Welcome to Senior Seminar, Spring 2003!

Date: 13 Jan 2003
Time: 6:15-7:45pm Mon & 9-10:30 Th in Armerding 18 or so
Instructor: Rob Sheldon
Office Hours: TBA, Armerding 14
Phone: 630/752-7116
email: Robert*.B.Sheldon@wheaton.edu (delete *)

Course Description: This course is designed to examine the interface between physics, philosophy and fundamentalism. I use the word "fundamentalism" intentionally, because we are not going to discuss other religions than historical Christianity. And since many versions of modern liberal Protestantism fail to qualify as orthodox historical Christianity, I wanted to focus this course on the tension between those who worry both about their salvation and their science simultaneously. The discussion has three centers, and I wanted to give each discipline its own emphasis. For examples of a question posed from these three viewpoints, we have: "Can a Scientist permit his religion to affect his science?", or "Can a Fundamentalist accept science as a legitimate disciple?" or "Can either science or religion provide legitimate Truth?"

The syllabus is rather tentative, since my views on how to present these three threads alternates between a desire to present it topically, chronologically, and pedagogically. As the course progresses, I may find it appropriate to rearrange the syllabus to indicate a change in emphasis. For this reason, it is necessary for you to have WWW access, and look at the assigned readings for the coming week. As all of us know from long experience, keeping up with the readings is the most difficult part of a course like this. To encourage you to keep up, as well as use the WWW, I have decided to put quizzes on the WWW covering the weeks reading which will account for 20% of the grade. In addition, there will be a two papers on the reading and the lectures. That is, in place of a midterm or final exam, I will be assigning term papers on topics related to the class. The papers will be 80% of the grade as described below.

The course naturally will divide up into 3 sections of unequal length. The first section will cover the history and philosophy of the science vs. religion interaction, with emphasis on the paradigm of modern naturalism from Newton to Darwin. My plan is to intertwine this history with the philosophy that informs these debates. The second section will discuss the religious and philosophical response to these challenges of the faith. It is difficult to identify a single response, so we will look at several: "process theology", "creationism" and "intelligent design". Finally, the third section will discuss the new physics of Einstein and Bohr and its impact on both science and religion. As we will see, it profoundly changes the nature of the debate.


The final grade will be derived from:

The term papers are expected to be a researched paper (with endnotes) which are to be 8-10 double-spaced pages (Times Roman, 12pt font, 1" margins). The first paper will be due on Monday, February 10. The second will be due before Spring Break. Follow the instructions below.
Paper #1
Electronic submittal is encouraged as well, though not essential. Several approaches can be taken on this first assignment:
Paper #2
Electronic submittal is encouraged. This paper should be 8-12 pages (with endnotes) and reference at least GNP or FE. It should discuss the impact of the New Physics on Theology or Culture. One could write about, say, the impact of New Physics on Philosophy, but there should be a tie in to "the common man". The handout from GHC gives a nice summary of topics that are suitable for the paper. The due date is before Spring Break.


Additional Resources

Tentative Schedule:
1 M Jan 13 Introduction SRI1,GNP1
1 R Jan 16 Medieval Synthesis & Copernicus SRH1,SRH2 Quiz 01
2 M Jan 20 Galileo & Newton SRH3,SRH4
2 R Jan 23 Enlightenment SRH5,SRH6 No Quiz 02
3 M Jan 27 Paley and Darwin SRH7,SRH8
3 R Jan 30 Neo-Darwinism & Intelligent Design TBA Quiz 03
4 M Feb 3 **No Lecture** Replacement TBA
4 R Feb 6 Catholic and Reformed Epistemology SRI2,SRI3 Quiz 04 @7pm
5 M Feb 10 Fundamentalism & Creationism SRI4,SRI5
5 R Feb 13 Positivism & Process Thought SRI6,SRI7 Quiz 05
6 R Feb 20 Personal Knowlege & 20th Century SRI8,SRI9
6 R Feb 20 GNP notes & 1890 Physics Dilemmas GNP2-4 Quiz 06
7 M Feb 24 Creation: Ex Nihilo, Contingent GNP5-7
7 R Feb 27 Cosmology & Anthropic Principle GNP8-11 Quiz 07
8 R Mar 6 Quantum Weirdness & Miracles GNP12-13
8 R Mar 6 Demise of Deism & Self-Reference FE Quiz 08


Reply to Robert*.B.Sheldon@wheaton.edu
(due to spamming, please delete the asterisk)