Complete Podcast Interview Transcript:
scientist, THEOLOGIAN, homeschool mom, teacher, catholic author
Welcome to the Purpose Nation Podcast. Inspiring conversations with Christians in science, technology and industries of the future. For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution, visit PurposeNation.org.
Brad Cooper: 00:18
This is Brad Cooper with Purpose Nation and today we have a really great show where we are joined by Dr. Stacy Trasancos. Dr. Trasancos , welcome to the Purpose Nation podcast! How are things bright and early this morning out there in Texas?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 00:29
They are wonderful. The weather is just beautiful today and it's a beautiful morning at Hideaway, Texas.
Brad Cooper: 00:38
Beautiful! You're coming into, I guess, the Fall and recently moved I think from Upstate New York not too long ago is that right?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 00:41
Yes we did. We moved about five months ago from Upstate New York where I thought we were going to be the rest of our lives to Texas because we decided that we had no reason to stay in New York anymore. Now that my husband is retiring and he asked me if I'd like to move back home to be close to my parents and my brother and my sister so here to be home again.
Brad Cooper: 01:03
That's great! And I'm from Upstate New York so I know the Upstate New York Fall leaves so you might be missing those a little bit but I imagine Texas has just as beautiful a Fall.
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 01:13
Yes, I do miss it but part of the requirement for moving to Texas was that we had to move where trees are because I needed to be around the trees like they have them in Upstate New York.
Brad Cooper: 01:13
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 01:21
And amazingly in East Texas. It almost looks the same. There are very tall beautiful pine trees everywhere. I think my husband counted there's almost a hundred on our quarter acre lot.
Brad Cooper: 01:21
Wow! That's great!
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 01:21
We've got the trees.
Brad Cooper: 01:33
That's great! Well the trees are important and like he said I remember the beautiful leaves... we're here in Southern California. We have palm trees and that's about it. Not too many, not too many Fall leaves here although occasionally we see that. So looking forward to our conversation, Dr. Trasancos has a pretty amazing background as a scientist a homeschool mom, a Catholic author, writer. Much more so looking forward to our conversation.
Brad Cooper: 01:52
But before we get started I do want to give a brief background on Dr. Trasancos. She has a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Penn State, a B.S. degree in Broadfield Science from East Texas State University and an MA degree in Dogmatic Theology now from the Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Wow! That's a great combination of science and theology right there! And she spent years working in top labs at Penn State and then with the chemical giant Dupont working on some pretty interesting things like Lycra and Teflon and some fascinating research that I'd love to hear more about. And she's an author currently has a great book called Particles of Faith. And you definitely should check that book out and looking forward to hearing about that we'll have a link on our podcast if you want to check out the book. And she's founded a couple of very popular Catholic web sites including Catholic Stand. She teaches chemistry and physics and other topics mostly online through places like Kolbe Academy which is a great online homeschool program and also universities like Seton Hall. She's a member of scientific associations and affiliations like Itest, American Academy for the Advancement of Science, and the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars and a Society of Catholic Scientists.
Brad Cooper: 02:58
Trying to get out all those associations out is fun! haha
Brad Cooper: 03:00
On top of this she is a devout Catholic and homeschool mom and is the mother of seven. So definitely looking forward to hearing about that as well and just a great combination of experience and boy! I'm getting tired just going through the background. I'm thinking about all the things that you do there. I don't know how you have time for things. And thank you for joining the podcast here.
Brad Cooper: 03:18
So starting off with your book and I'd like to start with that "Particles of Faith: a Catholic Guide to Navigating Science" in the book you talk a little bit about your journey of faith in science and sort of your vision of how you'd like to see science taken up if you will with Catholics and other Christians and how they should think about science. Tell us about the book. How did it come about? What were you sort of hoping to communicate with that book?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 03:39
What I was hoping to communicate with the book and I didn't have the word in the beginning of writing it but by the time I finished this with my word, Confidence. I was trying to communicate, I am still trying to communicate confidence to people to other people of faith to be confident in your faith and to be confident in your ability to explore science. Be confident that you can ask questions that you can look for answers, that you don't need to be afraid of science. You don't need to be afraid of maybe people coming up with conclusions that are not satisfactory in science. I'm talking about the atheists. You don't need to be afraid of those things you need to be able to roll your sleeves up, to learn it, to figure out what they're trying to say, to assess it for yourself in the light of faith. Let your faith guide your thinking reason and faith. You know let your faith guide your reason and be confident that you have the tools to be able to navigate through these issues because the conflicts that people think we have there's really not a conflict between faith and science that there are questions that we don't have answers to at this moment in time. May take 100 years more scholarships, we may not ever have answers to certain things but that doesn't mean that we can't dig into the mystery, dive into the mysteries and learn more truth so that we can contribute to the knowledge base in our lifetime and leave that for people and future generations.
