Origin and Nature of the Universe

Marquette students are exposed to many academic disciplines that provide foundations for their future professional and cultural lives.  While their experiences with these disciplines are usually departmentalized, our Jesuit university has sought increasingly to offer interdisciplinary studies that enable students to think more comprehensively about themselves in relation to their future professions, to other persons, to the more-than-human world, and to God.
     This special course aims to facilitate student thinking across the disciplines of physics, philosophy and theology on a contemporary topic that defies strict departmentalization -- the origin and nature of the universe.  While faculty members recognize the contributions their individual disciplines make to this topic, they acknowledge the limitations inherent in any one discipline to address the universe's beginnings in a comprehensive way.  Furthermore, they discern one discipline's opening to others for a more unified, and, therefore, more intellectually satisfying understanding of the world, the human place within it, and God as Creator of all beings that comprise the world.  Students are invited to join this quest.
     Toward this end, the course has been designed and is conducted cooperatively by professors in the three disciplines.  It commences with an introduction by the professors who proceed for several weeks to investigate the distinguishing characteristics of physics, philosophy and theology.  After a written examination on these basics, the focus turns to what each discipline contributes to understanding the origins and nature of the universe.  The professors provide these perspectives through lectures, class discussions of texts, and other means.  Two students are assigned to research a specific topic from one discipline's perspective, and this work culminates in their cooperative presentation in class with students who are covering the other two disciplines' perspectives on that topic.  As a final project, each student produces a paper in which the views of the three disciplines on the topic are integrated.
     The student objectives for the course include: (1) to understand and appreciate each discipline's purview, methods, data and limitations; (2) to analyze contemporary thinking on the origins and nature of the universe from the perspectives of the three disciplines; (3) to investigate how they relate to one another on pertinent issues; (4) to exercise critical thinking skills in class discussion; (5) to research one discipline's approach to a designated topic; and, (6) to synthesize in a written paper the three disciplines' approaches to that topic.
     Efforts are underway to identify the next semester that this special course will be offered again.  Also underway is planning for other origins/nature courses centering on "life" and "consciousness" with professors from the appropriate sciences.  Our aim is to rotate these three topics so one is offered each year.  Information pertaining to future courses will be posted at this web site as well as through the participating departments during pre-registration counseling.  For an update on our progress, contact Dr. John Karkheck in the Physics Department, Dr. Anthony Peressini in the Philosophy Department, or Dr. Jame Schaefer in the Theology Department. 

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