirk C’83 Ocean City, NJ

Call it Creationism

Concerning the use of the term intelligent design in the article, “Fit Enough,” I would prefer either creationism or fundamentalist creationism as being more representative of what is. From molecular biology to biochemistry to astrophysics, the design is so intelligent that the best and brightest have taken most of humanity’s existence to decipher it to the point where we are, and the end is not in sight. For something like this to be brought into being would indeed require intelligent design.

Marie J. Hall G’70 Philadelphia

A Young Earth Makes More Sense

After reading the description for Surviving: The Body of Evidence, I was as puzzled as ever by what evolutionists call “proof” and “scientific evidence.”

In the section on “Our Place in the Natural World” our interconnectedness with all other mammalian creatures is pointed out as if that is iron-clad “proof” that we are descended from one of these furry ancestors. Why is it not just as compelling proof that the same designer, with minor variations, designed all mammals as the designer saw fit for the purposes that creature was created to fulfill?  Not to mention the fact that there is a written record to support the creation theory!

As a student of Dr. Loren Eiseley, I at one time accepted the billions of years required to hope that evolution might have a chance of working. Then I began reading books about the mathematical probability of evolution ever working (molecule-to-man evolution). It just won’t work, no matter how old you make the earth.

A young earth makes so much more sense. We still have fresh water and salt water, not a solid mass of salt where the ocean used to be. We still have some fairly sharp high mountains and beautiful islands. If we were 4.5 billion years old, all these features would have eroded away long ago.  We still have comets and the sun has not yet died.

Having once been an evolutionist and now being a creationist, I can testify that the second position is much more congruent with the world around me now as well as with understanding how the world came to be the way it is now. As King Solomon once said, “Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open to knowledge.”

Florence Beckett Leighty CW’57 West Chester, OH

Caesareans Part of God’s Plan

Judging from his statement, “If we were created in God’s image, then God clearly hasn’t had a Caesarean section,” Alan Mann [co-curator of Surviving] apparently believes that this is evidence for evolution and against creation. But he seems to have overlooked the Bible’s teaching about the fall of humans and the resultant curse: “In pain you shall bring forth children.” (Gen. 3:16).

Paul G. Humber C’64 GEd’65 Philadelphia

Why Not Wider Hips?

In the very interesting article, “Fit Enough,” you write of “evolutionary complex and imperfection” concerns regarding, among other things, pelvises. In dealing with our evolution as two-legged walkers, the article says, “our hips could only get so wide before compromising the angle between hip and knee that makes walking on two legs possible.”

I can see no reason why the—more or less—vertical legs could not move laterally along with wider and wider hips, without angles changing. The authors may have thought feet had to stay some fixed distance apart to navigate narrow trails and thus to make the angle vary as pelvises widen. In an otherwise excellent article, that part seemed to lack engineering cohesion.

Robert G. Loewy Gr’62 Atlanta

Duck Lady Quacked in Center City, Too

Carl Hoffman, in “The Duck Lady, the Professor, and the Vent Man” [“Alumni Voices,” May|June], underestimated the breadth of the Duck Lady’s celebrity.  She was also well noticed in Center City in the ’70s. She regularly paced the sidewalk, quacking away, outside of the Fidelity Building at 123 South Broad Street. Because of her deep tan and her frequent weeks-long absences from her post, and despite her otherwise unkempt appearance, it was speculated that she may have been an eccentric scion of an old Philadelphia family who spent most of her time at her Palm Beach residence, returning to Philadelphia only when she needed to confer with the trustees of the family trust.

David A. Franklin L’63 Philadelphia

The Next One to Give a Hand

As I picked up my May|June Gazette and began flipping through the pages, I came across the article by Carl Hoffman and abruptly stopped. Hoffman writes, “It’s funny what you remember about a place a long time after you have left it.” Funny indeed!

I can honestly say that I hadn’t thought about these three fixtures of Penn’s campus—The Duck Lady, The Professor, and The Vent Man—since I left Penn in 1980. However, my eyes were riveted to the title as soon as I’d read it. In an instant, I recalled all of these people and how unique and quirky they were. Hoffman has an uncanny gift for observation and his descriptions brought me back to Penn. I could immediately envision each one.

I was not as fortunate as Hoffman in that I never had the kind of encounter he described with the Vent Man or had the opportunity to learn anything about the Duck Lady’s past life. And I’m ashamed to say that I might have been one of those students he observed laughing and making jokes at their expense. Thankfully, I’ve developed more empathy since then.

Reading Hoffman’s piece made me wish I could actually travel back to those times on campus, but with today’s understanding. Who knows? Maybe I could be the next one to give a hand, or a cup of coffee, instead of ridiculing or looking the other way.

Jackie Booth CHE’80 Hamilton, NJ

Vent Man’s Final Resting Place

I’d like to add a coda to Carl Hoffman’s remembrance of “three atypical educators,” particularly concerning Stanley Biddle, Jr., who was known as Vent Man.

