Christian Subject Teaching in Physical Science
Dr I H Horn, Unisa
A Christian approach to teaching physical science implies an integration of God's general revelation (the universe and its structure) and God's special revelation (the Bible). Such teaching requires not only a good command of the subject matter and teaching skills; it also requires the teacher's firm conviction that the Bible really does provide a conceptual framework that enables physical science to flourish. We assume that you have the necessary knowledge of the subject matter and teaching skills and we are concentrating on demonstrating to you that the Bible provides an intellectual framework which is actually superior to any other world view for doing science. To do this we are presenting the following in this section:
• a discussion of the nature and limits of science
• a discussion of the origin of experimental science
• a demonstration that there is no real conflict between science and the Bible
• a discussion of the secularisation of science and its consequences
• a discussion of the value of teaching science Christianly
• guidelines as to the practical application of Biblical integration in physical science lessons.
2 Physical science and its limits
2.1 What is physical science?
Physical science is a component of the natural sciences, and it involves finding out about and making sense of the physico-chemical processes in nature via observation, experimentation and inductive reasoning. The purpose of physical science is to discover the physical and chemical rules, principles and laws which govern the physical world.
Physical science is rooted in two interrelated presuppositions which all scientists, consciously or unconsciously, accept (Jaki 1978:247):
• The physical world operates in a consistent, orderly and law like manner.
• The human mind is capable of understanding the order of the physical world.
Reread the above and then briefly describe the following:
1. the method that physical scientists use
2. the intellectual virtues, ie the mental skills and attitudes, that you think the scientific method involves
3. the limits that you think the scientific method places on scientific knowledge
Do you agree that the scientific method combines direct, experimental investigation of nature with reasoned, logical thinking in order to interpret, explain and make generalisations about the patterns or regularities observed in nature. The method includes
• mental skills such as
- accurate observation
- reasoned, logical thinking based on evidence
- the recognition of relationships and contradictions
• desirable attitudes such as
- a sense of wonder about the intricacies of nature
- a desire to know the truth about nature
2.2 The limits of physical science
The scientific method of direct observation and experimentation means that science is limited to
• processes in the physical world
• things which are physically observable and/or measurable
• repeatable events; reliable conclusions cannot be drawn on the basis of a single experiment
Science can therefore address neither ethical questions nor philosophical/religious questions about the origin, destiny and purpose of the universe and life. This does not mean that the answers to such questions are matters of personal opinion, but that their answers must be sought beyond the confines of science. As Christians we know that such answers were revealed to humans by God in the Bible.
Answers to matters that do fall within the above mentioned limits of science may be any one of the following:
• hypothetical explanations (termed theories or models)
• natural laws
Scientific facts are matters such as the properties and composition of various substances. Scientific theories, on the other hand, are not facts but interpretative explanations of empirical data. These interpretations are usually a matter of the highest degree of probability based on the data available. Theories are 'a means of tying observed facts together, and the best theories are those which attain this objective with the least number of inconsistencies' (Gitt 1997:23). The validity of a theory may be accepted if it can be successfully and consistently applied to physical reality (usually in the form of technological devices). The reason for this is that valid theories describe real features of the world; in other words a valid theory corresponds to the way the world really is.
A valid theory implies neither an exhaustive nor final description of a physical phenomenon because, firstly, human theories can never be absolute or perfect. Secondly, empirical results are never final. The possibility that hitherto unknown counter examples may exist can never be excluded. Scientific theories are therefore provisional and must be modified or discarded if found to conflict with observations. A good theory is in fact one which could very easily be falsified, and when it survives all open criticisms and tests it can be accepted as valid (Gitt 1997:24 note 3).
If the truth of a scientific theory is verified repeatedly so that it can be regarded as generally valid, then we have a natural law (Gitt 1997:22). For example, we can accept the law of conservation of energy (that is that we can neither destroy nor create energy) as a law rather than a mere theory because, despite unceasing efforts, a perpetual motion machine (a contradiction of the law of conservation of energy) shows itself persistently as an impossibility.
