And God said: Language and Nature

The study of the natural world has been in decline, like many areas of intellectual activity. A contemporary response is the advocacy of “scientific literacy,” the ability to apply scientific methods. Among the strategies is the inculcation of terminology and basic facts. This would be more fruitful if the targeted students are personal cultivators of their language – reading, writing, and speech. Most of the time the efforts of ‘scientific literacy’ is like pouring new wine into old wine skins, as in the students possess not the mental/emotional substance (maybe even spiritual) to engraft the information. Language is a primary way we interact with everything under the sun. It is how we understand.

Simply memorizing facts and figures does not shape one’s internal use of language. In the long run, it is what someone values, practices each day. If a student does not actively try to expand their vocabulary to better understand the world around them, any terms someone embarks to teach them will not take root. If the general focus is trending not structural, words do not grow into fields of thinking. They are more as consumer goods to be used then disposed of when obsolete. The minimization or replacement of grammar and phonics during elementary education attests to a culture lacking a foundational stone of language.

No building blocks, no development. Even during the 1100s of the Middle Ages, scholars & clergy belittle language instruction, since words could supposedly mean anything in the grand scheme of things. A church leader reminded his peers of its necessity:

“Reason would remain utterly barren, or at least would fail to yield a plenteous harvest, if the faculty of speech did not bring to light its feeble conceptions, and communicate the perceptions of the prudent exercise of the human mind. . . . Deprived of their gift of speech, men would degenerate to the condition of brute animals, and cities would seem like corrals for livestock, rather than communities composed of human beings united by a common bond for the purpose of living in society, serving one another, and cooperating as friends.”

from: Book 1 – chapter 1 of The Metalogicon by John of Salisbury (1159)

It is quite something to have encountered numerous educators who softly scoff at prioritizing language and arithmetic over ‘science literacy.’ Apparently, it is foolish to focus on the building blocks of thought and calculation before delving into rigorous scientific activity. This is like failing to practice diet and conditioning prior competitive sports. Sure, one could still learn something, except they grow a sapling instead of a forest of understanding over time. Who is to say they even are able to maintain the young tree after the official activity is done? Going back to John of Salisbury, the students’ neglect of language will not promote any social/intellectual endeavor. They go about their days more as animals, concerned with what they currently desire.

Indeed, speech in the mainstream is more for knowing information to meet the whims of politics and economics. The political games of left/right, Democrat/Republican has a major part in forming language. Heck, the main purpose of obtaining a college education is to be of higher value in the job market! Our culture’s speech essentially hinges on a simulated “Game of Thrones” and Monopoly. This has been an ongoing battle for generations, the struggle to speak according to Godly rather than mortal things.

“The heralds of the truth, it is written, “have proclaimed the works of God, and have understood His doing.” Scientific knowledge, by the nature of things, must precede the practice and cultivation of virtue, which does not “run without knowing where it is going,” and does not merely “beat the air” in its battle against vice. Rather “it sees its goal, and the target at which it aims.” It does not haphazardly chase ravens with a piece of pottery and a bit of mud. But scientific knowledge is the product of reading, learning, and meditation. It is accordingly evident that grammar, which is the basis and root of scientific knowledge, implants, as it were, the seed of virtue in nature’s furrow after grace has readied the ground.”

from: Book 1 – chapter 23

The general culture neither teaches speech/grammar nor the pursuit of virtue. We therefore are of no mind or heart for genuine understanding. Our sinful ambitions are seen to be more real than the natural world itself. Learning ones language requires discipline, a self motivation that is truly beyond what we feel is a need/want. Only when we deny our selves to seek after the things of God do we address the truth, good, and beauty in nature. In doing so, vice is not our master, with lustful ignorance not dictating how we learn to speak, as social beings that need to interact with our natural world. Christ’s natural law in our hearts and minds lifts us beyond the cravings of beasts, as well as the warped passions of demons. After all, He is the Word before the beginning.

His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power. Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love. If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Anyone who lacks them is blind and shortsighted, forgetful of the cleansing of his past sins.

