The Habersham School is a PK3 – 12 private Classical Christian school in Savannah, GA.
by Jason Manley: Upper School Director and Science & Math Chair
Like a lot of people, there was a time in my life when I thought professional athletes were the coolest people on the planet. Not only did I enjoy playing and watching sports, but based upon numerous commercials I saw, I also took careful note that many of the pros wore their gameday jerseys in everyday life. Seeing Larry Bird or Shaq at the supermarket in a game jersey was something I always looked forward to as a kid, but sadly, it never came to fruition. As I thought more about those commercials, it made me wonder why companies would have athletes wear their jerseys in the commercials. Obviously, I realized, because people see the jersey and associate the product with a popular team and player. For example, if someone thinks that Patrick Mahomes is drinking BioSteel sports drinks, then they may stop reading this article, do a DuckDuckGo search for that company, and realize it’s true, Patrick Mahomes is endorsed by that company and claims to use their products. Wanting to be as cool as Pat Mahomes, people start buying the product, and the advertising department at BioSteel chalks up another win.
What does this have to do with science? Well, our culture does the same thing with science that advertising departments do with their products. Want to know what you should drink? Look to Patrick Mahomes. Want to know what you should think? Look to science. This is because science, unfortunately, has become something of a religious institution in the minds of many. A brief perusal of news articles and advertisements online will assure you that claim X is true because “scientists say” it is. While claim X may very well be true, we are asked to accept the authority of science and scientists, even when those claims seem to conflict with what we have experienced or otherwise believe to be true. In fact, it has been said that the lab coat is the new priestly gown of our age. Don’t believe me? The next time the president of our country, and it doesn’t matter which president, makes a speech about healthcare, or COVID, or whatever, look for people in white lab coats standing in the background. People see the lab coat and assume there is authority in what is being said, because the lab coat is a symbol of authority.
Of course, if COVID has taught us anything, it’s that scientists disagree and get things wrong, and are, simply put, human. Obviously, scientists get lots of things right, and we can be thankful for modern medicine, improved agriculture, and sweet technology, like flip phones. However, we tend to invest way too much hope and trust in what science says. Science is, by definition, constantly open to revision and refinement. This is one of the reasons that we approach science the way that we do at The Habersham School. We help our students wrestle with the best of current scientific understanding, but we also help them explore the history of how scientific understanding has changed through the ages. They will become improved thinkers and experimentalists in their science classes, but they will also learn that science is but one way of studying the world in which we live.
To that end, our students will hopefully grow to see that science is a good gift to us from God, and it should be used as such. We also want them to see that science makes a lousy religion, no matter how fervently its preachers shout. We want our students to put their hope and trust in truth that endures and cannot change with a new study or marketing campaign. Such truth is found only in the Bible, the authoritative, revealed word of God given to us so that we can know Him and live as He designed us to live. When we view the world with that proper lens, then we can understand and use science the way that it was intended: as a tool to help us reverence God more, and to help us improve the lives of others.
You may not know who is credited with discovering the electron, but any student currently taking chemistry in our high school should be able to tell you that it was JJ Thomson. His discovery was revolutionary, in part because it indicated that modern science in his time was wrong, that there was something smaller than the atom after all. Thomson, like so many of the best scientists throughout history, knew that science is not meant to have ultimate authority, but that its claims are always subject to change. We teach our students at The Habersham School the same thing, because we want them to have the same attitude as JJ Thomson, who wrote:
“The sum of knowledge is at present, at any rate, a diverging, not a converging, series. As we conquer peak after peak we see in front of us regions full of interest and beauty, but we do not see our goal, we donot see the horizon; in the distance tower still higher peaks, which will yield to those who ascend themstill wider prospects, and deepen the feeling, the truth of which is emphasized by every advance inscience, that “Great are the Works of the Lord.”
I can’t speak for Patrick Mahomes or his sports drink, but Thomson’s words sound like truth I can buy.
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