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Dear Pastor:

We have not met, yet I feel I know you well enough to call you friend. First of all, we grew up in the same faith. As a boy, I too answered the altar call; I went under the water. Although I no longer belong to that faith, I am confident that if we met and spoke privately of our deepest beliefs, it would be in a spirit of mutual respect and good will. I know we share many precepts of moral behavior. Perhaps it also matters that we are both Americans and, insofar as it might still affect civility and good manners, we are both Southerners.

—Edward O. Wilson, The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth (Norton)

Dear Tenured Professor:

We have not met, yet I feel I know you well enough to call you a friend. First of all, we both have studied science. As an undergraduate, I, too, took an introductory biology course; I passed, as I recall, with flying colors—though admittedly the final exam was multiple choice. I am confident that if we met and spoke privately of our views of Southern Baptists, it would be in a spirit of mutual respect and goodwill. I know that we have much in common; for we are both Americans and, insofar as it might affect the way we approach our countrymen from the hinterland, we both found our way from America's interior to the brick sidewalks of Cambridge.

I write simply because somehow a letter of yours to a Southern Baptist pastor found its way to an editor's inbox and was published. Perhaps you did not intend for me to read it. For there is a fundamental difference between us. I speak not of the fact that you are a self-described secular humanist, while I am a Christian—indeed, as you put it, a "strict interpreter of Christian Holy Scripture," though I have never heard a fellow ...

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Letter to a Tenured Professor
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September 2006

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