Brad Cooper: 04:59
What were some of the things maybe that brought you to the point where you decided you had to write a book about some of these messages. Was it some conversations you just kept having with other Catholic or Christian parents or in teaching your children? I mean what were some things that maybe brought you to this and sort of putting together your thoughts in the book?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 05:15
I wanted to show people how to navigate the issues more than to put answers down in a book. And it's kind of interesting to be doing scholarly work from home where you're raising five small children and worrying about two grown children. I'm home immersed with these kids who ask questions and they want short clear answers. And at the same time I'm doing my scholarship work, my academic work, writing papers and researching and learning theology. It really pushed me to pull from those resources to get answers that then to communicate those answers into ways that could be understood. Also what I was writing and writing essays and blogging that also was a very useful experiment in learning how to communicate with people and that's what led to the book. I wanted to communicate like where we are on the issues, like where we are with quantum mechanics and how that's interpreted today what that means to us as Catholics. Evolution, the big question. I wanted to show people how you can go as far as you can go into the question of evolution and evolution of humanity. And also the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible, how far you can go with each one of those stories to get to a point where maybe they don't even meet but you at least have clarified the question and that guides your thinking going forward. So I just wanted to put all that down. So in my mind, I kind of had my audience imagined as young people or parents who wanted to give answers to their children.
Brad Cooper: 06:42
That's great and that's sort of the same audience here with Purpose Nation. And so we love what you've done there and continue to do. So also tell us a little bit about your teaching. So these are chemistry, physics, AP classes and it's all online which is which is also very interesting and something we've also as parents thought about. And you know using technology to reach people pretty much anywhere which kind of breaks the mold a little bit. It's a different experience for both the teacher obviously and but the students. Tell us about that experience. How has that been?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 07:10
Yeah it's been really interesting. I mean it cracks me up when people ask me you know where do you work? What do you do? Sounds like you do so many things. I'm like yes but I never leave my house. I work on the West Coast for Kolbe Academy in Napa California. I work on the East Coast for Seton Hall University and Holy Apostles College and Seminary. I teach everything online. And they kind of crack me up that I got to this point where I'm actually working full time, I'm actually working more than full time job.
Brad Cooper: 07:10
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 07:41
At home and I have my office all set up and you know I don't mind investing in computer equipment because I don't have to buy a car to get to work. So have I had a pretty good set up in my home to be able to do all of this stuff but it just kind of happened over the years. Now our kids were going to Kolbe Academy and they said we want to make an online academy. Hey can you teach chemistry? and like I'd love to teach chemistry to homeschool students online. So now I've got seven classes and they're full because that's one thing not a lot of parents can teach their kids just like I didn't have a classical education and I can't teach my high school student Latin and Greek history. You know she hasn't got a prayer of learning that stuff for me. That's been really fun but then being home with the babies and raising the babies. I also got used to the social media life like I never saw it as a bad thing. I saw it as a tool to reach more people because we're made to communicate and be in relationships so I never had a problem making friends on Facebook. As I learned how to be present on the Internet, that ended up working really well with teaching because that's one of the big hurdles with teaching online is that teachers have to know how to be present on the Internet. They have to know how to establish a teacher student relationship even though you're not face to face. You know it turns out I got really good at doing that and it was a bit of work getting a Catholic Theology of Science Course going at Seton Hall University because you know the online teaching is kind of new and they weren't really sure you know you want to teach a new class here? you're not even going to be here? It took a couple of years to get that developed and get it going. The first year they offered that course it was full three days later because students liked the course but also the students liked the idea of taking an online course. So I don't know where I'm going from here with all of that teaching. I have found a place to do important work and now that I'm here in Texas. I didn't even expect this but here we are in Texas, I met with Bishop Strickland and they are very interested in prospects for furthering Catholic education down here in Texas where there aren't a lot of Catholics. So I don't know. I don't know where I'm going from here.
Brad Cooper: 09:50
That's great! Well, yeah but you know I mean these are the sort of trends I would say a little bit into the future of education. Lots of online web sites just popping up from universities. Like Kolbe Academy Home School programs you know it's just amazing to see it. And I think obviously our students are used to it. Even though maybe some of the teachers are not as used to the online technology obviously but the kids are in are very comfortable with technology and I imagine it's been positive for them as well in your classes.
