THE2152 - Evolution, God and Gaia

2008/9 Module description

Lecturer(s)Dr Christopher Southgate
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
Duration of Moduleone semester
Total Student Study Time300 hours, to include 36 hrs of lectures, 1 hr of individual tutorial for the return of the formative essay and the negotiation of assessed essay title(s) and 263 hours of private study

Module aims

This option module will engage students with the development and character of evolutionary theory since the early 19th Century, and with the challenges that theory has posed for Christian theology. It will explore in detail acute points of challenge re the suffering of non-human creatures, and the character and behaviour of human beings. It will apply these explorations to a consideration of the prospects for the future of complex life, and the ethical implications that follow from that.

Intended learning outcomes

Module-specific skills

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:
1. demonstrate, with limited guidance, a knowledge and understanding of evolutionary theory as it has developed since the time of Darwin and Lamarck;
2. demonstrate, with limited guidance, a knowledge and understanding of the challenges evolutionary theory has posed for Christian theology
3. demonstrate, with limited guidance, a knowledge and understanding of evolutionary and theological understandings of the nature and calling of human beings;
4. demonstrate, with limited guidance, a knowledge and understanding of how such insights affect approaches to the current environmental crisis;

Discipline-specific skills

5. demonstrate, with limited guidance, detailed comprehension of and engagement with the richness of the dialogue between evolutionary theory and Christian theology in some of its varied forms;
6. state clearly, discuss and, with limited guidance, demonstrate detailed comprehension of some historical and contemporary expressions of this dialogue;
7. demonstrate awareness of and careful assessment of aspects of theological and scientific contributions to debate in the public arena about truth and ethics;
8. make careful use of a core method of study: evaluation of the different character of two different disciplines, and sensitive application of this evaluation to understanding the dialogue between the disciplines;

Personal and key skills

9. undertake guided work within broad guidelines;
10. demonstrate consistency and rigour in method and argument;
11. find and use on-line materials with some guidance;
12. communicate clearly in written and oral forms;
13. participate appropriately in a learning group.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will comprise 36 classes that will include lecture material, guided discussion, the presentation of various audio-visual materials, and the regular provision of written handouts. Each student will present to a seminar group. Formative feedback will be provided on some written work. Some guidance will be provided concerning directed reading and private study


- One 2,000 to 2,500 word formative essay (ILO's 1-14)- One 15-minute seminar presentation (formative) (ILO's 1-15)- Two 4,500 to 5,000 word assessed essays ILO's 1-14)-


- Two 4,500 to 5,000 word assessed essays (50% each)

Syllabus plan

- Evolution before Darwin, and Darwin's distinctive contribution
- The early debate between Darwinism and theology
- The contemporary debate between neo-Darwinism and theological understandings, including the proposal of intelligent design
- The problem of the suffering of non-human creatures
- Religion as a virus of the mind, the challenge of evolutionary psychology
- The Gaia Hypothesis and its implications for the future of complex life, and for environmental ethics

Indicative basic reading list

Set text:
Students are required to purchase
God, Humanity and the Cosmos ed. C. Southgate (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2nd edn 2005)
Recommended texts:
Brooke, J.H. Science and Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)
Haught, J. God After Darwin (Oxford: Westview Press, 2000)
Lovelock, J. The Revenge of Gaia (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2006)
Peters, T and Hewlett, M. Evolution from Creation to New Creation (Nashville, Tn.: Abingdon Press, 2003)
Ruse, M. Can a Darwinian be a Christian? (Cambridge: CUP, 2001)
Wilson, E.O. The Future of Life (London: Little, Brown, 2002)

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