In the natural sciences, love of the truth and skilled application of true ideas can be at odds. Curricula that overemphasize technical competence or STEM-readiness train students in the specific techniques of a given field (i.e., various “parts” of science) without educating them to love knowledge as a whole. Such students are trained to love a game of memorized, empty concepts—empty because students have not been taught to find those concepts instantiated in the complex natural world around them. They are also disconnected from a broader vision of the natural world as a whole. Thus, students run the risk of developing an intellectual hatred of natural science and even of philosophy as its broader whole. They may grow disillusioned with Aristotle’s wonder or Feynman’s pleasure of finding things out.
As mentioned in the discussion on our curriculum, the natural sciences are related as parts of natural philosophy. We need natural philosophy because it provides a coherent overview of things. It leads us to nature whole and entire, before we head off into the details of the sciences. The desire of natural philosophy is to behold and to understand the order and goodness of the cosmos for their own sakes. This desire stands in contrast to the reductionism and materialism latent in the natural sciences and their pedagogy, which combine a mathematical-mechanical method of causal analysis with a pragmatic, technological end-goal. The ancients paired the natural sciences with wisdom, but moderns pair them with technology.
The science classes, therefore, will aim not only at instruction of a robust knowledge of the particulars of the various natural sciences, but a broader and sounder philosophical grasp of their place in the whole that does not simply give a free pass to a reductionistic or materialistic view of the world. Robust natural science and sound natural philosophy are allies here. The first year will emphasize observation, natural history, and wondering and asking questions about what is observed. The writings and methods of J. Henri Fabre are exemplary here. Grades 10–12 will follow a course of study in biology, chemistry, and physics. In addition, the students will follow the history of science throughout the track.
These courses will not only permit a deeper grasp of the liberal arts of the Quadrivium, which are beginnings in the study of natural philosophy. They are also ordered to understanding how the natural world is a cosmos, a single, harmonious unity that was ordered by God and glorifies Him. This is not just musica mundana, a study of the harmonious proportions that God has woven in nature, but a preparation for natural and revealed theology, tracing the signs in creation back to their Creator.