Responses to Reville

I think that many of the responses to Reville are good – I will publish them all.

First:
Madam, – My former colleague, the estimable William Reville, makes another of his occasional trips from the laboratory to the pulpit (Science Today, November 25th).

In attacking Richard Dawkins’s crusading atheism, Prof Reville claims that religion by and large, has been beneficial to humanity and enables people to live “decent and fulfilled lives”. Interestingly, this essentially utilitarian point is made by Machiavelli, who advises his Prince to recognise that religion is food for the masses and helps to keep them in line.

But Prof Reville does not take on Dawkins’s main argument that “the concept of God is man-made and that religion was invented as a comfort-blanket” – and it might be added, as a weapon of mass control.

Anyway, your admirable science columnist might be persuaded to tell us why he feels impelled every so often to make a (not very convincing) case for the faith of his fathers.

Perhaps it’s a case of is “treise dachas na oiliint”. – Yours, etc.,

Second:
Madam, – Thank God for Prof William Reville, who certainly speaks for me. While Richard Dawkins battles with the complexities of this life I am aware daily of the marvels of Creation and, as Patrick Kavanagh says, “Of the One and the Endless, the Mind that has baulked the profoundest of mortals”. – Yours, etc.,

Third:
Madam, – Prof William Reville warns that secular humanists “would be well advised to stop trying to reduce [ Christianity] to a position of no significance. . [ as] a greatly weakened Christianity could be replaced by some other form of religion hostile to social progress”.

Could this argument be summarised as: “Better the the devil you know. . .”? – Yours, etc.,

Fourth:
Madam, – I’m surprised at the shallowness of Dr William Reville’s challenge to the view that religion is an invented comfort-blanket (Science Today, November 25th).

Doesn’t he subscribe to this very notion in concluding feebly that “the majority of people need the solace of religion”. And how convincing is his proposition that “the average person’s need for religion remains and a greatly weakened Christianity could be replaced by some other form of religion hostile to social progress”? Is this not a classic case of advocating the devil you know?

In considering the main alternative to religion – secular humanism – and holding (with what authority?) that “some people, but I believe no more than a small minority, can live decent and fulfilled lives drawing on this (secular humanism) philosophy”, he then presents humanism negatively, describing it as an ethos where “we must work out our lives entirely reliant on our own resources”.

No, Dr Reville, it’s not a case of “must”; rather a case of our having the capacity and wherewithal so to do – with due regard for the dignity and rights of others. – Yours, etc.,

Fifth:
Madam, – It is good to see Dr William Reville, a man of science, take issue with Prof Richard Dawkins, who sees religion as the greatest evil afflicting humankind. Of course religion has been greatly abused in the past, is no doubt being abused at present and will be in the future. The same is true of science and technology and true also of all human activity.

Everything about our existence is enveloped in mystery. Indeed, we are all a mystery unto ourselves. But is it not true that our minds need mystery as our body needs food? Deprived of these essentials, both wither.The really great news is that God, reflecting his own essential nature, has provided us with an infinitude of mystery. That should warm the cockles of Prof Dawkins’s heart. – Yours, etc.,

Sixth:
Madam, – It is great to see William Reville once again face down the proud and arrogant atheism of Richard Dawkins (Science Today, November 25th); if anything, Prof Reville was too nice to him.

There has certainly been evolution, but belief in Darwin’s traditional theory of evolution where the entire creation developed by purely random changes at the genetic level, a doctrine so adhered to by Dawkins, requires more faith than believing that God is behind it all.

Dawkins’s god is time. . .everything in Dawkins’s eyes is possible, given only time. The mists of Time conjured up the first self-replicating particle, assembled the first cell, an incredibly complex thing in itself. For Dawkins Time allowed for order to come out of disorder, allowed absence of intelligence to beget intelligence, and chaos to produce a vast array of creatures oozing with evidence of incredible design. . . and there was of course no designer, no intelligence behind it all!

We have been beguiled by this unscientific thinking. It is time to call his bluff. The laws of chance working at the genetic level do not in fact allow for the evolution of the range of creatures in this creation within a mere three billion years. Or if they did, the odds are so long that it is an absolute miracle – back to God again!

So whichever way you look at it, we’re looking at a designer here. Revel in that, Prof Dawkins. – Yours, etc.,

Seventh:
A chara, – Surely, the whole point of a public debate is to convince others? But if the average person has a “need” for religion, as suggested by Dr William Reville, why does he bother proselytising?

If he thinks belief is innate (this ignores Christian teaching that God gave freedom not to believe) Dr Reville should chill out and enjoy his status as an a la carte Christian.

But before leaving the scene to the genetic code it would be a matter of interest to some of us if Dr Reville detailed his own religious beliefs. Which, if any, tenets or “fundamentals” – to use a pertinent phrase coined by early 20th century American Christians – does he subscribe to?

It would be especially interesting to know if, as his writings suggest, he agrees with everyone who believes in any god. If so, surely this brings him into conflict with Christianity which, though praised in his article, wears its monotheism as a badge of honour. – Is mise,

Ninth:
Madam, – Dr Michael Telford (November 30th) writes that Richard Dawkins adheres to the idea that “the entire creation developed by purely random changes at the genetic level” – and then argues against this on various grounds. Unfortunately, his argument fails at the first hurdle because Dawkins has never claimed that pure random chance shapes evolution but that natural selection, which is far from random, is the force that drives it. – Yours, etc.,

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