NB: Be very careful when you are trying to convey the provisional nature, or changing and contested nature (DoE 1997:133), of scientific theories to your pupils. The only truly speculative theory that children encounter in school science is the theory of evolution. They must be encouraged to question this theory, but apart therefrom school science consists of scientific facts, natural laws and the tried and tested theories. It will only confuse children and hinder the development of true scientific literacy if they acquire the notion that this level of scientific knowledge is provisional and possibly subject to change. Of course children should learn that scientific explanations are not exhaustive and final, and they will learn this if you carefully show them how true scientific theories, for example the theory of atomic structure from Democritus to the present, were modified and expanded on as more exact data became available.
Furthermore, confusion about the provisional nature of scientific theories could also encourage children to believe that scientific knowledge is of relative rather universal validity, which is simply not true. The whole purpose of physical science is to formulate theories which are in accordance with the way things are in reality, and not in accordance with how people think things are.
Apart from testable theories, scientists also advance theories which are purely speculative, for example the theory of evolution, the big bang theory and the age of the earth. Such theories fall outside the limits of science and they are philosophic, not scientific, in nature.
1. Can you recall what the limits of science are? If you cannot, study the beginning of this section again.
How and when the universe and the life it contains originated are matters about which scientists can only speculate, and such a speculative theory is always in line with the scientist's basic world view.
The theory of evolution is currently the orthodox, and unquestioned, scientific paradigm, also in physical science. As Christians we should question all human theories. We would suggest therefore that you familiarise yourself with the rather shaky ground upon which this theory stands. Good books on this subject which are available in Unisa's library are the books by Gitt, Moreland (editor), Wilder-Smith and Sunderland (see the Bibliography at the end).
As stated in Activity 3 above, the reigning paradigm for science is evolutionism and the corresponding world view is naturalism, which denies that anything can exist outside the cosmos. If the idea of God is added to naturalism, then it is in a pantheistic, animistic form that conceives of God as an impersonal animating force or energy that drives evolution progressively upwards. In the next section you shall see that naturalism was not the world view within which experimental physical science originated.
3 Physical science and the Christian world view
3.1 The origin of experimental physical science
Notwithstanding the fact that many contemporary scientists reject Christianity, experimental science arose and developed among Christians. The founders of experimental science, eg Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543), Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) (the father of the experimental scientific method), Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) were all Christians. This is not to say that nothing that could be called science preceded the work of these men. The ancient Greeks, Arabs and Chinese were great mathematicians, engineers and astronomers, but their pagan world view was the obstacle that prevented the development of experimental science as we know it since the seventeenth century.
Pagans hold a pantheistic and/or animistic view of nature. They see gods and spirits as part of nature and akin to natural forces (Holmes 1983:59). The ancient Greeks, Arabs and Chinese had no belief in a personal, rational (that is non-contradictory), unchanging, absolutely transcendent Creator-God who created the universe and who created humans in His image. Consequently these people had insufficient confidence in the consistent, rational (that is non-contradictory) behaviour of the universe and in the human mind's ability to comprehend the workings of the universe (Hooykaas 1972; Jaki 1974). These people also tended to mix their science and their pagan superstitions, which distorted and inhibited their scientific knowledge, for example:
• The ancient Babylonians could accurately predict a lunar eclipse, but they also believed that it was a sign from the gods, a portent of doom (Veith 1987:108).
• The ancient Egyptians believed that pure gold could be derived from the less precious metals through magical songs and incantations (Frost 1992:64-65).
Hindu and Buddhist cultures did not arrive at empirical science because they believe that the physical world of separate, individual things is essentially an illusion, something to escape not to study (Veith 1987:121-122).
Other pagan cultures did not develop at empirical science because they perceive the universe as one 'of chance and caprice'; 'a chaos of wild, uncontrollable, mysterious forces' (Stromberg 1966:9; see also Jaki 1974:49ff). These cultures believe that the forces of nature can possibly 'be magically manipulated, but never understood' (Veith 1987:22).
Modern experimental science was born out of Biblical world view. The Bible affirms each one of the prerequisite presuppositions.
1. Can you recall what the prerequisite presuppositions of science are? If you cannot, study the section 2.1 again.
2. Study Dreckmeyr 1997:33-35, then explain how the Biblical doctrine of creation makes experimental science possible.
The Bible provided the following base for the Christian founders of physical science:
• The Bible de-deifies and de-spiritualises nature. The Genesis account of creation is unique in the world's religions (Veith 1987:119). In pagan creation accounts creation is either emanation, that is the extending of the divine essence throughout the universe (Sire 1988:15), or it is a continuity of nature, gods and spirits (Veith 1987:120). In contrast thereto the Genesis account of creation declares nature to be God's creation, distinct from Him and in no sense divine or spiritually infused (Holmes 1983:59; Veith 1987:22, 122ff).
