A reflection for Sunday, 19th April 2020
In the stories that dominate the news each day there is an underlying theme of people failing to accept straightforward scientific methods. Good science demands that people put forward an idea, allow that idea to be tested scientifically, and adjust their thinking in accordance with the results.
Instead of good science, the news is fulled with politicians advocating their own political philosophies and accepting only the evidence that accords with their political views. Even the heads of government bodies do not seem immune to reinterpreting statistics to try to present them as a confirmation of their initial arguments.
As the death toll rises, there seem to be few people in power prepared to admit that they got it wrong, that their ideas should have been adjusted when they realised that the original suppositions were wrong. If there had been testing, testing and testing as was urged and not the lax attitude that was followed, there would be many people still alive now. Scientific method demands that even certainties are questioned and relinquished if they are wrong.
The story of Thomas is read on the Sunday after Easter each year. Thomas has often been seen in a negative way by Christians, but the so-called “doubting Thomas” seems an appropriate saint for the present times.
The Gospel reading for today from Saint John Chapter 20 tells the story of Jesus appearing to the frightened disciples who have locked themselves in a room and are in fear of their lives. Thomas is not with them when Jesus appears. No explanation is given as to where he might have been. When the rest of the group are terrified to even step out into the street, why is Thomas moving around the city? Does he act according to evidence? If he finds it safe to be outside, is he happy to go?
Thomas hears the story of Jesus’ appearance and in Verse 25 he expresses his doubt about the story, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
Is this not Thomas being a scientist? Is this not Thomas applying good scientific method?
Thomas has heard the disciples’ hypothesis that Jesus is alive and he wishes to apply good empirical tests to the theory. Is it doubt for Thomas to ask for reasonable evidence? Is Thomas not applying the logic that Jesus himself applied when we read of the healing miracles and Jesus telling those healed to go and show themselves to the priests?
Thomas’ question is the sort of question most people would now ask. Doubt, questioning, a desire for proof are part of human thought processes. Thomas is a Twenty-First century thinker in his distrust of all that he is told. Scientific method is a quest for truth and without truth, then people have nothing.
Thomas would be an appropriate person to ask the questions needed today. Listening to the politicians, he might say, “this is what you have claimed, now show the proof.”
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