THE2152 - Evolution, God and Gaia

2022/3 Module description

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

Module description

In this option module you will explore how evolutionary theory developed from the early 19th Century, and what challenges the theory has posed and continues to pose for Christian theology. Key points will include the suffering of non-human creatures, and the nature and vocation of human beings. This will lead to an exploration of human relationship to the planet in the current ecological crisis.

The module has no prerequisites, and is eminently suitable for interdisciplinary pathways. 

Module aims

We shall develop an understanding of evolutionary science and use this to explore key challenges faced by the Christian theologian in engaging with this science.

This will draw on research expertise in the department on theodicy, systematic theology, ecotheology, and ethics. We shall go on to look at how the human animal might find its place in a world already hugely shaped by human activity.

In terms of employment, you will learn how to explore finely balanced arguments on extremely difficult problems, respecting contrary views. You will also learn how to present an argument in a seminar, and how to chair a group, valuable transferable skills in a whole range of types of employment.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate, with limited guidance, a general understanding of evolutionary theory, appropriate to discussion of its relation to theological issues
  • 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 how Christian theological ethics addresses the current ecological crisis

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate with minimal guidance a sophisticated understanding of how theology can engage in critical dialogue with other disciplines
  • 5. Articulate in written and/or oral form aspects of this dialogue that are of particular interest to you

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Find and use on-line materials with some guidance
  • 7. Demonstrate critical and creative thought, supported by research and clearly communicated
  • 8. Participate appropriately in a learning group, showing respect for the views of others

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:

  • Historical and scientific analysis of evolutionary theory
  • Consideration of the challenges posed by evolutionary theory to Christian theology
  • Theological and ethical responses to the contemporary ecological crisis.

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 11Synchronous discussion sessions often with student presentations
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 22Face-to-face lectures if these are possible, or on-line material, including videos and podcasts, to support the seminar programme
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Tutorial with instructor. Typically to include debriefing a seminar presentation, and planning for the summative essay
Guided Independent Study266Private Study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar presentation10 minutes1-8Email feedback from instructor
Essay Plan300 words1-71:1 meeting with instructor

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
Essay 503500 words1-7BART feedback sheet
Review of a part of the set seminar reading201000 words1-7BART feedback sheet
Podcast of seminar presentation2010 minutes1-7BART feedback sheet
Participation in seminars/tutorial10Based on attendance/engagement8Email feedback from instructor

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-7Referral/deferral period
ReviewReview1-7Referral/deferral period
PodcastPodcast1-7Referral/deferral period
Participation750-word reflection on engagement with the module8Referral/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

  • N. Messer, Science in Theology (London: Bloomsbury, 2020)
  • C. Southgate (ed.), God, Humanity and the Cosmos (London: T&T Clark, 3rd edn 2011)
  • B. Sollereder, God, Evolution and Animal Suffering (London: Routledge, 2019)
  • C. Deane-Drummond, A Primer in Eco-theology (Eugene, OR.: Cascade Books, 2017)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Evolution, fall, suffering, theological anthropology, stewardship

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