02 February, 2010

Of Economics & Higher Education

What is happening in higher education today—the collapse of the job market for Ph.D.s, salary freezes and cuts, firings, and whole-sale re-evaluation of institutional costs—is not something that prognosticators could not have foreseen many years ago. In the flush years of the go-go 90s and into the new millennium, colleges and universities expanded offerings, majors, faculties, facilities, programs curricular, non-curricular, and extra-curricular, and administrations as if, well, there were no tomorrow. Today we live in “no tomorrow.” This hasn’t impacted only the little leaguers, but even the big leaguers—even the Ivy League. This from David J. Skorton at Cornell, as quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

“The current economic downturn should also be a sound opportunity to make bold changes to sharpen our focus and enhance our quality and impact—changes that would be much more difficult to make in more prosperous times... We are unlikely to control the cost of higher education, or improve overall quality, if we simply add new programs on top of what we already offer.”

There’s nothing like a good economic shock to bring us to our senses, and perhaps instead of lamenting what we’re losing, we can focus on what we ought to keep: a lean, mean, and clean liberal arts curriculum that prepares not for a job, but for a life or, as we Lutherans might put it, for one’s vocation. A liberal arts curriculum, which is not only the best education for the propagation of confessional Lutheranism, is also the cheapest, directest way to accomplish it.

Because it is not a fad, it is not constantly shifting (and thereby costing money). Because it is concerned with a way of thinking based upon time-tested “greats,” it doesn’t require a massive library—just a few good books. Because it is not professional preparation, it doesn’t compete for faculty with industry and commerce—it just needs a few good, faithful, thoughtful faculty concerned above all not with the number of notches in their scholarly belts, but with students, what they learn, and how they develop.

Lean, mean, and clean not only makes curricular sense, it makes economic sense. Rightly endowed, in fact, lean, mean, and clean, absent non-essential frills that are frankly a distraction from liberal learning, is self-perpetuating. Like a good liberal arts education that can’t be taken away from anyone, a lean, mean, and clean liberal arts institution is the antidote to deleterious economic impacts on Lutheran higher education.


Steve Gehrke said...

I would argue that engineering is, if not " 'the best' education for the propagation of confessional Lutheranism," certainly an excellent vehicle for doing so. I think a robust embrace of engineering education would provide broad value to a confessional Lutheran institution of higher education. But I would concede that engineering is not "the cheapest, directest way to accomplish it."

I know the Lutheran concept of vocation has many facets other than "job" but I assume that you are not intending to exclude "job" from "one's vocation." A society generally as well as an intellectual community of faculty needs some whose vocations require a solid understanding of the physical laws of the universe as created by God with the ability to harness these laws creatively to serve one's neighbor.

Jon Bruss said...

Steve, I wholeheartedly concur with what you're saying about science education, and, as I mentioned an in earlier email (I think?), the scientific method, including its application to human problems, I should think, would need to be drawn into this liberal arts model I'm talking about. It certainly was in Wittenberg. So what you're pressing me to do is (a) write on this and explore it; and (b) (I think?) defend a less-than-professional education.

I can do the latter right now: none of the education in the faculty of the arts is INTENDED for direct professional application, but, as we know, many students do, in fact, go directly from the faculty of the arts into the work force. That's because the faculty of arts gives enough by way of thinking skills, creativity, experience, etc., so that one can be "trained on the job," as it were. Of course, this is not "trained on the job" to be an engineer (or a lawyer, or a doctor, or what have you). The latter have their own professional schools. And that's good. And the liberal education can prepare one for that (but doesn't have to). I've had a similar discussion before with someone who reasoned: if you can go straight from the faculty of arts into med school, why not straight from an engineering program into the seminary. Well, the fact is: you can't go "straight" from the faculty of arts into med school without the proper background, which you may or may not get in the faculty of arts (depending on how you have taken your education); and you can't even go straight into the seminary from the faculty of arts without the proper background, which you may or may not get in the faculty of arts (depending on how you have taken your education). That doesn't mean the faculty of arts is poor; it just means that it does what it does, which is to give one a certain set of intellectual tools from literary, scientific, rhetorical, and dialectical study, along with the knowledge of some languages (Greek, Latin, or Hebrew + a modern language) to live more fully in a Western culture that has been created by those strands.