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 10:17
Yes, you nailed it right there because that's that's the thing our children are growing up in a social media world and they're much more comfortable learning online than some of the adults are teaching online. So the online teaching is here to stay. And I think people who can get out ahead and figure out how to do it the right way are going to be the ones with the most influence down the road.
Brad Cooper: 10:38
That's right. That's right. And while we're great grateful that you're out there you know with the Catholic and Christian background to also infuse that into your teaching of the sciences so that's that's great! So taking a step back now to your childhood a little bit if you don't mind and you're growing up and learning science and getting an interest. Where did the interest in science come from? Or some of the things that sparked your interest in science?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 10:59
It kind of made me sad when I was writing the book and I had to go back and think about that. When did I first love science and I realized it was when I was young and I had that awe and wonder at the world. You know I remember being a child and looking up at the sky and it hitting me that I'm looking at things I'm never going to touch or I'm never going to fully comprehend. Like I don't know what's beyond those clouds. I don't know why those clouds are even right there doing what they're doing and then when I learned about water molecules it's it's just amazing. You just get a certain awe amd wonder to staring at anything like a leaf on a tree even when you think about the nano factoryness of photosynthesis. And it just sparked my interest that you know the thing that hooked me as a child, I remember my mom teaching me that God made everything and that you know I had it. I grew up with a Baptist faith and I read my Bible because my grandmother told me to and I wrote prayers to Jesus every day instead of a diary for miles. My entire childhood is recorded in Dear Jesus. Now his mother told me to do that. And so I just had a real childlike love for God and for creation. And I lost it when I got to college. Then I went on and pursued science but I guess I got frustrated by not having a lot of answers to questions because I had a lot of questions as a kid. I didn't have a lot of answers. I didn't think by the time I got to college that religion or faith had any answers for me there that it just seemed like kind of like a club you know go to church if you want to on Sunday but it really doesn't rock your boat, don't worry about it. I just turned away from it. I just decided that was kind of like we're in the church people and I didn't need the religion part anymore. I was going to do what I wanted to do with my life. And I went from there and I did drive the amoral atheist lifestyle into the ground which led to my conversion later. But you know that's where I'm back to now. That's what's so exciting for me personally. I'm back to that awe and wonder like I'm back to that. I remember it now. And now that I have the science in the light of faith as the study of the handiwork of God I love science now more than I ever have very exciting.
Brad Cooper: 13:14
That's great! And so you went to college obviously for an undergrad I think more of a general science degree and then went on to Ph.D. in chemistry? And what drew you into chemistry specifically? There were some. And I know you teach physics as well but what were some of the things about chemistry that drew you into that particular field of science?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 13:30
Yeah. My undergraduate degree was biology and then three years into my degree I knew the dean at my university and she knew of a high school that needed a chemistry teacher. They made a deal where I could graduate early from college with a degree with a B.S.. That's why it's called Broad Field Science. They kind of made up something that I can graduate from college early if I would take this teaching job in chemistry in Athens, Texas. It's kind of hard to turn that down. So I did it. And that's where I discovered chemistry because then I was teaching it to high school students. I was 20 to teaching seniors in high school as their chemistry teacher and let me tell you that built some character ...haha... they were football players that were bigger than me and I was their chemistry teacher! But I really got a foundational love for chemistry and it occurred to me if you really want to understand photosynthesis and biology and what the clouds are doing you have to know chemistry. It's the central science and I fell in love with it then and that's why I now love physics because I understand that physics helps explain chemistry. Chemistry is my baby. I love chemistry and I like it because it helps make sense of all the other sciences.
Brad Cooper: 14:38
That's right. Yeah it seems like the deeper you dive into science, you know I'm sure that physicists would love to hear me say this is sort of all drives down to physics because you get down of the smaller the smallest levels and everything sort of builds on top of that for the most part. And then you went to get your Ph.D. at Penn State and that was in chemistry.
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 14:54
Yes it was personally at that time I wanted to get out of Texas because I needed to see the world. I wanted get out of Texas it was like to live somewhere else. I applied to several universities for Ph.D. work but specifically to Penn State because there was a professor there from Berkeley who was one of the top dogs in researching artificial photosynthesis. I've always had this love thing. This love hate thing with leaves and photosynthesis. But he was very top in his field and he wasn't just biochemistry. Hewasn't just analytical chemistry. He sort of span the whole set of topics because he was making these artificial nano composites with layers of polymers using transition metals and using inorganic sheets. So you had to know polymer chemistry, you had to know inorganic chemistry, you had to know broadly and that really appealed to me. And what also appealed to me was that he was trying to simulate photosynthesis to provide alternative energy sources which I thought was a beautiful idea. I wasn't religious but I thought if we have a hope of reducing our dependence on fossil fuel this is an important area of research. So I went there to work with him and that was like a dream come true to be part of that laboratory.
