Posted by jlwile on March 9, 2011
I have added a new category to this blog: Notes From The Road. Since I do a lot of traveling (both for work and for fun), I thought it might be interesting to share some of my thoughts and experiences regarding my travels. I want to open up this new category with my recent trip to Memphis, Tennessee, where I spoke at the Midsouth Homeschool Convention.
I spoke a total of six times at the convention, but only one talk was focused on home education itself. That talk, entitled “How to ‘Teach’ High School at Home,” dealt with the nuts and bolts of providing your home-educated child with a solid, college-preparatory high school experience. Now when I talk about a “college-preparatory high school experience,” I always hasten to add that I am not saying a child should necessarily go to college. Personally, I think that there are too many students in college right now, and as a result, colleges are dumbing-down their courses. I talk about a “college-preparatory high school experience” because that’s the most academically rigorous path you can follow, and whether or not your student attends college, you should always set the bar high. You can adjust the height of the bar later, depending on how your student actually deals with what you are covering in high school.
So how do you know whether or not your child should go to college? In my view, there are two reasons to go to college:
1. If you love to learn, you will love a serious, academically-rigorous college.
2. If you have a career in mind that requires a college degree, you should definitely go to college to get that degree.
In my opinion, if you do not meet one of those two criteria, you are wasting your time and your parents’ money by going to college.
Once I got done with the talk, I opened it up for questions, which is something I always try to do. There were several good questions, but the one I remember was whether a Christian student who wants to pursue science should go to a secular college or a Christian college. I personally think that most Christians who want to study science are best served by a secular college.
Why do I say that? First, if you want to be a good scientist, you have to study at a college that is very academically rigorous when it comes to science and focuses a lot of resources on science. Unfortunately, most secular colleges do that better than most Christian colleges. Thus, if you want the best education in science, a secular college is probably the best way to go. Now don’t get me wrong. There are some good Christian colleges when it comes to the sciences. I just think that they are the exception rather than the rule.
Second, if you are a Christian and involved in the sciences, you need to learn the sciences from all sides. Most Christian students who are home educated are taught with a theistic view of science. They have not learned science from the naturalistic side. They have learned about the naturalistic view of science, but they have not learned it from naturalists. You don’t really know the naturalistic side of science until you are taught it by naturalists, so a secular college allows you to truly learn the “other side” of science.
Third, I really think that what is taught at college has little impact on your spiritual life. In my view, the peer group you have at school is significantly more important. If you want to have a vital Christian life in college (Christian or secular), you need to be a part of a campus-based Christian fellowship group. That way, if there are anti-Christian teachings promulgated at your college (even at your Christian college), you will have a core group of believers to help you deal with them. I went to a secular college as a fairly new Christian, and I grew a lot there. I grew because the secular college challenged my views, and I was a part of a great Christian fellowship group that helped me deal with that challenge.
All of my other talks at the Midsouth Homeschool Convention were about science or apologetics. I talked about the historical reliability of the Bible, the Old Testament prophecies in the Bible that came true in every detail, the scientific knowledge you find in the Bible, the incredible design you see in nature, and the problems with “molecules to man” evolution. These talks were focused on teens, but there were many parents in the audiences as well.
I want to cover two questions that were asked after those talks. The first is a common question that should be answered by every creation science site on the internet. A student asked, “If humans evolved from apes, why are there still apes?” This is a common question, but it is based on a misunderstanding of evolution. According to evolution, humans did not evolve from apes. Humans and apes had a common ancestor. That ancestor gave rise to evolutionary lines that eventually produced apes and humans. Apes exist because their line exploited one set of natural resources, and humans exist because their line exploited a different set of natural resources. There is no evolutionary reason to think that the existence of humans precludes the existence of apes. They both evolved to fill different ecological niches.
The second question was much more interesting. When I talked about the amazing science you find in the Bible, a questioner asked how I balance the search for facts with the reality of faith. After all, we know certain things by faith, and we know other things by fact. How does a scientist who is a Christian deal with that tension?
First, I explained that even a naturalistic scientist has faith. He has faith in the natural laws. He has faith in his ability to reason. He has faith that the universe behaves consistently. Now that faith is supported, to some extent, by facts. For example, the naturalist sees that if he does an experiment and someone else does the same experiment, they both get the same results. That supports his faith that the universe behaves consistently. He can even have more people reproduce the experiment, which gives him even more faith. In the end, though, it is impossible to prove that the universe behaves consistently, so the fact that it does is an article of faith. The naturalist uses that article of faith to learn facts by doing experiments, etc.
Second, I explained that for me (and for most people) our faith in Christ is also supported by evidence. For me, the evidence is scientific and historical. For others, the evidence is personal. For still others, the evidence is based on their perceptions regarding how Christ has affected the lives of others. Thus, even though many don’t realize it, they, like the scientist, have evidence-based faith. We then go on to use that faith to learn things by studying the Bible, etc.
As a result, I see no tension between faith and facts. Facts often support faith, and faith helps us learn more facts.
My next “Notes From the Road” entry will come after I speak at the Southeast Homeschool Convention in Greenville, SC, March 17-19.