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Sunday, 20 January 2013

image for General Synod To Vote On A Boycott Of The Laws Of Physics
Anti-science activists plan to boycott gravity, rise up through the atmosphere and enter low earth orbit

Controversy within the Church of England has intensified today on the eve of a crucial vote by the General Synod as to whether Christians should defy some of the laws of physics.

'We are sick of scientists not taking seriously our religious Truths,' said one activist. 'It will be a wake-up call for them when Christians stop slavishly following their scientific laws.'

The specific laws of physics to be boycotted remain a matter of debate among anti-science activists, but gravity seems to be a likely first target.

'This is completely ridiculous,' said a spokeswoman for the Royal Society. 'No one gets an option to disobey the laws of physics. It can't be done. It's just the way things are.'

Such views from the scientific community have been dismissed by evangelicals as "arrogant dogma".

Some clarity on the roots of this debate has been voiced by Professor Harry Stottle, Senior Fellow in Philosophy and Logic at Oxford University. 'The anti-physics activists have not really grasped the fundamental difference between scientific and religious thinking,' he explained to BBC News. 'Believers base their convictions on an emotionally driven certainty that what feels true, is true. There is generally no necessity for such beliefs to conform to any other framework. Physics, on the other hand, is an attempt to describe what actually underpins reality. Theories about it may change, but that underlying reality cannot be changed. A confusion between these two ways of describing the world,' he concluded, 'appears to have led some Christians to believe that fervent faith in something is the only necessary criterion for it to be real.'

Some within the Church are also sceptical about the ability of activists to defy the laws of science, but a desire for Church unity has led to criticisms either being withheld or couched in conciliatory and diplomatic language. A senior bishop, who did not wish to be named, admitted to the BBC that he did not believe that the laws of physics could be defied. He and many of his liberal colleagues, however, felt obliged to only recommend in public that more time and prayer be given to exploring the issues involved.

Liberal elements within the church have attempted their usual sidestepping of fundamentalist beliefs by reinterpreting impossible ideas as mythology and metaphor. One liberal bishop supported the activists by arguing that a resolution to defy the law of gravity was simply a poetic expression of the need for the Church to "rise above" secular criticism. This interpretation became unsustainable, however, in the face of activists explicitly stating on national television that they intended to literally rise up through the atmosphere and enter low earth orbit. Evangelicals have claimed that some of their number have already done this in anticipation of a positive vote by the General Synod. Unfortunately, no concrete evidence of such flights has been made available.

'We are not stupid,' said a spokesperson for the lay members of the General Synod. 'We realise that, for the safety of our congregations, laws other than just gravity will need to be reviewed. It is very cold in space, there is nothing to breathe, and the upper atmosphere is being constantly bombarded by deadly radiation. Many old laws will have to be revised, and new ones created, in order that large numbers of the faithful can successfully enter orbit and then return safely to their churches.'

Whilst there is probably a majority in the General Synod who would vote against such a plan, the voting system is such that just one deranged and vociferous individual is sufficient to carry or defeat a proposal in opposition to everybody else. The vote against women bishops and the vote in favour of reinstating the burning of witches are both recent examples of this phenomenon.

In response to evangelical lay activists, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has locked himself in his room at Magdelene College, Cambridge and hidden under the bed. When asked by reporters today about the vote, he shouted through his door that he thanked God he had stepped down as Archbishop at the end of December 2012. Justin Welby was unavailable for comment, but was said to be reviewing his employment contract.

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