On Friday and Saturday last week, I spoke at the Ontario Christian Home Educators’ Convention in Ontario, Canada. It has been 10 years or more since I last spoke there, so it was nice to be back. The convention was held on the campus of Redeemer University College in Ontario, where the admissions director is a home educator. Like many universities, Redeemer has learned that homeschool graduates make above-average university students (see here, here, here, here, and here), so they actively encourage homeschool graduates to apply. They are also happy to support homeschooling in Canada.
The convention was very well attended, and based on a show of hands at my keynote session, about 20% of the attendees had never been to a homeschool convention before. As I spoke with individual attendees, it became clear that several of the people at the convention were considering home education for the first time. When I mentioned this to one of the conference organizers, he indicated that the new premier of Ontario is introducing a radical sex education program, and it is causing many in Ontario to look for a way out of the government school system. Based on what I read about the new program, I truly hope lots of parents remove their children from such a horrible situation!
I gave a total of six talks at the convention: Homeschooling: The Solution to our Education Problem, Be Open-Minded, but Don’t Let Your Brain Fall Out, What About K-6 Science?, Why Homeschool Through High School, ‘Teaching’ High School at Home , and How are Homeschool Graduates Doing? When I give talks in a different country, I always try to make them relevant for that country, so most of the statistics I shared came from Canadian education studies, and most of the experts I quoted in my talks were Canadian. The conference organizers really appreciated that. I guess some U.S. speakers come to Canada and just assume that all of their U.S.-based talks are relevant to Canadians, and some of them just aren’t.
One thing I have to note is that this convention really knew how to make an out-of-the-country speaker feel right at home. They arranged for me to have a home-cooked dinner the night that I arrived, and it was great! The couple who hosted me had three charming children, two of whom colored pictures for me. Those pictures are now on my bulletin board in my office. Then, each morning, another couple cooked breakfast for me. The other meals were catered by Redeemer University College. Everyone made sure I had everything I needed to be as comfortable as possible. I don’t get pampered like that very often, and it was really nice!
I got some excellent questions after each talk, and one of them was from a high school student. During Be Open-Minded, but Don’t Let Your Brain Fall Out, I made the point that in many ways, the Medieval Christian Church was more open-minded than many modern-day Evangelical churches, because it understood that you can learn from those with whom you fundamentally disagree. For example, the Medieval Christian Church required its priests to be very knowledgeable about the teachings of Aristotle, who was a pagan. While the church didn’t agree with his views on religion, they understood that Christians could still learn a lot from Aristotle, especially when it came to logic and rhetoric.
During the question/answer session afterwards, a high school student asked if I thought that some of Aristotle’s religious views ended up creeping into the Medieval Church’s doctrines, even though they were studying him for other reasons. I told the student what an excellent question he had asked and then told him that we was, of course, absolutely correct. The teachings of Aristotle, for example, strongly influenced Thomas Auqinas, who was an incredibly important figure in the Medieval Christian Church. In fact, some have called Thomas Aquinas “The Christian Aristotle.” Obviously, then, if we are going to learn from those who are not Christians, we must continually check their ideas against Scripture to make sure our theology is not unduly influenced by them!
One other question I got was from a parent. He came up to me at my speaker’s booth and asked, “What do you think about quantum mechanics.” When he asked that question, I thought, “Oh, no. He’s one of those Christians who thinks quantum mechanics is bad.” I told him that quantum mechanics is a robust, incredibly useful theory that explains many aspects of the atomic world. It might not give us the entire picture, however, since it fundamentally contradicts general relativity, which is also a robust, incredibly useful theory about space, time, and gravity. Nevertheless, it has so much evidence stacked in its favor that it must be providing a reasonable view of how things work at the atomic level.
The parent then asked, “Do you think that God uses quantum mechanics to intervene in nature?” At that point, I realized he wasn’t an anti-quantum-mechanics Christian. Indeed, he had studied it enough to know that in quantum mechanics, specific outcomes cannot be predicted. Only the probabilities of a range of outcomes can be predicted. Thus, God could “rig” the probabilities so the outcome that He wants in a particular circumstance will be the one that actually happens. That way, God can intervene in His creation without technically breaking any natural law. I told him that there are several theologians and philosophers who think that way (see here, here, and here, for example).
However, I told him I don’t think that’s the way God intervenes in nature. First, I think that rigging the probabilities is, in fact, breaking the rules of quantum theory. After all, the rules specifically dictate that the outcomes are determined randomly. If there is even one time when the event isn’t determined randomly, then technically, it is a violation of quantum theory. Second, as a scientist, I don’t have a problem with the idea of God breaking the natural laws. After all, He created them. Logically, it only makes sense that He can break them. When He wants a miracle to happen, then, He simply works the miracle, since the laws of nature have no power over Him. Of course, I don’t think God does that very often, so as a scientist, I can still count on the natural laws working normally the vast majority of the time.
I really loved my time in Ontario, and I hope it is less than 10+ years before I speak there again.