Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Nature of Science

I'm about halfway through watching the recent Bill Nye/Ken Hamm evolution/creation debate that was live this week.  Finding myself talking to my computer screen, I thought I would write this down instead.

Besides the obvious philosophical and theological differences between the two men, the real debate that is going on is on the nature of science.  What is science?  What can it study, and what can it not?  Ken Hamm insists that science must be observable and reproducable.  Bill Nye insists that science can define history and philosophy (there may be others, but those came up clearly).

Hamm is working with the definition of science that most of us were raised with, not matter where we were educated.  Science can make big predictions or hypotheses, but it is only authoritative on what is observable and reproducable in a laboratory setting.  In an argument I once had with my college chemistry professor I asserted this fact, at which point he scoffed and told me I was, "so 19th century."  So my question is, when did it change?  At what point did science stop being a observable and reproducable phenomenon?  Being a creationist myself I would assert that the change came with Charles Darwin; so who's being "so 19th century"?

Being thoroughly a 20th century man, Nye is comfortable with applying science to most aspects of knowledge, including history and philosophy.  Science can tell us what happened in the past, as well as any conclusions we may come to as to whether or not a god was hanging around when that event occurred.  In an atheism v. theism discussion with students one of my geology professors said that "all good scientists are agnostics," which got me thinking, why?  Why must my scientific assumptions inform my historical and philosophical opinions?  Since when did science define everything?

Science does a wonderful job at being science.  History does a wonderful job at being history.  Theology does a wonderful job at being theology.  Of course all knowledge is integrative, but we have forgotten that different fields of study have different methods of proving fact.  Science can be tested in a lab, history must be recorded by a reliable witness, theology should be based on reliable documents and human nature.  When we use scientific requirements on other fields, all knowledge fails.  Can I prove scientifically that we won World War II?  Absolutely not.  I cannot put the armies in bottles and test it in a laboratory.  However, can I prove historically that we won World War II?  I can read reliable accounts and talk to people who were there, and that is proof.

When science becomes our standard to prove all things then we end up with scientism.  This was not what drove Galilleo or Kepler or Newton.  Scientism discovers nothing, but is quite satisfied with the knowledge it already has, which was likely gained from better scientists.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why I Want Educated Kids

So they can make jokes like this:

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Education is Not for You

From time to time I have the privilege of meeting with families who may be interested in sending their students to my kids' school.  Last week I met with a potential family who are currently using a different method of education, and one of the parents teaches at a very different type of school than ours.  This led to a lot of thoughtful questions and discussion, especially about educational methods, and it made me realize something about the way we want to educate our kids.

There are tons of educational methods out there.  For quite a few years now, families have noticed that public schools just aren't hacking it and now alternatives abound.  Homeschooling, Unschooling, Montessori, Waldorf Schools, the Steiner method, and classical education are just a few of the philosophies that are out there.  For the most part, educational philosophers will try to argue that their method is the best for educating your child.

But I realized that what we're really trying to do is not to educate children for the sake of having educated children.  Instead, we're trying to educate kids who are prepared to communicate their education, and the gospel, to a world that desperately needs both.  You can have the smartest kid on the block, but if they don't know how to communicate their intellect, and consequently the gospel, with the rest of the world, what good does that education do?

Ultimately, then, we're not necessarily looking for the best education for our child, but we're looking for the best education that will prepare them to educate the world.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


It's been ages since I've posted on here, so there's probably no one out there anymore, but today I had a thought.  This is a thought that's taken some developing, so here it is, ready to come, ready or not.

The idea of "smashing gender stereotypes" is so old that it appears to be new again.  I was reminded of this as my 2-year-old daughter listened to my Strawberry Shortcake record from 1983 or so, which made fun of the boys wanting to help the girls carry their heavy baskets.  Strawberry Shortcake was the strong, independent girl who didn't need any help from boys.  And then I just saw this video, advertising the new "engineering" girls' toy, Goldieblox.  Aside from the fact that none of those 8-year-old girls know what a record player is, let alone who the Beastie Boys are, I think I get the message.  Baby dolls and pink things are for dumb girls who are stuck in the past, while smart girls want to be engineers.

