Ireland has only two Nobel Laureates in Science – Ernest Walton and William C Campbell. I am working on a longer post on my perception that there was much more coverage of Walton than Campbell in the Irish media. That is leading me down various interesting byways on Irish science journalism and (as I will post shortly) a rather sad discovery.
For the moment back to Ireland’s science Nobel winners. Both are linked by Trinity College Dublin, and – in different ways – religious faith.
Raised as a Methodist, Walton has been described as someone who was strongly committed to the Christian faith. He even gave lectures about the relationship of science and religion in several countries after he won the Nobel Prize, and he encouraged the progress of science as a way to know more about God:
“One way to learn the mind of the Creator is to study His creation. We must pay God the compliment of studying His work of art and this should apply to all realms of human thought. A refusal to use our intelligence honestly is an act of contempt for Him who gave us that intelligence”
— V. J. McBrierty (2003): Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton, The Irish Scientist, 1903-1995, Trinity College Dublin Press.)
“I believe in God. I pray every single night of my life, but I have a very complicated sense of religion, and I am pretty fuzzy in that segment of my life.
“My faith, and that of millions of others, has evolved, if that is the right word, as civilisation has evolved. Evolved but not been abandoned. Religion and science can coexist. At least, that had better be true. There are certain intangibles.
“I know about these militant atheists, and I think they make very good arguments, but there is a certain level at which argumentation doesn’t come into it. Believing in something that you know exists isn’t a matter of faith; it doesn’t require faith.
“Gabriel Rossetti, the English poet, felt sorry for atheists because they didn’t have anybody to feel grateful to. That always stuck with me, because we have so much to be grateful for. I believe, and I believe in prayer.
One shouldn’t make too much of this, perhaps, but it is interesting. On the sister