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Reading Science with Discernment

Science is best taught with experiments, observations, varied presentations, supplemental readings, and current events. But not every resource on the market is pedagogically sound: some products have antiChristian goals; other products are just not accurate.

Is it, then, a mistake to use materials that do not pass the "acid test" for your supplementary resource lists? No. Your child needs not only to understand science but also to be able to discern the errors of "science falsely so called" (I Tim. 6:20). This discernment comes with deliberate training. Our goal as parents is to produce mature Christians "who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb. 5:14).

It is inevitable that children encounter science or reasoning that supposedly has the authority of science behind it but is in fact erroneous. When Christians think of false science, they think first of evolution. Flagrant evolutionary statements are a minor concern. Most ten year olds can identify them. The real danger is the very subtle reasoning that gradually leads one to an incorrect mindset or an erroneous world view. Articles dealing with ethical issues, such as animal rights and use of the environment, sometimes have a tone that assumes that mankind is just an intelligent animal or is less important than the environment. It takes preparation to be able to spot these hidden falsehoods.

A Christian textbook can identify examples of pseudoscience or clearly instruct the reader to took for the erroneous philosophy. Real life rarely has such warning labels. The next step should come from examining the real item within the safeguards of a home school.

Supplemental readings from current science publications written for student audiences are helpful in making your instruction relevant and current. These publications often have both flagrant and subtle statements regarding ultimate origins and man's purpose on earth. Simply have your child identify occurrences of "false science" within an article, and then discuss the errors. Your child may at first find only the flagrant examples, but with practice, he will identify more of the subtle fallacies.

The following are a few of the possible publications you may want to have available in your home.

Current Science-This is a weekly publication written for the junior high audience. It provides short, interesting articles written for the junior high audience. It provides short, interesting articles with colorful art and photographs. Easy experiments and demonstrations are often suggested.

Discover-- This monthly publication is written at the high school to adult reading level. It provides both short and long articles with colorful art and photographs. Supplemental teacher resources are also available from the publisher.

Popular Science-This monthly publication is written at the high school to adult reading level. It has colorful art and photographs and seems to emphasize the physical sciences.

Creation Ex Nihilo--Providing a creation magazine will help stave off the idea that belief in creation has nothing to do with science. Including a creation magazine will also help balance the popular publications that hold to evolution.

Newspapers and Magazines-Though often not as thorough, these are more readily available.

Should you and your child discuss every article? No, you will not have time, and not every article will have fallacies in it. Be careful to avoid cynicism. Ferreting out bad philosophy is not the only reason to be a critical reader. Sometimes writers make wrong conclusions, or they do not consider everything they should or they are blind to some consideration because of their preconceived ideas. Even a correct conclusion may be improperly justified with poor reasoning. You need to teach your child to keep several things in mind as he reads.

  1. Does the person who wrote the article have the credentials to speak authoritatively on the topic?
  2. What type of publication does the article appear in?
  3. Is the article up-to-date? When was the information gathered?
  4. Is it consistent with Scripture? With other known laws of science? Does it make sense?
  5. Was enough evidence collected?
By asking questions, your child will grow in his ability to discern error and will not be spoiled by "philosophy and vain deceit" (Col. 2:8). Training our children to "prove all things" (I Thess. 5:21) is necessary if they are to "stand fast in the Lord" (Phil. 4: 1).

David Anderson, Ph.D. (Botany) served as an author of secondary science books at Bob Jones University Press.

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