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Elective: Nature and Nature’s God: Religious Views and Natural Phenomena

Vak
2014-2015

Admission requirements

This course is only available for second year students in the BA International Studies. The number of participants is limited to 25.

Description

This seminar considers the significance of developments in science and technology for religion, particularly for the view of God. How are perceptions of nature and of nature’s God changed by scientific discoveries and technological inventions? In many religions, physical reality itself is considered divine. In contrast, religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam make a distinction between Creator and creation. This distinction would seem to make it possible to freely study (and exploit) nature. Is the Fukushima accident, in largely Buddhist Japan, evidence of a similar mentality in other world religions? By contrast, what are the worldwide religious origins and connotations of the concepts of good stewardship and sustainability?
In many traditional cultures, natural disasters are looked upon as divine chastisements. In Western civilization, however, the mechanization of the world view during the seventeenth century proved to be the start of an important change. Using Newtonian physics and claiming a nearly infinite comprehensibility of nature and its laws, enlightened intellectuals put God at a distance, discarding traditional guilt culture. Rational religion, they felt, could do without fear and ‘superstition.’ Under the influence of the French philosopher Rousseau, nature was widely regarded as a place of harmony and divine benevolence. Increasing human control of natural phenomena, facilitated by such technological inventions as Benjamin Franklin’s lightning-rod, made man more self-confident.
Obviously, other parts of the world followed different lines of development. In this course we will focus on the global evolution of science, technology, and the perceptions of God and of nature during more than five centuries, studying secondary literature. This course may shed more light on the relationship of science and religion and on subtle and more overt secularization trends in the modern period.

Additionally, the students will work through W.C. Booth, G.G. Colomb, J.W. Williams, The Craft of Research, third edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Course objectives

The elective courses for International Studies are designed to teach students how to deal with state-of-the-art literature and research questions. They are chosen to enhance the students’ learning experience by building on the interdisciplinary perspectives they have developed so far, and to introduce them to the art of academic research. They are characterised by an international or comparative approach.
Academic skills that are trained include:
Oral presentation skills:
1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
a. in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;
b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
c. using up-to-date presentation techniques;
d. aimed at a specific audience;
3. to actively participate in a discussion following the presentation.
Collaboration skills:
1. to be socio-communicative in collaborative situations;
2. to provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position;
3. adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.
Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:
1. to collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques;
2. to analyze and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability;
3. to formulate on this basis a sound research question;
4. to design under supervision a research plan of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved;
5. to formulate a substantiated conclusion.
Written presentation skills:
1. to explain clear and substantiated research results;
2. to provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course
a. in the form of a clear and well-structured written presentation;
b. in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;
c. using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;
d. aimed at a specific audience.

Timetable

The timetable is available on the BA International Studies website.

Mode of instruction

Tutorials and supervised research.

Course Load

A brief calculation of the course load, broken down by:

  • Total course load for the course: 10 × 28 hours= 280 EC. – Hours spent on attending lectures: 24 – Time for completing assignments, preparation classes: 136 – Time to write a paper (including reading / research): 120

Assessment method

Weekly assignments, and a final paper of approx. 4-6,000 words (excluding tables and bibliography).

Note: The maximum possible grade to be obtained for re-submission of the final essay is a 6.0

Blackboard

Blackboard will be used. For tutorial groups: please enroll in blackboard after your enrollment in uSis
Students are requested to register on Blackboard for this course.

Reading list

− J.R. McNeill and Erin Stewart Mauldin (eds.), A Companion to Global Environmental History, Malden, MA 2012 (esp. Chapter 27: “Religion and Environmentalism”)
− John Torrance (ed.), The Concept of Nature, Oxford 1992
– Damien Keown, ‘Buddhism and Ecology: A Virtue Ethics Approach’, Contemporary Buddhism 8 (2007) 97-113

− Additionally, the students will work through W.C. Booth, G.G. Colomb, J.W. Williams, The Craft of Research, third edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2008

Registration

Enrollement through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

The student administration will register all first year students for the first semester courses in uSis, the registration system of Leiden University.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.

Contact

Dr. J.W. Buisman, email j.w.buisman@hum.leidenuniv.nl