In a recent column, Brian Hicks once again attacked "religious fundamentalists" while extolling scientists who, according to Hicks, all agree with Darwin's theory of evolution. They don't, of course.

He ridicules the very idea that students might gain from debating arguments for and against Darwinism. In this, he demonstrates a woeful misunderstanding of the value of such intellectual pursuits used successfully by Plato and Socrates and countless educators throughout the past several millennia.

I have an engineering and scientific background and am a full member of Sigma Xi, the honorary fraternity of research scientists and engineers. I also commanded a nuclear submarine for four years. Today I am an Anglican priest. So I believe I can speak with some authority on both scientific and religious matters.

It is clear to me that there is nowhere near the disconnect that rigid bigots on both sides of Darwin's theory display. In fact, there is much more compatibility between science and religion that someone like Hicks apparently understands.

Scientists have been wrong in the past, and the most eminent always seek new answers to age-old questions. The scientific community long agreed that neither matter nor energy could be created or destroyed. Then, about 100 years ago, Einstein postulated that there was an inherent relationship between the two, and that matter can be converted to energy and energy can be converted into matter, through the mathematical relationship e=mc (squared).

The fact that matter can be converted to energy led directly to the development of nuclear energy, and the fact that energy can be converted to matter was a principal concept leading to the "Big Bang" theory.

Religionists have also been wrong in the past. One famous example: The church fought Galileo after he began teaching that the planet Earth revolved around the sun, rather than the reverse. And, of course, Galileo's observations today are universally accepted.

We as a people would be best served, and our children best educated, if we debated these matters in a fair and reasonable manner. Let me recommend two books for skeptics: "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel, a former atheist and Yale-trained lawyer who examines the legal evidence for Christianity's beliefs, and "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis, another former non-believer who taught at both Oxford and Cambridge universities, and who became convicted by his intellectual pursuits of the truth.

Those who wish to suppress debate, in our schools and elsewhere ought to be resisted with all the strength we possess. Suppression of debate leads inexorably to government takeover, to fascism. Rather, I say, "Let the debate begin, and may the real truth be revealed."

The Rev. Charles D. Pollak

Captain, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Cromwell Lane