Science and Religion
Course-pack from Student Stores.
Some further materials will be handed out in class.
Lecturers’ office hours
WL: Wednesdays, 1:30 - 4:00 p.m.,
or by appointment; Caldwell Hall 215B.
PK: Thursdays, 4:30-5:30; Caldwell Hall 108A.
There will be four short papers (4-5
pages) during the semester, due on September 20, October 11,
1, and December 6. Topics will be of your own choosing;
we will pass around lists of suggestions. If you like, you may (once)
substitute one 9-10-page paper for two of the shorter ones.
There will be a final examination; its weight is negotiable.
August 23: Introduction to the philosophy of science: Observation, theories, evidence, explanation.
August 30: Philosophy of science, continued: Realism, Instrumentalism, Historicism. Reading: Carl G. Hempel, Philosophy of Natural Science, Chs. 1-4 (cp); Philip Kitcher, Abusing Science, Chs. 1-2.
September 6: Natural theology. Cosmological arguments for the existence of God. Reading: St. Thomas Aquinas, “The Five Ways” (cp); Samuel Clarke, “A Modern Formulation of the Cosmological Argument” (cp).
September 13: Teleological arguments for and against the existence of God. Reading: William Paley, “The Argument from Design” (cp); M. Martin, “Atheistic Teleological Arguments” (cp).
September 20: The problem of evil and suffering. Reading: David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Parts X and XI (cp). Paper #1 due.
September 27 (PK): Creationism and its troubles. Reading: Kitcher, Abusing Science, Chs. 3-5.
October 4: Miracles. Reading: J.J.C. Smart, “Religion and Science” (cp); David Hume, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Ch. X (cp); G. Schlesinger, “Miracles”; G. Schlesinger, “The Credibility of Extraordinary Events” (cp).
October 11 (PK): The historical subversion of religious traditions. Reading: TBA. Paper #2 due.
October 25 (PK): Cultural evolution and the diversity of religions. Reading: TBA.
November 1: Recent naturalistic arguments: The Big Bang; the Anthropic Principle; the appeal to intelligibility. Reading: P. Davies, “The Mind of God”; W. Drees, “Problems in Debates about Physics and Religion”; W.L. Craig, “Philosophical and Scientific Pointers to Creatio ex Nihilo” (cp). Paper #3 due.
November 8: Pascal’s Wager. Reading: Blaise Pascal, “The Wager” (cp); W. Lycan and G. Schlesinger, “You Bet Your Life: Pascal’s Wager Defended.”
November 15 (PK): Willing to
believe: the James-Clifford debate. Reading: W.K. Clifford
“The Ethics of Belief” (cp); William James “The Will to Believe”
Evening lecture (PK): “The Many-Sided Conflict between Science and Religion.”
November 29: Nonscientific religious epistemologies: religious experience; leaps of faith. Reading: R.W. Hepburn, “Religious Experience, Argument for the Existence of God” (cp); William James, “Mysticism” (cp); C.B. Martin, “A Religious Way of Knowing” (cp); S. Kierkegaard, selection from “Concluding Unscientific Postscript”; J.L. Mackie, selection from “Belief without Reason” (cp).
December 6: Religion naturalized.
W.P. Alston, “Religion, Naturalistic Reconstructions of” (cp); J.L.
Mackie, “Religion without Belief?” (cp) and “Replacements for God” (cp);
John Bishop, “Can There Be Alternative Concepts of God?” (cp). Paper
Final exam, Saturday, December 15, 4:00 p.m.
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Academic dishonesty in any form is unacceptable, because it circumvents the purpose of the University's life and work. As a faculty member, I have a responsibility to report any possible Honor Code violations to the Student Attorney General. I trust that you will join me in supporting the Honor Code by signing the Honor Pledge on all written work, and by consulting me if you are uncertain about your responsibilities within this course.
Topics for Paper #1
What follow are suggestions only. But if you want to write on something that’s a significant departure from this list, please check with me first, to make sure your proposed topic is viable.
1. Write on a topic in philosophy of science only if you have some independent knowledge of philosophy of science. (Our own two-week introduction to the subject was too superficial to give you a basis for useful paper-writing--though if you have read the article “Explanation and Epistemology” and are fairly confident that you understand it, you may have a basis.)
2. You might discuss one of Aquinas’ “ways,” either examining the relevant anti-infinity premise or investigating some other aspect of the argument. (But no Aristotle scholarship, please. It’s OK to allude to Aristotelian doctrine, but I am not qualified to evaluate papers in Aristotle interpretation.)
3. Attack or defend Clarke’s cosmological argument, based on our class discussion.
4. Discuss the Principle of Sufficient Reason.
5. CHALLENGE for the ambitious: The handout “Two Arguments For The Existence Of God” contains an error. The parenthesized statement in the middle of p. 2, beginning “Note that the material world itself…,” is incorrect. (It’s the result of too hasty adaptation of an older handout.) Correct the error, and address yourself more generally to the question of whether the material world (as we’ve been using that phrase) could be the independent being.
6. Attack or defend Paley’s teleological argument, based on our class discussion.
7. Rebut or defend one of Martin’s
atheistic teleological arguments; or compare and contrast if that proves
to be useful.
Topics for Paper #2
As before, what follow are just suggestions; but if you want to write on something that’s a significant departure from this list, please check with me first.
1. If you like, you may write on one of the previous topics that you did not write on for Paper #1.
2. Address the Problem of Evil, either defending a way out for the theist or attacking one or more of the theist’s alleged ways out.
3. If you happen to have read my Lewisian theodicy (n.b., not required reading or even recommended reading for the course), subject it to a ferocious critique.
4. Take issue with anything maintained by P. Kitcher in Abusing Science. E.g., has he been fair to each of his opponents? Can you make some rejoinders on one or more of the opponents’ behalf?
5. Discuss SIDC. Argue for it; or argue against it; or evaluate the argument against it put forward by PK in class (cf. my recent e-mail headed “Evil again”).
6. Discuss any issue raised by Smart.
7. After our class discussion
on miracles, write something about miracles: E.g., defend or attack
Hume’s argument, or argue that there is or there isn’t a conflict between
miracles (of a religious nature) and science.