Deity, Darwin, and Intelligent Design: A Historical Survey of Religion and Science in America
This course explores the relationship between scientific and religious ideas in the United States from the early nineteenth century to the present. Starting with the Natural Theologians, who made science "the handmaid of theology" in the early Republic, students move forward in time through the publication of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" and Andrew Dickson White's subsequent declaration of a war between science and religion, into the twentieth century with the Scopes trial and the rise of Creationism, the evolutionary synthesis, and finally the recent debates over the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools.
Because of the often contentious nature of any American conversation in which “evolution” is invoked, students spend a good deal of time looking closely at how conflicts and compromises between the so-called “non-overlapping magisterial” of religion and science are articulated. They also look to some of the frequent sites of compromise and creativity in which religion and science are not viewed as enemies but necessary partners in living meaningful lives and protecting the environment of our rich and varied world.
To these ends, students engage with their subject in multiple ways. Through lectures, documentaries, and field trips, students gain a broad grounding in the roots of these debates and compromises, both on their own terms and in critical perspective. Students read closely a range of texts: historical primary sources, media accounts, court documents, and Web sites relevant to the discussion at hand. Class discussion and short analytic writing assignments give students the opportunity to delve deeply into the ideas being considered.
Finally, individual research projects prepare students to participate in a class debate during the last week of class.
Adam Shapiro is a historian of science and religion. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and a B.A. from Columbia and is currently a Lecturer in Intellectual and Cultural History at Brikbeck, University of London. He is the author of Trying Biology: The Scopes Trial, Textbooks, and the Antievolution Movement in American Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2013).
Specific course information, such as hours and instructors, are subject to change at the discretion of the University.