PHI 129: Science and Religion
Meeting time and place: M 6:00-8:40pm, Honors Seminar Room (Talbert 212)
Instructor: James Beebe, Ph.D.
Office: 118 Park Hall
Office phone: 645-0153
Office hours: MW 1:30-3:00
Mailbox: 138 Park Hall
Email address: beebejames(at)yahoo.com
This course will survey a variety of issues concerning the relation between science and religion. We will begin by considering some general questions about whether and how scientific truths can conflict with religious truths. We will then consider various issues surrounding the Big Bang, the large-scale structure of the cosmos and what philosophers and other religious thinkers have had to say about the beginning, age and size of the universe. The next part of the course will consider the current controversy between evolutionary theorists and “intelligent design” theorists (i.e., those who claim that organisms and their parts were originally designed by an intelligent being and did not arise through evolution). In addition to the philosophical aspects of this controversy, we will also consider some of the sticky public policy issues it raises. The final part of the course will consider some recently developed theories in the cognitive sciences (e.g., neuroscience, cognitive psychology) that offer explanations of the nature, function and pervasiveness of religious belief.
Text: All readings for the course are either online or on UBlearns (https://ublearns.buffalo.edu).
Short Papers (3) 36% (12% each)
Argumentative Research Paper 24%
Final Exam 25%
Class Participation 15%
93-100 A 80-82 B- 68-69 D+
90-92 A- 78-79 C+ 60-67 D
88-89 B+ 73-77 C 59 and below F
83-87 B 70-72 C-
1. To introduce students to various parts of the debate over the relation between science and religion.
2. To introduce students to some of the basic issues and methods of philosophy.
3. To develop students’ analytic reasoning and debating skills.
Facts About Short Papers:
1. The three short papers must be at least 3 typed, double-spaced pages, with 1" margins.
2. These papers do not involve the gathering of any research materials or outside sources. They simply require reflection upon our weekly reading assignments. I will assign the topic for each paper ahead of time.
Facts About Argumentative Research Paper:
1. The research paper must be between 8 and 10 typed, double-spaced pages, with 1" margins.
2. You will need to pick a topic concerning science and religion, investigate it in some depth, formulate a clear thesis for which to argue, and defend that thesis.
Facts About Final Exam:
1. The final exam will be held in class on the class day of the semester.
2. It will consist of two parts. One part will test your knowledge of some important historical and scientific facts in the science and religion debate. The other part will consist of essay questions. The essay questions will require you both to have understood the reading assignments and to be able to critique the positions advanced in it.
Facts About Class Participation:
1. This will not be a lecture course. In a small seminar such as ours, I take class participation very seriously. I expect you to come to class every day having read the reading assignments and being prepared to discuss it.
2. One goal of this seminar is to develop your debating or arguing skills. So, I want you to practice philosophically disagreeing with one another and with the texts you read. However, only respectful disagreement will be permitted.
Further Course Guidelines:
1. Attendance policy: You must attend at least 70% of the class meetings in order to pass this course.
2. You are responsible for any information I send you by email.
3. Students are expected to be honest in their academic work.
Part I: Compatibility or Conflict?
