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Philosophy of Religion: Religion and the Natural Sciences


Admission requirements

Some knowledge of philosophy and the study of religions, as acquired in a bachelor religious studies, is assumed.


There are many discussions on ‘religion and science’, some antagonistic (e.g. on evolution and intelligent design), others drawing on science to support religious convictions or practices (e.g. neuroscience and Buddhist meditation). The introductory text will introduce students to such debates. Interests and contexts will be considered (an outsiders perspective), but also key philosophical issues – mystery in a world understood by science, values in a world of facts, meaning in a world of matter. Central to these reflections is the understanding of religion and of knowledge. In the remainder of the course we will study various particular issues, drawing on journal articles from Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science and other publications.

Course objectives

Students will become familiar with major issues in contemporary debates on ‘religion and science’, and underlying assumptions about the nature of religion and the nature of science.
Students will be able to review critically relevant literature, in writing and orally.
Students will be able to write an original essay on a particular topic in the philosophy of religion and the religion-science field, drawing on articles from relevant academic journals and books.


See time table

Mode of instruction

The seminar will meet once a week during the semester. Students will read articles or chapters in advance of each session, sometimes guided by specific questions or minor assignments. Students will report on literature, write brief reviews, lead class discussion, and write an essay on the relevance of the issues discussed for their area of specialization.

Assessment method

Various minor assignments such as presentations, reviews and class discussions (40 %)
Essay (60 %)


Yes, blackboard will be used.

Reading list

Introductory text: Willem B. Drees, Religion and Science in Context: A Guide to the Debates (London: Routledge, 2010; paperback; isbn 9780415556170).
Additional articles from journals to be announced via the blackboard site.


Via uSis
In addition to the registration in uSis, students are also expected to self-enroll in blackboard a few weeks before the course starts.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Prof.dr. W.B. Drees
Students within the track ‘Religion, Culture and Society who consider to specialize in philosophy of religion are requested to contact prof.dr. W.B. Drees timely (before the beginning of the semester) to discuss interests, competences, and plans.
It is also greatly appreciated when other students who intend to take this course, introduce themselves by e-mail to the instructor, prof.dr. W.B. Drees.


This course will be taught in English except when all participants have a solid knowledge of Dutch. Papers will have to be written in English. If there are five participating MA-students or less, the course might be replaced by supervised reading and less meetings.