Steve Gehrke said...

Yes I am interested in learning what thoughts you might have on point a). But it goes much deeper than knowing the scientific method. It includes what do we understand about God's plan of creation by considering the elegance of the mathematical equations such as Euler's identity: e^iπ+1=0 (in that nothing about this equation is a human construct; i.e. it is an abstract yet real creation of God's), or how do the laws of thermodynamics influence the development of society. These seem to be the same kinds of questions the liberal arts deal with: what is beauty? why do people behave as they do? You can look up Euler's identity and the laws of thermodynamics on Wikipedia, and get the basic idea fairly quickly but I don't think you can really appreciate the questions I pose without a foundation of math and physics taught as pure subjects (as opposed to training in their application to a vocation). I might compare it the difference between reading an English translation of the Odyssey and reading it in the original Greek (the former of which I have done, the latter I never will be able to do).

I'll break out a couple of additional points in other comments.

Rev. Sean L. Rippy said...

As far as I have seen, at this point in time, while there are some (a bold few) Classical Lutheran elementary schools and at least 1 Classical Lutheran High School, there are no Classical Lutheran colleges or universities left.

There remain vestiges as the 4 Humanities core classes from my alma mater Concordia Portland may attest, but the kind of Liberal Arts, full blown Classical Lutheran College of yore or even modified for the Evangelicals ala New Saint Andrews College, Moscow, ID, doesn't seem to exist in America today.

I, myself, would love to see such a school come about, would even love to teach in such a school. Taking the educational environment as we have it today, how do you think we should proceed? 1. Start a new classical Lutheran college (perhaps along the model of New Saint Andrews)- with a physical building? 2. Reform an old physical College/University (i.e. Mequon)? 3. Start a new classical Lutheran college following an online/virtual model? or 4. Something else?

Thank you,

Rev. Sean L. Rippy

Steve Gehrke said...

I opened my graduate chemical engineering course on advanced transport phenomena this semester with a discussion of the development of the profession of chemical engineering. Chemical engineering was actually developed as an adjunct to the fashion industry in the 1800's. I quoted to the class an article in the journal Isis by JT Beer, "Coal Tar Dye Manufacture and the Origins of the Modern Industrial Research" Vol 49, pp. 121-131 (1958). I will provide a footnote from the article below. Note in the footnote that according to this author, goals of institutions of higher learning, economic development, and the outbreak of World War I are tied up with differences in "the national characters" of England, France, Germany and Switzerland. In short, England and France were too rich to bother with chemical engineering and thought it was beneath them. Thus the development of the modern chemical industry was left to the Germans and Swiss. Over a period of only a few decades, this difference in national attitudes left Germany with the industrial might to contend with England and France on the global stage. So what was that shaped the national characters of these nations toward engineering? Could differences in Calvinism, Catholicism and Lutheranism explain this at least in part? What else might also?

From the article:

"Failure on the part of the British and French to found industrial research laboratories of the type developed in Germany and Switzerland in the last three decades of the nineteenth century caused their organic and fine-chemicals industry to shrink to insignificance. So dependent did these two countries become on German dyestuffs, pharmaceuticals and photographic supplies, that the outbreak of the First World War faced them with a serious crisis. Their failure to develop industrial research laboratories before 1914 must in large part be attributed to their national characters. In both lands the industrial scientist was looked upon as inferior to the academic scientist. For this reason the education of industrial scientists and engineers was neglected. *Institutions of higher learning refused to take any part in training men to work in industry.* [SHG emphasis] It must also be said that, in general, the British and French were more likely to have a strong dislike for the monotonous drudgery [SHG note: my students appreciated this characterization of their discipline] and the restrictions on freedom of scientific inquiry which industrial research almost inevitably imposes. To these factors it should also be added that, in the period under consideration, both these countries were prosperous enough to be able temporarily to forego the benefits which industrial research brings."

