Science and Religion

PHIL 344/SCEN 344

Professors Jeff Jordan (Philosophy) and Harry Shipman (Physics and Astronomy)

Syllabus for Fall 2002

Problems and Driving Questions that Organize the Course Course Goals Course Instructors
Readings Course Mechanics and Orientation Course Requirements
How Grades are Calculated Academic Dishonesty Detailed Class Schedule
Ways of providing student feedback Frequently Asked Questions about Group Work Study Tips
Assignment due dates and exam dates List of linked course web pages Science and Religion Bibliography
Group Activities In Class Weekly Paper Assignments Overheads and outlines of individual classes

(Click on the appropriate table cell to go there.)

Latest update: December 12, 2000

Information of Current Interest

As the course progresses, this section of the syllabus will be used to add links to information about current course events such as exams.

For information on the final exam, click here.

The course schedule now reflects the topics and readings covered in all classes, as requested by you during the last week of classes.

In response to your request, I have posted a list of Professor Jordan's handouts on this website.

For a complete description of the evolution problem, which focusses the last part of the course, click here.

For an information sheet on the first hour exam, click here.

For overheads from the first four weeks and last three weeks of the course, click here. Professor Jordan uses handouts to summarize the main arguments introduced in the section of the class for which he is primarily responsible. For a list of his handouts, click here. These handouts are available in 24 Kent Way, in a cardboard box, labeled "Jordan/Shipman".

Problems and Driving Questions that Organize the Course

In the spirit of problem-based learning, four major problems, or driving questions, serve as organizers for the course. In at least one case the problem, which is an actual problem that appeared in the real world, will be used by the class to generate a set of learning issues, which students in the class will explore in groups. In other cases, the problem will serve to guide the instruction. These driving questions are:

The essence of problem based learning is that the problem or question be presented to students before students start learning facts. For three of the four driving questions in the course, students were specifically asked to grapple with the problem before we dealt with it in the course. Specifically,

The more typical use of problem-based-learning in this course was through individual, structured collaborative learning activities which occurred in particular classes. A set of these activities, which is reasonably complete for the first and fourth driving questions and partially complete for the second and third driving questions, is provided in the separate activities webpage.

Click on this sentence to go to a more complete description of problem-based learning.
Course Goals

This team-taught course will examine some of the deep thinking which attempts to establish some kind of a dialogue between science and religion. We will give you some experience with arguments advanced by various people who have written about these issues. You will learn the critical thinking skills and conceptual tools needed to distinguish good arguments from bad arguments in this area. As you will see from the readings, there are a number of bad arguments in the published debate on this topic. The bad arguments can be seen on a number of sides of the various debates -- they are not the exclusive property of any one group.

Because of the sensitive nature of some of the issues treated in this class, we should emphasize that our objective in this course is not to impart a particular worldview, not to deliver one person's view of "the truth." For some writers, "the truth" encompasses everything from well-accepted scientific theories to metaphysical views of creation and lots of stuff in between. A crucial feature of this course is that students and instructors will respect each others' religious views.

Put differently, the goals of the course are threefold. We hope that students, first, will gain an understanding of some methods and concepts (such as confirmation, models, and paradigms) found in science as well as some found in religion (such as miracles and creation). Second, we will expose students to certain tools useful for inquiry into the plausibility of claims found in science or religion. Third, we hope students will develop an appreciation of several ways of relating science and religion.

"Science and Religion" is being developed as a "pathways course," part of a restructuring of the University's General Education Program (see
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Course Instructors

Jeff Jordan, Philosophy. Office: 201, 24 Kent Way. Phone 831-8207. E-mail

Office Hours: Mondays 1-2pm, Tuesdays 10-11am, Thursdays 9:30-10:30am.

Directions: 24 Kent Way is the main Philosophy Building. It is a three-story brown house, next to the Blue & Gold club, and across the street from the President's house. Kent Way runs parallel to Amstel Avenue, and perpendicular to South College Avenue (route 896).

Harry Shipman, Physics and Astronomy, 124 Sharp Lab, phone 831-2986 (office). I am available to talk to students any time I am in my office, which usually means normal working hours. A schedule is posted outside my door. The best thing is to email me with your question. I should answer you within a day or so unless I am traveling, which I tend not to do on weekdays during the semester. My electronic mail address is I scheduled an office hour on Wednesdays at from 1:30-2:30 PM, when I will most likely be in my office, unless there is a meeting of the departmental executive committee meeting (which tends to be once per month). Feel free to stop by at most times, but you might want to call first to make sure I'm in my office, not at the Math/Science Education Resource Center, working with colleagues in the College of Education on science education research, visiting a Delaware school, working on NASA business, or at the ice arena. Please try to avoid dropping by my office during class preparation times; MWF around 11-12 AM for my other class and T, Th around 11-12 AM for this class.


Books (required purchase):

John F. Haught, Science and Religion: From Conflict to Conversation, (New Yorl: Paulist Press).

Mark Salzman, Lying Awake, New York: Vintage Books. ("Salzman")

John Searle, Minds, Brains, and Science. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984. ("Searle")

Russell Stannard, ed., God for the 21st Century, a collection of 50 very short essays. Philadelphia,PA: Templeton Foundation Press. ("God21")

In addition, we are assigning a large number of individual articles. See information at Note that if you are using the internet from off campus through a portal such as Comcast, AOL, or something other than the University's service provider, you will need to reset your browser in order to gain access to the electronic reserve room - or access it through one of the University's computer sites.

Course Mechanics and Orientation

Most classes, both instructors will be in the room at the same time and will provide their individual perspectives on the issue under discussion. One instructor (HS) is a scientist by training and the other (JJ) is a philosopher whose scholarly expertise is in the philosophy of religion. Both instructors benefited greatly by being winners in the John Templeton Foundation's Course program and participating in the summer workshop associated with this program. (See

We admit at the outset that this course is primarily oriented towards Western religions -- Judaism and Christianity. Most of the literature on science and religion deals with these religious traditions, and the instructors' expertise is largely connected with these religious traditions. While the conceptual tools should help students deal with the interface between science and Eastern religions, the examples we will investigate will be largely Western.
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Course Requirements

Students will be expected to contribute to class discussion and group work. Course requirements include a weekly paper on the course readings, one hour exam, and a final examination. The exams will consist of several short questions with one-paragraph answers and one or two longer questions. There will be one hour exam and a final exam. For a description of the weekly papers and their topics, see /weeklypapers.htm.

We strongly believe, based on experience and nearly a century of classroom research, that students will learn best with active learning. We will use a variety of techniques to promote the active engagement of students in classroom inquiry. Many of these activities will result in individual or group products such as assignments (usually in-class assignments). You will turn in these assignments and they will count as part of your course grade. Starting in the third week of class we will assign students to permanent groups. Your groupmates will benefit from your participation in the group, and they will also assign you a participation grade based on your group efforts. This participation grade will affect your grade for group work. For a web page that answers some frequently asked questions see /groups/faq.htm.

In summary, a students' grade in the course is based on the following assessments:

Exam I 100 points
Final Exam 100 points
Weekly Papers 80 points
Group Work and Class Participation 70 points
Total 350 points
Academic Dishonesty

While, in our experience, academic dishonesty is rare, we take it seriously. For a more detailed description of our approach, see /academic_honesty.htm.

For Further Reading: Science and Religion Bibliography

If at some time you would like a list of further readings, this link will send you to a bibliography maintained by the Templeton Foundation. We've read many of the books in this bibliography and feel that for the most part they present balanced views of the field, not views stemming from any particular doctrine.