Letters to the Editor: Jan. 11, 2012

Are We Robots or Humans?

Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga (“Brain Wars,” Jan. 4) conceives of human beings as chemically determined robots with no will of their own. Were scientists required to take one or two years of epistemology, they would distinguish between science and what they as scientists believe.

Our knowledge of what we take for the material world is indirect and mediated (by the five senses). Within this manifestly partial, and therefore delusive, representation of what is real, neither the conscious mind nor the volitional self appears. Can we rightly infer that the volitional self does not exist? Or is it possible that the colorful representation all around us is not everything?

Our knowledge of ourselves and of our own minds is direct and immediate. Those of us who possess souls, volition, goodness and love directly observe ourselves being, doing, sharing and giving. Those who would claim they are bags of chemicals—robots—should speak for themselves.

Santa Cruz

We Miss Yardbirds, Too

Have you noticed how things change and we don’t notice them these days? 9-11 has precipitated so many national security measures that Americans can no longer move freely in our daily lives without being monitored and scrutinized. I have noticed our personal security and our right to the control of our personal image and identity eroding in the name of “security” or “corporate information.”

The issue I want to bring to your attention is the video cameras and monitors in some of our national chain stores, especially home improvement national retailer Home Depot on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa. I find this store to be bristling on every aisle and checkout with these image-skimming devices. It wasn’t enough to have closed circuit cameras in little black pods suspended from the ceilings watching our movement and buying habits; now the technology is in your face.

I believe this tactic to be very Orwellian and an affront to my personal security of identity and image of self. Do we really have freedom (to choose) other than “paper or plastic” or “window or aisle seat”?


SMART: Cities Will Benefit

What can nearly 100 years of past rail service teach 21st-century Sonoma and Marin? That people love the experience and convenience of trains. For 94 years, there was regular passenger rail service in the North Bay. At one time, Santa Rosa was served by over 40 passenger trains a day at its three passenger stations. The vast majority of intercity travel was by train. Indeed, as a girl I took the train from Santa Rosa to points south. Today, we face frustration on the congested 101 corridor. Fortunately, relief is at hand. The plan is both old and cutting edge: SMART trains will roll next to a pedestrian/bike pathway.

Rail is transformative. The coming of the railroad changed the orientation of Santa Rosa. Before, Santa Rosa’s business community was along present Santa Rosa Avenue. With the railroad depot a half-mile from town, the town grew to the site, making Fourth Street the main thoroughfare. Businesses and industries located around the depot, which became the social center of town. Think of hotels, restaurants, a brewery and a tannery clustered near the depot. Imagine the excitement when Edison and Ford arrived at the Santa Rosa depot by railroad! SMART will bring that same transformative energy to our towns and will concentrate future growth into walkable communities.

Once again, rail will be an economic driver, bringing jobs and connecting communities.


Ah, the Scent of Mayonnaise

I’m all for homemade cleaning products (“Like Vinegar for Glass,” Jan. 4), but have you ever tried them? The problem with vinegar—which is a wonder cleaner, no doubt—is that your house ends up smelling like a jar of mayonnaise. I tried mixing it with lemon, but it still smells like vinegar. Blech.

Santa Rosa