Jay Wile is renowned for making science not only understandable but fun for students of all ages (including their parents!). His science textbooks published by Apologia Press are modern classics of Christian science instruction that neither kowtow to secular worldviews nor come across as dogmatic in terms of the biblical account of creation.
And yet. A few years ago in a dust-up between Ken Ham and Peter Enns, Dr. Jay Wile showed he can be squishy. He's a young-earth creationist but touts open-mindedness, ascribing value and legitimacy to opposing views. This is fine to an extent, but its logical conclusion is a total lack of certainty and a dismissal of confirmed (and confirmable) truth.
Wile's science is more concrete than his theology. Science in the Beginning guides elementary kids using the six days of creation as a guide. The approach is similar to that of his earlier volume for 7th graders, Exploring Creation with General Science from Apologia Educational Ministries, teaching science basics as a foundation for further study.
How Does This Work?
As of 2017, the series is complete. The series presents major scientific themes in the context of the history of science, with titles including Science in the Ancient World, Science in the Scientific Revolution, Science in the Age of Reason, and Science in the Industrial Age. By the end of the last book, students will be ready for middle school science, which Wile begins as he wraps up this series with Science in the Atomic Age.
Wile doesn't focus on what scientists got wrong, but he does include a few particularly instructive failures. This isn't much of an issue in the first book, since theories and laws are discussed rather than the people who discovered them. Science in the Beginning centers on the foundational ideas of science exemplified in God's creative act of speaking the world into existence.
There are six sections in Science in the Beginning, each with 15 lessons to be completed one every other day or two per week depending on your schedule. Every third lesson is a challenge lesson for kids who love science or older students who need more work. Every lesson has an experiment to illustrate the content; most use everyday materials, and parents are warned ahead of time about long-term projects and activities requiring harder-to-get materials.
Lessons are three pages long with an experiment inset, and end with review: two questions for young students to answer orally, a harder notebook assignment for older students, and a still more challenging notebook exercise for "oldest students." The Helps & Hints for Science in the Beginning book for parents provides answers to these questions and exercises, and optional tests.
Because lessons are short and written for elementary students in general (rather than for a specific grade level), Wile suggests you have the oldest child read the lesson aloud to the others; however, if none of your kids are ready for that, you (the parent) can read the lesson to them. Full-color illustrations throughout include drawings, diagrams, photographs, charts, and graphs.
If you choose the every-other-day plan (which includes the challenge lessons) you'll finish the book in a year, which is also true if you do two lessons a week and leave out the challenge lessons. Families who need to can simply do one lesson a week. The challenge lessons aren't dependent on the content of the standard lessons, so removing them isn't a big deal.
Our Honest Opinion:
Science in the Beginning is a solid introduction to science that's accessible and entertaining. Dr. Wile is a professing Christian, and his use of the days of creation as a framework will recommend his book to many families. However, it's important to note that Wile seems to value open-mindedness above all else, and this attitude makes its way into the book.
For instance, while discussing the "expanse in the midst of the waters" in Genesis 1:6 in Lesson 16 (pp. 46-49), Wile indicates the expanse is air, but concludes we can't be certain. While this is obviously correct (we weren't there, and Scripture say!), Wile's comments beg the question as to why he'd put a section of pure speculation into a text about hard science.
The answer is obvious if you've followed Wile's blog in the last few years: he includes such content in an effort to expand kids' horizons and help them make up their own minds about certain issues. There aren't many of these moments, but there are enough to knock kids off balance and get them to question their presuppositions.
Critical thinking is an essential skill for every Christian, but kids need a solid place to stand before they're ready to challenge and explore differences of opinion. Dr. Wile is committed to evidential apologetics, meaning that his goal in defending the Christian faith is to convince unbelievers that Christianity is the most rational worldview and should be accepted on these grounds. He's also an Arminian, meaning that he believes it is incumbent on humans to convince others of the legitimacy of Christian faith rather than relying on the Holy Spirit to convict and save through our Bible-centered evangelism and apologetics.
Christians ought to embrace the Bible as our source of information about God, comparing everything to its revelation. If we do, we won't try to convince unbelievers that our position is more tenable; instead, we'll preach the Gospel, proclaiming the very words of God revealing Himself to humanity. Our minds are not the standard, God's Word is the standard. (For more on these issues, see Presuppositional & Reformed Apologetics.)
Wile challenges this. He says in the introduction to Science in the Beginning that the Bible is our main source of knowledge about God, but that we can learn things about Him from creation. While studying God's world is an important task and God-honoring to the core, we want to be VERY careful about neglecting to distinguish between God Himself as revealed in Scripture, and God's creation which testifies to Him.
This is a good science text, but not without problems or to be used uncritically. Wile seems to follow the trend of widening the borders of orthodoxy to encompass views the historic church rejected. God assures us throughout His Word that we can experience certainty; Wile, in typical postmodern-lite fashion, thinks certainty is the enemy of faith.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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