The Science – The Ethics

Contributed by Dr. Howard Andersen, Academic Dean, Associated Canadian Theological Schools.

The Science – The Ethics. Very interestingly, our ever earnest prime minister put repeated emphasis on science as the guiding light in the Canadian response to Covid 19, at his daily briefings during the first week of our social distancing regime.

But by the second week,  his emphasis had shifted dramatically and decisively to ethical considerations. He and the medical establishment scolded Canadians, especially young Canadians, for continuing to gather in prohibited numbers in parks, pubs, and on streets. The Americans did the same to young frolickers on Floridian beaches.

By the third week, the ethical rhetoric was ramped up further, with the threat of serious fines and even jail time for anyone caught breaking the new rules of behavior. In Richmond, in a “sting operation” a man was “caught” selling protective masks to the general public in a parking lot, fined $1000, and publicly shamed for doing so!

But in the meantime, how did we get from a self-assured scientific approach to Covid 19, to a radical ethical/legal approach in less than 2 weeks?

A Biblical anthropology is surely the best explanation. Human beings are imaginatively endowed with the capacity, even the desire, to respond positively and progressively to the highest virtues. But alas, we fail, quite miserably. We are not just up against a nasty virus, which is a purely physical thing, the legitimate and necessary workspace of science. But more importantly, and more demandingly, we are up against the fallenness of human beings. This is some of the workspace of theologians and ethicists like ourselves.

Apparently, science itself will not be saving humanity any time soon. Not without the humanities.

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