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After recommending Derek Owens' courses on here over and over and over as a secular option for high school math and physics, I discovered today that the physics course has some religious content. It is minimal, and Mr. Owens does say that it is what he believes rather that present it as fact, but still, I'm disappointed.

 

Derek Owens has been a lifesaver for us and I'll continue to recommend his courses, but from now on it will be with the caveat that the physics course is not quite secular.

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EKS, would you mind sharing an example? How does one work religion into physics (other than seeing divine inspiration in the beauty and symmetry of the laws of physics)? He is not altering any of the content, is he? I am not aware of controversial issues at least in introductory physics (once it gets to the origin of the universe, I can see where issues might arise)

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It's in Chapter 10, section 10.5.3 "The End of the Universe" in the section called "Philosophical Questions." He's more vocal about his opinions in the corresponding video than in the written material. There is also a section titled "Conflicts Between Religion and Science" (10.5.4) right afterwards that seems to have similar issues, though I haven't watched the videos yet.

 

In section 10.5.3, Mr. Owens is talking about the ultimate fate of the universe and that brings him to the meaning of the universe and our existence. Here is what he says on the video:

 

In other words, someone who believed in these ideas [materialism and naturalism] would believe that there's matter and energy and everything we see in this universe, but there's nothing beyond this universe. There's no supernatural world, no God or any transcendent being to tell us why we are here and how we should live, and there are a lot of people who promote these views, particularly on college campuses and in academic circles. These ideas of materialism and naturalism, which are closely associated with atheism, these ideas are much more popular among academics than they are among the general population.

 

So I just want to point out here that when people claim that science is the only valid means of knowing truth, then they're also saying that this is all we can say about the ultimate fate of the universe, that it ends in nothing and that our lives are completely meaningless because they all get snuffed out in the end and there's no ultimate purpose to it at all. And this is a philosophy that inevitably leads to a very pessimistic view of the universe and a pessimistic view of human existence. And that is a view that does not match human experience. We all experience our lives as meaningful and the things that we do in this life as meaningful.

 

And I believe that that's because this universe was made by a God who infuses this universe with meaning and that the heat death or the big crunch is not the final say in things. The universe is meaningful and our lives are meaningful because God made them that way.

 

And I would also argue from a scientific standpoint, if you want to look at this scientifically, you have to look at the data, and the data is that humans in every culture experience life as meaningful, they experience purposeful existence. They don't experience this existence that is ultimately devoid of any meaning. So I would argue that a view of the world that contains a transcendent element, something that goes beyond atheism, is more in line with what we experience in this world than the alternative.

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Thanks for sharing. It is unfortunate that this is mixed into a science course, because the questions raised here are outside the realm of science and are not accessible to be answered by means of scientific methods.

Why create a conflict between science and religion where none need exist, if both stuck to their own respective domains...

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Thank you Kai. He mentions in the notes to the chapter, in the final section, the difference between the steady state theory and the big bang theory and that the big bang theory is closer to Christian teachings of the origin of the universe. I wonder...perhaps he felt it necessary to include this to explain his belief in the big bang theory to a larger target audience, given that he teaches live at what looks to be a Christian co-op.

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Thanks for sharing. It is unfortunate that this is mixed into a science course, because the questions raised here are outside the realm of science and are not accessible to be answered by means of scientific methods.

Why create a conflict between science and religion where none need exist, if both stuck to their own respective domains...

 

 

Great points regentrude, thank you! Gives me an idea on how to approach a discussion of these sections with kiddo.

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Thank you Kai. He mentions in the notes to the chapter, in the final section, the difference between the steady state theory and the big bang theory and that the big bang theory is closer to Christian teachings of the origin of the universe. I wonder...perhaps he felt it necessary to include this to explain his belief in the big bang theory to a larger target audience, given that he teaches live at what looks to be a Christian co-op.

 

I just watched the videos from that section, and I think you're right, that this part of the course might be targeted to a particular audience. To his credit, he does say that he is veering into philosophy and what he is talking about is not science. He also emphasizes where appropriate that these are his opinions.

 

I'd be willing to bet that this is the only mention of religion in his courses (unless it's also mentioned in his physical science course). I know it's not mentioned in prealgebra or precalculus. Does anyone know about the other courses?

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Kai, thank you for sharing his viewpoint. Perhaps the greatest problem that I have with this is the all-too-common practice of painting the majority of academics as atheists. There is almost a fearful element to the writing and I have a difficult time getting past it to see the rational scientist. It is way too reminiscent of the two years we spent with Apologia.

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WOW! I had no idea. I only watched a few of the videos. Just looked over the homework and tests. Ds never said a thing, but that's not unusual. I wonder if this is something that has been added recently. Nope. I see it in the workbook starting on page 10-31. It is not as strong as what you have transcribed from the video. WOW!

