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The Daily Telegraph Letters

10 June 2005

Allow strong condemnation of wicked beliefs
Form-filling and extra costs add to village hall burdens
Can humans combat climate change?
Guilty of organ retention
Tackling crime
Depressed by Coldplay
A possible virtue
Singing strange tongues
Best friend
Toes exposed

Allow strong condemnation of wicked beliefs

Sir - The case of the eight-year-old abused because of a belief that she was possessed by demons shows what is wrong with the Bill to outlaw stirring up of religious hatred.

Ordinary Christians (as well as those who have no faith) will feel horror that such evils can exist in our midst, and worse still that their Scriptures have been interpreted to justify this mistreatment. But strong condemnation of those who believe that such punishment is sanctioned by their religion would have to be muffled under the new law, because it could turn horror into hatred.

It is wrong for special protection to be given to those with such beliefs simply because they have a "faith".

The Government should drop its proposal, and bring forward a law which lays down the same standards of public behaviour for everyone, protecting them from hatred on grounds of their religion, sexual orientation or any other characteristic, and providing clear defences for all based on the right to free speech.

Rev Richard Kirker, General Secretary, Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, London E2

Sir - This Bill seeks to protect man-made belief systems which are not an intrinsic part of the make-up of humanity. But any person must be allowed to criticise a belief system. Physical threat against believers is already covered by laws. This Bill signifies the arrival of the thought police.

Niall J. G. Garvie, Bromley, Kent

Sir - When we visit Saudi Arabia we leave alcohol behind. Yet with visitors to this country, we fall over backwards to change our habits. Now we hear the cross is to be removed from a crematorium lest it upset people of other faiths. This attitude does more to create racism than any other.

Mrs Marion Phillips, Verwood, Dorset

Sir - At no time has Leicester NHS Trust considered banning Bibles from our wards. However, discussions have taken place between the trust and Gideons International following its request to re-stock Bibles at the Leicester General Hospital (News, June 3). Gideon Bibles will remain in patient lockers. Information will also be placed in lockers advising patients that other religious texts are available. We remain committed to the spiritual and religious care of all patients.

Philip Hammersley, Chairman, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust
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Form-filling and extra costs add to village hall burdens

Sir - I was part of an organisation that regularly took part in discussions with the Government over the proposed new Licensing Act (Letters, June 7).

Among our many concerns was that there would be a substantial increase in the level of bureaucracy coupled with a prohibitive increase in costs to the licensee.

These would affect not only our public houses but also other types of small operation such as village halls.

We were consistently advised that our fears were totally groundless; that there might be a small increase in costs and that any additional paperwork would be kept to a minimum. The new proposed costs will be prohibitive to most small operators and the form-filling will add yet further burden to an industry that already tolerates exceptionally long hours.

J. O'Riordan, Ex-Chairman, The Guild of Master Victuallers, Polegate, East Sussex

Sir - David Pound has more to worry about than licensing charges (Letters, June 8). His rector is clearly supplying drink on a regular basis and as such is a food business within the definition of EC Regulation No 178/2002.

If, since January this year, he has failed to keep a record of all suppliers of Communion bread and wine he is liable to imprisonment for a term of two years or a fine of up to £2,000. These records must be kept for six years.

If he dares to hold a harvest festival he must keep a record of all donations, with details sufficient to identify each food item.

Walter J. Mellors, Middridge, Durham
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Can humans combat climate change?

Sir - As someone whom the philosopher David Hume would have called a "mitigated", or moderate, sceptic, I am concerned about Tony Blair's G8 tinkering with climate (News, June 8).

In Britain, global warming is a faith. Here the science is legitimised by the myth. This is something that even our august Royal Society has failed to grasp. Too many of us believe we are making an independent scientific assessment, when, in reality, we have subsumed Hume-scepticism to the demands of faith.

The sceptic has to distinguish global warming from climate change.

Climate change has to be broken down into three questions: "Is climate changing and in what direction?" "Are humans influencing climate change, and to what degree?" And: "Are humans able to manage climate change predictably by adjusting one or two factors out of the thousands involved?"

The most fundamental question is: "Can humans manipulate climate predictably?" Or, more scientifically: "Will cutting carbon dioxide emissions at the margin produce a linear, predictable change in climate?" The answer is "No".

In so complex a coupled, non-linear, chaotic system as climate, not doing something at the margins is as unpredictable as doing something.

This is the cautious science; the rest is dogma.

And what "better" climate will Mr Blair produce? Doing something might lead to worse. Moreover, consensus is not science. Consensus would have entrenched eugenics.

At present, this basic question has been lost in the clamour "to do something at all costs" and to damn those who doubt we can.

Prof Philip Stott, Emeritus Professor of Biogeography, University of London, Gravesend, Kent
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Guilty of organ retention

Sir - I have considerable sympathy for Prof Dick van Velzen, the pathologist at the centre of the so-called Alder Hey organs scandal (News, June 7), who has sensibly decided not to attend a disciplinary hearing of the General Medical Council.

