God and the Natural Sciences

Subject HPSC20020 (2014)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2014.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2014.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Two 1-hour lectures each week and 1x 1-hour tutorial for 11 weeks
Total Time Commitment:

an average of 9 hours each week.





Recommended Background Knowledge:


Non Allowed Subjects:


Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website: http://www.services.unimelb.edu.au/disability/

Subject Overview:

This subject studies the complex relationship between religion, theology, and the natural sciences. Theological concerns guided the science of Kepler, Descartes, Newton and many other early scientists. They held that studying the Universe demonstrated the attributes of God. After Darwin, this view was replaced by radically different ones: to some science and religion are necessarily antagonistic, to others they belong to different realms, to yet others there is a mutually illuminating consonance between the two. We examine this change, the reasoning (good and bad) behind it and its residues, focusing on historical episodes such as Galileo’s confrontation with the Catholic Church, the rise of modern atheism and the Darwinian critique of the argument from design. In the second part of the course we turn our attention to contemporary issues such as the "Anthropic Principle" in modern cosmology, recent research in neuroscience on religious experience, as well as scientific/philosophical questions such as "why are the laws of nature what they are?" and “why is there something rather than nothing?” Finally we explore the existential questions raised by scientific naturalism and the relationship between the "personal God" of religious experience and the "philosophers God" posited to explain certain features of the world.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who successfully complete this subject should:

  • have a deeper understanding of and an increased ability to systematically think about the complex historical relationship between religion, theology, and the natural sciences. They will understand how the relationship has evolved, with particular emphasis on the relationship during the "scientific revolution" and post-Darwinian controversies.
  • understand some of the on-going debates possibly including: "The Anthropic Principle", Multiple Universes, and such scientific/philosophical issues such as "Why are the laws of nature what they are?"
  • have a deeper understanding of and an increased ability to systematically think about the different views of the relationship between the "personal God" of religious experience and the more abstract "philosophers God"
  • have experience of thinking systematically about difficult intellectual problems of an abstract nature.
  • have practice conducting research, speaking and writing clearly and reading carefully.
  • have experience with methods of critical analysis and argument employed in theology and in the history and philosophy of science, leading to improved general reasoning and analytical skills.

Written work totaling 4,000 words comprising two 500-word papers to be presented in tutorials due one week after the relevant tutorial (worth 25%), one 1,000-word paper due in week 8 (worth 25%); and one 2000-word final essay (worth 50%) due during the examination period.

Hurdle requirement: students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject. Regular participation in tutorials is required.Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day; after five working days, late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available online

Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction (Ed. by Ferrigan)

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students who successfully complete this subject should

  • develop skills in written and oral communication.

  • conduct independent research.

  • make appropriate use of primary and secondary sources in mounting an argument.

  • form defensible judgements based on a critical evaluation of conflicting arguments.

Links to further information: http://hps.unimelb.edu.au/

This subject is available for 2nd year science credit for students enrolled in the BSc (pre-2008 degree only), or a pre-2008 combined BSc course (except for the BA/BSc).

Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science
History and Philosophy of Science Major
Philosophy Major
Science credit subjects* for pre-2008 BSc, BASc and combined degree science courses
Related Breadth Track(s): Science and its Margins

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