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Just curious...I am a Christian who uses mostly secular material. In the high school age group, is it really that big of a deal for the guy to make these kinds of comments under a "philosophical" section? My daughter is already exposed to quite a bit of material that is different from what we believe. But at high school age I expect her to be able to process it with her reasoning ability.

 

Considering as a Christian I deal with so much that is presented as fact, I wouldn't be disturbed at all by something contrary that was presented as "philosophical". Just curious why this would be such a disturbing thing.

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Just curious...I am a Christian who uses mostly secular material. In the high school age group, is it really that big of a deal for the guy to make these kinds of comments under a "philosophical" section? My daughter is already exposed to quite a bit of material that is different from what we believe. But at high school age I expect her to be able to process it with her reasoning ability.

 

Considering as a Christian I deal with so much that is presented as fact, I wouldn't be disturbed at all by something contrary that was presented as "philosophical". Just curious why this would be such a disturbing thing.

 

I have no problem with my children hearing different views, including Christian views. And I appreciate that Mr. Owens said that his remarks fell into the realm of philosophy and that his views were his own opinion. This is why I tried to capture the entirety of his remarks in the thing I quoted from his video because I wanted as much context as possible so that people could see the whole picture. Another part of the whole picture is that the remarks make up far less than 1% of the course, which is why I'll still recommend the course as a (just about totally) secular option.

 

However, as a person who chooses to use secular materials, I would like to be informed up front if the author has included faith-based commentary so that I can make my own decision about whether to use that material in my homeschool.

 

Honestly, *every* time I've gone to the "about me" section of an author's website and found that part of the author's bio includes something about him or her being a Christian, *every single time* I've discovered something religious in their materials. Even if there is no mention of the materials being Christian, even if the materials are described as being appropriate for "everyone," and even if the materials are labeled as "secular." I honestly thought that Mr. Owens was different, and I had a great deal of respect for him because of it. That is why I'm disappointed.

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We also use Derek Owens online courses and I was not aware of any religious content. To be fair, I don't think Mr. Owens has represented his materials as being secular or non-secular. Perhaps the disappointment expressed is due to assumptions that were made about Mr. Owens and repeated online. I hold him in the highest regard and will continue to recommend his courses regardless -- his courses have been one of the best parts of our homeschool.

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Just curious...I am a Christian who uses mostly secular material. In the high school age group, is it really that big of a deal for the guy to make these kinds of comments under a "philosophical" section? My daughter is already exposed to quite a bit of material that is different from what we believe. But at high school age I expect her to be able to process it with her reasoning ability.

 

Considering as a Christian I deal with so much that is presented as fact, I wouldn't be disturbed at all by something contrary that was presented as "philosophical". Just curious why this would be such a disturbing thing.

 

It bothers me, because it does not belong into a science course. Including these "philosophical" discussions blurs the line that is already not very clear to most people: Religion and science ask fundamentally different questions. The issues addressed in the commentary are not scientific questions, can not be answered by scientific methods and are thus completely outside the realm of science - but the commentary suggests that science does, and should, deal with this type of question. It does not.

 

Also, the personal world view of the scientist has no bearing on science. Not only is it incorrect to paint most scientists as atheists (some of the greatest physicists were very religious), it also does not matter, because the scientific method does not allow for personal interpretation and preferences. If performed with scientific integrity, scientific investigation is neutral with respect to world view.

 

Comments like this seem to indicate that there is a fundamental conflict between religion and science - where none exists.

The existence of God is not a scientific, but a religious question. It is not accessible to scientific investigation, and science does not claim to answer it. It would be great if religion stayed out of science altogether.

 

Scientific literacy is low in the public. Many people have no understanding of the meaning of a scientific theory and of the process of scientific investigation and do not understand the fundamental difference between religion and science, namely the predictive power of science, which fundamentally distinguishes it from any world view. In the light of this it is particularly regrettable that such muddying the waters does the science education a grave disservice.

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He doesn't say his materials are secular, at least, from what I can see on his website. It's on the homeschool forums that you usually hear something to the effect of "although Mr Owens is Christian, his materials are secular". I am surprised by the inclusion in chapter 10. This section in chapter 10 really seems to come out of the blue.

 

ETA: I still feel that given all the other online physics programs we were considering, namely Kinetic Books and EPGY, Derek's course is both meaty and enjoyable and also convenient for the outsourcing parent. I love his customer service skills and that he is always ready to help answer questions. I feel strongly that he is a very supportive and encouraging teacher and I will continue to recommend him to friends. I will be careful to mention to secular homeschoolers that they might want to consider that there is a section or two of philosophical information in chapter 10 that could clash with their own secular views. Hopefully, that will help them decide if it truly is a good choice for them.