Jon Bruss said...

Pr. Rippy, There are several ways to proceed, I think, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. If you go to the sidebar you'll see a listing for "models." If you click on that, you should come up with a full list of the possibilities that have been discussed on the blog so far. There's also a post called "Where Do We Go from Here?" from the last few weeks. In that post I outline how we get from point A, where we are now, to point B, which is having a program like Renascentes Musae envisions on the ground.

Jon Bruss said...

Steve, on your earlier comment on thermodynamics, etc., that's precisely where this whole strand needs to go: not JUST knowledge of the scientific method, but how "the scientific" comes into interplay with the rest of the world of ideas (for example, the determination that the formula you cite is not "just a construct" but a description of reality is a determination that reflects some decisions in human culture that mathematical formulae can accurately describe reality, even the beautiful (Pythagoras followed by Plato, etc.), which is not to minimize them at all, but to validate them as being very much a part of the study herein envisioned. The Wittenberg model does not compartmentalize, but treats it all as part of a larger web of ideas that are important in understanding what it is to be human.

Steve Gehrke said...

The previous excerpt from the Isis article by JT Beer ended with the statement "in the period under consideration, both these countries (England and France) were prosperous enough to be able temporarily to forego the benefits which industrial research brings." I would argue that the US now finds itself in the role of England and France a century ago, and China and India find themselves in the roles of Germany early 20th century USA (which took over Germany's technological leadership after Germany's defeat in WWI and and more so after WWII). What is it about the relationship between prosperity and attitudes toward engineering that causes these national roles to be recapitulated in very different kinds of societies? Aren't consequences for society huge? Aren't these questions of fundamental interest to the liberal arts? Can they be fully addressed without really understanding what engineering is (why does a historian find it to be 'drudgery'?)

130 years ago my great-grandparents were living in northern Germany in one room buildings with their livestock, with fires in the middle of the room rising through thatched roofs smoking their meat (not unlike those in the countryside of China and India today). At the same time in the same society, the Germans developed the model of university-industry interaction for economic development that is at use in American universities today. Has this come at the expense of the liberal arts? And if it has, has the trade-off worth it considering the difference in my family's lifestyle in comparison to my great-grandparents?

These are honest questions, not assertions cloaked as questions. They seem to me however to be ones that require interactions between classically trained academicians and those in more recently developed disciplines. And their answers do have significance to modern societies. So to the extent that you are envisioning an ideal institution of higher learning, I would think that a faculty would need to be gathered with expertise on all sides of these issues.

Steve Gehrke said...

Also to keep a closer connection to the blog post topic, science and engineering research and hence their graduate programs are very (very, very, very) expensive. However, undergraduate education in engineering is not that much more expensive than liberal arts - um, well, um, except for the fact that engineering faculty are paid more because of the competition with industry that you mentioned. But there are plenty of science and engineering PhD's who would be willing to forgo industry-scale wages to teach undergraduates - there are very few engineering schools without graduate programs, but many PhD's who would like to teach engineering courses without pressure to raise research money for the graduate program. It would be hard to get an engineering program accredited on a shoestring budget, but I don't think it would be necessary in the sort of institution you envision to have accredited engineering majors.

Rather, I'm suggesting there is great value of having course sequences in science, mathematics and engineering even for those in classical liberal arts majors. Glad to see that in your replies to my comments that you agree. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think many institutions require liberal arts majors to take the 15% of their major in technical subjects, as engineers are required to take in the humanities and social sciences (BTW, I do think those courses could be more effective if taught in a classical mode than in the current cafeteria style, so you could propose how that 15% of the major could be better used. Or should it be more than 15%?). I know my brother got through a social sciences major in a Lutheran college without taking any math/science courses.