• The Bible guarantees the consistent orderliness and law like behaviour of the world. The Bible teaches that God is not capricious (as pagan gods are), but that He is a faithful, unchanging and law-giving God. This means that Christians expect to find order, not caprice, in His creation.
• The Bible tells us that after each act of creation God was pleased and considered His creation good. This means that the world is worthy of study, and such study is part of the creation mandate given in Genesis 1:27-28.
• The Bible provides sufficient confidence in the human mind's ability to read and decode nature's God-ordained order. Because we are created in God's image, we can, within the limits of human fallibility, trust our senses and our reasoning processes (Purtill 1974:39).
• The Bible supports and encourages the correct scientific mind set that combines openness (all truth is God's truth) with scepticism (all human theories are fallible).
'The fact that God is Creator is taught all through the Scriptures' (Haycock 1981:2, 5). Look up the following passages of this teaching in your Bible:
Genesis 1:1; Exodus 20:11; Deuteronomy 4:32; 1 Samuel 2:8; 2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chronicles 16:26; 2 Chronicles 2:12; Nehemiah 9:6; Job 38:4; Psalm 8:3, 4; Proverbs 3:19; Ecclesiastes 11:5; Isaiah 44:24; Jeremiah 14:22; Daniel 5:23; Amos 4:13; Jonah 1:9; Zechariah 12:1; Malachi 2:10; Matthew 19:4; Mark 13:19; John 1:10; Acts 14:15; Romans 1:20; 1 Corinthians 11:9; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16; 1 Timothy 2:13; Hebrews 1:10; 1 Peter 4:19; 2 Peter 3:5; Revelation 4:11.
3.2 The Bible and science: Is there conflict?
The Christian founders of physical science respected what the Bible teaches in regard to the cosmos. Their concern was not to challenge the Bible, but to subject human theories, for example the geocentric Ptolemaic theory (which was a Greek, not a Biblical, idea), to the test of observation and experimentation. (Schaeffer 1982b:361-362.) You may ask, however, if the discoveries of science have not in fact shown that the Bible contains errors in those sections that deal with the cosmos. Many people, Christian and non-Christian, believe that science has shown, first, that Genesis 1-11 is mythological and conveys only spiritual truths and, second, that the concept of an orderly universe is now passé.
Doubt is cast on the Genesis account of creation by the theory of evolution. However, this theory is not a scientific fact, but a purely speculative theory.
Restudy section 2.2 and then explain the speculative nature of the theory of evolution.
Apart from the unrepeatability of the origin of the universe, the theory of evolution is speculative and a matter of faith (as some evolutionists admit) for, among others, the following reasons:
• All breeding experimentation has produced only changes within a species and has consistently failed to produce any change from one species to another.
• No fossil of any intermediate species has ever been found.
• Mathematicians have calculated the number of selections and/or mutations required for species change and they were so astronomically large that when they were fed into supercomputers the machines simply jammed (Ankerberg & Weldon 1994:274; Sunderland 1988:134; Wilder-Smith 1970:232-233).
• When amino acids (the building blocks and basis of life) combine to form polypeptides (the basis of proteins) the chemical reactions are reversible, and water is a product on the right: A + B C + H O. In a watery medium - such as the primeval ocean in which evolutionists maintain life started - peptide synthesis will therefore not take place. (Wilder-Smith 1981:9ff.) This can be explained to grade 12 pupils when they deal with chemical equilibrium.
In regard to the concept of an orderly universe, many people incorrectly believe that Einstein's special theory of relativity and quantum physics have shown this concept to be passé. What emerged from Einstein's theory was, on the one hand, the relativity of appearances and, on the other hand, the fixed order of the universe. Events appear different to different observers, but when the different measurements are converted to four-dimensional space time measurements (via Lorentz transformations) they are the same for all observers. If not, the relevant measurements are either false or descriptive of another event. In other words, Einstein's theory shows that, despite the many descriptions, there is ultimately only one true description. In a lecture entitled From the relative to the absolute Max Planck (1858-1947), the discoverer of the quantum of electromagnetic energy, "drew special attention to what he called the "paradox" of relativity, instead of relativizing everything, it unfolded absolute, objective aspects of the physical world' (Jaki 1978:183).