After learning of Stanley’s death in late January 1983 and hearing that his body was unclaimed, a group of Penn staff members and faculty came together to see how we might respond. We held a memorial gathering for Stanley at the Christian Association, raised funds for cremation, and with the help of the Rev. John Scott we arranged burial in the St. Mary’s Church plot in Woodland Cemetery.

A few days prior to internment, our plan was mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, and later that day a phone call came from Stanley’s stepmother, who reported that the family’s contact with him had been lost decades before. After research by the Medical Examiner confirmed their relationship, Stanley’s remains were turned over to his family, and he was interred in a family plot next to his father. The funds raised by the Penn community were sent to St. John’s Hospice for use on behalf of those of our brothers and sisters who, like Stanley, live their lives at the edges of society.

Gary Clinton, dean of students Law School

Fontaine Remembered, Fondly

While reading through the Gazette, I was shocked to recognize the face of Dr. William Fontaine [“Gazetteer,” May|June].

I was privileged to be in Dr. Fontaine’s class in 1961. I don’t remember the course title, but do remember that it was an evening class following about eight hours of coursework in the School of Nursing. Dr. Fontaine was an extraordinary teacher who managed to keep me engaged and interested in philosophy despite my fatigue.

He was a fine gentleman with a serious demeanor who shared his love of this highly intellectual discipline in a way that encouraged us to think—no mean accomplishment under the circumstances!

I was unaware of the existence of the Fontaine Society and its focus, and am very pleased that his legacy has been preserved in such an appropriate way.

Debbie Director Liebman Nu’63 Elkins Park, PA

Impressive Intellect and Knowledge

Your article on the Fontaine Society reminded me of an incident that happened in the late 1950s at a student-sponsored event at which Dr. Fontaine challenged the presenters in a manner that impressed us students with his intellect and knowledge.

I took photos at the time, and my notes say only “Wang-Bernstein debate,” but my recollection is that the topic was race—a dangerous subject, I suppose, in light of the police officers present in the photos.

We had no idea who Dr. Fontaine was. He had been sitting in the audience. As I recall, we assumed (in light of racial conditions in higher education at the time) that he was African-born and educated, rather than American. The event was broadcast by WXPN, to judge by the signs in the background of some of the pictures.

Vita Pariente CW’59 College Station, TX

Consider Her Unimpressed

In all the years that I have been reading and enjoying The Pennsylvania Gazette, I don’t remember ever being so disgusted at an entry in the “Alumni Notes” section of the magazine as I was at the one by Bruce Gimelson C’64 in the May/June issue.

To accord Mr. Gimelson almost an entire column so that he can boast about his acquisitions demeans the purpose of “Alumni Notes,” in my humble opinion.

Mireille Lellouche Key CW’62 Boulder, CO

Look For Wisdom Elsewhere

In arguing for a faith-based compassion, Kenneth Rumbarger notes that we cannot maintain a faith in man in the wake of the atrocities of the 20th and 21st centuries [“Letters,” May|June]. But Mr. Rumbarger wrongly assumes that religion and faith played no part in these atrocities. Obviously, it is easy to find numerous faith-based atrocities down through the ages right up to the present. Conversely, it is difficult to find an atrocity not linked to religion.

Citing Ben Franklin simply puts an ad hominem period to Mr. Rumbarger’s argument. If we know how bad off the world is with “the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth,” then we know, not that the world would be worse without them, but that these faith-based teachings do not work. We must look for wisdom elsewhere.

Don Z. Block Gr’78 Philadelphia

Excellent Use for Morgan Building

I read with great interest the article about the conversion of the Morgan Building basement into a printing shop [“Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr]. It brought back many memories of the years (1958-62, student; 1964-67, faculty) that I was a denizen of that building when it housed the School of Nursing. I think this is an excellent use of what once held the library and clinical laboratory for the bachelor of nursing program for many years.

Joan E. Bowers Nu’62 GNu’62 Seattle

Aid Race is a Winner

Plaudits to the University for its decision to broaden unfettered, burden-free aid to incoming students [“Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr]. Loan-free financial aid is somewhat akin to “interest-free” loans that we find at our local automobile dealers and many other retailers. Inevitably this new policy should encourage a much more diverse assortment of applicants.

Jay S. Fichtner L’51 Dallas


In our May|June issue, the article, “Separate and Unequal, Still?” [“Gazetteer”] incorrectly stated that Bill Clinton was the nation’s 41st president; he was 42nd. And in the feature article, “The Guru of Woo,” we incorrectly stated that Mario Moussa had taught in the Executive Negotiation Workshops at Wharton, and failed to note that Stuart Diamond, Practice Professor of Legal Studies, is co-director of that program.

Also, the Jan|Feb sports column on the women’s soccer team credited sophomore Mara Fintzi with an overtime goal that defeated Princeton 1-0; in fact, freshman Kristin Kaiser scored the goal.

Share Button

    Leave a Reply