The search for truth

May 7, 2009

To take issue with Hugh McLachlan's personal insult and twisted logic (Letters, 30 April) would be to fall into the trap of being diverted from the original point at issue, namely that the hypothetical nature of religious belief is not a basis for a seat of higher education. In any case, it is difficult to imagine "sillier" assertions than that one can hold a belief, or believe a hypothesis, for which one does not know whether there can be evidence for it, or if there was, what form it might take. Indeed, such statements reinforce my implication that rationality is simply not compatible with such beliefs; people who are rational for much of the time suspend that rationality when questions of belief arise, as McLachlan seems to do. Perhaps my description of an improbable hypothesis was too charitable. An idea without evidence is better described as wishful thinking. It is in that sense that religion is incompatible with the real search for truth of the education process.

As to the accusation of my being condescending, I should emphasise that I have no wish to be condescending to people who need to believe in a deity in order to accept and "understand" the floods that destroy their meagre crops, or the earthquake that shatters their humble homes. I reserve my condescension for those who should behave more responsibly towards the young people in their charge than to brainwash them from about four years of age into believing arrant nonsense, and then to attempt to extend that deliberate dulling of childhood critical potential to the level of tertiary education.

Trevor Stone, University of Glasgow.

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