CE Loop

Nothing New Press



Classical Christian Homeschooling
Click to Return to The Dialectic Stage

Babylonian molded-relief lion

Science in the Dialectic Stage

by Christine Miller

The History of Science Education

Science education for school children is a relatively new concept in the history of civilized man. Traditionally in the classical curriculum, science (specifically, astronomy) was reserved for study in the quadrivium, the four-year period of university study which followed the completion of the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric). Even as late as colonial classical education, this was still the case.

I believe the main reason for this is the fact that science as a discipline requires a full toolbox of learning and study skills--the tools of learning--grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Another way to say this is that science depends on the ability to identify and accumulate facts (grammar), organize and analyze those facts (logic), and interpret and theorize about the facts, communicating those interpretations and theories to others (rhetoric).

But the twentieth century is a century dominated by scientific information and application, possibly unique in the history of man. The average person is bombarded with science-speak daily; scientific issues make headlines in newspapers that once regarded politics and local news its proper domain; and our ability to do common everyday tasks depends more and more on technology driven by science. You can read these words because science is an intimate part of our everyday lives.

There is an even more important consideration in deciding how much science to teach our children in our homeschools, and when. We live in a culture where the scientist is the foremost authority on everything. He has the last word. Once our clergy occupied that position, but no longer. Court cases are decided upon the testimony of expert scientific witnesses, and Congress routinely depends on scientists to help them make legislative decisions. Why does our culture revere the scientist so much? It is because we have been taught that science is the clear-cut domain of truth and progress. It is because we have a high regard for the truth that we revere scientists. It is interesting to note that we used to regard the clergy with the same reverence for the same reason. Today, truth is perceived as belonging to the domain of science, and not the domain of theology. This is precisely why we must investigate science with our children. The spiritual battles of our day are fought there.

Return to Top

The Nature of Scientific Investigation

But is science always the clear-cut domain of truth? Not every truth can be discovered by scientific investigation. The scientific process can discover something about our present world through repeatable observation. We can discover something about gravity because we observe that every time we drop an apple, it falls to the ground. If a scientist on the other side of the world dropped an apple, it would fall to the ground. If someone dropped an apple a hundred times in a row, it would fall to the ground a hundred times in a row. Therefore, we can say with some certainty of truth that a force called gravity is in effect. We observe something happen, and that something is repeatable by others with the same results. That is the nature of scientific investigation, in a nutshell. Science can discover truth about observable, repeatable phenomena.

Other avenues can also be used to discover truth. The legal system uses the premise that if many witnesses testify to the same event, then that is solid support for the truth of that event. This is the historical-legal model, and was once a highly-regarded vehicle for determining truth. Logic is the science of right thinking, and can help us determine further truth through the process of deduction, if we start at a truth and don't make a wrong turn along the way. This was also a highly-regarded vehicle in the search for truth.

In a way, science is the least well-equipped vehicle to discover certain truths. Truth about the past is difficult to determine scientifically, because no one can go back to the past and observe something happen. In order to know something about the past, we have to rely on the historical-legal model: we have to collect eyewitness accounts, and see if they agree. The greater the degree of agreement, the greater the probability that a past event occurred in a certain way.

This is the problem with a lot of science education taking place today. Children are taught that science can determine the truth of both the present and the past. This is not so. We should be careful, as parents, to teach the distinction to our children. We can instill in our children a high regard for the scientific model in determining the truth of present, observable, repeatable phenomena. And we can instill in our children a high regard for the historical-legal model in determining the truth of past, unobservable, unrepeatable phenomena.

Return to Top

Theology, the Queen of the Sciences

Because of the limitations of scientific investigation, we need something outside of science to use as a guidepost to make sure that we stay on the path of truth within our scientific investigations. That something is the Word of God. We have many and varied indisputable authorities and evidences that what is written in the Bible is exactly what it claims to be: the words spoken by God (see Bible in the Dialectic Stage for more on this topic). We know that God only speaks truth, also through many and varied indisputable authorities. Therefore, using Logic, we can know that what is written in the Bible is Truth.