Brad Cooper: 16:05
Right. And that's one of the things that was interesting about that and sort of reading your book and some of the parts of your story was that it seems like there was also this merging of using science for good at least in early and even if you weren't a Catholic or Christian at that time. That seems like there was some desire to use science for good. Is that right?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 16:23
Absolutely. A book that had a very very strong influence on me with the making of the atomic bomb by Richard Rhodes. He won a Pulitzer Prize for it. I read that book before I went off to graduate school and it's an excellent book I recently reread it through my Christianize because I wanted to know what I would see in it. Now that it's such an awesome book he recounts,, not just the making of the atomic bomb, but he starts with the discovery of subatomic particles in the atom and back when I was in my 20s reading that book, it hit me that we are truly gifted to have this insight into the fundamental nature of matter and energy. And it's scary because it can be used for good or it can be used to destroy life as we know it on this planet. That was a real strong influence on me. Ok I need to do something with chemistry. I need to do something with this knowledge of atoms and how to do something good because enough bad already been done. It's neat looking back on all of that even though I wasn't a person to faith. I think in loving science and trying to do good. That was I was searching for truth searching for it and I didn't even realize it.
Brad Cooper: 17:34
Yeah. So you landed a job after college at Dupont and you were specifically working on some interesting things there. What were some of the things that you worked on?
Brad Cooper: 17:43
Well let me tell you when you're in your 20s you know I had the blond hair and the blue eyes and the convertible and the hot pink golf bag and you know I had it going on in my 20s. And when you get a job at Dupont and your research field is lycra spandex you know that's the stuff and all the clothes you wear you know. I was pretty full of myself and I thought it was funny because I like of course now I'm going to use this knowledge not to save the world but to make better pantyhose. But I love the job though and I love the challenge of the marketing people coming to us saying OK we need swimsuits that don't degrade in chlorine. We need chlorine resistant lycra spandex for the competitive swimsuit market. Can you make it? And so we go back to our laboratories and our meetings and we try to figure out how to make that knowing that when you change something there's going to be unintended consequences elsewhere in the production process. So it was it was fun working there because I got to be involved in a lot of different developments of products and there was a time I remember walking through a shopping mall seeing Dupont hang tags on clothing thinking yep I know where that came from I know where I came from. It was fun to be involved in the value chain I guess and knew where the chemicals came from to make the fibers and I knew how the fibers got made into fabrics and I knew how the fabrics got cut into clothes and I knew how people got those things out to the market. So it was fun learning about all of that and I guess it makes shopping for pantyhose now a whole different experience for you. When I see T-shirts for$3 at Walmart I'm like if people only knew how much goes into making a T-shirt.
Brad Cooper: 19:29
Don't tell me, ok (laughs) and I want to know what chemicals go into those things. So it's a high flying career and had it all going on and then at that point even were any Christians in the workplace or not? Was there any thought to it to God or to faith at that point? I know there's a point that you did convert to the Catholic faith so if you could take us from there and then to your conversion.
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 19:51
I knew Catholics at Penn State. There was a group of people in my research team who were Catholics and Christians just not just Catholics are Christians. And I honestly never thought there was a conflict. I mean I left religion behind just because I wanted to go. I didn't think I needed it. But I never hated it. I just had no use for it but that there are people in our lab. I mean of all different faiths not just Christianity. But I did know specifically some Catholics and generally some Christians and I remember admiring them because as my scientific career was taking off my personal life I had no moral code and I did just live. You know I can do whatever I want. Who's going to stop me and kind of my attitude. And that also makes you very insecure makes you very afraid. And I wasn't able to admit all that but I do remember thinking I want what they have. I remember looking at how confident and how comfortable they were how they lived a life of faith and they were happy and confident. There's that word again. They were happy. They would have dinner parties. They would hang out. They would talk about deeper issues than I was able to and they loved learning for the sake of learning. And it really stuck with me like it wasn't so much that they had their apologetic arguments down. It was that whenever I admitted to myself that science does have all the answers and maybe there's more to life than just your scientific career, I knew that I could do it because I saw them do it. I knew I could only lead a life of faith because I'd seen it done and that's what gave me the confidence to start asking those questions and to be not so afraid to ask that question that had always lingered in my mind. You know when I tried to simulate artificial photosynthesis and piteously failed to mimic a fraction of what leaves do on trees every day I remember thinking Who did this? like Who created all of this? And I just wouldn't let myself go there like I did as a child. But when I was ready to go there it was not so hard to see God created the universe and science. What's really hard is owning up to that yourself. Achemist hears God knows. Luke 12:7 God knows every hair on your head. Who knows how many hairs you have on your head. A chemist is like yeah and he knows where every electron in Quark that make up the atoms that make up the keratin is in my head. Like it's a little too much. It was hard to face up to the personal aspect to admit my sins, to accept forgiveness, to believe that God is a personal God that Christ came to the world as a man to redeem this. It was hard for me to get my head around all of that. I was afraid if I got to be too happy I would I would lose it. I wouldn't be able to. I didn't deserve it. That took a long time for me to get over.
