In case you’re wondering, I have never been much of a science person. The most engaged I was with science was during dissections because I was good at those, and everyone else was too grossed out to cut into an animal that once lived.
I swore off science when I took chemistry and physics in high school without the necessary math skills. I figured that if science could say it with words, then it had nothing to say to me. It may seem silly to say, but I was both right and wrong. At Shimer, I’ve become less afraid of math and actually enjoy Euclidean geometry as much as I enjoy reading Plato’s Phaedrus. By the same token, I have read authors such as Newton, Huygens, and Descartes explain their theories on light in English that is more or less common to any first year college student. For the first time in my life, I have looked outside and felt as though the Sun was not just a big ball of light. I look around me and I can’t help but think about Newton, Darwin, Joule, or Aristotle.
If you’re like me and you’ve never truly understood what made people interested in science, Shimer can show a whole new side of science and hopefully open your eyes to a completely new and invigorating way to look at the world. I’m currently in my Natural Sciences 3 course studying light and magnetism where, I kid you not, I wrote a paper on sunshine and rainbows. Before you dismiss away the integrity of the course, the assignment came on the heels of reading from Galileo to Newton. The assignment was an open-ended paper, which required that each student conduct an experiment using their prism. My experiment involved observing the refracted image of a courtyard at different times of day. Writing the paper was only half the battle since I had to conduct the experiment, record the data, create diagrams to help illustrate what it was I saw, and then support a hypothesis that explains why I observed what I did. This light paper is one of two major writing assignments that I’ve had to produce in the 3-level courses. The other one was my research paper for Social Sciences 3, but that is another story for another time.
Not everything in the Natural Sciences curriculum is going to appeal to everyone. I don’t particularly care for Francis Bacon’s New Organon, but reading his work helped me understand those who came after him. Aristotle got just everything wrong when it came to his ideas about animals, but his work was a foundation upon which authors like Darwin built their theory on the origins of the species. Darwin wasn’t perfect either, but his dramatic departure from previously held ideas allowed for more modern ideas and observations such as those described by Stephen Jay Gould, Jane Goodall, and the compilations of Nicholas Wade.