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Just curious...I am a Christian who uses mostly secular material. In the high school age group, is it really that big of a deal for the guy to make these kinds of comments under a "philosophical" section? My daughter is already exposed to quite a bit of material that is different from what we believe. But at high school age I expect her to be able to process it with her reasoning ability.

 

Considering as a Christian I deal with so much that is presented as fact, I wouldn't be disturbed at all by something contrary that was presented as "philosophical". Just curious why this would be such a disturbing thing.

Aside from what other posters have mentioned, my objection to this is the fact that my charter will not purchase non-secular materials for our use. If they got wind of this commentary within his courses, they may well refuse to purchase it for us.

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Kai, thanks for posting this.

 

Just curious...I am a Christian who uses mostly secular material. In the high school age group, is it really that big of a deal for the guy to make these kinds of comments under a "philosophical" section? My daughter is already exposed to quite a bit of material that is different from what we believe. But at high school age I expect her to be able to process it with her reasoning ability.

 

Considering as a Christian I deal with so much that is presented as fact, I wouldn't be disturbed at all by something contrary that was presented as "philosophical". Just curious why this would be such a disturbing thing.

 

...

 

In other words, someone who believed in these ideas [materialism and naturalism] would believe that there's matter and energy and everything we see in this universe, but there's nothing beyond this universe. There's no supernatural world, no God or any transcendent being to tell us why we are here and how we should live, and there are a lot of people who promote these views, particularly on college campuses and in academic circles. These ideas of materialism and naturalism, which are closely associated with atheism, these ideas are much more popular among academics than they are among the general population.

 

So I just want to point out here that when people claim that science is the only valid means of knowing truth, then they're also saying that this is all we can say about the ultimate fate of the universe, that it ends in nothing and that our lives are completely meaningless because they all get snuffed out in the end and there's no ultimate purpose to it at all. And this is a philosophy that inevitably leads to a very pessimistic view of the universe and a pessimistic view of human existence. And that is a view that does not match human experience. We all experience our lives as meaningful and the things that we do in this life as meaningful.

 

To address the question of what is the problem with this material: aside from the issue of being neutral with regard religion, or secular, it is just wrong. I know that Christians and other deists believe that the alternative to belief in God is belief in ultimate meaninglessness, but this is wrong and is frankly offensive. My husband is atheist, but finds a great deal of meaning in his life, in service to others as well as personal excellence, and so on. The idea that infinity is required for meaning (tthat meaning must be found in something transcendental to our universe, which is finite in time and space) is certainly an IDEA, and by no means a FACT.

 

Owens has made a false equivalence between faith in a god, or a transcendental entity, and faith per se. These distinctions may seem fine, but are quite central to a precise and true conversation about meaning in contemporary cultures, I believe. I haven't time, brains (am sick!), or space to outline this distinction fully but it can be found in Paul Tillich's Dynamics of Faith, which expounds more generously on the concept of faith and faithfulness. Tillich's ideas place folks like my husband in the realm of the faithful, and also are recognized by my husband as valid and descriptive of him -- as opposed to Owens' view of what a materialist/naturalist is, which my husband would not recognize as accurate though he is a materialist/naturalist in terms of not believing in any transcendental existence beyond the observable. Or, more accurately, my DH believes that trying to talk about, and to govern one's life according to, unobservable entities that make no measurable, empirical impact on anything is a fruitless endeavor.

 

Owens' disrespectful and erroneous description of materialism/naturalism feeds into popular prejudice and fuels the fires of distrust & dislike between religious and non-religious persons. It is the sort of thing that breeds misunderstanding and mistrust. I am sure he believes he is correct, but I am sorry to hear him express such a shallow and misleading analysis. (Quark, downthread, quotes from a physics text that makes these points, about the philosophical implications of a finite universe, in a precise and subtle way. Accurately, that is)

 

This will not prevent my using the materials, if they otherwise suit.

 

ETA: a more accessible and succinct presentation of a materialist perspective -- and one embedded in a text y'all or more likely to have read, or to enjoy reading -- is in Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. Aurelius notes that he believes in gods, and outlines why; then points out that whether or not the gods exist is irrelevant to how a person should live his life, and what his pursuits should be. It is clear from Meditations that the absolute end of the universe millennia down the road would not have affected Aurelius' sense of duty, or of meaning, very much if at all.

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Just curious...I am a Christian who uses mostly secular material. In the high school age group, is it really that big of a deal for the guy to make these kinds of comments under a "philosophical" section?

It doesn't bother me because it is a small part of the entire program. I wish I had been aware of this content when we used the material 2 years ago because I would have discussed it with ds. I will continue to recommend DO, but I'll include a heads up.

