Outside of the realm of saints and Scriptural heroes, one of the people I admire most is Karl Popper, giant philosopher of the 20th century who, as it happens, taught right here in Christchurch for a few years, safe from the reach of Hitler. I believe that it was while here that he wrote The Open Society and its Enemies. My own introduction to Popperian thought came when an undergraduate studying the Philosophy of Science. Popper's distinctive contribution to the Philosophy of Science (in The Logic of Scientific Discovery) was coherent with his contribution to political philosphy: knowledge advances through criticism
In the realm of society, life flourishes where freedom to advance ideas, debate, critique and thus improve them is unconstrained. Whether the enemy of such an 'open society' is Plato or Marx or Hitler matters little. The enemy needs dispatching in order that the quest for truth is unimpeded.
In the realm of science, research flourishes when it is recognised that we advance towards the truth by subjecting all theories and hypotheses to testing. The strongest theories are those which are the consequence of their predecessors having been falsified. Where we cannot (yet) falsify a theory we cannot assert we have arrived at the truth but we can be confident we are closer to it. Allied with this approach is the fruitful idea (even in theology and biblical studies) that if we have a proposed theory for which no one can suggest a test which might lead to its falsification, then it is of dubious value. (In respect of Easter, to give a theological instance, the 'theory' that it doesn't matter whether the body of Jesus remains in the tomb or not, may sound comforting, but it offers no advance towards truth, because it can never be falsified. A singular advantage of the 'theory' that the resurrection means the tomb is empty is that it is potentially testable: locate the remains of Jesus in the tomb and the resurrection of Jesus is falsified.) 'Open science' like 'open society' encourages testing of ideas.
Thus one reason I like blogging and going to Synods (!) is that both are forums which encourage 'open society' in the church. The life of the church flourishes where people are free to think, to debate, to advance ideas in order for them to be subject to critique so that they are improved. As a Popperian I have no problem here, or in Synod, with being told I am wrong. GOOD! My ideas then have an opportunity for improvement as they are revised in the light of their being found wanting.
But the commitment to an 'open society' does mean that people are free to say objectionable things, even cruel things. Today, one example of this, is a quite nasty assertion being made by one of the leaders of the campaign to restore our cathedral. Mark Belton, according to our Press, is claiming our Church Property Trustees acted arrogantly and recklessly in committing insurance funds for the permanent cathedral to the building of the temporary cathedral. I find this an 'arrogant and reckless' charge: arrogance is the presumption that we know all there is to know about a situation; reckless is proceeding without care for the damage that might be caused. Our Trustees are good people, considerate, careful and wise. Whether they made the right decision or not, there is no basis for saying they acted arrogantly and recklessly: but Mark Belton implies he knows otherwise and has the right to assert false charges which impugn their character. He does himself, and his cause a disservice. We will make progress on the journey to a new or renewed cathedral through debate which tests ideas in order to improve them, not through cruel, ungrounded assertions about the character of decision-makers.
Incidentally, the Press itself is somewhat reckless. Its headline is 'Call for Trustees to Pay Back Cathedral Funds.' Now, maybe I am not reading carefully enough, but (to be fair as I can be to Mark Belton) that call is not being made by Mark Belton.
But all is not unwell within the Press. There is an excellent opinion piece within it, by David Killick, not yet linkable. He astutely puts his finger on concerns I (and, it would appear to me, others) have about the designs, especially Design 3 (the new, fresh design).
I am still pondering my questions about this design. In the meantime, as part of an open society pursuing truth through making claims and subjecting them to examination, may I send you back to Bosco Peters' post on the designs, which he updated yesterday with his own variation on D3. An update which offers greater flexibility, intimacy, scope for hospitality, and centrality of font. I like it. As a Popperian I ask, as we test it out, can we improve on it?