Unfortunately, after tossing all these ideas and challenges your way, I must now retreat to my vocation: preparing lectures for my classes this week. I apologize in advance if I'm not able to pick up on comments right way. Thanks for 'listening', and be assured I will be reading your comments if I can't reply for a few days.

Rev. Sean L. Rippy said...

How can I help?

To put it simply, I am highly motivated to support such a school. Without swallowing the Holy Spirit feathers and all, it is not an exagerration to say that this kind of Confessional Lutheran Classical College has been tugging on my heart for sometime. I wish to do anything I can to assist in the process.

Rev. Sean L. Rippy

Jon Bruss said...

So much to respond to here. First, I think that it may well be the case that our general physical enrichment has gone hand-in-hand with a general cultural and intellectual impoverishment. This is not to say that the physical enhancements to today's life aren't a wonderful blessing (although maybe they're actually a curse?), but that we have certainly traded something off to get what we have. Second, I am very much a fan of the New St. Andrew's, Thomas Aquinas, St. John's model. See, from 21 Nov., 2009, the piece "What?"

Jon Bruss said...

On supporting the project that Ren. Mus. is about: let us talk long and earnestly about a classical Lutheran college, but let us not do nothing but talk. As the posts by Steve Gehrke show, there are "gaps" that we need to fill in before we move on un[der]advisedly. That said, Ren. Mus. was kicked off precisely in order to discover how to reinstantiate Wittenberg education. To do that we need: serious thinking about the theological and intellectual underpinnings of Wittenberg education; support and interest; a clearly articulated formulation of what Wittenberg education will look like on the ground in 21st century N. America, curriculum and delivery method altogether; a qualified and dedicated faculty; adequate resources in facilities and finances. But this thing has to build in that order. We have to lay a firm foundation theologically and intellectually before we can take the next steps. Of course, steps will overlap, but in the meanwhile, keep helping with your good comments and suggestions and challenges; spread the word about renascentesmusae to build support. At some point in the not-too-distant future I hope we can come to readers and non-readers alike with a specific proposal.

Rev. Sean L. Rippy said...

Prof./Dr.? Steve Gehrke (sorry I don't wish to offend) said:

"Rather, I'm suggesting there is great value of having course sequences in science, mathematics and engineering even for those in classical liberal arts majors."

I am neither a science major nor an engineer- that was my Dad's job- and to put it rather bluntly, physics and calculus gave me a headache. Rather, my experience and degrees are in Theology and English with a side of history and philosophy- a rather liberal arts background. Having said all of that, it is my understanding that a liberal arts education should include science and mathematics and music (also a math field of sorts). If for nothing else, the study of science, math and music aids in the analytical processes inherent in logic and rhetoric- not to mention aiding in the proper understanding of God's creation.

Further, I have long contended that there should not be the divide between science and religion/Christianity that has existed since the Quadrivium broke up. I'm sick and tired of hearing people say, "That's faith, but this is science." Christians should take back the sciences for God. As such, in my opinion, it is good, right and salutary if not a necessity, that a classical Christian college teach science, math, & music as part of the Liberal Arts curriculum as well as eventually offering post grad degrees in the fields.

Rev. Sean L. Rippy

Steve Gehrke said...

Rev. Rippy,
Steve is fine, though, yes I am a professor of chemical & petroleum engineering at the University of Kansas, with appointments in Bioengineering, Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Chemistry. I earned my PhD at the University of Minnesota, where I was a member of Rev. John T. Pless's first congregation at the University Lutheran Chapel (and met my wife there; we were the 2nd couple married there by Rev. Pless). I have come to KU via the University of Cincinnati and Kansas State University over the past 20+ years. I am currently an elder at St. John's Lutheran in Topeka KS under Pastors Lange and Stark, and where I am most blessed to have the Rev. Dr. Jon Bruss as my Bible study teacher (and who is a most gifted pastor/teacher, BTW).

