God and the Natural Sciences (3)

Field: Philosophy
Unit Code(s): AP3300T
Unit value: 18 points
Level: Undergraduate (3)
Delivery mode: Face-to-face only. Offered each year in Semester 1 only. This unit is timetabled by the University of Melbourne (Thursdays, 1.00-3.00pm).
Prerequisites: 1 unit in Philosophy or Christian Thought
Content: This unit studies the complex relationship between religion, theology, and the natural sciences. Theological concerns guided the science of Kepler, Newton and many other early scientists. They held that studying the universe demonstrated the attributes of God. After Darwin, this view was replaced by radically different ones: to some science and religion are necessarily antagonistic, to others they belong to different realms, to yet others there is a mutually illuminating consonance between the two. We examine this change, the reasoning (good and bad) behind it and its intellectual vestiges, including some modern debates: "Anthropic Principle", multiple universes, and such scientific/philosophical issues such as "Why are the laws of nature what they are?" Finally, we explore the relationship between the "personal God" of religious experience and the "philosophers’ God" posited to explain facts about the natural world.
Learning Outcomes:

Upon successful completion of this unit, it is expected that students will be able to:

  • articulate the complex historical relationship between religion, theology, and the natural sciences, with particular emphasis on the relationship during the "scientific revolution" and post-Darwinian Victorian-era controversies.
  • summarise the role and various interpretations of the concept of the anthropic principle, and the concept of multiple universes in contemporary 21st century debates.
  • appraise the various positions in this unit on the philosophy of science, and in particular the positions on the status of the presuppositions of scientific inquiry. 
  • reflect on the different views of the relationship between the "personal God" of religious experience and the more abstract "philosophers’ God".
  • demonstrate well-developed skills of analysis and argument in theology and the history and philosophy of science.
  •  1,000-word essay (25% each)
  •  3,000-word essay (50%)
  •  2 x 500-word tutorial papers (25%)
Recommended Reading:

* recommended for purchase

Bennett G., B. Martinez, J. Hewlett, T. Peters and R. Russell, eds, The Evolution of Evil (Gottingen:  Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2008)

Brooke. J., Science and Religion (Cambridge: CUP, 1999).

Cunningham, C., Darwin’s Pious Idea (Cambridge: Erdmans, 2010)

Dawkins, R., The God Delusion (London: Transworld Publishers, 2006).

* Ferngren, G.B., ed., Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction (Baltimore: John Hopkins

   University Press, 2002).

Haught, J., Is Nature Enough? Meaning and Truth in the Age of Science (Cambridge: CUP


Hick, J., The New Frontier of Religion and Science, Religious experience, Neuroscience and The Transcendent (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006).

Moore. J., The Post Darwinian Controversies: A study of Protestant Struggle to Come to Terms

   with Darwin in Great Britain and America 1870–1900 (Cambridge: CUP, 1979).

McGrath,A., The Science of GodAn Introduction to Scientific Theology (Michigan: Erdmans,


McGrath, A., The Open Secret: A New vision for Natural Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008)

Worthing, M., God, Creation, and Contemporary Physics (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996)