Brad Cooper: 22:34
And that's what you mentioned there just in terms of scientists and sort of the resistance. I guess if you call it that to God is sort of the implications of what that means. If there is a God and I heard that often from atheists who do convert to Catholicism or Christianity that there's that outcome. OK if there is a God then what does that mean for me personally.
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 22:34
Brad Cooper: 22:56
So take us from there. Did you start exploring? When did you start you know reading books? Or I mean was it people or did you start going to a church or what eventually brought you into the Catholic faith?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 23:05
Well it was asking questions. So my husband was a cradle Catholic but he wasn't practicing the faith. And when we married and I already had two children and found out I was pregnant with our child a third child and I was 33 at the time and that's when it hit me. That's when it was like pick your path now Stacey because you can keep going down this life with no moral code you already see that science can't explain everything. It doesn't explain purpose and meaning and what your days are supposed to be about. I went to a few churches and told my husband I want to raise these kids in a religious home. I want them to have that moral grounding. And so he said you pick. You decide. So we went to a few churches and I was back to that frustration of there's just no answers here like that nothing they're saying is making sense. I like for things to make sense. Then he suggested the Catholic Church because that's how he had grown up. And we went and I literally, I remember this it sounds kind of goofy, that I pick a Catechism of the Catholic Church. What's this big book? and he's like well that's where all the answers are. And I opened it. And the first thing I read was that part that talks about children being gifts and it was so simple that it hit me to the core. And I'm like, gifts, what does that word mean? That's not a scientific word that children are gifts. It means that God gives them to entrust them to us and I better take it seriously. Then I read about being open to life and you know I just started at that point I'm like the most important thing I've done in my life is not all these scientific career, it's these children, it's being a mother. And so I left my job at Dupont when that baby was born. She's 14 now. I left my job at Dupont and didn't convert for three more years but I was working on it that whole time. I had a lot of stuff worked through but I was working on it and by that you know by the time a third daughter was born, I was received into the Catholic Church and have been going ever since and that's why I studied the dogmatic theology because I found that I could do it online and I was by that time I had four daughters in five years. And then we had a son.
Brad Cooper: 23:05
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 25:12
And so babies just started coming in and I needed something to do at home you know because I was going into my mind I couldn't have anything to stimulate me intellectually. So getting dogmatic theology for me was a very familiar ground and like I get it I get! Just like we observe laws in nature and we derive physics and chemistry equations from there. We have divine revelation handed to us by God and we derive dogma and doctrine from there. It's the same thing. I know what I'm doing here and I just fell in love with it I'm like this is so beautiful because the way things are articulated especially Saint Thomas Aquinas articulate words almost like they're mathematical variable. He defines them and he uses them exactly the same way. I just thought it was so beautiful and mean then it wasn't just science anymore. For me it was science and theology and putting it all together like this is right!
