Religious Studies | Religious Thought and Ethics: Darwin and Religion
R672 | 27891 | L. Sideris

Meets with REL-R-770 (27892)
This is an interdisciplinary seminar that surveys a subset of
themes pertaining to Darwin (or Darwinism), religion, nature, and
ethics.  An overarching theme of the course is the role of Darwinian
ideas in progressive secularization and the “disenchantment “ of the
human and natural worlds, and the ethical consequences of
disenchantment. We will consider how Darwinian disenchantment has
shaped current science-religion discourse (including recent anti-
religious discourse), as well as discourse in religious
environmentalism/environmental ethics.  Readings and discussions
explore particular areas of contentious and fruitful contact between
Darwinian ideas and religious/ethical perspectives. These include,
for example, Darwin and the problem of design (past and present
attempts to locate design, purpose, or meaning in a Darwinian world;
complaints against excessive materialism of the neo-Darwinian
paradigm); Darwin and the problem of pain (evolutionary theodicy,
problems of natural and human suffering; Darwin’s own attitudes
toward pain and the role those attitudes played in his religious
views);  Darwin and Cosmology (the possibility of a Darwinian “unity
of knowledge”; attempts to construct a new mythology or  “great
story” out of Darwinian materials, and implications for religion);
Darwin and Reenchantment  of science and nature (recovering
Darwinian forms of wonder;  Romantic readings of Darwin and/or
Darwin and literature;).  Readings will include selections from,
e.g., Darwin’s  scientific writings, as well as his notebooks and
Autobiography;  additional readings will likely draw from
contemporary biology; religious theory; environmentalism/ecotheology
and evolutionary theism; ecocriticism and nature writing; history of
science and philosophy of biology; and science-religion
scholarship.  No science background is expected or required.
Assignments include regular participation in seminar (including
leading discussion), a research paper, and possibly short response
papers to readings.  Inquiries can be directed to