Aug. 25th “Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?” A Templeton Conversation (http://www.templeton.org/belief/essays/essays.pdf)
Suggested Further Reading: Alvin Plantinga, “Religion and Science,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2007) (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/religion-science)
Suggested Further Reading: John Worrall, “Science Discredits Religion,” in Michael L. Peterson & Raymond J. VanArragon (eds.), Contemporary Debate in Philosophy of Religion (Blackwell, 2004), pp. 59-72
Sept. 1st Labor Day Holiday
Sept. 8th Short Paper #1 Due
Stephen Jay Gould, “Nonoverlapping Magisteria,” Natural History 106 (1997): 16-22
Del Ratzsch, “The Religious Roots of Science: What science owes to theology”
Suggested Further Reading: Denis R. Alexander, “Models for Relating Science and Religion,” The Faraday Papers, no. 3 (Apr., 2007) (http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/faraday/resources/Faraday%20Papers/Faraday%20Paper%203%20Alexander_EN.pdf)
Suggested Further Reading: Peter Harrison, “The Bible and the Emergence of Modern Science,” Science and Christian Belief 18 (2006): 115-132 (http://epublications.bond.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1068&context=hss_pubs)
Suggested Further Reading: Pope John Paul II, Truth Cannot Contradict Truth (http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_jp02tc.htm)
Part II: The Galileo Affair
Sept. 15th David C. Lindberg, “Galileo, the Church, and the Cosmos,” in David C. Lindberg & Ronald L. Numbers (eds.), When Science & Christianity Meet (University of Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 33-60
Galileo Galilei, “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina” (1615)
Part III: Cosmology and the Cosmological Argument
Sept. 22nd NASA, “WMAP’s Universe: An Introduction to Cosmology,” pp. 1-29 only (http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/WMAP_Universe.pdf)
Glossary of technical terms used: http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/site/glossary.html
Charles H. Lineweaver & Tamara M. Davis, “Misconceptions About the Big Bang,” Scientific American (Mar. 2005): 36-45
Suggested Further Reading: P. James E. Peebles, David N. Schramm, Edwin L. Turner & Richard G. Kron, “The Evolution of the Universe,” Scientific American (Oct. 1994): 52-57
Suggested Further Reading: Peter Coles, Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2001)
Sept. 29th Rosh Hashanah Holiday (Classes cancelled after 6:00 PM)
Oct. 6th Short Paper #2 Due
William Lane Craig, “The Finitude of the Past and the Existence of God,” in William Lane Craig & Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology (Clarendon, 1993), pp. 3-16, 24-48, 56-61, 63-67
William Lane Craig, The Kalām Cosmological Argument (Harper & Row, 1979), pp. 130-140
Suggested Further Reading: William Lane Craig, “God, Time and Eternity,” Religious Studies 14 (1979): 497-503 (http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/eternity.html)
Suggested Further Reading: William Lane Craig, “Timelessness and Omnitemporality,” Philosophia Christi 2 (2000): 29-33
Oct. 13th Quentin Smith, “Infinity and the Past,” Philosophy of Science 54 (1987): 63-74 (http://www.qsmithwmu.com/infinity_and_the_past.htm)
Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (Bantam, 1988), pp. 133-141
Tom Yulsman, “Before the Big Bang,” Astronomy (Sept. 1999): 38-46
Suggested Further Reading: Stephen Hawking, “The Beginning of Time” (http://www.hawking.org.uk/lectures/bot.html)
Suggested Further Reading: Neil Turok, “The Cyclic Universe,” Edge (May 17, 2007) (http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/turok07/turok07_index.html)
Suggested Further Reading: Gabriele Veneziano, “The Myth of the Beginning of Time,” Scientific American (May 2004): 54-65
Part IV: Cosmic Fine-Tuning and the Multiverse
Oct. 20th Robin Collins, “God, Design, and Fine-Tuning”
Walter L. Bradley, “Is There Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God? How the Recent Discoveries Support a Designed Universe”
William Lane Craig, “The Teleological Argument and the Anthropic Principle,” in W. L. Craig & M. McLeod (eds.), The Logic of Rational Theism: Exploratory Essays (Edwin Mellen, 1990), pp. 127-153
Only the following sections are required: “The Anthropic Principle,” “Critique” and “WAP and a World Ensemble”; other sections are merely recommended (http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/teleo.html)
Suggested Further Reading: Del Ratzsch, “Teleological Arguments for God’s Existence,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2005)
Suggested Further Reading: Kenneth Einar Himma, “Design Arguments for the Existence of God,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2006) (http://www.iep.utm.edu/d/design.htm)
