The Closing of the Scientific Mind… But Not In Classical Christian Schools ~ Dr. Tim Anstine

The last three decades have revealed amazing scientific discoveries. Yet, Chemistry tends to get a bad rap from American students and parents. Why? Looking back to the model of classical universities, Dr. Tim Anstine points out how the original scientists taught science. The great news is that today’s classical Christian schools follow this same model – so your children won’t have to be so bored anymore!

Tim Anstine grew up in Redding, California and graduated from Shasta High School in 1986. After graduation from Shasta, Anstine moved to San Diego and attended Point Loma Nazarene University for four years. Upon graduation in 1990 from Point Loma with Bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and biology, he moved to Reno, Nevada to attend graduate school under the guidance of David A. Lightner at the University of Nevada in organic chemistry. After completion of his doctorate in 1995, he accepted a postdoctoral fellowship in photoorganic chemistry under the guidance of William G. Dauben at the University of California, Berkeley (Go Bears!). After the completion of his fellowship, he joined a small company in Menlo Park, California by the name Neurex Corporation. While working as a Medicinal Chemist for Neurex, he worked with a team of scientists on a novel pain drug called SNX-111, a drug 100-1000 times more powerful than morphine, without many of the associated side effects.  Anstine soon left biotech to pursue his current career in academia where he has served as a Professor of Chemistry at Northwest Nazarene University since 1999.

The Closing of the Scientific Mind…
But Not In Classical Christian Schools
~A Conversation with Dr. Tim Anstine

Estimated reading time: 3 min., 28 sec (694 words)

In Dr. Tim Anstine’s opinion, carbon is the most fascinating atom on the periodic table.

As the Head of the Chemistry Department at Northwest Nazarene University outside Boise, ID, Anstine recently shared with Davies Owens on BaseCamp Live why he’s so crazy about carbon.

“It says, ‘I have to get rid of four electrons to go that way, and it looks over to its right and says I have to gain four electrons to go that way and it can’t do either and it sits there…a helpless little atom. What its designed to do is share…and through that sharing it makes the most elaborate beautiful framework with which all the life molecules work.”

But despite such amazing molecular discoveries, why do American students and their parents often see Chemistry as dull and boring? Especially when the discoveries of the last three decades are so mind-blowing, as Anstine enthusiastically points out.

The classical model of education integrated ALL the academic disciplines

First, he says, consider how subjects used to be taught and how only classical Christian schools model this today.

“Through every discipline there is this thread, this commonality and it’s the person of Christ. That’s the original university model…the unifying diversity of these subjects. So for me going back to that model where chemistry and physics and mathematics and biology all unify around a personality…if we teach Chemistry through the excitement and through the lens of this ‘pointing to someone’ it becomes a very different discipline.”

As the old Chinese proverb goes, “Education is not filling buckets, it’s igniting fires.” Anstine warns that Chemistry can quickly become a bucket-filling discipline when isolated. But when integrated and taught through the lens of the Creator who created everything, the wonder and awe return.

Modern scientists often close their minds to the evidence in front of them

Secondly, modern scientists and educators have completely lost this former perspective and have dismissed faith in the realm of science. As a result, they no longer have an “open system” that follows data wherever it leads.

Like Cinderella’s stepsisters forcing on a shoe too small for their feet, today’s scientists are at risk of trying to force data into their own paradigms. Anstine tells his students to do the opposite and “let the data lead where it does.” He is confident in Colossians 1 that says God is the Creator and Sustainer of basically everything, “of every single atom.” The data will show that to be true if you allow it.

How an integrated classical Christian education leads to discovery

Finally, Owens asks him to put on his “dad hat” and answer why he decided to enroll his three children in a classical Christian school.

“Integrating the person of Christ into all disciplines and bringing that collectively together…it is beautiful. As an educator myself and going through the public school systems, the last thing I wanted for my kids was to sit them down every day and say, ‘What did you learn today? Okay, that’s part truth. Here’s how the person of Christ fits into that.” The idea of integrating Christ into a secular curriculum was daunting.

But integrating the entire curriculum like the universities of yesterday leads to more fruitful and fascinating discoveries, especially in Chemistry. And particularly with carbon.

“When carbon comes in with another carbon, literally holding hands and sharing, and another carbon comes in and holds hands with that carbon, it forms this matrix, the most elegant and beautiful molecule known to man…a diamond. So here this little misfortunate atom that by itself can’t do anything, but when it shares perfectly and equally with its neighboring carbon it forms this beautiful matrix and allows light to shine through it. What a beautiful picture of the Church.”

Key Takeaway

To hear Dr. Anstine share more about science and classical Christian education, tune in to the BaseCamp Live episode. You’ll also hear his story of Anthony Flew, former atheist and renowned scientist, who saw the data lead to a new paradigm that changed his life.

Key Links and Resources

Tim Anstine Science
94.1 Radio Interview with Tim Anstine
Antony Flew

Tim Anstine on previous episodes of BaseCamp Live

Mad Scientists! (It’s bigger than STEM)