The goal for this lesson is, through discussion, to begin identifying common pitfalls in science and theology.
Consider addressing scientific inquiry first and then repeating the same process with a focus on biblical studies:
- Ask students to think about their scientific inquiry from earlier in the course and to identify pitfalls they experienced—at what point was the process most likely to go wrong?
- Ask students to reflect back on journal entries. Have them work individually to make a written list of any pitfalls that may appear in their entries. Once they have done this, the class can discuss their lists.
In the debrief, you can address both the discussion about scientific inquiry and the discussion focused on biblical studies, eliciting themes such as:
- Personal bias: wanting a particular outcome to be true, and therefore steering the process of inquiry toward it.
- Ignorance: lacking relevant information or skills.
- Proof texting: making too much of a single, isolated piece of information taken out of context.
- Assumptions: reading things into the data, rather than being disciplined about not going beyond the data.
- Attentiveness: simply failing to notice things.
- Vices: the ways in which tendencies such as pride or ambition might make us hasty, determined to be right at all costs, or unwilling to honestly consider evidence that does not support our views.
As these and other ideas emerge, you might record them on the board, discussing with students:
- Did you experience this? Can you give an example?
- Does this pitfall apply only/mainly to science? Only/mainly to biblical studies? To both? Can you give examples?
When you have a good list, you can move on to the next phase:
- Ask students to divide a piece of paper in landscape format into four columns.
- Have students copy the pitfalls discussed into the left column.
- Have students find a partner to work with for the rest of the exercise.
- For the second column, student pairs should come up with an example of how each pitfall might affect scientific inquiry.
- In the third column, they should write down how the pitfall might affect biblical studies.
- In the fourth column, they should make a suggestion for how the pitfall might be resisted.
Hands-on with Common Pitfalls