I have long been interested in how Lutheran theology informs and interacts with science and theology. I'm quite happy to have learned of this blog, I hope that it can lead to some concrete action in this direction (even if not a main goal). From talking with Jon, I'm aware that I don't really know much about the theory of higher education, and while I'm conversant in (and committed to) confessional Lutheran theology I'm really not much more than an eager sophomore. But I do think I may have some helpful perspectives to offer to those on the liberal arts side of academia and the church. Over the years, I have found myself regularly frustrated by statements regarding science and technology from Lutherans from whom I have learned much about the Faith and whom I greatly admire as individuals, scholars and men of God. Too often they are confidently ignorant or timidly passive.

Science and technology have greatly transformed society over the past 100-200 years. I could view technology as a runaway freight train that needs guidance from thoughtful people well educated in the liberal arts who understand where humanity has been and where human nature is likely to take us. I fear that most such scholars are now sitting in the caboose, either hanging on for dear life or watching the Golden Age recede ever further into the horizon oblivious of where they are being taken. I want them to start climbing toward the locomotive so they can jump in and steer! Maybe that simply reflects my own ignorance of what liberal arts scholars are trying to do, but it is stated out of genuine respect and belief that we (society and the Church) need leadership from such scholars.

One final comment: I will postulate that in science-faith debates, science has credibility with laity because of their confidence (often misplaced) in TECHNOLOGY, not in Science. And technology could be viewed as faith-based science. More on that at some future occasion.

Steve Gehrke said...

Rev. Rippy,

I have the same motivation as you do with regard to your last paragraph. However, I think it would be worth exploring the sentiment underlying "Christians should take back the sciences for God." It implies that the sciences used to be God's, that they are not now, and that God wants them back. Are any of these statements true? It may not be possible to answer without defining what 'science' is as a discipline.

And what about engineering? Engineering is to science as literature is to language (well, sort of, this parallel could be better refined, but hope you get my point.). That is, engineering is the creative application of the theory/principles, and it is the application with which people engage, not the theory. People's lives are affected by literature, not grammar; their lives are affected by existence of birth control pills, not the study of hormonal cycles. Theology may be challenged and altered by literature, such as that presenting abortion as a responsible moral decision. The mere existence of birth control technology has done the same. On the other hand, advanced medical imaging technology has dismantled the 'mass of tissue' argument in favor of abortion in the 70's and 80's. The pendulum swings back and forth, driven by the existence and use of technology. I would argue that advances in scientific knowledge has a lesser impact on people's behavior and attitudes toward religion than advances in technology, except in so far as scientific advances lead to advances in technology.

Rev. Sean L. Rippy said...

Dr. Gehrke wrote:

"However, I think it would be worth exploring the sentiment underlying "Christians should take back the sciences for God." It implies that the sciences used to be God's, that they are not now, and that God wants them back. Are any of these statements true?"

In short, I mean, "for God" in the sense of "in the name of God" rather than "giving something to God"

At one time the sciences were subservient to God's Word and certain things were assumed based on God's Word. And while the Bible is certainly not a science book, what science it does contain is accurate and truthful. This particular fundamental assumption is no longer accepted by the majority of scientists nor taught at the Universities. In this sense, from a human perspective, Christians have lost the last few battles (but perhaps not the war) in the sciences. We have, in essence, lost the sciences to the secular humanists (philsophically) and should not abandon the field, but rather try to take it back. And while I would like to see this reversed in the Universities and public realm (i.e. take the sciences back for God), this is impossible without conversions.

More to the heart of my statement, however, is that many Christians also assume that science and faith are separate, disparate things- maybe even mutually exclusive. This is what must be "taken back"- as Christians we should not allow the sciences to be considered a secular topic in a Christian school, but rather a whole with the Creation of God.

Ultimately, then, it is not God's will that's at question, but rather our actions as Christians in general and Christian scientists/professors in particular. By saying we should take back the sciences for God, it is not meant to say we give anything to God, but rather that we begin to see the world and the sciences as He wishes us to see them and that we teach this wholistic science/faith worldview to our students. "For God" then means in the name of God, rather than "given to God".

