CCHU9061 Humanities
Science and Religion: Conflict or Conversation?

[This course is under the thematic clusters of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’ and ‘The Universe and the Question of Meaning’.]


Course Description

Science and religion are two of the most significant influences shaping global society today. We shall examine the relationship between disciplines in the natural and social sciences, and a variety of religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Daoism, and Islam. Broadly speaking, scholars have identified four main perspectives concerning the relationship between science and religion: Conflict (science is incompatible with religion); Compartmentalization (they belong to separate domains of knowledge); Conversation (they overlap at certain points at which they can respectfully dialogue), and Convergence (they can be integrated). We shall examine how each of these perspectives plays out in the history of science and religion in East and West, and assess their contemporary significance. The course will achieve the goals of the Common Core by helping students connect across different disciplines and cultures, as well as by developing the ability to examine controversial issues from multiple perspectives. Students will achieve these aims through interactive learning, outside the classroom activities, and group debates.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

    1. Identify and critically engage with the Big Questions in science and religion dialogues and with the use of pseudoscience.
    2. Analyze a range of views and arguments concerning the models of interaction between science and religion from multiple perspectives, and formulate clear, logical and precise responses to them.
    3. Assess the strengths and limitations of the scientific method using multidisciplinary perspectives.
    4. Critically evaluate competing interpretations of scientific findings and of ancient religious texts.
    5. Critically reflect on the ways of knowing, underlying assumptions and cultural roots of their own and others’ beliefs, values, interests and practices concerning these issues.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 10
Film viewing 3
Reading / Self-study 36
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 36
Assessment: Debate 8
Assessment: Film review and analysis 3
Total: 120

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Film and documentary review 20
Group debates 20
Pop quiz 15
Final essay 35
Tutorial participation and assignments/discussions 10

Required Reading

Introduction:

  • Loke, A. (2014). The benefits of studying philosophy for science education. Journal of the NUS Teaching Academy, 4, 27-35.
  • McGrath, A. (2010). Science and religion: An introduction. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. [Chaps. 1, 6, 9]

Pre-modern debates leading up to the Galileo Incident:

  • McGrath, A. (2010). Science and religion: An introduction. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. [Chaps 2, 3]

Newton, the Deist controversy and the problem of miracles:

  • Craig, W. L., & Moreland, J. P. (Eds.). (2009). The Blackwell companion to natural theology. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. [pp. 596, 637-659]
  • McGrath, A. (2010). Science and religion: An introduction. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. [Chap. 4]

Darwin and the contemporary creation vs evolution debate:

  • Clayton, P., & Simpson, Z. (2006). The Oxford handbook of religion and science. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Chaps. 12]
  • McGrath, A. (2010). Science and religion: An introduction. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. [Chap. 5]
  • Rusbult, C. (2008). Human evolution and the Bible. American Scientific Affiliation. From http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/humans.htm

Einstein, Hawking and the contemporary (New) Atheism vs Theism debate:

  • Clayton, P., & Simpson, Z. (2006). The Oxford handbook of religion and science. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Chap. 5]
  • Moreland, J. P., Meister, C. V., & Sweis, K. A. (Eds.). (2013). Debating Christian Theism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Introduction, chaps. 1-4]

Pre-modern Chinese culture, Daoism and science:

  • Capra, F. (2010). The Dao of physics: An exploration of the parallels between modern physics and eastern mysticism. [Chap. 8]
  • Clayton, P., & Simpson, Z. (2006). The Oxford handbook of religion and science. Oxford: Oxford University Press, [Chap. 12]

Contemporary holistic movements and their implications for science and religion:

  • Capra, F. (2010). The Dao of Physics: An exploration of the parallels between modern physics and eastern mysticism. [Chaps. 1, 2]

Hinduism and Science: ancient and contemporary approaches:          

  • To be confirmed

Buddhism and Science: ancient and contemporary approaches:         

  • Wallace, A. (2003). Introduction: Buddhism and science—breaking down the barriers. In Wallace, B. A. (Ed.), Buddhism and science: Breaking new ground. Columbia University Press.
  • Wallace, B. A. (Ed.). (2003). Breaking new ground. Columbia University Press.

Islam and Science

  • To be confirmed

Recommended Reading

  • Clayton, P., & Simpson, Z. (2006). The Oxford handbook of religion and science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Craig, W. L., & Moreland, J. P. (Eds.). (2009). The Blackwell companion to natural theology. Chichester: Wiley- Blackwell. [Electronic resource available at HKU Dragon]
  • Ecklund, E. (2010). Science vs religion: What scientists really think. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  
  • Giberson, K., & Artigas, M. (2007). Oracles of science: Celebrity scientists versus god and religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Gingerich, O. (2006). God’s universe. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.  
  • Hawking, S., & Mlodinow, L. (2010). The grand design. New York: Bantam Books. 
  • Jones, J. (2016). Can science explain religion? The cognitive science debate. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Kohn, L. (2016). Science and the Dao. Three Pines Press. [Chap. 2, pp. 21-9]
  • Lewis, G., & Barnes, L. A. (2016). A fortunate universe: Life in a finely tuned cosmos. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.
  • Polkinghorne, J. (2011). Science and religion in quest of truth. New Haven: Yale University Press.  
  • Rees, M. (1999). Just six numbers: the deep forces that shape the universe. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.  
  • Science and religion conference at Oxford University. (2014). From https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZggb9UjpEEQll7iaEdshQ0RNEpBTq_R_   
  • Stewart, M. (Ed.). (2010). Science and religion in dialogue, 2 volumes. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.  
  • Trigg, R. (2015, October 1). Why science needs metaphysics. From http://nautil.us/issue/29/scaling/why-science-needs-metaphysics
  • Walton, J. (2009). The lost world of genesis one: Ancient cosmology and the origins debate. Downers Grove, Ill:  IVP Acad.

Recommended Websites


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr D.A. Palmer
Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 2051
Email: palmer19@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr D.A. Palmer
Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 2051
Email: palmer19@hku.hk
Dr A.T.E. Loke
School of Humanities, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 4334
Email: andyloke@hku.hk