Whose backyard is this anyway?

“God did not create the planets and stars with the intention that they should dominate man, but that they, like other creatures, should obey and serve him.”

~ PARACELSUS, CONCERNING THE NATURE OF THINGS (C. 1541)

 

Popular science writing is dominated by a godless worldview. How many times have you heard or read “Science says --” followed by a dismissal of faith? These same writers would criticize Christians for invoking God as an explanation. The hypocrisy here is obvious. The damage to science is less obvious. This myth rests on a misunder- standing of what science actually is.

 

So what is science? Science boils down to two things:
1. Science is a process of learning about the universe.
2. Science is a continuously refined collection of knowledge about the universe.

 

Science is like a quilt. First, it’s a product that holds together. Second, it holds together because of a careful process that stitches separate pieces into place. When combined, science is a variety of observa- tions gleaned from real life experience (the squares) and assembled together by means of a careful process (the stitches) into a beautiful and intricate whole (the quilt).

These two “parts” of science—the process of learning about the uni- verse, and the continuously refined collection of knowledge about the universe—are what homeschool science is all about.

 

A Hospital Mystery

So how does the process of science work in real life? Consider germs. We know all about germs now, but imagine you lived 150 years ago, like Ignaz Semmelweis. He was a Hungarian OB-GYN at the Vienna General Hospital who noticed that, at his hands, nearly 18 out of 100 mothers died at childbirth. Midwives in a separate wing of the hospital only lost 4 out of 100 mothers. Feeling miserable, Semmelweis studied their corpses to find out what caused their deaths, but couldn’t discover any differences. Then his friend Jakob died after accidentally cutting himself with a scalpel that had previously been used on them. Jakob’s and the mothers’ corpses were similar enough that Semmelweiss made an educated guess: he proposed that anyone who touched corpses had “cadaverous particles” on them. This would explain why midwives in a separate wing, who lacked contact with corpses, had lower mortality rates.

He proposed a test. He and his fellow OB-GYNs would wash their hands after performing autopsies. It worked. The mortality rate plummeted one year from 18% to just over 2%.

Do you see the “science”? Semmelweis asked why mothers died nine times as often in the autopsy wing as the maternity wing. He guessed that somehow the dead bodies infected physicians’ hands, and proposed handwashing to test the guess. He observed the mortality rate drop. The evidence confirmed his hypothesis.

 

The Scientific Process
1. Ask a question.
2. Make an educated guess.
3. Observe what happens when you test your guess. 4. Compare your guess with your observations.

 

This is the scientific process or method: It weighs our best guesses against evidence. This kind of science benefits the discoverer and all of mankind, like an old carefully made quilt passed on to comfort fu- ture generations.