Brad Cooper: 26:03
So I mean the process that you just described there is very interesting because it sounds like it started with a little bit of examine and personal reflection. There was definitely some examination of the validity of of God or belief in God in the faith that sort of helps you examine yourself sort of leading into a curiosity. But from there on out it almost seemed like it was like a science project for you where you are doing your own research and you are at home and I'm going to figure this thing out and I've seen that and you know obviously there's the Lee Strobel story and the case for Christ and it seemed like a very similar experience as well. So people are waiting for this dramatic conclusion though at the end and you know said like at the end of that film you know it's like he just accepted it and it's like well wait a minute where's the giant you know beams of light coming out of the sky? But for us as well it sounds like a similar thing right? where you sort of almost looked at it from a scientific and intellectual standpoint where you're going to research and see a while. They've already answered these questions. Here's the answer answers they're kind of going through and that's a similar experience for you?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 27:01
It's absolutely like that. I very much I said very intentionally I'm going to test this out in the laboratory of my life. OK. Here are the things that the church says you need to do. Like being open to life and all the moral things and the moral teachings. And I said to myself I don't understand some of these things. Like I don't understand why we can't use birth control. I don't understand some of these things but look I'm not going to talk out of both sides of my mouth. I have to mean what I say. So I'm going to try it. Like even the obligation to go to Mass. I didn't understand that but I said if I'm going to do this I'm going to do it all the way. I'm not going to pick and choose. I'm going to submit I'm going to grant assent of my will. And so I did it. I practice those things. You know I receive the Eucharist I took it seriously. I went to Mass when we were obligated and I practiced the life of faith even when some things didn't make sense to me because it's the same thing when you're a scientist you don't understand why it has to do with hydration. You don't have to understand why you have to learn to do certain analytical procedures. But over time as you practice these things you start to understand why you needed to know that and you wouldn't get there if you didn't try it yourself. You know and that's one thing that gets me with atheists, like I don't really argue with atheists, that I just ask them questions. Atheists sometimes, they're like someone standing out in the hallway of a laboratory. They're looking at people who are actually practicing the science and doing the science and they're out there criticizing it. They don't know what they're criticizing because they never walk into the laboratory and try it like a life of faith they never sincerely tried to live a life of faith so they don't even know what they're criticizing.
Brad Cooper: 27:01
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 28:37
So I try it when I talk to them. I just try to invite them in instead of arguing. I used to get real frustrated with atheists. I don't have it in me anymore to be frustrated with.
Brad Cooper: 28:49
I'm with you there. And that's a great analogy there is sort of looking into is people who are actually doing the work in the laboratory versus throwing the rocks and through the window of the laboratory from the outside. And yeah and that's something where you know as you said you sort of did the hard work yourself. Were there other resources? were there any books? were there people you trusted as mentors? Was there anybody else who sort of helped along the way? Or you had to sort of piece things together yourself or any any useful resources to use during that time?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 29:20
Well anybody who knows me knows I can't talk or write or do anything without mentioning Father Stanley Jaki. Because it's so weird, my very first theology course it was called Philosophy for Theologians. It's the basic first course everybody has to take with Father Brian Mullady. The first book I read and that course was The Savior of Science by Stanley Jaki. And I don't think he even assigns that book in the course anymore but he did that when I took it and that was the first book I ever read and it floored me because it talks about how science was born of Christianity, born of this Christian world view that the universe is creation and it had a beginning in time. He details all of that and it just suddenly like everything clicked into place for me then. Andof course science is the study of the handiwork of God. That's when it hit me that's what it is that I love science because I was searching for God and that when you know more about atoms you know more about God you can understand a little more about how big God is about how amazing it is that he created this universe and everything just clicks away out there doing what it's supposed to do because he made it that way. So I started studying his work and I ended up writing my master's thesis was titled Science Was Born of Christianity. I wanted to get to the bottom of that claim. It's a dangerous claim because if you don't understand what you're saying it can sound arrogant and triumphant and ignorant because people can will argue will. Science started with the Greeks and the Muslims contributed to science. That's all part of the story. It's not denying that this is a big claim to make. And so I wanted to get my head around it. And I've been studying his work ever since and I'm a champion of his works. I believe that he had so much to contribute and I think I was concerned that his books weren't going to be as widely read as I thought they should be. So I've been working very hard to communicate his message and to verify his message. I didn't just drink it without challenge it. My husband said, if you need to verify his sources... He said You spend whatever you want. Go verify his sources if that's what he did do. And I couldn't travel the libraries because I had babies at home so I spent a small fortune building my own library to verify Jaki's sources and he was bang on.
