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The Interface Between Science and Religion

The Interface Between Science and Religion

This online course is ideal preparation for students thinking of studying philosophy, theology, classics, history, or related subjects at university.

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Course Summary

hills at sunset

Science and religion are two domains that have laid the foundations for almost all societies across the world since the very start of civilisation. Both have developed as civilisation has progressed, with the developments in one domain often related to the developments in the other. Yet this development has not always coexisted peacefully, with many viewing the teachings of each discipline as conflicting with the other, which has often resulted in conflicts that have not always been resolved by words. Yet how do these disciplines relate today? Has science now overtaken religion as our best explanation of the world around us, or is there still room for religious belief? Can we view their relationship as being anything other than one of conflict?

This course does not seek to answer questions of life, the universe, and everything from either one or other perspective: rather, it looks inwardly at the debate itself, outlining and analysing the many different answers that have been proposed by great thinkers over the centuries, as well as at how the debate is developing today with the exciting discoveries of our chaotic and quantum world. It does so with a particular focus on Christianity, though also related to the other major monotheistic religions as well as religious faith more generally.

Course Details

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Syllabus

Tutorial 1: Conflict and Dialogue (1 - 1.5 hours)

This tutorial explores the work of one of the major contributors to the debate, Ian Barbour, who proposed four possible stances for anyone debating the relationship between science and religion: 1) conflict; 2) independence; 3) dialogue; 4) integration. It also looks at criticisms of this approach, questioning whether such a simplistic approach can feasibly be held in relation to such a complex matter.


Tutorial 2: Galileo and Darwin (1 - 1.5 hours)

The second tutorial goes back in time to two key figures in the debate: Galileo and Darwin. Galileo came into conflict with the church when arguing in favour of Copernicus’ heliocentric model of the universe, backed by his observations with the newly invented telescope. Darwin similarly conflicted with theological teachings through his theory of evolution by natural selection, developed during his voyage on the Beagle.


Tutorial 3: Theories of Creation (1 - 1.5 hours)

One key argument put forward by theologians is the fact that we have yet to explain our origins and purpose. We understand the laws of physics, but do not (yet) know how or why they came to be so. This tutorial explores the idea of ‘creation’ and the various arguments that have been put forward to coincide with the idea of a divine creation with the findings of modern science, particularly Darwin’s theory of evolution.


Tutorial 4: God's Action in the World (1 - 1.5 hours)

Most major religions believe not only that God created the world (as we discuss in tutorial 3), but also that He still acts within it. But this poses some important questions: why is there still evil and suffering? when and where exactly does God interact with the world? and to what extent is God able to act? This tutorial looks at possible answers to these questions, exploring some intriguing areas of modern science such as quantum physics and chaos theory, areas that seem to go against the idea of a deterministic universe, perhaps leaving room for ‘God’.


Key Details

Course Pre-requisite Advanced level of English
An interest in religion and philosophy
An interest in debating and discussion
Course Level For students applying to university to study philosophy, religious studies, or related subjects
Difficulty Moderate
Prior Knowledge No prior knowledge is required to take this course, just enthusiasm for the subject.
Fees £29.99
Workload 4-6 hours (further independent study is encouraged)

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