This course tells the story of interactions between religious belief and the study of nature from 1800 to today. Beginning with an overview of the history and methodology of the study of science and religion, encounters between science and religion are traced from the rise of Darwinism in the early nineteenth century to the contemporary postmodern age. From an examination of nineteenth-century natural theology and the religious impact of Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859), this course moves on to such contemporary topics as the religious interpretations of quantum mechanics, the Big Bang, the anthropic principle, medical science, bioethics, evolutionary psychology, chaos theory, aesthetics in nature, science fiction, extra-terrestrial life (including the SETI Project) and the quest for techno-immortality. Case studies of “conflict” emanating from Darwinism, the Scopes Trial, the on-going Creation-Evolution debates and the New Atheism are contrasted with examples of harmony and interdependence between science and religion in the careers of modern scientists, along with phenomena like neurotheology and the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. The religious scope of the course is intentionally wide-ranging, and examinations of science-religion interaction within indigenous spirituality are added to treatments of traditional eastern and western religion.
Students taking both Science and Religion: Historical Perspectives and Science and Religion: Contemporary Perspectives will cover history from Antiquity to the twenty-first century and have the (now rare) experience of a full-year course.
Students enrolled in this course are eligible for The Sir John William Dawson Essay Prize in Science and Religion. An award of $1000 will go to the student with the best essay written in Science and Religion: Contemporary Perspectives and Science and Religion: Historical Perspectives each year. The runner-up will receive a $50 gift certificate from the King’s College Book Store. The two science and religion courses are generally offered together every other academic year.