Quantum physics, too, does not point to an unstructured, indeterminate world. First, the dual nature of light and electrons (dealt with in grade 11) does not imply arbitrary behaviour. There are fixed conditions for wave behaviour and other fixed conditions for particle behaviour. Second, Niels Bohr (and his followers) concluded from Heisenberg's uncertainty principle (dealt with in grade 11) that the subatomic, quantum level is indeterminate and unstructured. This is the so-called Copenhagen interpretation. It is, however, a philosophical conclusion which is not logically necessary, and was probably grounded in Bohr's propensity for Eastern metaphysics (Jaki 1978:212). Observation of the quantum level revealed only the uncertainty in measurement and that at present there is no detection apparatus available which does not influence the electron's position and/or momentum. Heisenberg derived the uncertainty principle via a hypothetical or thought experiment; in such an experiment the experimental conditions must conform to physical laws and the technical capabilities of the apparatus. Heisenberg reasoned that if one were to view an electron through a microscope and use light of frequency and energy high enough to illuminate the electron's position, it would mean that the electron received enough energy from the light to change its momentum. Yet to use light of lower frequency and energy would reduce the accuracy of the microscope and result in a blurred image of the electron's position. (Grade 11 pupils will understand Heisenberg's reasoning because they are already familiar with the formula E=hf; E=energy, h=Planck's constant and f=frequency.)
Technology also affirms the universe's fixed and orderly structure. Technological devices - including the vast array that Einstein's relativity theory and quantum physics made possible - would not work consistently, bar mechanical failure, in a world of disorderliness, randomness and chaos (Adler 1990:74).
In view of the above the alleged conflict between the Bible and science is by no means proven. In fact, conflict has only arisen because the base of science has shifted from Christianity to secularism and naturalism, and scientists confused their secular, naturalist presuppositions with truth itself. How this came about is explored in the next section.
'The written revelationand the natural revelation are parts of the unity of all truth in God' (Haycock 1981:4). Lookup the following passages which link the Bible and the message from God's creation:
Psalm 19:1-4; Job 12:7-10; Jeremiah 5:23-25; Romans 1:19-20; Matthew 6:26-34.
4 The secularisation of science
4.1 The shift to secular-based science
The shift away from Christian-based science did not start with the physical scientists; they operated on a Christian base up to the second half of the nineteenth century (Schaeffer 1982b:161, 362). The shift was foreshadowed in philosophy. During the eighteenth century Western philosopher's declared the human individual autonomous; 'a law (nomos) to himself (autos)' (Raschke, Kirk & Taylor 1977:187). This period of Western intellectual history is known as the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment's decisive character was described by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) as follows:
Enlightenment is man's release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man's inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is the tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Supere aude! [Dare to know!] 'Have courage to use your own reason!' - that is the motto of enlightenment. (Brown 1990:285-286; Raschke, Kirk & Taylor 1977:187.)
Kant's statement reveals that the Enlightenment philosophers believed that they had no need whatsoever for Biblical revelation; human reason alone could discover the laws of nature and of religion and ethics.
The Enlightenment philosophers were not Christians. They were Deists who rejected the idea of revealed Biblical truth. Their god was an abstract, remote and unknowable being whose only involvement in the world was its creation. The deist model of the universe was therefore a closed system into which their god could not act or communicate with humans. Humans were therefore alone and must guide themselves via ever-increasing knowledge to ultimate earthly perfection.
Deism did not dispense with the idea of an extra-cosmic, divine Creator. This idea was dispensed with after Charles Darwin (1809-1882) published his theory of evolution in his book The origin of species in 1859. As the atheist biologist Sir Julian Huxley (quoted in Gitt 1995:35) writes: 'Darwinism removed the idea of a Creator-God from the sphere of rational statements.' Thereby Darwin 'swept away the logic which had been the basis of a great deal of human reasoning since the dawn of history - that design proves a designer' (Wilder-Smith 1970:230). It is to this reasoning that Paul refers in Romans 1:19-20.
Reread sections 2.2 and 3.2 and then explain the following statement: Acceptance of evolutionary naturalism requires an act of faith.