Brad Cooper: 31:33
That's great. Tell us now in terms of your thoughts. You obviously written the book. You've been out there talking to people you mentioned sort of atheists and engaging a little bit here and there. In your book, you do also write about this quite a bit where even within Christianity in Catholicism or Christianity there are debates and so and people come at it from different angles so evolution obviously is a big one. Things like climate change so they can get heated you know amongst fellow Christians. Had some pretty strong points of view about that and well and the other thing too is so we have confidence in our faith but not as much confidence in science as Christians and Catholics. So what are your thoughts on how do we bridge that gap amongst Christians in regards to science? How do we get parents not to be afraid to send their kids into a field or into you know into Penn State or some other you know secular college or where they might have people there who will challenge their faith and coming up with answers to questions we have? So what are your thoughts on how we can not be so afraid to encourage our children to go into science?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 32:31
The thing parents need to understand what they are doing when parents say I don't want my kids learning about evolution. I appreciate the fact that they're trying to protect their faith. Like I get that. The catechism, the books that we teach children from in elementary, they say they all about Adam and Eve as if it were absolutely literal. And there's no balance to that education and I think there needs to be to also teach children as young as third and fourth grade that the story of Adam and Eve is going to sound like it conflicts with evolution but that it's because there are still things we don't know. Instead of presenting that like we have all the answers we know everything. Start teaching children even at a young age to focus on the meaning of Genesis. The meaning that they are the real part of Genesis instead of the literal part of Genesis which the real story is bigger than just the literal story and start teaching them even at a early age that they're going to need to learn skills for diving into tougher questions. They're going to have to learn how to articulate what is known very clearly. Articulate what we don't know very clearly. Responsibly explore questions without committing to an opinion prematurely. You know those are those are critical thinking skills and they need to be taught at a young age but how to get parents over that hump. Parents are like fine. Tell me what to say. I will do this with my children. I understand that God made Adam. And God created everything and that we don't need to fear. You know it's living things do evolve and it certainly seems that they do. Then we don't need to fear that that's contradicting God. But parents just need things to say they need to know what say to their kids. And so there's an education part there. People have told me before they have the effect of just calming people down like it's OK it's OK for this. It's not irresponsible. Here's how you do it. Here's what you say. And if you get into questions you don't know how to answer it. Here's where you can go to figure it out. And I think there need to be more resources like that to help parents because God bless them for not wanting to put their kids at risk that they do unintentionally because then if you turn those kids out into the secular world and nobody ever answered their questions like nobody answered mine when I was a kid they just think that religion isn't true. It's not part of the path to truth.
Brad Cooper: 34:44
Yes. That's great advice. You know and they don't have to fear it. And obviously that's part of the reason we sort of Purpose Nation is to sort of get Christians and Catholics to be more comfortable thinking about science. And also I mean as you mentioned just the critical thinking skills too. And I believe that's. And I'm sure you do too. A big part of it. Even our our own education growing up we may not have had classes like philosophy or logic. Some of the classic things that even science draws upon to evaluate questions and look at the evidence and come to conclusions. And how do you continue to test that and when can you be confident that something is true? There's a lot of you know Christians come at it from more of an emotional I mean is that sort of your thought as well?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 35:22
Yes, exactly. Yeah how to trust yourself with what you said exactly. You said it perfectly. How to trust yourself to know when you have found something that's true and how to trust yourself to know when you haven't found something that's true.
Brad Cooper: 35:33
What are some of the things that you've seen in the educational system. Probably could be a whole podcast but just in the United States specifically that you think are sort of not preparing children well for that kind of exploration the questions that there are going to run into later?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 35:47
My biggest thing like education in general is what you said about critical thinking and my biggest thing was science in particular is just teaching students that simple thing I said that science is the study of the handiwork of God. I get that so ingrained in their head that they never question it. They just assume it's that way. God made everything. Scientists studying how God made things. It's that simple. And then and then also teach them to let their faith guide their reasoning. Let what they understand about morality and ethics guide them. Because I know this sounds kind of like big language but I'm serious. I think there needs to be another scientific revolution. You know the scientific revolution in the 1600-1700s led to this empiricism and scientism and the divide between faith and reason there needs to be and I think we're in the middle of it. There needs to be another scientific revolution back to the unity of faith and reason. Back to the point where young people are not growing up thinking, "oh if I decide to become a scientist I have to put my faith aside to check my faith at the door". No, they need to hear it said all the time. If you decide to become a scientist, you have to keep your faith. Your faith has to guide you because the secular communities out there that are doing things and science progressing especially in bioethics fields with genetics, they need that guidance. They need the moral guidance to balance him out because they don't know where they're going and you can't have true progress if you're not sure where you're going. And the Christian vision is to lead a life of virtue to get to heaven. All of our days are supposed to be getting us closer to heaven. Each day is a gift and if a scientist practices science with that in mind then the science will be guided for something good just like I was trying to do when I was younger. And we need more Christians becoming scientists for that reason. It's not just oh you can be a scientist you don't have to worry about the conflict. No we need them to be scientists. We need them to lead the way. And I think it's happening. I think it's happening more and more.