This over-arching, absolute Truth acts as a plumb line for all the endeavors in which humankind is involved, including science. Truth does not contradict itself, therefore we can know that absolute Truth and scientific truth will not contradict, either. Thus, through Logic, we have answered the question, do the Bible and science conflict? The answer is no. Any “truth” that conflicts with the absolute Truth is not in fact a truth. Since science seeks to determine truth and separate it from falsehood, then its goals and its findings are in complete agreement with absolute Truth and Biblical writings.

A underpinning of classical thought is that Theology is the Queen of the Sciences. This means precisely that we recognize that absolute Truth exists, and that it has been revealed to us through the Word of God, the Bible. Since we know that truth cannot contradict itself, we know that any real truth that science discovers will not contradict this absolute Truth. We know that any claim to truth that does contradict this absolute Truth is suspect, in the same way that we suspect the house timber of crookedness if it is not parallel to the plumb line, rather than suspecting the plumb line of some inner flaw.

But this does not mean we return to the days of Galileo and the Inquisition. The church in Galileo’s day had adopted the teachings of a man, Ptolemy, as fact; and bent the Bible to fit his theory. Ptolemy was the leading astronomer in the classical world in 130 A.D.; he rejected a sun-centered universe for an earth-centered one. His teachings influenced astronomy for the next 1500 years. Because the church adopted the leading scientific theory of the day, rather than searching the Bible themselves to see what it had to say, or whether it spoke on the topic in question, they actually opposed the truth from advancing. The Reformation addressed these errors, but the church today, dangerously, is slipping into them again. We need to be like the Bereans, whom Paul commended (Acts 17:10-11).

What happened to Galileo is in fact a strong witness that Theology must be the Queen of the Sciences. When we make something else Queen, as the church did in Galileo’s day, by making man’s opinions rather than the Word of God Queen, then we have lost sight of our plumb line, and we can no longer see what is straight or true.

Return to Top

Applying Logic to Science: Creation or Evolution?

What does all this have to do with science in the dialectic stage? Well, in our society we are constantly bombarded with ideas that are paraded as science and truth--neo-Darwinism--which completely contradicts the absolute, revealed Truth as is found in the Bible--Creation. If they are in conflict, then they cannot both be right. One must be true and the other must be false. One must be science, and the other must be pseudo-scientific mythology masquerading as science. Which is which? Discovering the answer to that question is the exercise in Logic on which dialectic stage science study should zero in. There is no other scientific issue in which the lines are so clearly drawn, in which theology appears in direct conflict with “science.”

We should say, based on our high view of Scripture and the fact that Theology is the Queen of the Sciences, that we know already which is true and which is false, and we would be right on that basis alone. Creation is true because God, who was there and who does not lie, revealed to us that this is how the world came into being. But it is now up to us to help our dialectic stage children, who are questioning what they learned in the grammar stage to see if it is in fact true, discover how it is true, and why it is true. Therefore in the dialectic we hone our logic skills on the creation-evolution question. The answer to this question, by the way, is foundationally intertwined with the truth of the gospel, which is why some people raised as Christians have abandoned their faith when later in life they became convinced of the “truth” of neo-Darwinism.

Also, the creation-evolution question touches all branches of science: astronomy, biology, geology, physics, chemistry, mathematics; even history and linguistics. Children should be introduced to these various branches of science, and then practice logical thinking on the specific creation-evolution questions inherent to that branch. Astronomy’s questions revolve around Big-Bang suppositions; Biology, of course, deals with the origin of life; Geology deals with the rock strata, the fossil record, and how it was laid down. Physics has the second law of thermodynamics—everything tends toward entropy unless energy or some organizing force is introduced into the system—which is difficult for neo-Darwinism to overcome. The whole science of Chemistry is based on elegant orderliness and predictable patterns which shout “intelligence” from the rooftops.

Before I leave this topic, I will reveal my Creationist-bias. I believe that the plain, straight reading of Genesis teaches a literal six solar-day recent Creation. I believe that if we are going to have a high view of Scripture and accept Theology as the Queen of Sciences, then we must accept what the Bible says on face-value, knowing that God was capable of saying what He meant. I believe that origin theories other than a literal six-day recent Creation compromise the authority and truth of the Scripture, for two reasons: the plain reading of Genesis does not indicate any other theory, and Christian theology is destroyed by any other theory. I also believe that the scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports a literal six-day recent Creation.