4.2 Similarities and differences between Christian- and secular-based science
4.2.1 The similarities
Both Christian- and secular-based science:
• accept that the physical world is comprehensible, that is that it is not capricious and magical but structured and law like and can be known and understood
• use the method of observation, experimentation and inductive reasoning
• discover the same scientific facts, natural laws and valid scientific theories, but as far as the origin, destiny and purpose of the universe is concerned they each proceed from different presuppositions and therefore they come to different conclusions
4.2.2 The differences
The differences between Christian- and secular-based science are the following:
• Christian-based science proceeds from the first statement in the Apostolic Creed: 'I believe in the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.' Christian-based science holds therefore to the concept of the uniformity of natural causes in an open universe; it is an open universe because God and the human mind and spirit are outside, and not part of, the uniformity of natural causes (Schaeffer 1982b:164). Christian-based science avoids therefore mechanistic reductionism, that is it does not reduce humans to mere parts of the cosmic machinery.
• Secular-based science proceeds from a belief in evolutionary naturalism, namely that the cosmos is self-generated by natural physico-chemical processes. Secular-based science holds therefore to the concept of the uniformity of natural causes in a closed universe which denies the idea of an extra-cosmic God and leaves no place for the human spirit. Humans are reduced to mere parts of the cosmic machinery. (Schaeffer 1982b:167-168.) Life then becomes essentially meaningless, nothing more than physical survival.
• Christian-based science holds humans accountable to God, which means that human dominion of nature is under God's dominion.
• Secular-based science holds humans accountable only to themselves, which reduces human dominion of nature to an ethos of pragmatism and utilitarianism.
• Christian-based science accepts the inerrancy of Biblical revelation as epistemological first principle. It upholds therefore the distinction between God's absolute truth and our own scientific pursuits, and acknowledges the limited and imperfect nature of our scientific theories.
• Secular-based science claims the autonomous self-sufficiency of the human mind as epistemological first principle. It assumes therefore that scientific investigation can, and will eventually, explain everything in terms of natural processes. The atheist theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (1988:175), for example, claims such a complete, absolute theory as 'the ultimate triumph of human reason'. Secular-based science promotes therefore a triumphalist view of science as being the final and absolute authority.
• Christian-based science regards natural laws as God's creation. Humans and nature cannot transcend natural laws, but God can and does transcend natural laws. Christian-based science denies therefore neither the possibility of miracles nor the factual truth of the miraculous events recorded in the Bible.
• Secular-based science regards natural laws as absolute. In terms of secular-based science the miraculous events recorded in the Bible are myths, that is ways of conveying spiritual and/or moral truth and they are not meant to be taken literally.
Read the following excerpt and then answer the questions that follow:
It is true that the world has an existence separate from God - it is not a part of God, as pantheism would maintain - but it has no existence independent of God. . . . He sustains the very existence of the universe on a moment-by-moment basis. . . . We describe what God does in terms of processes and laws . . . natural processes and laws are our descriptions of God's activity, not independent tools that God makes use of. To perform a miracle, God needs only to act in a manner different from His 'regular' or 'normal' action; He does not need to suspend natural law to do something 'unnatural.' The God of the Bible is not a Master Craftsman who adjusts a former creation that exists independently of Him; the God of the Bible is the Creator and Sustainer who holds all things 'in the palm of His hand.' (Bube 1978:32.)
1. Explain how Christians understand the idea of natural law.
2. Is God ruled by natural laws?
3. Explain why it is wrong to regard a miracle as a violation of natural laws.
4.3 The consequences of secular-based science
Secular-based science had serious and far-reaching consequences, some of which are the following:
• the transformation of science into scientism. Scientism is the philosophical abuse of science whereby scientists' philosophical deductions based on naturalistic premises are accepted as having been scientifically proven. The result is that science is idolised as the final authority before which the Bible must also bow.
• the transformation of orthodox Christianity into liberal and existential theology which teaches that the Bible gives us a quarry out of which to have religious experience, but contains mistakes where it touches that which is of interest to science (Schaeffer 1982a:121, 144).
• the dechristianisation of the Western world. Christianity, which is God-centred, was replaced with secular humanism, which is human-centred.
• technical mastery over nature instead of ethical stewardship of God's creation. Science and its concomitant technology became instruments to serve human greed.
• spiritual emptiness which is driving an increasing number of people back to pagan superstitions, mysticism and occultism.
