Science and religion: Questioning truth, knowledge and life
Science and religion are two of the most significant influences shaping global society today. We shall examine the relationship between a variety of scientific disciplines in the natural and social sciences, with a variety of religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Daoism, and Islam.
Broadly speaking, scholars have identified four main perspectives concerning the relationship between science and religion: Conflict (science is incompatible with religion), Compartmentalization (they belong to separate domains of knowledge), Conversation (they overlap at certain points at which they can respectfully dialogue), and Convergence (they can be integrated). We shall examine how each of these perspectives plays out in the history of science and religion in East and West, and assess their contemporary significance.
The course will achieve the goals of the Common Core Curriculum by helping students connect across different disciplines and cultures, and develop the ability to examine controversial issues from multiple perspectives. Students will achieve these aims through interactive learning, outside the classroom activities, and group debates.
Course learning outcomes
Course Learning Outcomes – On completing the course, you will be able to:
- Identify and critically engage with the Big Questions in science and religion dialogues and with the use of pseudoscience.
- Analyze a range of views and arguments concerning the models of interaction between science and religion from multiple perspectives, and formulate clear, logical and precise responses to them.
- Assess the strengths and limitations of the scientific method using multidisciplinary perspectives.
- Critically evaluate competing interpretations of scientific findings and of ancient religious texts.
- Critically reflect on the ways of knowing, underlying assumptions and cultural roots of their own and others’ beliefs, values, interests and practices concerning these issues.
|Activities||Number of Hours|
|Reading / Self-study||36|
|Assessment: Essay / Report writing||36|
|Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation)||6|
|Assessment: Film review||3|
|Film and documentary review||20%|
|Tutorial participation and assignments/discussions||10%|
McGrath, Alister. Science and Religion: An Introduction. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Chapters 1 and 6.
Loke, Andrew. 2014. ‘The benefits of studying philosophy for science education,’ Journal of the NUS Teaching Academy 4: 27-35.
Hansson, Sven Ove. “Science and Pseudo-Science.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2015/entries/pseudo-science/>.
2.Pre-modern Chinese culture, Daoism and science
Livia Kohn, Science and the Dao. Three Pines Press, 2016. Chapter assignment to be confirmed.
3. Buddhism and Science: ancient and contemporary approaches
To be confirmed
4. Christianity and Science: pre-modern debates leading up to the Galileo Incident
McGrath, Alister. Science and Religion: An Introduction. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Chapters 2 and 3.
5. Newton, the Deist controversy and the problem of miracles
McGrath, Alister. Science and Religion: An Introduction. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Chapter 4.
Craig, W.L. and J.P. Moreland eds. The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Chapter 11.
6. Darwin and the contemporary creation vs evolution debate
McGrath, Alister. Science and Religion: An Introduction. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Chapter 5.
Clayton, Philip, and Zachary Simpson. The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Chapters 13, 41
7. Einstein, Hawking and the contemporary (New) Atheism vs Theism debate
Moreland, J.P., Chad V. Meister, Khaldoun A. Sweis eds. Debating Christian Theism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Introduction and chapters 1 to 4.
Clayton, Philip, and Zachary Simpson. The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Chapter 5.
8. Contemporary psychology, neuroscience and religion
Greyson, B. (2010). Seeing dead people not known to have died: “Peak in Darien” experiences. Anthropology and Humanism, 35(2), 159-171.
Mobbs, D., & Watt, C. (2011). There is nothing paranormal about near-death experiences: how neuroscience can explain seeing bright lights, meeting the dead, or being convinced you are one of them. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15(10), 447-449.
Dehaene, S., & Changeux, J.-P. (2011). Experimental and theoretical approaches to conscious processing. Neuron, 70, 200-227.
Tononi, G., & Koch, C. (2015). Consciousness: here, there and everywhere? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 370: 20140167
10. Contemporary holistic movements and their implications for science and religion
Capra, Fritjof. The Dao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism, Chapters 1 and 2.
11. Science, religion and the discourses and practices of social development
Sharon Harper, ed. The Lab, the Temple and the Market: Reflections at the Intersection of Science, Religion and Development. Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, 2000. Available online at http://www.idrc.ca/EN/Resources/Publications/Pages/IDRCBookDetails.aspx?PublicationID=271.
12. Social science and religion
To be confirmed
Ecklund, Elaine. Science vs Religion: What Scientists Really Think. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Gingerich, Owen. God’s Universe. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006.
Hawking, Stephen and Leonard Mlodinow. The Grand Design. New York: Bantam Books, 2010.
Pigliucci, Massimo and Maarten Boudry eds . Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.
Polkinghorne, John. Science and Religion in Quest of Truth. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.
Stewart, Melville ed. Science and Religion in Dialogue. 2 volumes. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
Course co-ordinator and teachers
David A PalmerProfessorResearch interests: Chinese religion, Daoism and ethnicity in southern China and Southeast Asia, Inter-Asian religious circulations, Civil society, governance and subject formation, Anthropology of ethics and moralities, Comparative and historical sociology, Asian assemblages of science and religion