2 Peter 1:3-9

 

Public Education: Mandatory Mediocrity

How can I have even remote respect for something that as a result of rejecting the Creator/Christ, it lacks the substance to grow a person? Based on the grand assumption all just came into existence, young minds are instructed to know simply for the sake of knowing, that is whatever the government (public) wants them to value. Mix in democracy and opportunism, then you get a mutating alphabet soup of concepts that students are tested on without reason. Instead of gazing into the infinite mind of God, inspired to expand our mental abilities for His glory, most of us are taught to randomly learn for a vain and vague common good.

Fortunately, I was spared this institution very early on. It did not take my parents too long to decide that daycare itself was a poor option for their children’s well being. Now, I am well aware of the objections to homeschooling, as well as private school. The key counterpoint is why worry about the quality of these forms of education, more so the former, when the public system itself is a decrepit failure? Sure, not every child receives an edifying non-public upbringing. Whereas the public school system is a sub par factory. On top of it all, the government decides what values to interweave during the average seven hours at their institutions.

“Moreover, the society of which the child is to be a member is, in the United States, a democratic and progressive society. The child must be educated for leadership as well as for obedience. He must have power of self-direction and power of directing others, power of administration, ability to assume positions of responsibility. This necessity of educating for leadership is as great on the industrial as on the political side. . . . Apart from participation in social life, the school has no moral end nor aim. As long as we confine ourselves to the school as an isolated institution, we have no directing principles, because we have no object.”

from: chapter 2 of Moral Principles in Education by John Dewey (1909)

Public instruction is anti-God and average by nature. It is a supposedly neutral space that is intended as an education for all. How do you stay neutral teaching youth for at least thirteen years of their childhood? How do you employ a universal standard that meets the needs of every student? Why trust politicians and bureaucrats, let us not forget the random administrators and instructors, such utter strangers to have a critical impact in forming what children think and value? It is said we should not trust many perhaps most parents because they are ignorant themselves. Well, it is only fair to make sure everyone shares in the universal mediocre indoctrination.

The number of times I have encountered educators admitting the system is broken but is the best way for children is surreal. No faith in God, though there is plenty for the eventual fruition of the ideal education for all. Amid the fractured reading, writing, and arithmetic, wicked teachings on race, sex, and human life pervade. People and events of history/government are taught according to general racial profiles. Sexuality and gender are treated as casual pleasures. Humans are of primal animal origin and valued according to popular opinion. And who decides all this? State/Federal authorities, along with anyone directly involved politically and/or economically, dictate the information/ideas the youth of a nation are to master.

“In so far as the school represents, in its own spirit, a genuine community life; in so far as what are called school discipline, government, order, etc., are the expressions of this inherent social spirit; in so far as the methods used are those that appeal to the active and constructive powers, permitting the child to give out and thus to serve; in so far as the curriculum is so selected and organized as to provide the material for affording the child a consciousness of the world in which he has to play a part, and the demands he has to meet; so far as these ends are met, the school is organized on an ethical basis. So far as general principles are concerned, all the basic ethical requirements are met. The rest remains between the individual teacher and the individual child.”

from: chapter 4 of Moral Principles in Education

Advanced pupils are still vulnerable to this mortal system. It was a fair number of students that really helped me understand the deficiency. They explained their AP/honors courses, especially the former, are customized for the standardized tests. This means substantial content is absent. A number of them, along with post-secondary students, acknowledge or at least eventually discover their inability to immediately transition into higher levels after graduation. The standard is thereby not excellence.

Perhaps, I am too stupid to understand the grandeur in learning according to the hopes of political/corporate powers. Indeed, forsaking the whims of Christ’s cross to be a consumer of false promises and products is not that appealing. So many of us, including the founders of communities if not nations, did not need the hand of government schooling to pursue knowledge in what God has wrought. Language, history, math, science, the arts and world view are fruit of His obeyed in accordance with holy Scripture. Christ – the Logos – is the incarnation of Creation/Order whom walked among unholy ambitions of men. Fearing God is the beginning of timeless knowledge. To fear anything or anyone else is learning to be an intellectual slave of self, men, and the Devil.

Need for Fidelity.18 Therefore, take these words of mine into your heart and soul. Bind them on your arm as a sign, and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. 19 Teach them to your children, speaking of them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up, 20 and write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that, as long as the heavens are above the earth, you and your children may live on in the land which the Lord swore to your ancestors he would give them.

