I am a former fundamentalist, evangelical, tongue talking, bible belt, holy roller! While I began educating myself in my late teens and quickly came to the stark conclusion that the belief I held so dear may in fact be complete rubbish, it was through reading your books, along with Sagan, Dennett and a smattering of others that I found the courage and vicarious camaraderie to actually openly speak my lack of faith. This letter isn’t about me though. It is about my daughter.
She has, since she was old enough to know what reading is, seen me surrounded by books on science. As she grew she took a natural interest in what I was interested in and I have had the joy of animated discussions on the mechanism of natural selection and the stunning nature and scale of the cosmos (topics about which I become as giddy as a little girl myself!) Not a month ago, she discovered the four or five part series of the Christmas lectures entitled “Growing Up in the Universe”. I was moved and my heart swelled with pride as I watched her face light up as she saw the mask turn and eat itself, as she learned of the Bombardier Beetle and its chemical warfare.
She watched the entire series, tripling up on the segments when she was out of school for inclement weather. She has begun reading Sagan’s “The Varieties of Scientific Experience” and an older Encyclopedia of Evolution.
I arrived home from work yesterday to launch into a pleasant discussion in which she talked about how she really understood how Lamarck could have got it wrong since he had no understanding of genetic inheritance. She has a couple converts in her class at school and they are exchanging books from my library since the school doesn’t have much on the topic.
My daughter may be the only ten year old (yes, ten years old!) in 500 miles who read a passage that talked about punctuated equilibrium and immediately attributed it to Stephen J Gould! I wish to thank you. Not for myself, but for helping my daughter to see the absolute wonder and joy in discovering the world around her. I live on the buckle of the bible belt and it seems like most of the people I see are completely stranded in a wasteland of superstition and ignorance. To see my daughter working to be a small part of the light of science, and in great part because of your work, means everything to me.