Further information on Fall 2018 courses


Richard Jorgensen: No Conflict – Toward a  Congenial Conversation between Science and Faith


General class outline (subject to revision):

1a        Introductions—To one another and to the course, Including “definition of terms.” What do we mean by “science,” “faith,” “religion,” “philosophy,” “nothing,” “god,” etc.    Also: Putting before us one of the course’s “theme questions” (and a “question of the ages”)—“What was there before there was something?”

1b        A survey of the history of the relationship between science and faith, both positive and contentious. Galileo and Darwin are part of that history. Also: My Favorite Joke.

2a        The four creation accounts in the Bible, including the most important one that has been overshadowed by the appearance of those minor characters, Adam and Eve. What do these different accounts contribute to our “conversation.”

2b        A side-trip to visit the “New Atheists.” Not all scientists are atheists, of course, but some who have made their views known—even with best-sellers—do so in the context of science.  They are an important part of our story. Also: The congenial meeting place for the believer and the unbeliever: Standing side-by-side, staring into that “clouded glass.”

3a        Carl Sagan said: “The difference between science and religion is that religious people don’t question their authorities.”  Really?  “Questioning authority” is, of course, almost a definition of science; but we will consider how the Bible, too, is shot through with questions, and the variety of ways in which it carries its message.  Also: Our presenter’s proposal that “the Bible is a very anti-religious book.”

3b        “Rocks of Ages:” The proposal of the late (agnostic) evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould is that science and religion are unconnected (but “overlapping”) realms of separate but equal importance, each with nothing to say about the other.  Does he make his case?  (And other theories.)

4a        Issues that emerge out of a combination of science, faith, and philosophy: “Is there a ‘Cosmic Mind?’”  “Is the universe eternal?” “Evolution and the Process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.”

4b       To be human is to have—in the words of Ecclesiastes—“a sense of past and future in our minds”—trying to figure it all out. But can we?  Thus, we are born scientists, unafraid of questions. “We can put the truth out on the street and let it take care of itself.”



There is no required text for this course, but the books in this list are recommended, the titles in bold being perhaps the most pertinent and accessible.  The wonderful Content Book Store in Northfield may have some on hand; all are available via Amazon. These are all highly readable. Time permitting, you may want to read or browse one or two of them in preparation for – or along with – the class. Hand-outs of articles, etc., will also be provided in a course packet (cost $4, included in course fee of $34 = $30 tuition + $4 packet), to be distributed in class.

Finding Darwin’s God, Kenneth Miller

Miller is a Professor of Biology at Brown University and the recipient of the Stephen Jay Gould Prize for the Study of Evolution. The subtitle of his book is “A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution.” He is a staunch critic (on scientific grounds)  of “creationism.”

The Language of God, Francis Collins

Collins is a geneticist and the Director of the National Institutes of Health. A Christian, the subtitle of his book is “A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.”

A Universe From Nothing, Lawrence Krauss

Krauss is a physicist, sometimes identified as one of the “New Atheists.” His thesis is that all of the material universe and its origins can be explained without recourse to a “god.”

Rocks of Ages, Stephen Jay Gould

Gould, who died in 2002, taught evolutionary biology and paleontology at Harvard. A self-described agnostic, the theme of his book is that science and religion are each important fields that “overlap” but have no real influence on the other. His is a proposal for “peaceful coexistence.”          

Traffic in Truth, John Polkinghorne

Polkinghorne is an Anglican Priest and former professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge. His subtitle is, “Exchanges Between Science and Theology.”

The Bible, New Revised Standard Version

There will be some references to this book in the class, but passages cited will be available on handout sheets.


Others recommended:

God After Darwin, Haught

God and the Astronomers, Jastrow

The God Delusion, Dawkins

Mind and Cosmos, Nagel

The Righteous Mind, Haidt

Science and the Modern World, Whitehead

When Science Meets Religion, Barbour