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Science and God and FF is simply not a good combination



Date Published: {J}

Oh God, Fianna Fáil and Creationism. The perfect shitstorm. Let’s get one thing straight. The theory of evolution is not a sort of religious dogma held by atheists. It’s an attempt to explain why some things in nature are the way they are. The only reason it’s scientific ‘orthodoxy’ is that no one has come up with a better explanation yet.

Some people want us to believe that there’s controversy about it, that it makes outlandish claims. That’s the opposite of the truth. Darwin’s idea is one of those simple strokes of genius that seem almost obvious in retrospect.

Any animal breeder can tell you that new traits arise in living things and that these changes can be passed on to the next generation. His insight was that this process occurred in nature too and, if the world really was as old as geologists were then beginning to think, that tiny changes accumulating over millions of years might explain the incredible variety of life on Earth.

Was he right? All we have learned in the century or so since has backed him up. For example he was the first to admit that he couldn’t explain how those changes were passed on. Since the discovery of DNA, we can.

This is not to say that the theory is perfect or that it answers every question. Science doesn’t work that way. There are still controversies among biologists, over everything from tiny details to major aspects. Exactly how life began, for example, remains an important question.

But “is evolution completely wrong?” does not. Just about the only people who want to debate that come from outside science – and bring an axe to grind.

They always say they find it hard to believe that a blind, random process can be responsible for the vast complexity of nature. That’s fair enough; I find it hard to believe anyone still votes for Fianna Fáil. Many true things are hard to believe. But it’s the best explanation we have of the evidence. These people don’t have a better explanation, they just desperately want to reject evolution.

It’s religion of course. Some of them deny it; the minister’s friend says that he is not religious but “spiritual” – a distinction without a difference, I suspect. The American right claim, quite disingenuously, that they don’t want schools to teach that God created everything, just that it was done by some “intelligent designer” whose name they couldn’t even begin to guess.

Why do they always pick on evolutionary biology? Sure, it disagrees with the description of creation in the Bible. But then so do history, archaeology, palaeontology, geology, astronomy, physics, anthropology, hydrology, meteorology, chemistry, geography and maths.

Perhaps they just haven’t got round to those yet. More likely, it’s simply because the theory of evolution sounds a bit like a creation story. In spite – or perhaps because – of the fact that science has nothing to say one way or the other about the existence of God, they cannot help but understand it as an alternative “godless” Genesis. If they can prove this idol to be false, they believe, all those agnostics and sceptics and atheists will go back to worshipping the one true God again.

Yes, they are a bit mad.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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