Fall 2016 Courses

Darwin and Naturalism

Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland
Christopher Anadale, Ph.D. Philosophy (Emory University)

The course begins with a reading of Darwin’s Origin of Species and examination of its historical and philosophical context. Discussion focuses on how contemporary discourse draws on and develops Darwin’s insights and theories. Gertrude Himmelfarb’s book on the historical and intellectual context of Darwinism will be resourced. Students will identify and detail the philosophical issues raised by Darwin’s work, clearly distinguishing them from the related scientific claims. We will then turn to two contemporary critics of philosophical naturalism: the philosopher Etienne Gilson and the theologian John Haught. Discussion will focus on types of naturalism, and whether Darwin’s methods and theories entail some form of naturalism. Students will find and summarize examples of contemporary use of evolutionary ideas, both in popular culture and in scientific writing. The course concludes with a series of debates and stand-and-deliver exercises. These will require students to articulate and defend their own views, and to present arguments on a question from the side with which they disagree. M.A. candidates will write a two-page Qualifying Paper proposal based on their research.

Theology of Marriage and Human Sexuality

St. John’s Seminary, Camarillo, California
Rev. Luke Dysinger, O.S.B., D. Phil. Theology (Oxford University), M.D. (University of Southern California)

This is a significantly enhanced Theology of Marriage and Human Sexuality course with computer-based and other resources in the fields of anatomy, physiology, and pathology. Teaching of pastorally-relevant issues in human genetics, embryology, and neurology has been done up to this time using static images projected in the classroom. A Templeton grant would be a game changer. It would facilitate (first) research concerning cost and availability and eventual payment of copyright fees that would facilitate the creation of pastorally-oriented components to this major course in the curriculum where scientific knowledge is imperative; (second) the eventual acquisition of more detailed and vivid images and animations used in nursing and medical training that enable students to grasp more easily and retain more readily the relevant issues; and (third) their incorporation into web-based teaching. Detailed images known to be available and widely-used include anatomical and physiological drawings by F. Netter. Animations include the Symbryo” animations concerning human embryology and fetal development. These resources would be available for use both in classroom lectures and for “self-study” and would consist of 1) An introduction to human genetics, including basic cytology, DNA structure and chemistry, and principles of heredity.2) Introduction to human embryology, including mechanics and chemistry of fertilization, embryonic and fetal organogenesis, and the concept of “viability”.3) Introduction to neurology with particular reference to temporary and chronic impairment of consciousness, and the distinctions between and implications of coma, persistent vegetative state, and brain-death.

Catholicism in an Evolving World

Oblate School of Theology, San Antonio, Texas
Sister Linda Gibler, O.P., Ph.D. Philosophy and Religion (California Institute of Integral Studies – CIIS)
Scott Woodward, D. Min. Theology (Oblate School of Theology)

This two-credit course is presented three units. The first unit, with Scott Woodward, DMin, presents an historical overview of the relationship between science and religion in the Roman Catholic tradition. He reviews that patristic tradition of creation and scripture as the Two Books of Revelation, the scholastic relationship between faith and reason, and the modern need to rely on existential reality to inform our theological worldview. This first unit makes the case that scientific knowledge of creation, specifically, how the world came into being and continues to evolve, is essential to our understanding of God, creation, humanity, and ourselves. The second unit, with Linda Gibler, OP, PhD, focuses on the Big Bang cosmology. This unit begins with a look at the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 through an ecological lens with the intention of demonstrating a scientifically informed view of scripture does not endanger faith but rather enhances it. The unit continues with the scientific story of how the Universe was created. Emphasis is given to the first three minutes, nucleosynthesis of elements, the on-going creativity of stars, and the formation of the Solar System. This unit concludes with a conversation about Galileo and the Church. The third unit, also with Linda Gibler, turns to the evolution of life on Earth. It begins with a discussion of Earth’s tectonic activity and the formation of the continents. It then continues with the emergence of life, the gift of fish (the life form who first developed our basic body style), the challenge of life on dry land, the legacy of reptiles, the appearance of hominids, and the eventual emergence of Homo sapiens. This unit concludes with a conversation about Darwin and his challenge to a static view of the Earth and to our theological sensibilities.