Growing up I was one of those girls in that advertisement.  I liked science, and did not do dolls.  Every one of my heroes, from Strawberry Shortcake to Orphan Annie to Rainbow Brite told me that this was the way to go.  Even Barbie taught me that, way before Goldieblox.  In college I went into a scientific field where the men outnumbered women at least 10:1, sometimes more.  However, somewhere in there, I realized that I missed out on something.

God made me a girl, and there wasn't much I could do to change that.  This left me, at base, with an insecurity that needed to be dealt with, and I wasn't at peace until it was.  It wasn't until I realized that I could be a geologist, rock hammer in hand, smashing things in the field and be a lady at the same time that I was really secure in who I was made to be.  I wish someone told me you can be both: you can train to be a godly wife and mother, loving your femininity, and at the same love science, building, being dirty and outside, etc.

That's the problem with marketing to little girls the way Goldieblox does.  We've all been here before, and what we're doing is teaching girls that in order to be smart and brave they must despise being feminine and maternal.  This is not an either/or decision.  My little girl loves pink and babies and Disney princesses.  However, she is also intelligent (at 2 years old she can assemble simple Lego sets) and loves books, and I don't see any reason for teaching her that those desires are in competition.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Classical Education

Being in the classical education world is very exciting.  To see your own kids learning at a young age things you never knew until high school or college (or maybe even never), is encouraging and fun.  I talk to many friends who like to say, "Isn't it amazing what our kids will do?  With an education like this they will take over the world!"

I'd like to think so, but then God doesn't always take over the world in the way we think He should.  Maybe I'm a cynic, but it seems like as public education deteriorates, and in California we're at the head of the pack on that one, the antagonism has only grown towards those who actually care about education.  Regulations on private schools have grown tighter and restrictions increase every year, usually while our legislature is in session.  For example, because of budget cuts, our local public schools have a month less of school then is required by law (they use minimum days to count as full days).  However, we have to make sure our school keeps accurate records of attendance and school days, in case a truancy officer decides to show up on our door.

All this has made me re-think what God is doing with a revival in classical Christian education.  He is definitely preparing our children to take over the world, but it may just be by their martyrdom.  He is preparing a generation who knows what they believe and has the backbone to fight to the end for it.  He used it in Rome to bring an entire empire to its knees, and why couldn't He do that again?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The End

And there it ends.  My rough outline of the history of farming in western civilization has made it's way to the 20th century.  At some point I hope to transform this into a book, but I'm not sure that publishers will be interested in a history of agriculture and politics coming from a geology major with teaching experience.

Still, I have a working title: Life, Liberty, and Property: The history of farming, private property, and democracy.  Look for it in about 20 years at a bookstore near you!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Government's New Business

The crash of wheat prices in 1929 was followed in 1931 by one of the worst droughts that the Great Plains had seen in over a hundred years.  With no visible sources of water, farmers were forced to let their fields lie fallow.  The suitcase farmers abandoned their lands, leaving millions of acres of plowed-up dirt open to the elements.  When the high winds whipped across the prairie they began to pick up immense clouds of dust, which turned into dust storms that tore through towns and destroyed homes and crops.  As the dust storms continued farmers' lives were in danger, as the dust filled their homes and their lungs.  Over the next 8 years the drought continued, threatening to turn most of western Oklahoma into the Sahara Desert.  After starving and nearly losing their land many farmers began to do the unthinkable--ask the federal government for assistance.  Amazingly, the same man whose policies had created the Dust Bowl by arbitrarily fixing a high price for wheat, Herbert Hoover, was now President of the United States; but he would have nothing to do with helping the farmers.

Angered by Hoover's policies the nation elected Franklin Roosevelt, who was specifically elected on a platform the use the intervention of the federal government to aid the victims of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.  He dispatched federal agents to the Great Plains, having them buy up and destroy surplus livestock and crops (what little there was left) to create a scarcity and drive up prices.  He also issued the first-ever farm subsidies, which paid farmers federal money for not growing crops.  He ordered banks to issue loans to farmers for new equipment.  For many victims of the Dust Bowl this was the first income they had seen in nearly a decade.  However, his policies led to an increasing number of farmers continuing to take farm subsidies.  Also, most farmers could not function without living in debt to banks and loan agencies.  Consequently, U.S. farmland has been transformed into being nearly entirely dependent on the federal government for survival.