The scientific world is occasionally splashed with the news that some former “fact” of science has been dethroned due to careless or dishonest research. Having spent decades in the field of science, Dr. Grant De Jong knows how important honesty is in the scientific world. As a teacher in the Natural Sciences Department at Pensacola Christian College, he works to help students become science leaders characterized by integrity.
“Integrity means that you do the right thing, even when no one is looking,” said Dr. De Jong, explaining what he believes should be the main characteristic of a scientist.
Dreaming of Possibilities
Before working for PCC, Dr. De Jong worked for over 20 years in Colorado as an invertebrate ecologist and entomologist for an engineering company. At his workplace, Dr. De Jong learned the true importance of integrity in the natural sciences. Knowing that he carried a testimony for God among his coworkers, Dr. De Jong always made sure his reputation was above reproach. “While the world hates God, they know that we represent Christ, and so they have higher expectations of us,” he said.
Although his job fulfilled his love for science, trips across the country would cause Dr. De Jong to start dreaming of other possibilities. “[I and my wife] traveled a few times to visit family in New York, and as we drove, we talked about someday teaching at a Christian college,” he said. “We thought we might send our children to PCC and just follow them there to teach at the College.” Dr. De Jong and his wife Nicole’s desire came true when they saw an advertisement for a natural sciences faculty position at PCC. In 2016, Dr. De Jong and his family made their way to Pensacola, Florida.
“I love it when my students have that moment when they see or do some activity in lab or class that just resonates with them.”
When he arrived in the Sunshine State, Dr. De Jong felt a little homesick for the Rocky Mountains; however, what he had left behind was soon outshined by the benefits of being a faculty member. “We have been so blessed to be here,” he said.
Dr. De Jong settled into his teaching job and has become responsible for teaching natural sciences courses, such as undergraduate Zoology, Parasitology, and General Entomology. In his classes, he finds it satisfying to help students discover the wonders of science. “I love teaching students the things I used to do,” he said. “I love it when my students have that moment when they see or do some activity in lab or class that just resonates with them.” But Dr. De Jong’s teaching goes deeper than merely understanding the natural sciences. His ultimate goal is to help students engage boldly in the scientific community by putting integrity first in their work.
Teaching Honesty and Logic
Dr. Grant De Jong believes that helping students develop scientific understanding through integrity means equipping them to approach scientific controversies from a Christian perspective. He teaches them to confront debated topics with honesty, especially when he focuses on the Creation versus evolution origins controversy. “I teach my students that one of the prevailing themes in biology is evolution, and I try to make sure my students understand what ‘evolution’ is, [and] what it isn’t; what it can do, and what it can’t do,” he explained.
In his classes, Dr. De Jong clarifies that microevolution is an observable fact, which makes it accurate science. On the other hand, macroevolution is, as he put it, “molecules to man, [which] is not observable nor even possible.” To equip students with a biblical viewpoint of science, he dives into scientific debates and honestly addresses each side’s counterarguments.
“He has pressed me to improve my critical thinking, writing skills, and in-field techniques. All these have helped to prepare me for the next phase of life.”
Both in scientific controversy and in everyday scientific work, Dr. De Jong equips students to consider different perspectives. One of his students, John Roman (Sr., SC), noted that Dr. De Jong often pushed him to think outside of the box even in the smallest ways. “During Ecology lab, we dug pitfall traps, and I asked him if mine was good. He said it was well done, but it wasn’t in a great spot because a beetle would not think to travel by where I placed the trap,” John shared. “He has pressed me to improve my critical thinking, writing skills, and in-field techniques. All these have helped to prepare me for the next phase of life.”
As part of training young scientists, Dr. De Jong teaches his students the importance of respecting truth and deepening their scientific understanding. He has been privileged to watch his students take their search for truth and understanding to greater heights. “I’ve seen our students get into graduate school programs in technical biology fields all over the country,” he said. “They represent PCC well at those colleges.”
Whatever direction his students take, Dr. Grant De Jong’s greatest desire is for them to follow God as they pursue a career in the natural sciences. “People with integrity, including scientists, are becoming rarer and rarer,” he said. “Integrity is important because we don’t just represent ourselves; we represent Christ.”
Read more about how God is directing and working through PCC faculty and alumni.