Secular-based science, and the humanism and scientism that it bred, started on an optimistic note. With no God to answer to, no God with a purpose for humanity, the humanists believed that humanity had its destiny in its own hands, and that science alone could 'assure a future in which suffering and disaster are overcome' (Holmes 1983:207). However, the social and environmental disaster scenarios of the twentieth century have now largely shattered such optimism. Sadly, however, this is not driving the West back to its Biblical roots. Instead, the so-called postmodernists and spiritually hungry New Agers are seeking solutions in irrationalism. To save the Enlightenment's declaration of human autonomy, these people have abandoned the idea of a fixed and monolithically structured physical world. They degrade rational, logical thinking and attempt to relativise scientific truth and synthesise science with Eastern and pagan religions. To counter the technological abuse of nature, these people are propagating a form of environmentalism which seeks to deify and/or spiritualise nature. This resurgence of animism is dangerous:
• Animism slides easily into occultism; the shift is from belief in spirits in nature to seeking to share and control their powers (Lucas 1996:137).
• An animistic view of nature would require that science and technology be regarded as magic; and the concern of magic is not truth but power, the manipulation of reality to serve personal ends (Thorson 1978:225). This is a dangerous situation. Technology has enormous manipulative power. When the search for objective truth as the guiding principle of science is replaced with pragmatic viability, science will be practised and taught in a moral vacuum. Its technological products can then be used without any moral qualms to exploit nature and to control society and individuals.
NB: 1. Be very careful when you are teaching your pupils the relationship between science and culture (DoE 1997:133, 153, 154). The true relationship between physical science and culture is that a culture's basic world view is either congenial or not congenial to physical science (see sec 3). Physical science is not culture-bound. First, physical science and its concomitant technology are the only cultural products which have crossed all cultural boundaries and are globally recognised and applied. Second, the idea that physical science is culture-bound is typically postmodern; it implies that physical science is a mere construction of the human mind and thus of relative rather than universal validity, which is simply not true. True scientific knowledge is a universally true, albeit incomplete, description of real physical structures and laws (that Christians know were created by God). The whole purpose of physical science is to formulate true theories which correspond to the way the world really is and not to the way people experience the world. Perceptual experience is often incorrect. For example, we all experience the earth as being flat, but we know that it is, in reality, spherical.
2. Do not teach your pupils that science is 'but one way of looking at and explaining phenomena' (DoE 1997:153, 154). This idea influences children to accept animism because explanations of natural phenomena belong to only two foundational types: those that proceed from the premise that nature is non-divine, non-spiritual and rationally ordered and those that proceed from the animistic premise that nature is full of innumerable spiritual and/or divine forces.
5 Teaching Physical Science Christianly
5.1 The value of teaching science Christianly
The reason why we do something and the value that we attach thereto are determined by the advantages and purposes attached to such activity
See if you are able to answer the following question: 'Why should we teach physical science Christianly?' Read through all the previous sections again. Now list the advantages and purposes which you think teaching physical science Christianly entails:
Do you agree that secular-based science has given rise to problems that range from scientism and a complete denial of God and the spiritual world to a resurgence of pantheism and animism. The Christian answer to such problems is not the rejection of science and technology. God has not given us exhaustive knowledge about the cosmos in the Bible. Science has therefore a real function and real value. In a time when the spiritual sterility of secular-based science is driving many people back to pantheism, animism and pagan superstitions, Christians must reject the secular base of science and teach true Christian-based science.
The value and purposes of teaching science Christianly may be summarised as follows:
• For the Christian founders of physical science, science was a humble, disciplined search for the level of truth which is accessible to the intellect. To quote Sir Francis Bacon: 'To conclude, therefore, let no man out of weak conceit of sobriety, or in ill applied moderation think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God's word, or in the book of God's works' (Schaeffer 1982b:163). In its original Christian-based form science has great moral worth because it requires
- intellectual discipline and responsibility (theories must correspond to reality, that is to how things really are)
- perseverance and diligence
- critical thinking (distinguishing truth from error and fact from theory, recognising contradictions and inconsistencies, and evaluating ideas and conclusions in terms of evidence)
- humility (acknowledging that one's own ideas may be wrong)
- the ability to be self-critical (acknowledging that evidence may call for a change in one's own ideas)
These virtues constitute the ideal. However, because scientists are sinful and therefore fallible human beings, individual scientists, Christian and non-Christian, will not have all these virtues.