 

I am sorry to hear him express these views in scientific educational materials for young adults forming their own personal views and opinions.

:iagree: because the only reason I can think of to include these views is to persuade young adults to his viewpoint. And that's not the science teacher's job, imo.

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Thank you Kai. He mentions in the notes to the chapter, in the final section, the difference between the steady state theory and the big bang theory and that the big bang theory is closer to Christian teachings of the origin of the universe. I wonder...perhaps he felt it necessary to include this to explain his belief in the big bang theory to a larger target audience, given that he teaches live at what looks to be a Christian co-op.

 

I have no horse in this race one way or the other b/c I am completely unfamiliar with DO and I am definitely not a secularist.

 

I don't think that the Big Bang theory as being tied to Christian beliefs is completely off-topic depending on how it was presented b/c the theory was actually developed by a Catholic priest and is not, as often presented, contrary to Christian doctrine.. It doesn't sound like DO was presenting the fact that science and theology don't have to conflict and the history behind the theory, but if it were presented as historical fact, I can't imagine a reason to object to its presence.

 

ETA: For example, here is information which would be perfectly legitimate to appear in a physics text from my POV. http://physics.about.com/od/astronomy/f/BigBang.htm

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I have no horse in this race one way or the other b/c I am completely unfamiliar with DO and I am definitely not a secularist.

 

I don't think that the Big Bang theory as being tied to Christian beliefs is completely off-topic depending on how it was presented b/c the theory was actually developed by a Catholic priest and is not, as often presented, contrary to Christian doctrine.. It doesn't sound like DO was presenting the fact that science and theology don't have to conflict and the history behind the theory, but if it were presented as historical fact, I can't imagine a reason to object to its presence.

 

ETA: For example, here is information which would be perfectly legitimate to appear in a physics text from my POV. http://physics.about...y/f/BigBang.htm

 

Referring to the bolded, from the POV of how it is presented, I agree that the text in the link you provided feels legitimate enough to me to be included in a physics text. In his notes, Derek has included a few sections on the history of conflict between religion and science, bringing up the example of Galileo for instance, and those sections too seem fine and perfectly legitimate to include. It's the section where he brings up philosophical questions that surprise me.

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In his notes, Derek has included a few sections on the history of conflict between religion and science, bringing up the example of Galileo for instance, and those sections too seem fine and perfectly legitimate to include. It's the section where he brings up philosophical questions that surprise me.

 

I don't have a problem with him including the part about the history of conflict between religion and science either really, though I really don't think it's necessary to include it. In the first three parts of that section (about Galileo, the Enlightenment, and Darwin), he seems to be giving background information about the conflict as a prelude to explaining why he thinks the big bang theory is not in conflict with Christianity. In the notes regarding the big bang he writes: "In the opinion of this author, believing the big bang theory is not the same as believing 'science' over 'religion'. It is not the same thing as believing Darwinism. And it is certainly not the same as accepting a rationalistic world view."

 

Again, I appreciate that he states that it is his opinion. But I'm also not too thrilled with him suggesting that the unifying theory of modern biology is something not to be believed. This sort of statement doesn't belong in a secular program (and its inclusion makes this particular DO course non-secular). And I agree with the PP that public programs that fund curriculum purchases would have a fit if they got wind of this stuff.

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And see...I think including the philosophical and historical arguments that surround science give us a better understanding of how scientists approach the evidence they find. Most science texts are written (like most history) from a particular philosophical viewpoint. Understanding these viewpoints, helps us separate the philosophy from the science -- especially at the high school level. Ignoring them (imho) actually reduces scientific literacy. Science was birthed from philosophy after all

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I know nothing about Derek Owens physics course other than the excerpts I've read here, but I just wanted to comment that while he says he's a Christian, what I've read here would be consistent not only with Christianity, but Judaism, Islam and other faiths as well. Hopefully if I'm wrong, someone will correct my statement.

 

I love the way the Catholic Church allows for many possible scientific answers about how the universe was created. What is without doubt, for Catholics, is that God is/was the Creator. Scientists are busy trying to figure out how. I see no problem with anyone waxing poetic on the matter whether Christian, atheist, Muslim, Native American, ... in a book about the physical laws of the universe.

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And see...I think including the philosophical and historical arguments that surround science give us a better understanding of how scientists approach the evidence they find.

 

I think it's good and important to study these things too--in fact, I think it's so important that I had my older son do a year-long history of science course.

 

Most science texts are written (like most history) from a particular philosophical viewpoint. Understanding these viewpoints, helps us separate the philosophy from the science -- especially at the high school level. Ignoring them (imho) actually reduces scientific literacy. Science was birthed from philosophy after all

 

Again, my issue is that the particular comments we're discussing do no belong in a *secular* science course.

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Kai, thanks for posting this.

