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I teach biology at The Geneva School and I have been working to integrate history and philosophy into my 9th grade biology class for the last several years.  I have done this by sequencing my biology curriculum into a macrobiology to microbiology sequence.  This allows me to tie into the historical timeline, particularly when it comes to taxonomy and the worldview shift that takes place from the scientific revolution to Darwin.  What other historical and/or philosophical integration do you do in your classes?

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That is very interesting!  I would love to know more about how you are sequencing your course.  I have been thinking through this quite a lot for my course next year, and spent the last couple of weeks reading and taking notes from the book Nature's Beautiful Order by Christopher O. Blum and John A. Cuddeback.  It discusses the study of animals, in particular, from the perspective of a classical naturalist, and includes excerpts from the writings of Dr. St. George Mivart, John James Audubon, and Jean-Henri Fabre, as well as a few others.  They also write extensively about Aristotle's approach to the study of animals.  Aristotle taught that we first understand a living thing as a whole being, rather than just a collection of parts.  He first discussed the animal as a whole, then each of the parts, and then returned to the whole animal and its habits and behaviors.  In addition, he discussed each animal by way of comparison to man because man is the living thing that we know best.  As I prepare each class, I try to keep this perspective in mind, so that I can remind students first of the whole organism, of any interaction they have already experienced with it, before boiling it down to parts.  

Another thing that I will attempt next year is to include a bit of art into my biology class, where possible.  Here again I refer to some of the most famous classical naturalists.   John James Audubon is the first to come to mind.  As we study birds, it seems only natural to look at the work of the one of the greatest ornithologists in history.  Other areas of biology do not have as easy a fit as that, but I am still looking. 

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On 5/3/2018 at 6:58 AM, Melissa K said:

Aristotle taught that we first understand a living thing as a whole being, rather than just a collection of parts.  He first discussed the animal as a whole, then each of the parts, and then returned to the whole animal and its habits and behaviors.  In addition, he discussed each animal by way of comparison to man because man is the living thing that we know best. 

Aristotle tried to understand things in terms of four causes:  Formal, final, material and efficient.  All living things naturally tend towards their adult form and not towards something else.  What makes the various materials (or parts) one thing e.g. one leopard or one human is the formal cause.  Modern science only uses material and efficient causes.  They choose to value embryological development as opposed to teleological development when it comes to taxonomy.  That is a choice that modern science has made.  Why so?  Why value the embryological over the teleological?  It is a preference.  

How do we understand the contents and the nature of what is happening within cells?  With only material and efficient causes, then how can we speak as though these non-living molecules were moving purposefully?  Given such complexity it does not make sense to say that these molecules are bouncing around randomly and thus can accomplish cell respiration, photosynthesis, or protein synthesis.  What is the cause for non-living molecules to act in purposeful ways?  You cannot with only material and efficient causes, but you can if you have formal and final causes.  

Chesterton in 'the maniac' or 'the madman"?? talks about reducing all things materially only to lose all meaning in the process.  Christian metaphysics allows that there is truth we can know, but within that there will be mystery that we cannot know.  Modern science seeks for truth to exclude all mystery or a theory of everything.  Throughout the history of science what seemed to be small things to figure out ended up opening whole new realms of the creation to explore.  This is NOT God of the gaps.  This is the realization that because an infinite God has made a finite creation to show forth his glory, and that he has made his image bearers to know God through his creation, that we can know things truthfully, but not completely.  There will always be mystery in the truth.  

I wonder what would happen to creation/evolution debates if we brought in the concept of formal and final cause?

 

Sorry for the delay in responding.  I forgot to click on the 'follow' button.  

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I am in Australia a secondary biology/geography/indigenous studies trained teacher, (currently working in instrumental strings teaching) and have not had the benefit of exposure to the Classical Christian tradition until recently tutoring a homeschool group. It is an absolutely natural fit for me, I studied undergraduate degrees in science/arts and was always in trouble for adding botanical art to my scientific papers. However, I have been concerned that the Christian community around me do not embrace but respond with fear of science (evolution/creationism debate) at times while the secular scientific community cannot handle the metaphysics of creation when it could potentially yield insights. The paradigm sadly views such concepts as threatening to scientific rigour and cannot therefore integrate these ideas of mystery. I have felt that although I see connections and wonderful unknown gaps in all of these truths (and at peace with it) this puts me in a position where I don't fit anywhere. 

I am fascinated to learn more. I have not studied scientific history other than covered in the Wile 'Apologia' introductory books. I loved it. I don't know about the Aristotle refs you made and would like to know more... 

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Sorry for the extended delay in response.  I have been having trouble signing on, and we have just started the school year (CRAAAAZY).  Anyway, I would start with the book Soul of Science by Pearcy and Thaxton.  Some of the books they reference are also helpful.  The Scientific Revolution by Steven Shapin is also very helpful.  It has been a long journey for me even to understand some of the flow of history and philosophy, but I feel like I know enough to be in conversation but not to speak authoritatively.  There are aspects to this conversation that are really deep and complicated, and they have been debated for a really long time e.g. Plato's realm of the forms, Aristotle's hylomorphic substances, etc.  We are all pushing against the edge of mystery trying to make as much sense as possible of God's wondrous creation.   

The most basic question I (and my 9th grade team) are trying to help our students understand and answer is, "Does an immaterial reality called a form exist?"  Both Plato and Aristotle, along with most of church tradition, would say 'yes.'  There are differences about where, and what, and how, but the basic name for this position is realism.  If the answer is 'no' then that position is called nominalism, which means that when we see a frog we are not recognizing it as a frog because we are recognizing the immaterial reality that shapes the material of that creature into a frog, we are merely recognizing a pattern that we have 'named' (hence nominalism) a frog.  The nominalists thought the idea of form was extraneous (think Occam's razor) so they discarded it. 

However, form helps us with questions like, "how do non-living atoms/molecules make something that is alive?"  "Given a creature is made up of so many parts, why can we consider all of these parts one thing?  What is the cause of their oneness?  The answer would be their formal cause.  

I am not sure if this helps or only muddies the waters, but there it is.  Again, sorry for the late response. 

Robbie

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