Deuteronomy 11:18-21

Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9

Students of the Savage Spirit

This past week I encountered two groups of students (5th/6th grade) of contrasting culture, though possessing a raw impulsiveness. One (Expeditionary Learning model) is well versed in the concrete facts of their physical world. The other (Montessori method) is more imaginative in their outlook. Still, in a unique way they expressed a deliberate self-will. There actions, planned or immediate, were deemed as only natural without thought of moral consequence. Now, what happens when they become discontent perhaps come to despair with the sinful world they inherit?

This is not to say that these children were terrors. Actually, there were a number of redemptive qualities for each group. What I am really getting at is the world view these young ones held. If continued in thought/practice as they grow older, there will surely be disastrous outcomes. Like I said, a raw impulsiveness. In other words, will anybody be able to control them when they come of age? Someone who can direct these headstrong beings shall very likely be of the same mind, just only more cunning.

The first of the two are definitely textbook learners, with the ability to comprehend technical ideas. Displaying excellent communication and motivation, they seem well on their way adapting to the modern world. What may bite this world a decade or so from now is their self-awareness in their role of the evolutionary process. For you see, they spoke indirectly of a view on morals that combines the necessity of animal survival and contemporary social rules. Believing they are animals on close terms with all members of this kingdom, their bodily needs are practically as important as what is right. After all, the first core value of their education model is “The Primacy of Self-Discovery.”

The second is of a more tactile drive, learning according to their individual abilities. They can be intensely engaged and focused on what interests them. Likewise they possess a genuine innocence, a dreamy sense of wonder for the world around them. Behavior often hinges on childishness, not child likeness, for most of them. They are trained to adhere more to their wants than what is outside their concern. Self-control being of secondary value, they are not reliable to adapt to social environments or work together in ongoing tasks. The world is pretty much extensions to their personally customized class rooms.

The inspiration/founder of both educational systems were ‘reformers’ discontent with contemporary society of the early 1900s. They were advocates for science by their own distinction, sharing the attitude that the approach needed to be more man-centered on the individual student. Kurt Hahn, whom Expeditionary is based on, believed that youth were innately good, needing to grow in self-development, less they be corrupted by society at large. Maria Montessori, physician & psychologist, desired children to be influenced in their self-direction towards the “spirit” of science, with the intended goal of curiosity for imaginative mastery of the “mechanics.”

C.S. Lewis, lead Christian author of the 20th century, wrote a lesser known character of a rather forgotten book, which illustrates an ideological force lying in wait to engulf civilization. In “The Pilgrim’s Regress,” the newly converted Lewis depicts the nihilistic ‘Savage’ as a sophisticated conqueror in barbarian dress. He represents a mindset/spirit not of a unique personality but an apathy to modern society due to disillusion from all the ideals and promises unmet. Casually under his elaborate orders are social movements akin to fascism and communism.

The beings for these ideologies in Lewis’ allegory are sub-human trolls, meant to be a parody of the grand ideal humanity is supposed to become under these social systems. Savage was raised in the world below his “honey-combed” mountain fortress. Leaving it behind, seeing it as vain talk, he desires to destroy it, for according to him, “The excellent deed is eternal. The hero alone has this privilege, that death for him is not defeat, and the lamenting over him and the memory is part of the good he aimed for; and the moment of battle fears nothing from the future because it has already cast security away [italics added] (“Furthest North” of book 6).”

This mode of thought is the extreme product of a world view/morality based on the individual will. Being social beings, we assemble ourselves with those of a likeminded will. This applies to a desire to carve out a world for the ‘truly’ fit or one forcefully levelled for all to be equal in social standing. The expeditionary students seemed ready to decide who/what would thrive after the culling of survival. The Montessori pupils only care to strive for what catches their immediate fancy. Those who can manipulate such raw yet refined impulsiveness, can acquire a self-driven horde for self-justified amoral acts, as well as systems of savagery. Lord Jesus Christ, may your Spirit be with us disciples of your Word, to speak and live the Truth before the deceived younger generations, while encouraging those who know You to allow your will be done.

