THE2152 - Evolution, God and Gaia

2014/5 Module description

StaffProfessor Christopher Southgate - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module description

You will be introduced to evolutionary theory since the early 19th Century and the challenges posed for Christian theology.  In particular you will look at the development of evolution theory of intelligent design from the early debate pre-Darwin, through the contributions of Charles Darwin and beyond.  You will consider it alongside the Gaia Hypothesis, that the Earth is a self-regulating complex evolving system able to maintain a stable, constant condition of properties to sustain life. You will explore in detail arguments in relation to the suffering of non-human creatures, and the character and behaviour of human beings. In particular you will use these theories to debate the implications for environmental ethics.

Module aims

This 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.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 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;

ILO: 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;

ILO: 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.

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

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 Teaching Activities2211 x 2 hour seminars
Guided independent study278Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
One analysis piece of pre-reading set from seminars500 wordsILOs 1-12Brief written feedback
One seminar presentation10 minutesILOs 1-13Verbal feedback as required.

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
Portfolio containing: Two 500 word analyses of seminar pre-reading; (20% of overall portfolio mark) One 1000 word analysis of a primary text in the subject area (from a prescribed selection of such texts (20%); One 4000 word summative essay on a topic negotiated with instructor (60%)1006500 words1-13Written and verbal

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PortfolioPortfolio1-13Refer/Defer period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Set text:
Students are required to purchase
God, Humanity and the Cosmos ed. C. Southgate (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 3rd edn 2011)
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)
Southgate, C., The Groaning of Creation (Louisville: WJK, 2008)
Wilson, E.O. The Future of Life (London: Little, Brown, 2002)

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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


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Last revision date


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