OK, I found the joke above on the blog Ellie Asks Why.
However, many people do not realize that there were several competing proposals for a periodic table chart in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. Not all of them were in the shape that we imagine above. For instance, there were proposals to picture the periodic table as a spiral:
Or even as a screw:
Or even as a three-dimensional system, which was almost impossible to picture as a two-dimensional chart. The image is from 1911:
When scientists try to picture reality, they almost always go through several iterations of ideas before they come up with a model that allows young students to learn properly what the available data appears to say at that point in time. The models are not reality, they are merely teaching tools that allow the communication of knowledge from elder to youngster.
If a youngster gets stuck on the model and does not realize that the models are teaching tools, then the youngster is unlikely to become a good scientist and is almost certainly not going to become a creative scientist. A youngster needs to cross over from the teaching model to the reality of science in order to become a scientist. Otherwise, they simply become a poorly educated layperson.
In the same way, for us Christians, often Sunday School materials are simplified summaries of extremely complex, redundant, and “thick” studies by highly educated theologians. If the Christian is not able to cross over from a Sunday School understanding of our faith to a more mature and developed view of the faith, then we can end up with a Christian who is simply a poorly educated layperson.
In both science and religion, this underlines the need for teachers who are able to communicate effectively with their students so that their students understand that what they are learning is a summarized version of science or religion and that this means that they are expected to continue on in their learning to a mature faith.
Saint Paul expresses this more than once, in the Book of Hebrews, in 1 Corinthians, etc., when he speaks about simple teachings (milk) verses a deeper and more accurate understanding of the faith (meat). If we do not have such teachers, we endanger both the enterprise of science and the passing on of our faith as we are expected to pass it on.