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Hallo again to all.

This past Saturday people all over the world came together to march for a cause we never thought we would see lead to street protests in and of itself: science. Having attended one of these marches in our own city, we were struck by two things: Protestor holding Christians for Intellectual Honesty (Earthboy17, via Imgur)

First, it is remarkably difficult to use 'standard' protest marching slogans adapted to this cause.
For example: 'What do we want?' 'Science!' 'When do we want it?' 'Now!' This seems a bit rash for a protest honouring the scientific method, which is probably what led to the chant that eventually emerged in numerous places, including London. ('What do we want?' 'Evidence-based policy!' 'We do we want it?' 'After peer review!')

Second, and more germane to us here, was a tension in some protest signs between religious faith and scientific reason. This is perhaps more a symptom of our own part of the world than a general issue, but it resonates with the Christian faith writ large, beginning with how we understand the account of creation. Origen and Gregory of Nazianzus both took Genesis' account of creation as an allegory.* Basil thought otherwise and insisted on a literal seven days. Augustine took issue with his fellow believers whose lack of scientific knowledge made faith look foolish to someone who was not Christian. With regards to cosmology or the physical world, he said: 'It is all too unseemly and destructive, and greatly to be avoided that [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian talking like a loon about these matters, as if according to Christian writings, such that, however it is put, he can scarcely restrain his laughter seeing how utterly wrong the Christian is.'†

Closer to our own Anglican tradition we can look at the words of Richard Hooker in his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (PDF):

Be it in matter of the one kind or of the other, what Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next where-unto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after these the voice of the Church succeedeth. That which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason overrule all other inferior judgments whatsoever.

Although as a good Anglican cleric he gives deference to the church, Hooker clearly countenanced reason—and presumably scientific inquiry—as having force in church polity alongside tradition, beneath only the plain word of Scripture. This is the 'three-legged stool' of which most Anglicans have learned, be it in church school, confirmation preparation, or adult education.

So perhaps (albeit a guarded perhaps) the tension that some people see between science and faith is less of an issue for Anglicans. This Saturday, however, amidst a sea of people wearing slogans lauding science, sometimes proclaiming that faith and rational inquiry were not compatible, sometimes asserting the opposite, we found ourselves thinking that there was nothing new under the sun. Whether in matters of faith or matters of fact, or matters where they intersect, we humans have a profound tendency to see only what is convenient for us. This is nothing new. Now, that peoples across the world feel compelled to march on behalf of rational inquiry in anno Domini 2017, that is something new.

See you next week.

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23 April 2017
* Here we point to a decent compilation on the subject at Wikipedia.
† Augustine employs a bit of a wag here that sadly does not translate. He is talking about matters cosmological, and uses the Latin toto caelo errare, 'to wander the entire sky', which was an idiom for 'to be utterly wrong'.

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