 

 

 

 

 

To address the question of what is the problem with this material: aside from the issue of being neutral with regard religion, or secular, it is just wrong. I know that Christians and other deists believe that the alternative to belief in God is belief in ultimate meaninglessness, but this is wrong and is frankly offensive. My husband is atheist, but finds a great deal of meaning in his life, in service to others as well as personal excellence, and so on. The idea that infinity is required for meaning (tthat meaning must be found in something transcendental to our universe, which is finite in time and space) is certainly an IDEA, and by no means a FACT.

 

Owens has made a false equivalence between faith in a god, or a transcendental entity, and faith per se. These distinctions may seem fine, but are quite central to a precise and true conversation about meaning in contemporary cultures, I believe. I haven't time, brains (am sick!), or space to outline this distinction fully but it can be found in Paul Tillich's Dynamics of Faith, which expounds more generously on the concept of faith and faithfulness. Tillich's ideas place folks like my husband in the realm of the faithful, and also are recognized by my husband as valid and descriptive of him -- as opposed to Owens' view of what a materialist/naturalist is, which my husband would not recognize as accurate though he is a materialist/naturalist in terms of not believing in any transcendental existence beyond the observable. Or, more accurately, my DH believes that trying to talk about, and to govern one's life according to, unobservable entities that make no measurable, empirical impact on anything is a fruitless endeavor.

 

Owens' disrespectful and erroneous description of materialism/naturalism feeds into popular prejudice and fuels the fires of mistrust & dislike between religious and non-religious persons. It is the sort of thing that breeds misunderstanding and mistrust. I am sure he believes he is correct, but I am sorry to hear him express such a shallow and misleading analysis. (Quark, downthread, quotes from a physics text that makes these points, about he philosophical implications of a finite universe, in a precise and subtle way. Accurately, that is)

 

This will not prevent my using the materials, if they otherwise suit.

 

ETA: a more accessible and succinct presentation of a materialist perspective -- and one embedded in a text y'all or more likely to have read, or to enjoy reading -- is in Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. Aurelius notes that he believes in gods, and outlines why; then points out that whether or not the gods exist is irrelevant to how a person should live his life, and what his pursuits should be. It is clear from Meditations that the absolute end of the universe millennia down the road would not have affected Aurelius' sense of duty, or of meaning, very much if at all.

 

 

This. I just get so tired of the assumption that if you aren't a believer in a religion, your life must be bleak and meaningless, and the follow-up assumption that you have no basis for living a moral life, or for teaching your children to do so. Although our whole lives are a refutation of this incorrect & offensive assumption, it's a good reminder that I'll need to prepare my dds to address it directly.

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And see...I think including the philosophical and historical arguments that surround science give us a better understanding of how scientists approach the evidence they find. Most science texts are written (like most history) from a particular philosophical viewpoint. Understanding these viewpoints, helps us separate the philosophy from the science -- especially at the high school level. Ignoring them (imho) actually reduces scientific literacy. Science was birthed from philosophy after all

 

He does not remain in a philosophical view point imo. Rather, he is suggesting that belief in a creator is supported by science and data.

".....from a scientific standpoint, if you want to look at this scientifically, you have to look at the data,..."

 

Also, just because many people derive a sense of comfort from their belief in a deity, it does not necessarily follow that not believing in a deity results in a lack of positive thoughts or a lack of a sense of meaning in one's life.

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He does not remain in a philosophical view point imo. Rather, he is suggesting that belief in a creator is supported by science and data.

".....from a scientific standpoint, if you want to look at this scientifically, you have to look at the data,..."

 

 

 

This is a very good point. Here is the rest of that quote:

 

And I would also argue from a scientific standpoint, if you want to look at this scientifically, you have to look at the data, and the data is that humans in every culture experience life as meaningful, they experience purposeful existence. They don't experience this existence that is ultimately devoid of any meaning. So I would argue that a view of the world that contains a transcendent element, something that goes beyond atheism, is more in line with what we experience in this world than the alternative.

 

As others have mentioned, I also have issues with the idea that there must be a god in order to live an ethical and meaningful life. But the other issue I have with the above statement is that science has come as far as it has since the time of Copernicus precisely because people stopped allowing their subjective experience of the world to override more objective observation.

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This is a very good point. Here is the rest of that quote:

 

And I would also argue from a scientific standpoint, if you want to look at this scientifically, you have to look at the data, and the data is that humans in every culture experience life as meaningful, they experience purposeful existence. They don't experience this existence that is ultimately devoid of any meaning. So I would argue that a view of the world that contains a transcendent element, something that goes beyond atheism, is more in line with what we experience in this world than the alternative.

