Science and religion
Sir, – The Rev Patrick G Burke (September 23rd), commenting on Donald Clarke’s article (September 20th) on the place of science in general culture, asked whether The Irish Times had made “a sly nod towards the notion that for some science has taken the place of faith?” His doubt was prompted by the Clarke article being published under the heading “Religion and Belief”.
Science has been taking the place of faith for many people for thousands of years from Cicero to Galileo, Kant, Darwin and Einstein. Science is now for many people the best source of reliable knowledge about the natural world. This knowledge about our beautiful world and cosmos, however puzzling and incomplete, provides them with a more secure basis for understanding life in this world, the only life we know, than the “myths and dogmas of traditional religions”. Science, especially after Darwin, has been one of the main sources of confidence and inspiration for humanists, who believe that we have derived good ethical principles “guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience” without any reliance on supernatural advice.
About 100,000 people will attend weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies led by humanist celebrants in 2014. A humanist participated in the inauguration ceremony of President Michael D Higgins, at his invitation. In a few years more weddings will be celebrated outside than inside a church, synagogue or mosque. More than a quarter of a million people reported that they were agnostic, atheist or had no religion in the 2011 census, a fourfold increase on 1991.
Rev Burke and some of your readers might like to find out more about humanism by attending the 21st anniversary conference of the Humanist Association of Ireland in Galway from October 11th to 12th. – Yours, etc,
Prof DAVID McCONNELL,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.