When I was growing up, science was one of the many enemies that we feared. It wasn’t expressed in that way, of course. We proudly had our own science that, much like many of our other perspectives, stood above the common place science of the times. But the scientific community and their lies and their agendas, they were enemies. Those people didn’t love God and they believed in things directly contrary to what the Bible said. More than that, they directly hated us because we did love God and believed the Bible, so they were constantly coming up with scientific conclusions at us. Poor scientists. If only they understood the truth like we did.
It’s a funny thing about modern evangelicals. Not entirely but to a disturbingly large extent, there is a real bias against intellectualism. I mean, it’s hard to embrace the intellectual establishment too much while you’re shouting things like that evolution never happened, global warming is a conspiracy, homosexuality is a choice, and the Bible contains the only things necessary for life on this planet. It makes it hard to get along.
I say all of this because this quarter I am taking a nominal science class. It’s not exactly a real science class. We are utilizing science. We’re looking at how scientific statistics are arrived at and how people use them. In another one of my classes we are also using a lot of quantitative data, so I’m a bit nervous about the amount of numbers that seem to be piling up in my future. But, aside from that, I find myself with so many strange thoughts and reactions to science.
I effectively never took a science class. I have always assumed that science is a thing I am terrible at, although there’s no definitive evidence for that. Science is a thing that is connected to math and I know that math is a thing I toil with. That said, when I took my math class at community college, it was certainly difficult for me but it was not as hard for me as it was for some of my classmates… which led me to wonder if it might have been something I was better at with better instruction. But with science I really don’t have a lot to compare with. We didn’t do science. We read things that told us why evolution was a lie. I’m sure we had a few other books here and there that taught us basic things, but like much of the rest of our school, it was essentially reading comprehension and I never did anything hands on.
One of my teachers this quarter encouraged us to work with the “incremental theory” of intelligence as we moved forward this quarter, rather than the “entity theory.” The incremental theory essentially believes that intelligence is malleable and can be improved if you work at it. This goes with my general belief about the brain’s ability to grow and change. However, when I think about that in real terms – for example if I try to believe concretely that perhaps I could be much better at math, or maybe I might be good at science, I tend to fall a little flat.
Like probably most of us, I have pretty set beliefs about my abilities. There are things that come really easy for me. I am pretty good at communication. I am fascinated by people and I am able to empathize without too much trouble. I am pretty good at writing. A lot of things fall into these categories, but I write off things like science. So this quarter I have to try not to do that. It’s not a heavy science class, as I said. Chances are that will never be my major field of interest. But the reasons I feel so uncomfortable there are probably as much my own expectations for myself as anything based in reality.
There’s another thing about science that troubles me though, and I found myself running into it today while doing a reading for my class. I don’t actually trust glowing appraisals of it. Not because I still believe that the earth is 6,000 years old, but maybe because once upon a time scientific “fact” was presented to prove to me that it was. Scientific “facts” have been used to prove beyond a doubt that other races are lesser beings, that slavery is right and moral, that homosexuality is an aberration, and to support various forms of eugenics. I do think that many people in the scientific community are trying to do the right thing… but science is influenced by the culture it is surrounded by and who pays them. While the community will eventually probably catch up with the times, it seems hard to ignore how much damage scientific findings can contribute to in the meantime.
I am a big fan of cool new scientific discoveries. I think that science is capable of super amazing things and I think we should pursue that. But I also think that it can be used as a weapon and that the potential for abuse shouldn’t be ignored. Also probably I should not underestimate my own possibility to learn things that are outside of my comfort zone.
This is what I have been musing on in my first two days in school.