 

As others have mentioned, I also have issues with the idea that there must be a god in order to live an ethical and meaningful life. But the other issue I have with the above statement is that science has come as far as it has since the time of Copernicus precisely because people stopped allowing their subjective experience of the world to override more objective observation.

 

Right. . . because a stationary earth with a sun revolving around it is "more in line with what we experience in this world than the alternative" innit? ;)

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Again, my issue is that the particular comments we're discussing do no belong in a *secular* science course.

 

 

 

I'll say it again -- to my knowledge Mr. Owens has never stated that the course is secular or not. It is not fair to make assumptions about him, find out that what you expected is slightly different than what you assumed, and then denigrate him while he is not even here to defend himself. Mr. Owens is an *outstanding* math and physics teacher and I hope your intent is not to tarnish his reputation.

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I'll say it again -- to my knowledge Mr. Owens has never stated that the course is secular or not. It is not fair to make assumptions about him, find out that what you expected is slightly different than what you assumed, and then denigrate him while he is not even here to defend himself. Mr. Owens is an *outstanding* math and physics teacher and I hope your intent is not to tarnish his reputation.

 

If you read though all of my posts on this thread, you would see that I *agree* that Mr. Owens is awesome. And that I acknowledged that he never states whether his courses are secular or not. My point in saying that his comments don't belong in a *secular* science course was in response to the idea that perhaps this sort of philosophical discussion was somehow appropriate in that context.

 

My point was and has been throughout this thread that his comments make his physics course non-secular. Granted, it is a very small portion of the course, and I said in a previous post that I will still recommend his courses, but from now on I will mention that the physics course contains a small amount of religious material.

 

I have not denigrated him. And my only intent has been to let others know that the physics course has some non-secular elements as there are a lot of people who are under the impression that his courses are entirely secular.

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I'll say it again -- to my knowledge Mr. Owens has never stated that the course is secular or not. It is not fair to make assumptions about him, find out that what you expected is slightly different than what you assumed, and then denigrate him while he is not even here to defend himself. Mr. Owens is an *outstanding* math and physics teacher and I hope your intent is not to tarnish his reputation.

 

For several years Kai has had nothing but good things to say about Mr. Owens and his courses and she routinely recommends them, so I am fairly sure that there is no intent to tarnish his reputation. For me, the issue would be that Kai is a poster whose recommendations I have come to trust. We have similar academic goals and tastes in curriculum and I value her opinion. I appreciate that she has given a heads-up to those of us who would have some concerns about a statement such as Mr. Owens' appearing in a high school science curriculum. If another poster that I was not familiar with wrote that post, I would probably not consider Mr. Owens' services at all. If I really needed a good math and physics teacher, I might still look at Mr. Owens, but that is thanks to Kai, not in spite of her. However, that poorly argued piece of "philosophy" has left a bad taste in my mouth. If you are a Christian curriculum provider that makes faith-based statements in your science curriculum, then say so. I have no problem putting out good money for TOG or Rod and Staff because I know what to expect. There is no disingenuity involved there.

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Kai, thanks for posting this.

 

To address the question of what is the problem with this material: aside from the issue of being neutral with regard religion, or secular, it is just wrong. I know that Christians and other deists believe that the alternative to belief in God is belief in ultimate meaninglessness, but this is wrong and is frankly offensive. My husband is atheist, but finds a great deal of meaning in his life, in service to others as well as personal excellence, and so on. The idea that infinity is required for meaning (tthat meaning must be found in something transcendental to our universe, which is finite in time and space) is certainly an IDEA, and by no means a FACT.

 

Owens has made a false equivalence between faith in a god, or a transcendental entity, and faith per se. These distinctions may seem fine, but are quite central to a precise and true conversation about meaning in contemporary cultures, I believe. I haven't time, brains (am sick!), or space to outline this distinction fully but it can be found in Paul Tillich's Dynamics of Faith, which expounds more generously on the concept of faith and faithfulness. Tillich's ideas place folks like my husband in the realm of the faithful, and also are recognized by my husband as valid and descriptive of him -- as opposed to Owens' view of what a materialist/naturalist is, which my husband would not recognize as accurate though he is a materialist/naturalist in terms of not believing in any transcendental existence beyond the observable. Or, more accurately, my DH believes that trying to talk about, and to govern one's life according to, unobservable entities that make no measurable, empirical impact on anything is a fruitless endeavor.

 

Owens' disrespectful and erroneous description of materialism/naturalism feeds into popular prejudice and fuels the fires of mistrust & dislike between religious and non-religious persons. It is the sort of thing that breeds misunderstanding and mistrust. I am sure he believes he is correct, but I am sorry to hear him express such a shallow and misleading analysis. (Quark, downthread, quotes from a physics text that makes these points, about he philosophical implications of a finite universe, in a precise and subtle way. Accurately, that is)

 

This will not prevent my using the materials, if they otherwise suit.

