COURSE TITLE: God, Physics and the Human Prospect
NAME OF INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Doug Harink and Dr. Randy Haluza-DeLay
CREDIT WEIGHT AND WEEKLY TIME DISTRIBUTION: credits 3(hrs lect 3 - hrs sem 0 - hrs lab 0)
COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course is intended for students in their senior year of study and will focus on the dialogue between scientific and other ways of knowing. Topics will be drawn from Physics, Theology and Sociology that will illuminate such motivating questions as 1) How can Science and Theology engage in a conversation of mutual understanding and transformation? 2) How, or in what ways, has science changed our ideas about what it means to be human? and 3) Given these changes, how then ought we to live our lives?

Same as PHYS 395 and THEO 375.

Prerequisites: Six credits in one or more of Physics, Sociology or Theology
  • Alister E. McGrath Science and Religion 2nd Edition (SR)
  • Richard Dawkins The God Delusion (GD)
Weekly Questions30%
Scrap Book30%
Final Exam30%
COURSE OBJECTIVES: This course will involve the participation and cooperation of three scholars, trained in three distinct fields of inquiry. If we imagine a continuum, we would place the physicist at one end, the theologian at the other, and the sociologist somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately, it is possible to study physics without paying much attention to the human condition. A similar case can be made for theological speculations, where the flesh and blood of the human condition is sometimes obscured in favor of "other-worldly" concerns. The social scientist, on the other hand, is expected to have both feet planted firmly in the comings and goings of everyday life. At one time or another, each and every one of us bumps up against issues relating to science and theology. These issues touch our lives, and we need to be able to make some sense out of their apparent complexity. Throughout the course, then, humankind will remain the focal point of our concern. It is our intention that students of the social sciences and the humanities will leave this course with a more profound appreciation for the important role science plays in our lives. All too often, arts students cultivate a naive understanding of science and its place in the world. On the other side of the coin, we will encourage science students to develop a sensitivity for the kinds of questions that fall outside the purview of the so-called "hard sciences"; questions concerning ultimate meaning and purpose. In short, our chief aim is to demonstrate to students that the contributions of science and theology can significantly enrich human life. The King's University College is an ideal venue through which to offer a course of this type. We have three divisions (natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities), and all full-time students are required to take particular "core" courses, thereby ensuring a well-rounded, interdisciplinary orientation which encourages the integration of learning and life.
Three Most Significant Features of God, Physics and the Human Prospect:
  • This course will explore the deeper dialogue between Science and Theology rather than concentrating on what are perceived as areas of controversy between Science and Theology . A central motivation for this exploration are the questions:
    • How can Science and Theology engage in a conversation of mutual understanding and transformation?
    • How, or in what ways, has science changed our ideas about what it means to be human? and
    • Given these changes, how then ought we to live our lives? To accomplish this end Physics, Theology and Sociology have been chosen as vehicles that will draw together senior students from each of the 3 divisions of The King's University College. Our intent will be to focus on the positive benefits that each of these disciplines can bring to bear on understanding our human modes of knowing and being in the cosmos.
  • God, Physics and the Human Prospect will be deliberately cross-disciplinary and will be populated by students in their senior years of either Humanities, Social Science or Natural Science degree programs. As well, the course will be jointly developed and team taught by professors from each of the above named divisions.
  • The course will enable students to appreciate and understand better the language and culture of the scientific enterprise and how this is manifested in the various disciplines of study. It will foster a discussion of how Scientific, Theological and Sociological perspectives must inform one another in order to present a more complete picture of our place in the contemporary world.
  • Setting the Stage (I):
    • An introduction to the course and viewing of sections from the film Contact. Setting the stage and sketching the "big pictures"
    • Reflections on Contact from a ...
      • Theological Viewpoint
      • Astrophysical Viewpoint
      • Sociological Viewpoint
    • Nature and Nature's Laws..
      • This will introduce students to the radical shift in worldview that began with Newton and has left an indelible stamp on not only physics but other aspects of human thought. The intent is to provide a historical overview of the emergence of specific paradigmatic tendencies as well as the emergence of new disciplines fashioned (at least initially) after the Newtonian model. Important parallel themes will be a discussion of Comtean Positivism and the rise of European Sociology, "Newton as Theologian" and "Newton and the Theologians". We will explore the way in which the Newtonian framework and subsequent developments in physics "lay claim" to our perception of the world.
  • Historical Considerations:
    • The emergence of a "scientific worldview" in apparent distinction from other religious worldviews has created a tension that could be described (albeit simplistically) as "fact versus faith". During these two weeks the nuances of this tension will be explored. Theological responses (and reactions) including deism, theological romanticism and idealism will be discussed Following McGrath, Ian Barbour and others, we will consider four ways of relating science and religion: 1) conflict, 2) independence, 3) dialogue and 4) integration. This will enable us to explore what could be termed the "Theological failure of nerve" as we see a number of phenomena including:1 the shift from creation and incarnation to origins and miracles 2 the shift from "gospel truth" to "laws of nature" 3 the shift from person to individual 4 the shift from participation to causal agency. We will also begin to explore the atheistic attacks of scientists such as Richard Dawkins.
  • Science and Religion (Similarities and Differences- I)
    • In this lecture we begin to examine the structural similarities between science and religion. Among other things, we will look at the "faith" content of science and the evidential content of religion.
  • How Science Challenges (Changes) our Notions of Reality - Reality, Realism, and Anti-Realism
  • Using Models in Science and Religion - What "really" is "real" or How do Theology and Sociology Challenge Science?
  • Our Changing View of "Human" - From the The Genome to GMO's viewing clips from the movie GATTACA
  • Contemporary Debates
    • Cosmology and Quantum Physics
    • After Adam... (Harlow) Recent Genetic Science and Christian Theology on Human Origins
    • Evolutionary Biology and Intelligent Design
  • Science and Miracles
    • Do you believe in miracles? To some the question will sound quaint, even absurd, yet miracles play, arguably, an important role in scripture and are taken seriously by many believers. How can we "believe in miracles" in an age of science?
  • The "New Atheism"
    • How do we respond to the positions of persons such as Richard Dawkins?

Required texts, assignments, and grade distributions may vary from one offering of this course to the next. Please consult the course instructor for up to date details.

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