• Our children are growing up in an age of relativism. The multiplicity of 'truths' that relativism implies stands in direct opposition to the uniqueness of the Lord Jesus. Physical science requires logical thinking and critical reasoning, which also stands in direct opposition to relativism. Scientific reasoning is ruled by the principle of non-contradiction, namely that the meaning of something cannot include its own contradiction. Such logic is Biblical. Therefore, teaching physical science Christianly promotes the type of mind set that rejects relativism.
• Physical science discovers truth about God's world. Teaching physical science Christianly acknowledges that it is God's world and makes pupils aware that the world tells us something about God. Thereby our pupils' worship of God is enriched.
• Rightly understood God's general and special revelations compose one unified revelation. The general revelation alone is not sufficient to bring anybody to the Lord Jesus. Teaching science Christianly will, however, help the pupils to see that the intricate order and design in the cosmos point to an extra-cosmic Creator and not to chance and self-organisation. This insight will help to counteract the efforts of the evolutionary humanists. Furthermore, the solid base of scientific knowledge with which we must equip our pupils will help those pupils who commit themselves to our Lord to witness better in a scientific and technological age. We must maintain high scientific standards so that our pupils may become able scientists who will shed Christian light and guidance in an age which is struggling with the problems created by secular-based science.
5.2 Subject philosophy and aims
The subject philosophy and aims of teaching physical science Christianly are given in Dreckmeyr 1997:90-91.
Study Dreckmeyr 1997:90-91 carefully. Then answer the three questions given on page 90 in your own words.
The Christian physical science teacher is not a mere facilitator, but a purposeful teacher. He/she understands that hands-on activities are important in physical science, but he/she complements hands-on activities with explanatory teaching. He/she also knows that hands-on activities are only meaningful learning experiences if
• the pupils have the necessary prerequisite knowledge
• the pupils are directed by the teacher to concentrate on the relevant matters and to draw the correct conclusions
• there is order and discipline in the class
5.3 Physical science and Biblical integration
The Christian teacher of physical science does not leave the examples of order in the world as unexplained realities, but explains them as God-created. The emphasis is on order and design and what the order of the world tells us about God. The following are the different kinds of design that are utilised in making children aware of the power and wisdom of God as Designer (seen in the ordered efficiency of the world) and Provider (seen in the beneficial aspects of the world):
• the laws of nature and their universal applicability to natural phenomena
• the order present in various aspects of the physical world (for example, the size of the earth, the allotropes of substances such as carbon and sulphur)
• the beauty and elegance of the physical world and of the equations used to describe the world
• the constancy of certain factors (for example, the total energy or mass in the universe, the constants in the equations used to describe the natural laws, the speed of light)
• the finely-tuned conditions that are beneficial to life (for example, the properties of water)
The properties of water are quite remarkable and so finely tuned to support life that they can only be the creation of a loving God. Such properties must be demonstrated and explained to pupils at their level of understanding, for example:
• It takes a large loss of heat for water to become ice and a large intake of heat for water to become steam. If these amounts of heat were low our blood would freeze when inactive and boil over with the least activity.
• Water is a universal solvent and chemically it is relatively inert. Water is therefore a medium for many reactions without partaking in them. This is important for life. In the human bloodstream for example, water holds a minimum of sixty-four substances in solution.
Examples of Biblical integration in physical science teaching are given in Dreckmeyr 1997:97-101, 110-118. Study these examples and then do the following exercises:
1. On page 115 the first example is about the sun, light and God. Explain how you would teach these concepts to children so that they do not confuse the sun and God, that is the sun as God's created source of physical light and God's spirit as the source of spiritual light.
2. Choose any theme from the physical science syllabus of any grade and work out ways of Biblical integration in the lessons on your chosen theme.
The following passage of St Augustine (quoted by Jaki 1989:213) exemplifies the Christian attitude to science which we must teach our children:
I spoke to all the things that are about me, all that can be admitted by the door
of the senses, and I said, 'Since you are not my God, tell me about him. Tell me
something of my God.' Clear and loud they answered, 'God is he who made us.'
Ultimately we want to help each child realise that he/she, too, like the world, is not the product of chance and/or impersonal forces, but of a loving, personal Creator and that his/her life has a hope and a goal in Christ, our Creator, Lord and Saviour.
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