Science in Christian Perspective



I. W. Knobloch, Ph.D.

From JASA 10 (December 1958): 23-24

Having taught various scientific subjects for many years, the feeling has come to me that students leave the doors of colleges and universities without any concept of the real function of college, of liberal edu cation of science, of academic freedom and many other fundamental issues. Many of these items are not spelled out in so many words in textbooks and little attention is paid to them by either the teacher or the student and yet they seem important to me in the training of future citizens.

With this thought in mind, I pass out to my students the material which follows. I realize that there is no agreement among scholars on many points but it seems desirable to me to have the students carefully consider the issues. If they disagree with my interpretation, they will at least have been exposed to the issue. I trust that the thoughts expressed will be of some use to the readers of this column in their contacts with students.

Viewpoints for the Student to Consider-Note that the views may not be the only possible ones nor are they complete due to space limitations,

What is a University?

It is a place where the mind (thinking and reasoning ability) is to be developed.

It is not primarily a vocational institution nor is it for the development of the body.

American supremacy will be maintained in direct proportion to brain power.

A University passes on the knowledge of the past, produces new knowledge through research and guides society through its findings.

It is a place where new ideas, controversial or heretical can be discussed. The heresies of the past become the mores of today.

Why study General or Liberal Education?

The advantages are that one will have a broader background, a wider viewpoint, be more tolerant of fields other than their own, have a better sense of values and be more adaptable in their work. General courses frequently help a student to decide upon a vocation. Executives dislike narrow specialists-they demand a breadth of vision.

Why study Natural Science?

An educated person will know quite a bit about the living and non-living things making tip his environment.

A person unacquainted with nature will be frightened by the news of certain scientific advances reported in the daily press and magazines.

A study of the sciences teaches a method of clear thinking useful in many problem situations.

Sciences teaches us certain attitudes such as sticking to the facts, being intellectually honest, of suspending judgement until all or most of the facts are in, and of tolerance. These attitudes are important.

Why should I study in College?

The average persons spend very little time in developing their minds after they leave college. They have not developed a thirst for knowledge-their mental habits are poor--college has failed them. Good habits and attitudes learned in college can be carried over and will help one to be happier, healthier and generally more successful as a human being.

What is Science?

Science, in the traditional sense, is organized knowledge of the physical and biological world and of the relationships of this knowledge. Botany. zoology, physics, chemistry, geology and astronomy are the main sciences. Mathematics is a tool used bv science, social studies, engineering and in other fields.

Kinds of Science

Pure science has curiosity as its base and understanding as its goal. Practical applications are not the end sought except the satisfying of ones curiosity. Examples are the Copernican principle, the theory of evolution and early experiments on spontaneous generation. Applied science has practical ends in view from the start. A chemist making new carbon compounds to increase our knowledge of them is a pure scientist while a chemist making carbon compounds to cure cancer is an applied scientist. Both kinds are essential but since the former deals more with theories and understanding, it is considered more basic. America's stock of new ideas is low-survival demands more attention to pure science.

Methods of Working in Science

There are two main methods of operation here. One is the empirical method which consists of obtaining facts by observation and experimentation. Organisms are experimented upon by the factors in their environment and those with harmful characteristics are eliminated. Progressive science can hardly be said to exist without coming to grips with reality, the essential goal of empiricism. Theory goes beyond the facts discovered by empiricism. Deductions (what ought to be true or follow if the statement is true) can be made from empirically-derived facts or from theories. Modern science seems to be a happy blend of both empiricism and theory and both are of equal importance. Theories, whenever possible, must be tested by empiricism or we leave the realm of science and become entirely speculative. I

(To be continued)