Brad Cooper: 37:44
Amen! Well that's great. And you're preaching to the choir on that one. That's great! Thank you. And you know the other thing too is women in science Catholic and Christian women and young young ladies young girls and you obviously have daughters as well. I don't know if any of them are considering following in their moms footsteps and considering a career in science but what can you say to encourage young women specifically Christian and Catholic women who are thinking potentially about these things and wondering about nature and you know thinking well maybe is this is this something that I could even do? What would you say to them?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 38:11
Well I remember a phrase when I was younger it was the have it all woman you know and I very much tried to live that feminist lifestyle. I was a single mom with a Ph.D. in chemistry working for a big company and I thought I had it all. And now I look at my life and I just laugh because I really do have it all now. But I have the right things now. I'm here with my children every day. I'm able to work and I'm doing work that's meaningful that I feel very fulfilled and doing. I have so many projects out in front of me and I'm not sure exactly where I'm going with all of this but I'm excited to find out. I mean that's the having it all that in scripture Mark 8:36, it says "What does it profit a man or woman to gain the whole world and lose his soul". And that's kind of like what stayed in front of me every day. Like you can gain the whole world but if it's at the expense of your soul then you haven't gained anything. And so I say to young woman if you feel called to be a scientist and a mother, I can't tell you exactly how it's going to play out but if you have the right things if you get the big things right, if you keep your priorities straight and you live your life so that every day you're praying to God grant me the grace to do your will let me know what I'm supposed to do today and give me the courage and strength to do it. Then you'll figure things out and you'll find your place because your path will be unique. And so I encourage them with that I don't say yes go get a Ph.D. and you might have to leave your career and raise kids like I don't know because that may not be the same way same thing for every young person. But lead your life that way. Live a life of faith and trust that you will find the answers for what you're supposed to do and trust yourself. If you take a wrong step that you'll fix it. That's part of living a life of prudence is trusting yourself that confidence thing. If you do make a bad decision you'll fix it, you'll go back and reassess and make better decisions. And I think that's a good way to go through life.
Brad Cooper: 40:05
That's great. And talking earlier and going back again to sort of what some of the things you were using science for in prior to becoming a Christian and sort of what you're doing with it now. It is sort of a mission-driven thing where there is a purpose there that God maybe has called you to do. And so for you it was you know maybe you missed the early calling and now you found it but for young people there's often this decision in almost like a bi-modal type thing where you either you go into the church and you know serve the poor or you know to do something that seems like it's something obviously that God would call you to do. but then looking at science early on and then now for you it seems like well the obvious it's obvious that that's what's called calling me to do now is to use my knowledge of science in this way. So that's something that you know we try to encourage as well as to and not think about it that it's you have to choose between the two or choose a family versus science or versus career but how do you combine them.
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 40:58
Exactly. Get creative. All kinds of ways to get there.
Brad Cooper: 41:03
What's next and what's coming up for you Dr. Trasancos? What can we pray for you? You have a lot going on here. Anything coming up over the next few months to your we can think about and pray for for you?
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 41:13
Well I move back home very much as saying I'm open to God's will. And I felt very sure that it was time for us to come back home and be close to my parents. But it turns out I'm in a diocese that's on fire. I didn't realize that. The diocese of Tyler with Bishop Strickland, they are doing all kinds of things to evangelize the new evangelization to do it the right way to be Orthodox and solid in our teaching but also to be engaging and to reach out to people where they are and draw them in to a life of faith. I have a feeling I'm going to get involved with it and I hope I am. I hope that when I'm called to do. Because I'm very very excited about that almost to the point of impatient. So if you can pray for this diocese. I would really appreciate absolutely and I think that great things are going to be happening here.
Brad Cooper: 41:58
Absolutely! That sounds great. So we'll pray for the diocese in Tyler and for you and also just praying that you can manage all of these things and we're glad to have you doing so many things with your family and home school and the online courses and now this so definitely pray that God will continue to use you. And thank you so much for all your work and all you've been doing.
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 41:58
Thankyou so much! It was lovely talking to you.
Brad Cooper: 42:21
Likewise Dr. Trasancos. And you can check out her book. We'll put a link to it on our podcast page as well as links to some of the other topics we talked about. Dr. Trasancos, enjoy the Fall there in your return to Texas.
Stacy Trasancos, PhD: 42:21
OK. Thank you.
Brad Cooper: 42:21
OK. Dr. Trasancos, thanks again and we'll talk to you soon!
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