Science, facts and reason

 

Sir, – In his article on the importance of improving the public understanding of science (“Better grasp of science would be a social boon”, Opinion & Analysis, July 10th), Dr David Grimes describes the denial by Christian biblical literalists of the accuracy of science’s measurement of the age of the Earth (about five billion years). Dr Grimes points out that while this fundamentalist Christian view is common in America, it is relatively rare in Europe.

Biblical literalists are not the only people who look on science with a jaundiced eye. Postmodern analysis emanating from sociology, from feminism and from other sources is also very critical of science, denying that it provides objective knowledge of reality. Criticism of science from such secular sources is not uncommon in Europe and is more influential than any criticism coming from biblical literalists. – Yours, etc,

WILLIAM REVILLE,

Emeritus Professor

of Biochemistry,

University College Cork,

Western Road,

Cork.

Sir, – Marc C Nolan (July 15th) applauds the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre for providing a creationist explanation alongside a scientific evolutionary one.

On the basis of his reasoning, aeronautical manuals should advise against flying too close to the sun, mariners should beware of falling off the edge of the Earth and students of cellular pathology should study the imbalance of humours and suitable treatments such as bloodletting, emetics and purges.

Mr Nolan says “all people misleadingly believe in their own objectivity”. I agree we all have our prejudices and biases. I believe most of us realise this, and all of us, consciously or unconsciously, learn by challenging our prejudices. – Yours, etc,

PAT MURPHY,

Rathdown Park,

Greystones, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Rather than a creationist view of the Giant’s Causeway, I believe an exhibition of the legend of Fionn Mac Cumhaill would be equally enlightening and probably more appropriate. – Yours, etc,

MARY MONKS,

Avenue A,

Delta,

British Columbia,

Canada.

Sir — Mark C Nolan asserts that “all scientific facts are the result of human interpretation” and quotes Sir Francis Bacon as saying that “man always believes more readily that which he prefers”. Perhaps, but the point of scientific experimentation is that a hypothesis can be tested by many different scientists with different beliefs. In this way, a reliable truth emerges and it is for this reason that bridges rarely fall down and planes rarely fall out of the sky.

It’s worth noting that the great Irish scientist and philosopher Robert Boyle played a major role in the development of the scientific method; his pioneering contribution is celebrated annually at the Robert Boyle summer school in Lismore, Co Waterford. – Yours, etc,

CORMAC O’RAIFEARTAIGH,

Dunmore East,

Co Waterford.