If, as I understand it, the main charge was the retention of organs following post-mortem examinations without the informed consent of the relatives, he is accused of simply doing what I and many pathologists in the UK and elsewhere had been doing. There were many reasons for retaining organs. It is, for example, impossible to carry out a proper examination of the brain without it being fixed in formaldehyde for several weeks. I, for one, also on occasion retained the hearts of infants with congenital heart disease, some of which ended up in the hospital museum, as might other organs from adult patients which might later be used to teach medical students pathology.

If the GMC finds Prof van Velzen guilty of serious professional misconduct I and many other colleagues have been guilty of the same offence.

J.B. MacGillivray, Dundee
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Tackling crime

Sir - It is very heartening to find so many of the Conservative Party's brightest new talents arguing for a radical transfer of power away from central government to individuals, families and local communities.

I am delighted the authors of Direct Democracy: An Agenda for a New Model Party embrace the idea of directly elected sheriffs, which was the centrepiece of Policy Exchange's 2003 report, Going Local: How To Run Britain's Police. While it is vital to make the police more accountable to the people they serve, the authors are right to note that this alone will not be enough to combat the growing problem of low-level disorder and random violence.

We also need to tackle the causes of crime to which the Prime Minister has devoted so much of his rhetoric.

David Willetts recently asked if we have "to settle for being the sick society of Europe, the country with the most fragile families, with some of the toughest estates, the most drunken tourists, and some of the worst problems of crime and drug abuse". We must not.

That is why Policy Exchange will be making urban social problems a focus of our research in the next few years. We want to learn from Mayor Giuliani's success in New York and chart a course for a new generation of political leaders who will put strong local communities back at the heart of British democracy.

Nicholas Boles, Director, Policy Exchange, London SW1
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Depressed by Coldplay

Sir - I hate Coldplay (Arts, June 9). They ruined what my wife and I had hoped would be a convivial evening at a riverside pub. On arriving, we wondered why so many customers were sitting outside on such a chilly, breezy evening. It didn't take long to find out why.

Whoever had control of the pub's sound system inflicted upon us one dismal dirge after another from the Coldplay album, one of the most depressing I have heard.

Such unmitigated gloom is purpose-made for raising the suicide rate. It ought to carry a warning, like cigarettes.

We stoically ate our dinner in silence, getting relief when someone put on two more tolerable tracks. But someone else changed the record and put Coldplay on once more. We finished up our drinks and left.

Graham Vine, Close Bordon, Hants
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A possible virtue

Sir - Lady Warnock (Letters, June 9) is a distinguished academic. She was a philosophy tutor in Oxford for many years, then headmistress of Oxford High School, and ended her academic career as head of a Cambridge college. She has given much time and thought to difficult ethical questions in public policy.

She thinks things out for herself, and is prepared to change her mind when new facts or arguments emerge.

Some people think this a virtue.

J. R. Lucas, East Lambrook, Somerset

Sir - I have just read about Lady Warnock's change of views about educating the less able (News, June 9). As someone whose mentally handicapped son was affected by the changes she and her supporters introduced, I suggest she just goes away. She, and others like her, have been causing untold damage to our education system for too long.

G. S. Perry, Reading, Berks
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Singing strange tongues

Sir - The whole founding conceit of English National Opera was that all productions would be sung in English in an attempt to improve "access" (News, June 8).

Consequently, it rather defeats the purpose if they are simply to end up using surtitles so that people can understand the words.

Attempting the impossible task of translating an opera into a different language that inevitably loses the rhythms and sounds of the original - the problems of translating Wagner, for example, are only too well known - has clearly failed, because people could not hear the words anyway.

Time to abandon this failed policy altogether and revert to singing in the original language of all operas.

After all, apart from not working, it adds a further burden in making singers who already know the original version learn it afresh, severely restricting ENO's choice of singers to those few who are prepared to undertake the massive task of doing so.

Richard Carter, London SW15

Sir - I have never understood a word of any opera in any language, and if I were enlightened by surtitles or any other means, my enjoyment would be significantly impared.

Like birdsong, what is being voiced is probably quite banal, and in opera usually ends up with the entirely predictable stabbing of the heroine. However, the sound of it is all that matters. Ignorance is bliss!

Andy Trask, Haslemere, Surrey
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Best friend

Sir - What Jane Fonda needs to understand (News, June 9) is that when a woman needs emotional support she turns to another woman.

However, when a man needs emotional support he turns to his dog.

Jonathan Goodall, Bath
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Toes exposed

Sir - I was wondering whether anyone can explain why, on a summer's day, about 80 per cent of British women wear open-toed footwear but it is totally verboten for any self-respecting gentleman to expose his toes by the wearing of sandals.

Michael Halpern, Westbourne, Dorset
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