What We Study and Why: Science

Dear Reader,

This is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed philosophy theology of education. You can find all the posts here.

In this part of our series, we are looking at individual subjects and asking why we study them and, to a lesser extent, how. Last time we looked at mathematics; this time I thought we could tackle science.

Why We Study Science

Most people take for granted that children should study these “STEM” subjects. But for our purposes, the real question is not whether they will help us get ahead of the Chinese or get high paying tech jobs, but how can they help us grow in our knowledge of God and His creation.

The Scriptures make it pretty clear that we can learn about the Creator from His creation:

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:20; all biblical quotes are from the ESV unless otherwise noted)

We learn from the biological world:

“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” (Prov. 6:6)

““But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?” (Job 12:7-9)

And from astronomy:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Ps. 19:1)

And some quotes from other writers, on astronomy and geology:

“We are living in a universe that is constantly trying to talk . . .’The air,’ says Emerson, ‘is full of sounds, the sky of tokens; the ground is all memoranda and signatures; and every object is covered over with hints which speak to the intelligent.’ The stars above my head are signaling; the astronomer masters the code and reads the secrets of the universe. The stones that I tread beneath my feet are signalling; the geologist unravels the code and interprets the romance of the ages.” [Frank Boreham, The Uttermost Star (Pioneer Library, 2015; originally published 1919) Kindle loc. 89]

On chemistry:

“The chemistry of life is like an unknown alphabet and language rapidly spoken to us.” [Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt, A Meaningful World (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006) p. 113]

How We Study Science

Because science is so central to modern world, it is also perhaps most prone to being done with the wrong attitude. The world recognizes the value of the sciences for the things the world values: making money and beating out the Chinese. It is very easy for us also to fall into the trap of making our studies entirely practical and serviceable. As I have argued in this post about attitude, what we need most is to keep the right focus. If our science does not ultimately point to God and revel in the truth and beauty He has created, it is fruitless.

On a practical level, especially for younger children, my own inclination is keep the focus on joy. Most small children are inherently fascinated by the world around them. Often animals, but sometimes pmats and rocks and less directly tangible things like dinosaurs and volcanoes. We want to encourage and not dampen these natural tendencies. Our world tends to discourage close, patient observation so this also must be encouraged and even taught (though some come by it more naturally). Getting facts into children is not as important, especially in the younger years, as cultivating attitudes and habits that will keep them looking at and appreciating God’s Creation throughout their lives.

Sadly, we live in a time when many consider science and God to be opposites. This is not the case and should not be the case. Science, rightly done, should point us to God. And we do not need to live in fear that if we look too deeply or think too hard that we will lose our faith. (Which is not to say that we shouldn’t ideas against the Scriptures.)

While it may take a little searching around, there are many wonderful science books that inspire awe at God’s Creation. I quoted from Benjamin Wiker’s A Meaningful World above. This is an excellent book which touches on subjects from Shakespeare to chemistry to astrophysics and I highly recommend it.

We need not only read Christian authors. Sometimes even those hostile to faith can be inspiring. This is the case for E.O. Wilson. I disagree heartily with his views on the origins of life but when he talks about his main subject, which is entomology, he is inspiring.

For more on the value of Christian and non-Christian scholarship, see this post in which I argue that all truth is God’s truth and, conversely, this one in which I argue that we should expect more truth to come to us through Christian sources.

As I said last time, I’d love some input on this part of the series. Do you have other good quotes on science? Do you have questions? Recommendations?

Until next time,

Nebby

My Booklists for Science

 

High School Biology

High School Chemistry

High School Physics

Environmental Science

Fossils

Geology

Weather

Anatomy and Medicine

Meteorology

2 responses to this post.

  1. […] at individual subjects and asking why and how we study them. So far we have discussed mathematics, science and history. Today’s subject is language. I am thinking here both of one’s native […]

    Reply

  2. […] If I could go back in time, I would do a lot less with my kids when they were little, but one thing I would definitely keep is reading nature creation lore aloud. The goal of science in the early years particularly is just to keep alive and feed children’s innate curiosity and love for knowledge. Most kids have a love for the world around them in some way. It may be a passion for dinosaurs or panda bears or a penchant for filling up your car and their underwear drawer with rocks and sticks, but one way or another it comes out.  Feeding this love requires two things: time outside and good books. (The former I hope is obvious but at any rate would be the subject for another post.) Books give us the knowledge to dig deeper into what we see with our eyes (and feel and smell and hear). They expand out horizons. We don’t all live near volcanoes and kangaroos. Books take us to the places we can’t go ourselves. Good authors communicate their own passion and inspire ours. They draw us in through their own enthusiasm for their subject. (For more on science and why and how we study it, see this post.) […]

    Reply

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