* In response to Philip O'Neill's letter ('Seeing God in the world around us', April 22), let me say that having had the pleasure of reading his letters on a regular basis, I am in no doubt as to the astuteness of his mind.
I couldn't agree more that "there is an unconditioned desire in all of us to ask questions" but a sense of awe at the mysteries of the universe is not unique to religious people.
However, I do not see much evidence for an all-powerful and good god of design.
I find it hard to believe that for tens of thousands of years innumerable homo sapiens lived, died and were killed – and for all that time an all-powerful and loving god sat by and did nothing, until 2,000 years ago.
I find it hard to believe in a god of "intelligent reflection and imagination" when we see young people die from cancer, when we see people suffer with mental illnesses like bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia, when we see our parents' personalities change with violent results due to Alzheimer's, when we see little babies suffer with nightmarish conditions like ichthyosis,when we know that more than 99pc of all species that have ever existed are extinct. Reliance on evidence and being open to possibilities that are at the edge of what is knowable are not mutually exclusive.
Atheists and agnostics are well capable of appreciating the beauty of the world around them and how lucky they are to have time with their family and friends. I would say that some I know arguably appreciate the time they have more because they believe that that is all they have.
Philip quotes Canon Sheehan of Doneraile as saying: "There is such soul and sensibility in nature that from henceforth I shall fear to cut a rose lest it bleed." Anyone who has seen nature documentaries knows that the case for a god with any similar sensibility is on extremely shaky ground.
The famous footage of the wolf and the bison from the 'Frozen Planet' shows how savage and brutal the natural world can be.
In response to Philip's quote, and in keeping with the theme of nature, I would like to quote David Attenborough who said: "My response is that when Creationists talk about God creating every individual species as a separate act, they always instance hummingbirds, or orchids, sunflowers and beautiful things. But I tend to think instead of a parasitic worm that is boring through the eye of a boy sitting on the bank of a river in West Africa, (a worm) that's going to make him blind.
"And (I ask them): 'Are you telling me that the God you believe in, who you also say is an all-merciful God, who cares for each one of us individually, are you saying that God created this worm that can live in no other way than in an innocent child's eyeball? Because that doesn't seem to me to coincide with a God who's full of mercy."
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16
DO THE MATHS
* Probably falling into the latter of the two categories "brave" or "foolish" man, I would nevertheless defend the main point Mr Quinn was trying, however clumsily, to make: that, by the early university years, we have already lost a considerable portion of the talent pool in the mathematical and engineering sciences in contrast to what is the situation in the biological sciences.
Having taught and led university departments throughout the US and Britain for more than 40 years, I can verify that it is almost impossible to get past the 25pc participation threshold of female students in modules/courses which rely on mathematical skills and reasoning.
The subjects are all the poorer for their absence and the diminished talent pool. So, instead of berating the hapless minister, it would be more encouraging to see folk debate and attempt to resolve the real issue he raises.
FOLLY OF OPTING OUT
* My many years of teaching English in secondary schools taught me the folly of allowing students to opt out of certain curriculum areas.
The law allowed parents to have their children opt out of sex education and every year I had the responsibility of organising this.
No matter how we tried, opting out was always a great source of embarrassment for the pupils concerned. I can assure Ruairi Quinn that his proposal for opting out of religious education will create major difficulties, most especially for children and their parents.
PAYING ON THE DRIP
* Rumour regarding water charges has it that we may have to pay €100 before we turn on a tap. By definition that means one cannot pay 'on the drip'.
* I am writing a book on Dublin's Theatre Royal and would like to contact any relatives or friends of entertainers who appeared at the Royal. Also, any readers who might have photographs, clippings, programmes or ticket stubs. Please send sae if required.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
* And so, they're off. Despite dire warnings of electrocution from the ESB regarding their totems, from the humblest independent to sitting councillors, they are putting their air-brushed selfies on public display.
Then the civic minded will take down their images and count the cost of either success or failure. The next big wind will wrest the remainder on to a ditch, fence or street before the end of June. By then the successful candidates will check out what's in it for them.
Let the games begin, let the poles brace themselves to be turned into totem poles. Hopefully none of the candidates get scorched like the dire ESB warnings.
* Video footage of teachers at ASTI conferences and similar should be deemed unsuitable for children and teenagers and not shown on television until after midnight. Perhaps a video game based on teachers' union conferences in general could be developed, with various levels of rudeness that can be achieved by experts.
SICK AS AN IPAD
* What's the difference between David Moyes and my iPad?
My iPad has a one-year warranty.
* What kind of idiotic Disneyland has this country become?
The sacking of some chap for being in charge of an incompetent, overpaid bunch of youths, kicking a pig's bladder about a stretch of grass is dominating the news.
And it's not even an Irish bunch.