God, Humanity and the Cosmos: An Introduction to the Debate between Science and Religion

Module titleGod, Humanity and the Cosmos: An Introduction to the Debate between Science and Religion
Module codeTHE1077
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Professor Christopher Southgate (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

You will explore the relationship between science and religion using case-studies, including the relation of the design argument to evolutionary thinking and anthropic arguments, and an examination of the issue of providence and miracle in the context of the problem of evil. This treatment will include reference to the instructor’s published research on theodicy, new atheism and ecological hermeneutics.

Important transferable skills will include understanding the nature of interdisciplinary conversation, textual interpretation and paradigm shift.

Important skills with relevance to employment include the capacity to present and argue for positions in a seminar context, and respond generously to challenges to those positions.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This option module aims to gives you a grounding in the relationship between science and religion, including an understanding of the nature and origins of Western science.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate basic knowledge and understanding of the development and the character of Western science, including the concept of paradigm shift
  • 2. Demonstrate basic knowledge and understanding of the similarities and contrasts between the disciplines of science and theology, and of ways in which they are thought to be related
  • 3. Demonstrate basic knowledge and understanding of the way scientific concepts affect classic debates in theology, such as free-will, providence, and the problem of evil
  • 4. Demonstrate basic knowledge and understanding of debates about the design argument, the fine-tuning of the universe, and its eventual end

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Demonstrate awareness of the relation between the sources of authority in theology
  • 6. Demonstrate awareness of how that interplay between sources works itself out in historic and contemporary examples

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Undertake directed work within clear guidelines
  • 8. Demonstrate the ability to summarise information accurately and fairly
  • 9. Make use of selected written sources, including web-based news articles, with clear guidance
  • 10. Participate appropriately in a learning group
  • 11. Communicate clearly in written and oral form
  • 12. Discuss sensitive issues with appropriate generosity

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • The development of science from the Greeks to Galileo.
  • Theology as a hermeneutical discipline, illustrated from biblical texts on creation.
  • Ways of understanding the science-religion relationship.
  • Case-studies in conflict – the design argument and Richard Dawkins; determinism, indeterminism and free-will.
  • Quantum theory and its implications.
  • The problem of moral and natural evil and its relation to divine action and the question of miracle.
  • Is the universe fine-tuned for life?
  • Is the human project doomed?

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching1111 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching1111 x 1 hour seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching1Tutorial and feedback session
Guided independent study127Private study and preparation


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar presentation10 minutes1-6, 8-12Oral feedback
Short pieces responding to topical news items3 x 250 words1-9, 11-12Written or oral feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination702 hours1-9, 11Written feedback
Essay301500 words1-9, 11-12Written feedback


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExaminationExamination1-9, 11Referral/Deferral period
EssayEssay1-9, 11-12Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Southgate, C (ed.) God, Humanity and the Cosmos 3 rd edn (London: Continuum, 2011)
  • Dawkins, R The Blind Watchmaker (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991)
  • Kuhn, TS The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: U Chicago Press)
  • McGrath, A The Fine-Tuned Universe
  • Dowe, P Galileo, Darwin and Hawking

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Science-religion, conflict, dialogue, paradigm, hermeneutics, creation, design argument, anthropic argument, chaos theory, quantum theory, providence, theodicy, miracle, eschatology

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date