Integral Anthropology:
Evolution in Dialogue with Catholic Theology and Philosophy

St. Joseph Seminary College, St. Benedict, Louisiana
Cory Hayes, Ph.D. Theology (Duquesne University)

This course treats the science of evolutionary theory both in its essential outlines and in regard to the emergence of the human species. To understand human emergence, biological evolution, paleoanthropology, philosophical anthropology and theological anthropology all have a part to play, because understanding is achieved only when many points-of-view are unified in a way that respects the competence and autonomy of each. The course engages the long process of cosmic and biological evolution that led to the bodily emergence of Homo sapiens. Topics to be considered will include: the foundations of evolutionary theory, the role of genetics, the crucial function the theory plays across all of the biological sciences and scientific discoveries regarding the evolution and origins of modern humans. Students will also be guided in competently reflecting upon the science of human evolution philosophically and theologically for the sake of engaging an increasingly scientifically literate culture. The harmony between modern science and the Church’s theology of the human person as the image of God will be given special attention.

The Transfigured Brain:
The Relationship between Brain Science, Ritual and Mysticism

Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology, Wickliffe, Ohio
Edward Kaczuk, Ph.D. Music Theory & Composition (Kent State University)
Rev. Michael G. Woost, S.T.L. Theology (Catholic University of America)

Neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers are debating how mind, consciousness, and the subjective ‘self’ relate to the brain’s electrical and chemical processes. This course will explore the dialectic relationship between contemporary developments in neuro-science and Christian theology, particularly in the areas of liturgy, ritual, meditation and mysticism. Lectures will explore current neuro-science research as it relates to the awareness of God, religious experience, and the progressive expansion of human consciousness, as well as the development of the interdisciplinary field of neurotheology. The course will include the examination of the philosophical and theological foundations and method for bringing the Christian understanding of the human person, liturgical ritual, spiritual growth, and mystical experience into conversation with empirical science. A portion of the course will be dedicated to participative ritual and prayer practices in which students will be guided through spiritual experiences intended to heighten the awareness of their transcendent potential. Experts in the field of neuroscience will be invited as guest lecturers.

Creation and Science

Immaculate Conception Seminary, South Orange, New Jersey
Rev. Joseph R. Laracy, S.M. Engineering Systems (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), S.T.L. Theology (Pontifical Gregorian University)

This course seeks to deepen a student’s understanding of the relationship between the Catholic theology of creation and contemporary empirical science. Topics to be covered include the birth of science, the historical-philosophical environment of this birth, the interventions of recent Popes on the issue, the specificity of the cosmos as shown by current science, the unity of the cosmos and its beauty, the importance of philosophical realism, the doctrine of creation ex nihilo et cum tempore, the theory of the Big Bang, and the theory of evolution. Primary sources will be emphasized.

Science: A Theology of Creation

Mount Angel Seminary, St. Benedict, Oregon
Bro. Louis de Montfort Nguyen, O.S.B., M.D. (University of California of Davis School of Medicine)

The course begins with a study of the nature of science and its methodology and then proceeds to explore the relationship between faith and reason while surveying the development of modern science and its relationship and origin in Christianity. Science and its relationship to philosophy and theology are also explored since these are important foundations on which modern science is built. The majority of the course is devoted to studying and understanding the natural history and development of the universe, the habitability of the Earth, the origin of life and its evolution and on human evolution. An in-depth analysis of several key phenomena and elements found in nature, those with particular relevance to Christian Theology, is conducted.

What Does Science Prove? Topics at the Intersection of Science and Religion

Borromeo Seminary, Wickliffe, Ohio
Beth Rath, Ph.D. Philosophy (St. Louis University)

One popular idea circulating in the mainstream is that religion and science are fundamentally incompatible. Jerry Coyne opens his recent book, ‘Faith vs. Fact’, with the remark that faith is poisonous to science because “faith is no way to find truth.” Neil deGrasse Tyson, hosting FOX’s television series Cosmos, likens the Catholic Church to Thought Police responsible for suppressing and executing inquisitive scientists. All of this seemingly points to the following dilemma: one can have either science or religion, but not both. E.O. Wilson captures the dilemma nicely when he says: “I’m not an atheist—I’m a scientist.” In this course, we will try to avoid the dilemma.

Because the relationship between science and religion is not always antagonistic, the course will not only respond to the challenges posed by some scientists to religion but will also identify those areas where science seems to provide strong evidence for religious claims. This approach will provide the groundwork for a scientifically informed faith. Some of the themes that we investigate in this course include: the origins of the universe, cognitive psychology of religious belief, human uniqueness and immortality, artificial intelligence, moral responsibility and neuroscience, and the historical Adam.