To put it another way, in the above statement, I'm trying to posit that there is a separation of science and faith. And in this sense, Christians have lost the sciences to the secular worldview. Eschewing the question of God's desire, I believe that God wishes us to view the world and thus the sciences that are certainly His, as He has revealed them to us- Through the Biblical worldview as opposed to a secular humanist worldview.

In the sense that there is a split in our society and especially at the university level between science and faith, even insofar as Christian scientists (and laymen) have been affected by the philosophical worlview of the secular understanding of science, the Christian worldview has lost the sciences (we have lost or surrendered much of the academic world for that matter).

So, 1. Science as an entity (majority?) no longer views the sciences through a Biblical world view. 2. Christian scientists(including teaching at many of our Concordias) have also jetisoned a Biblical world view in favor a secular scientific one. 3. We, the church at large, and Christians in academia, have largely moved away from and thus enshrined this separation of science and faith. (Thus statements like, "Well creation is faith Pastor, but evolution is science.) This is what I believe has been lost and ought to be regained insofar as we are able in the name of and by the grace of Almighty God, the maker of all the sciences.

Rev. Sean L. Rippy

Steve Gehrke said...

Rev. Rippy,
I appreciate your reply to my lengthy and I hope not too churlish posts. Let me assure you that my sentiments align with yours in your reply. I do have issues (as my tween daughter would put it) with your statements however, which I do find to be a prevailing sentiment in the LCMS and other conservative Christian circles. I apologize if I've missed some elements of your arguments, but please let me follow up with a few comments.

First, there is much more to science-faith issues than creation-evolution debates and I think it is a debilitating mistake for the Church to focus on that alone when the subject of science and faith is raised. I've tried to indicate a few such areas in earlier posts. Possibly they are less important theologically, but still important. Yet I have found them to be generally ignored to the detriment of the Church and her members. These include aspects of the educational issues at the heart of this blog, but also many other things that affect the lives of Christians, such as end-of-life issues.

This is anecdotal, but based on 30 years in post-BS level academia in the sciences and engineering in major state-supported research institutions, I find no basis for the belief that scientists are generally hostile to Biblical Christianity. I'm sure I read Phillip Johnson state this in his column in Touchstone a while back, and I've recently read Richard Dawkins complain about this fact (I believe in an article in Time debating Frances Collins).

Rather, it has been my experience that scientists and engineers are disproportionally represented among conservative Christian professionals. My thesis is that the applied sciences (including biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences) and engineering in particular *support and encourage* adherence to an orthodox Christian worldview. Furthermore, I believe that education in such fields is especially compatible with promotion of confessional Lutheranism. I'm posting to this blog to see if others more knowledegable than I in this area can test this thesis.

Therefore, I think it is a serious mistake to use creation-evolution as the sole basis for the statement that "Christian scientists have also jettisoned a Biblical world view in favor of a secular scientific one." I would agree with you that many such scientists are not young earth creationists (though a not insignificant number are), but even if they are theologically inconsistent on this point, confessional Lutherans have gone too far - and to the detriment of the Lutheranism - to equate this inconsistency with jettisoning a Biblical worldview in its entirety.

I'm completely in agreement with you that the sciences should serve God in subservience to His Word. But Luther himself used bad science to make good theological points (e.g. connecting the resurrection of our Lord with a perceived annual resurrection of swallows because Germans didn't know about migratory birds). It has been painful for me to witness such things in public and private venues today (and I'm not talking about C/E here, but more mundane things like misuse of the laws of thermodynamics to make theological, political or sociological points) I hope this blog, in envisioning a different educational system, can help us get past suspicions and misunderstandings that in my opinion are built more upon disciplinary barriers (education in science/engineering vs. edcuation in liberal arts), rather than theological ones. Thanks for your help!


Rev. Sean L. Rippy said...

Okay, let's not get caught up on creation/evolution. I suppose I used the Creation-Evolution issue as a representative example and thus the easiest saw because it's the one I have personally seen abused in our own Lutheran Universities. Therefore it's a personal issue for me. However my point is philosophical.

