Religion And Science

Sir, - After reading Anthony Sheridan's letter on religion and science (August 6th) I thought of Jonathan Swift's remark that…

Sir, - After reading Anthony Sheridan's letter on religion and science (August 6th) I thought of Jonathan Swift's remark that "we have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another"! I waited in vain for somebody familiar with current religious teaching and/or scientific thought to respond to Sheridan's criticism of Fintan Tallon's article (Opinion, July 27th) and, more precisely, his sneering attitude towards those who cherish religious faith: "Is Mr Tallon hoping that by mixing scientific words like cosmos, universe and arithmetic with religious words like faith and mysterious, the gullible will be impressed - that they will believe that is a scientific basis for the existence of God or the truth of religion?"

In the context of such an insulting remark, it is worth recalling J.B.S. Haldane's view that "the wise man regulates his conduct by the theories both of religion and science". Whether or not religion is in or out of fashion, it is worth recalling that great scientific minds - such as those of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein - never dismissed the existence of God. Indeed, Einstein's famous equation E=Mcs2], curiously enough, supports the biblical idea that something could be made of "no-thing"; and many of the ideas revolving around the general and special theories of relativity defy "common sense" even if they "mysteriously" proved to be correct!

Language, in any event, is not polarised in the manner Sheridan suggests. Einstein endeavoured "to sneak a look at God's cards" and Friedrich Durrenmatt once remarked that his friend "was prone to talk about God so often that I was led to suspect he was a closet theologian". In awe of the structure of the world, in so far as it allowed his inadequate senses to appreciate it, Einstein wrote that science lifted him from this "vale of tears" and hoped that the application of science would be "a blessing and not a curse to mankind"! Surely neither camp has a monopoly on the words to which Sheridan refers - nor, indeed, a monopoly on intelligence and social worth.

Religious faith, for those fortunate enough to possess it, has value quite independently of a changing Irish church; and this was the rationale behind Tallon's argument. I don't think that his article deserved to be abused just because of an over-elaborate eighth paragraph, even if he was courageously insensitive in suggesting that those without religious faith were "idiots living in a bedlam". - Is mise,


Dr Charles J. O'Sullivan, Department of History, University College Cork, Ireland.