 

ETA: a more accessible and succinct presentation of a materialist perspective -- and one embedded in a text y'all or more likely to have read, or to enjoy reading -- is in Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. Aurelius notes that he believes in gods, and outlines why; then points out that whether or not the gods exist is irrelevant to how a person should live his life, and what his pursuits should be. It is clear from Meditations that the absolute end of the universe millennia down the road would not have affected Aurelius' sense of duty, or of meaning, very much if at all.

 

Thank you for this very insightful post.

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I searched for " Derek Owens Physics" and came up with this page. I read through it all, looked through the syllabi, and sample lectures and really liked what I saw. Based on that and what I have heard on this board, I probably wouldn't hesitate to sign my youngest up for the course. Because there is a biography on the page I linked, it is unlikely that I would look at the biography/resume page, assuming that they would be the same. The biography on the physics page makes not a single mention of the Christian schools that Mr. Owens has worked at, which would be my usual tip-off for religious content.

 

I should first say that I know nothing about Derek Owens or his physics course, but have been reading this thread with interest. I just looked at the pages linked above and thought I would just mention that it looked like his time teaching at a Christian school was teaching a Calculus course. I wonder if he did not include this on the Physics page because it was a math course and not a science one. He does mention going to church on the Physics page bio. I read them both and to me it did not appear that he was trying to pull a fast one.

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We have been using Derek's physics course for the past year+ as a very (extremely, and that's why DS took over a year) self-paced, course that is perfect for an asynchronous learner, and after having had conversations with Derek via email numerous times, after thanking the stars that such a course exists for an advanced child hungry for knowledge but not yet up to par on executive function skills to handle a course like EPGY's, I want to express my heartfelt opinion that nothing Derek has done has ever struck me as pulling a fast one! Phew, that was a long sentence lol. He has been more than professional and courteous and supportive over and over again.

 

I read Derek's bio before signing DS up. I was surprised because nothing in the first 9 chapters indicated anything about the possibility of religious material cropping up in chapter 10. But I don't feel that he was trying to lie about it. Perhaps it was an honest exclusion. Perhaps it has never come up before? Perhaps I should write to him to ask? What do you guys think?

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The Westminster School, where Mr. Owens previously taught physics and still teaches their summer school physics course, is a (very well-regarded) Christian private school.

 

Hmmm, if this is the Westminster he taught at I'm not sure its particularly Christian despite the use of the adjective on the home page. Here's their about page:

http://www.westminst...t_us/index.aspx

 

or their mission page:

http://www.westminst...ophy/index.aspx'

 

Richard John Neuhaus used to write about Catholic colleges that were in his opinion NOT any more. He would look for the phrase "in the Catholic tradition" or "in the Jesuit tradition." The same thing happened to a lot of schools we now think of as secular but were founded as Christian. His alma matter, Duke, was most certainly founded as a distinctly Methodist university, not so much any more (yes, I know they have a divinity school).

 

So I'm not sure their presence in his bio is particularly enlightening.

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My non-Christian 8th grader is taking Derek Owen's physics class this year. Before I signed my son up, I read the DO webpages referenced in a prior post. It was easy for me to deduce that Derek Owens is a Christian. His webpages state that he taught at a Christian school and he also lists theology as one of his hobbies.

 

These boards have stated that the Derek Owen's physics course is secular. Derek Owen's has never made that assertion. The OP simply started this thread to refute what had been stated on these boards. I don't know if anyone actually thinks that Derek Owen's pulled a fast one,but in my opinion, that is an absolutely ridiculous claim.

 

The Derek Owen's class has been outstanding. As a mom with non-Christian kids, I highly recommend it.

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My non-Christian 8th grader is taking Derek Owen's physics class this year. Before I signed my son up, I read the DO webpages referenced in a prior post. It was easy for me to deduce that Derek Owens is a Christian. His webpages state that he taught at a Christian school and he also lists theology as one of his hobbies.

 

These boards have stated that the Derek Owen's physics course is secular. Derek Owen's has never made that assertion. The OP simply started this thread to refute what had been stated on these boards. I don't know if anyone actually thinks that Derek Owen's pulled a fast one,but in my opinion, that is an absolutely ridiculous claim.

 

The Derek Owen's class has been outstanding. As a mom with non-Christian kids, I highly recommend it.

 

 

I agree.

 

The physics class has been outstanding for us, too. And I am thrilled DO offers these classes.

 

It was also apparent to me that Mr. Owens is a Christian before signing my daughter up for his class based on the information on his website. I don't view the inclusion of that kind of information (what church he attends and the fact that he taught in Christian schools) as non-relevant. To me, that signaled there might be some religious content of some sort. If I had been concerned about religious content, I would have asked Mr. Owens whether his course was 100% secular before signing up.

