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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Theology and Ethics

Undergraduate Course: Ecology, Ethics and Religion (THET10021)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe study of ecological ethics, and the investigation of the relationship between ecological ethics and religions through primary texts in ecological ethics and religious environmentalism, and case studies of religious practice in relation to ecological issues.
Course description Academic Description:
The biosphere has evolved a level of biodiversity unprecedented in earth history in a period (the last eight thousand years) known as the Holocene in which humans evolved from hunter-gatherers to agrarians. Humans were therefore able to develop complex civilizations which have had a tendency to press ecological support systems to the point of collapse. The latest of these - industrial capitalism - is now a global civilization and is putting pressure on most earth systems to the extent that the evolving and reparative capacities of life on earth are at risk. The most obvious signs of this are declining biodiversity in forests, oceans, croplands and pastures, soil erosion, ground water depletion, ocean acidification, strengthening storms, enduring droughts and climate change. Protests at the ecological depredations of industrialism first emerged in the Romantic movement. Two hundred years later ecological philosophy and environmental ethics are recognized sub-disciplines in philosophy and theology. In this course we will study the interaction of religion and ecology through the seminal essay on the chemicalization of the environment, an aetiological account of the ecological crisis by a moral theologian, an account of environmental ethics by its foremost advocate, a critique and revision of enlightenment and economistic rationalities by a feminist philosopher, and a narration of the rise of modern nature religions and environmental activism.

Syllabus/Outline Content:
The course is organised around the reading by students of five primary texts which are Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962, reissued New York, First Mariner Books, 2002.
Michael Northcott, The Environment and Christian Ethics, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Holmes Rolston, A New Environmental Ethics: The Next Millennium for Life on Earth, New York, Routledge, 2012.
Val Plumwood, Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason, New York, Routledge, 2001.
Bron Taylor, Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future, Los Angeles: California University Press, 2009.

Student Learning Experience Information:
Learning on this course includes the following elements of study and assessment:
1. Private weekly study of eight hours for reading and assessment requirements (eleven hours of private study and class participation represents just under one third of a 35 hour working week and the usual Honours curriculum requires three courses). If you do not intend to commit 8 hours each week for private study in this course you are advised not to take the class.
2. Blogs on reading (20%): Blogs on private reading are primarily designed to facilitate individual learning, and communication between students in advance of class discussion since writing and note taking on texts are proven means to improve memory and understanding in reading. Learn offers the facility for students to exchange online comments on set readings before class each week. Bloging on texts is intended to promote formative learning and blogs therefore attract a pass/fail grade. A weekly grade of 69% will be awarded to a blog of minimum 300 words which must include precise discussion of at least three quotes from set readings. A zero mark will be entered where students miss the blog, or fail to quote and comment on three quotes, or fail to attend class. Responding to other bloggers is also valuable.
3. Class Attendance: Each class will commence with break out groups (10-11) in which the required reading will be discussed. This will be followed by plenary discussion (11-1130) and a coffee break (1130 - 1150) before a lecture on the set reading for the following class in the last class hour. The ideal class scenario is one where everyone comes with their own copy of the set book with passages highlighted (this can be on a mobile computing device or a personal hard copy). A class register is kept each week. Attendance is required. One or two unexplained missed classes will result in a zero grade for the blog in those weeks. Three unexplained missed classes will result in a zero grade for the blog for the whole course. If you do not intend to attend class each wee then please do not take this course.
4. Mid-semester essay of 1500 words (30%): a critical discussion of at least one of the set texts demonstrating careful exposition and critical understanding and drawing on relevant secondary literature. This essay should demonstrate learning outcomes 1 - 4 and include at least five scholarly references.
5. End-semester essay of 2500 words (50%): a critical discussion of a theme that links three of the set texts and draws on relevant secondary literature. This essay should demonstrate learning outcomes 1 - 5 and include at least ten scholarly references including the set readings and other relevant readings.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 Divinity/Religious Studies courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the historic and cultural roots of the ecological crisis and efforts to resolve it.
  2. Articulate and critically compare different philosophical and religious approaches to ecological ethics.
  3. Critically expound and compare set texts in scholarly writing exercises that demonstrate a capacity for independent learning and critical thought.
  4. Describe and evaluate the interaction of religious beliefs, rituals and spiritualities and human behavior in relation to the environment.
  5. Narrate an overview of the developing scholarly interface between religion and ecological ethics.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Course organiserProf Michael Northcott
Tel: (0131 6)50 8947
Course secretaryMiss Suzi Higton
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227
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