Emeritus Faculty Association newsletter #103, November 2004

Next Meeting:
10:30 a.m., Friday, December 3, Javits Seminar Room, Melville Library E2340. After a social half-hour with coffee, fruit, and pastries, courtesy of the Provost's office, Distinguished Professor Emeritus Robert Sokal of the Department of Ecology and Evolution will talk on "Surviving in China during World War II," recounting his first–hand observations on life in the Jewish refugee haven of Shanghai. (We hope to arrange a viewing in the near future of Port of Last Resort, a video on this subject made some years ago. In addition, a more recent film of the Shanghai ghetto will be released on video or dvd the end of November. Those interested can see a preview at www.shanghaighetto.com. Bring a brown bag to continue the conversation over lunch.

Professor Sokal is a native of Austria where he received his early education. He continued his high school and undergraduate education in Shanghai, China, obtaining a bachelor degree in biology at St. John's University. After earning a PhD in zoology at the University of Chicago, he taught at the University of Kansas for eighteen years before joining the new Department of Ecology and Evolution at SBU in 1968. Professor Sokal is best known as co-founder of numerical taxonomy, a method of grouping biological organisms by computer, which paved the way to the current computer techniques of estimating the evolutionary pathways of organisms from their DNA.In recent years, he has pioneered development of spatial methods to analyze the distributions of organisms and their genes, addressing such diverse problems as the origins of anatomically modern humans and European agriculture, and cancer rates on that continent. Among other honors, he has been elected president of four international scientific societies.

Last Meeting:

In Memoriam:
Homer Goldberg read an excerpt from the Oct 30th New York Times obituary of Billy Jim Layton. In 1966 Layton became the first chairman of the Stony Brook music department and the Times credited him with establishing it as "a dynamic presence on the music scene, bringing in important composers and performers in a tradition that remains alive today."

There will be a memorial service for Stewart Harris in the Wang Center Chapel on Wednesday December 1st during campus lifetime hours (12.30 - 2.30 pm).

Introduced by Howard Scarrow, Professor of Political Science, Helmut Norpoth presented his analysis of the results of the November presidential election. Having spent election day and night at the offices of the New York Times assisting reporters interpreting the exit polls, Helmut offered his own interpretation of the election result. First he noted that not since 1944 had a war-time president won re-election. Truman (Korea) and Johnson (Vietnam) failed to run for re-election, while the first President Bush (Iraq) was defeated in his re-election bid. Second, Helmut stressed that John Kerry was by far the strongest candidate Democrats could have run. As a war hero and a creditable war critic, Kerry came within two percentage points of matching Kennedy's 1960 vote. With overhead slides, Helmut then identified the exit poll responses (13,000) that he believes best explain Bush' svictory. 51% approved going to war in Iraq; 55% believed there is a link between Iraq and terrorism; and 54% believed they are safer today than four years ago. Those beliefs apparently outweighed the judgment (52%) that the war in Iraq was not going well. Adding to the pro-Bush election result was the fact that for the first time in memory the number of voters who claimed to be Republicans was the same as the number who claimed to be Democrats. In previous presidential elections, Democrats far outnumbered Republicans. Most party supporters remained loyal to their candidate: 93% of Republicans voted for Bush, 89% of Democrats voted for Kerry.

Other observations:
∑ Of those voting for the first time (11%), most voted for Kerry.
∑ Of those who made up their minds a month or more before the election (78%), Bush was favored, while those who made up their mind within the last month favored Kerry.
∑ Unlike in most previous elections, the “winner” of the three debates was not elected.
∑ Unlike the 1960 election, when 80% of Catholics voted for Kennedy, only 47% voted for Kerry.
∑ It is not clear what respondents meant when 22% chose the option "moral values" as their most important issue. We must wait for clarification from the University of Michigan's post-election study, in which respondents are asked to state in their own words their most important issue.
∑ Similarly, we must not overstate the ideological division of the electorate: given the option of classifying themselves as conservative, liberal, or moderate, 48% chose moderate, 31% chose conservative, and 21% chose liberal. (Professor Norpoth's presentation was reported at length in the November 11th Three Village Times Herald, perhaps a first for an emeritus meeting.)

Keeping in Touch:
Although Dick Kieburtz (nkieburtz@comcast.net) had a very impressive symposium in Portland's World Forestry Center (http://www.cse.ori.edu/S3) to honor him on his official retirement from the Oregon Graduate Institute on December 5, 2003, he will admit only to being in "semi-retirement." He will be back in Stony Brook this coming May for the 35th anniversary of our own Computer Science Department.

Website(s) of the month
If you are frustrated with the schism between Godly America and Worldly America (with due respects to Simon Schama), then maybe these maps will make you feel a little better: