Interfacing Theology and the Natural Sciences

Next Offering Spring 2014

Are theology and the natural sciences adversaries, battling one another for supremacy?  Or are they allies in search of truth in its various dimensions? If neither adversaries nor allies, do they have very little in common, one dealing with “how” and the other with “why”? Do the disciplines share similarities in methods and issues at their boundaries that make dialogue both possible as well as desirable?  Can theology and the natural sciences be integrated in ways that avoid confusing and conflating them? Can a constructive relationship between theology and the natural sciences be taught at the undergraduate level?
     Students will answer these questions beginning with an overview of the religion-science relationship historically and proceeding to examine (1) the characteristics of the disciplines of theology, physics, biology, neuroscience, and psychology to identify their respective data, methods, purviews, limitations, (2) their similarities and dissimilarities, (3) ways in which contemporary scholars are constructively relating theology and the natural sciences on topics the disciplines address variously (e.g., the origin of the universe, life, and consciousness), (4) one issue interfacing theology and a natural science in depth, and (5) a sampling of courses in which theology and the natural sciences are related. 
     Conducted in seminar fashion, this course will engage students in posing questions for discussion of assigned readings, leading seminar sessions, presenting a draft research-reflection paper on an approved topic that interfaces theology and a particular natural science, and critiquing the syllabi of religion-science courses.  As a culminating project, students will submit revisions of their draft research/reflection papers.

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