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It was also apparent to me that Mr. Owens is a Christian before signing my daughter up for his class based on the information on his website. I don't view the inclusion of that kind of information (what church he attends and the fact that he taught in Christian schools) as non-relevant. To me, that signaled there might be some religious content of some sort. If I had been concerned about religious content, I would have asked Mr. Owens whether his course was 100% secular before signing up.

One reason I was surprised is that before my son did the physics course, we had already done two other courses with DO that *were* completely secular. And I mean truly completely secular--not the Life of Fred variety of "secular". Generally it seems that when one product is not completely secular, all of them are this way.

 

The other thing that is odd (in a good way as it makes the religious material easy to edit out if you want to) is that the religious comments are concentrated in one spot. Usually quasi secular materials have a touch of religion spread throughout (Life of Fred is like this) so that it is very difficult to edit out up front.

 

As for asking the author if a course is secular vs asking the hive, the hive tends to be more accurate in its responses. If I were to start a thread asking if Life of Fred or TRISMS is secular, I would get a lot of replies that say that it is, but there would be at least a few that would say no from the people who are ultra sensitive about such issues (I am one of them).

 

Here is an example of an author indicating that a product is secular when it really isn't. From the TRISMS website FAQ section (http://trisms.com/?page_id=1226):

 

Christian or not?

TRISMS believes that teaching faith to your children is the responsibility of the parent/teacher, rather than the TRISMS curriculum. The curriculum is designed to help students, through their research, understand how religion plays a role in the development and life of every civilization and asks questions that lead the student in understanding their own worldview. Parents are then free to discuss these ideas with their students during these important years when students are developing the worldview and belief system that they will carry throughout their entire life.

 

That's all great except that TRISMS is written from a distinctly Christian perspective.

 

OK, I just did a search on "Derek Owens" and "secular" (through Google) and came up with a bunch of hits saying that his courses were indeed secular except for this one. Scroll down to redsquirrel's post where she says: "I did look at Derek Owens for physical science, but it isn't secular." So there you have it--at least one person has said it before, but I wonder if she just assumed from reading his bio that it wasn't secular or if she had more information than that. Maybe I'll pm her.

 

My point here is not about DO as I'm sure he would be honest with anyone who asked about religious content in his courses--it's about the all too common phenomenon of Christian authors claiming their products are secular or religion neutral when they are not.

 

(Again--so I don't get myself in trouble--DO doesn't say one way or another on his website whether his courses are secular or not.)

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My point here is not about DO as I'm sure he would be honest with anyone who asked about religious content in his courses--it's about the all too common phenomenon of Christian authors claiming their products are secular or religion neutral when they are not.

 

(Again--so I don't get myself in trouble--DO doesn't say one way or another on his website whether his courses are secular or not.)

 

Kai, the part in bold is what I don't get. If you are proud of your Christian faith and intend to proselytize to students, especially in a science course, then say so. Why would it be problematic to do so? Be up front so that there are no misconceptions. It is not just this board that is confused about whether or not Mr. Owen's materials are secular, even the secular homeschooling network in Atlanta, where the live courses are offered, states the material is secular.

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I find this thread both fascinating and baffling. This is a high school text. What will your students do when they attend college lectures? Will they interview all their professors and instructors prior to registration to make sure that all their thinking is in line with their own? Will this be only for science courses, or will government, art, literature and philosophy courses be given the same scrutiny? Isn't part of academics about being exposed to opinions and ideas different from your own? I couldn't imagine dismissing a science teachers entire course or chosen text just because it may have a page or two of opinions which are contrary to my own. When a student is taking physics, college courses are likely just around the corner ...

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I find this thread both fascinating and baffling. This is a high school text. What will your students do when they attend college lectures? Will they interview all their professors and instructors prior to registration to make sure that all their thinking is in line with their own? Will this be only for science courses, or will government, art, literature and philosophy courses be given the same scrutiny? Isn't part of academics about being exposed to opinions and ideas different from your own? I couldn't imagine dismissing a science teachers entire course or chosen text just because it may have a page or two of opinions which are contrary to my own. When a student is taking physics, college courses are likely just around the corner ...

 

I don't think this is what the original post was about, though - I think the thread has gone off track somewhat. Whether each of us chooses to include philosophical/theological arguments in our science teaching or not is up to the individual family and not really what the OP was commenting on. I think she simply felt that since the program in question had always been supposed by most to be secular and that she had been recommending it as secular, she thought it prudent to point out that she may have been slightly mistaken in her recommendations and wanted to clarify that. I don't think she meant in any way to disparage the author or start a debate on whether or not philosophical/theological arguments belong in a science curriculum.

 

But I could be wrong. :D

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