Origins in Science and Religon

Topics: Charles Darwin, Evolution, Richard Dawkins Pages: 5 (1121 words) Published: April 2, 2013
Origins in Science and Religion
Letters and Science 121
T-Th 2:00-3:30, 2040 VLSB
Spring 2013

This course explores the concepts of origins in science and religion and their cultural contexts and entanglements, from antiquity to the present. Popular culture tends to emphasize the conflict between science and religion on such issues, particularly, in recent times, with respect to the origin of life and its evolution (including human evolution). We hold that science must acknowledge history, both the history of the natural world and the history of concepts about it, and that religion must deal with the changing knowledge of science, including issues of origins, causation, and teleology. Our guiding questions include: What are origins, and why do we want to know about them? How does this desire manifest itself in different ways of constructing and analyzing knowledge? What sorts of intellectual processes, standards, and tests can be applied to different concepts of origins? What happens when different notions of origins clash? How do we negotiate these clashes in today’s world?


Professor Kevin PadianProfessor Ronald Hendel
Department of Integrative BiologyDepartment of Near Eastern Studies 5099 VLSB, kpadian@berkeley.edu276 Barrows, office hours: W 11-12 and by hours: Tu 11-12 and by appt.

Dale Loepp, office hours: Th 3:30-4:30 and by appt. Nick Matzke, office hours: Tu 3:30-4:30 and by appt. Yosefa Raz, yosefaraz@berkeley.eduoffice hours: Th 1-2 and by appt.

Course requirements

Participation (sections), 20%; two short papers (5 pgs), 20% each; Midterm exam, 20%; Final exam, 20%

Required texts

Ronald Hendel, The Book of Genesis: A Biography (Princeton University Press, 2012)
Charles Darwin, The Annotated Origin: A Facsimile of the First Edition of the First Edition, ed. James T. Costa (Harvard University Press, 2011) (paperback) Other readings posted on class bSpace site

Schedule and readings

Part I. Science, Religion, and Origins

Jan. 22 (T) Introduction: What do origins mean, and how should we study them?

Note: discussion sections will not meet in this first week

Jan. 24 (Th) Science and religion: Contradiction or complement?
Read: Gould, “Non-overlapping Magisteria,” at ;
Coyne, “Seeing and Believing”; Miller, Finding Darwin’s God (excerpt);
Collins, “Faith and the Human Genome”

Jan. 29 (T) The structure of science
Read: Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, ch. 2-3 (pp. 10-34); and
“How Science Works,” at
and be sure that you read all 21 webpages in this section.

Jan. 31 (Th) The structure of religion
Read: Geertz, “Religion as a Cultural System”

Feb. 5 (T) The structure of secularism (Dale)
Read: Taylor, A Secular Age (excerpt)

Feb. 7 (Th) Atheism, agnosticism, theism: What’s the difference and the difference it makes
Read: Onfray, The Atheist Manifesto (excerpt); Dawkins, The God Delusion (excerpt); Hitchens, God is Not Great (excerpt); Rosenbaum, “An Agnostic Manifesto;” Haught, “Evolution and Faith”

Feb. 12 (T) Origins of the universe (Eliot Quataert)
Read: Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything (excerpt)

Feb. 14 (Th) Origins of life (Nick)
Read: Pross, What is Life? (excerpt)

Part II. History of the Present

Feb. 19 (T) Creation myths: How and what they mean
Read: Enuma Elish; Hesiod’s Theogony, lines 104-233, 535-615, 807-885; Hopi creation myth; and Chinese creation myth (bSpace). Web texts at:;;

Feb. 22 (Th) Cosmology in the Bible and the ancient Near East
Read: Genesis 1-3; Hendel, Genesis, pp. 15-44

Feb. 26 (T) Theodicy:...
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