“In the beginning a was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that m Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

John 1:1-13

Morality of Modern Science

The title is quite strange. There are advocates of scientific process whom acknowledge it as a human practice. Strangely, there are others who also regard it as the way to human progress. Studying the natural world will eventually rid the world of its ills, that is if the people of the world embrace a scientific literacy to likewise promote said research endeavors. In “A Scientific Society – the Beginnings,” Glenn T. Seaborg, appointed Chair of the United States Atomic Energy Commission in 1961, summarized the relationship between secular science and morals, “Beyond these principles, my confidence in freedom is based upon a personal faith, originating in my interpretation of human experience [history], to which one must appeal when scientific data are lacking or inconclusive.” Yes, science is a fine tool that will change the world for the better, though unlike idealists, there is a recognition that it is subject to individual whims.

Now, the will of the individual is not necessarily a worrisome thing when one believes a person can be near perfect. If man is not mindful of a sinful state, all he needs is the right method of living to succeed. Remember, to have sin is not necessarily to be evil, yet one is vulnerable to error, no less degrees of vice. To confidently be certain in a human method is only inviting pride before an imminent fall. Science is surely a gift from God to understand Creation for worshipful fulfillment of His command for us to have fruitful dominion. What happens to our ambitions in nature upon directing our ambition away from divine authority? According to early proponent of modern scientific education, Thomas Huxley in the late 19th century:

“They must learn that social phenomena are as much the expression of natural laws as any others; that no social arrangements can be permanent unless they harmonize with the requirements of social statics and dynamics; and that, in the nature of things, there is an arbiter whose decisions execute themselves. . . And, if the evils which are inseparable from the good of political liberty, are to be checked, . . . it will be because men will gradually bring themselves to deal with political, as they now deal with scientific questions;”

from: “Science and Culture” (1880)

Whether it is the realism or Weaver or the optimism of Huxley, human will is at the helm of destiny. My favorite atheist thinker, Friedrich Nietzsche, (1844-1900) witnessed the rise of modern science. He had two takes on people who emerge from this academic field. From the shared secular position of man being the highest mind, authority could swing democratic to totalitarian. After all, not all minds are equally desiring of a greater cause, personal or social. We will be diving into what he had to say about scientists in his “On the Genealogy of Morals”.

Nietzsche’s atheism did not possess a preference for scientific research. It was neither a way to prosperity nor a self-correcting method of natural revelation. He observed the people behind it. There were certainly individuals he found to be admirable. Still, he had this to say, “science today is a hiding place for every kind of discontent, disbelief, gnawing worm, despectio sui [disdain of their own kind], bad conscience – it is the unrest of the lack of ideals, the suffering from the lack of any great love,”. For Nietzsche the majority, more so so-called “free thinkers”, were too people of belief/faith, except they lacked active conviction.

Despite not adhering to the presence of original sin, Nietzsche found that scientists (& academics across the board) would fail to initiate anything resembling the optimism of Huxley’s call to check social evils. There is no universal method for all men to follow, so that the ills of the world can be erased. There are men who will boldly, stubbornly execute “a philosophy, a “faith,” [which] must always be there first of all, so that science can acquire from it a direction, a meaning, a limit, a method, a right to exist.” Just like Weaver’s realism about practicing science, it will be used for whatever motivations of the individual. Weaver did think things would improve in the long-run, hence his advocacy for scientific education. Nietzsche, the man who declared “God is dead” within human value, posed a challenging statement to “modern science”:

“Has man perhaps become less desirous of a transcendental [non-materialistic] solution to the riddle of his existence, now that this existence appears more arbitrary, beggarly, and dispensable in the visible order of things? . . . Alas, the faith in the dignity and uniqueness of man, in his irreplaceability in the great chain of being, is a thing of the past – he has become an animal, literally and without reservation or qualification, he who was, according to his old faith, almost God (“child of God,” “God-man”).”

from: section 25 of “On the Genealogy of Morals” (1887) 

I am quite certain that us mortals are capable of much evil as well as good, struggling to discern between the two. Thereby, a progressing road to perfection seems strongly unlikely. Well, holding to original sin, no chance. Regardless, science is a human tool susceptible to human failure. If divinely created by God as said in Scriptures, then at least we are not alone, able to have an eternal covenant with a just and merciful Sovereign. As for simply coming into existence, we are at each other’s mercy, with varying views of justice.

Think I am being a pessimist about contemporary science? Check the YouTube link below for current info on the practical realities of the field.

https://youtu.be/LfHEuWaPh9Q – “The Crisis of Science” February 22nd 2019

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man – and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”

Romans 1:20-23

What is knowledge?

