Science and Religion

by Kent Dunlap, Associate Professor of Biology, Trinity College

Course Description

The contemporary arguments on intelligent design and stem cell research demonstrate that the age old debate between science and religion is still very much still alive. This course will examine fundamental philosophical, ethical and historical questions at the intersection of religion and science. Are these two dominant “ways of knowing” destined to always conflict? Do religion and science provide separate and compatible world views? How has religion been a force in motivating and constraining science and technology? How has science prompted changing perspectives in theology and ethics? Using both historical and contemporary sources, we will explore ways in which religion and science collide, coexist and influence each other. We will focus on Christianity, Judism and the biological sciences, but also include some discussion of non-Western religions and physical sciences.

Required Texts

  1. Barbour, Ian, Religion and Science; Historical and Contemporary Issues, HarperCollins, 1997. ISBN 0-06-060938-9
  2. Appleman Philip. ed., Darwin (A Norton Critical edition), WW Norton and Company 2001. ISBN 0-393-95849
  3. Dawkins, Richard, The Selfish Gene, Oxford University Press, 1976. ISBN 0199291152
  4. James, William, Varieties of Religious Experience, Random House, 1999. ISBN 0-67964011-8
  5. Readings from Course book
  • One of the following:
  1. Miller, K., Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution, HarperCollins Publishers, 2001 ISBN: 0060930497
  2. Collins, F. Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Free Press, 2006 ISBN: 0743286391

Readings  Course Packet

  1. Vedantam, S. “Eden and Evolution”, Washington Post, February 5, 2006.
  2. Gould, S.J., Nonoverlapping Magisteria, Natural History 106, 1999.
  3. Dawkins, R. You Can’t Have it Both Ways: Irreconcilable Differences? Skeptical Inquirer 23, 1999.
  4. Ruse, M. Commentary on NOMA. Published online: 1999.
  5. Regal, P.J. “The illusion organ” In: The Anatomy of Judgment, Univ Minnesota Press. 1990.
  6. Gladwell, M. The picture problem, The New Yorker. December 13, 2004.
  7. Specter, M. Rethinking the brain, The New Yorker, July 23, 2001.
  8. Russel B., Why I am not a Christian. Haldeman-Julius Publications, 1929.
  9. Larson, E.J., and Witham, L., Scientists and religion in America, Scientific American, September, 1999.
  10. Multiple authors. The future of stem cells. Scientific American, 2005.
  11. Blackmore, S., The power of memes, Scientific American, October 2000.
  12. Orr, H.A. Devolution. The New Yorker, May 30, 2005.
  13. Sapolsky, R., “Circling the blanket for God” In: The Trouble with Testosterone and Other Essays on the Biology of the Human Predicament. Simon and Schuster, 1997.
  14. Dunlap, K.D. Conflict of interest and the funding of biomedical research at universities, 2001 (unpublished).

Course Schedule

Week 1

Intro & / Quiet American

Relationships between Science & Religion Independence: Gould and the Two Magisteria

  1. Vedantam
  2. Gould

Week 2

Conflict and dialogue: responses to Gould

  1. Dawkins,
  2. Ruse

Barbour’s classification

  1. Barbour, Ch 4

Week 5

Philosophy of Science and Religion What is Science?: Theory

What is Science? Limits

  1. Regal,
  2. Gladwell

What is Science? Culture

  1. Spector

Week 6

World Religion: Chrisianity

World Religions: Islam

World Religions: Buddhism

Week 7

Comparison of Science and Religion

  1. Barbour Ch 5 & 6

Contemporary issue: Stem cell research

  • Sci American

Stem Cell Debate

Week 8

History of Science and Religion History 1: Medieval Origins of Science

  1. Barbour Ch 1

History 2: Enlightenment

  1. Barbour Ch 2

History 3: 19th Century

  1. Barbour Ch 3

History 4: Pre-Darwin

  1. Darwin

Week 9

Evolution and Human Nature Darwin and Darwinism

  1. Darwin

Darwin and Darwinism

  1. Darwin

Week 10 Genes and Human Nature

  1. Dawkins
  2. Blackmore

Week 11

Contemporary Issue: Intelligent Design

  1. Paley
  2. Orr

Intelligent Design Debate

Week 12

Science of Religiousity Phenomenon of Religious Experience

  1. James

Week 13

Neurobiology and Religion

  1. Sapolsky

Week 14

Evolutionary Origins of Religion

Relationship of Science and Religion Revisited Compatibility of Science & Religion

Week 15

Contemporary Issue: Corporate Funding of Academic Research

  1. Dunlap