11-year-old William Maillis is making headlines this weekend after graduating from St. Petersburg College in Florida with an “associate in arts degree.” He’s now a college graduate at the same time other kids his age are preparing to enter middle school. No small feat.
This fall, he’ll start taking classes at the University of South Florida with the hopes of pursuing a career in astrophysics… and he has a couple of very clear goals in mind. First, he wants a Ph.D.
Then there’s this:
“I want to prove that God does exist through science,” William said, his robed father [an Orthodox priest] looking on. “So that the world can know.”
That’s… not how it works.
Some astrophysicists find things they don’t understand and try to make sense of it. William’s goal is to find things he doesn’t understand, then give up and give credit to God.
(Also, Rule #1 of Science: Don’t start with a conclusion and try to prove it. You gather evidence and follow it wherever it leads you.)
He’s still young, and he said the same things when he was 9. I’m not mocking him. It’s far more disturbing when adults who ought to know better push the same Creationist myth as a pre-teen (regardless of his accomplishments).
But as he continues his studies, there will undoubtedly be a time when he faces some serious conflicts between the realities of the universe and the fiction of his faith. I wonder how strong that passion for science will be when his driving goal disappears.
I’m also curious what sort of job he’ll have if and when he completes grad school. He wouldn’t be the only person with a doctorate in science who believes in God — but some of them now work at religious institutions (like Answers in Genesis) where no other scientists take their work seriously. Others have successfully navigated high-profile jobs but it’s because they believe God and science are separate ideas that require a different set of rules. It’s not because their religious views ever made a dent in our understanding of how the universe works.
That said, William’s religious parents deserve a lot of credit for embracing his curiosity and letting him pursue his studies. The question now is how much of a critical thinker he’ll become as he grows up.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Heather for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier)