Science, Theology, and Ethics

JPI 669/769

The relationship between science and theology is a preoccupation of modern scientific and political culture with great stakes hanging in the balance.  Virtually everyone agrees that there is an essential difference between them and that each has a proper, relative autonomy, but in what does this autonomy consist?  Is scientific integrity, for instance, constituted by science’s independence from metaphysical and theological considerations?  Must metaphysical or theological criticism of science confine itself to morality, and is such criticism possible without lapsing into fideism or violating scientific autonomy?  Beginning with a philosophical inquiry into the nature of scientific knowledge, exploring the historical relationship between science, philosophy, and theology and the effect of this relationship on our fundamental conceptions of nature, this course will address these and other such questions.  It will contend that science is internally constituted by its relationship to metaphysics and theology and that science’s proper integrity and autonomy follow from a deeper understanding of that relationship.  This then opens up largely ignored possibilities for thinking of the relationship between scientific knowledge and ethics.


Course Texts for Spring 2017

  • Compendium of readings (available through University Readers)
  • Stephen Jay Gould, Rock of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (New York: Ballantine, 1999).
  • Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004).
  • Richard McKeon (ed.), The Basic Works of Aristotle, (Modern Library, 2001), ISBN-10: 0375757996; ISBN-13: 978-0375757990.
  • Thomas Aquinas, The Division and Methods of the Sciences (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1986), ISBN 0-88844-279-3.
  • Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Logic I, The Truth of the World (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2000). ISBN: 0-89870-718-8.
  • Richard Lewontin, Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1992).
  • Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, 4th ed (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998).
  • Francis Bacon, The New Organon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

Associated Faculty

« Back to Courses