If, as classical educators and as Christians, we spout “Theology is the Queen of the Sciences” and “Sola Scriptura” out one side of our mouth, and believe in origin theories other than the single theory that the plain reading of Genesis indicates, then white man speaks with forked tongue. I believe that logically, we cannot support any other theory and still claim that Christian doctrine is true. If you do not agree, then I challenge you to put your origins theory through the test of Scripture, and see if it stands up. Romans chapter 5 was the clincher for me (I used to be a gap-theorist, years ago, but that “death entered the world through Adam’s sin” bit in Romans would not allow for death before Adam’s sin as the gap theory—and all other old-age earth theories—requires.)

Return to Top

The Nuts and Bolts

There are two ways to approach a study of creation-evolution in the dialectic stage. Fortunately there is a myriad of excellent books and other resources available to help us with this topic. One way is just to dive into the creation-evolution debate, and learn the science as we go along: geology, chemistry, physics, biology. Another way would be to spend a year learning the introductory science, and then spend the remaining two years learning the creation-evolution applications. Either way, plenty of discussion is called for. Your child should learn to practice his logic on the questions around which the creation-evolution debate revolves.

For example: Does life arise spontaneously from non-life? This is a central question to the creation-evolution debate. Evolutionists, obviously, believe that it can, while creationists believe that it does not. (Science cannot answer the question, Did life arise spontaneously from non-life? —Why can science not answer this question? Hint: the answer is in this article.) Science is only properly concerned with the observable and the repeatable, so do some research to see if anyone has ever reported observing and repeating the arrival of life from non-life. In fact, Louis Pasteur completely disproved the theory of spontaneous generation in 1864 by demonstrating that new life, even of bacteria, must be produced by life of the same kind. Now, do some research to see if anyone has ever reported observing and repeating the arrival of life from life: that happens daily. Can your child prove through a logical syllogism that life cannot arise spontaneously from non-life, and conversely, that life must arise from life? What does the Bible say about from whence life comes? Can life ever come from anywhere else other than the Author of Life? Define “author,” using a Hebrew or Greek dictionary.

Then play the devil’s advocate with your logic. What would an evolutionist say to rebut your argument? Most would say that life does not ordinarily arise spontaneously from non-life, granted, but that there was one special instance in the history of the world where life did arise spontaneously from non-life. That is the conclusion. What premises can be used to support that conclusion? There is no historical-legal evidence that such an event took place. What scientific processes occuring today could act as evidence for such a premise? There are none. All the classic evolutionist arguments: for mutations bringing about an increase in genetic information; for transitional forms in the fossil record; etc. do not hold up when examined under the microscope of true scientific inquiry. In fact, by playing the devil’s advocate with their logic, your child can discover that while the preponderance of evidence solidly lines up behind the creationist position, only blind faith is left to support the evolutionist position.

Other questions encountered in your creation-evolution science study can be addressed in the same way, with research and using the truths stated in the Word of God through the application of logic. My children keep a science notebook, which is just a spiral notebook, in which they write neatly their notes taken from discussions in class, any pertinent definitions and explanations of processes, diagrams, Bible verses, and answers to questions posed such as the one in the example.

Science Curriculum for the Dialectic Stage

Return to Dialectic Stage Subject Index

Return to Top

Click here to go to CCH Contents Click here to go to Introduction to Classical Education Click here to go to On the Trivium Click here to go to the Grammar Stage Click here to go to the Rhetoric Stage Click here to go to Classical Homeschooling Click here to go to Classical Curriculum and Online Catalog
Contents Introduction Trivium Grammar Rhetoric Homeschool Curriculum
Click here to go to CCH FAQ Click here to go to Classical Education Links Click here to go to Favorite Links Click here to go to Reciprocal Links Click here to go to What’s New at CCH Click here to go to CCH Site Map Click here to go to Art History Index
FAQ CE Links Favorite Reciprocal What’s New Search CCH Art History

Cross and crown of thorns, the symbols of our Lord’s suffering for our sakes

Classical Christian Homeschooling: Classical Education at Home
Site designed and maintained by Christine Miller / This page last revised February 2000
The Dialectic Stage: Science in the Dialectic Stage
Copyright 1997-2000