I was not trying to posit a deductive premise i.e. Science has evolution wrong, therefore they have everything wrong. Rather my point is that in my experience the majority of scientists have accepted the enlightenment, humanist philosophy that makes human reason the arbiter of all truth; assumes a closed universe and precludes Christianity. When that shift occured, which we call the enlightenment, spurred on by men such as Descarte, Liebnitz, Volataire, et. al. it affected and infected everything, including science. The creation-evolution issue is merely one result of that change in philosophy. You mentioned another- the reproductive issues. This humanist worldview has affected geology, astronomy, physics and other sciences.

I have found engineers (like my father) and even mathmaticians (like my father in-law) to be mixed on theological issues but they usually make pretty conservative (if not pragmatic) Christians (maybe something to do with what drew them to math + engineering in the first place?) However, I've found generally that physicists (especially theoretical physicists) biologists, geologists, astonomers, anthropologists (okay a soft science), psychologists (another soft science) and many other scientists to be quite liberal and at odds with a Christo-centric view of the world in general and science in particular (even if they are Christian) especially at the colleges.

These secular (or even Christian) humanist scientists also tend to control what the lay person regards as science (which the laity understand as fact). Names of scientists who have challenged the Christo-centric view of science include a who's who of scientists: Descarte (who while largely Christian, still championed rationalism and the enshrinement of reason over all in his cogito ergo sum; Darwin (although there is an argument that he may not have intended what happened later), Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking etc.

I guess I have this impression of the secular humanist scientist from people I've met- including some LCMS scientists and mathmaticians who teach at our Lutheran schools; from what I've read and been exposed to and from what I've seen in the news. I have seen the scientific community up in arms against Christian scientists who wish to teach that evolution is a theory (okay back to evolution again- but it's a valid point when they, themselves say, "Don't mix faith and fact.") I have seen the scientists (not just political pundits) up in arms over the abortion issue when a someone says that abortion is murder. I have seen scientists fight for euthenasia on pragmatic secular humanist grounds. I have seen them push for stem cell research using the same humanist arguments. I have only ever seen a handful of scientists refute such issues. I find it hard to believe therefore that scientists have not largely accepted the secular humanist wordlview at least when it comes to science. If nothing else, I have seen secular humanism enshrined at all levels of schooling in America- from preschools through PhDs. Surely the secular humanist worldview hasn't skipped the sciences when it's enshrined everywhere else.

A great theologian once said, "I believe, therefore I reason." Peter Abelard began to change that when he wrote, "I reason, therefore I believe." Reason has its place, but it must always be subject to the Word of God, not only in faith but in all things including science. And ultimately, that is the point I'm trying to make: That we ought teach science subject to the revelation of God rather than as a separate entity with its own rules.

Thank you for listening to my ramblings.

Rev. Sean L. Rippy

Steve Gehrke said...

Hi Rev Rippy-
I only have time for a quick post but let me note that I think we are drawing the same line:

Applied science and engineering vs. theoretical science (I don't include social science in this discussion).

The former mix empiricism (basically, unexplainable information or acceptance of authority) with theory with objective goals in mind. The latter claim to be able to discover Truth by pure thought, hence the conflicts with religion.

Nonetheless, even in the pure sciences, there is not overt hostility to religion, again with the sole exception of young earth creationism. BTW I do research with stems cells, not of course embryonic ones, that is another story.

I enjoyed your post a lot, more later.

Rev. Sean L. Rippy said...

I would agree with you that there isn't overt hostility to religion as much as a philosophical hostility. I do not see scientists out there bashing religion so much as undermining certain foundations of religion in general and Christianity specifically. This is why, in my opinion, a liberal Christian (including liberal scientists) have to believe the Bible is a book written by man and therefore fallible rather than a book written by God and therefore infallible.

Thus I see a more subtle and therefore more effective, attack on Christianity.

Rev. Sean L. Rippy