Tuesday 19 November 2019

Both science and religion need to keep asking questions

A short break in the clouds gives a glimpse of the partial eclipse of the sun from the front square in Trinity College Dublin,
A short break in the clouds gives a glimpse of the partial eclipse of the sun from the front square in Trinity College Dublin,
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

The partial eclipse of the sun was an experience of awe and wonder for many. Religious reflection and scientific enquiry were for a brief spell no longer at odds with one another.

It is often assumed that religious believers fly in the face of modern science, suggesting that anyone with even a modicum of intelligence would bend their knee, not to a God, but to the world of science.

What is beyond dispute is the fact that some of the sharpest minds, at the leading edge of modern science, have religious beliefs whilst other, equally bright and successful scientists, do not. Clearly to believe or not to believe is not related to our grasp of scientific enquiry or scientific theories.

The atheist and the believer do not differ in the questions they ask, but in the nature of the grounds for reaching their sometimes conflicting conclusions as science and religion occupy mutually exclusive domains of human interest and enquiry.

Throughout history, science has suffered more at the hands of religion than religion at the hands of science. However, the gap between religious enquiry and science is just one instance of a more significant gap, namely, that between science and the humanities that triggered a vigorous debate in the 1960s initiated by scientist and novelist CP Snow. Clearly, there is not just one mode of human enquiry. The overarching requirement in all of them is not the provision of watertight proofs but the provision of reasons.

Intelligent, open-minded atheists have raised many of the right questions - questions that cannot be swept under the carpet. They have done more than most to awaken in us a keener awareness of the difficulties raised by becoming immersed in a dogmatic world of uncritical certainty.

Philip O'Neill

Oxford, England


Celebrating people with DS

I'm just writing to tell you about the wonderful book 'Here I Am' and the exhibition in Dublin Castle this week to celebrate all people with Down Syndrome.

Dan Murphy photographed 89 children from all over Ireland and each picture has a few words from their family.

The book aims to change people's perceptions about people with Down Syndrome. To look but not stare and to see the person not the syndrome. My son Jack (9) is on the severe-to-profound end of the Down Syndrome scale. The book costs €25 and is available from all good book stores. All proceeds are going to Down Syndrome Ireland. I was, however, disheartened to find that news of the book and the accompanying exhibition in Dublin Castle (which runs until March 30)didn't make it onto the TV/radio news.

Saturday March 21 was the third International World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) and a day for celebration. Next year, myself and other parents are hoping to organise a big party, maybe a picnic in the Phoenix Park or something. Maybe a few parties all over Ireland.

To mark WDSD odd socks were worn - a selfie of your socks was called a footsie. People could donate €2 to DSI by texting DSI to 50300 and putting their footsie #footsie4DSI on Facebook/Twitter.

We are all so lucky to have these extra special people in our lives.

Aisling McNiffe

Straffan, Co Kildare


Employers should pay up

When every employer organisation in the country is coming out and saying: "The time isn't right for wage increases", you have to wonder when will the time be right.

Business lobbies are much the same as the farmers representatives - always pleading the poor mouth; "We are living on less than the national minimum wage", "We haven't taken a pay increase for a number of years and our businesses are on a knife edge".

Every one of them is very quick to point out the "real terms" - in real terms the minimum wage here is higher than the EU average, in real terms the cost of living here is far less expensive than the EU average, and in real terms we enjoy one of the highest standard of living in Europe and indeed the minimum wage might be too high.

Yawn, yawn - they want nothing more than to maintain their profits at the expense of their employees.

Come on employers, loosen the purse strings. It's not rocket science, if people have more money in their pockets they're going to spend more and everyone's a winner.

Mike Burke

Sixmilebridge, Co Clare


An abuse survivor speaks

Tom Cronin's expression of "shock and horror by abuse survivors" (Irish Independent, March 23) directed towards the length of retention outlined in the proposed Government's legislation is not representative of all survivors.

My application to the redress board was subject to a confidential agreement that bound myself legally upon acceptance of the board's determination, to silence relating to the process and the award.

The Minister has no business interfering in a legal arrangement between parties, irrespective of so-called academic interest. She would be better chasing down the outstanding money owed to the State by the religious orders rather than introducing legislation with supposed safeguards.

I was assured of confidentiality from the outset by the process. By accepting the terms of the redress board - which included access to the education fund then in force - it was fully understood by my legal team that if I accepted the award under those conditions I was precluded from taking further court action.

Those were the terms under which I agreed, and my acceptance pursuant to that agreement means I now have a legitimate expectation that what was agreed, is agreed.

The Minister is subverting legally-binding agreements with applicants to the redress board with her legislation. Her so-called safeguards will not be worth a penny candle and are a sop to academic interests.

In the light of the minister's action I sincerely regret routing my complaint into the redress board. I should have had the issue determined in the High Court. Those files should be buried... full stop.

Name and address with editor


Archbishop needs to butt out

I find Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's call for a "conscience clause" for businesses to allow them to discriminate against gay couples wishing to engage their services, extremely offensive.

Gay couples are consenting adults that know exactly what they are doing and know that they want the same rights in our country as everyone else.

Not only is such a position the complete opposite of a Christian message, it has no place in a pluralist society such as ours.

The Catholic church should keep out of matters that don't concern them - people can have a conscience, business doesn't, but the people that operate them must feel free to do so as their consciences dictate, not what the Archbishop's conscience dictates.

Cathy Quinn

Inchicore, Dublin 8

Irish Independent

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