Faculty Fishbowl – Chem 305

Evangeline Colarossi—Staff Writer

Every Tuesday evening, a handful of seniors circle around tables and learn about the philosophy of science. The course is similar to Core 200, but amped up and turned into a three-hour night class. However, last Tuesday the students got a small break from the mental work of deciphering philosophers like Kant and Kuhn. Instead of the regular class, several professors from various departments at Dordt came together in a “Faculty Fishbowl” to do what philosophers do best: argue.

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Professors Josh Matthews (English), Tom Clark (Mathematics), Carl Fictorie, and Channon Visscher (Chemistry), and recently retired professor of physics John Zwart munched on cookies and donuts as they discussed the aspects of baseball, science, and truth.

During fall semester convocation, President Hoekstra shared an article by Walter Anderson including the following joke.

“Three umpires are sitting around over a beer, and one says, ‘There’s balls and there’s strikes, and I call ‘em the way they are.’ Another says, ‘There’s balls and there’s strikes and I call ‘em the way that I see ‘em.’ The third says, ‘There’s balls and there’s strikes and they ain’t nothin’ until I call ‘em.’”

The professors read through these viewpoints and launched into a hearty discussion of which they most closely related to, and how they think these views relate to science – or life – as a whole. Throughout the meeting, hot topics like capital-T Truth, moral relativism, and even losing sleep over Planet Nine rose up. Perhaps the lightest topic of the night was that of morality. They discussed this not only in a scientific manner, but also in a human way.

“Are morals just something that fits within a culture as well?” asked senior Michael Buma. “They shift around the world. Is it just something we decide that is okay?”

In response to their questions, many of the students received questions in return. The evening focused on the idea that many things can be relative to one’s understanding. Professors chose to bring up more questions to the students and to each other, rather than state things as if they were facts.

“Things come down to morality,” Clark said. “Why can’t you do something? Is it just because of social constructs and pressure? If you do something that is disagreed with, you’d have to feel the humiliation of it.”

Many shared their viewpoints. “In science, you’re trying to line up these experiences to find something that is shared even from different perspectives,” Clark said.

To top it off, the students need to think through their own gleanings from past readings in order to decide which umpire they side with the most.

The evening ended with spinning heads and more questions than the night began with. As it turns out, three hours of philosophy is more than even a snack break can fix. But, for these students, it was a time of hearing what their mentors had to say concerning the philosophy of science.

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