Defined

Oxford Dictionary – “facts, information, and skill acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject

It is key to notice that what is acquired is not simply repeated or memorized. Neither is quantity taken into account. The effort cultivates a capacity to apply mentally and/or physically. Thereby knowledge will affect the individual, no less the world around them. After all, a person only practices what they understand. In the long run, is one’s understanding rooted in what is evil or holy?

History

Historia in the Greek means “inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation” according to The Handbook of Historical Linguistics. Investigation of the past ensues through material that is an artifact, document, or commentary (layman or academic) of the period in question. The knowledge gained quite depends on the perspectives taken.

Historical understanding should be more judged by the present virtue in spite of its errors. A rigorous human view of the past can be so shrouded in self will it manifests malicious behavior, an unrestrained arbiter of fact and fiction. In contrast, a mere legend based on scant knowledge can inspire a pursuit for truth, goodness, and beauty in those whom share in it. If anything, history bears strong witness that the amount of knowledge itself is not an accurate indicator of one’s heart.

Surely, there is criticism about this seemingly naïve validation of stories as equal to high profile historical study. The latter can be unequivocally superior in facts, information, and demonstration of skill. The former can be far more morally influential. How many academic works of history are sadly out of touch with heartstrings, unable to stir even curiosity? A timeless tale may be a stepping stone if not bridge in a lifelong journey to understand things seen as well as unseen.

Science

The word itself means “knowledge”. Yes, of the natural world. Like history, one delves into things unwitnessed, not directly accessible to the five senses. The term became common in the late nineteenth century. Prior, ‘natural philosophy’ was the prevalent idea. There was a recognition that one needed to act on presuppositions in order to begin a consistent method. Aristotle, popular ancient Greek philosopher, had this to say in part one of book one for his work – “Physics” –

“Now what is to us plain and obvious at first is rather confused masses, the elements and principles of which become known to us later by analysis. Thus we must advance from generalities to particulars; for it is a whole that is best known to sense-perception, and a generality is a kind of whole . . . Similarly a child begins by calling all men ‘father’ and all women ‘mother’ but later on distinguishes each of them.”

Because what we know (or think we know) about the natural world may not be as accurate as we might believe, it is important to tolerate a degree of error. If one explores the efforts of any notable scientist/inventor, you will discover an extreme ratio of failure over success in experiments. A minority yet significant percentage of discoveries have been unintended. French chemist of the nineteenth century, Louise Pasteur, had this to say, “In the fields of observation, chance favors only the prepared minds”. It is not how much you know but how and an underlying why, which orders your perception. 

Materialism/naturalism is a prevalent mindset among modern scientists. Still, the scientific world at large wonders about things our five senses cannot comprehend. This fascination with the unseen is recognized across generations to be sought after, to be understood. What reenergizes an arguable reverence for the universal why is when those of the white lab coat understand there level of knowledge is still not even scratching the surface of reality. 

Leading physicist/string theorist Brian Greene states within the first page of his book “The Elegant Universe” that the top theories of physics – Einstein’s Relativity & quantum mechanics – “are mutually incompatible.” Both are recognized as insufficient for the increasingly mysterious nature of the cosmos. For the last century, an awkward hybrid of the two has been utilized for any gains in knowledge. What is to be a persistent matter of reflection is how our understanding of scientific knowledge impacts humankind, then the rest of Creation, a topic to be later explored.

Conclusion

Knowledge is an organized understanding of the acquired facts, information, and skills – consequential action will follow. It relies on learning material and immaterial substance. Book learning or labor are sources from human activity. With plenty of precedent, knowledge that turns out to be lacking in facts can still possess the quality to influence greater acquisition, which includes virtue. Is the pursuit of knowledge done with virtuous means for like ends? Does this pursuit and practice mar people, the image of God? Is it in effect deemed holy, separated from Creation as a supreme judge for what is good or evil?

“Feelings, purpose, values, make up our consciousness as much as sense impressions. We follow up the sense impressions and find that they lead into an external world discussed by science; we follow up the other elements of our being and find that they lead – not into a world of space and time, but surely somewhere.”

From chapter 15 of The Nature of the Physical World by Sir Arthur Eddington

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love. If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Peter 1:5-8