Faithful Learning in Psychology

By: Peter Bussey  (HS Psychology and PE Teacher)

A giant sea slug, weighing about 2kg and up to 40cm in length*, slides along on a blanket of oozing mucous in its slippery search for a satisfying snack. It is watched by a small army of undergraduate psychology students destined to become Neuropsychologists. They turn to this mollusc and its relatively limited number of neurons (a mere 20,000) in a slightly futile attempt to begin to understand the incredibly complex connectivity of the human brain which boasts an outstanding 100 billion neurons.** To try and grasp that incredible number of neurons, imagine trying to count each one at a rate of one per second. It would take approximately 3,171 years!** Incredibly, those neurons work together to form a human mind full of thoughts, fears, hopes, and dreams. They somehow create a consciousness that has access to a seemingly unlimited number of memories, can process complex problems and can feel emotions ranging from joy to jealousy. You are currently using those neurons to see this page, read these words, put together a picture of a giant slug, and wonder where on earth I’m going with this. Well we have arrived; the psychological study of the human mind and its amazing anatomy and abilities leaves me in awe. What a magnificent creator God is to design something so beautifully complex. In the words of Psalm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (NIV).

Between 1933 and 1945 the Nazis murdered six million Jews. People were horrified by the extent of the cruelty displayed by the regime, and were then shocked to discover that Nazis such as Adolf Eichmann (who was deeply involved in organising these murders) appeared to be fairly normal human beings.*** Psychologists such as Philip Zimbardo began to ask deep and difficult questions about human nature to discover how such atrocities could occur. While still viewed as a slightly soft science by some, Psychology in its real form demands hard facts in response to such difficult questions, and it is this desire for truth that I have learnt from Psychology and that has deepened my faith. I have found that confronting and wrestling with questions about God and human nature and why things are the way they are, has made my faith deeper than a surface level belief that fails to really try and understand the truth. I have found that the curious, skeptical attitude of a psychologist when faced with information, has forced me to try and understand why the Bible can be trusted, and God believed in, and has thus forced me to deepen my faith or abandon it altogether. I’m thankful that studying Psychology has had this effect on me and hope that students in my class will also learn to marvel and ask questions.

* “Sea Hares”. The Living World of Molluscs, http://www.molluscs.at/gastropoda/index.html?/gastropoda/sea/aplysiomorpha.html. Accessed 30 Nov. 2016.
** Chudler, Eric. “The Whats”. Neuroscience for Kids, 2016, https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/what.html. Accessed 30 Nov. 2016.
*** The BBC Prison Study. 2008, http://www.bbcprisonstudy.org/bbc-prison-study.php?p=14. Accessed 30 Nov. 2016.