Course taught by Zachary Simpson.
19TH AND 20TH CENTURY PHILOSOPHY (ST)

 

Professor's Course Notes

 Conversations Between Science, Philosophy, and Religion

Course Page

The course syllabus can be found here.

Turnitin.com Course ID: 3026982  Turnitin.com password: systems
 
Course Description

This course aims to understand recent interactions between the sciences, philosophy, and religion through four separate two-way “conversations”: 1) The philosophy of biology and the various issues it raises; 2) The evolution of the moral instinct – how did we become moral animals?; 3) The evolution of religion from anthropological and sociological perspective – how did we become religious animals?; and 4) Religious appeals to the sciences, through both “Intelligent Design” and other options provided by the sciences. In exploring these themes, we will hopefully achieve a sophisticated understanding of the best insights into areas of overlap between scientific, philosophical, and religious areas of study over the past 20 years. We will also develop critical perspectives vis-à-vis each field and the analytical skills associated with synthesizing and discussing sophisticated developments in multiple domains of thought.

Course Schedule

Part I – From Philosophy to Biology: The Nature of Evolution

Week 1 – Introduction and Evolutionary Basics
Tuesday, January 12: Introductions, Overview, and Goals for the Course
Thursday, January 14: Evolutionary Basics
            Reading: Sterelny and Griffiths, pgs. 22-51
 
Week 2 – Evolution, Genes, and Units of Selection
Tuesday, January 19: Genes and Evolution
            Reading: Sterelny and Griffiths, Chs. 3 and 5
Thursday, January 21: Units of Selection
            Reading: Sterelny and Griffiths, pgs. 151-178; article by David Sloan Wilson, “Multilevel Selection Theory”
            Also recommended: David Sloan Wilson, “Cooperation and Altruism”; David Sloan Wilson, “Human Groups as Adaptive Units”; Martin Nowak, “Five Rules for Cooperation”; Martin Nowak and Karl Sigmund, “How Populations Cohere”
 
Week 3 – Two Interesting Issues: The Arrows of Time and “What is Life?”
Tuesday, January 26: The Arrows of Time
            Reading: Sterelny and Griffiths, pgs. 280-310; article by Simon Conway Morris on electronic reserve
Thursday, January 28: Snow Day
Tuesday, February 2: What is Life?
            Reading: Sterelny and Griffiths, pgs. 355-378; last chapter of What is Life? by Sagan and Margulis on electronic reserve
            Also Recommended: Dorion Sagan and Lynn Margulis, Into the Cool; Erwin Schrodinger, What is Life; the work of Stephen Wolfram, Freeman Dyson, Mark Bedau, David Depew and Bruce Weber, and Edouard Machery is also interesting in this regard; and, for a philosophical perspective, Renaud Barbaras, “Life, Movement, Desire”
 
Part II – From Biology to Philosophy: The Evolution of the Moral Sense
Week 4 – Marc Hauser’s Moral Minds
**Short Paper on Philosophy of Biology Due**
Thursday, February 4: Introduction to Hauser
            Reading: Moral Minds, Prologue and Introduction (approx. 50 pgs.)
 
 
Week 5: Moral Minds, cont.’
Thursday, February 4: Issues of Justice
            Reading: Moral Minds, pgs. 59-110
Thursday, February 11: Violence
            Reading: Moral Minds, pgs. 111-159; Marc Hauser, “The Liver and the Moral Organ”
 
 
Week 6: Other Reflections on the Evolution of Morality
Tuesday, February 16: Norms of Cooperation and Prosocial Behaviors
             Reading: Moral Minds, pgs. 357-418
             Also recommended: Research done by primatologists, such as Richard Wrangham, helps illuminate the evolution of prosocial behavior
Thursday, February 18: An innate sense?
            Reading: Lieberman, Tooby, and Cosmides, “Sentiments Relating to Incest”; David Sloan Wilson, “Survival of the Selfless”
            Also recommended: Kevin Foster, “Altruism”, Martin Nowak and Karl Sigmund, “Indirect Reciprocity”; Elliott Sober, “What is Evolutionary Altruism?”; also play with Christoph Hauert's VirtualLabs
 
Part III – From Biology to Religion: The Evolution of Religious Belief
Week 7: Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained
Tuesday, February 23: The Origins of Religious Belief
            Reading: Religion Explained, pgs. 1-47
            Also recommended: Jeff Schloss, “Evolutionary Theories of Religion”
Thursday, February 25: The Brain and Inference
            Reading: Religion Explained, pgs. 93-135; Shariff et. al., “Religious Belief can be Diminished”
 
Week 8: Boyer, cont.’
Tuesday, March 2: Gods and Spirits among us
            Reading: Religion Explained, pgs. 137-202
            Also recommended: Dominic Johnson, “Hand of God, Mind of Man”; Norenzayan and Shariff, “Religious Prosociality”; Purzycki and Sosis, “The Religious System as  Adaptive”; Shariff and Norenzayan, “God is Watching You”; Sosis and Alcorta, “The Evolution of Religious Behavior”; Sosis, “The Adaptive Value of Ritual”
Thursday, March 4: Religious Violence and Overview of Boyer
            Reading: Religion Explained, pgs. 265-296
 
Week 9: Suicide Terrorism and Another Perspective
Tuesday, March 9: Religious Militancy
            Reading: Ginges et. al., “Religion and Support for Suicide Attacks”; Sosis and Alcorta, “Militants and Martyrs”
            Also Recommended: Scott Atran’s work on suicide terrorism, found on his website at:            http://sitemaker.umich.edu/satran/relevant_articles_on_political_conflict___violence
Thursday, March 11: Introduction to Science and Religion: Film from Nova on Dover School Debate
           Reading: Introduction to Intelligent Design
 
Week 10
Spring Break – No class
 
Part IV – From Religion to Science: Intelligent Design and Other Options
**4-6 Page Paper on Evolution of Morality or Religious Belief Due**
Week 11: Intelligent Design
Tuesday, March 23: The Intelligent Design Debate
            Reading: Intelligent Design, pgs. 12-43
           
Thursday, March 25: Conservative Responses
            Reading: Intelligent Design, pgs. 58-71 and 154-165
 
Week 12: Intelligent Design, cont.’
Tuesday, March 30: Liberal Responses
            Reading: Intelligent Design, pgs. 44-56 and 166-177
Thursday, April 1: No Class -- Droverstock 2010
 
Week 13: Other Options – An Emergent Ethics and Theism
Tuesday, April 6: Introduction to Emergence
            Reading: Reinventing the Sacred, pgs. 31-71 (skim the technical parts – just try to understand the overall themes of emergence)
            Also recommended: Philip Clayton’s Introduction to The Re-emergence of Emergence; Other readings TBA
Thursday, April 8: Stuart Kauffman’s Emergentism
            Reading: Reinventing the Sacred, pgs. 230-254
 
Week 14: Emergentism Leading to Religious Reflection?
Tuesday, April 13: Non-Personal Religion and Emergence
            Reading: Reinventing the Sacred, pgs. 255-288; Wesley Wildman, “Ground of Being Theologies”
Thursday, April 15: Philip Clayton’s Emergentism
            Reading: Selection from Adventures in the Spirit
 
Week 15: Finals Week
Tuesday, April 20: Class Overview – We’re done!

Thursday, April 22: No class – Final papers due