Oct. 27th Short Paper #3 Due
Martin Rees, “Other Universes—A Scientific Perspective,” in Neil A. Manson (ed.), God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science (Routledge, 2003), pp. 211-220 (http://people.pwf.cam.ac.uk/dhm11/MultiverseRees.html)
Max Tegmark, “Parallel Universes,” Scientific American 288 (May 2003): 40-51
Suggested Further Reading: D. H. Mellor, “Too Many Universes,” in Neil A. Manson (ed.), God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science (Routledge, 2003), pp. 221-228 (http://people.pwf.cam.ac.uk/dhm11/MultiverseMellor.html)
Suggested Further Reading: Victor J. Stenger, “Is the Universe Fine-Tuned for Us?” in Matt Young & Taner Edis (eds.), Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism (Rutgers University Press, 2004)
Suggested Further Reading: Andrei Linde, “The Self-Reproducing Inflationary Universe,” Scientific American 32 (Nov. 1994): 48-55
Part V: Evolution and Intelligent Design
Nov. 3rd National Academy of Science and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, Science, Evolution and Creationism
(National Academies Press, 2008) (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11876; you must register to receive access to the free download)
Suggested Further Reading: Brian & Deborah Charlesworth, Evolution: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2003)
Nov. 10th Michael J. Behe, “Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference,” Cosmic Pursuit (1998)
Kenneth R. Miller, “The Flagellum Unspun: The Collapse of ‘Irreducible Complexity,” in William A. Dembski & Michael Ruse (eds.), Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA (Cambridge, 2004), pp. 81-97 (http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/design2/article.html)
Suggested Further Reading: Kenneth R. Miller, “Answering the Biochemical Argument from Design,” in Neil A. Manson (ed.), God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science (Routledge, 2003), pp. 292-307 (http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/design1/article.html)
Suggested Further Reading: The Discovery Institute’s list of essential readings on Intelligent Design: (http://www.discovery.org/csc/essentialReadings.php)
Part VI: Creation and Evolution in the Courtroom
Nov. 17th Argumentative Research Paper Due
Discovery Institute, “Should we Teach Scientific Criticisms of Neo-Darwinism? Many Authorities say YES!” (http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=523)
Bobby Henderson, “An Open Letter to Kansas School Board” (2005) (http://www.venganza.org/about/open-letter)
Suggested Further Reading: Douglas Linder, “Scopes Trial Home Page” (http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scopes/scopes.htm)
Suggested Further Reading: Peter Achinstein, “Demarcation Problem,” in Edward Craig (ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Routledge, 1998) (http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/Q024)
Suggested Further Reading: John G. West, “Dover In Review: A Review of Judge Jones’ Decision in the Dover Intelligent Design Trial”
Suggested Further Reading: Michael Behe, “Whether Intelligent Design is Science: A Response to the Opinion of the Court in Kitzmiller vs Dover Area School District” (http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=697)
Suggested Further Reading: The Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, “The Wedge” (http://www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.pdf)
Suggested Further Reading: Barbara Forrest, “The Wedge at Work: How Intelligent Design Creationism Is Wedging Its Way into the Cultural and Academic Mainstream,” in Robert T. Pennock (ed.), Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives (MIT, 2001), pp. 5-53 (http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/barbara_forrest/wedge.html)
Part VII: Cognitive Science and Religious Belief
Nov. 24th James Beebe, “A Brief Introduction to Evolutionary Psychology”
Pascal Boyer, “Religious Thought and Behaviour as By-Products of Brain Function,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7 (2003): 119-124
Justin L. Barrett, “Exploring the Natural Foundations of Religion,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4 (2000): 29-34
Suggested Further Reading: Alvin Plantinga, “Religion and Science,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2007), secs. 4 & 5 (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/religion-science)
Suggested Further Reading: Pascal Boyer & Brian Bergstrom, “Evolutionary Perspectives on Religion,” Annual Review of Anthropology 37 (2008): 111-130 (http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~pboyer/PBoyerHomeSite/articles/BoyerBergstromAnnualReview2009.pdf)
Dec. 1st Final Exam (in class)
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