Section outline

  • Course Description

    Instructors: György Geréby (Office hours TBA)

    Karl Hall (Office hours: Mondays 14:30-15:30 and by appointment)

    Time: Tuesdays, 10:50-12:30

    Location: QS D-212

    Course description: The course studies the relationship between science and religion from antiquity through the modern period. Are they incompatible, independent, compatible, or cooperative? How have they come to be seen as metaphysically distinct? We will survey various scholarly theses about this issue and examine the senses in which "science" could encompass the overlapping concerns of theology and natural philosophy in centuries past, and then turn our attention to the ways that science has become a form of knowledge that occasionally challenges religious doctrines. How did individuals of diverse scholarly communities and confessions read and write scientific texts and produce scientific knowledge? What were the specifically disciplinary challenges to religious belief as the concepts and institutions of science expanded? We will investigate these questions primarily with respect to the Western tradition, including the Hellenistic period, Christianity (Catholic, Protestant and eventually Orthodoxy), but with occasional comparisons to Islam. 

    Course goals: We aim to read and analyze texts that enable us to understand scientific and religious concepts in interaction. In studying the tropes of conflict, mutual isolation, and reconciliation, we will investigate the argumentative and rhetorical strategies of religious and scientific figures, and in the modern period, we will also see how the historical sciences themselves became participants in, and not just chroniclers of, these encounters.

    Learning outcomes:  Students will gain familiarity with Hellenistic, medieval and modern conceptions of science and religion, with the evolving bounds of knowledge in medieval and modern science, and with the methods, sources, leading figures, and institutional contexts that have informed the science-religion relationship. 

    Advanced certificates: May be applied to the Religious Studies advanced certificate.

    Requirements and assessment: The grade is based on one class presentation [15%], two times serving as discussion leader [10% + 10%], a review essay [50%], and general class participation [15%].

    Note on class presentations: For purposes of this course, a presentation is neither a formal mini-lecture nor a PowerPoint slide show, but rather an exercise in accountability. Whereas a discussion leader will only be responsible for assigned texts, the class presentation may require modest additional preparation. Decisions about scope will be determined by student interests in prior consultation with the instructors, but will likely be driven by a given session topic. 

    Review essay due December 20. Topic should be chosen in consultation with the instructors. Length: 8-9 pages double-spaced. 

    Class Attendance

    Regular attendance is mandatory in all classes. A student who misses more than two units (two 100-minute sessions) in any 2 or 4 credit class without a verified reason beyond the student's control must submit an 8-10 page paper assigned by the professor, which as a rule covers the material in the class missed. The paper is due no later than 3 weeks after the missed class.

  • The unique discovery of the logos over mythos. The emergence of rational discourse and philosophy. Philosophy as a reasoned (scientific) way of life. What does the idea of the cosmos mean, and what are the implications? Major steps in the development of Greek science: the mathematical and astronomical discoveries. 'Saving the phenomena.' 

    Assigned reading:

    G. E. R. Lloyd, Magic, Reason and Experience, Cambridge, 1979, ch. 1.

    Versnel, Henk S., “Thrice One. Three Greek Experiments in Oneness,” One God or Many? Concepts of Divinity in the Ancient World, ed. Barbara N. Porter, Chebeague, Casco Bay Assyriological Society, 2000, pp. 79-163.