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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Postgraduate Course: History of Science and Religion (online) (THET11051)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
Course typeOnline Distance Learning AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course aims to provide a broad overview of some of the most salient developments in the history of the relations between science and religion. Key episodes in the history of science and religion are explored in multi-disciplinary perspective. These cover material from the early church to the early 21st century, and seek to show the complex ways in which religion and science have been intertwined and have interacted.
Course description Academic Description:
This course aims to provide a broad and interdisciplinary overview of some of the most salient developments in the history of the relations between science and religion. Beginning with the amalgamation of Greek philosophy of nature into Christian thought by the Early Fathers, the course proceeds chronologically to ensure a good historical understanding of the development of Western science and its relationship with contemporary theology. The course continues to the present day, with a consideration inter alia of the new atheism and of the theological implications of the human genome project and the possibilities it raises for human biology. Although necessarily selective in its coverage, the range of topics is intended to reflect the major periods in the history of science, and those points where there is most to learn about relations between scientific thinking and Christian theology.

Syllabus/Outline Content:
The course is team taught, drawing upon scholars from science, history and theology. The syllabus examines interpretations of Genesis in the early church, before moving through the middle ages and the early modern period. Leading scientists such as Newton and Darwin are discussed, while attention is given to the interactions of science and religion in literature.

A typical outline of the topics covered is as follows:
Week 1: Introduction: The Relationship of Science to Theology
Week 2: The Early Church Fathers and the Natural World
Week 3: St Thomas Aquinas
Week 4: Copernicanism and the Churches
Week 5: Newton and Newtonianism
Week 6: René Descartes
Week 7: Immanuel Kant
Week 8: The Rise of Natural Theology
Week 9: Evolution and the 'Grander View of the Creator'
Week 10: Science and Religion in Poetry
Week 11: Science and the New Atheism

Student Learning Experience Information:
The course is taught by means of eleven sessions, each of which includes core online lecture content presented by one of the course teachers, and opportunity for online class discussion. Each session will require a schedule of reading to be carried out in advance. Students are expected to engage critically and creatively with the reading, and to contribute to online discussion.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Course Start Date 16/01/2023
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 11, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 11, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 85 %, Practical Exam 15 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 85% - Essay (3000 words) on a topic agreed between the student and the course manager

15% - Participation in the on-line activities associated with the course, such as the completion of on-line quizzes or making a number of relevant posting on the course discussion board
Feedback Students will have the opportunity to submit and receive feedback on an essay plan.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Engage critically with selected historical, scientific, theological and philosophical sources.
  2. Show an awareness of the contextual conditions under which scientific and theological ideas were advanced and received.
  3. Structure an argument, to use correct grammar in expressing scientific, theological and philosophical ideas, and to support claims with reference to specific named primary and secondary sources.
  4. Engage in constructive and critical online debate with peers across a range of disciplinary backgrounds.
Reading List
Core Readings:
Three recent reference works are available online through the EUL catalogue. These will provide useful background reading and bibliographical materials for seminars and essays.

Peter Harrison (ed.), Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Philip Clayton and Zachary Simpson (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

J. B. Stump and A. G. Padgett, The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity (Oxford: Blackwell, 2012).

Seminar Topics and Essential Readings:

1. Introduction: The Relationship of Science to Theology
Peter Harrison, The Territories of Science and Religion (Chicago University Press 2015), ch. 1.

2. The Early Fathers and the Natural World
Augustine: The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book One, Chapters 18-21, Book Two, Chapters 1-5; Basil of Caesarea, Hexaemaron, Homily III.
Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina.

3. St Thomas Aquinas
St. Aquinas, De principiis naturae.
J. Brower, 'Matter, Form, and Individuation', in The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas.

4. Copernicanism and the Churches
John Brooke & Geoffrey Cantor, 'The Contemporary Relevance of the Galileo Affair', Reconstructing Nature (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998), 106-138.

5. Newton and Newtonianism
Isaac Newton, 'General Scholium', from Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (2nd edition, 1713)
Isaac Newton, 'Letter of 10 December, 1692 to Richard Bentley', in Four Letters to Richard Bentley (published, 1756); Opticks (2nd English edition, 1717), Book III, Part One
Samuel Clarke, The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence (1715, originally published 1717), pp. 11-24 (Alexander edition).

6. René Descartes
R. Descartes, Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and Seeking Truth in the Sciences, parts 1-6.
A. Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, ch3 'Justification and the Classical Picture'.

7. Immanuel Kant
'Introduction', Critique of Pure Reason (B1-30).
E. Watkins, 'What is, for Kant, a Law of Nature?'. Kant-Studien 105 pp. 471-490 (2014).

8. The Rise of Natural Theology
William Paley, Natural Theology (Edinburgh: 1816), Chapters 1-2.
John Brooke & Geoffrey Cantor, Reconstructing Nature, 141-175.

9. Evolution and the 'Grander View of the Creator'
John Hedley Brooke, Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1991), 275-320.

10. Science and Religion in Poetry
Selected poems of Thomas Hardy and R. S. Thomas, Patricia Ingham, Thomas Hardy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 153-190.

11. Science and the New Atheism
Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (London: Bantam, 2006), 111-160.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - General analytical skills (the ability to construct, reconstruct, recognise and critically assess arguments and evidence)
- The ability to engage with close reading of texts, both critically and creatively.
- Organisational skills (the ability to manage time, to complete a large-scale and complex project)
- Team and group work (the ability to coordinate work with others to constructive ends, and to engage in collegial discussion and debate with others)
- General research skills (the ability to find, recognise and organise information relevant to a project, and to assess the import of it)
- Critical thinking (the ability to select and evaluate relevant data in texts)
KeywordsScience,religion,science and religion,Bible,biblical studies,creation,miracle,fundamentalism
Course organiserDr Bethany Sollereder
Course secretaryMiss Rachel Dutton
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227
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